Seeking renters who garden and their landlords

Plus: Watershed Hero nominations open and Tour de Fat returns

Gardening Matters wants to hear from renters gardening in their apartment buildings' yards. Credit: File photo

Are you a renter? Do you garden in the yard of your apartment building or duplex?

If you answered “yes” to both those questions, Gardening Matters wants to hear from you — and your landlord, too. The Minneapolis nonprofit is conducting an online survey on gardening on rental property, and Program Director Nadja Berneche said they plan to collect responses through the end of July.

“We’re in partnership with the City of Minneapolis and they are interested in helping to support better land access for people who want to grow their own food,” Berncehe explained. “And one of the ways that we are seeing possibilities is rental property.”

Renters start garden plots outside their apartments for many reasons, but a big one is the lack of community garden space.

“Land is really tight, especially in South Minneapolis,” she said.

Renters who are eager to grow some vegetables often face two choices: add their names to the long waiting lists for community gardens or dig up the sod in the backyard. And they don’t necessarily check with their landlords before settling on Option B, as Gardening Matters learned when it held a couple of focus-group sessions earlier this year.

“We heard this a lot on the renter side: They ask more for forgiveness than permission,” she said.

Gardening Matters hosted a separate discussion with seven Minneapolis rental-property owners.

“Some were very enthusiastic about the idea and really view the garden as an amenity they’d like to offer their tenants,” Berneche said, adding that landlords who view the gardens positively tend to see them as a way to attract and retain tenants and as a way to build community in their buildings.

But some also expressed concerns about maintenance and upkeep of the gardens. What happens to the garden when the building’s green thumb moves out?

The goal of the surveys is to develop some tools for landlords and tenants to use, including a sample garden agreement. They’ll be tested in a pilot project next spring.

Landlords and tenants can go to to fill out the online questionnaire.

Those lucky enough to already have a community garden plot might want to visit the Gardening Matters website soon, too. The nonprofit’s 2014 Community Garden Survey is online through July 20.

“It’s kind of like a census of community gardens,” Berneche said.

Conducted once every two years, it’s an in-depth survey of who’s using community gardens, how many are out there, the issues gardeners are facing and other topics that inform Gardening Matters’ work.

“We compile all that data into a snapshot that we use for our advocacy,” Berneche said.


Nominations open for watershed heroes

Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is seeking nominees for its 2014 Watershed Heroes awards.

The awards honor those individuals and organizations committed to protecting and improving water quality in the watershed district. The deadline for nominations is July 25.

Awards are given in seven categories: Excellence in Development; Innovation in Government; Outstanding Partner; Youth Naturalist; Citizen Engagement; Outstanding Contribution; and Lifetime Stewardship. They’ll be presented at a ceremony planned for Oct. 16 at Excelsior’s Bayview Event Center.

For more information, or to nominate a hero, go to


Tour de Fat pedaling into Loring Park

Minneapolis is one of 10 stops on this year’s Tour de Fat, the country-crossing bicycle festival that rolls into Loring Park July 26.

A costumed bike parade starts things off at 11 a.m., and from noon until 5 p.m. there will be contests, performances and music from The Reals, The Handsome Little Devils and Black Joe Lewis. Tour sponsor New Belgium Brewing, based Fort Collins, Colo., will also have a lineup of its beers available for those 21 years old or older.

New Belgium is celebrating the Tour de Fat’s 15th anniversary this summer. Minneapolis was added to the tour’s schedule in 2009.

As usual, donations and proceeds from beer and merchandise sales in Loring Park go to three local bicycling nonprofits: Midtown Greenway Coalition, Minnesota Off Road Cycling and Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. Last year’s tour stop in Minneapolis raised $24,000.

Prizes include a 2014 New Belgium-branded cruiser bike for the winner of the “Thousand-Person Dance Contest.”

Another new bike goes to a local volunteer for the Car-for-Bike Swap. One person who pledges to give up driving for a full year will get a stipend to purchase a commuter bike.

Want to apply for the swap? Head to the brewer’s website,, and click on “Events” at the top of the page for more information on Tour de Fat.

On stage at last year’s Tour de Fat stop in Loring Park. Submitted image