Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gardening manual, compost tea and last chance for survey

Dear Gardeners,
Spring is really coming on with flowering trees and birds building nests (and even feeding babies already). I see lots of little plants coming up in the gardens and spring crops won't be far behind. Now is a great time to plant lettuce, spinach, radish, carrots, beets, peas and potatoes. We may have a few frosty nights yet so keep an eye on the weather forecasts, but the warm days are certainly welcome.
Gardening manual:
For those of you new to gardening and others with specific questions, please check out our on-line organic gardening manual by Robin Mittenthal, one of our previous gardeners. It is written for our climate and includes lots of general information and lists of individual vegetables and their care. You can download (or read it on line) here:
That page also has Emma Schroeder's thesis with a historical perspective of the gardens and a page to help you understand how to buy products that are approved for organic use.
Compost tea giveaway:
One of our gardener, Gary, has a special treat this Saturday, May 2. He has prepared a batch of actively aerated compost tea. He will be giving that away in pint-size batches on Saturday starting at 3 pm near the Eagle Heights shed. Bring a container or bucket. The "tea" should be diluted to about 5 gallons and used promptly and should cover a large plot. The water for dilution shouldn't be chlorinated so Gary recommends letting tap water sit uncovered for several hours before adding it to the tea.
For more information:
I've also included his recipe as an entry in the Registrar's archive on our website.
Coffee recycling coordinator needed:
We are looking for a coffee collection coordinator. John, our previous coordinator, is willing to tell you how it has been done in the past. Coffee grounds make excellent soil additives. You would need to coordinate pick-ups at local coffee houses so that we don't burden them and can do a schedule to spread the deliveries to different times. People who do regular deliveries (both garden sites) can get workday credit by working with the coordinator. If you are interested in helping out the gardens as  coordinator, please reply to me.
Path clearing:
Please check the path in front of your plots and don't put sticks, rocks or plantings in the path. We need to keep the paths open for carts and gardeners. We especially need to have the hoses off the paths since mowing will start soon and hoses could be damaged.
One last plea:
We would really like to know more about our gardeners and encourage your input. If you haven't taken the survey yet, it will only take a few minutes so please take it in the next week so we can get the information summarized. See:
Gardener Survey
I hope you have gotten to meet some of your neighbors and enjoy the smell of turned soil and new growth. Spring is such a time of promise in the gardens.
Gretel, Garden Registrar
Gary's information on making actively aerated compost tea:

AACT- Actively Aerated Compost Tea
Benefits: Rhizosphere (root system) faster intro of microbes than
compost or mulch
Phylosphere (stem & leaf) can protect the surfaces from attack of pathogens
Web Search:
Book: Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis (a great gift for any gardener)

AACT is a method of producing and applying microbes to any garden or lawn. Microbes just enrich the soil where applied. Breaking down the recipe I used: 16 oz of AACT mixed with dechlorinated water will cover 1000 sq ft.

Dechlorinated Water Compost
5 gal 1 lb. (4 cups)
25 gal 5 lb. (20 cups)
50 gal 7 lb. (28 cups)
Materials: Clean bucket (can be oversized for bubbles), pantyhose
(size Q), strong aquarium pump and air stone (can substitute 2 ft. soaker hose designed for drip irrigation), 4 ft. plastic tubing.
If using tap water w/chlorine just use pump w/water alone for an hour or two to dissipate chemical. Add pantyhose filled with compost and the
process time should be for 24-36 hrs. Be sure to put a weight at the end of the air hose to keep it on the bottom. The tea should have a
healthy, sweet, earthy smell. Keep out of sunlight (UV rays kill microbes) and needs an average room temperature to brew. Use within 4 hrs but can last 3-5 days if refrigerated but oxygen will be diminished. Avoid applying between 9am till 3pm as UV rays are strong).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Workday at Uhouses and Earth Day

Dear Gardeners,
What fickle weather we are having! After the lovely warm and sunny weekend, there were flurries this morning. In spite of the cold spell, the bloodroot and Dutchman's breeches are starting to bloom in the woods and killdeer are nesting in garden plots (see picture of this lovely bird here)
Workday opportunity
This Saturday, April 25, there will be a workday at University Houses gardens to do path maintenance and other spring chores from 9 am to noon. If you would like to work this opportunity, please reply and I will get you more details. Gardeners can do their workday at either garden site and get credit for their plot.
Share shelf
Do you have extra plants, seeds or pots ? Leave any useable materials you would like to share with other gardeners on the "share shelf" beneath the bulletin board near the shed. Anything put here is available to other gardeners and will be recycled into other gardens.
Water considerations
Please remember that the water taps are only every other row at Eagle Heights. If you have a water tap in front of your plot, you have a neighbor behind you that need to get through your plot to get to that tap. Please leave the 6 inches unplanted and unfenced so that there is a one foot path between plots to snake a hose through. Each water tap serves a dozen or more plots so please don't leave your hose on the tap but unscrew it and put it off the path. If you use a sprinkler, you need to be careful it is only sprinkling your plants, turn it off and remove the hose before leaving the gardens and be considerate if others are waiting to use the water when you are sprinkling. Water is a valuable resource so please don't waste it.
Earth Day
We are so grateful to be gardening in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve and surrounded by trees and wildlife and nature. This week we celebrate Earth Day and one good way to be thankful is to protect the natural world. Please don't remove anything from the Preserve lands and please don't leave trash or weedy debris in these areas. Mother Nature is fragile and we all need to do our best to protect the ecology of this area. Enjoy the hiking trails and flowers that are coming, but do your best to value and preserve these areas.
Looking forward to the green of new vegetables,
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
The daffodils are just starting to bloom and the bees are excited to have some flowers. It has been a glorious week and we hope to have the water turned on soon to help with the seeding.
We are trying to deal with the weed pile issues at University Houses, but the road in is very wet and we can't get truck traffic on it yet. For the next month, please take your plant refuse to the blacktop parking lot and use the southwest corner of the asphalt. Please don't put this material on the grass since it will kill the grass and keep the pile as compact as you can.
Plant sale this weekend:
On Sunday, from 11 am to 1 pm in Eagle Heights gardens near the shed, we will have transplants for cool season crops on sale. There should be a variety of cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and other plants for sale. Our vendor raises these locally using organic methods and we have been very happy with the quality of the transplants in previous years. Prices will be comparable to the Farmer's market (where the vendor will also be selling). You might want to bring a small box or bucket to transport plants to your plot.
Workshop on soil preparation and tool use:
Sunday, during and after the sale, there will be a workshop conducted by Sandra, one of our very experienced gardener, on tool use, what you can add to your soil and soil preparation. This will be hands-on and include plenty of time for questions. Please drop in anytime between 11 am and 1:30 pm at the Eagle Heights shed. Later workshops will include pests and weeds and be conducted at University Houses and at Eagle Heights.
Workday announcements:
This week will be the first workday of the season at Eagle Heights. Here is how the workdays are done: You will get announcements in the emails as the workdays are scheduled.  . Some workdays can accommodate more volunteers and some only a few, so please do reply if you would like to sign-up and I'll let you know if there is room. I will reply with more instructions. We have many workdays through the year and plenty of opportunities. We'll vary the times and sites so everyone can find a chance to come participate. You can work any workday for credit, even if you garden at another site. Workdays meet at the garden sheds and please only sign up if you can work the full three hour shift.
Workday Saturday
This week the workday will be Saturday, April 18,  from 2 pm to 5 pm at Eagle Heights and we'll be doing a number of clean-up tasks in the common plantings and other areas. Please reply if you are interested and I'll let you know if we still need volunteers.
Hoping that the plot preparations are going well. Please be sure that you are not putting plant material in the trash but take it to the designated weed pile area. The University will not dump our trash if there are weeds or soil in there. Only trash should go in the dumpsters and no trash should go in the weed pile.
Check out the Garden Blog by Jenn, one of our co-chairs with pictures from the Seed Fair (available from our website in the left column):
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Seed Fair and Orientations:

Dear Gardeners,
I welcomed rain this week since the soil moisture will be improved as we get started seeding. I also noticed bluebirds and wrens investigating the bird houses in the gardens so time to make sure they are ready for our friends. Birds eat many insects, particularly when raising young, so please don't disturb them and consider a nest box in your plot.
This Saturday, April 11,  is our Seed Fair. At this event, gardeners with assigned plots can get some free seeds to help them get started, attend a workshop to learn more about gardening, buy row cover (and learn how to use it) and get more garden information. We will be in the big gym at the Eagle Heights Community Center with seeds available for gardeners at 9 am. You will be asked for the name of the principal gardener at Check-In and then will receive a string of tickets that can be traded for seed packets. Our seed donors have provided seeds from last year and most of these will still have good germination. Two very experienced gardeners will be hosting the garden planning and seed-starting workshop starting at 10:00 am. If you are new to gardening or just interested in learning more, come by the workshop and pick up information. Row cover fabric will be for sale at reasonable prices and comes with an instruction sheet.  There is also the last orientation sessions  (meet at the garden sheds) at noon (both Eagle Heights and University Houses) and at University Houses with Mandarin translation at 1 pm.
Mark your calenders for Sunday, April 19 for our "cool season" transplant sale from 11 am to 1 pm at Eagle Heights near the shed. We also will have a soil preparation and general garden questions workshop at the same time. More information next week on this but usually we have a great sale.
Please be sure that you are gardening in the right plot and that you are observing the 6" rule that means there is access on the sides of your plot (6 inches from you and 6 inches from your neighbor) for watering and plant tending. If you plant up to the line or into the path, you will need to move those beds and plants so that everyone can get to the water and their own plants. We need to keep the paths open for carts and other gardeners. At Eagle Heights, please note that the water taps are only every other row so the people behind you will need to get a hose through to the water. At University Houses, this is also true in the A/B rows.
A reminder that this year, we have a new rule about no motorized tilling or weed whips in the gardens. We have problems with safety issues with private tillers and tilling is not ideal for weed prevention, often making the problem worse. Also, we have had reports of dogs loose in the gardens. We would prefer not to have dogs around the vegetables at all, but dogs are permitted on leash and with attention of the owners to keep dogs out of plots and control them around toddlers, wildlife, and those that might be frightened of dogs.
Hope you are meeting your neighbors and getting the gardens planned. Spring crops can start going in although we won't have the water on until the danger of freezing is past.
Please take the survey if you haven't already:
Gardener Survey
Seed Fair is always a happy event as we start the season. Hope to see many of you there,
Gretel, Garden Registrar