Wednesday, September 5, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: The Advantages of Mulch; Spotted-Wing Drosophila; Make Some Salsa; Reminder about Workdays; Workday at Eagle Heights Sunday, September 9

Hello Gardeners,

MULCH – Both of our gardens are well-supplied this year with leaf mulch. Mulch, such as the leaves we have, plays a very important role in an organic vegetable garden. For instance, it helps retain moisture in the soil. Okay, with all the “moisture” we’ve had the last few weeks, that’s not currently very important. But it is in an ordinary year, when plants can dry out between waterings. It is also useful in preventing soil erosion, which we’re certainly getting this year. Mulch is tremendously effective in controlling weeds - the weeds are growing like crazy this year, with this weather. Mulch improves soil fertility, and increases vegetable yield. Our gardens are mostly heavy clay, and mulch is very helpful in lightening the soil. So keep replenishing your mulch as the season goes on. And if you have empty spots in your garden now, dump some mulch on them so that you won’t have to weed them any more this year.

SPOTTED-WING DROSOPHILA – It’s raspberry season again, and if you have raspberries, be aware that these invasive fruit flies are very active now.  It’s important to pick your berries every day. Don’t leave over-ripe berries on the plants or on the ground, because that just encourages them. Also, if you aren’t going to eat your berries immediately, refrigerate them to keep the larvae from developing and chewing on your berries.

SALSA – With all the fresh vegetables in our gardens, this is a great time to make salsa – here’s a simple and quick recipe:

REMINDER ABOUT WORKDAYS -  Please remember – one gardener per plot is required to help with one workday during the gardening season. At this point, fewer than half of the gardeners have met their workday obligation for the year. We will continue to plan workdays well into the fall, probably into November, depending on weather, but if you haven’t done your workday yet, you really need to plan to do it as soon as possible before you forget about it altogether. We have tried to give people more options this year, with some weekday evening sessions, and projects on both Saturdays and Sundays. Also we will do a few more sessions at University Houses, when suitable projects come up.

Be sure to put your name and plot number on the workday sheet, so you get credit for your work.

WORKDAY AT EAGLE HEIGHTS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 1pm – 4pm – The project will be clearing abandoned plots. The weather looks great for this weekend, so this will be an excellent time to do your workday. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Don’t Dump Weeds in the Dumpster; Vegetables You Can Still Plant in September; Austrian Winter Field Peas; Tip for Tomatoes; Tomato Recipes; Weed of the Week: Pigweed; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

A REMINDER – Please don’t dump weeds and/or vegetable debris in the dumpsters. At Eagle Heights, please dump them on the concrete slab at the weed pile, which is at the end of the 300 row. Thank you.

YOU CAN STILL PLANT VEGETABLES NOW – There is still time to plant root crops and greens for fall harvest. Kale, lettuce, spinach, and chard will still have time to produce leaves before frost. And kale is actually better after it’s been frosted – it’s sweeter and better-tasting. You can still plant radishes and beets. If you want to plant carrots, which grow slowly, try smaller varieties, which will mature a little faster. We still have about two months before the end of garden season – the end will come sometime in late October or so.

AUSTRIAN WINTER FIELD PEAS – One of our long-term gardeners, who ran an organic farm in Kansas for thirty years, has just bought seeds for a cover crop for his family’s plots, and will have extra seeds to share. The plant is Austrian Winter Field Pea. It did very well for him in Kansas, so he wanted to see how well it will do in Wisconsin, with its colder climate This plant, like other legumes, adds nitrogen to the soil, which increases fertility for main-season crops. These peas should be planted in the next few weeks, and will probably die over the winter. You can then dig them into the soil in the spring.
Let me know if you’re interested in getting some of these seeds – note that quantities are limited. Here’s a link to more information about these field peas:

PIGWEED – Today’s weed is pigweed. This is a type of amaranth, a plant family which includes a number of edible plants as well as ornamentals.  The leaves of pigweed are edible, at least when young. The seeds can also be eaten, and are said to be very nutritious. Like burdock, however, it is in our gardens primarily as an unwanted and unappreciated invader; it can grow quite tall, and spreads like crazy. It’s easy to pull out when it’s small, but when it’s big, the root is very solid, and it takes muscle to get it out of the ground. If you’ve got it in your plot, please pull it out.

TOMATO TIP – If your tomato plants are still flowering, September is the time to start pinching off the blossoms. Particularly with large-fruited tomatoes, these flowers won’t have enough time to produce ripe vegetables. By preventing the plants from setting more fruit, you’ll encourage them to put more of their energy into ripening the tomatoes that have already formed.

TOMATO RECIPES – If you’re inundated with beautiful ripe tomatoes, here are some recipes for them:  As for using up those rotten tomatoes we all have, we’ll just have to wait until some politicians come to town and make campaign speeches…

NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – Enjoy the long weekend.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: The Weather; Birds in Our Gardens; Garden Netting; Are You Going Away with No Word of Farewell?; Reminder – Workday at Eagle Heights, Thursday, August 23

Hello Gardeners,

THE WEATHER - Two days after the record-breaking rain we experienced on Monday, there is still standing water in several plots in the 600 row. Many of the plots in both gardens are soggy, and gravel roads were damaged. High winds also knocked over tall plants. If you are not a native Wisconsinite, please let me reassure you – this is not normal weather. Is it global climate change? Hmm, could be…Unfortunately, more rain is forecast for Friday. Our soil is heavy in clay, and plots will continue to be soggy for some time, especially if it keeps raining and storming.

FALL BIRD MIGRATION – Eagle Heights Gardens are part of the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which is home to as many as 255 bird species. Many of these birds can be found nesting in our gardens in the summer (sometimes in the middle of a gardener’s prize vegetables.) Among the bigger birds, we have a family of red-tailed hawks that raises young every year, a sandhill crane family which has two colts (that is, chicks) this year, and of course, numerous turkeys.  Although it’s still summer, several bird species are already starting their fall migration, and starting to head south. Hummingbirds are some of the first to leave.  By late August, the warblers will be heading south, and many of them will stop in the gardens on their way. So keep an eye out.

GARDEN NETTING – A few weeks ago, one of our sandhill cranes was injured when it got tangled up in some garden netting. Two brave gardeners helped to free it, and it seems to have recovered from its injuries. A lot of gardeners use netting for growing climbing vegetables, such as beans, peas, and cucumbers. If you have netting in your plot, and you have plants climbing it, that’s fine. But if you have netting just sitting empty in your plot, please take it down until you’re actually going to use it again. Although it’s unlikely that there will be another such incident, we can minimize the risk to our birds.

ARE YOU LEAVING US? – If your time in Madison has come to an end and you are leaving town for your next adventure, please let me know that you are through with your garden. I can assign it to a new gardener. Or even if you’re not going away, if you’re no longer interested in gardening, let me know. If you have a friend who wants to take over your garden, I can transfer your plot to them. But please let me know. Thank you. And good luck with whatever you’re going to do next.

REMINDER: Workday tomorrow, Thursday, August 23, at Eagle Heights – 4:30 – 7:30. The main task will be clearing plots. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Garden Committee Co-Chair Needed; Freezing Tomatoes; Plots Are Still Available; Zinnias; Dilly Beans; Workday at University Houses Gardens on Saturday

Hello Gardeners,

GARDEN COMMITTEE CO-CHAIR VACANCY – One of our co-chairs is leaving us at the end of October to take a job at a prestigious agricultural research station, so, sadly, we will need a new co-chair starting in November. The co-chairs run the monthly garden committee meetings and set the agendas. They help develop garden management policies, and may be called upon to settle disputes. The work is very responsible, but generally takes up very little time. What do you get in exchange? Beyond workday credit, you do get to use your knowledge, skills, and opinions to help our gardens keep operating, and, hopefully, continue far into the future.  If you’re interested, please send me an email. We’ll want to know why you want the position, what kind of time commitment you can make (we would prefer a one-year commitment), and any relevant experience you may have.

FREEZING TOMATOES – If you have any freezer space at all, and you’ve got extra tomatoes, you should freeze tomatoes for the winter. All you need is plastic freezer bags or containers, or canning jars. Wash the tomatoes, dry them, put them into the containers, and then into the freezer. That’s it. You don’t have to blanch them or do anything else to prepare them. You can also puree your tomatoes, and freeze the puree, or you can make sauce, and freeze that. Whichever way you do it, you’ll be happy to have your very own tomatoes to cook with in January.

PLOTS ARE STILL AVAILABLE – This time of year, empty garden plots are accumulating, and are available at no charge. You can take a plot, clear it of weeds in lieu of a workday, and get it ready for planting next year. A gardener is only allowed one (full) plot, but if you have a half-plot now, and you’re thinking you’d like more growing space next year, this would be a good opportunity to get another half-plot.

ZINNIAS AND BUTTERFLIES – Many gardeners plant zinnias in their plots. They’re colorful, easy to grow, take very little care, and may be beneficial to some of your vegetables. They attract bees, which pollinate plants, and they also deter cucumber beetles and tomato worms. But this time of year, they’re especially enjoyable, because they attract butterflies – monarchs, swallowtails, and others, which come to the flowers for nectar. Frankly, your registrar dislikes zinnias. But which would you rather have fluttering around your plot – a big beautiful butterfly or the registrar? You don’t have to answer this.

DILLY BEANS – These are very easy, and very good.

WORKDAY – We will have a workday at University Houses Gardens this Saturday morning, August 18, from 8am – 11am. The task will be clearing and chipping paths. Here’s the link to sign up: (University Houses Gardens are at the end of Haight Road, past Bernie’s Place Childcare Center.)

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: A Reminder – Workday and Gardener Gathering Today at Eagle Heights; Weedy Plot Notices; Garden Buddies; Squash Bugs; Weed of the Week – Burdock

Hello Gardeners,

TWO REMINDERS: Today’s workday is at Eagle Heights from 4pm – 7pm. Here’s the link to sign up:

Also, from 6pm – 7pm this evening, there will be an informal gathering at Eagle Heights to meet your fellow gardeners, and look at each other’s gardens. Meet at the shed at 6:00 if you want to tour, or else you can work in your garden and talk with other gardeners when they walk by.

WEEDY PLOT NOTICES – Here’s a quiz for you: what should you do if you receive a weedy plot notice from the registrar?

A.      Ignore it               B. Panic                C. Send an email back in response

The correct answer, of course, is B. I mean, C. We have four garden juries inspecting the plots at Eagle Heights, and one jury at University Houses. They send me monthly reports, I take a look at the plots they’ve marked, and then I send notices to the weediest ones. We inspect plots to try to solve two problems. One problem is that sometimes people give up gardening and don’t let the registrar know. This means that a plot can sit and get more and more weedy before anybody does anything about it. The other problem is that some kinds of weeds spread very easily, through roots and/or seeds, to neighboring plots. Very weedy plots can also harbor rabbits and voles. Plots in this kind of condition cause problems for other gardeners.

If you get a weedy plot notice, please email me back as soon as you can, and tell me what’s going on. Some gardeners will get right to work, and will clear out the weeds within a couple of weeks. That’s the best scenario. Other gardeners will admit that they’re busier than they expected, and will give up their plots. That’s the next best scenario. The worst scenario is the people who say they’ll get to work, and then nothing happens. Please don’t do that. Your garden plot is your own, but everything you do, and don’t do, affects other gardeners – that’s because we’re a COMMUNITY garden.

WHO’S YOUR GARDEN BUDDY? – Here’s our next quiz: what happens in your garden when you’re away for a week or two or three?

A.      Everything just sits there in suspended animation until you return
B.      Some vegetable plants die, some vegetables rot, and the weeds go crazy!

If you want to have a good garden, but you also want to (or have to) travel, be sure to find yourself a garden buddy. This is a person who will look after your plot while you’re gone – they’ll water if it’s very dry, pull a few weeds, and pick (and devour) your produce. Presumably, you’ll do the same for them when they travel. Because, (in case you guessed wrong), your plants and weeds will keep growing, even if you’re not around to watch. Let a friend, or one of your garden neighbors, know that you’ll be gone, and ask for their help.

FROM THE WISCONSIN PEST BULLETIN - SQUASH BUG - Adults and nymphs are active in pumpkin and winter squash plantings across the state. Vegetable growers should continue to inspect the undersides of leaves for the bronze-colored eggs, deposited in groups of 15-40 between leaf veins or on stems, as long as small nymphs are present. Squash bugs are capable of damaging mature fruit, thus control may be needed as the crop nears harvest.

BURDOCK – Today’s weed is burdock, which is an invasive plant which grows all over our gardens. Although the roots (and sometimes the stems) are eaten in Italy, Japan, and China, and are considered very healthy, I believe that most of the burdock in our gardens was not deliberately planted, and is not likely to be harvested. It makes a long taproot, which is hard to dig out, so try to find this and pull it out when it’s still small. The plants have lots of seeds, which spread widely, and the plant also can serve as a host for diseases which can attack your plants. Here’s some pictures:


Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: What to Plant in August; Harvesting Garlic; Rabbits; Swiss Chard; Workday Tomorrow Evening at Eagle Heights

Hello Gardeners,

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – If you have empty space in your garden, this is a good time to start some fall crops, such as beets, carrots, chard, kale, lettuce, spinach, mustard, turnips, and radishes. Root crops and leafy greens are your best bets for productive fall vegetables because they grow pretty quickly, and many of them are hardy enough to survive some frost. I know – it’s only August, but we will be thinking about frost before you know it.

Planting this time of year is always tricky – some of these plants don’t do well in hot weather, and if you start them too early, they’ll just shrivel up. But you have to start them early enough to give them enough time to grow. Since the solstice (late June), the days are getting shorter and the sun less direct. This means that, despite warm temperatures, everything grows progressively slower in late summer and fall.

If you plant now, be sure to water frequently. It can be helpful if there’s shade in your garden (maybe from your taller plants) to start these cool weather-loving plants.

HARVEST YOUR GARLIC – For those lucky gardeners with garlic, this is the time to harvest it. Here’s an article on how to tell when your garlic is ready, how to dig it, and how to cure it for storage:

RABBITS – Are there more rabbits in the gardens this year than usual? Maybe not, but I’m seeing lots of them, and they’re fat and healthy-looking, too. No wonder – they’re stuffing themselves with our fresh, organic vegetables. There are a number of things you can try to repel rabbits, but there’s one thing for sure – if you have tall weeds in your garden, that gives rabbits (and voles) a place to live and hide. Remove their habitat, and it’s bound to help. This is the sort of reason we have garden juries reporting on weedy plots.  Here are some other ideas:

SWISS CHARD – Chard is a Mediterranean green (It’s not Swiss), that grows very easily in Eagle Heights gardens. It can be planted in spring or summer, requires little or no care, can be cut repeatedly, is healthy, tastes good, and is versatile to cook with. So if you haven’t planted it before, try it. 
WORKDAY AUGUST 2, AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – We will have a workday at Eagle Heights tomorrow, Thursday, August 2, from 4pm – 7pm. The project will be rechipping the 1300 row, and possibly working more on the weeds in the tree line. Please bring garden gloves. Here’s the link to sign up:


Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: 700/800 Water Line; Leaking Water Station at University Houses; Surplus Produce; Keep Your Paths Clear; Workday Thursday Evening; Plot Clearing; Bean Recipes

Hello Gardeners,

700/800 WATER LINE – Over the last few weeks, our garden workers have been trying very hard to fix a water leak towards the end of this line at Eagle Heights. They have tried a number of different parts, but the leak has continued. Consequently, the water has been turned off and on a number of times. Yesterday, there was another attempt, which we hope is successful. As I type this, the water is back on. But don’t be surprised if it’s off the next time you need to water. We are sorry for the constant problems and uncertainty. Look, we’re at least as desperate to have this fixed for good as you are.

LEAKING WATER STATION AT U HOUSES GARDENS – Just to make sure that the U Houses Gardeners don’t feel left out, we are also fixing the second water station at your gardens, which has been impossible to turn off for the last week or two.

SURPLUS PRODUCE – One of the many annoyances of gardening is the way we either have nothing or we have too much. Take beans, for instance. After you plant them, it seems like a long long time before they begin to produce. Then, at last, you get the first few delicious little beans. Then, suddenly, the deluge starts and you’re drowning in beans. Please remember – if you have more vegetables than you can eat, don’t stop picking them. You can always put the extras on the share shelves. But you can also take them to food pantries. One pantry is St. Vincent de Paul, 2033 Fish Hatchery Road. They accept fresh garden produce Mondays through Fridays, from 9am – 3:30pm, and on Saturdays, from 9am – Noon. A number of our gardeners have been bringing extra produce to this pantry for years. The pantry workers and the people they serve really appreciate fresh vegetables.

KEEP YOUR PATHS CLEAR – A reminder – you are responsible for keeping a six inch path next to each of your neighbors’ plots. This not only means you shouldn’t plant in that space, but you (and your neighbors) should keep your paths reasonably clear of weeds. The purpose of the paths is to give you and your neighbors full access to your garden plots, plus it leaves a corridor for your hoses if you don’t have a water station right at your plot.

WORKDAY THURSDAY EVENING AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – Tomorrow, July 26, we will have a workday at Eagle Heights from 4pm – 7pm. The project will be clearing thistles from common areas, and chipping the 1300 row, if time permits. Here’s the link to sign up: This is a great opportunity if you have trouble doing workdays on weekends. Plus the weather looks about perfect, and the moon will be almost full.

PLOT CLEARING – Thank you to everybody who emailed to volunteer to clear plots. We got dozens of volunteers. Right now, we have only a small number of empty plots, and we also have some new gardeners who are willing to take a weedy plot and clean it up themselves. But I’ll let people know when we organize some plot-clearing workdays, or when we might have a specific assignment for a few people.

BEANS – Here are some unusual, mostly simple green bean recipes:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: What is Bugging You?; Our Spiffy New Weed Pile and How to Use It; Dragonflies and Damselflies; Dill; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

WHAT BUGS DO YOU HAVE? – After the first wave of potato beetles appeared in the gardens, we discussed spraying with Spinosad, but we never actually did it. Since then, I’ve heard that some people still have them, but others don’t.  Also, I haven’t seen any Mexican bean beetles (yet). Japanese beetles, on the other hand, are all over my plot, and throughout the gardens, in great numbers.

So what’s going on in your plot? Do you have any of these pests? Cucumber beetles? Squash borers? Please let me know. And remember – the simplest, most effective, and least-harmful-to-the-environment method of getting rid of insect pests such as beetles is picking them off your plants, and dumping them into a pail of water with a little dish soap in it. (The soap will keep the insects from flying out of the pail.) You can also put a dropcloth on the ground, and shake your plants to knock the insects on to the cloth, then scoop them up and remove them.

Some people claim that Japanese beetles are attracted to geraniums. Supposedly, they eat the blossoms, get dizzy, and fall down, after which you can sweep them up and dispose of them. Japanese Beetles are only in their adult stage for about 6 weeks, but they can sure do a lot of damage in that short time. They eat almost everything, but beans and raspberries are some of their favorites.

THE NEW WEED PILE – Last year, we completed a project that had been planned for some time – a concrete slab was poured to be the bottom of our weed pile. Remember how awful the weed pile used to be? It was always a muddy lake, and it smelled absolutely foul. Now, thanks to the concrete, it is clean and dry, and it doesn’t even smell (very much). Just remember please – dump your weeds inside the rock barriers, not outside or at the corners. The rocks and barriers are intended to contain the pile, so it doesn’t sprawl. There’s lots and lots of space on the concrete – try approaching the pile from the road, rather than from the 300 path.

DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES – Dragonflies and damselflies are insects in the Order of Odonata. Dragonflies are generally bigger and showier. The damselflies are smaller, with slimmer bodies, and tend to hold their wings along their bodies when they’re resting, whereas dragonflies stick theirs straight out. Both kinds of insects are beautiful, and they eat smaller insects, such as mosquitoes, aphids, and gnats. Fortunately, we have lots of them in our gardens, including some kinds of bluets, the damselflies with vivid blue on them.

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL OF THAT DILL – Well, I don’t know what to do with all of your dill, but I have some suggestions to pass on about some of it. In case you’re sorry you ever let dill get going in your plot, this is a link to an article about how healthy it is:  This link  has recipes: Of course, if you’ve got cucumbers, the best thing to do with dill is make pickles. You can process them, or you can just make up a jar and keep it in the refrigerator. Pickled beans with dill (dilly beans) are really good, too.


Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, July 11, 2018



Hello Gardeners,

700/800 WATER LINE IS TURNED OFF FOR REPAIRS – The 700/800 water line will be shut off until at least Friday mid-day, while our workers drain the area with the leak, and try to make repairs. (See next item.)

WHEN THE WATER IS OFF – Last week, our garden workers needed to fix a leak. So they turned the water off for that line, and left the area to dry. They came back very early the next morning, and found that someone had turned the water back on. The hole where they expected to work was full of water. They were a little annoyed. Okay, they were a lot annoyed. They asked me to mention this in my next message. So here it is: IF THE WATER IS OFF IN THE GARDENS, IT IS PROBABLY OFF FOR A REASON. We will try to do a better job from now on to let people know when we have turned off a water line, and if you have a question, you can always email me to ask what’s going on. (A number of gardeners did email me about the water being off.) Our water system is old and quirky, and needs frequent repairs. Most often, the water has to be turned off in order to make the repairs, and if the problem is below ground, the ground has to dry out before our workers can get at it. Our workers do their very best to fix water problems on weekdays so that the water is available on Fridays and weekends.

WHEN THE WATER IS ON – Now that we are no longer getting torrential rainstorms, gardeners are actually watering their plots again. Just a reminder: please do not turn on the water and then leave the gardens. Any time you turn on the water, make sure everything is turned off before you go away. This week, somebody left the water running in their plot all night, and flooded a neighboring plot.

LOST ITEMS – Last weekend, at University Houses, one gardener lost a black Garmin watch. At Eagle Heights, a gardener inadvertently left a blue bag on the share shelf, containing green garden gloves, a garden knife, twine, mosquito spray, and other items. The bag says “operation pollinator” on it. If you have any information on the whereabouts of any of these objects, please let me know.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP CLEAR PLOTS? – We have a few empty plots that are getting increasingly weedy. If you want to do your workday, but it’s hard for you to do one on a weekend, please contact me. We’re going to try to assemble a small team of people to clear plots – maybe on a weekday evening.

PERUVIAN DAISIES – Sounds pretty, doesn’t it? I guess they are pretty. But they’re also one of the most numerous weeds at Eagle Heights. They’re also called Shaggy Soldiers, and Quick Weed (because they grow, flower, and set seed so fast.) They’re a garden escape that spreads quickly in disturbed areas, such as gardens. At least they’re small and shallow-rooted, so they’re easy to pull out by hand. In case you’ve ever wondered about these little plants, here’s a website with some information:

RASPBERRY RHUBARB JAM – If you’ve got too many raspberries (if such a thing is even possible) and you’ve got rhubarb, why not try this? 

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We are tentatively planning a workday at Eagle Heights this weekend, but, since rain is forecast, we will wait to schedule it until we know which day is more likely to be dry.

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Black Walnut Trees; Most of the Gardens Look Great!; Should You Prune Your Tomatoes?; Dark Leafy Greens; Weekend Workday to be Determined

Hello Gardeners,

Happy Independence Day, Everyone!

BLACK WALNUT TREES – I’ve been pulling black walnut tree seedlings out of my plot, and finding them all over the garden. They’re easy to pull when they’re small, so look out for them now, and pull out any you find. Besides the fact that you don’t want trees growing in your plot, black walnuts are particularly bad in a garden because they’re allelopathic. This means that they release biochemicals into the soil which poison the other plants growing near them. Tomatoes and their relatives are particularly sensitive to juglone, the chemical that black walnuts produce. Black walnut seedlings are not going to hurt your vegetables when they’re small, but if you let them get bigger, they will. Here’s a picture:

GARDEN INSPECTIONS – This bizarre weather, especially the heavy rains that have soaked our clay-y soil, has made gardening particularly difficult this year. Yet, most of the gardeners have risen to the challenge. Congratulations particularly to the University Houses gardeners – most of the plots there look fantastic. I am particularly impressed by the half-plots along the north edge of the garden – I had no idea these plots hacked out of the wilderness could look so attractive and productive. Thanks, everybody, (or almost everybody) for persisting despite adversity.

TOMATO PRUNING – Since tomatoes are one of the most popular plants for backyard (and community) gardeners, there is a great deal of discussion on how best to grow them. One issue is pruning, which means basically removing “suckers”, which are extra branches that develop in the “v” between the main stem and the already-existing branches of the plant. Some people believe that you have to prune if you want your plants to produce well. Some people never do it. If you’re considering this, first, you need to know whether a tomato plant is determinate or indeterminate. A determinate tomato is programmed to grow only to a limited size, and then it will put all its energy into producing fruit. You don’t need to prune determinate plants, and in fact, you shouldn’t. Determinate tomatoes tend to be early, or paste-types (such as Romas), or dwarf varieties, mainly for patio planting. Some main-season tomatoes are indeterminate, though, so do look up your varieties on the Internet if you’re not sure what you’ve got. If your tomato is indeterminate, it will keep growing throughout the summer. If you prune it, you may increase the size of the tomatoes you harvest, but decrease the number you get. It depends on what you’re aiming for. Anyway, here is a link to a website that explains all:

GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES – Many of us grow greens, such as chard, kale, spinach, and so on. We grow them because we like to eat them. However, we can also enjoy the fact that these foods are very healthy and versatile. Here’s a website that lists the incredible numbers of vitamins these greens have, and includes ways to cook them:

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We’ll probably have a workday this Saturday morning, but I’ll send out more details and the Doodle link on Friday if it’s a go.

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: What to Plant Now; Tools and Carts in Plots; Volunteers Needed for Greenhouse Project; Thistles; Cowbirds; Garden Plots Available; Workday Saturday June 30 at Eagle Heights

Hello Gardeners,

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – If you’re a new gardener just getting started here, or if you’ve picked your spring vegetables and have space to fill, there are still vegetables you can plant now – beans, chard, and cucumbers, for instance.  Melon, squash, and pumpkin seeds can still be planted - late June is about the end of the planting period for those, since they generally take around 100 days to produce ripe fruit. It’s still not too late to put tomato, pepper, and eggplant plants in the ground, if you can still find plants. Herbs and flowers, of course, can be planted just about any time.

TOOLS AND CARTS IN PLOTS – A reminder: both of our gardens have hundreds of gardeners. We have a lot of tools and carts, but we don’t have one of each for every gardener. So don’t keep tools and carts in your plot. You have to   s  h  a  r  e  them (you learned this in childhood, right?). Please be considerate.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR GREENHOUSE PROJECT – We are going to rent space at the Walnut Street Greenhouses in order to start seeds for fall vegetable plants. The plants will need daily watering – we are looking for one or two volunteers to help with this. We would especially like to find someone who already has their own project going in the greenhouse, or has had one recently, so that they are already familiar with the facility, and have had the required orientation. Please contact me if you’re interested. Volunteers will get workday credit.

CANADA THISTLES – Another reminder – the thistles are starting to bloom in the gardens now. Check your plot – if you have any, get them pulled up, cut at the roots with a hoe, or at least cut down before they form seeds. You don’t want these spreading in your plot, and you definitely don’t want them spreading to your neighbors’ plots. Don’t wait – deal with them now.

COWBIRDS – If you’ve been digging in your garden lately, and noticed a small brown bird hopping around quite close to you, you may have been visited by a brown-headed cowbird. We have lots of them in the gardens, and they are not at all shy. They’ll come investigate when digging is going on, in hopes of finding seeds and insects to eat. Their song has a very unusual liquid sound. They have an unpleasant approach to child-rearing: they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, and make the other birds raise them. Here’s more information on cowbirds:

GARDEN PLOTS AVAILABLE – Our waiting list for plots is practically gone now, and plots are continuing to open up – if you have a friend who would like a plot, please encourage them to fill out an application. After July 1, plots will be half-price. If you have a half-plot, and would consider adding another half-plot, contact me. Bear in mind that the plots opening up now are generally pretty weedy.

WORKDAY SATURDAY MORNING AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – We will have a workday this Saturday morning, June 30, from 8am – 11am, at Eagle Heights. Meet at the shed. Tasks will include removing thistles from the 700 path and comfrey from the 800-900 path. This will require only a small group of volunteers, so if you try to sign up on Doodle, and you can’t, then the workday is already full. Here’s the link: Be sure to bring a hat, gloves, and a water bottle. Long sleeves would be good, if you can stand them.

Happy Gardening,  

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Wild Parsnip; Raspberry Pests; Bird and Nature Hike on Sunday; Rhubarb-Orange Jam; No Workday

Hello Gardeners,

WILD PARSNIP – Unfortunately, wild parsnip is now turning up in our gardens. This is a very invasive plant which has become widespread in Wisconsin. It’s a tall plant, with yellow flowers. It’s also dangerous, because touching the plant with bare skin leads to a serious and painful rash. If you find this in your plot, be sure to wear gloves, long sleeves, and long pants when you pull it out. Or use a sharp shovel to sever the root below the ground. Here’s a website with information and pictures:

RASPBERRY PESTS – Spotted Wing Drosophila is a tiny fruit fly which attacks raspberries and other soft fruit. The adults lay their eggs in the fruit, and then when the larvae hatch, they eat the fruit. We definitely have these insects in the gardens, and they are active now. The best way to keep them from breeding and spreading is to pick your raspberries frequently – don’t leave over-ripe berries on the plants or on the ground. If you think your berries might have flies, put them in the refrigerator after picking them – that will stop the larvae from growing. Fortunately, it’s not dangerous to eat them, and they’re so tiny, you won’t even notice them.

BIRD AND NATURE OUTING – On Sunday, June 24, there will be a guided walk around the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve’s Class of 1918 Marsh. This is a free, family-friendly event, which will be hosted by UW Limnology Emeritus Professor John Magnuson.  Bird and Nature Outings at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve occur every 4th Saturday from 1:30-3pm and are sponsored by the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Meet at UW parking lot 129 (2004 University Bay Drive). The marsh is on the other side of the drive from Picnic Point. 

RHUBARB-ORANGE JAM – Simple, good, and it uses rhubarb. You can make half the recipe, to make one jar, and just keep it in the refrigerator instead of canning it.

WORKDAY – We’re not currently planning a workday for this weekend, but I’ll send an update if we schedule one.


Happy Gardening,  

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Tomatoes and Tobacco; Colorado Potato Beetles; Ticks; Garden Talk; A Radish Salad Recipe; No Workday This Weekend

From the Gardens Registrar: Tomatoes and Tobacco; Colorado Potato Beetles; Ticks; Garden Talk; A Radish Salad Recipe; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

TOMATOES AND TOBACCO – Please do not smoke cigarettes or use tobacco in any form in our gardens. Tobacco spreads a serious disease called Tobacco Mosaic Virus to tomatoes, and to their relatives, such as peppers and eggplants. If you smoke and you grow any of these vegetables, don’t smoke in their presence, and wash your hands, with soap and water, before touching them. Smoking is not actually prohibited in the gardens, but we strongly recommend that you not do it. Of course, tobacco isn’t good for you either...

COLORADO POTATO BEETLES – We have potato beetles in the garden now – they are serious pests of potatoes, of course, but also potato relatives such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Both the adults and the larvae eat leaves, and if there’s a large enough population, they can strip the plants. Once again, the safest and most effective method for getting rid of them is to hand-pick them off your plants, and toss them into a bucket of soapy water. Some years, our garden workers spray Spinosad in areas with lots of beetles. It’s a natural substance made by a soil bacterium. It is very toxic to insects, but not to most other organisms, such as mammals, birds, or earthworms. It can be dangerous to bees, but our workers are very careful about when they spray, so that bees won’t be affected. We haven’t made a decision on spraying yet for this year, but here is a fact sheet on Spinosad:

FUN WITH TICKS - The tick population has been growing steadily in Wisconsin in the last few years. Most ticks people encounter are wood ticks, which are primarily just annoying, but the greater concern is for deer ticks, which can spread Lyme Disease. I don’t think ticks are a particular problem in our gardens, and at least they don’t eat our tomatoes or beans, but you do need to be aware of them any time you’re outside. Here’s some good information from UW Health:

NEW TICK APP LAUNCHED – The Midwest and the Northeast Centers of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease have just launched a smart-phone application through which you can report ticks, track your own tick exposure, and learn all about ticks. This app is part of a research study, so if you’re interested, you’ll need to start by filling out a short entry survey. Once you’re signed up, you participate by keeping a tick diary. You can download the app at Google Play or at iTunes, or you can sign up (or learn more about the project) at this website:

GARDEN TALK – Every Friday morning, Larry Meiller has a special feature called “Garden Talk” on his talk show on Wisconsin Public Radio. Larry has a garden expert as his guest, and they take calls from listeners with garden questions. The show is on from 11am – 12:30pm, and the local WPR ideas station is 970AM.

RADISH SALAD – This looks simple and good:

Happy Gardening,  

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Wisconsin Pest Bulletin; Insecticidal Sprays; Jumping Worms; Woodchips; Workday This Sunday

Hello Gardeners,

WISCONSIN PEST BULLETIN – The State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection puts out a weekly Pest Bulletin during the growing season. While the information is primarily for farmers and commercial plant growers, it’s interesting to ordinary gardeners to see what insects are headed our way. You can find the bulletin at .You can also subscribe to it, and have it sent to your email every week. According to the latest issue, cucumber beetles are becoming active, and Colorado potato beetle eggs are close to hatching. Cucumber beetles attack, not only cucumbers, but also summer and winter squash, and melons. They primarily damage these vegetables by spreading bacterial wilt. So beware.

INSECTICIDAL SPRAYS – A gardener emailed me to ask what to do about holes in bean leaves, and mentioned he’d heard about spraying them with dish soap. I looked at various sites on the Internet, and found that some people do get good results battling insects with dish-washing detergent or liquid soap, although there are plenty of arguments about what does and doesn’t work, plus concerns about some of the ingredients in many soaps and detergents.
The safest and surest way of removing insect pests from your plants is hand-picking them. However, it’s time-consuming, and can be icky. You can buy insecticidal sprays, but of course if you garden at Eagle Heights or in the organic rows at University Houses, the sprays must be organic. Some websites provide specific recipes for making your own soap-based sprays, at much less cost – here’s a sample:  You should be careful about spraying your plants on very hot days – the soap could hurt them. Since these sprays are only used on the insects you’re trying to get rid of, they won’t hurt bees, which is important.

JUMPING WORMS – Jumping worms were first found in Wisconsin in 2013, and have been spreading. None of the earthworms in Wisconsin are actually native, but this type of worm is not only invasive, but destructive. There are definitely jumping worms at Eagle Heights Gardens. They are almost impossible to get rid of, once they appear. The only thing we can do is to try to keep them from spreading further. For this reason, please be very careful if you move a plant from your garden plot to your home garden, if you have one. Also, be careful when you get plants from friends. If you clean the soil from the roots of the plant before taking it away, you’ll probably get rid of the worm cocoons. Here’s an informational site at the State Department of Natural Resources:

WOOD CHIPS – Our gardeners have discovered the piles of wood chips at both gardens, and have been using them enthusiastically. This is good. Unfortunately, they’re all gone now. But yes, we will definitely get more. There isn’t a schedule for this – they’ll be delivered when UW Grounds cuts down more trees. We may have to wait a bit. But we will get more – probably lots more.

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We will have a workday this Sunday morning, June 10, at Eagle Heights, from 8am – 11am. The task will be clearing weeds from the raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Be sure to bring garden gloves – thistles are involved. I’ll send out the doodle poll link separately.

Happy Gardening,