Urban Gardening: Much more than a passion du jour

I’ve got a wonderful new passion in my life. It’s helped put food on the table and brought me a satisfaction that exceeds virtually any that I’ve known before. The best part is not just that it will continue to reward me, and those around me for some time to come, but that anyone can have it.

This wellspring of satisfaction and joy is a two feet wide, ten feet long, and sits in my backyard. What is it? A pet? A car? What exactly is it?

It’s a garden. A long, narrow, bountiful garden.

Two months ago, the garden didn’t exist. In fact, our little backyard is not even “our” backyard — my wife and I currently rent a lower flat in Bay View. When our landlady offered to till a little strip of grass and turn it into a garden plot, we leaped at the idea. She followed through, and with a few bags of soil from our neighbors and a bag of “Milwaukee Black Gold” worm castings (read: worm poop), incredible natural fertilizer from Growing Power. We were soon in business, planning and then planting our first home garden.

While it’s “my” garden, I’ve had a lot of help from several people, including my family, my neighbors, and most certainly, Mother Nature. But what I really like about the garden is that what’s coming out of it is enhancing the lives of virtually everyone around me. My friends, family, and neighbors have all enjoyed the garden’s rich products.

I made the first harvest from it on July 3. From that harvest came a huge basket of Romaine and red leaf lettuce, each leaf bearing a rich flavor, color, texture, and firmness unlike that of any lettuce that you could buy in a supermarket. Next in the harvest were a handful of bright red radishes. My young daughter got a thrill from planting the radish seeds, and she was overjoyed to find some radishes were ready for plucking from the earth. Naturally, being a five-year-old, she won’t eat them. But she certainly enjoys planting the seeds!

Just today, July 9, I harvested about three pounds of lettuce! As that’s more than I have a use for, I’m sharing it with my friends and neighbors. They know where it came from, and it serves to enhance our community as we share quality food.

Raising food in your backyard is good for you in a number of ways. I’m sure I’ll be expounding upon them later. But for now, I’m going to prepare a truly homemade salad for tonight’s dinner.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

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