How to Grow Sweet Potatoes

To Start Sweet Potato Slips You Will Need:
1 wide mouth canning jar, or something similar
1 healthy, firm medium sized sweet potato
4 tooth picks or thin bamboo skewers
A sunny window sill

Look at your sweet potato. One end looks like it has been broken off from the plant and the other end does not. The end that looks like like it was torn from the plant, will face up, and the other end will face down. 


Poke the tooth picks into the sweet potato 1/3 of the way down from the top. The tooth pics will be used to help balance the sweet potato in the jar.


Set the sweet potato in the jar and fill with water a couple of inches from the top.

Put it in a sunny window and watch what happens!   In a couple of weeks, the sweet potato will start to sprout. Change the water occasionally to keep it fresh. When the sprouts are 5-6 ” long, carefully pick them off at the base where they are attached to the sweet potato.  Put them in a jar filled with water to root.


Once the ground is warm enough and the slips you harvested off of the sweet potato have a good set of roots it can be planted in the ground.  When it gets closer to sweet potato planting time,  in late May, we will give you planting directions!   Stay tuned!

Sustainable St. Paul Award goes to Growing West Side!

On April 20th, Growing West Side received a Sustainable Saint Paul Award

Sustainable St Paul award, Growing West Side

Rebecca Noecker, Molly Phipps, Steve Bivans, Mayor Chris Coleman

from the Mayor and the City Council, for our work on Local, Healthy Food & Community!

Along with 12 other amazing groups and individuals working on all facets of sustainability, from energy, to clean water, to beautification, to waste, to food and gardening, Growing West Side was proud to be in attendance for this exciting ceremony.

Sustainable St Paul award growing west side

Rebecca Noecker, Barb Rose, Molly Phipps, Steve Bivans

Receiving the award for GWS, were Molly Phipps and Steve Bivans. Julie Nelson arrived just in time to see them accept the award, and Barb Rose–rushing from another meeting–arrived in time for the end of the ceremony and to pose with our city council person, Rebecca Noecker.


We are proud of the recognition for the work Sustainable St. Paul award Growing West Sideof so many volunteers, and want to thank you all, including our steering committee members, Maureen Hark and Sarah Foster, who were not able to attend.

One of the highlights of the ceremony was Steve Bivans’ short acceptance speech, in which he laid down a challenge to all in the room, including the City Council and Mayor Coleman, “to make St. Paul the model for sustainability, not just in Minnesota, not just in the U.S., but for the entire PLANET!

If you’d like to see the entire ceremony, it’s below! If you just want to see the GWS part, and Steve’s short speech, skip to about the 19:30 minute mark in the video.

This is a goal that our city CAN reach, with the help of organizations like the ones in attendance at the ceremony, and with the assistance of our neighbors.

Steve would personally like to challenge the West Side neighborhood, to lead the way for the rest of the city! Let’s DO THIS!

Want to know how to help?

Volunteer with Growing West Side, today! Click HERE for more information!

Saving Common Milkweed Seed

by Maureen Hark, Growing West SideIMG_3981One of the most important plants for Monarch Butterflies is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). The butterflies lay their eggs on the undersides of the Common Milkweed leaves. The hatched caterpillars will live their entire life on the plant, eating the leaves and eventually developing into a chrysalis. In order to survive, the Monarch needs a healthy supply of milkweed and is completely dependent on us to see that it continues to be available to them.










Common Milkweed as it looks in early September. The leaves are green are healthy with some just starting to turn yellow. The seed pods are full.


When to Collect Seeds 

The time to start looking for common milkweed pods is now. Go out and see if you already have some growing in your garden. If not, look around the neighborhood, but be sure you get permission from who’s ever yard you find them in before you make plans to harvest.

What to Look For                        

You will be looking for pods that are with in a day or two of opening up and contain mature brown seeds. The closer to maturity the seeds are the easier they crack open when gently pinched. Pale or white seeds should not be collected as they are not fully mature and most likely will not germinate when planted


It is best to wait until seeds are completely brown (fully mature) before harvesting to increase the chances of having viable seed.


The seeds on the left are still white and not mature enough for harvest. The seeds on the right have just begun to turn brown.




The trick is to get the seeds as soon as they are mature but before the pod fully opens up and they are blown away by collection window.the wind. If it is hard to visit the plants on a regular basis to check if they are ready to harvest, you could try putting netting over the pods, or a rubber band around the widest part of the pod to hold the seeds in. This will extend the collection window.






Almost any kind of netting will work. Here a cast off onion bag was cut in half and slipped over the top of a group of pods. The netting contracted around the pods and did not need to be tied on.

Harvesting the Pods and Separating the Seeds from the Fluff

To harvest the pods, gently pull or cut off the plant. Dry the freshly collected pods in a place where there is good air circulation until they are completely dry.

To separate the seeds from the fluff, open the pods and scrape the contents into a paper bag. Shake the bag vigorously to separate the seeds then cut a small hole in the corner of the bottom of the bag and shake out the seeds into a bowl. Or put the seeds and fluff into a plastic container with a tight fitting lid with several coins. Put the lid on tightly and shake. The coins will help separate the seeds from the fluff and they will fall to the bottom of the container.


Labeling and Storing the Seeds

Put the cleaned seeds in an envelope or small paper bag that can be sealed. Label the package of seeds with the type of seed, date you harvested and the location where it was collected. Store the seeds in a cool, dark dry place till you are ready to plant.


Sharing the Seeds with the GWS Seed Library

Bring your extra seeds in marked packages to the Riverview Library and turn them in at the front desk. The Librarians will see that they are given to the Growing West Side Seed Library for distribution in the neighborhood.

Important Things to Know about Milkweed and Seed Collection

Milkweed Sap/Latex allergy

Milkweed sap can irritate your skin, especially if you have an allergy to latex. Be sure to wear gloves when working with the pods. Avoid touching your face. The sap can be damaging to your eyes and the effects from the sap do not always show up right away. Be especially careful if harvesting the seeds with children.

Milkweed Bugs

Milkweed bugs are not harmful to Monarch larvae or milkweed plants but they do feed on the seeds. The damage is difficult to see but the seeds will not germinate if they have been pierced by the milkweed bug. When collecting milkweed seeds, pass by those plants that have milkweed bugs present. This will increase your chance of collecting viable seeds.

Online Resources

Harvesting Milkweed Seeds                                                                                   

Milk Weed Bugs

For a photo identifying Milkweed bugs, go to:


Maureen Hark, Growing West Side 9/2015






Growing West Side Seed Library Opens!

Come Join Us to help Celebrate the 2015 Opening of the

Saturday, February 7th from 12-3 pm
1 East George Street

The Growing West Side Seed Library is starting its second year of providing free seeds and education to the neighborhood.  Bring your friends and family.  We will have activities for kids, information on Community Garden Plots, Youth Farm and up coming Growing West Side Events.

Wonderful Worms! 12:30 to 2:30 pmgwskidsworms10974198_10152993553423077_762026600719982598_o

Kids, roll up your sleeves and learn about composting worms as you help us separate and move our composting worms to a new composting box.

Starting Seeds Indoors Workshop 1 pm

Get ready for planting your vegetable garden this spring by joining us for a workshop on Starting Seeds Indoors. Learn which seeds need to be started early inside and which are planted directly in the garden and learn how to start and care for seeds as they grow. Then go up stairs to the Seed Library and “check out” some seeds for you to start at home.

Winter Sowing Workshop 2 pm

Learn an easy method of starting seeds outdoors in late winter usgwsSeedsprout104ing recycled containers. Perfect for starting Pollinator friendly flowering natives.

KIDS! Get down and dirty learning about composting worms and help us separate and move them to a new composting box!

Brought to you by Growing West Side and The Riverview Library.

GWS Newsletter, July 2014

Its’s a Summer Showdown Rootin’ Tootin’ Hoedown!!

Friday, August 8th
507 Hall Avenue, St. Paul 55107
Starting at 6 pm.

Please join Growing West Side at Casa Guadalupana’s “Summer Showdown Rootin’ Tootin’ Hoedown!  Bring a dessert to share and your dancing shoes – there will be live bluegrass and folk music and large group square dancing.

Casa Gadalupana is a Catholic Worker house of hospitality here on the West Side providing food and shelter to Latino families in need.  The Hoedown hopes to build awareness about the Casa and other similar programs throughout the metro area.

This year, for the first time, participants in the Beans on the Boulevard project will be donating their extra beans to the folks at the Casa.  For more information on donating your extra beans, contact Maureen at

Non perishable food donations for Casa Guadalupana’s food shelf are welcome.

This Week at the Market:

Join us at the Icy Cup on Saturday mornings between 8:30 and 12:30 pm and find a variety of local produce and other food products.  Meet up with friends and neighbors and enjoy some good music and other family-friendly activities.

Cathy Isles will be reading from her book, Fresh Fruits and Veggies a Plenty! at the West Side Farmers Market around 10 am. Bring the family!

Saturday July 26,  Corner of Stryker and George Streets. See you there!  EVERYONE WELCOME!   EBT and WIC ACCEPTED!   CREDIT CARDS TOO!

Growing West Side Volunteer Opportunities

Accountant: We recently set up our own bank account and could use some financial savvy to help us set up some systems and templates to keep track of our finances and to make sure we’re doing things correctly. We anticipate this being a short-term need including a couple of meetings and helping us develop good practices.

Bookkeeper: Currently, our banking needs include writing weekly checks to reimburse farmers for their credit card business at the market, occasional supplies, and reimbursements for other volunteers who have purchased things for Growing West Side.

Translator/Interpreter: Do you speak Spanish, Hmong, Somali, or another language represented on the West Side? We are looking for people who can translate documents and those who can interpret at events. We anticipate needing help at meetings we will be holding between now and November.

Interested in any of the above opportunities? Contact Molly Phipps:

Check out all our volunteer opportunities here.

Farmer’s Market Volunteer Opportunities

Do you enjoy running into your neighbors every Saturday morning while you buy up beautiful and fresh locally grown fruit and vegetables?  Have you tried the West Side Sourdough bread or the Isabel Street Hot Sauce or Ann’s Jams or the yummy maple syrup or home made soaps or cookies? Or the yummy, fresh affordable veggies & herbs from Chong N-Xiong farms pictured here?

Our farmers market is growing but it is run entierely by volunteers and we need YOUR help!  If you can donate 2-3 hours of your time on ANY saturday morning between now and mid-October we would love your help. Here are some ways you can contribute:

WSFM Greeter- Welcome new customers to the farmers market and ask them to sign up on email list and ask them to participate in our customer survey

Cerenity resident chaperone– Assist senior residents while they shop at the farmers market. Help push wheelchairs and navigate with vendors.

Sell WSFM Merchandise- Staff our GWS Merchandise booth and sell WSFM tshirts and other merchandise

Set Up WSFM-Help us set up the market and assist the vendors with getting their booths organized before customers arrive. Help musicans and other special guests set up their equipment.

Take down the market-Help us close down the market at the end of the market day

Flyer your neighborhood-Distribute flyers to your neighbors and to local businesses to get the word out about the market

Bring a friend.. bring a neighbor.. bring your children! Support the West Side Farmers Market by volunteering some of your time this summer. Many Hands make light work!

Thank you!

Contact the West Side Farmers Market Organizing Committee at

Upcoming Events at the Market

July 26- Cathy Isles, children’s book author will do a reading circle and art project

August 2– Music with Chris and Chris

August 9– The seed library will be at the farmer’s market 9-11am! The seed library continues summer hours at the Riverview library on Wednesdays from 5:30-7pm. Although there are very few seeds we can plant at this late date, we can try to answer your questions and share in your harvest adventures!

August 30– Alma Andina– music from South America and the Andes Mountains

September 3– Strolling accordion music

September 13– Ramsey County Garden Educators. Also, the seed library will be at the farmer’s market on the 13th from 9-11am!

Have another idea for entertainment at the market? There are plenty of more slots available. If you have any ideas for performances or other activities at the market, contact Barb at

Connect with us on Facebook

Join the Growing West Side group on Facebook

Like the West Side Farmers Market on Facebook

West 7th/ West Side Resource HUB

What is the Gardening Matters Resource Hub? The West 7th and the West Side neighborhoods have come together to form a Resource Hub. The Hub is a community based network of residents, organizations, and businesses supporting each other to grow, cook, and preserve fruits and vegetables and increase health and access to fresh food. By becoming a member, we can become part of a network of people building a vibrant and inclusive local food system. Through out the year our neighborhoods will come together and share what resources and knowledge we have.  The kick off event is April 2nd.  But, more about that later….

How do you Join the Hub? To join, individuals or organizations pay a small membership fee and choose the garden package of seeds and seedlings that best suits their needs.  The suggested membership fees are lower than the actual costs, to make memberships available to everyone. If you can contribute more, you provide critical funds for operating costs.  To sign up, go to the Gardening Matters Resource Hubs page ( ) and select “sign up now”, or come to the next GROWING WEST SIDE MEETING Saturday March 23rd at the Riverview Library and sign up there OR at the Seed Disbursement Event on April 2nd.
These are the Garden Seed/Seedling Packages you can sign up for:
Small Garden Package Suitable for a small plot, raised bed garden or container garden.  10 packets of seeds and 12 seedlings. Suggested membership fee $10 to $20. (approximate retail value $45)
Medium Garden Package Suitable for a 12’ x 12’ garden.  20 packets of seeds and 20 seedlings.  Suggested membership fee $25 to $40. (approximate retail value $85)
Large Garden Package Suitable for a very large garden or community garden. 40 packets of seeds and 72 seedlings.  Suggested membership fee $50 to $100 (approximate retail value $225)
You can also become a member by making a donation, and not receiving seeds.
In Addition to Purchasing Seeds members will be able to purchase strawberry and raspberry bare root plants at a very good price through this program. Demos and classes will be available to help you grow fruit. Look on the Gardening Matters resource Hubs page for information on ordering. PLANTS MUST BE PRE-ORDERED.
The Seed Disbursement Kick Off Event!  This is the event where the seed packages you have signed up for are distributed. Rivers Edge Academy has invited our Resource Hub to their Community Event on April 2nd from 6:30 to 8pm. There will be food, gardening demonstrations, information about River’s Edge programming, and of course the SEED DISBURSEMENT!
Volunteers Are Needed! The event is being planned right now!  Contact if you are interested in helping.

Our mission

We are a grassroots collaborative that cultivates opportunities to learn, to access locally grown food, and to build authentic connections with neighbors to create a vibrant, thriving West Side community.