Victory Garden Initiative

April 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Victory Garden Initiative, a group in Milwaukee that’s basically crowd-sourcing the urban agriculture movement, is holding their third annual Blitz on May 28 (which coincidentally is the day of the Symposium in Chicago). They’ve got a great thing going, in spite of political obstacles last year in the form of restricted access to city water.

From their Facebook event:

The Blitz is a one day event aimed at installing as many new food-producing gardens as possible throughout the Milwaukee area. Help us as we install as many gardens as we can throughout the Milwaukee area on Blitz Day! We need your enthusiasm, your shovels, and your vision for a nutritious, sustainable food system. Real change, one garden at a time. We install garden beds throughout the day, then close the event with a Potluck to celebrate.

More after the jump…

Register to volunteer:
Have a garden installed by volunteers:

We said ‘This is a grassroots movement. Move grass. Grow food.’, now let’s put our shovels where our mouths are. We are planning a city-wide Victory Garden Blitz, where we will combine our Grassroots Victory Gardening efforts with Memorial Weekend camping, pot-lucking and celebrating.

On Memorial Day Weekend The Victory Garden Initiative,and many, many other partners will be installing permaculture victory gardens throughout our great city to build community resilience, localize and secure our food source, reduce the use of fossil fuels, help our neighbors in a poor economy, and grow nutritious, delicious foods. We need your help, your yard, your donations, your hook-ups, your stamina, your knowledge of growing veggies, your desire to learn, your shovels, your energy, your enthusiasm, and your spiritual presence to make this event great. There are many ways to get involved.

Victory Gardens has a pretty impressive vision, but it sounds familiar:

We envision our post-industrial world transformed to an abundant and sustainable ecosystem through the reintroduction of food into urban ecology. When fruit trees fill our parks, nut trees are harvested by our neighbors, while food pantries house vegetable gardens and school children participate in growing their lunches, we will have secured a socially just and sustainable food system.

Keep an eye on their model… These folks are doing some great things…

Ten Steps to Installing a DIY Victory Garden

Choose a site. How about the yard of someone in your neighborhood who has lost their job? Or someone who would love to garden but could use some help (financially, physically, or otherwise) getting it started? Other potential sites include schools and churches where someone is willing to maintain the garden, and existing community gardens that could use some help with early season clean-up or other projects.

Recruit 5 to 10 friends and neighbors to help. (It’s ideal if there is at least one experienced gardener on hand to supervise planting.) Consider making the installation a neighborhood event. How about a cook-out or potluck?

Help us show how the movement is “growing” all over Milwaukee.

Add your garden site to our interactive map.

Provide contact info if you’d like potential volunteers to be able to get in touch with you about your project. (You don’t have to show the exact location of your site if you’re not comfortable doing so.) We might also want to contact you about having someone photograph or videotape your project.

Evaluate the site. Most vegetables and herbs require at least 6 hours of sun per day. Also take into account access to water. Finally, locate the garden where it is most likely to be tended. If it is near the kitchen door, or visible from the kitchen sink, all the better!
Working with the garden host, decide what you will be planting and how. Keep in mind that many soils in urban areas are contaminated with lead and other toxins, so raised beds with clean, rich soil are ideal. (This is most critical for leafy and root crops, and less of a concern for fruiting plants, such as tomatoes, beans, corn, squash, etc.)

Make a list of materials you will need. Try to use salvaged (re-used) materials as much as possible. Below is a list of ideas about where to find materials.  Consider adding a compost bin and one or more rain barrels to your garden design for ecological use of water and homemade fertilizer. Both are available from Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful,or you can make your own. Other potential additions include dwarf fruit trees, trellised crops, window boxes, and a potato tower.

Install the garden. Have fun! (If possible, document your project with photos and/or video. After the Blitz we will be collecting images to create a lasting record of this event.) Think about getting or making a Victory Garden sign for your yard to help spread the word about the importance of homegrown food.

Finding Materials for your Garden Installation

Soil:  It can take a thousand years for nature to make one inch of topsoil, so taking it from someplace else isn’t really sustainable. The best option is to make your own soil by composting yard waste and kitchen scraps in a compost bin or pile, or by using a method called sheet mulching.  Landscape companies or your local recycling center may also be able to provide soil made from composted materials. To calculate how many cubic feet of soil you’ll need, multiply the length x width x soil depth (in feet) of each bed. There are 27 cubic feet in 1 cubic yard of soil. A 4′ x 8′ bed, for example, would require about 1 yard of soil.

Lumber for raised beds & compost bins: pallet wood (do not use pallets marked “MB,” as they have been treated with a harmful pesticide that could leach into the soil); scrap or discarded, untreated lumber; Habitat for Humanity ReStore  (801 S. 60th St. in West Allis); salvage yards. Railroad ties are not recommended because they are soaked in creosote, which could contaminate your soil. Make sure you also get corrosion resistant fasteners, such as galvanized deck screws.

Other materials for raised beds: raised beds can also be edged with salvaged bricks, cinderblocks, or stone.

Other containers for plants: used 55-gallon food barrels cut in half (uncut, these can also be used for making rain barrels); 5 gallon buckets (Outpost Natural Foods often has these available in the deli area); salvaged tubs and children’s swimming pools etc. Be sure to add drainage holes.

Plants & seeds: By late May, seedlings & seeds are widely available at plant sales, nurseries, garden stores, etc. Starting your own seeds is the least expensive option, so keep this in mind for next year.

Other materials: It’s a good idea to line the bottom of raised beds with cardboard, burlap, or thick sections of newspaper so that grass and weeds below will be smothered. Collect newspapers from neighbors, call around to local stores for cardboard boxes, or ask your local coffee roaster for burlap sacks.

For more information contact Gretchen Mead at gretchenmead[at]


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