Political Commentary

Wednesday, May 23, 2018



From the Gardens Registrar: Water Lines in the 700’s and 900’s Are Back in Service; Path Mowing – Move Your Hose!; Plant Swap June 3; Bad Plant of the Week;  Rhubarb; Are You Still Planning to Garden? Row Cover Still Available

Hello Gardeners,

WATER LINES – The water is back on in the 700’s and 900’s. Thank you, Will!

PATH MOWING – Path mowing has begun this week, and will continue throughout the season. Mowing is hard work and very time-consuming, whether it’s done with a scythe, a tractor, or a gas mower. Our garden workers do not have the time to keep stopping to move hoses, or other items left carelessly in the paths. So, PLEASE do not leave your HOSE in the path, and do not leave bricks, wood, furniture, piles of weeds, milk jugs, tools, bottles, gloves, books, sandwiches, children, OR ANYTHING ELSE in the paths. Thank you.

PLANT EXCHANGE JUNE 3 – On Sunday, June 3, starting at 10:00am, we will have an informal plant exchange at the Eagle Heights Garden, at the Arbor. If you have extra plants to share, or hope to pick up some plants you’re missing, stop in. We’ll also have more free seeds for summer crops – summer and winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons.

BAD PLANTS – Today’s “bad plant” is the Canada Thistle, one of the two worst weeds in our gardens. (The other one is Wire Grass.) Thistle is invasive and persistent. It’s hard to get rid of it by digging it up, because if you leave a tiny bit of the root in the soil, it can grow a new plant. (This is one reason we no longer provide roto-tilling of garden plots – that just spread the thistles and wire grass around.) It propagates both by roots, and by seeds, which can spread over large distances.
It takes persistence on the gardeners’ part, but you can get rid of them eventually, if you don’t give up. This website has some good information: http://www.bigblogofgardening.com/thistle-organic-control-garden/  Whatever you do, don’t let thistle flower – cut off the flower buds as soon as they appear, and keep them cut.

RHUBARB – One of the first harvestable crops in our garden is rhubarb. It’s very easy to grow – once established, it comes up every year and provides you with a delicious, if not terribly versatile, vegetable, which is treated as a fruit.  Rhubarb is very good for you, with lots of vitamins and minerals, (although once you add enough sugar to it to make it palatable, I don’t know how healthy it ends up.) Just use the stalks; the leaves are poisonous, but you can use them in your plot as mulch. Here’s a website that’s all about rhubarb, including how to grow it, and lots of ways to cook it:  https://www.rhubarb-central.com/

ARE YOU STILL PLANNING TO GARDEN? – Many gardeners already have lots of vegetables coming up. Others have cleared their gardens, and are ready to plant, as soon as time and weather allow. However, there are some plots sitting completely unworked, covered with weeds and tall grass. If you haven’t started working in your plot yet, it’s time now! With all the rain we’ve been having, weeds are growing like crazy. And, if you’re realizing that you’re not going to have time to garden this year, send me an email right away. Don’t let the plot continue to sit. We have a waiting list, and I can easily find another gardener for your plot.

ROW COVER – We still have ten pieces of row cover left. If you want some, email me, and we’ll arrange to meet each other for a sale. $5 per piece, cash only, and exact change please. We won’t be ordering any more until next year.

Happy Gardening,
Kathryn

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


From the Gardens Registrar: Warm Weather Plant Sale at Eagle Heights May 20; Free Fencing, Stakes, and Tomato Cages; Volunteers Needed for Weed Juries


Hello Gardeners,

PLANT SALE ON MAY 20 - Here's a list of the plants that Scott Williams of Garden to Be will bring to sell on Sunday, May 20, at the Eagle Heights Gardens, near the shed. 11am – 2-pm. These will be sold as individual plants, $2.50 per plant:
Tomatoes: Sun Gold Cherry, Super Sweet 100 red cherry, Big Beef red slicer, Valley Girl red slicer (determinate/bush type), Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Juliet, Green Zebra, Valencia orange slicer, Striped German
Peppers: Green/Red Sweet Bell, Jalapeno, Serrano, Spanish Padron, Habaneros, Carmen Italian Frying (super sweet red!)
Tomatillos, Eggplants (Asian Long, Italian Globe, and Bianca Rosa), Diva cucumbers, Muskmelon/Canteloupe, Zucchini, Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash, Curly Parsley, Thyme.

Plants in 4-packs will be Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Green Cabbage, Red Russian Kale, Napa Chinese Cabbage, Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, Broccoli, and Basils – Genovese, Purple, and Lemon.  In 6-packs, there will be 5 different varieties of lettuce, plus sweet corn and kohlrabi. Each pack will be $2.50.

Scott says he is bringing lots and lots of plants. You won’t find a better selection or better prices anywhere else. So please stop in and give Scott your business!

FREE FENCING, STAKES, AND TOMATO CAGES: We have had a large donation of garden accessories – much of it brand new. When you stop in for the plant sale on Sunday, take a look around the share shelves, and help yourself.

WEED JURIES - We will be starting Weed Juries in June, and we’re looking for volunteers who like inspecting  other people’s plots. The purpose of Weed Juries is to find garden plots that may be abandoned, or are extremely weedy, particularly with invasive plants such as thistles. (Jurors can also take note of very well-managed gardens.) After a jury meets, they send me their notes, and I contact the owners of the problem gardens. Some gardens get cleaned up; others are given up and are given to new gardeners.

This year, we’re going to organize this a little differently than last year. Each jury will have three people, and will be responsible for one section of the garden. The jurors will inspect their section three times over the summer - in June, July, and August. Each jury will set their own schedule. The total amount of time should about equal three hours, and it’s the equivalent of a workday. The areas at Eagle Heights will be 100’s – 300’s, 500’s – 700’s, 800’s – 1000’s, and 1100’s – 1300’s. So we’re looking for 12 people altogether. You’re welcome to apply for the jury in your garden area, or a different area, if you prefer. People who served on juries last year and want to do so again are welcome, and I hope that some new people will also want to sign up. It’s also good to have a mixture of experienced gardeners and new gardeners.

At University Houses Gardens, the three jurors from last year are returning this year, and they did a fantastic job, so we won’t need any new volunteers there.
I will get more specific instructions to jury members before jurying starts. Let me know if you are interested, and if so, which section of the garden you would want to inspect.

Happy Gardening,
Kathryn

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Troy Farm Plant Sale; Warm Weather Plant Sale at Eagle Heights; Actively Aerated Compost Tea; Tomatoes; More Free Bean Seeds

Hello Gardeners,

TROY FARM PLANT SALE – On Saturday, May 12, Troy Farm will be selling certified organic garden plants. The sale will be from 10am – 2pm, at 502 Troy Drive on Madison’s north side (in the parking lot at the intersection of Troy Drive and Lerdahl Road). There will be 20 types and 75 varieties of vegetables and herbs. 4-Packs will be $2.50 per plant or $8 per pack. 6-packs will be $1.50 per plant or $8 per pack. Here’s a link to a full list of plants and descriptions: http://www.communitygroundworks.org/sites/default/files/2018%20Troy%20Plant%20Sale.pdf

WARM WEATHER PLANT SALE: Garden to Be will return to Eagle Heights for the second plant sale of the season on Sunday, May 20, from 11am – 2pm. Plants to be sold will include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basils, cucumbers, zucchini, some squashes/pumpkins, melons, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuces, and parsley. I’ll get you a more complete list closer to the date.

AACT – On Saturday, May 12, 9am – 11:30 am at Eagle Heights, Gary K will offer his actively aerated compost tea for free to gardeners. This tea, mixed with water, will add helpful microorganisms to your garden and rejuvenate your soil. Bring an empty gallon container for it. Gary will be happy to share his recipe, so you can make your own.

TOMATOES – Almost everyone in our gardens plants tomatoes. But there are hundreds of varieties - how do you know what kind to plant? Well, to begin with, tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomato plants are developed to stop growing once they start setting fruit.  This means generally that determinate tomato plants give you earlier tomatoes. Also, all the tomatoes on a plant tend to ripen at pretty much the same time. Indeterminate plants will continue to grow larger until frost or diseases kill them, and they will produce tomatoes over a longer season.
Think about how much space you have – some tomato plants are compact, and some can get quite big. Think about color – tomatoes can be red, yellow, orange, black, or green. Or striped. Decide whether you want modern hybrids, or old heirloom varieties. Once you get past all that, think about what kind of tomatoes you use. Cherry tomatoes for salads? Paste tomatoes for sauce? Large round tomatoes for bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches? (or tofu, lettuce and tomato? I know – it’s not the same.)

Whatever varieties you choose, give your tomato plants your sunniest spot, and best soil. Mulch well, and water frequently if it’s dry. Here’s a link to a website with a lot of information: https://www.tomatofest.com/tomato-questions.html

MORE BEAN SEEDS – It seems a little early, but the long-range forecast is showing continued warm weather for the next few weeks. So it’s time now to plant beans. We have a box of bean seeds from 2014, which I will be putting out on the share shelves at both gardens in the next few days. Bean seeds typically last three years, but these should still germinate pretty well, if you plant them thickly. Help yourself.

Happy Gardening,
Kathryn

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


From the Gardens Registrar: Drive Slowly at University Houses; What to Plant Now; A Few Words on Lettuce; Fences; Warm Weather Plant Sale; Thefts

Hello Gardeners,

SLOW DOWN! – One of the residents at University Houses has complained to the Housing Office about people driving their cars very fast on the drive that goes to the parking lot for the University Houses Gardens. If you drive your car to this garden, please remember that this is a residential area, with many children playing outside.  SLOW DOWN AND DRIVE CAREFULLY.

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – It is planting time for most vegetables in our gardens – peas, lettuce, cabbages and their relatives, spinach, chard, greens, root crops, and so on. But it is still too early to plant beans and squash - we may have another frost or two before we’re completely through with cold weather. Also, the soil is still cool – beans won’t germinate in cold soil. Tomato plants should not be planted outside until the middle of the month – and watch the weather forecasts carefully before you plant them. Peppers and eggplants like really warm weather, so some people don’t plant them out until June.

ABOUT LETTUCE – Lettuce is in the Aster Family, and there are at least five types – iceberg, Batavian, bibb, romaine, and leaf. Generally, the darker the lettuce, the more nutrition it has. Lettuce is a good source of Vitamins A and K. It’s one of the easiest vegetables to grow, especially leaf lettuce. This web site has some good information on different types, and how to grow them: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/lettuce/different-lettuce-types.htm

FENCES – The American poet Robert Frost is famous for having written that “Good fences make good neighbors.” Frost was a very good poet, but not an Eagle Heights gardener. We would love it if nobody here had fences. Fences are a regular source of conflicts between gardeners.

Do you have a fence around your plot? If so, please finish reading this, and then run right out to your plot to look at your fence. Is the fence right on your boundary line? If it is, it’s in the wrong place. All fences must be at least six inches inside your plot – on all four sides of your plot, including the side next to the path. Remember – your garden neighbors need access to their plots and to water. If you don’t like to garden without a fence, make sure it’s in the right place, keep it in good repair so it doesn’t lean over or collapse on your neighbor’s plants, and keep it weeded.

WARM WEATHER PLANT SALE: Garden to Be will return to Eagle Heights for the second plant sale of the season on Sunday, May 20, from 11am – 2pm. Plants to be sold will include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basils, cucumbers, zucchini, some squashes/pumpkins, melons, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuces, and parsley. I’ll get you a more complete list closer to the date.

THEFTS – It’s gardening time again, and that means people happily working in their plots, getting into disputes with their neighbors, violating rules right and left, and stealing things! When will it be winter again? No, seriously, a few thefts have already been reported to me. I do appreciate people letting me know when this happens, although all I can do is tell people I’m sorry. But I do want to remind all gardeners that we are subject to theft, of equipment, plants, and vegetables. I am convinced that the perpetrators are mostly not fellow gardeners. Having people steal your stuff is annoying, if not infuriating, but it is a fact of life in a community garden.

Happy Gardening,
Kathryn

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


From the Gardens Registrar: Water is On Its Way; Row Cover for Sale; Cancellations and Refunds; More About Workdays; No Cars Allowed in the Garden; Discouraged Plants

Hello Gardeners,

WATER – A work order has gone in for turning on the water both at Eagle Heights and at University Houses Gardens. I don’t have an exact date for completion, but the water should be on at both gardens by the first weekend in May.

ROW COVER – We will have more row cover for sale this SATURDAY at Eagle Heights, by the shed, from 2pm – 4pm. Each piece is 25’ X 7’, and costs $5. Cash only, and exact change, please.

CANCELLATIONS – Now that it finally seems to be spring, some of you may be realizing that you don’t have time for gardening, and you may be considering giving up your plot. If you decide to cancel, please contact me right away. Considering the weather we’ve had up until this week, we can give a full refund to anybody giving up a garden now. But we cannot give any refunds after May 1, and that date is almost upon us.

Both of our gardens are almost full, and I’ll soon be starting a waiting list. It would be a shame for a garden plot to be sitting unused while there are new gardeners anxious to be caring for it.

MORE ABOUT WORKDAYS – We don’t have a workday scheduled this weekend, but we will soon be having one just about every weekend. Our workdays most often are Saturday mornings, and at Eagle Heights. But we do occasionally have Sunday mornings, and we try to schedule a few workdays at University Houses as well. We will also probably try to do one or two weekday evenings later in the season.

The purpose of the workdays is not just to get free labor. It also gives gardeners a chance to meet other gardeners, and to get an understanding that they are part of a community. It feels good to work with a group towards a common goal, and to be able to look later at a part of the garden and know that you helped to weed it or mulch it or whatever. It feels particularly good once your blisters have healed….

NO CARS IN THE GARDEN – Unless you have special permission, do not drive your car into the gardens. Parking for Eagle Heights is along the south side of Eagle Heights Drive – leave your car there. If you do occasionally see a car driving in the gardens, it most likely belongs to someone connected with F.H. King, not our garden.

DISCOURAGED PLANTS – New gardeners often ask if there’s anything they’re not allowed to grow in our gardens. We don’t have many plants we absolutely prohibit, but we do not allow trees in plots, and there are a number of plants we don’t encourage. One is mint. Mint is delightful to smell and to cook with, but it is very aggressive. Once it’s established, it can be almost impossible to get rid of. And it can easily spread into your neighbors’ plots. If you want to plant mint, please plant it well inside your plot, and keep it trimmed. The best solution to the mint problem (short of not planting it at all) is to plant it in a pot, and then sink the pot into your plot. That way, the roots don’t spread.

Happy Gardening,
Kathryn

Wednesday, April 18, 2018



From the Gardens Registrar:  Plant Sale Sunday April 22; Compost and Row Cover Also For Sale; First Workday; Some Miscellaneous Notes; The Weather

Hello Gardeners,

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE APRIL 22 – On Sunday, April 22, Scott Williams of Garden to Be will be selling plants at Eagle Heights, near the shed. The sale will be from 11am – 1pm. He is planning to bring: lettuces, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale (3 – 4 varieties), chard, cauliflower, parsley, sage, thyme, cabbage, and a few flowers. If the weather cooperates, he may also be able to bring some rhubarb plants and a few other perennials.

Scott’s plants are excellent quality, and his prices are extremely reasonable. You’re never going to find a cheaper and more convenient way to buy good plants for your garden. And the weather for Sunday looks very good – much warmer and sunny.

COMPOST AND ROW COVER – We also have some compost from the West Ag Center to sell. Plus we will again sell row cover, as we did at the Seed Fair. These items will be sold also from 11am – 1pm, in the open space north of our 500 rows. The row cover is $5 for a piece that’s 25’ by 7’. The price for a half-cart of compost will be $5. These are cash only, and please bring exact change, if at all possible.

FIRST WORKDAY OF THE SEASON – We will hold our first workday of the season this Sunday, from 1pm – 4pm. Meet at the Eagle Heights shed. The task will be clearing debris, including old irrigation pipe, from the wooded area next to Lake Mendota Drive. There may also be some brick-hauling, and, if you’re lucky, dumpster-cleaning. This workday might be most appropriate for fairly strong people.

Here’s the link to sign up: https://doodle.com/poll/unm7mcez622z9unf  And don’t forget to put your name on the sign-in sheet at the garden.

Remember – unless you paid the no-workday fee, or do other volunteer work for the garden, every plot must supply one person to work one three-hour workday during gardening season. If you can, sign up for this one, and get it over with for the season. Then when it’s hot and mosquitoey this summer, you can relax in the shade with a cold beverage while other people labor and sweat.

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS: At Eagle Heights, the big blue stick barrels have moved to the area next to the shed. The Lakeshore Nature Preserve staff have cut quite a number of nice long sticks for us to use for fences and trellises. Please help yourself to these sticks, but do not take sticks directly from the Preserve.

A group of researchers from the University of Minnesota School for Environment and Sustainability have sent out a survey as part of a study to better understand why people participate in and support urban agriculture. The survey is short, anonymous, and confidential. If you’d like to fill it out, here’s a link: https://umich.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0TlE3fBOXFm6sTj.

If you bring plants to the gardens and don’t need the pots or trays any more, please don’t throw them in the dumpster - put them on the share shelf, so other people can use them.

THE WEATHER: T.S. Eliot said that April is the cruelest month. He must have been a gardener. But, according to the long-range forecast, after today, temperatures will gradually go up, and we will have normal Wisconsin spring weather. So, by the end of this week, it is finally going to be gardening season!

Happy Gardening,
Kathryn

Wednesday, April 11, 2018









From the Gardens Registrar: What To Do With Those Seeds You Got at the Seed Fair; Cool Weather Plant Sale April 22; Rain Garden Volunteer Needed; Registrar Messages Are Now Posted on the Website

Hello Gardeners,

SEEDS – Thanks to our many hard-working volunteers, our Seed Fair this year was very successful. Several hundred gardeners attended and picked out seeds for their gardens. So, if you’re a new gardener, you may be wondering, “Now, what do I do?”

Well, to begin with, sort your seeds into three piles. The first pile is “seeds to start right away, in the house.” This includes tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. To plant these seeds, you will have best results if you buy some seed-starting soil mixture – this will be lighter than normal soil, and your seedlings will grow better in it. (You can buy this at hardware stores and garden centers.) If you don’t have regular plant pots, you can use plastic boxes, like the ones that mushrooms and berries come in at the grocery store. Put some holes in the bottom for drainage. Get the soil thoroughly wet, then put a few seeds on top, and sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds. Place the pot in a warm, sunny window sill, and keep it moist (but not soggy.) Once the seedlings come up, be sure to give them as much light as you can.

Starting seeds in the house can be tricky, so good luck to you. Here’s a link to a website from the University of Minnesota, with lots of detailed instruction: https://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/flowers/starting-seeds-indoors/#soil-less

The second category is seeds that get planted directly in the soil in your plot, whenever your soil is workable. This includes peas, lettuce, radishes, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and root crops such as beets and carrots.

The third category is seeds to sow outside later, once the ground has warmed up, and there’s no longer a chance of frost. This includes beans, cucumbers, melons, and summer and winter squash.
If you didn’t get a chance to pick up Robin Mittenthal’s planting guide at the Seed Fair, here’s a link with much more detail than I’m providing:

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE APRIL 22 – On Sunday, April 22, Gardens to Be will be selling plants at Eagle Heights, near the shed. When Scott, the farmer, gets me a list of plants to be offered, I’ll post it on our website, and I’ll also add it to my next Wednesday message. He will certainly have cabbage, greens, and lettuce, among other things. His prices are very reasonable, and he always offers us a good variety of plants.

RAIN GARDEN – One of our garden plots in the lower garden at Eagle Heights (Plot 115) was under water much of last spring, and we have decided it would be best to turn it into a rain garden, with plants appropriate for moist conditions. It’s just been too difficult for gardeners to grow vegetables in. Is there anybody in our garden community who is knowledgeable about rain gardens? If so, and if you’re interested in helping us plan and plant this garden, please let me know.

WEDNESDAY MESSAGES ARE NOW POSTED ON THE WEB SITE: If you are looking for information from one of my Wednesday messages, and don’t remember when I sent it, you can now find all my messages on our website: go to our home page, and click on the Blogger symbol. 

Happy Gardening,
Kathryn