Political Commentary

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

From the Gardens Registrar: Our New Co-Chair; Eagle Heights Drive Construction; Leaf Mulch at University Houses Gardens; Potato Beetles and Spinosad; Tools in Plots; Dill; Workday Will be Announced Later

Hello Gardeners,

OUR NEW CO-CHAIR – Ilana Haimes, who gardens at Eagle Heights, has become the new Co-Chair of our Garden Committee, and will be starting her duties immediately. She brings a lot of enthusiasm and experience to the position, and we’re very happy that she was interested. However, we do still need one more Co-Chair, so that the responsibility can be shared. Please consider volunteering

EAGLE HEIGHTS DRIVE – The Eagle Heights Drive repaving project will start next Monday, June 26. Beginning on that date, the street will be one lane, one-way westbound, on the south side of the street. The project will take at least until mid-August, and unfortunately, while it is going on, there will be no street parking for gardeners on Eagle Heights Drive. Probably the closest parking lot is at Frautchi Point, north of the gardens along Lake Mendota Drive. This project is going to be a hassle for us, but the work has to be done. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and the project can finish on time. 

LEAF MULCH AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES GARDENS – Gardeners at U Houses probably already know that there is finally leaf mulch at your garden. Thank you very much to our garden worker, Will, and to the Village of Shorewood.

POTATO BEETLES AND SPINOSAD – Many gardeners are continuing to report potato beetles on their potatoes. We will be spraying Spinosad soon. (I haven’t heard a date yet.) Our garden workers don’t target specific plots – they just walk through the gardens in the evening and spray. Again, picking off the beetles by hand is the best means of protecting your plants.  A few other things you can do for your potatoes is mulch them, cover them with row cover, or plant strong-smelling plants nearby that can deter the beetles, such as horseradish, cilantro, dill, marigolds, and nasturtiums. 

According to Mother Earth News, Spinosad is based on the bacterium Saccharopolyspora spinosa, which was discovered in 1982 in an old Caribbean rum still.(!?)  These bacteria produce a substance that works as a neurotoxin in many insects. Susceptible insect species stop eating immediately and die in a day or two.

TOOLS IN PLOTS – Please remember, although we have lots of tools, we also have lots of gardeners. When you are through gardening for the day, please return your tools to the shed, and hang them up if possible. These are good tools, which make it possible for hundreds of people to have gardens and grow delicious food for their families – they should be treated with respect. Same goes for gardens cart and wheelbarrows. 

DILL – Many of us are delighted that fresh dill is abundant now in our garden plots, where it reseeds itself and is practically a weed. Dill is delicious, especially with cucumbers, carrots, and potatoes. And it is thought to be an aid to digestion. If you have dill and don’t know what to do with it (besides throwing it in the weedpile), here are some recipes: http://www.myrecipes.com/t/vegetables/fresh-herbs/dill

WORKDAY – Will be announced separately.

Happy gardening, Happy Summer Solstice, and Happy National Pollinator Week!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

From the Gardens Registrar: The Garden Arbor; Companion Planting; Who’s Your Garden Buddy?; Workday Will Be Announced Separately

Hello Gardeners,

THE GARDEN ARBOR – The planting and maintenance of the Garden Arbor at Eagle Heights is all done by volunteers. It’s a great deal of work to keep it looking lovely. It’s beautiful now, and it has been beautiful since the first spring bulbs began to bloom. So, thank you very much to the Arbor volunteers. 

FLOWERS – Which leads me to thank everyone who grows flowers on their plots. Some people may feel it’s frivolous to take space away from vegetables. But flowers are not only pretty, they also attract bees and other pollinating insects. So everybody’s vegetables are more productive when there are flowers around.

COMPANION PLANTING – Which leads me to the subject of companion planting. This is an approach to garden planning in which plants that “like” each other are planted together. And plants that “don’t like” each other are planted away from each other. There’s a great deal of mythology involved, and not many scientific studies. But plants definitely influence each other in a number of ways. Herbs and flowers with strong scents, such as dill and marigolds, can deter some insect pests. Plants such as radishes can act as trap crops, by attracting insects such as flea beetles, which can help keep them away from your other vegetables. Tall plants can provide shade to smaller plants that don’t do well in full sun. This is a big subject, and there’s lots to know, plus a lot of theories that sound wonderful but may be nonsense. But it’s worth trying out different combinations of plants together and observing what happens. Here’s a link to a common-sense approach, which includes a chart to experiment with: http://www.vegetable-gardening-with-lorraine.com/companion-planting.html

WHO’S YOUR GARDEN BUDDY? – In the summer, human beings often take vacations. But plants, whether vegetables or weeds, work tirelessly every day to grow and reproduce. Some gardeners seem to expect, when they go out of town for a month, that their garden will go into some kind of hibernation. However, this does not happen. If you leave your garden for a long time, you will find tall weeds when you return, and possibly, nothing else. If it’s been hot and dry, your vegetables may be dead. You can avoid unpleasant surprises by making a deal with your friends who also have gardens, so that when one person is out of town, there is somebody else to check on that person’s garden, and do a little watering, weeding, and picking if necessary. This is particularly important once our vegetables are really producing, because produce that doesn’t get picked will just rot and attract animals. 

WORKDAY – Our garden workers are still trying to figure out what the weather is going to do this weekend, so the workday will be announced separately.

Happy gardening,