Wednesday, June 29, 2016

From the Garden Registrar: Garden Management and Weeds

Hello Gardeners,

Question: So, who runs these gardens, anyway? Answer: You do! All of us with garden plots at Eagle Heights and University Houses make decisions for operating the gardens. (Although the University does have ultimate authority.) Policies are decided on by the Garden Committee, and all gardeners are encouraged to participate in meetings and decision-making. The Committee is led by two volunteer Co-Chairs, who are also gardeners.

Garden Committee meetings are held once a month, usually on the second Wednesday of the month, but our next two meetings will be held on Thursdays. We meet most of the year in the Community Center, but if the weather is good, our summer meetings are in the Eagle Heights garden, in the Arbor. Our next meeting will be Thursday, July 14, starting at 7pm, with a pot-luck starting at 6:30.
If you would like to be on the garden committee email discussion list, let me know, and I will add you.

WEEDS – The weeds are growing fast now (in case you hadn’t noticed.) If you’re tired of fighting with purslane, you might want to consider eating it. Purslane is one of the most nutritious plants on the planet, and is grown and eaten all over the world. Here’s a link to an article with good pictures and information:  (Note: before eating any wild plant, please be sure you have identified it correctly. There’s lots of this plant growing in the gardens, and any experienced gardener can point it out to you.)

WORKDAYS This week's workday will be Saturday, July 2, 8am - 11am, in the Eagle Heights Garden. The projects will be renovating the sandbox in the 1100s and pulling thistles out of the raspberries near the weed pile. BRING GLOVES!  Here's the link to sign up:

Happy gardening, everyone,

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

From the Registrar: Happy Summer Solstice

Hello Gardeners,
Your registrar has been inspecting garden plots at Eagle Heights and University Houses the last few weeks, and seeing a lot of beautiful gardens. (It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.) Our gardens have an amazing variety of gardening styles – formal and informal, simple and complicated. There are plots that are all potatoes or garlic, and plots with dozens of different kinds of plants. Some gardens are orderly and meticulous, while others have a looser, more spontaneous quality. Some gardens are all vegetables, while others have lush displays of flowers. There are structures of all sorts, and sculptures. There are many many ways to plant and tend a garden – and we seem to have examples of all of them. When you need a break from weeding your own plot, take a walk and enjoy our incredible diversity.

A long-time gardener at University Houses told me that this year the U Houses Gardens look the best she’s ever seen them!

There are a few plots here and there that need work, but overall, both gardens seem to be in excellent shape.

HOSES (again) – We’ve been lucky, so far, with rain coming at regular intervals, so we haven’t had to do much watering. Nevertheless, in my travels through the gardens, I am constantly finding hoses in the paths, mostly stretched out sunning themselves. Please, folks, find a place inside your plot to keep your hose, except when it’s actually in use.

WHAT IS ORGANIC GARDENING? (Experienced gardeners can skip this.) Obviously, organic gardening means not using chemical pesticides and fertilizers. But gardening organically is not as much about what you don’t do, as it is about a different relationship with the soil, plants, and animals. There are organic pesticides – we just sprayed for potato beetles, for instance – but gardening organically means working with natural forces more than fighting them. Building healthy soil, rotating and interspersing crops, learning to live with good-tasting  produce that may not look perfect – these are some aspects of the organic approach.

WORKDAYS – This week's workday will be Saturday, June 25, 8am - 11am. The project will be weeding the fruit tree rows at University Houses. Here's the link to sign up: .
(Please respond only if you intend to volunteer.)

Happy gardening, everyone,

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

From the Garden Registrar:

Good news this week, for a change. I’m sure we can all use some good news.

COMFREY. This plant grows luxuriantly all over the gardens, and it’s very useful to gardeners, as compost and mulch. It’s high in nitrogen, and breaks down easily to enrich the soil. Here’s a link with a picture and general information:

ANSWERS FOR GARDEN QUESTIONS - The Dane County UW Extension Horticulture Program has a hotline during gardening season to answer questions from gardeners – 608-224-3721, or you can email them at
Also, on Fridays, from 11am – 12:30pm, the Larry Meiller Show on WHA Radio (970AM in Madison), has a program called Garden Talk, with different guests each week who talk about different aspects of gardening, and answer questions from listeners.

And don’t forget we have many excellent and experienced gardeners right here in the Eagle Heights and University Houses gardens – if you’ve got a question, try asking your garden neighbors. They might have the answer – they’ll at least have an opinion.

GARDEN TOOLS – Our tools are very high quality, and should last us for many years with proper use. We have a wide assortment, and have just acquired more specialty forks for breaking up soil. (Please be sure to return them to the tool area at the garden sheds when you are done working, and hang them up if there is any room to do so.)

TOADS – The many toads in our gardens eat insects, worms, slugs, spiders, and other invertebrates. A toad is capable of eating as many as 1000 insects in a day. Most don’t eat that much, but they do eat as much as they can – they are voracious. Also, they’re very cute. And no, you can’t get warts from touching them. 

BATS AND OWLS – These night hunters eat garden pests such as mosquitoes and rodents. This Saturday, June 18, 9:30am – Noon, the UW McPherson Eye Research Institute will offer a program on night vision in bats and owls, called Fly By Night. It will take place at the UW Arboretum Visitor Center. There is a fee - $8 for adults, $5 for children aged 12 and under.

WORKDAYS - This is the link to sign up for this weekend’s work session: The session will be Saturday, June 18, 8am – 11am, to take advantage of the cooler temperatures earlier in the morning. Participants will continue weeding the tree line. This is an excellent chance to take care of your workday obligation with a task that’s not very strenuous.

Happy gardening, everyone,