In Twin Cities, community gardens never sleep

As Minnesota temperatures drop to their least hospitable levels, many Twin Citizens enter a state of pseudo-hibernation, flitting in bundled isolation between the warm auras of their homes, cars, and offices. That’s why, at this time of year, a community garden is a perfect daydream: a place where we can dig our hands into warm soil, celebrate green and growing things, run into good people, and linger to chat in the sunshine.

Fortunately, though the soil is frozen and the beds are empty, January is also the time when community gardens begin stirring back to life after their short winter rest. Many gardens are already taking signups now or will be soon, according to Jeremiah Ellis, the Executive Director of Gardening Matters, a Twin Cities-based gardening advocacy organization. Gardening Matters has compiled an ever-expanding map of hundreds of gardens across the Metro, and works to connect gardeners with each other, with land and with other critical resources. Their organization also hosts a referral form to help gardeners find the nearest available plots.

Gearing up for 2013: Deadlines and events

February 1 - Deadline for entering lottery for Union Park community garden spot. (FFI call Annie or Sarah at (651) 645-6887.)

Sabathani - Sign up now for waiting list. If you have any questions about this, please call Mollie Dean at 612-825-2771.

February 21 - Hub seed-packing at the Eastside Coop movie night! 6:00 seed-packing, then Farmageddon starts at 7:00pm. Refreshments provided!

March 9 - Community Garden Spring Resource Fair

Hennepin County Library series:

Saturday, Feb. 2, 2–3:30 p.m. Master Gardener: Best Plants for Tough Sites 
North Regional Library

Saturday, Feb. 9, 2–3:30 p.m. Master Gardener: Care of Houseplants 
Northeast Library
 Registration required. Register online or call 612-543-6775.

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 6–7:30 p.m. Master Gardener: Small Space Vegetable Gardening 
Champlin Library 
Registration required. Register online or call 612-543-6250.

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 6–7:30 p.m. Master Gardener: Landscape Plants for Winter Interest
 Linden Hills Library 
Registration required. Register online or call 612-543-6825.

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 6–7:30 p.m. Master Gardener: Edible Landscapes
 East Lake Library
Registration required. Register online or call 612-543-8425.

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 6:30–8 p.m. Master Gardener: Best Plants for Tough Sites
 Webber Park Library

Saturday, Feb. 23, 10:30a.m. – noon Master Gardener: Edible Landscapes 
Brookdale Library
 Registration required. Register online or call 612-543-5600.

Saturday, Feb. 23, 2–3:30 p.m. Master Gardener: Best Plants for Tough Sites
 Oxboro Library

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 6:30–8 p.m. Master Gardener: Annual Flowers for Minnesota
 Maple Grove Library

Thursday, Feb. 28, 6–7:30 p.m. Master Gardener: Dry Soil
 Rogers Library
 Registration required (beginning January 31.) Register online or call 612-543-6050.

If there isn’t an open garden near you, it’s getting easier to start your own, and winter is the time to do it. In 2010, the City of Minneapolis made a move to lend more official support to community gardening in the long term through its Homegrown Minneapolis initiative; among their contributions was a list of city-owned lots identified as potential new community gardens and available for lease. You don’t have to garden right around the corner, either; although many community gardens have a local neighborhood focus, many also encourage applicants from all over the Twin Cities. A willingness and enthusiasm to dedicate yourself to the garden for the season are generally considered prime requisites.

Even apart from land, there are more resources available to Twin Cities gardeners than ever before. Gardening Matters is soon hosting the 9th annual Community Garden Spring Resource Fair on March 9. Also, in 2011, Homegrown Minneapolis partnered with Gardening Matters to form the first Local Food Resource Hubs in Minneapolis, a model that’s also being developed in St. Paul. These Hubs are based on an idea that came out of Detroit, which has lately become a leader in community work surrounding urban food production. They are designed to empower gardeners and give them access to community resources, including seeds, plants, and classes. Signups to join Minneapolis and St. Paul Food Hubs is available to all beginning in February, so members will have plenty of time to their seasons with those new opportunities in mind.

Come summer, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy outside. In the meantime, if the sub-zero temperatures are getting you down and those lively, colorful seed catalogs are piling up on the coffee table, then even in January, gardeners should know that there are ways to quit daydreaming and get that garden started early.

Related articles:

More of TC Daily Planet’s coverage of local food issues and community gardens
Green Splash amid Minneapolis highrises and highways
Minneapolis expands community garden program

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Michael Pursell's picture
Michael Pursell

Michael Pursell is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and a farmer at Growing Lots.