Capitol Vegetable Garden

Our demonstration garden at the Capitol Building in Madison

Since 2010, Rooted and its partners have managed a vegetable garden at the east corner of the Capitol Square. With this small, 450-square-foot garden, we demonstrate to visitors from across the state the beauty and diversity of food grown by Madison gardeners.

Who plants the Capitol Vegetable Garden?

The Capitol Vegetable Garden was first planted in 2010 by Madison FarmWorks, a Rooted-based project promoting home gardening. Since then, Rooted has been responsible for the garden’s care and maintenance, though the labor to plan and maintain the space has been shared with organizations across Madison. The 2024 garden, as in the last few years, is planted and maintained as a collaborative effort of TradeRoots, Urban Triage, and Rooted. You can learn more about TradeRoots and Urban Triage in the boxes below.

What is growing in the garden?

The 2024 garden features Southeast Asian vegetable crops, though you will see many vegetables grown by people from other areas of the world. The garden is divided into four sections:

In the southwest section, facing Main St, is an outer band of Thai hot chili peppers, then dryland rice, jicama (a root-vegetable legume, originally from Mexico), and bitter melon, going inwards.

Going clockwise, the northwest section has an outer rim of lemongrass, then alternating bands of mung beans and chicken herbs, then winter melon in the center. The chicken herbs are a group of HMoob medicinal and culinary herbs which are added to a chicken soup, which is most traditionally eaten after childbirth.

In the northeast section, the chicken herbs continue interspersed with sweet peppers and tofu soybeans doing their best against the capitol squirrels, thai common round eggplant, taro and elephant ear, and then peaflower, a plant grown in Laos for its edible leaves and its flowers, which can be used as a tea and natural blue food coloring for rice.

The southeast section, facing King St, there is again an outer rim of lemongrass, then a collection of HMoob greens – first txhuv qaum ntuj, called celosia in West Africa, then a selection of collard varieties, then a mix of Zaub ntsuab and Zaub paj, HMoob greens also in the collard family.

Further in from the Zaub Paj is Hmoob cucumber, a larger cucumber which was traditionally grown at the edge of rice fields, and eaten as a snack during rice harvest. This and the other plants at the center of each section are vines, and so we’ve planted HMoob sticky corn, sorghum, grown for it’s sweet stem, and castor bean, all tall, thick-stemmed plants for the vines to grow below and up.

The vegetables are just a small selection of what is grown by gardeners in Dane County. We hope they inspire you to try your hand at growing a new vegetable in your garden!

What happens to the food grown in the Capitol Vegetable Garden?

The Capitol Vegetable Garden is intended to be an educational, demonstration garden. Of course, we know that visitors may grab some greens or a pepper to snack on, but the majority of the harvest will be donated to the Bayview Foundation’s food pantry and other free food programs around town.

Trade Roots logo
TradeRoots is a Madison-based group of farmers and chefs with roots in Wisconsin and West Africa. TradeRoots catalyzes horticultural, culinary, and seedkeeping activities in the community to establish sustainable urban farming systems in Madison focused on crops relevant to the African diaspora.
Learn about TradeRoots
Urban Triage, Inc., is a Madison nonprofit on a mission to foster, develop, and strengthen Black economic power, Black families’ self-sufficiency, community leadership, advocacy, and family success through transformational education, psycho-education, community engagement, trauma recovery, and cultural heritage.
Learn about Urban Triage

2023 Garden map

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