Political Commentary

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: The Advantages of Mulch; Spotted-Wing Drosophila; Make Some Salsa; Reminder about Workdays; Workday at Eagle Heights Sunday, September 9

Hello Gardeners,

MULCH – Both of our gardens are well-supplied this year with leaf mulch. Mulch, such as the leaves we have, plays a very important role in an organic vegetable garden. For instance, it helps retain moisture in the soil. Okay, with all the “moisture” we’ve had the last few weeks, that’s not currently very important. But it is in an ordinary year, when plants can dry out between waterings. It is also useful in preventing soil erosion, which we’re certainly getting this year. Mulch is tremendously effective in controlling weeds - the weeds are growing like crazy this year, with this weather. Mulch improves soil fertility, and increases vegetable yield. Our gardens are mostly heavy clay, and mulch is very helpful in lightening the soil. So keep replenishing your mulch as the season goes on. And if you have empty spots in your garden now, dump some mulch on them so that you won’t have to weed them any more this year.

SPOTTED-WING DROSOPHILA – It’s raspberry season again, and if you have raspberries, be aware that these invasive fruit flies are very active now.  It’s important to pick your berries every day. Don’t leave over-ripe berries on the plants or on the ground, because that just encourages them. Also, if you aren’t going to eat your berries immediately, refrigerate them to keep the larvae from developing and chewing on your berries.

SALSA – With all the fresh vegetables in our gardens, this is a great time to make salsa – here’s a simple and quick recipe:  https://www.thespruceeats.com/classic-fresh-salsa-3060434

REMINDER ABOUT WORKDAYS -  Please remember – one gardener per plot is required to help with one workday during the gardening season. At this point, fewer than half of the gardeners have met their workday obligation for the year. We will continue to plan workdays well into the fall, probably into November, depending on weather, but if you haven’t done your workday yet, you really need to plan to do it as soon as possible before you forget about it altogether. We have tried to give people more options this year, with some weekday evening sessions, and projects on both Saturdays and Sundays. Also we will do a few more sessions at University Houses, when suitable projects come up.

Be sure to put your name and plot number on the workday sheet, so you get credit for your work.

WORKDAY AT EAGLE HEIGHTS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 1pm – 4pm – The project will be clearing abandoned plots. The weather looks great for this weekend, so this will be an excellent time to do your workday. Here’s the link to sign up: https://doodle.com/poll/y7mhyznbekgezy35

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Don’t Dump Weeds in the Dumpster; Vegetables You Can Still Plant in September; Austrian Winter Field Peas; Tip for Tomatoes; Tomato Recipes; Weed of the Week: Pigweed; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

A REMINDER – Please don’t dump weeds and/or vegetable debris in the dumpsters. At Eagle Heights, please dump them on the concrete slab at the weed pile, which is at the end of the 300 row. Thank you.

YOU CAN STILL PLANT VEGETABLES NOW – There is still time to plant root crops and greens for fall harvest. Kale, lettuce, spinach, and chard will still have time to produce leaves before frost. And kale is actually better after it’s been frosted – it’s sweeter and better-tasting. You can still plant radishes and beets. If you want to plant carrots, which grow slowly, try smaller varieties, which will mature a little faster. We still have about two months before the end of garden season – the end will come sometime in late October or so.

AUSTRIAN WINTER FIELD PEAS – One of our long-term gardeners, who ran an organic farm in Kansas for thirty years, has just bought seeds for a cover crop for his family’s plots, and will have extra seeds to share. The plant is Austrian Winter Field Pea. It did very well for him in Kansas, so he wanted to see how well it will do in Wisconsin, with its colder climate This plant, like other legumes, adds nitrogen to the soil, which increases fertility for main-season crops. These peas should be planted in the next few weeks, and will probably die over the winter. You can then dig them into the soil in the spring.
Let me know if you’re interested in getting some of these seeds – note that quantities are limited. Here’s a link to more information about these field peas: https://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Legume-Cover-Crops/Field-Peas

PIGWEED – Today’s weed is pigweed. This is a type of amaranth, a plant family which includes a number of edible plants as well as ornamentals.  The leaves of pigweed are edible, at least when young. The seeds can also be eaten, and are said to be very nutritious. Like burdock, however, it is in our gardens primarily as an unwanted and unappreciated invader; it can grow quite tall, and spreads like crazy. It’s easy to pull out when it’s small, but when it’s big, the root is very solid, and it takes muscle to get it out of the ground. If you’ve got it in your plot, please pull it out. https://www.ediblewildfood.com/pigweed.aspx

TOMATO TIP – If your tomato plants are still flowering, September is the time to start pinching off the blossoms. Particularly with large-fruited tomatoes, these flowers won’t have enough time to produce ripe vegetables. By preventing the plants from setting more fruit, you’ll encourage them to put more of their energy into ripening the tomatoes that have already formed.

TOMATO RECIPES – If you’re inundated with beautiful ripe tomatoes, here are some recipes for them: http://www.midwestliving.com/food/fruits-veggies/40-fresh-tomato-recipes-youll-love/  As for using up those rotten tomatoes we all have, we’ll just have to wait until some politicians come to town and make campaign speeches…

NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – Enjoy the long weekend.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: The Weather; Birds in Our Gardens; Garden Netting; Are You Going Away with No Word of Farewell?; Reminder – Workday at Eagle Heights, Thursday, August 23

Hello Gardeners,

THE WEATHER - Two days after the record-breaking rain we experienced on Monday, there is still standing water in several plots in the 600 row. Many of the plots in both gardens are soggy, and gravel roads were damaged. High winds also knocked over tall plants. If you are not a native Wisconsinite, please let me reassure you – this is not normal weather. Is it global climate change? Hmm, could be…Unfortunately, more rain is forecast for Friday. Our soil is heavy in clay, and plots will continue to be soggy for some time, especially if it keeps raining and storming.

FALL BIRD MIGRATION – Eagle Heights Gardens are part of the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which is home to as many as 255 bird species. Many of these birds can be found nesting in our gardens in the summer (sometimes in the middle of a gardener’s prize vegetables.) Among the bigger birds, we have a family of red-tailed hawks that raises young every year, a sandhill crane family which has two colts (that is, chicks) this year, and of course, numerous turkeys.  Although it’s still summer, several bird species are already starting their fall migration, and starting to head south. Hummingbirds are some of the first to leave.  By late August, the warblers will be heading south, and many of them will stop in the gardens on their way. So keep an eye out. https://lakeshorepreserve.wisc.edu/birds-of-the-lakeshore-nature-preserve/

GARDEN NETTING – A few weeks ago, one of our sandhill cranes was injured when it got tangled up in some garden netting. Two brave gardeners helped to free it, and it seems to have recovered from its injuries. A lot of gardeners use netting for growing climbing vegetables, such as beans, peas, and cucumbers. If you have netting in your plot, and you have plants climbing it, that’s fine. But if you have netting just sitting empty in your plot, please take it down until you’re actually going to use it again. Although it’s unlikely that there will be another such incident, we can minimize the risk to our birds.

ARE YOU LEAVING US? – If your time in Madison has come to an end and you are leaving town for your next adventure, please let me know that you are through with your garden. I can assign it to a new gardener. Or even if you’re not going away, if you’re no longer interested in gardening, let me know. If you have a friend who wants to take over your garden, I can transfer your plot to them. But please let me know. Thank you. And good luck with whatever you’re going to do next.

REMINDER: Workday tomorrow, Thursday, August 23, at Eagle Heights – 4:30 – 7:30. The main task will be clearing plots. Here’s the link to sign up: https://doodle.com/poll/qx38n95k76hs3iiw

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Garden Committee Co-Chair Needed; Freezing Tomatoes; Plots Are Still Available; Zinnias; Dilly Beans; Workday at University Houses Gardens on Saturday

Hello Gardeners,

GARDEN COMMITTEE CO-CHAIR VACANCY – One of our co-chairs is leaving us at the end of October to take a job at a prestigious agricultural research station, so, sadly, we will need a new co-chair starting in November. The co-chairs run the monthly garden committee meetings and set the agendas. They help develop garden management policies, and may be called upon to settle disputes. The work is very responsible, but generally takes up very little time. What do you get in exchange? Beyond workday credit, you do get to use your knowledge, skills, and opinions to help our gardens keep operating, and, hopefully, continue far into the future.  If you’re interested, please send me an email. We’ll want to know why you want the position, what kind of time commitment you can make (we would prefer a one-year commitment), and any relevant experience you may have.

FREEZING TOMATOES – If you have any freezer space at all, and you’ve got extra tomatoes, you should freeze tomatoes for the winter. All you need is plastic freezer bags or containers, or canning jars. Wash the tomatoes, dry them, put them into the containers, and then into the freezer. That’s it. You don’t have to blanch them or do anything else to prepare them. You can also puree your tomatoes, and freeze the puree, or you can make sauce, and freeze that. Whichever way you do it, you’ll be happy to have your very own tomatoes to cook with in January.

PLOTS ARE STILL AVAILABLE – This time of year, empty garden plots are accumulating, and are available at no charge. You can take a plot, clear it of weeds in lieu of a workday, and get it ready for planting next year. A gardener is only allowed one (full) plot, but if you have a half-plot now, and you’re thinking you’d like more growing space next year, this would be a good opportunity to get another half-plot.

ZINNIAS AND BUTTERFLIES – Many gardeners plant zinnias in their plots. They’re colorful, easy to grow, take very little care, and may be beneficial to some of your vegetables. They attract bees, which pollinate plants, and they also deter cucumber beetles and tomato worms. But this time of year, they’re especially enjoyable, because they attract butterflies – monarchs, swallowtails, and others, which come to the flowers for nectar. https://www.growveg.com/guides/why-zinnias-are-perfect-companions-in-the-vegetable-garden/ Frankly, your registrar dislikes zinnias. But which would you rather have fluttering around your plot – a big beautiful butterfly or the registrar? You don’t have to answer this.

DILLY BEANS – These are very easy, and very good. http://www.shutterbean.com/2015/refrigerator-dilly-beans/

WORKDAY – We will have a workday at University Houses Gardens this Saturday morning, August 18, from 8am – 11am. The task will be clearing and chipping paths. Here’s the link to sign up: https://doodle.com/poll/6ys8fy26e3u2v4sb (University Houses Gardens are at the end of Haight Road, past Bernie’s Place Childcare Center.)

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: A Reminder – Workday and Gardener Gathering Today at Eagle Heights; Weedy Plot Notices; Garden Buddies; Squash Bugs; Weed of the Week – Burdock

Hello Gardeners,

TWO REMINDERS: Today’s workday is at Eagle Heights from 4pm – 7pm. Here’s the link to sign up: https://doodle.com/poll/2s487kymykv4ri8w

Also, from 6pm – 7pm this evening, there will be an informal gathering at Eagle Heights to meet your fellow gardeners, and look at each other’s gardens. Meet at the shed at 6:00 if you want to tour, or else you can work in your garden and talk with other gardeners when they walk by.

WEEDY PLOT NOTICES – Here’s a quiz for you: what should you do if you receive a weedy plot notice from the registrar?

A.      Ignore it               B. Panic                C. Send an email back in response

The correct answer, of course, is B. I mean, C. We have four garden juries inspecting the plots at Eagle Heights, and one jury at University Houses. They send me monthly reports, I take a look at the plots they’ve marked, and then I send notices to the weediest ones. We inspect plots to try to solve two problems. One problem is that sometimes people give up gardening and don’t let the registrar know. This means that a plot can sit and get more and more weedy before anybody does anything about it. The other problem is that some kinds of weeds spread very easily, through roots and/or seeds, to neighboring plots. Very weedy plots can also harbor rabbits and voles. Plots in this kind of condition cause problems for other gardeners.

If you get a weedy plot notice, please email me back as soon as you can, and tell me what’s going on. Some gardeners will get right to work, and will clear out the weeds within a couple of weeks. That’s the best scenario. Other gardeners will admit that they’re busier than they expected, and will give up their plots. That’s the next best scenario. The worst scenario is the people who say they’ll get to work, and then nothing happens. Please don’t do that. Your garden plot is your own, but everything you do, and don’t do, affects other gardeners – that’s because we’re a COMMUNITY garden.

WHO’S YOUR GARDEN BUDDY? – Here’s our next quiz: what happens in your garden when you’re away for a week or two or three?

A.      Everything just sits there in suspended animation until you return
B.      Some vegetable plants die, some vegetables rot, and the weeds go crazy!

If you want to have a good garden, but you also want to (or have to) travel, be sure to find yourself a garden buddy. This is a person who will look after your plot while you’re gone – they’ll water if it’s very dry, pull a few weeds, and pick (and devour) your produce. Presumably, you’ll do the same for them when they travel. Because, (in case you guessed wrong), your plants and weeds will keep growing, even if you’re not around to watch. Let a friend, or one of your garden neighbors, know that you’ll be gone, and ask for their help.

FROM THE WISCONSIN PEST BULLETIN - SQUASH BUG - Adults and nymphs are active in pumpkin and winter squash plantings across the state. Vegetable growers should continue to inspect the undersides of leaves for the bronze-colored eggs, deposited in groups of 15-40 between leaf veins or on stems, as long as small nymphs are present. Squash bugs are capable of damaging mature fruit, thus control may be needed as the crop nears harvest.

BURDOCK – Today’s weed is burdock, which is an invasive plant which grows all over our gardens. Although the roots (and sometimes the stems) are eaten in Italy, Japan, and China, and are considered very healthy, I believe that most of the burdock in our gardens was not deliberately planted, and is not likely to be harvested. It makes a long taproot, which is hard to dig out, so try to find this and pull it out when it’s still small. The plants have lots of seeds, which spread widely, and the plant also can serve as a host for diseases which can attack your plants. Here’s some pictures: https://www.fs.fed.us/r3/resources/health/invasives/pinkForbs/commonBurdock.shtml


Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: What to Plant in August; Harvesting Garlic; Rabbits; Swiss Chard; Workday Tomorrow Evening at Eagle Heights

Hello Gardeners,

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – If you have empty space in your garden, this is a good time to start some fall crops, such as beets, carrots, chard, kale, lettuce, spinach, mustard, turnips, and radishes. Root crops and leafy greens are your best bets for productive fall vegetables because they grow pretty quickly, and many of them are hardy enough to survive some frost. I know – it’s only August, but we will be thinking about frost before you know it.

Planting this time of year is always tricky – some of these plants don’t do well in hot weather, and if you start them too early, they’ll just shrivel up. But you have to start them early enough to give them enough time to grow. Since the solstice (late June), the days are getting shorter and the sun less direct. This means that, despite warm temperatures, everything grows progressively slower in late summer and fall.

If you plant now, be sure to water frequently. It can be helpful if there’s shade in your garden (maybe from your taller plants) to start these cool weather-loving plants.

HARVEST YOUR GARLIC – For those lucky gardeners with garlic, this is the time to harvest it. Here’s an article on how to tell when your garlic is ready, how to dig it, and how to cure it for storage: https://www.epicgardening.com/how-and-when-to-harvest-

RABBITS – Are there more rabbits in the gardens this year than usual? Maybe not, but I’m seeing lots of them, and they’re fat and healthy-looking, too. No wonder – they’re stuffing themselves with our fresh, organic vegetables. There are a number of things you can try to repel rabbits, but there’s one thing for sure – if you have tall weeds in your garden, that gives rabbits (and voles) a place to live and hide. Remove their habitat, and it’s bound to help. This is the sort of reason we have garden juries reporting on weedy plots.  Here are some other ideas: https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/rabbit-control-in-the-garden/5465.html

SWISS CHARD – Chard is a Mediterranean green (It’s not Swiss), that grows very easily in Eagle Heights gardens. It can be planted in spring or summer, requires little or no care, can be cut repeatedly, is healthy, tastes good, and is versatile to cook with. So if you haven’t planted it before, try it. 
WORKDAY AUGUST 2, AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – We will have a workday at Eagle Heights tomorrow, Thursday, August 2, from 4pm – 7pm. The project will be rechipping the 1300 row, and possibly working more on the weeds in the tree line. Please bring garden gloves. Here’s the link to sign up: https://doodle.com/poll/bngfz4mxzte47i6f


Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: 700/800 Water Line; Leaking Water Station at University Houses; Surplus Produce; Keep Your Paths Clear; Workday Thursday Evening; Plot Clearing; Bean Recipes

Hello Gardeners,

700/800 WATER LINE – Over the last few weeks, our garden workers have been trying very hard to fix a water leak towards the end of this line at Eagle Heights. They have tried a number of different parts, but the leak has continued. Consequently, the water has been turned off and on a number of times. Yesterday, there was another attempt, which we hope is successful. As I type this, the water is back on. But don’t be surprised if it’s off the next time you need to water. We are sorry for the constant problems and uncertainty. Look, we’re at least as desperate to have this fixed for good as you are.

LEAKING WATER STATION AT U HOUSES GARDENS – Just to make sure that the U Houses Gardeners don’t feel left out, we are also fixing the second water station at your gardens, which has been impossible to turn off for the last week or two.

SURPLUS PRODUCE – One of the many annoyances of gardening is the way we either have nothing or we have too much. Take beans, for instance. After you plant them, it seems like a long long time before they begin to produce. Then, at last, you get the first few delicious little beans. Then, suddenly, the deluge starts and you’re drowning in beans. Please remember – if you have more vegetables than you can eat, don’t stop picking them. You can always put the extras on the share shelves. But you can also take them to food pantries. One pantry is St. Vincent de Paul, 2033 Fish Hatchery Road. They accept fresh garden produce Mondays through Fridays, from 9am – 3:30pm, and on Saturdays, from 9am – Noon. A number of our gardeners have been bringing extra produce to this pantry for years. The pantry workers and the people they serve really appreciate fresh vegetables. https://svdpmadison.org/donate/food/

KEEP YOUR PATHS CLEAR – A reminder – you are responsible for keeping a six inch path next to each of your neighbors’ plots. This not only means you shouldn’t plant in that space, but you (and your neighbors) should keep your paths reasonably clear of weeds. The purpose of the paths is to give you and your neighbors full access to your garden plots, plus it leaves a corridor for your hoses if you don’t have a water station right at your plot.

WORKDAY THURSDAY EVENING AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – Tomorrow, July 26, we will have a workday at Eagle Heights from 4pm – 7pm. The project will be clearing thistles from common areas, and chipping the 1300 row, if time permits. Here’s the link to sign up: https://doodle.com/poll/d34gze2u4dii5mdk This is a great opportunity if you have trouble doing workdays on weekends. Plus the weather looks about perfect, and the moon will be almost full.

PLOT CLEARING – Thank you to everybody who emailed to volunteer to clear plots. We got dozens of volunteers. Right now, we have only a small number of empty plots, and we also have some new gardeners who are willing to take a weedy plot and clean it up themselves. But I’ll let people know when we organize some plot-clearing workdays, or when we might have a specific assignment for a few people.

BEANS – Here are some unusual, mostly simple green bean recipes: https://www.southernliving.com/food/entertaining/green-bean-recipes

Happy Gardening,