Political Commentary

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: WATER IS OFF IN THE 700S/800S; WHAT TO DO WHEN THE WATER IS OFF; WHAT TO DO WHEN THE WATER IS ON; LOST ITEMS; WOULD YOU LIKE TO CLEAR PLOTS? PERUVIAN DAISIES; RASPBERRY RHUBARB JAM; WORKDAY - TBD


From the Gardens Registrar: WATER IS OFF IN THE 700S/800S; WHAT TO DO WHEN THE WATER IS OFF; WHAT TO DO WHEN THE WATER IS ON; LOST ITEMS; WOULD YOU LIKE TO CLEAR PLOTS? PERUVIAN DAISIES; RASPBERRY RHUBARB JAM; WORKDAY - TBD

Hello Gardeners,

700/800 WATER LINE IS TURNED OFF FOR REPAIRS – The 700/800 water line will be shut off until at least Friday mid-day, while our workers drain the area with the leak, and try to make repairs. (See next item.)

WHEN THE WATER IS OFF – Last week, our garden workers needed to fix a leak. So they turned the water off for that line, and left the area to dry. They came back very early the next morning, and found that someone had turned the water back on. The hole where they expected to work was full of water. They were a little annoyed. Okay, they were a lot annoyed. They asked me to mention this in my next message. So here it is: IF THE WATER IS OFF IN THE GARDENS, IT IS PROBABLY OFF FOR A REASON. We will try to do a better job from now on to let people know when we have turned off a water line, and if you have a question, you can always email me to ask what’s going on. (A number of gardeners did email me about the water being off.) Our water system is old and quirky, and needs frequent repairs. Most often, the water has to be turned off in order to make the repairs, and if the problem is below ground, the ground has to dry out before our workers can get at it. Our workers do their very best to fix water problems on weekdays so that the water is available on Fridays and weekends.

WHEN THE WATER IS ON – Now that we are no longer getting torrential rainstorms, gardeners are actually watering their plots again. Just a reminder: please do not turn on the water and then leave the gardens. Any time you turn on the water, make sure everything is turned off before you go away. This week, somebody left the water running in their plot all night, and flooded a neighboring plot.

LOST ITEMS – Last weekend, at University Houses, one gardener lost a black Garmin watch. At Eagle Heights, a gardener inadvertently left a blue bag on the share shelf, containing green garden gloves, a garden knife, twine, mosquito spray, and other items. The bag says “operation pollinator” on it. If you have any information on the whereabouts of any of these objects, please let me know.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP CLEAR PLOTS? – We have a few empty plots that are getting increasingly weedy. If you want to do your workday, but it’s hard for you to do one on a weekend, please contact me. We’re going to try to assemble a small team of people to clear plots – maybe on a weekday evening.

PERUVIAN DAISIES – Sounds pretty, doesn’t it? I guess they are pretty. But they’re also one of the most numerous weeds at Eagle Heights. They’re also called Shaggy Soldiers, and Quick Weed (because they grow, flower, and set seed so fast.) They’re a garden escape that spreads quickly in disturbed areas, such as gardens. At least they’re small and shallow-rooted, so they’re easy to pull out by hand. In case you’ve ever wondered about these little plants, here’s a website with some information: https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/shaggy-soldier

RASPBERRY RHUBARB JAM – If you’ve got too many raspberries (if such a thing is even possible) and you’ve got rhubarb, why not try this? 

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We are tentatively planning a workday at Eagle Heights this weekend, but, since rain is forecast, we will wait to schedule it until we know which day is more likely to be dry.

Happy gardening,
Kathryn

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


From the Gardens Registrar: Black Walnut Trees; Most of the Gardens Look Great!; Should You Prune Your Tomatoes?; Dark Leafy Greens; Weekend Workday to be Determined

Hello Gardeners,

Happy Independence Day, Everyone!

BLACK WALNUT TREES – I’ve been pulling black walnut tree seedlings out of my plot, and finding them all over the garden. They’re easy to pull when they’re small, so look out for them now, and pull out any you find. Besides the fact that you don’t want trees growing in your plot, black walnuts are particularly bad in a garden because they’re allelopathic. This means that they release biochemicals into the soil which poison the other plants growing near them. Tomatoes and their relatives are particularly sensitive to juglone, the chemical that black walnuts produce. Black walnut seedlings are not going to hurt your vegetables when they’re small, but if you let them get bigger, they will. Here’s a picture: https://marathonpundit.blogspot.com/2014/06/photo-black-walnut-seedling.html

GARDEN INSPECTIONS – This bizarre weather, especially the heavy rains that have soaked our clay-y soil, has made gardening particularly difficult this year. Yet, most of the gardeners have risen to the challenge. Congratulations particularly to the University Houses gardeners – most of the plots there look fantastic. I am particularly impressed by the half-plots along the north edge of the garden – I had no idea these plots hacked out of the wilderness could look so attractive and productive. Thanks, everybody, (or almost everybody) for persisting despite adversity.

TOMATO PRUNING – Since tomatoes are one of the most popular plants for backyard (and community) gardeners, there is a great deal of discussion on how best to grow them. One issue is pruning, which means basically removing “suckers”, which are extra branches that develop in the “v” between the main stem and the already-existing branches of the plant. Some people believe that you have to prune if you want your plants to produce well. Some people never do it. If you’re considering this, first, you need to know whether a tomato plant is determinate or indeterminate. A determinate tomato is programmed to grow only to a limited size, and then it will put all its energy into producing fruit. You don’t need to prune determinate plants, and in fact, you shouldn’t. Determinate tomatoes tend to be early, or paste-types (such as Romas), or dwarf varieties, mainly for patio planting. Some main-season tomatoes are indeterminate, though, so do look up your varieties on the Internet if you’re not sure what you’ve got. If your tomato is indeterminate, it will keep growing throughout the summer. If you prune it, you may increase the size of the tomatoes you harvest, but decrease the number you get. It depends on what you’re aiming for. Anyway, here is a link to a website that explains all: https://www.thespruce.com/should-you-prune-out-tomato-suckers-1403290

GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES – Many of us grow greens, such as chard, kale, spinach, and so on. We grow them because we like to eat them. However, we can also enjoy the fact that these foods are very healthy and versatile. Here’s a website that lists the incredible numbers of vitamins these greens have, and includes ways to cook them: http://thescienceofeating.com/vegetables/best-leafy-green-vegetables/

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We’ll probably have a workday this Saturday morning, but I’ll send out more details and the Doodle link on Friday if it’s a go.

Happy gardening,
Kathryn



Wednesday, June 27, 2018


From the Gardens Registrar: What to Plant Now; Tools and Carts in Plots; Volunteers Needed for Greenhouse Project; Thistles; Cowbirds; Garden Plots Available; Workday Saturday June 30 at Eagle Heights

Hello Gardeners,

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – If you’re a new gardener just getting started here, or if you’ve picked your spring vegetables and have space to fill, there are still vegetables you can plant now – beans, chard, and cucumbers, for instance.  Melon, squash, and pumpkin seeds can still be planted - late June is about the end of the planting period for those, since they generally take around 100 days to produce ripe fruit. It’s still not too late to put tomato, pepper, and eggplant plants in the ground, if you can still find plants. Herbs and flowers, of course, can be planted just about any time.

TOOLS AND CARTS IN PLOTS – A reminder: both of our gardens have hundreds of gardeners. We have a lot of tools and carts, but we don’t have one of each for every gardener. So don’t keep tools and carts in your plot. You have to   s  h  a  r  e  them (you learned this in childhood, right?). Please be considerate.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR GREENHOUSE PROJECT – We are going to rent space at the Walnut Street Greenhouses in order to start seeds for fall vegetable plants. The plants will need daily watering – we are looking for one or two volunteers to help with this. We would especially like to find someone who already has their own project going in the greenhouse, or has had one recently, so that they are already familiar with the facility, and have had the required orientation. Please contact me if you’re interested. Volunteers will get workday credit.

CANADA THISTLES – Another reminder – the thistles are starting to bloom in the gardens now. Check your plot – if you have any, get them pulled up, cut at the roots with a hoe, or at least cut down before they form seeds. You don’t want these spreading in your plot, and you definitely don’t want them spreading to your neighbors’ plots. Don’t wait – deal with them now.

COWBIRDS – If you’ve been digging in your garden lately, and noticed a small brown bird hopping around quite close to you, you may have been visited by a brown-headed cowbird. We have lots of them in the gardens, and they are not at all shy. They’ll come investigate when digging is going on, in hopes of finding seeds and insects to eat. Their song has a very unusual liquid sound. They have an unpleasant approach to child-rearing: they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, and make the other birds raise them. Here’s more information on cowbirds:  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Brown-headed_Cowbird/overview

GARDEN PLOTS AVAILABLE – Our waiting list for plots is practically gone now, and plots are continuing to open up – if you have a friend who would like a plot, please encourage them to fill out an application. After July 1, plots will be half-price. If you have a half-plot, and would consider adding another half-plot, contact me. Bear in mind that the plots opening up now are generally pretty weedy.

WORKDAY SATURDAY MORNING AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – We will have a workday this Saturday morning, June 30, from 8am – 11am, at Eagle Heights. Meet at the shed. Tasks will include removing thistles from the 700 path and comfrey from the 800-900 path. This will require only a small group of volunteers, so if you try to sign up on Doodle, and you can’t, then the workday is already full. Here’s the link: https://doodle.com/poll/pch8hnakbdnq3wzq Be sure to bring a hat, gloves, and a water bottle. Long sleeves would be good, if you can stand them.

Happy Gardening,  
Kathryn

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


From the Gardens Registrar: Wild Parsnip; Raspberry Pests; Bird and Nature Hike on Sunday; Rhubarb-Orange Jam; No Workday

Hello Gardeners,

WILD PARSNIP – Unfortunately, wild parsnip is now turning up in our gardens. This is a very invasive plant which has become widespread in Wisconsin. It’s a tall plant, with yellow flowers. It’s also dangerous, because touching the plant with bare skin leads to a serious and painful rash. If you find this in your plot, be sure to wear gloves, long sleeves, and long pants when you pull it out. Or use a sharp shovel to sever the root below the ground. Here’s a website with information and pictures:  https://sewisc.org/invasives/invasive-plants/72-wild-parsnip

RASPBERRY PESTS – Spotted Wing Drosophila is a tiny fruit fly which attacks raspberries and other soft fruit. The adults lay their eggs in the fruit, and then when the larvae hatch, they eat the fruit. We definitely have these insects in the gardens, and they are active now. The best way to keep them from breeding and spreading is to pick your raspberries frequently – don’t leave over-ripe berries on the plants or on the ground. If you think your berries might have flies, put them in the refrigerator after picking them – that will stop the larvae from growing. Fortunately, it’s not dangerous to eat them, and they’re so tiny, you won’t even notice them. https://hort.uwex.edu/articles/spotted-wing-drosophila/

BIRD AND NATURE OUTING – On Sunday, June 24, there will be a guided walk around the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve’s Class of 1918 Marsh. This is a free, family-friendly event, which will be hosted by UW Limnology Emeritus Professor John Magnuson.  Bird and Nature Outings at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve occur every 4th Saturday from 1:30-3pm and are sponsored by the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Meet at UW parking lot 129 (2004 University Bay Drive). The marsh is on the other side of the drive from Picnic Point. 

RHUBARB-ORANGE JAM – Simple, good, and it uses rhubarb. You can make half the recipe, to make one jar, and just keep it in the refrigerator instead of canning it. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/86346/rhubarb-jam/

WORKDAY – We’re not currently planning a workday for this weekend, but I’ll send an update if we schedule one.

NOTE: MORE WOOD CHIPS ARE COMING SOON!

Happy Gardening,  
Kathryn

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Tomatoes and Tobacco; Colorado Potato Beetles; Ticks; Garden Talk; A Radish Salad Recipe; No Workday This Weekend


From the Gardens Registrar: Tomatoes and Tobacco; Colorado Potato Beetles; Ticks; Garden Talk; A Radish Salad Recipe; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

TOMATOES AND TOBACCO – Please do not smoke cigarettes or use tobacco in any form in our gardens. Tobacco spreads a serious disease called Tobacco Mosaic Virus to tomatoes, and to their relatives, such as peppers and eggplants. If you smoke and you grow any of these vegetables, don’t smoke in their presence, and wash your hands, with soap and water, before touching them. Smoking is not actually prohibited in the gardens, but we strongly recommend that you not do it. Of course, tobacco isn’t good for you either...

COLORADO POTATO BEETLES – We have potato beetles in the garden now – they are serious pests of potatoes, of course, but also potato relatives such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Both the adults and the larvae eat leaves, and if there’s a large enough population, they can strip the plants. Once again, the safest and most effective method for getting rid of them is to hand-pick them off your plants, and toss them into a bucket of soapy water. Some years, our garden workers spray Spinosad in areas with lots of beetles. It’s a natural substance made by a soil bacterium. It is very toxic to insects, but not to most other organisms, such as mammals, birds, or earthworms. It can be dangerous to bees, but our workers are very careful about when they spray, so that bees won’t be affected. We haven’t made a decision on spraying yet for this year, but here is a fact sheet on Spinosad: http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/spinosadgen.html

FUN WITH TICKS - The tick population has been growing steadily in Wisconsin in the last few years. Most ticks people encounter are wood ticks, which are primarily just annoying, but the greater concern is for deer ticks, which can spread Lyme Disease. I don’t think ticks are a particular problem in our gardens, and at least they don’t eat our tomatoes or beans, but you do need to be aware of them any time you’re outside. Here’s some good information from UW Health: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/special/ticks-how-to-avoid-and-remove-ticks/tp23585spec.html

NEW TICK APP LAUNCHED – The Midwest and the Northeast Centers of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease have just launched a smart-phone application through which you can report ticks, track your own tick exposure, and learn all about ticks. This app is part of a research study, so if you’re interested, you’ll need to start by filling out a short entry survey. Once you’re signed up, you participate by keeping a tick diary. You can download the app at Google Play or at iTunes, or you can sign up (or learn more about the project) at this website: www.thetickapp.org/signup

GARDEN TALK – Every Friday morning, Larry Meiller has a special feature called “Garden Talk” on his talk show on Wisconsin Public Radio. Larry has a garden expert as his guest, and they take calls from listeners with garden questions. The show is on from 11am – 12:30pm, and the local WPR ideas station is 970AM.

RADISH SALAD – This looks simple and good: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/222561/summer-radish-salad/

Happy Gardening,  
Kathryn

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Wisconsin Pest Bulletin; Insecticidal Sprays; Jumping Worms; Woodchips; Workday This Sunday



Hello Gardeners,

WISCONSIN PEST BULLETIN – The State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection puts out a weekly Pest Bulletin during the growing season. While the information is primarily for farmers and commercial plant growers, it’s interesting to ordinary gardeners to see what insects are headed our way. You can find the bulletin at http://datcpservices.wisconsin.gov/pb/index.jsp .You can also subscribe to it, and have it sent to your email every week. According to the latest issue, cucumber beetles are becoming active, and Colorado potato beetle eggs are close to hatching. Cucumber beetles attack, not only cucumbers, but also summer and winter squash, and melons. They primarily damage these vegetables by spreading bacterial wilt. So beware.

INSECTICIDAL SPRAYS – A gardener emailed me to ask what to do about holes in bean leaves, and mentioned he’d heard about spraying them with dish soap. I looked at various sites on the Internet, and found that some people do get good results battling insects with dish-washing detergent or liquid soap, although there are plenty of arguments about what does and doesn’t work, plus concerns about some of the ingredients in many soaps and detergents.
The safest and surest way of removing insect pests from your plants is hand-picking them. However, it’s time-consuming, and can be icky. You can buy insecticidal sprays, but of course if you garden at Eagle Heights or in the organic rows at University Houses, the sprays must be organic. Some websites provide specific recipes for making your own soap-based sprays, at much less cost – here’s a sample: https://plantcaretoday.com/castile-soap-spray.html  You should be careful about spraying your plants on very hot days – the soap could hurt them. Since these sprays are only used on the insects you’re trying to get rid of, they won’t hurt bees, which is important.

JUMPING WORMS – Jumping worms were first found in Wisconsin in 2013, and have been spreading. None of the earthworms in Wisconsin are actually native, but this type of worm is not only invasive, but destructive. There are definitely jumping worms at Eagle Heights Gardens. They are almost impossible to get rid of, once they appear. The only thing we can do is to try to keep them from spreading further. For this reason, please be very careful if you move a plant from your garden plot to your home garden, if you have one. Also, be careful when you get plants from friends. If you clean the soil from the roots of the plant before taking it away, you’ll probably get rid of the worm cocoons. Here’s an informational site at the State Department of Natural Resources: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Invasives/fact/jumpingworm/index.html

WOOD CHIPS – Our gardeners have discovered the piles of wood chips at both gardens, and have been using them enthusiastically. This is good. Unfortunately, they’re all gone now. But yes, we will definitely get more. There isn’t a schedule for this – they’ll be delivered when UW Grounds cuts down more trees. We may have to wait a bit. But we will get more – probably lots more.

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We will have a workday this Sunday morning, June 10, at Eagle Heights, from 8am – 11am. The task will be clearing weeds from the raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Be sure to bring garden gloves – thistles are involved. I’ll send out the doodle poll link separately.

Happy Gardening,  
Kathryn

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


From the Gardens Registrar: Plant Exchange June 3; Comfrey; Voles; Workday This Weekend


Hello Gardeners,

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. Please note that the plants people bring have not been raised professionally, so keep an eye out for diseases. We’ll also have more free seeds for summer crops – summer and winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons.

COMFREY – Comfrey is another widespread weed in our garden, and many gardeners struggle to get rid of it. If it’s taken over your garden, the only way to get rid of it is to dig it up, over and over again, until it’s finally all gone. It has big thick roots that go deep. But unlike the wire grass and thistles, it’s actually an attractive and useful plant. It will be blooming soon, with large beautiful blue/purple flowers. The plant is sometimes grown as a decorative perennial, and has uses in herbal medicine. But its greatest use for organic gardeners is as mulch and compost. Because the leaves are high in nitrogen and potassium, and they break down very quickly, you can cut them and use them as mulch around your plants. Or you can add them to a compost pile. Here’s a link to the ever-useful Wikipedia, with a good article on comfrey and a few pictures: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfrey

VOLES – One of the worst pests in our gardens is the vole. Voles are small mouse-like animals also known as meadow mice or field mice. They reproduce ferociously – one pair can produce as many as 100 offspring in a year. They eat insects and slugs, but unfortunately, they also eat just about every kind of plant. Fortunately, they have many natural predators, such as hawks, owls, and coyotes.  One of the best ways to deter them is to not give them habitat, by pulling your weeds and removing mulch from your garden. They don’t like feeding on bare ground – they prefer to be able to hide in vegetation. But many of us depend on mulch to protect our plants from weeds and reduce watering. (I’m not giving up my mulch.) Here are some other ideas about how to control them naturally: https://www.homeremedynation.com/how-to-get-rid-of-voles-in-your-garden/

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We are tentatively planning a workday for this Saturday morning, June 2, 9am – Noon, at Eagle Heights. There will be two projects. Some gardeners will work to organize and control the weed pile, which has spread out beyond its boundaries. Other gardeners will start work on renovating a garden plot. I’ll send out the Doodle Poll link separately.

Happy Gardening,  
Kathryn