Political Commentary

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

From the Gardens Registrar: WATER SHUT-OFF!; Community Clean-Up; Actively Aerated Compost Tea; UW Grounds Roadwork; Planting Flower Seeds and Garlic

Hello Gardeners,

WATER SHUT-OFF – Our water is now shut off for the season! If you are still planting, you will have to haul in your own water now. I know this is a nuisance, but though we’re still having warmer-than-usual weather, it’s late October and the cold is really coming soon. 


Dear fellow gardeners,
Please join us this Saturday, Oct. 22nd from 1-3pm in the Eagle Heights Garden to prep the gardens for winter. Our garden workers will be using motorized mowers to cut the weeds low in order to suppress them next year. To make this process safer and more efficient we need to clean the paths of all debris, including rocks, posts, sticks, etc. We will also be picking up rubbish that has accumulated in common areas.

Feel free to bring snacks to share. Come with questions on what to do in your own garden to prepare for winter and to get a jump on spring.  Hope to see lots of folks on Saturday,
Adam Farrell-Wortman , Garden Committee Co-Chair

P.S. This is a community event and not eligible for workday credit.

ACTIVELY AERATED COMPOST TEA – Also this Saturday, from 9am – Noon, Gary Kuzynski will be giving out AACT (Actively Aerated Compost Tea) by the EH Shed.. 16 oz will be enough to cover a large plot. Best to mix with 1 to 2 gal of rain/lake water or anything that does not have chlorine in it and sprinkle on the ground. It will increase the microbes in the soil. When using the mixture, best to use it within 24 hours. Please bring a small container.

UW GROUNDS ADDING GRAVEL TO THE SOUTH ROAD – UW Grounds has started adding new gravel to the road along the south edge of Eagle Heights Gardens to improve the drainage and fill in the ponds that have developed. The work may continue into next week. So, expect trucks and minor disruption. It already looks hugely better. 

PLANTING ANNUAL FLOWER SEEDS IN THE FALL – Here’s a fall planting project for starting a bed of flowers that reseed themselves, such as annual poppies, cornflowers, and calendula. Wait until after we have a killing frost, mix your seeds with some dry sand in a jar, cultivate the bed shallowly just to loosen it, sprinkle the sand/seed mixture over the bed, rake lightly, and water. (And yes, sorry, you’ll have to carry in the water. But it won’t take much.) http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/seeds-you-should-be-planting-autumn

GARLIC PLANTING – Fall is the best time to plant garlic, and many people think it’s best to wait to plant until after a hard frost. Here’s some basic planting information: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/growing-garlic-zmaz09onzraw

WORKDAY – Nothing is scheduled at this time, but please stop in on Saturday to meet fellow-gardeners and help out for an hour or two. And bring cookies.

Happy gardening, everyone, 


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

From the Gardens Registrar: Frost Warnings Tonight and Tomorrow Night: Garden Thefts; Lakeshore Nature Preserve; Putting the Garden to Bed; Juncos

Hello Gardeners,

FROST WARNINGS! - The latest weather forecast predicts low temperatures tonight and tomorrow night in the mid-thirties. We might escape frost this time, but I would suggest that you cover tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers the next two nights, if you want to be sure they survive. The weather is likely to warm up by the weekend, and stay warmer for another week or so.

GARDEN THEFTS – There have been reports all season of thefts and even vandalism in gardens in both locations. The culprits are generally not gardeners, and unless someone actually catches them in the act, there is no way we can stop them or prosecute them. So please be alert when you’re in the garden, and keep an eye on anyone you don’t know who’s in somebody else’s plot. 

Also, I want to remind people that no gardener is allowed in another person’s garden without that person’s permission. In some recent theft complaints, a gardener who has been away from their garden for several weeks stopped in to pick produce, and found their vegetables already picked. Just in case it was a fellow-gardener who picked it: do not consider a garden abandoned just because you see vegetables there that haven’t been picked. If you think a garden may have been abandoned, please email me, and I will check with the gardeners for that plot. 

THE LAKESHORE NATURE PRESERVE – The Eagle Heights and University Houses gardens are part of the University’s Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which exists to protect the undeveloped lands and the plant and animal communities along the shore of Lake Mendota. No collecting or picking of plants, wood, stone, earth, or animals is allowed. So please, if you need sticks for your garden, do not cut saplings in the woods that surround the gardens, and do not take fallen branches. We have sticks in barrels at both gardens for gardeners’ use.

PUTTING THE GARDEN TO BED FOR THE WINTER – If your garden is done for the season, do yourself (or the next gardener at your plot) a big favor, and do some quick maintenance this fall that will make planting in the spring much easier. You can do this work any time until the ground freezes, but why not do it soon on a warm, sunny day when you’re looking for any excuse to be outside? The simplest fall maintenance is to pull out your dead plants and weeds, and take them to the weed pile, and then cover your beds with a thick layer of leaves from the leaf pile. This will protect and enrich your soil, and give you a good surface for planting in the spring. 

JUNCOS – Our gardens are now playing host to little birds in the sparrow family called Dark-Eyed Juncos. These birds spend their summers in the far north in Canadian forests, and their winters in the United States, in fields, parks, and backyards. They’re easy to recognize – black or dark grey on top, and light grey or white on the bottom. They also have white feathers in their tails which are visible when they fly. They arrive here in October, and will stay until March or April, so they’re one more sign of fall.

WORKDAY – I’ll send out workday information separately.

Happy gardening, everyone.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

From the Gardens Registrar: Green Tomatoes Part Deux; Frost and Other Vegetables; Garden Whistlers

Hello Gardeners,

MORE ON GREEN TOMATOES – Based on current long-range forecasts, I don’t think we will have frost for at least another two weeks. But weather forecasts are highly changeable. And even without the threat of frost, plants are growing more and more slowly and ripening is taking longer and longer. One quandary for gardeners this time of year is whether or not to pick green tomatoes. They could still ripen on the vine, but on the other hand, an unexpectedly cold night could damage them. You can delay the inevitable by covering and protecting your plants, whether you use a commercial product, or something improvised and home-made. Sometimes, a frost is followed by several weeks of warmer weather, so it may be worth the extra effort to keep the plants going.

Here are links to information on three scenarios:  How to Protect Tomato Plants From Frost; How to Ripen Under-Ripe Tomatoes After Picking; and How to Give Up and Just Cook Them Green, including recipes for jam, pickles, relish, chutney, pie, salsa, or classic Southern-Fried:

OTHER VEGETABLES AND FROST – Other vegetables that should be picked before frost (or used right away if they do get frosted) are peppers, eggplants, and summer and winter squash. Some vegetables can tolerate light frost: beets, carrots, chard, Chinese cabbage, potatoes, and lettuce. And these vegetables can tolerate hard frosts: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, onion, parsley, peas, radish, spinach, and turnips.

WHISTLING IN THE GARDENS – Another sign of fall is the appearance (or at least the sound) of migrating songbirds. If you hear whistling in the gardens, and it doesn’t seem to be one of your human neighbors, it may be a White-Crowned Sparrow or a White-Throated Sparrow. The White-Throats have a strong whistle, which is often thought of as sounding like “Poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody.” (Or, if you’re Canadian, “Oh, Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada.”) The White-Crowns have a less distinctive song. One other whistler in the gardens is the Cedar Waxwing, which can be around here any time of year, and generally hangs out in big flocks. Their song is just one high prolonged note. They eat berries in the fall, so this is a very good time of year for them.

WORKDAY – There will be a workday this weekend – I will send out the information on date, times, location, and task tomorrow.

Happy gardening, everyone.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

From the Gardens Registrar: The “F” Word, Jumping Worm Workshop, Wisconsin Medicinal Plant Symposium, Woolly Bear Caterpillars

 Hello Gardeners – 

THE “F” WORD (FROST) - We’ve had an unusually warm September, but from here on, temperatures are going to be sinking steadily. Days are also growing shorter. We can expect our first frost any time now, though probably not for another two weeks. Start keeping an eye on the weather forecast. The first frost may be light, so that if you can cover your vegetables, even with something as light as a bed sheet, you can keep them alive. Cabbages and other cole crops, and some greens can handle light frost, and may be improved by it. 

Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are the most susceptible to cold temperatures. You may just want to plan to pick those in the next week or two. If you have green tomatoes, there are a number of ways to get them to ripen in the house. Some people just leave them on a warm, sunny windowsill; other people keep them in a cool, dark place, in paper bags or cardboard boxes. More on this next week.

JUMPING WORM WORKSHOP - Join the Lakeshore Nature Preserve at the Eagle Heights Community Garden for a Jumping Worm Workshop. Learn about Wisconsin's invasive earthworms, including how they impact our gardens and forests and how to find and identify them. The workshop takes place on Thursday, September 29th, from 4:30 - 6:00 pm. Meet at the garden shed. If you have any questions, contact the Preserve at (608)265-9275 or lakeshorepreserve@fpm.wisc.edu.

WISCONSIN MEDICINAL PLANT SYMPOSIUM – On Friday, September 30, the UW Horticulture Department will hold a program on medicinal plants from 1pm – 4:30pm at the Ebling Auditorium at the Microbial Sciences Building at 1550 Linden Drive. 

Six guest speakers will gather to discuss the following topics:  A historical overview of the use of herbal medicines; traditional knowledge of plant healing; the intricate relationships of humans and plants in Wisconsin Native American communities; a Tibetan perspective on medicinal plants; using echinacea to treat the common cold; and the importance of ethnobotanical collections. The symposium is free; however, registration is required. Here’s the link to sign up: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wisconsin-medicinal-plant-symposium-tickets-26810552083


WORKDAY – The next workday is scheduled for Sunday, October 2, from 9am – Noon, at Eagle Heights. The task will be tree and path maintenance. Gloves will be really helpful. Here’s the link: http://doodle.com/poll/7asv89aqwn89i2fn  If it rains, the workday will be automatically cancelled. But if it doesn’t rain, feel free to turn up for the workday even if you haven't signed up. There are more than two hundred gardeners who have not yet done their workday; time is growing short.

Happy gardening, everyone.