Political Commentary

Friday, March 27, 2020

Hello Gardeners,

I'm not surprised to be writing you again with a change of plans. On the advice of the UW, we are cancelling the garden orientations for new gardeners that were planned for this weekend. Face to face interactions are being discouraged.

But spring seeds will still be available for gardeners to pick up at both gardens on Saturday morning.

Thank you, and good luck with these seeds when you get them.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Seed Give-Away March 28; Garden Orientations; Coronovirus Precautions

Hello Gardeners,

SPRING SEED GIVE-AWAY – On Saturday, March 28, we will have free seeds available to gardeners at both Eagle Heights, and University Houses Gardens. I hope you all understand that our usual Seed Fair had to be cancelled this year, due to health concerns. So, unfortunately, it will not be possible for gardeners to pick out their own seeds this year. A group of volunteers put together collections of mostly spring seeds, and these collections will be at the gardens for gardeners to take. Most collections contain 15 packets of seeds – every packet has at least 2 varieties of beans, 2 varieties of peas, and 2 varieties of lettuce. Many of  the packets also have spinach, basil, green onions, carrots, radishes,and cilantro. Other seeds in some collections are: chard, kale, turnips, cabbage, mustard greens, beets, and kohlrabi. If you get a packet of  something you’re not interested in growing, please leave it on the share shelf, and somebody else will want it.

The seeds will be at Eagle Heights by 9:30 a.m., and at University Houses around 10am.

Most of these seeds can be planted outside now. But the beans should wait until the ground is warm – those shouldn’t be planted until May. Also, the basil should either be started soon in your house, or else you can plant it in the ground in May, after risk of frost is over.

We will also have a small number of packets of seeds for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants that gardeners will be able to choose from. To grow these, you need to start them in your house in the next few weeks. It’s rewarding to grow these plants from seed, but it can be tricky. Next week, I’ll send information on starting plants in the house.

In May, we will give away seeds for other vegetables, such as squash, cucumbers, melons, and others, including flowers.

GARDEN ORIENTATIONS – We will also offer garden orientations to new gardeners, on both March 28 and March 29, at both gardens. Meet at the garden shed. Here is the schedule:

Eagle Heights          Saturday, March 28          10:30 – Noon – 20 minute orientations in small groups

University Houses   Saturday, March 28                      10:30am – one orientation

Eagle Heights          Sunday, March 29                         1pm – 3pm – 20 minute orientations in small groups

University Houses    Sunday, March 29 – If you want to attend a Sunday orientation at UH, please email me by Saturday afternoon, and we’ll schedule one – at Noon or later.

CORONAVIRUS PRECAUTIONS – We hope to keep our gardens open through this period of restrictions. Since our gardens are large, we can easily practice social distancing, and work together without being close to each other. But please be aware that we share tools and carts. I would recommend that every gardener bring sanitizer to the garden to use on tool handles before and after working with them. Gloves are also a good idea. You may want to bring your own tools, and keep them in your plot. We are currently considering whether or not to keep the portable toilets.

These last few weeks have been full of surprises (mostly unpleasant)  – I will keep you updated as much as I can.

Happy Gardening,

Friday, March 13, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Opening Day; Seed Fair is CANCELLED; Garden Orientations; Organic Gardening Class

Hello Gardeners,

OPENING DAY - First, some good news: Opening Day will be this weekend. That means that most of the carts, wheelbarrows, and tools will come out of winter storage and be available to gardeners, by this Sunday, March 15. It's probably too muddy to do any digging, but you can certainly start clearing last year's vegetation and making other preparations for gardening. For Eagle Heights Gardens gardeners, the parking signs are back up on Eagle Heights Drive - this means that gardeners can now park there.

The water in both gardens is still off for the season. We expect to be able to have it on around the middle of April, depending on the weather.

SEED FAIR CANCELLED - The bad news: the Seed Fair, originally scheduled for March 28, has been cancelled, due to concerns about the Coronavirus. We do not plan to reschedule. However, we still want to get seeds to everybody, so it has been decided to hand out collections of spring vegetable seeds to gardeners IN THE GARDENS on March 28. I will get back to you with exact times and more details on that. We will also be putting seeds out on the share shelves at both gardens. We will not sell row cover on March 28 – we won’t do that until our cool-weather plant sale, on April 26.

GARDEN ORIENTATIONS - We are still planning to have Garden Orientations for new gardeners at both gardens on March 28 and possibly March 29. We strongly recommend that new gardeners attend an orientation to learn some of the basics about our gardens, and have an opportunity to ask questions. I'll get you a schedule for those next week. 

On Saturday, March 14, former EH gardener Gary Kuzynski, will teach a free class on Organic Gardening at Sequoya Library, which is at 4340 Tokay Boulevard, from 9:00am – 12:30pm. If you're new to gardening, and have time to stop in, this is a great opportunity to learn from a master. 

I’m sorry about the Seed Fair, but the decision was made for us, and I really hope that taking precautions now will keep more people safe and healthy. And ready to garden!

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Hello Gardeners,

WORKDAY – Given the fact that it is ridiculously cold, and everything is covered with several inches of snow, our workdays are at an end for this season. When weather allows, we will be closing down the gardens, and putting away most of the carts and tools for the winter. No, we will not put them all away – we will leave some tools and a few carts out for gardeners who still have work to do.


December 1        Deadline for paying the no-workday fee if you did not do a workday. (Please note – gardeners who received plots this fall are not required to do a workday.)

If you are paying the no-workday fee, please write a check for $32, payable to Division of University Housing, and drop it off at the Community Center, or mail it to Eagle Heights Gardens c/o Community Center, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI 53705. If you use the drop box, please put your check in a green envelope, or else write “gardens” on your own envelope, so it doesn’t get mixed up with rent payments.

If you’re not sure whether or not you did a workday this year, or are required to, or already paid for the no-workday, send me an email, and I’ll check for you. About 200 gardeners have not done workdays or paid, so far.

December 15        First day to apply for a garden for 2020. The new applications will be available on our website (http://eagleheightsgardens.org), and can also be picked up in paper form, in English and in Chinese, at the Community Center. They will look suspiciously like the 2019 forms, although I hope someone has the presence of mind to change the date….

February 15        Deadline for returning gardeners to apply to renew the gardens they had in 2019. (New gardeners may apply for gardens at any time.) If you get your renewal application in after the deadline, I will renew your plot if it’s still available. But you’re taking your chances. After February 15, I will start assigning plots that have not been renewed to new gardeners, so if you’re late, your plot might be gone already. If you want to garden again next year, but you want to move to a different plot, you should still get me your application by the deadline – you have priority over new applicants, and I’ll get you settled in a plot you like before I start on the new applications. Also, I cannot renew your plot if you have not taken care of this year’s workday.

March 21         Opening Day for 2020 (approximate date) – tools and carts will come back out of the sheds for the season. (Water will not be turned on until April or May, depending on the weather.)

March 28          Seed Fair at the Community Center – each garden plot will be allowed 15 free packets of seeds. Row cover will also be for sale.

This will be my last weekly message for this season. (Don’t look so happy!) However, I will send an email out next month to remind people when the 2020 applications come out. And please email me if you have any questions about anything. I’ll still be around.

THANK YOU! – Thank you to everybody who had a garden this year, and especially to everybody who did a workday. The workday crews worked hard, and did a lot of great work. Thanks also to Will and Megan, and our other garden workers. Thank you to our Co-Chairs, members of the Garden Committee, and the many members of our garden community who take care of common areas and do many many other extra tasks to keep the garden going. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Have a good winter.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Where’s the Mulch?; Cleaning Up; Glass in Plots; Sprouting Seeds; Lakeshore Nature Preserve Draft Strategic Plan; Workday To Be Determined

Hello Gardeners,

LEAF MULCH AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES – The last several years have been rainy, and we have had great difficulty in getting soil amenities to the University Houses Gardens. Leaf mulch and wood chips have often not been available at that garden for long stretches of time, to say nothing of compost and manure. Meanwhile, the Eagle Heights gardeners have been rolling in the stuff. (Literally, at times.) This is not because we don’t like you. It’s because the EH gardens have graveled roads and the UH garden does not. UH is somewhat low to start with, and the “road” that goes to the parking lot is barely a road at all. Plus, past the parking lot, the ground is soft and turns to mud easily, particularly under heavy machinery. This year, in desperation, we have tried using space in the parking lot for chips and mulch, and it’s been in other people’s way.

HOWEVER, Housing is going to do us a big favor and dump some leaves on the UH parking lot this week, on the understanding that they need to be picked up by gardeners right away. If they get used up quickly, Housing will bring more. But they don’t want the leaves sitting there for a long time. So, when they appear, grab them as fast as you can. Once the ground is frozen (which, unfortunately, might be soon), we’ll be able to get large loads of leaves over there, hopefully enough to last you into next summer.

CLEANING UP – When you’re cleaning your plot, is it okay to leave equipment there over the winter? Yes, if you know you will be renewing your garden plot next year, you may certainly leave tomato cages, fencing, hose, furniture, etc. in your plot. But it is best not to leave anything nice behind – it might be damaged by weather, or be taken by somebody who likes it and assumes it’s abandoned. So it’s safer to take home anything you value and keep it in your garage or basement until spring.

GLASS IN PLOTS – As our rules state, we do not allow glass in the gardens. It breaks easily, and then pieces get mixed into the soil, where gardeners long into the future may continue to find them unexpectedly and hurt themselves. If you have any glass containers in your plot, take them home now. Even if they’re in good shape now, they won’t be after the snow and winter have had their way with them.

SEED SPROUTING – If you already miss fresh, just-picked vegetables, maybe you should try growing sprouts at home. Unlike growing herbs inside, this really is easy. Here’s some basic information: https://harvesttotable.com/seed_sprouts_for_eating/

LAKESHORE NATURE PRESERVE STRATEGIC PLAN – Our gardens (both locations) are part of the UW’s Lakeshore Nature Preserve, and the Preserve Staff has extended the following invitation to all our gardeners: We want your feedback on the Lakeshore Nature Preserve Draft Strategic Plan! Join us Tuesday November 12 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Memorial Union. Refreshments will be served. Check Today in the Union for room location.
The draft plan was created with input from over 650 campus and community members through a series of focus groups and an online survey conducted last spring. Lakeshore Nature Preserve Director, Gary Brown, will present the common themes from the focus groups and the key takeaways from the public survey along with the strategic priorities that came out of those findings. The presentation will be followed by time for discussion, comments, and questions from the public. The strategic plan will establish the basis for a 2020 Lakeshore Nature Preserve Facilities Master Plan.
For more information about the strategic plan public comment meeting please contact Preserve Program Manager Laura Wyatt at 608-265-9275 or laura.wyatt@wisc.edu

WORKDAY – If we schedule a workday this weekend, I’ll send out a separate message.

Happy gardening, Kathryn

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Parking on Eagle Heights Drive; Translation Requested; Co-Webmaster Needed; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

PARKING ON EAGLE HEIGHTS DRIVE – The University has put up the winter parking signs on Eagle Heights Drive – that means no parking for gardeners (or anybody else) on the street on weekdays. Weekend and holiday parking is still allowed through the winter. With the current weather and forecast, gardening is pretty much at an end for the season. But I know gardeners are still doing clean-up, so I regret the inconvenience. Hopefully, everyone has picked their winter squash and pumpkins, and hauled them home already. (If not, do it NOW because they can be damaged by frost. You can still eat them if they’ve been frosted, but they won’t keep.) If you do drive your car to Eagle Heights on a weekday, the closest parking is at Frautschi Point (2662 Lake Mendota Drive.) Meanwhile, the gardeners at University Houses can feel smug, which they don’t get to do very often.

TRANSLATION – One of the garden committee chairs of the past, Robin Mittenthal, wrote a wonderful guide to planting vegetables in Wisconsin, which is available on our website, at: _http://www.eagleheightsgardens.org/tips/garden_manual_v_1.12.pdf. The manual includes a five-page “Quick Reference Guide” (starting on Page 61), which lists common vegetables, and how and when to plant them in our gardens. Unfortunately, this guide is only in English – I think it would be very helpful to have copies available at our Seed Fair in the spring, and on our website, in Chinese and Korean. So I am looking for gardeners who would be able to translate, at least the names of the vegetables and the headings on the guide. Anybody interested? You’ll get workday credit for it – either this year (if you haven’t already done a workday) or else next year. I would also be open to translations into other languages, but we have so many gardeners from China and Korea that those languages are the ones we most need. Let me know if you’re interested.

WEBMASTER – The gardener who has been our webmaster for the last couple of years is giving it up. We have another gardener with excellent experience who has taken over some of the work, but we still need someone to manage the "backend" of the website. This includes wordpress updates and plug-ins, security monitoring, and interfacing with our host lunarpages/hostpapa. This also qualifies for workday credit. Please let me know if you have website experience and are interested. It’s not a lot of work, but when we do have a problem with the site, we need someone who can respond pretty quickly.

GROWING HERBS INDOORS – One of the worst things about losing your garden in the fall is that it’s the end of fresh herbs for a while. There are numerous websites on the Internet that tell you how easy it is to grow herbs inside in the winter, and have as much as you want to cook with. I have tried it, and it is not easy. I have had no success with this whatsoever. But I still want to try it. Here is a website with a lot of information and a more realistic approach:  https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/54973/how-to-grow-herbs-indoors/

NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We will probably have another workday or two before the season ends officially, but not this weekend. You can stay home and stay warm.

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Winterization; Lasagna Gardening; Gardening is Good for Us!; More on Sweet Potato Harvests; Workday This Saturday at EH

Hello Gardeners,

WINTERIZATION – The water is now turned off for the season in both gardens. The hoses and hose reels at University Houses Gardens have been collected and put into storage. The last day for the portable toilets at both locations will be November 6, so if you have to go, you better go before then. We will probably continue to hold workdays into November, depending on the weather. We haven’t set a closing date yet this year, but last year, we closed the gardens the beginning of December. Closing Day is the day when we put most of the tools and carts into the sheds for the winter, but we always leave a few outside, for those who are still working in their gardens.

LASAGNA GARDENING – If you’d like to try something new in your garden plot next year, you might consider a lasagna garden. Lasagna gardens aren’t gardens with tomatoes, basil, and cheese (though that sounds really good) – they are gardens that are layered. (It’s also called “Sheet Composting”) Fall is probably the best time to start this type of garden. You can start by clearing and hauling away weeds – or else you can just knock the weeds down and leave them in the plot – they’ll get covered up and will add nutrients to the soil as they decay. You then cover each bed with cardboard, and then layers of other materials – leaf mulch, newspapers, compost, straw, woodchips, coffee grounds, whatever you have.  Then leave it for the winter. In the spring, the layers will still be there, but your plants will quickly feed on the nutrients and decompose the layers, while the cardboard will keep out a lot of the weeds. You can plant right into the layers – you don’t have to dig up a lasagna garden. It’s less work for the gardener, and also it’s better for the microbes that improve our soil – they can be damaged by digging. My lasagna garden is now in its fourth year – it’s been reasonably productive, and very easy to take care of. As usual, I’m going to add more newspaper and leaves to it this fall. Here are some instructions: https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-make-a-lasagna-garden-2539877

WHY GARDENING MAKES US HAPPY – Speaking of microbes, this article explains one of the reasons that digging in the dirt makes people happy: https://modernfarmer.com/2014/08/dirt-make-us-happy-getting-hands-ground-better-prozac/

SWEET POTATO HARVESTS – I heard from a few more gardeners who planted sweet potatoes, in the ground (not in containers), and who got bumper crops. It’s good to know these were successful for some of our gardeners.

WORKDAY THIS SATURDAY – We’ll have a workday this Saturday morning, October 26, from 9am – Noon, at Eagle Heights. The task will be finishing the reorganization of the bricks and other construction materials we’ve been acquiring. Gloves are strongly recommended. Here’s the link to sign up: https://doodle.com/poll/miryfqdzxhkkavrm The current weather forecast looks good, but if it rains, the workday will be cancelled.

Happy gardening,