Welcome to Grow Pittsburgh’s Partner Profile, a series we started to shine a light on some of the local businesses and organizations who partner with us to help folks throughout Pittsburgh learn how to grow their own food and enjoy the many benefits of gardening.

For this first post, we’re featuring Ed Johnson of Wilderness Lumber Co. We’ve been working with Ed for about 7 years to source local lumber and build raised beds, sheds, and other structures for community gardens.

Grow Pittsburgh:  Where do you operate and how long have you been engaged in this work?

Ed: I have a studio and shared shop space within Pittsburgh Urban Tree in Homewood. I’ve been self-employed since 1994 as a sawyer, designer, maker and builder.

GP: How did you get started in carpentry?

Ed: My father had a small hobby workshop. He taught me woodworking basics and gave me the confidence to design and build a log home for my family. We built the entire house from locally sourced materials and completed the shell and complete exterior without using electricity. All by hand with only hand tools. My father was a union machinist and I was (at the time) a trained design engineer. Between the two of us we figured out carpentry.

GP: Tell us a little about the kinds of lumber you work with and why they work well for raised beds and other outdoor applications.

Ed: I use only locally sourced, non commercial species for outdoor projects. Hemlock, larch, locust, white pine, red and white oak. Each type of wood has unique properties and characteristics that when matched to the project and application can provide good value. 

GP: What’s one of your many projects you completed for Grow Pittsburgh that stands out to you?

Ed: Mount Oliver community garden stands out to me. Not the things I’ve built there. It’s the people. They keep things simple. They’re resourceful. Their garden is beautiful and productive.

GP: How have your designs for garden projects evolved over the years?

Ed: Every project that I’ve been a part of with Grow Pittsburgh has evolved. From grow frames to shed structures. This is a result of a wonderful working relationship and good communication with those that I work with at each garden location. 

GP: What do you wish people understood about your profession?

Ed: Thankfully there are organizations like Grow Pittsburgh and others that understand good value and support the benefits of using locally sourced, non treated, non commercial types of wood. My wishes came true.

GP: What is your favorite tree and why? What do you think is the coolest thing about trees?

Ed: I have many favorite trees. They provide all sorts of capital for humans, nature and wildlife. For this story I’ll choose one: Eastern  Hemlock, a fairly fast growing evergreen. The lumber they produce is quite versatile. Stable and strong. Light weight. Holds up quite well outside untreated. Workable and light in color which can be used for interior designs as well. As an evergreen, they provide color during the dreary winter months.

There are so many cool things about trees. Life on earth would be much different (or not even possible) without them. I think that’s pretty cool.

GP: Is there anything else you’d like our community to know about you and your work?

Ed: How grateful I am to be part of the important work that Grow Pittsburgh is doing. This work and the relationships formed have in many ways been life changing for me.

Ed (in plaid) teaching a class about constructing raised beds

Ed (left) and Twin install the pavilion in Northview Heights