Friday, October 31, 2014

Dear Gardeners,
Brrr! The wind off the lake is bringing in a hard frost tonight. Some hardy plants will survive, but this is the end for many. The water is off now but we will be leaving out the carts and tools for clean-up and soil preparation. It has been a good season with many fine fall days, but the days are shorter and the temperatures now falling.
We will have a workday this Saturday, Nov. 1, from 2 pm to 5 pm. It will be chilly but hauling wood chips will keep volunteers warm. Due to the late notice, please just come if you would like to work. Bring gloves and water to drink. Meet at the Eagle Heights shed by 2 pm and be sure to sign in on the workday sheet for credit for your plot. The weather is going to get chancy now so get in a workday while you can.
We have had a number of complaints about dogs in the gardens and the Lakeshore Nature Preserve has also had some problems. Mostly, the owners who allow the dogs to get into mischief are the problems but the Preserve is concerned about how to address this.  The Preserve committee is conducting a survey of gardeners to help them formulate a policy for dogs and would like your feedback. Please take this survey and give us your opinions. There are only a few questions and everything is completely voluntary and anonymous. The results are important for us since there are so many users of the Preserve in the gardens and we have special concerns with the food we are growing. Feel free to answer or not answer questions as you wish, but please respond so that we get a good picture of the situation and gardener opinions for a meeting next week considering alternatives.
Survey here:
It will be a cold night for being out to celebrate Halloween. Stay warm and cook some soup to celebrate the fall vegetables.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dear Gardeners,
We are having a lovely fall with great colors and very pleasant weather. It has been wonderful working in the gardens and the pair of cranes are still around enjoying it with us. There are lots of chores to do with cleaning beds, planting over-wintering crops and mulching. The kinglets (small, fast-moving birds with little yellow "crowns") are in the bushes around the gardens, stopping by on their way south. Check out the coots on the lake (small clownish duck-like birds that are grey/black with white bills).
We have chores to do for the workdays as well and want to get as much done now as we can. Soon, the weather will make workdays more uncertain. Sunday, October 25, we'll have a workday in Eagle Heights starting at 2 pm. We can use a lot of workers so if you haven't gotten your workday in or you just want to come enjoy the weather with fellow gardeners, reply to this message and I'll get you more information.
If you haven't gotten in your workday, you can always fulfill the obligation by paying the "no workday" optional fee ($32 for a large plot;$16 for a small). Be sure to work or pay the fee before December 1 to avoid the late fees and insure your priority to return to a plot. Make the check out to Division of University Housing and mail or drop off at Eagle Heights Community Center, ATTN: Gardens, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI 53705.
We have a new application that is coming together for next year and it will be available on the website in mid-December. Please mark your calenders now to send in the application. Due date for prioritization is Feb. 15 and I start assigning plots then. We always develop a waiting list after all the plots are assigned and getting your application in early will maximize the chance to get a plot or return to your old one. Every year, some gardeners are disappointed when they forget to apply and their plots are reassigned to others.
A few changes are in the works for the new application although most of the rules stay the same. We are not going to offer tilling for a fee next year. With some weeds, tilling will make the problem worse and we think hand-digging (and removing the roots) is a much better approach. We also worry that new gardeners mistakenly think tilling will solve their weed problems or that they don't need to prepare for planting beyond tilling.  We also worry that private tillers and string mowers are being used in an unsafe manner so we are not allowing private power equipment except small battery operated hand tools (like drills for assembling wood supports). We will be raising the late fees for not meeting the workday requirement by Dec. 1 to encourage people to get this straightened out before we are into the next season.
Be sure to make a note of where you planted crops this year and varieties that you particularly liked. One of the fun winter chores will be planning the garden for next year. There is still time to save some seed from beans or flowers so that you can plant them next spring. I see garlic going in all over now and plenty of greens to enjoy this fall.
Make some squash soup and prepare for Halloween,
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dear Gardeners,
We have had word back on the crane chick that was hit by a car on University Bay Drive. He (probably, sex not certain) has bonded with a foster dad and is recovering better than expected, but still not flying. See photos and more info on the Garden Blog on our website at
We'll have two workdays this weekend, both at Eagle Heights gardens. We are working on a buffer area project and will be moving wood chips for that Saturday and Sunday afternoons starting at 2 pm and going to 5 pm. Please reply if you would like to work and I'll get you more details and on the list.
The colors are spectacular this year but leaves are coming down fast with the rain this week. Still time to get in some overwintering crops, mulch the perennials, clean up debris, harvest greens and make notes for next year. Rotating your areas for vegetables can help with disease and pest management so make a little sketch of where things were this year so you don't plant the same things in the same spots next year.
We have some students who would like to do some soil testing for lead in garden plots at Eagle Heights. They would need to take two samples from any volunteers who would allow sampling. If you would be willing to let them sample, it might provide useful information for the Gardens. Please reply to me with your plot number and any instructions (where you planted garlic for instance). I will accompany them during sampling to ensure they are aware of your plantings that might not be obvious. The probe is very small diameter and shouldn't be intrusive.
Check out the loons on Lake Mendota (some just off Memorial Union or in the bay between Second Point and Picnic Point). They are coming down from up North but will stay for a while as long as there is open water for fishing.
Enjoy one of the best times of the year,
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dear Gardeners,
It is bright and sunny as I write, but fall is a time for changing weather. We haven't had frost yet, but anytime now we will. Less of the birds are around and many have taken off for winter homes. There are still lots of fall vegetables to be had in the gardens and a good time to clean up the summer vines that have wilted. With the rodent problem, cleaning up in the fall will prevent voles from overwintering in the remains from this summer's plants. Disease and insect problems can also be partially avoided by a good fall clean-up.
We'll have two workdays this weekend. On Saturday, Oct. 11, there will be an opportunity for working in the common plantings at University Houses; On Sunday, Oct. 12 there are chips to be moved for mulch around plantings at Eagle Heights. Both workdays will be 1 pm to 4 pm in the afternoon. Please reply if you would like to work and I'll get you more information.
The workday obligation needs to be settled by Dec. 1 and it is uncertain how many more workdays will be possible given the weather. We plan on projects into November, but sometimes we cannot do some of them in snow. There are weekday opportunities to work on plot marking for a couple of people. Let me know if you would be available for any of those and I will see if we can get a schedule for that. If you want to pay the "no workday" option, it is $32 for a large plot and $16 for a small plot. Checks can be made out to the Division of University Housing and mailed or dropped off at the Eagle Heights Community Center, ATTN: Gardens, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, 53705. After Dec. 1, there is a late fee and a drop in priority ranking to request a plot for next year. If you have any questions about your completion of the workday obligation, please let me know.
Soon there will be time to plant garlic and shallots. Sometimes late-planted spinach and other greens will survive the winter to make some welcome eating early in the spring. Some of you have perennial flowers, fruit or herbs that can be prepared for snow so that they will survive into next season. Fall is a lovely time in the gardens (no mosquitoes!). Consider planting some bulbs for spring to welcome us all back after the snows.
Hoping you saw the lunar eclipse and spectacular cloud formations this week,
Gretel, Garden Registrar