Welcome to the eighth installment of Grow Pittsburgh’s Grower’s Spotlight! When life as we knew it changed last spring with COVID-19, we started this series as a way to cultivate community in spite of social distancing restraints. Over the past several months, we’ve introduced you to some inspiring backyard growers, community gardeners, small agribusiness owners, and even a master composter. This month’s grower, Trina Goggins, is one of the most inspiring backyard gardeners we’ve met yet. From being wary of even touching dirt several years ago, to teaching her grandson how to grow and selling her homegrown products, Trina has blossomed into a successful urban gardener showing what’s possible in a small city backyard. She

chronicles her experience at The Hood Garden on Instagram, where her posts are equal parts informative and clever. Read on to learn more about Trina’s growing journey and be sure to follow her for funny, relatable gardening content, as well as stay up to date on where you can buy her goods!

GP: How long have you been growing food and how/from whom did you learn?

Trina: I’ve been growing since 2016, so this will be my sixth growing season. When I brought my new home, I saw a box in my neighbor’s yard, I asked what it was and it turned out, Phipps Conservatory had a program called Homegrown, wherein they install backyard gardens in underserved neighborhoods, and offer two years of assistance, including plants, and free classes. Initially, I said no because the idea of dirt turned me off, ha! Then I thought about the fact that I didn’t like many vegetables because I didn’t grow up eating them. I thought this was my chance to maybe try it for my grandson, and if I didn’t like it, I could always remove them. Five years, four garden expansions later, and after being featured in a couple of local documentaries, here I am!

GP: What’s your current growing setup look like?

Trina: I expand every year. So far I have three 3′ x 5′ raised beds, one 3′ x 7′ raised bed, two 4′ x 8′ raised beds, 19 five-gallon buckets, and 13 17-gallon tubs. This year I plan to add three 2′ x 7′ (or 2′ x 8′) beds and two 2′ x 4′ beds. (See more shots of Trina’s garden below!)

GP: What’s your favorite thing to grow and what do you sort of things do you like to cook with your garden harvests?

Trina: Hot peppers! I’ve become obsessed with growing rare, hard-to-find crosses. I love making spicy salsa, hot pickles and gourmet hot sauces with them. I enjoy the ability to be creative and find ways to take the fear out of spicy foods by adding flavorful ingredients! I also love to grow different variations of vegetables not commonly found in stores: pink celery, orange okra, black tomatoes!

GP: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your time gardening?

Trina: Gardening is empowering. There comes such a sense of pride and accomplishment in growing your own food. There’s also an element of wonder and peace being in the garden, and security too. When I hear of a produce item being contaminated and not available in stores, I have security in knowing I can go and get it from my backyard, and security in the knowledge of how it was grown.

GP: On your Instagram, you often garden with your grandson, Noah. Is he just as into it as you are?

Trina: This is the best part! Noah loves the garden! He takes seeds from everything and wants to plant them. Last year, unbeknownst to me, he even “borrowed” a garlic clove of mine and buried it in one of my tubs. By the time he showed me, he actually had a little garlic bulb! He was so proud! He’ very willing to try anything at least once or twice and loves vegetables!

GP: What’s advice you’d give to someone who’s a new gardener who might be intimidated by everything they could do wrong?

Trina: Don’t give up, gardening is very forgiving. Look at the weeds in your yard; dandelions will grow in the crack of cement. Just plant the seed and water it and watch nature do its thing. Also, you don’t need tons of money or space. You can grow in a flower pot, a bucket on a porch, just keep going!

GP: What are some of your go-to growing resources?

Trina: In the beginning, I watched a lot of YouTube videos from Hollis and Nancy’s Homestead channel. I would recommend their earlier videos. Hollis was an urban gardener in his backyard in Maryland and he was the most step-by-step detailed grower I’ve seen and honestly probably the reason I kept with it. All the folks from the Homegrown program at Phipps are another major help and resource. And I can’t leave out Google!

GP: Anything else you want to share?

Trina: Growing your own food is so empowering. I’m hoping to not only turn it into a business to sustain my family, but also be able to teach others, especially small children, how to grow food. In a world where so many who look like me have so little, the garden means a lot. Self sufficiency and a connection to the earth and your place in it are priceless. It’s something that, if we expose our children to, will be something they always have and can use at any point in their lives. Gardens feed the body, but gardening feeds the soul.

GP: Where can folks find you on social media and how can they support you?

Trina: I’m most active on Instagram but I’m @thehoodgarden on all platforms. I share tips, but mostly my garden shenanigans. I’m in the process of starting a business selling seeds, spices, hot sauces, perhaps seedlings, etc. I currently have an Etsy shop and in a couple weeks I’ll be launching my website. Stay tuned for that!

Know another local grower you’d like to see in the Growers Spotlight? Maybe it’s you! Drop us a line to be featured in our next newsletter or on our blog.