Political Commentary

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Warm Weather Plant Sale This Sunday, May 19; Workday This Sunday; Turkeys; New Tools; New Garden Workers

 Hello Gardeners,
WARM WEATHER PLANT SALE SUNDAY, MAY 19 AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – On Sunday, Scott Williams of Garden to Be will be back to sell warm weather plants, from 11am – 2pm. Last year, he brought ten kinds of tomatoes, six kinds of peppers, three kinds of eggplants, and other plants including cucumbers, melons, squash, herbs, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Individual plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, will be $2.75 per plant.  The 4-packs and 6-packs will be $2.75 per pack. This is a really good deal, and Scott always has great varieties. So don’t pass this up. If Scott sends me a list of varieties in time, I’ll send that out separately.

We will also again sell compost and row cover on Sunday. We will have the same arrangement as at the earlier plant sale; workday volunteers will load carts and deliver the compost to your plot. Each 2/3 cartload will be $5 – cash and exact change appreciated. Row cover will also be $5 per piece.

WORKDAY THIS SUNDAY – The task (see above) will be filling carts and delivering compost to plots, from 10:30 am – 1:30pm, at the Eagle Heights shed. This will be another limited workday – we will only  need 6 – 8 people. Also, if there’s time, another task will be installing a fence between the out-of-control weed pile and the rock berm. Here’s the workday link: https://doodle.com/poll/zm2udx55q43k9vwg


TURKEYS – Many gardeners are complaining that turkeys are eating all their young transplants. There are a number of animals that live and eat in our gardens, including raccoons, rabbits, voles, cranes, etc. But yes, there are definitely a lot of turkeys, and they do eat greens in the spring. They also eat insects, and will damage plantings while they’re scratching for insects in your garden.

Here’s a little history: wild turkeys are native to Wisconsin. Due to clearing of forests and over-hunting, they went extinct in the state in 1881. In 1976, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources traded birds with the state of Missouri – they gave us turkeys, and we gave them ruffed grouse. Since then the turkeys have spread throughout the state, and increased hugely in numbers. We can only hope the grouse are as much trouble to the Missourians as the turkeys are to us. (probably not)

What can you do to protect your plants from turkeys? Frankly, not much. Some websites recommend fences, but turkeys can fly, and can easily clear a fence. Most websites just talk about not attracting turkeys by feeding them, but it’s too late for us – they already know how much there is to munch on in our gardens. For what it’s worth, here’s a website with a few good ideas: http://creativecrittersolutions.org/wildTurkeys.php 

NEW GARDEN TOOLS – We have a number of new tools, which will gradually be appearing next to the sheds at both gardens: super-duty digging shovels, tuber tools, 4-tine cultivators, heavy-duty digging forks, field hoes, and weed poppers – these are heavy-duty tools that are used to cut long taproots, such as comfrey and thistles. Try them out when you see them.

NEW GARDEN WORKERS – We are very happy to announce the hiring of two new garden workers – Maggie and Megan, who are starting work this week. They will gradually be taking over the routine maintenance in the gardens, such as mowing and running work days. Meanwhile, our long-time worker, Will, will be transitioning into a more consultative position, but he will still be around, particularly when the plumbing acts up. (Note: we have turned the water off in the 900s/1000s, due to a water leak – it’s going to rain for the next few days, but we’ll fix it when we can.)

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: What to Plant Now; Reminder About the Weed Pile; Clear the Paths; Rhubarb; Workday This Saturday

Hello Gardeners,

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – According to the long-range forecast, we have probably seen our last frost for this season. So if you’re desperate to plant your tomatoes outside, it’s probably safe to do so. However, there’s no hurry. Tomatoes will grow better when it’s warmer. If you have a thermometer, check that the soil temperature is at least 50 degrees before you plant them out.

If you’ve grown the tomato plants yourself in the house, it’s a good time to start “hardening them off,” which means getting them used to being outside. You should start this about 10 days to two weeks before you actually plant them, by bringing them outside for a few hours every day in the middle of the day. Here is some really good information on tomatoes from UW Extension: https://learningstore.uwex.edu/Assets/pdfs/A1691.pdf

It’s still too early to plant beans – wait at least another couple of weeks, for best results. Beans want warm soil to germinate – at least 60 degrees – and the warmer the soil, the better your germination will be. Lettuce, cabbage crops, and root vegetables can all germinate decently in cool soil, so April and May are good times to plant these vegetables. Here’s more information on the best soil temperatures for common vegetables:  https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/when-is-it-warm-enough-to-plant/9029.html

HOW TO THROW WEEDS IN THE WEED PILE – The gardeners are doing a much better job now of throwing trash in the dumpsters and throwing weeds in the weed piles. Thanks, folks. However, at Eagle Heights, please be sure that you’re throwing the weeds onto the concrete slab. The weeds have spread beyond the pile now, and it’s becoming more and more of a mess. There’s still plenty of room for the weeds on the slab, especially if you approach the pile from the south (the side towards the woods.)

MOWING COMING TO A GARDEN NEAR YOU SOON – With all the rain we are having, the grass is growing fast. We hope to have two new garden workers on staff in the next few weeks, and then mowing will begin at both gardens. In preparation, please get in the habit now of checking the path by your plot when you’re done gardening for the day – make sure your hose (why are you even watering?) is disconnected from the water spigot and tucked away in your plot. Likewise, milk jugs, watering cans, wood, sticks, blocks, library books, lava lamps, and other debris should not be left in the path. We claim that anything left in the paths will get mowed, but in reality, our garden workers will stop, swear, and remove the obstructions, which slows them down and makes mowing even more tedious and time-consuming than it is already.

RHUBARB – Some early gardeners may be harvesting lettuce and spinach already. But for most of us, rhubarb is about the only crop that’s ready to eat now. Rhubarb is not exactly the healthiest or most versatile of garden produce, but at least it’s fresh. Rhubarb crisp is delicious and easy. But if you’re tired of it, have a look at the hundreds of recipes on this rhubarb-lover’s website: https://www.rhubarb-central.com/

WORKDAY THIS SATURDAY – We are looking for six gardeners to help sand and paint the handles on our new tools. (We have a limited number of brushes, so we have to limit sign-ups on this one. If you go to the link, and it isn’t there anymore, that means we got enough people.) Saturday, May 11, 9am – Noon, at the Eagle Heights shed.  Here’s the link to sign up: https://doodle.com/poll/qfnn45qrrubiv5x8

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar:  Slow Down; AACT; CALS Family Gardening Day; Volunteer Project; Plant Sales; NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND

Hello Gardeners,

SLOW DOWN – A University Houses resident has complained that gardeners are driving too fast down the road to the garden. Please remember that there are lots of children in this area, and drive slowly.

AACT – On Saturday, May 4, former EH gardener Gary K will make a guest appearance at Eagle Heights to 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. Gary will leave about 40 containers of it around 9am, on the granite benches near the shed. Each container will be enough for a large plot. Help yourself.

FAMILY GARDENING DAY – On Saturday, May 4, the UW College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will be presenting their annual Family Gardening Day on campus. This free, family-friendly event will run from 10am – 1pm, and will be held at several different locations – Allen Centennial Garden, Steenbock Library, D.C. Smith Greenhouse, Wisconsin Energy Institute, and the Botany Garden. While supplies last, there will be free vegetable plants at the Allen Garden, and sunflower plants at the Steenbock Library. Here’s a link to more details: https://science.wisc.edu/family-gardening-day/
VOLUNTEER PROJECT AT THE GARDEN ARBOR– As you know (I hope), each garden plot at Eagle Heights and University Houses Gardens must contribute one person to do a work shift each season (or else pay an extra fee.) But there are other ways, besides the weekend workdays, that gardeners can perform their community service. Here’s one:

We are expanding the Arbor garden at Eagle Heights this year. Because the area around the Arbor has been subject to flooding, we are starting a rain garden next to the existing plantings. We will need people to help plant the rain garden plants, and we are also looking for gardeners who will help to weed the rest of the Arbor garden throughout the season. This will require a regular commitment. Please let me know if you are interested, and I will put you in touch with the Arbor Garden Coordinator. It would be helpful if you are already somewhat familiar with perennial flowers, or have some rain garden experience.


OCCUPY MADISON will hold a vegetable and herb plant sale from 11am – 3pm on May 4 and May 5 at 304 N. Third Street, on Madison’s east side. https://occupymadisoninc.com/2019/03/27/fourth-annual-plant-sale/

HILLDALE FARMERS MARKET – This will start this Saturday, May 4, and will continue from 8am – 1pm, on Saturdays and Wednesdays until the end of October. You can find the market behind Hilldale Shopping Mall, off of Segoe Road.

MONROE STREET FARMERS MARKET – This will start this Sunday, May 5, and will continue on Sundays, from 9am – 1pm, until the end of October. https://www.monroestreetfarmersmarket.org/
The market is at Edgewood High School.

TROY FARMS will hold their annual Spring Plant Sale on Saturday, May 11, 10am – 2pm, at Troy Farm, on the northeast side of Madison, at 502 Troy Drive. https://www.communitygroundworks.org/what-we-do/troy-community-farm/bedding-plants

The Warm Weather Plant Sale at Eagle Heights will be on Sunday, May 19 – More details on that soon.


Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar:  Water in the Gardens!; Sunday Events at Eagle Heights; What to Plant Now; Cancellation Policy

Hello Gardeners,

WATER! – Water is now on at Eagle Heights! And it will be on shortly at University Houses.

Lots of things going on at Eagle Heights this Sunday:

WORKDAY AT EAGLE HEIGHTS  – This Sunday, April 28, we will hold a workday at Eagle Heights, from 10am – 1pm. The task will be organizing the garden shed to prepare for electrical installation, followed by loading and delivering compost to plots. (see Compost and Row Cover, below.) Here’s the link to sign up for the workday: https://doodle.com/poll/hn2qu6cg5y9axc74  

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE – Our cool weather plant sale will be held on Sunday, April 28, from 11am – 1pm, near the Eagle Heights shed. Plants that Scott Williams will sell will include: broccoli, red and green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, napa cabbage, lettuce, sage, marjoram, kale (several varieties), collards, parsley – both curly and flat leaf, and bok choi. He hopes to also be able to bring plants from his fields, including rhubarb, chives, thyme, alpine strawberries, violas, and pansies.

By the way, we need two volunteers to help Scott on Sunday morning, starting at 9am or 9:30, and going until Noon or 12:30. This constitutes a workday. Please let me know if you’re interested.

COMPOST AND ROW COVER – Along with the plant sale, we will also be selling excellent compost from the UW West Ag Station. The price will be $5 for a 2/3 cartload, delivered to your Eagle Heights plot. (We’ll try to make arrangements soon to get compost to UH gardeners.) Also, row cover will be on sale, at $5 per piece. Payment should be in cash, and exact change would be appreciated. (If you prefer to write a check, make it payable to Division of University Housing.)

WHAT TO PLANT (AND NOT PLANT) NOW – We will still have some cold nights and possible frost for a few more weeks. This is a good time to plant lettuce, radishes, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, peas, cabbage and their relatives), kale, chard, and other greens. It is too early to plant beans; beans not only are sensitive to frost, but they also need warm soil to germinate and grow. It is waaaay too early to plant tomatoes outside. Wait until mid-May for beans, tomatoes, summer and winter squash, cucumbers, and melons. Peppers and eggplants like really warm temperatures, so those shouldn’t be planted outside until late May or even early June.

CANCELLATION POLICY – Around this time of year, I often get emails from people who have taken a garden plot, and have just found out they won’t be in Madison this summer. If this has happened to you, please let me know as soon as you find this out. I will get you a refund, and assign your plot to someone else. The last couple of years, we’ve made May 1 the deadline for refund requests, but since it’s been a late spring, I am going to relax the deadline a little. But absolutely no refunds after May 31.

If you have a friend who wants to take your garden, let me know that too. We don’t have a waiting list yet, so I’m happy to transfer your plot to someone you know. I will have your friend fill out an application, and then I’ll assign them the plot. But please do not arrange this without involving me.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar:  How to Throw Things Out; Workday This Saturday; Cool Weather Plant Sale; Fences

Hello Gardeners,

HOW TO THROW THINGS OUT – If you’re throwing something out at our gardens, you have to think about what it is you’re getting rid of, because it doesn’t all go in the same place.

If you’re throwing out vegetation, such as weeds, old plant material, and old vegetables – that all needs to go into the weed pile, as far in the middle as you can pitch it. But if you’re throwing out old row cover, broken tomato cages, plant containers, broken hoses, etc. – that stuff all goes into the dumpster. This is really important – if there’s vegetation in the dumpster, the people who pick up our trash can refuse to take it. If there’s trash in the weed pile, the people who pick up that material and compost it may also refuse to take it. Either way, we have to pay somebody to haul it away. So please think before you throw, and get it right.

If you are digging up old plants with big roots, you can actually leave the roots in the soil, where they will rot and feed your new plants. This is less work for you, and will make for less dirt in the weed piles, which is also important. Lastly, if you’re throwing out plant containers that are in good shape, leave them on or near the share shelves – someone else will be happy to reuse them.

WORKDAY – Last weekend’s workday was a rousing failure. Not a single person signed up. The current forecast for this Saturday is sunny and warm. This work needs to be done, so please sign up and get your workday obligation done for the season (before it’s 95 degrees in the shade, and wall-to-wall mosquitoes.) The location again will be University Houses Gardens, at the end of Haight Road, past Bernie’s Place Childcare Center. Again, the main task will be setting up the hoses and hose reels. There will also be some work to get junk out of the weed pile. If the soil is dry enough, there will also be work on the retaining wall for the end of the B path.  SATURDAY, APR. 20TH, 9 AM — NOON. MEET AT THE UNIVERSITY HOUSES GARDEN SHED. Here’s the link to sign up: HTTPS://DOODLE.COM/POLL/2Q9Y6Y79YNV9SG7P

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE – Our cool weather plant sale will be held on Sunday, April 28, from 11am – 1pm, near the Eagle Heights shed. Plants will be sold by Scott Williams, who owns a business called “Garden to Be”, and has sold garden plants to Eagle Heights for many years. These are the plants he has growing in his greenhouses for us: broccoli, red and green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, napa cabbage, lettuce, sage, marjoram, kale (several varieties), collards, parsley – both curly and flat leaf, and bok choi. He hopes to also be able to bring plants from his fields, including rhubarb, chives, thyme, alpine strawberries, violas, and pansies. Scott always has good quality plants, he gives us special prices, and he’s very knowledgeable about what he sells. So give him your business if you’re looking to buy plants.

GOOD FENCES DO NOT ALWAYS MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS - At our last Garden Committee meeting, we discussed the fact that there are more fences in our gardens than ever before. We also talked about how many voles and rabbits we had last year – more than any long-term gardeners had ever seen in our gardens. Obviously, there is a connection here.

Unfortunately, long-term gardeners also agreed that fences don’t work. Animals can climb, jump, and dig, and most fences don’t really keep them out. We understand peoples’ desperation. But there are three reasons we don’t really like fences – one is that they are too often put up in the wrong places. Be very sure if you put up a fence that it is not right on your border with any of your neighbors. It must be at least six inches inside your plot – and a full one foot would be even better. Secondly, fences are often allowed to fall apart and to lean into neighboring plots. Lastly, fences often collect weeds. So be sure, if you do put up a fence, to set it up in the right place, keep it in good shape and weed it often.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Check Your Plot Assignment!; When Will the Water Be On?; Workday at University Houses Gardens Saturday April 13; Seeds vs. Plants

Hello Gardeners,

PLOT ASSIGNMENTS – The plot assignments have finally been posted on our website. I apologize for the delay. Here’s the link:                              http://eagleheightsgardens.org/gardeners/2019-plot-assignments/  If you’re a new gardener, please check the assignment listing, and make very sure you are gardening in the correct plot. So far, there have been at least two gardeners who have started working in the wrong plots. We may have given out a few wrong plot numbers at the Seed Fair – if we did, it’s our fault, and not yours. But please check, and email me if you have any questions. Also, if you took tomato cages from Plot 208, please return them immediately – these were not abandoned.

WHEN WILL THE WATER BE ON? – I don’t know. Next question? On Monday, the temperature was in the 70s. Today, it is snowing. In other words, it is April in Wisconsin. We will not turn the water on until it is warm enough that we can be sure the pipes will not freeze and burst. This is completely weather dependent. It will be at least another two weeks – maybe longer. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.

WORKDAY AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES GARDENS – We will have our first workday of the season this Saturday, April 13, from 9am to Noon, at University Houses Gardens. The tasks will be installing the hose reels for the water system, and also working on a retaining wall for the end of the B row. If you have a plot at the end of the B row, you may have noticed piles of cinderblocks on your plot. We plan to use these blocks to improve the path. The sooner we get a good number of workday volunteers to work on this project, the sooner we can get these blocks installed and out of gardeners’ way.  I especially urge UH gardeners to volunteer for this project, because you’ll be able to see the results every time you’re in the garden. Dress warm, bring gloves, and don’t forget to put your name and plot number on the sign-in sheet. Here’s the link to sign up: https://doodle.com/poll/4b3qahz2tqwyzfv3   (University Houses Gardens is at the end of Haight Road – if you can find Bernie’s Place Childcare Center, at 39 University Houses, the gardens are next to that.)

SEEDS VS PLANTS – If you’re a new gardener, you may be wondering which vegetables to start from seed, and which to buy plants for. Basically, if you’ve got more time than money, seeds are always much cheaper than plants. (If you don’t have either time or money, join the crowd.) But if you plant seeds, it will take some time for them to grow, and things can easily go wrong. If you plant plants, you’ll spend much more money, but you’ll get faster and probably more reliable results.

Some vegetables (and fruits) are always started from plants. Strawberry seeds exist (we don’t have any), but they’re hard to find. Most people start with strawberry plants, which you can get at garden stores. Potatoes are always planted from pieces of potatoes – not from seeds. Rhubarb and berries are always started from plants. Asparagus and rosemary are more often grown from plants than from seed. Onions can be started from seed, if you start them inside in February – otherwise you can buy plants or “sets”, which are tiny onions that will grow quickly into green onions or bulb onions.

By the way, if you’re not finding seeds for all of the vegetables you want to plant, there are many reputable seed companies you can order from on-line, including the companies that donate seeds to us: Renee’s Garden, Seed Savers, Seedway, Berlin, E & R, and Baker Creek. Garden stores and some hardware stores have seeds, too. For Asian vegetables, some of the Asian groceries on Park Street sell seeds for those, and you can also try Kitizawa, a California company that specializes in Asian vegetables. https://www.kitazawaseed.com/

Happy Gardening (or Snowman-Making),


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: What To Do With Your Seeds; Know Your Boundaries; How This Place Works

Hello Gardeners,           

SEEDS – Thank you to the more than two hundred gardeners who came to our Seed Fair on Saturday. I hope you enjoyed yourself, and got at least most of the seeds you were hoping for.

If you’re a new gardener, and you’re ready to move beyond enjoying the pretty pictures on the seed packets, you may be saying to yourself: “Now what am I supposed to 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 is 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 food containers. 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. Here’s a link to a website with more detailed instructions: https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/how-to-start-seeds/5062.html

The second category is seeds that get planted directly in the soil in your plot. This includes peas, lettuce, radishes, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and root crops such as beets and carrots. If your garden is still wet, you should continue to wait to plant. But you can certainly try planting some lettuce and radishes until the soil is ready for more serious work.
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 one-page planting guide at the Seed Fair, here’s a link with much more detail than I’m providing:

KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES – If you’re a new gardener, here’s the first thing to do with your plot:  figure out your boundaries. Each plot has a metal sign in front of it with the plot number. (If it’s a small plot, there is a metal piece under the number with A and B on it at Eagle Heights, or N and S on it at University Houses.) There should also be two yellow posts at the front of the plot – these mark the corners. Your plot extends from one yellow marker to the other. BUT every gardener must allow six inches on each side of the plot, including the back, for access. Since your neighbor also must allow six inches, this means there is one foot of empty space between each plot. This space is necessary for you and your neighbors to be able to work, push carts, and connect hoses to water. You are not allowed to plant anything in this space, and you should not have big plants next to it that will grow into it or hang over it. If you put up a fence or trellis, it CANNOT be placed on the boundary – it must be at least six inches into your plot – 12 inches would be better.

HOW THIS PLACE WORKS – I’m the Registrar for the gardens. I’m a very part-time employee, who assigns garden plots, answers questions, and mediates disputes. I also send out a message once a week with miscellaneous and occasionally bizarre information. We also have several part-time garden workers. But the staff doesn’t run the Gardens – the gardeners do. We have a garden committee that meets once a month (the second Wednesday of the month) to discuss issues, problems, and projects. 
 Any gardener can attend these meetings. We also have an email discussion group – any gardener can be on the discussion list – just email me and ask me to add you. So please get involved!
Happy Gardening,