Plenty of people have landscaping services plant and take care of their decorative flowers and other yard features, but have somebody else design and take care of your vegetable garden? That's downright un-American, Jimmy!
Well no, it really isn't, according to Troy Community Gardens Program Manager Megan Cain, who, along with Troy Community Farmer Claire Strader have launched a new business, Madison FarmWorks. The team "designs, installs, and maintains vegetable gardens of any size at homes and businesses around Madison." It's a little like having your own private CSA, right in your backyard. Don't like beets? Don't plant 'em. (Or don't have Madison FarmWorks plant them for you.)
But isn't that kind of against the spirit of the backyard vegetable garden?
"I wouldn't say that there's just one spirit behind the backyard vegetable garden," says Cain. "Anything that will increase urban food production is a good thing." Besides, she notes, the presence of a backyard garden at the home of someone who maybe not have the time or desire to maintain it is still educational: "People will be more in tune to the planting seasons, and become more familiar with what the plants look like, for instance how broccoli heads comes up from the rest of the plant. Having the garden is the first step. You never know where it might lead."
Mid-July will probably not strike any Wisconsinite as the ideal time to start a garden, even those with only a hazy conception of what a growing season is. Cain admits they got a late start on Madison FarmWorks this year, while waiting for some small business funding to come through. However, the good news is it's not at all too late to start a vegetable garden.
"We're still planting at the teen farm," Cain points out -- she's actually in the midst of this mid-summer planting as we speak, via cell phone: "You can still be planting green beans, beets, cilantro. It's about time for fall lettuce and spinach, too, plants that wither in the heat of summer but thrive in the cool fall weather.
Cain says that she and Strader will also plan and install the garden beds in fall, so that gardeners can be all ready to go next spring. In fact, they'll participate in the process to whatever extent you like: overall garden design, planning a succession schedule, mini-classes on crop rotation and soil health, all-summer maintenance and even harvesting.
One of the projects Madison FarmWorks has underway is an urban garden at Madison Squash Workshop (squash = the racket sport, not the vegetable) and Yahara Bay Distillery. The distillery, which makes rum, brandy, and gin, will be using some of the vegetables from the garden in his products. Madison FarmWorks is also working on some garden proposals for some of the housing cooperatives downtown, and helping a Madison resident with an existing garden with increasing her yield.