Quick Facts

  • Established: 1997
  • There are 74 garden plots, two of which are raised for accessibility.
  • The total area of a garden plot is 144 sq feet.
  • Raised plots are 3 feet above ground and are 72 sq feet in size.
  • Majority of plots are 12 ft by 12 ft.
  • The garden occupies about 20,000 sq feet and includes room for additional plots.
  • The garden has its own metered City water service.

The Garden’s Story

The Concept

In the late 1990’s, Waite Park resident Becky Meliton conceived the idea of a Waite Park Neighborhood Garden. Becky saw the necessary components line up to create a community garden: a Minneapolis neighborhood with an abundance of Neighborhood Redevelopment Money (aka Tax Increment Financing); the open 20,000 square feet of railroad land at 36th Av and Johnson St; and neighbors ready to hear and support the concept.

Over the winter of 1997-98 Becky spoke at the Waite Park Community Council to present her ideas and seek support. She was able to garner the enthusiastic support of the then-Council President Don Risk. Becky, along with Don Risk and other garden supporters, had the necessary discussions with the City Public Works and License Departments to get an Encroachment Permit for a community garden. Details on the permit included items like the type of fence, curb cut, dirt, and water.

Becky did the leg work with the then SOO Line RR (now the Canadian Pacific RR) to negotiate the right to have a neighborhood garden on the railroad property in the northwest quadrant of the intersection 36th and Johnson St Northeast Minneapolis. From her work with the railroad, we now have a contract that allows us to use the land as a garden. While it is true that we have made improvements to the land, we are “at-will tenants” of the railroad. This means, if so ordered by the railroad, we must vacate the land without delay or recourse. The land the garden is on was filled in with trash and debris in the 1920’s and 30’s. Because of the condition of the land the railroad has prohibited any land test sample work to be done.

The garden also includes City easement of land that is the vacated street of Lincoln from 36th Av north to the railroad, and is neighbors with Ready Meats. We usually describe the location of the neighborhood garden as the northwest corner of 36th Av and Johnson St. However, the garden is technically about 50 feet to the west from Johnson. Those 50 feet are used by Ready Meats in the winter as the dump site for the snow off their business’ parking lot. Save for one winter, when their snow removal service plow pushed over the garden fence, all has been well.

Commitment to the neighborhood

A request for $24,000 of NRP monies was made and approved by the Waite Park Community Council. At the same time, the neighborhood garden was made a permanent subcommittee of the Waite Park Community Council.

While the Garden has it own officers and budget, the garden as a subcommittee gives the Garden the status of a 501.c.3 charitable organization. It also provides a permanent address and contact information which the Council maintain. The Community Council is the Garden’s fiduciary agent. That means the Council holds and disperses our money which frees us from the need of a bank/check account and provides oversight on our financial activity. The Council also does the necessary financial reports of garden activity to various government agencies.

Becky Meliton’s vision was to take distressed and questionable railroad land and make it a valuable neighbor resource. Her vision was to build raised organic garden beds on open railroad land. The garden beds were built in two segments. The first 30 garden bed plots were built by garden members to the east of the garden’s water hutch. The original gardeners limited the initial garden to 30 plots because of their capacity to build raised plots as well as to see the response of the neighborhood to the garden. By 2000 it became obvious that there was support for a garden with 60 plots. Members started work and completed by 2001 the expansion of the garden to 60 plots.


When the original 30 plots were designed it was decided to split some of the plots in two and designate them as plots A and B. It was believed there would be gardeners that wanted smaller plots. That decision proved false. Of the original 30 gardens there is also a reason for their crazy quilt like pattern. Someone thought, and others concurred, a computer program that could produce a randomized two dimensional pattern would be of more interest than a standard x/y axes garden pattern. Needless to say that decision also proved to be questionable.

The original 30 plots used over 50 cubic yards each of compost from the University of Minnesota’s Ag Campus and wood chips from the City of Minneapolis Parks. Cedar lumber for the plot edges and equipment for the water system came from northeast Minneapolis Siwick Lumber. Like the decision on A and B plots and randomization the use of cedar lumber has proven to be a poor decision as well. By 2005 it was noted the cedar had started to rot. Plastic replacement wood was decided upon after we saw how plastic held up on the sides of the raised accessible plots. In 2006 systematic replacement of the cedar with plastic started.

The garden fence was from northeast Minneapolis Crown Iron. Original installation of the fence was around the first 30 plots to the east. The original fence also includes a double gate on the west side to permit the entry of truck loads to staging area for compost and chips. When the second set of 30 plots was added to the west the fence was also extended. The location of the original west face of the fence is still seen as the posts now used for grapevines.

Between the two sections of 30 plots the garden has a valley that runs north an south. That valley is an idle waterway. That waterway is the major run off of water from the railroad’s right of way which goes to 37th Av and Stinson Blvd. With a quick rain, of just a couple of inches, that area can run with water up to six inches deep.

The garden’s locks are all Master Locks. We use them because you can set the combination in them (avoids need for keys and key copies). Over a ten year period we have replaced all locks at least one time, under warranty.


The water service installed by garden members is an industrial strength one. If it were limited in size to a 5/8 inch residential service when two or more people attempted to water at same time only a dribble of water would come out. The line is so designed (1 1/2 inch) that would take six or more people at the same time to affect water pressure. Each Garden plot is within 20 feet of a water spigot. As for the City, or when you go to Menards or Home Depot for parts, it is best to describe it as an “irrigation system”. On an annual basis the water service needs to be shut off, drained, and sumped. The folks in the City Water Department are pleased that we have a metered water service that is maintained because they see too many shoddy built connections to fire hydrants or outside home water hose lines that cause only problems for the City.

The garden water line runs about 6 inches under the ground along the north face of the garden plots with water spigots near them. The reason the line runs there is keep it out of the sun and in turn keep the water cool.

In early March 2008 there was a serious scare when the City’s water main that runs under the garden along the abandoned Lincoln Street right of way burst. The water that bubbled out of the frozen ground was within inches of the Garden’s water hutch. A first sight it was easy to say “Oh No!” On an annual bases the meter is removed, the service turned off; and, gardeners sump out the water from the line to prevent freeze up. After the City dug up the ground they were able to say it was their problem. Tip of the hat to the City of Minneapolis Water Department. To access the City line they had to move the garden’s fence and gate. When spring arrived in 2008 the City came back and made us whole.


It is through the hard work of individual garden members who work on common areas and needs beyond their individual plot that the garden is what we have today. Since the garden’s first president, Don Risk, we have been fortunate to have different members, both new and old, step forward to be officers. The various officers have kept the leadership fresh and future-orientated, and have kept alive the vision of Becky Meliton. A special thanks is due Becky Meliton for her vision and enthusiasm that gave Waite Park a valuable asset.