Sunflower Garden Brightens Vacant Lot in Swissvale

Community volunteers have turned a dark space once filled with weeds into a beautiful garden.

A corner of the world is a little brighter thanks to a sunflower garden that now glows where a vacant lot once stood in .

“They attract attention,” said Swissvale Mayor Deneen Swartzwelder. “When these grow, it’s just amazing and I think people appreciate having this rather than an overgrown lot with weeds and a lot that nobody cares about—it shows that people do care in the community.”

Created by the Swissvale Garden Club and GTech, a Pittsburgh nonprofit focused on growing gardens in vacant urban lots, the sunflower garden officially grew for the first time last year.

Volunteers are now preparing to harvest the seeds produced by this year’s flowers at 10 a.m. Oct. 15. The garden is located right next to the

“Last year, when we did this, the animals ate all of the sunflower seeds, so hopefully this year we will have a harvest,” Swartzwelder said with a laugh.

Before the garden was planted, abandoned houses plagued the lot. They were later torn down by the , paving the way for the sunflowers to add joy to the neighborhood.

Vibrant yellow flowers now stand tall, swaying in the fall wind and beautifying the local Swissvale street.

“We have been working with community groups to help them focus on the lots they want to work on, helping them plant the seeds and see what else can happen,” said Maureen Copeland of GTech. “This has been a pretty cool project.”

There are 6,000 acres of vacancy in the City of Pittsburgh alone, and while ideally, all of those spots could be filled with food gardens, sunflowers are easier to maintain and brighten up spots that formerly held trash or the remnants and reminders of economic instability.

“For us, it’s a way to attract attention and show that something can happen on vacant lots,” Copeland said. “We’ll start with sunflowers and see what that sparks.”

Swartzwelder said it’s one more piece of the work Swissvale borough is doing to .

“It just shows the health of the community,” she said. “It shows that we are vital—and we are growing,” she said.

Volunteers are needed for the upcoming harvest Oct. 15. Contact Swartzwelder at mayorswissvale@aol.com for more information.


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