City of Pittsburgh Yard Debris Special Collection

A friend just reminded me….The City of Pittsburgh will pick up yard debris this Saturday morning, May 21st. The debris needs to be placed in paper bags at your normal recycling pickup site on the evening of Friday, May 20th.

For more information, check out the City of Pittsburgh website here: Yard debris pick-up information.

The City does accept:

  • Leaves
  • Grass
  • Plants
  • Tree Trimmings
  • Branches
  • Shrubs – loose or placed in paper bags (no plastic bags accepted)

The City does not accept:

  • Stones
  • Dirt
  • Rocks
  • Manure
  • Garbage
  • Lumber or food waste
  • (Stones, dirt, rocks also not collected at curb side)

Please participate and send your yard waste to compost, not to the landfill!


Container Gardening Ideas – Try a Self Watering Container!

If your garden plan includes growing fruits and vegetables in containers, try a self-watering container. The Edible Garden at Rodef Shalom is using self-watering containers to take the guesswork out of watering and allow us to water the garden less frequently. On Sunday May 1st, Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students of the Jacob Religious School planted frost tolerant seeds in the first 2 of our 16 EarthBoxes.  

kids gardening in EarthBox self watering container

2nd Grade students assemble the EarthBox self-watering container

Self-watering containers can be purchased from a number of places or you can make your own.

Jacob Religious School Students planting in self watering container

Add soil, dolomite and fertilizer to the EarthBox


Kids put cover on self watering planter

A cover is used to stop weeds and protect from rain and drought

The cover is one of the secrets of the EarthBox gardening success!   After the cover is on, holes are cut and seeds or seedlings are planted.  It is too early to plant most of our fruits and veggies so we planted frost resistant seeds; peas, carrots and radishes.  One week later……..

Peas and radish sprouts planted by the children

Peas and radish planted one week ago

There are many important advantages to using a self-watering container:

  1. a reservoir of water is held in the bottom of the container so you will water less often
  2. the reservoir of water allows the plants to soak up water through the roots as needed 
  3. the plants benefit from deep watering without washing away the expensive fertilizer
  4. the prevention root rot
  5. the yield in your garden is increased

According to the EarthBox website,

Our maintenance-free, award-winning, high-tech growing system controls soil conditions, eliminates guesswork and more than doubles the yield of a conventional garden…with less fertilizer, less water and virtually no effort!

Want to learn more about growing fresh food in containers?

  • Come to one or all of the Free Vegetable Garden Workshops in Pittsburgh at Rodef Shalom Congregation! Click here for dates and times.
  • has instructions to build your own self watering container.
  • These books have helpful step-by-step instructions for container gardening:

Amazon Book link to Garden AnywhereAmazon Book link to Incredible Vegetables

Blueberries and Raspberries-Plants for your Edible Landscape Garden

Create a beautiful landscape with edible plants. Easy to grow edible plants like blueberries and raspberries can be added to your landscape, no matter how small.

Transforming a Suburban Slope into an Edible Landscape

Courtesy of Ecological Gardens

The Edible Garden at Rodef Shalom will plant vegetables and fruits in containers as described in our previous post,  container gardens enable those restricted by space, physical disabilities, and location to be be successful in creating their own gardens.

Besides planting in containers, the plan for our Edible Garden also includes another option. Instead of planting edibles in traditional garden beds, you can plant edible fruits directly into your landscape. According to Edible Landscaping with Charlie Nardossi in Growing Berry Shrubs, When you think about growing berries, strawberries are likely the first fruit that comes to mind. While these luscious berries are a favorite addition to an edible landscape, there are other berry-producing plants that not only yield an abundance of fruit, they also make attractive landscape plants.”

Today, volunteers planted eight blueberry and four raspberry plants in The Edible Garden at Rodef Shalom.

Edible Garden at Rodef Shalom Blueberry and Raspberry Plants

We purchased 8 blueberries and 4 raspberries at the Pittsburgh Garden Experiment Fruit Tree and Plant Sale

The blueberries and raspberries were purchased through our friends at the Pittsburgh Garden Experiment, a blogging community for city gardeners, in their annual Fruit Tree and Plant Sale. We are happy to note that half of the proceeds from the sale will support Pittsburgh Permaculture

Kerry and Bob planting in the Edible Garden at Rodef Shalom

Kerry and Bob ready to plant blueberries and raspberries on a rainy day

planting blueberries in Edible Garden at Rodef Shalom

Amending the soil and digging holes for the blueberries

We learned two important things about growing blueberries so if you are inclined to try them in your own landscape, here are a few resources for you to consider.

  1. Several varieties of blueberries grow well in Pittsburgh with the proper soil amendments. Our soil was tested with a kit we purchased through the Allegheny County Penn State Cooperative Extension. The soil PH in Pittsburgh is high in alkaline (ours is 7.2 PH) and blueberries grow best in soil with a lower, more acidic PH (between 4.5 and 5). Penn State’s College of Agriculture Sciences Cooperative Extension’s article, So you want to Grow Fruit….is a wonderful resource for information about growing berries. 

  2. When you plant blueberries, you should plant more than one variety to allow for cross-pollination. We planted Blue Crop, Duke, Elliot and Patriot. Keith at Backyard Berry Plants has a great guide with information on how to plant and care for your berries. 

Newly planted blueberries in The Edible Garden at Rodef Shalom

New additions to the Rodef Shalom Landscape Blue Crop, Elliot, Patriot and Duke Blueberry Plants

Raspberry plants in The Edible Garden at Rodef Shalom
4 Raspberry Plants
Planting Men
Job well done guys, thanks!

Vegetable Gardening 101 and Container Gardening Workshops

Vegetable Gardening 101 and Container Gardening Workshops –

We need your ideas!

Square Foot Garden

Square Foot Vegetable Garden

Want to grow vegetables? Trying to avoid repeating a previous veggie disaster?  Learn the basics using Square Foot Vegetable Gardening in a 4 by 4 foot space.

No Backyard? Learn to grow vegetables in pots on your balcony, deck or steps.  Learn about all kinds of containers, including how to make and use a Self Watering Container.

Local Master Gardeners are coming to Rodef Shalom Congregation to share gardening expertise with you!

  • Doug Oster, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Backyard Gardener.
  • Nancy Knauss, a consumer horticulture educator at the Penn State Cooperative Extension.
  • Carol Brand, a retired Pediatrician and gardening educator. 

Ideas Wanted!

What workshops or programs would you attend?  The Edible Garden at Rodef Shalom needs your suggestions for topics related to gardening, permaculture, healthy and sustainable food choices, cooking, etc.

Please post your ideas here in the comments section!  

Save the dates!

  • Monday, May 23rd 7pm- Carol Brand, Vegetable Gardening 101
  • Saturday, June 4th 5:30pm- Carol Brand, Container Gardening
  • Friday, June 10th 6pm- Doug Oster (Topic needed!)
  • Monday, June 27th- Nancy Knauss (Topic needed!)

All are welcome!  Sponsored by Life Long Jewish Learning at Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Celebrating Earth Day – Go Green with Recycled Newspaper Seedling Pots, CSA and More

It may be too early to plant vegetables and fruits outside, but it’s the perfect time to plant seedlings indoors.  A few weeks ago, children at Rodef Shalom Congregation started tomatoes, carrots, chives, lima beans, parsley, squash, peas, snapdragons and pansies from seeds for The Edible Garden.

The Rodef Shalom Preschool kids planted their seeds in biodegradable seedling trays. 

Rodef Shalom Preschool Seedlings

The older kids in the Rodef Shalom Religious School made seedling pots out of recycled newspaper then planted their seeds. 

Edible Garden Seedlings in Recycled Paper Pots

Making recycled newspaper pots is fun, easy and a perfect Earth Day project for the entire family!  Use only black & white newspaper because the ink is soy-based and not toxic for growing edibles.

Check out this how-to video for Newspaper Seedling Pot Instructions.

Becoming earth friendly can be a family affair!  Do you need a little kid-friendly and eco-friendly inspiration?  Here are some wonderful ideas:

Before you put household items in the recycle bin, take a look at these ideas to reuse these items in your garden.

Here’s an idea to save for later when your garden is grown – recycle your edible plants and make a beautiful Edible Bouquet.  This idea, and others ways to recycle your edible plants, are highlighted on the blog:  Eat Drink Better.

Edible Bouquet

Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

One last idea – Participate in Community Supported Agriculture at Rodef Shalom!

Shop for local, organic food delivered directly to Rodef Shalom Congregation from Isadore Foods. Order vegetables, fruits, free-range chicken and eggs, meats, and dairy products from family-owned farms in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Weekly and bi-weekly subscriptions, as well as a la carte items, are available. Pick up your order on Thursdays at Rodef Shalom from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. Orders are packed in easy-to-carry bags. Click here to learn more about Community Supported Agriculture. 


Become a new customer by clicking “join” and filling out the registration form.

Add items you want to buy to the online shopping cart.

For 10% off your first order, use code “postcard.”

Check out by choosing the Rodef Shalom pickup location and entering your payment information.

After you place your order, you will receive a confirmation email with your delivery date, time, and location.

Questions? Call (412) 400-4721.  


How are you celebrating Earth Day? Please share your ideas!

Composting with Kids


kids composting

Help your kids develop their green thumb by teaching them to compost.  Composting is a fun family project that’s easy to do and great for the environment. Teach your tykes how simple it is to recycle waste and turn it into nutritious soil for your yard or plants. The micro-organisms that make the compost, need an even mixture of “greens” and “browns”. They also need water and air for a perfect compost formula. Here’s the compost recipe:

One part “brown” (dead dried plants – they provide the carbon): dried leaves, pine needles, straw, hay, wood shavings or chips.

One part “green” (fresh living plants – they provide the nitrogen): grass clippings, vegetable and fruit leftovers, plants, coffee grounds.

Place layers of brown, green, brown, green, brown into the composting bin, being sure to add water after every layer – make sure that the compost is always moist so the microorganisms can do their job. Stir every 3-4 weeks and voila… nutritious, rich soil!

A couple of composting no-no’s: NO meats, dairy, oil, fats, diseased plants or pet droppings!

Compost Stew

A great book to read is, “Compost Stew” written by Mary McKenna Siddals and illustrated by Ashley Wolff  “Apple cores, bananas bruised, coffee grounds with filters used.  Just add to the pot, and let it all rot into compost stew!”

Repost via our friends –eco ike: March 2011.

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