Woodbury Community Garden Keeps Growing

by | May 2024

Woodbury Community Garden

Photos: Chris Emeott

Woodbury Community Garden expands to meet the increasing desire to grow alongside others.

If there’s one thing that can bring people together, it’s a beloved hobby. From book clubs to softball leagues, communities depend on these opportunities to make connections and build bonds with others. For Woodbury residents with green thumbs, the community garden has become a haven for growing plants and friendships for the past two years.

Plans for a community garden started back in 2021 through conversations between the City of Woodbury and Woodbury Thrives, a branch of the Woodbury Community Foundation, which focuses on healthy lifestyle, mental wellness and community connectedness. A community garden was the perfect place to start.

“One of the reasons we started the garden was to address concerns about mental well-being and connecting with the community,” says project manager Sandy Peterson. COVID-19 took a lot away in terms of socialization and left in its place added stress and worry. Gardening addresses both, as it is proven to decrease stress levels, encourage healthy eating habits and promote physical exercise. Additionally, Peterson says, “Our community garden stemmed from an initiative to make our city a more inclusive and welcoming place, while fostering Woodbury Thrives’ and the city’s goal of environmental sustainability.”

Woodbury Community Garden Sign

The garden started with 16 plots in its first year in 2022 and expanded to 48 plots in 2023. Within hours of opening last November, registration for this season was full with a waitlist of 30 people. With such high demand, the hope is to expand the garden again in 2025 and add ADA-compliant raised beds. Although the City of Woodbury has granted five acres for the project, only a quarter-of-an-acre has been utilized so far. Each of the garden plots are 9-by-14-feet, perfect for residents who may otherwise not have the chance to grow flowers or food, such as those living in multifamily residences or homes with small yards and poor growing environments, or those with Homeowners Association (HOA) restrictions.

Prior to the community garden, Peterson worked alongside master gardener Ed Myatt to add a community garden for a group home in Woodbury. “None of the neighbors really knew the young men that lived there … some would even cross the street when walking by their house,” Myatt says. “So the garden was a way to bridge the gap and introduce the neighborhood to the guys that lived there. Now, there are 65 neighbors who participate in the garden.” Myatt credits the garden for the deep connectedness of this particular neighborhood, claiming they now host ice cream socials and barbecue picnics.

When Peterson was approached by the City of Woodbury to lead the community garden project, she knew just who to call to ensure it was meticulously and thoughtfully orchestrated. “Ed was instrumental in bringing the garden from concept to reality,” Peterson says. Between designing the garden plots (size, pathways, etc.), to installing the 6-foot fence to keep critters and deer at bay, Myatt has always been the heart and soul of the project.

On his journey to becoming a master gardener, Myatt underwent more than 80 hours of training through the University of Minnesota. For the first few weeks of the growing season, Myatt visited the garden for about three hours a day to help others with their plot plans and maintenance but quickly saw the relationships between gardeners blooming. “They started socializing outside of the garden,” he says. Regardless of skill level, interactions between the growers became not only beneficial to learning and honing skills, but to fostering teachable moments and building relationships, too.

Ying Liang embraced the garden as a way to procure vegetables from her childhood and attempt to grow unusual items. She has been gardening for years but hasn’t had enough room in her yard due to HOA regulations about raised beds. When registration opened this year, she stayed up until midnight to book a plot. “I heard the plots go fast,” Liang says, and luckily she landed one.

Ying Liang

Ying Liang

This past year, Liang grew a wide array of items. Along with the more standard snow peas and zucchini, she also cultivated black corn and Korean melon. “Some of them I had never grown before and just had a natural curiosity about the process,” Liang says. “Others you can’t buy, even from the farmers market.”

Four varieties of tomatoes grew in Liang’s plot, some of which have a low-yield but a delicious flavor. “When I was little and lived in China, we would get tomatoes fresh from the market, slice them and eat raw,” Liang says. Her favorites include Cherokee purple, costoluto genovese and sun gold cherry tomatoes. Her trick to keeping tomato vines upright: Ditch the store-bought tomato cages and try the Florida Weave method, using only stakes and string.

Myatt has witnessed the cultural ties and exchanges in the garden, as well. “There are people from India, Taiwan … people who are Hmong, Somali … They grow vegetables we’ve never seen, and they aren’t always familiar with ours either,” Myatt says. “Once everybody started growing, they were exchanging vegetables and recipes.”

Vegetables from the Woodbury Community Garden

There’s no denying the garden’s success only a few years in, both in regard to the demand for plot space and the output of produce, but also in terms of the connections built among residents and the cultivation of camaraderie that only happens over dirty gardening gloves and watering schedules. “The garden is giving residents a sense of belonging,” Peterson says. “They enjoy living here because we’re providing them the opportunity. That’s what makes your city yours.”

Garden On

Although gardening starts in May, registration for the Woodbury Community Garden opens in late November. Returning gardeners are also required to register. The garden is adjacent to Andy’s Bark Park and is open from 6 a.m.–10 p.m. For more information on registration, visit woodburymn.gov, or call Parks and Recreation at 651.714.3583. More information can be found at woodburythrives.org.


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