Get Growing

Garden plotting and urban planning are improving Twin Cities neighborhoods, one seed at a time

Over the past six years, various abandoned lots and vacant plots in the metro area have undergone makeovers. In place of broken bottles, roses now bloom; land that once bred nothing more than shady deals now sprouts bright peppers. And the more gardens that are planted, the louder the buzz, prompting people of all ages and backgrounds to pick up a spade and employ their green thumbs. ¶ Gardening Matters, a clearinghouse based in Minneapolis that helps organize gardens, got about 100 calls in 2006, the year it was created. Since then, they’ve fielded more than 350 requests each year

“People want to work on something positive,” says Kirsten Saylor, executive director of Gardening Matters. “Community gardens give people a sense of pride and place.”

Even if they don’t have their own plot, Saylor says people living near community gardens benefit. “It’s the thing that gets them out,” she says. “It’s an informal learning place where they can get to know people they normally wouldn’t meet.”

A variety of gardens exist, each with specific goals, from engaging youth to teaching English.

For beautification, head to the Bryn Mawr community gardens, planted in most every open space in the neighborhood. Boost your fresh produce intake at north St. Paul’s Cowern community garden or the Urban Farming Garden in north Minneapolis. If you’re feeling philanthropic, SPROUT garden in St. Paul donates its produce to elders in the Hamline-University neighborhood. In south Minneapolis, the English Learning Center brings volunteers and adult ESL students together to garden and practice English.

If you want to contribute but aren’t ready to get down in the dirt, consider purchasing the gardeners’ harvests. Every Tuesday afternoon, June through August, the youth gardeners from the East Side Garden Corps set up a stand at Metro State University. And on Saturdays, the Southeast Asian and Hmong gardeners who tend the Phalen Village garden sell vegetables at the St. Paul Farmers’ Market.


Community gardens generally fall under three types of organization: youth focus, beautification, and food production. Most gardens combine elements of each, creating beautiful and beneficial areas—for gardeners and passersby.


1. Check if the garden has a tool-sharing program. You may need to bring your own.
2. Some gardens charge an annual fee to rent out private plots. Prices vary by garden.
3. Gardening Matters, 3810 E. 38th St., Mpls., 612-821-2358, gardening