Capitol Vegetable Garden Update

It's been almost exactly two months since we installed the Capitol Vegetable Garden and I am here with an update.  It has changed immensely in the last two months - things have grown very quickly.  In fact, on the days when we are at the garden doing maintenance, the most popular question has become - What did you do to make the plants so big and healthy?  My answer - not much!  Which isn't entirely true, but the answer is surprisingly simple and doesn't contain chemicals.  For many weeks, when we arrived at the garden for our weekly maintenance, I was astounded at how quickly the plants grew since the previous week.  I kept saying (complaining?) to Shelly, "This garden looks better than mine!"  Which is good, because way more people see the Capitol garden than see mine...

Madison Capitol Vegetable Garden Madison Capitol Vegetable Garden

                              Week 1                                                         Week 7

So, my answer to the folks who stop by to pose this question while we work in the garden is below (and includes some gardening tips!):

1. We started with healthy seedlings (very important), and we put a nice big scoop of compost in the hole when we planted them.

2. Rain and sun, rain and sun, repeat!  We have had a lot of rain this season, the garden site gets a lot of sun, and the soil seems to drain well - so this is quite a stellar combination when it comes to creating a vigorous garden.

3. My personal favorite for keeping gardens looking nice ~ mulch!  It physically pains me to look at an unmulched garden, which might be why some people consider me obsessed with mulching.  After one week of looking at the Capitol garden naked and unmulched and wondering how people would react to a public garden covered in hay, our great FarmWorks intern, Shelly, had a moment of inspiration and suggested we use Olbrich leaf mulch.  Looks a bit more fancy than hay, but still functions the same.   Holds in moisture, prevents weeds, protects the soil from erosion and adds organic matter.  Problem solved and obsessed mulcher satisfied!

4. Soil.  It's really the foundation of every healthy garden.  Since this is a new garden for us, we don't really know the history of the soil.  But, it seemed dark and loamy during our installation, so we hoped the plants would do well.  The appearance of the plants in a garden is a good indicator of the soil health.  If they look healthy and vigorous then the soil is most likely in good condition.  The exception to this is when people use synthetic feritizers, which can give a false impression.  But, the only thing we've used on the Capitol Garden is compost.

beet harvest

The Capitol through a sea of cucumbers.                    Beet harvest

5.  Lots of attention?  Not sure if this is a big factor - but this garden gets a lot of love from us.  I certainly think it can be said that a neat and well tended vegetable garden is more pleasing to the eye and looks more healthy.  So, love your garden up and I believe it will return the favor by looking beautiful and producing well.

I will end this post with two glimpses of life in the Capitol garden.  The first is a picture of a blue dragonfly that was soaring around the garden one day when I was there working.  It landed on the chard leaf right in front of me and I snapped a picture.  The second is of a message that was left in the kohlrabi patch last week by a visitor to the garden.  There is never a dull moment when you are growing vegetables in a public space!





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