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“Challengers” releases in theaters on April 26.
Review: “Challengers”
Published April 13, 2024

Minneapolis residents take to the gardens

Community and public gardens have grown exponentially in Minneapolis thanks to the passionate work of volunteers.
A+community+garden+in+the+Marcy+Holmes+neighborhood.
Image by Eleanor King
A community garden in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood.

Minneapolis residents are volunteering to take care of the city’s more than 100 gardens to protect the environment, promote the local community and for the simple love of gardening.

Community gardens grow fruits and vegetables and public gardens grow flowers and other plants, giving both volunteers and members of the community a chance to enjoy the benefits of gardening.

Prospect Park Garden Club (PPGC) volunteer Gib Ahlstrand said gardening is a way to stay in shape and improve the neighborhood.

“[My partner and I] like to be outdoors,” Ahlstrand said. “We’re in our upper 70s, but we get good exercise and then we like to keep the neighborhood looking beautiful.”

Public and community gardens are owned either by the city government, local non-profits or a private individual who lets the public use the garden.

Garden access is not a guarantee for renters living in a majority-renter city like Minneapolis. For some volunteers, their main reason to volunteer is to experience something they can’t do in their cramped apartment.

Community Garden Program Coordinator for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Rebecca Gross said in the gardens run by the MPRB, priority is given to renters who would not otherwise have the chance to work on a garden.

“We have a little bit of a different sign-up process than most other gardens,” Gross said. “We actually go through and review all the applications in order to prioritize Minneapolis residents who don’t have access to land outside the parks and who plan to grow food.”

From a volunteer standpoint, the public and community gardens are run in the same way a private garden would be.

Planting crops and flowers in Spring, removing weeds, adding fertilizer and mulch and regular watering keep the gardens thriving, Ahlstrand said. Preparation for winter differs depending on who owns the garden.

The city’s garden Homegrown Minneapolis and MPRB gardens have their plots cleared and cleaned for the Spring.

Locally owned public gardens will often plant native plants that have evolved to deal with the snow, according to George Masson, who volunteers with the Southeast Como Improvement Association.

Masson, who helped create a public garden in Como, said public gardens motivate him because of the benefits these gardens have on the environment.

“We got involved with a lot of help from community members who felt very strongly about doing what they could to improve the Southeast Como neighborhood and build out more pollinator gardens for the aesthetic purposes, but also the habitat purposes,” Masson said.

Volunteer with the PPGC Kay Taylor said seeing the garden’s growth and the community’s appreciation are why she volunteers.

“When you’re out there working, people go by and they always go ‘Oh thank you, it’s beautiful. Thank you for your good work,’” Taylor said. “It’s just really rewarding to see the plants grow.”

All of these organizations receive money and gardening supplies either from MPRB, the city government or the local organization to keep the garden in operation.

Whether it be for removing weeds and watering plants or helping run these volunteer organizations, volunteers are almost always needed, according to Gross.

Taylor said students around the area should consider volunteering for a group like the PPGC because of the many benefits gardening has individually and in the community.

“There might be somebody out there that just knows that gardening is a really relaxing break from their studies,” Taylor said. “It’s a chance to get outside and do something for the neighborhood.”

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