Gardening & Urban Farming

Garden Update 6.17.17

Hi friends! Believe me, I will get to the garden update, but I wanted to take the time to say thank you to the people that have been with me on this journey from the beginning!  You guys are the reason that I am doing this.  I also wanted to welcome my newcomers to my blog and, truly, my life!  It has been so exciting getting to know others that share the same passions and values as I do.

I thought I’d take a quick moment to reintroduce myself for my new followers.  My name is Susan, and my husband Jason and I are on an urban farming journey with our two little boys.  Our urban farm is located in West Allis, WI, just outside of Milwaukee.  We expanded it this year to allow us to operate on a scale large enough to host our first ever CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes.  This is hugely exciting for us because it is our personal gateway to eventually owning our own piece of land and operating a much larger farm.  (To learn more about us, please check out my very first blog, written nearly a year ago: And So It Begins… .)

Now to the good stuff: the garden update!  Being the middle of June in WI, things are in full swing and growing exponentially larger every single day!  Every year I worry, and doubt, and pull my hair out; but every year around this time, nature works its’ ultimate miracle and blows my mind.  I can honestly sit and watch things grow this time of year.  (And if you asked my husband, you’d know he’s caught me doing just that several times!)  The pictures I have for you today were taken this morning right after a good rain, so they are as up to date as possible for you guys!  This is going to be a long one guys, but if you stick with me to the end of this post and I’m going to show you the first few CSA boxes that have been delivered!

First is a view of the large garden plot that we added this year.  This has been the most exciting part of the adventure for us because it allowed us the space to offer the CSA to friends and family.  We have four 30 inch wide raised beds in this plot.  (For more information on how we added this plot on the cheap, please check out Garden Update 4.22.17 and Finishing the Big Garden.)  If you look in the back right of the picture you’ll see the garden gate, and that’s where I’m going to start the tour for you!

We had a small amount of extra space within the plot along the fence that wasn’t large enough to add an extra bed.  We planted marigolds along the fence line in the wood chips to attract beneficial insects.  I’m going to take you row by row in the next four pictures, starting with the closest to where I was standing and working down to the end.

First you see Pak Choi; the outside two rows are being picked and eaten now and the inner rows are just coming up.  Next is cauliflower, which was transplanted, then broccoli, which was direct seeded, so you can see the large difference in height.  Then direct seeded Red Acre Cabbage followed by transplanted Red Acre Cabbage.  The small plants second in from the end of the row are Tigger Melons, which are smaller melons that have stripes similar to Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, so we are excited to see those come up.  Last in this row are transplanted Black Beauty Zucchini and one lone tomato transplant that we didn’t have room for with the other tomatoes.

This second row starts with a hodge-podge of extra transplant starts that were all experiments.  There is a lone Brussel sprout, red leaf lettuce, kohlrabi, and Buttercrunch lettuce; all of which are doing well, and both lettuces are nice to blend into our mesclun mix.  Next is the Red Russian Kale, that is doing so well that we have volunteer plants all over the place!  We companion planted the rest of the bed.  Companion planting allows you to get the most out of small spaces and is a method used by many market gardeners.  First you’ll see vine zucchini planted alongside carrots; as the vines grow tall it will give the carrots the space to slowly grow large as needed.  Last in this row is vine cucumbers companion planted alongside scallions.

The next row is all bush squash and cucumbers!  You’ll see that the plants are in various levels of growth.  We transplanted many, but had about a 60% survival rate, so we planted more that are coming now.  This is great for succession planning and has taught us that starting squash and cucs isn’t necessarily worth it.  The first half of this row is a blend of green pattypan squash, yellow pattypan squash, zucchini, and yellow summer squash; yum!!  The whole second half is vine cucumbers.  I can not wait to get started pickling this year!  Last year I canned 75 jars of pickles, and I plan on doing at least 3 times that this year!! We ran out towards the end of March and I do not want that to happen again.  I developed 4 of my own recipes last year, and I am planning to continue evolving these and maybe adding more!

The last row in the big bed starts with a mesclun salad mix that Jason created.  Next are 4 pepper plants that we started, and then 6 pepper plants that we purchased from the farmer’s market.  The only plants we didn’t grow ourselves this year are those 6 plants, and 6 tomato plants that also came from the farmer’s market to replace the few that didn’t survive transplanting.  After that are all tomatoes!  There are 8 different varieties from tiny and bite sized, to huge sandwich slicers.  I can’t wait to see these guys get big and tasty.  We are trying the Florida Weave method of tying them up this year, and so far so good.  I hope to do a lot of canning of tomatoes this year as well.  I have mainly frozen a lot of them in past.

Both planter boxes in the back of the large garden hold the beans along the wooden trellis.  We pushed the two large planters in the center along the trellis to give us more bean room.  These planters have a lot of volunteer basil and cilantro in them as well because that is what was in them last year.  The boxes also hold cilantro, basil, parsley, and (hopefully) 6 additional herbs that have been slow to take off.  They have a TON of volunteer Red Russian Kale; instead of pulling the volunteers, we’ve been eating them, ha!  The two small planters hold the few strawberries I was able to save and move from the larger bed.

Along the side of the large bed is a somewhat awkward plot that was created along with the large bed.  We decided not to fence this portion in because it is irregularly shaped from the sidewalk.  We planted several varieties of sunflowers in there.  We are also doing another companion planting experiment with corn and beans; the beans should climb the corn as it grows.

Along the side of the garage we pulled up the small amount of pointless grass to give the peas a home.  To save costs, we originally tried trellising them on untreated wooden pallets, but they just weren’t climbing them.  Jason took some scrap wood and extra twine from the tomatoes and built these trellises.  The peas love them!  We’ve never been successful with peas before, with the unpredictable WI weather, but I ate my first one yesterday!  The sweet taste of success!

These three cement block beds are additions we built the past two summers when we were just feeding ourselves.  The first one holds spinach, scallions down the center, and then mesclun mix.  Both the spinach and mesclun mix will have their third cuttings tomorrow.

The second bed holds Cherry Belle radishes that are succession planted.  Then are one of my favorites; kohlrabi.  We are growing both purple and green varieties.  The bed directly behind holds 4 different types of carrots.

Here is a better picture of the succession planting of the radishes.  As they are ready to pick just 28 days after sprouting, we are able to do a “weave” of them.  We are planting them 5 rows deep, but about 2 weeks apart so we always have them available.

This bed along the fence is where the strawberries used to live.  I pulled them this year because there just aren’t enough anymore to warrant so much space.  Potatoes are new for us this year and they are looking great.  I actually did the starts myself over the winter from farmer’s market potatoes and so I am very happy to see them growing!  We have russets and then reds that are just coming up.  After that is Rainbow Swiss Chard and then an experiment with Miner’s lettuce.

Don’t accuse us of leaving any space unused!  Our front porch steps are housing 4 more vegetable planters for some experimental crops.  The bottom starts with cucamelons!  These are one of the crops I am most excited to try!  They are tiny sour cucumbers that look like baby watermelons.  Then we have Tabasco peppers, bush beans (we’ve only ever done pole), and the largest pot at the top has two more carrot trials.  You’ll notice some of my many flower pots in the background as well; I love color!

We also have several microgreens that are growing in the basement under grow lights that I neglected to take pictures of.  The micros are all Jason’s doing, so maybe he’ll let you know about those one of these days (hint-hint, wink-wink!).

And there you have it, everything we currently have growing as of this morning!  Hope you liked the tour!!

Here is a snapshot of our very first CSA share ever!! On week one our members recieved: Mesclun Salad Mix, Spinach, Red Russian Kale, Cherry Belle Radishes, Pea Shoots, and Mild Salad Blend Microgreens.

For the second week, our shareholders received: Red Russian Kale, Spinach, Mesclun Mix, Rhubarb, Cilantro, Amaranth Microgreens, and a BONUS of my Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam!

TMF Sprout Design

This year has already been an extremely large whirlwind and epic learning experience, and I am excited and anxious and thrilled for what the next few months hold as things kick into high gear!  Thank you all again for following along and supporting the our TackleMayhem Farms journey!

Any questions for me?  I welcome comments down below, or catch me on Instagram as tacklemayhem_susan: I do add stories there so you can get a more up-to-date view of the gardens!  As always, have the most beautiful and blessed day!

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