Greening the Northside, one garden at a time


Gwen Marshall has had a green thumb ever since she was inspired by her mother’s small marigold garden. One recent summer, Marshall tore up her whole back yard for gardening. She soon discovered that this project was too large to complete, but she still plants a downsized garden with herbs, exotic plants, flowers and vegetables.

Marshall’s childhood love for plants has led to her work today: recruiting and overseeing young volunteer gardeners and landscapers for the Northside Green Team.

Marshall, a community organizer at Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, works with students on sustainable green projects, such as finding land for future toddler parks that Gwen calls “green spots for tots.”

She also plans to plant new community gardens with help from Urban Farmers, an organization that supports residents in finding vacant lots and turning them into new gardens. Seminars for master gardeners are being scheduled by NRRC.

In the past four years, the Northside Green Team was trained by Tree Trust to take tree inventories along Plymouth Avenue. Members of Minnesota Green, an organization that supports nonprofits with free or low cost plants for sustainable projects, then replaced diseased or aging trees after learning identification and age from the volunteers.

Also Green Team volunteers from Minneapolis North High and Afrocentric Academy created pocket parks with raised planters, flowers, shrubs, and toddler parks. One park (Plymouth and Humboldt) dedicated to and called, “Mr. And Mrs. Estes Peace Park” was designed by three teams of Young people competing for the final design. Under the mentorship of Satake Muratake, landscape architect at Juxtaposition, students’ final design incorporated elements from all three designs. This park has pergolas with seating, raised flowerbeds, dogwood and sage trees, and open play area for children with water fountain.

A gardening opportunity that is open to the public is the Fourth Annual Community Garden Spring Resources Fair which will take place on Saturday, March 29, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at First Christian Church, 2201 First Avenue, South Minneapolis. There is free entry and parking. Will Allen, the keynote speaker, has taught farming and food processing to more than 1,00 students and helped launch more than 25 urban gardens, some in the poorest counties in the U.S. Gardenworks Organization writes in their flyer that he said, “We’re not just growing food, we’re growing communities.”

Marshall’s “learn as you go” philosophy includes an amazing career of 23 years as administrative assistant; more than six years of construction work after completing schooling with the St. Paul Technical College. She has taught carpentry and woodworking for 3 years at Minneapolis North High.

For more information on how to get involved with Northside gardening activities, contact Gwen Marshall at 612-277-1153 or; or Gardenworks at 612-278-7123 or