Getting ready for the Great Milwaukee Garden Blitz of 2009

My home garden bed is coming right along in preparation for the Blitz that will be happening next week Saturday. Using some tools loaned by very generous neighbors, I’ve gotten the dandelion population largely under control, at least in the garden bed. And today, I reunited with an old compatriat to haul a very large amount of lumber down here. On Blitz Day, we’ll be using the lumber to make raised planting beds. (It just occurred to me that we’ll need chicken wire or something similar to keep burrowing critters out. To do next week…)

Having been doing minor things such moving and writing my senior thesis during the past few weeks, I had neither the time nor the energy to devote to preparing the garden area. Here’s what it looked like in April of 2009:

Haasgarten April 09

(If you were wondering, that is not our trailer. It belongs to the previous residents and is no longer here.)

So, time passed, the weather warmed a slight bit, just enough for plants to grow, and here’s how it looked shortly after we started moving in:

May 2009

This is what I got for not putting down a huge tarp! Plants of all sorts, welcome and unwelcome, deliberate and intrusive, all springing to life. A picture from a week later would show lots of yellow dandelion flowers standing high across the yard. (Creeping charlie makes up most of the rest of it.) As I said, using the tools loaned to me by very generous neighbors, I’ve reduced much of the dandelion population.

As eager as I once was to renew my War on Creeping Charlie, which had been inspired by the federal government’s great overwhelming successes in the wars on poverty, drugs, and terra terror, I’m going to let it go for now. We’ll be manually levelling the surface and then putting in homemade raised beds, and I’ll have the open areas covered in mulch after that. And we need to have the overhanging tree limbs greatly shortened, as it’s already blocking a lot of light.

We’ll definitely need help on Saturday the 23rd. If you can lend a hand, no matter how little effort you think you can muster, I’d be much obliged. Get in touch with Gretchen from VGI if you want to help! And thanks in advance.


A new home, a new home garden

Some very good news: I will no longer have upstairs neighbors! They’re good people, but it’ll be nice not to have people coming in and out all hours of night and day.

The other good news: along with the new digs, we will have a huge garden! By city standards, having almost 1,000 square feet as a garden is huge. But such things are possible on the south side, and that’s exactly what we’ve got now.

Which leads me to my question… what should we call it? I’ve a few ideas, but you can add yours, too:

Second, because it’s going to be such a big space, I’m looking for some suckers GOOD PEOPLE, possibly you, who would be willing to lend some assistance in setting up and tending the beds. Plus, you’re entitled to plant and grow your own crops, and, naturally, take it harvest home with you when.

And if you’re interested in helping set up the yard-farm and grow some food, drop me a line: my email is haazah –> @ <– If you can figure out how to turn that into a usable email address (and not spam me), you’re a good candidate for the garden.


“Distributed Suburban CSA”

For some time now I’ve envisioned a CSA or similar operation based in otherwise empty and abandoned city lots. We have about 3,000 here in Milwaukee — a tiny fraction of those in the city of Detroit, which has at least thirty-three times as many!

NPR has a story on Detroit lots becoming farms that’s worth reading.

While we may about a thirty-third as many empty lots here in Milwaukee, that’s still plenty to make tiny urban farms on. And the City of Milwaukee has become much more willing and able to officially license these empty lots for such use.

Oh, and look at this: “Urban Farming is an international 501c3 headquartered in Detroit, Michigan that plants food on unused land and space and gives it to the needy. [Read more,]


Specifically what I’m referring to is using lawns or yards as growing space. There’s no zoning (that I know of) to be concerned about for that, so long as you don’t sell what you grow. But given that I’m not looking to sell the food, that seems like it would be all right.

Interest in gardening continues to grow in Milwaukee

As the Awesome Depression deepens, the Journal Sentinel and JSOnline have picked up a strong and consistent stream of stories on gardening. In print, we have seen columns on making compost, a much better form of fertilizer than any artificial product ever could be. Online, they offer a series of podcasts with tips for growing vegetables among other topics.

While this is good, a better pursuit is to meet up with local gardeners who can share their experience with growing food. My little group meets on Tuesdays around 8:30AM onward at Anodyne Coffee Roasting on S. KK in Bay View. It’s well worth it if you can make it.

Also, check out Milwaukee Urban Gardens and the Milwaukee Urban Agriculture Network. Both of these groups can help you find more people who garden in and around Milwaukee. There are many more than you might think, and even more than that who want to do it. Now is the time — join us! It will only benefit you.

Do you believe in coincidence?

Quoting an email from myself to a few other folks in and around Bay View and Shorewood:

Just a little earlier today, I was over in dear brother Godsil’s
kitchen, and broached the possibility of a neighborhood farm. With
that idea spoken and out in the air, the day went on.

Meanwhile, Dana and Gretchen both were composing emails.

Dana wrote Godsil and I asking if there was a neighborhood farm in Bay
View, or if work on such a thing was being planned. She has in mind a
volunteer-run community farm, home to “food, chickens, and maybe even

Bearing this in mind, I clicked on the next email in my inbox, which
was from Gretchen. She wrote with this information:

> …someone in [Bay View] sent me a photos of the the empty lot he is
> willing to have farmed. Are you looking for more land to farm right now?

So, do you believe in coincidence? 🙂

I propose that we put our minds and means together to do something with this!

What say?

Let’s go!


Breaking ground for the White House garden has occurred

Earlier today First Lady Michelle Obama led the groundbreaking for the new White House vegetable garden. The new 1,000 square foot garden is the first garden in at least eight years.

(The Clintons had a rooftop garden on the White House many years before rooftop gardens became a rapidly spreading (and very good) trend.)

FarmFed also has a larger photo gallery of the event, showing more than the “official” pictures on the above-linked White House web site.

It appears that they’re planting right in the ground; a “flat garden” in other words. It’s easier and more productive to grow food in a raised bed. Given that the planting season is almost under way, they may want to plan ahead to build the beds next year.

Extra Links:

Texas A&M Extension document on planning and building raised beds.

University of Wisconsin Horticulture Dept. has good pictures of raised beds and other gardening approaches.

• WikiHow also provides good instructions on how to construct a raised planting bed.

(h/t Milwaukee Renaissance)

Gardening returns to the White House lawn

Shortly after Barack Obama won election to the presidency, a movement spread across the ‘net calling on the Obama White House to have a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. That idea has been accepted and will soon become reality, according to ABC News.

Quoting that story:

“In an effort to promote healthy eating, the first family will be planting a vegetable garden right on the White House grounds.

ABC News’ Ann Compton and Sunlen Miller report that the new White House vegetable garden will be dug up and planted on the South grounds of the White House — near the fountain but out of view of the main house.

This is terrific news! It’s too bad the Obamas won’t be able to see the garden from the main house. It’s very calming to watch your garden to see how it progresses; about the only thing better is actually working in the garden and doing planting yourself. There’s really nothing like it. You get a sense of connection to something greater, e.g. life, the universe, and — yes — everything. It’s very spiritual, in other words. I’m going to have quite an adventure with a large garden in the near future, which will doubtlessly become the source of many posts on here.

Back to the ABC News story for a moment: the comments are in a way even more interesting than the story itself. Most are congrulatory and adjulate the Obamas for having the garden. A few are the token cranks, but they’re quickly piled on by the other commenters. One slightly better worded but still cranky commenter speculated that the decades of chemicals applied to make the lawn appear greener would eventually poison the Obama children. I would counter that any soil used in the garden will most likely be organic (chemical-free) soil brought in from off-site.

Update: Washington Post has a story on this:

The 1,100 square foot garden will include 55 kinds of vegetables, including peppers, spinach, and, yes, arugula. (The list of vegetables is a wishlist put together by White House chefs.) There will also be berries, herbs and two hives for honey that will be tended by a White House carpenter who is also a beekeeper. The chefs will use the produce to feed the first family and for state dinners and other official events.

The White House will be using organic seedlings, as well as organic fertilizers and organic insect repellents. The garden will be located near the tennis courts and visible to passerbys on the street. The whole Obama family will be involved in tending the garden, White House spokeswoman Katie McCormick Lelyveld said.