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,  

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Plant Exchange June 3; Comfrey; Voles; Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

PLANT EXCHANGE JUNE 3 – On Sunday, June 3, starting at 10:00am, we will have an informal plant exchange at the Eagle Heights Garden, at the Arbor. If you have extra plants to share, or hope to pick up some plants you’re missing, stop in. Please note that the plants people bring have not been raised professionally, so keep an eye out for diseases. We’ll also have more free seeds for summer crops – summer and winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons.

COMFREY – Comfrey is another widespread weed in our garden, and many gardeners struggle to get rid of it. If it’s taken over your garden, the only way to get rid of it is to dig it up, over and over again, until it’s finally all gone. It has big thick roots that go deep. But unlike the wire grass and thistles, it’s actually an attractive and useful plant. It will be blooming soon, with large beautiful blue/purple flowers. The plant is sometimes grown as a decorative perennial, and has uses in herbal medicine. But its greatest use for organic gardeners is as mulch and compost. Because the leaves are high in nitrogen and potassium, and they break down very quickly, you can cut them and use them as mulch around your plants. Or you can add them to a compost pile. Here’s a link to the ever-useful Wikipedia, with a good article on comfrey and a few pictures:

VOLES – One of the worst pests in our gardens is the vole. Voles are small mouse-like animals also known as meadow mice or field mice. They reproduce ferociously – one pair can produce as many as 100 offspring in a year. They eat insects and slugs, but unfortunately, they also eat just about every kind of plant. Fortunately, they have many natural predators, such as hawks, owls, and coyotes.  One of the best ways to deter them is to not give them habitat, by pulling your weeds and removing mulch from your garden. They don’t like feeding on bare ground – they prefer to be able to hide in vegetation. But many of us depend on mulch to protect our plants from weeds and reduce watering. (I’m not giving up my mulch.) Here are some other ideas about how to control them naturally:

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We are tentatively planning a workday for this Saturday morning, June 2, 9am – Noon, at Eagle Heights. There will be two projects. Some gardeners will work to organize and control the weed pile, which has spread out beyond its boundaries. Other gardeners will start work on renovating a garden plot. I’ll send out the Doodle Poll link separately.

Happy Gardening,  

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Water Lines in the 700’s and 900’s Are Back in Service; Path Mowing – Move Your Hose!; Plant Swap June 3; Bad Plant of the Week;  Rhubarb; Are You Still Planning to Garden? Row Cover Still Available

Hello Gardeners,

WATER LINES – The water is back on in the 700’s and 900’s. Thank you, Will!

PATH MOWING – Path mowing has begun this week, and will continue throughout the season. Mowing is hard work and very time-consuming, whether it’s done with a scythe, a tractor, or a gas mower. Our garden workers do not have the time to keep stopping to move hoses, or other items left carelessly in the paths. So, PLEASE do not leave your HOSE in the path, and do not leave bricks, wood, furniture, piles of weeds, milk jugs, tools, bottles, gloves, books, sandwiches, children, OR ANYTHING ELSE in the paths. Thank you.

PLANT EXCHANGE JUNE 3 – On Sunday, June 3, starting at 10:00am, we will have an informal plant exchange at the Eagle Heights Garden, at the Arbor. If you have extra plants to share, or hope to pick up some plants you’re missing, stop in. We’ll also have more free seeds for summer crops – summer and winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons.

BAD PLANTS – Today’s “bad plant” is the Canada Thistle, one of the two worst weeds in our gardens. (The other one is Wire Grass.) Thistle is invasive and persistent. It’s hard to get rid of it by digging it up, because if you leave a tiny bit of the root in the soil, it can grow a new plant. (This is one reason we no longer provide roto-tilling of garden plots – that just spread the thistles and wire grass around.) It propagates both by roots, and by seeds, which can spread over large distances.
It takes persistence on the gardeners’ part, but you can get rid of them eventually, if you don’t give up. This website has some good information:  Whatever you do, don’t let thistle flower – cut off the flower buds as soon as they appear, and keep them cut.

RHUBARB – One of the first harvestable crops in our garden is rhubarb. It’s very easy to grow – once established, it comes up every year and provides you with a delicious, if not terribly versatile, vegetable, which is treated as a fruit.  Rhubarb is very good for you, with lots of vitamins and minerals, (although once you add enough sugar to it to make it palatable, I don’t know how healthy it ends up.) Just use the stalks; the leaves are poisonous, but you can use them in your plot as mulch. Here’s a website that’s all about rhubarb, including how to grow it, and lots of ways to cook it:

ARE YOU STILL PLANNING TO GARDEN? – Many gardeners already have lots of vegetables coming up. Others have cleared their gardens, and are ready to plant, as soon as time and weather allow. However, there are some plots sitting completely unworked, covered with weeds and tall grass. If you haven’t started working in your plot yet, it’s time now! With all the rain we’ve been having, weeds are growing like crazy. And, if you’re realizing that you’re not going to have time to garden this year, send me an email right away. Don’t let the plot continue to sit. We have a waiting list, and I can easily find another gardener for your plot.

ROW COVER – We still have ten pieces of row cover left. If you want some, email me, and we’ll arrange to meet each other for a sale. $5 per piece, cash only, and exact change please. We won’t be ordering any more until next year.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Warm Weather Plant Sale at Eagle Heights May 20; Free Fencing, Stakes, and Tomato Cages; Volunteers Needed for Weed Juries

Hello Gardeners,

PLANT SALE ON MAY 20 - Here's a list of the plants that Scott Williams of Garden to Be will bring to sell on Sunday, May 20, at the Eagle Heights Gardens, near the shed. 11am – 2-pm. These will be sold as individual plants, $2.50 per plant:
Tomatoes: Sun Gold Cherry, Super Sweet 100 red cherry, Big Beef red slicer, Valley Girl red slicer (determinate/bush type), Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Juliet, Green Zebra, Valencia orange slicer, Striped German
Peppers: Green/Red Sweet Bell, Jalapeno, Serrano, Spanish Padron, Habaneros, Carmen Italian Frying (super sweet red!)
Tomatillos, Eggplants (Asian Long, Italian Globe, and Bianca Rosa), Diva cucumbers, Muskmelon/Canteloupe, Zucchini, Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash, Curly Parsley, Thyme.

Plants in 4-packs will be Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Green Cabbage, Red Russian Kale, Napa Chinese Cabbage, Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, Broccoli, and Basils – Genovese, Purple, and Lemon.  In 6-packs, there will be 5 different varieties of lettuce, plus sweet corn and kohlrabi. Each pack will be $2.50.

Scott says he is bringing lots and lots of plants. You won’t find a better selection or better prices anywhere else. So please stop in and give Scott your business!

FREE FENCING, STAKES, AND TOMATO CAGES: We have had a large donation of garden accessories – much of it brand new. When you stop in for the plant sale on Sunday, take a look around the share shelves, and help yourself.

WEED JURIES - We will be starting Weed Juries in June, and we’re looking for volunteers who like inspecting  other people’s plots. The purpose of Weed Juries is to find garden plots that may be abandoned, or are extremely weedy, particularly with invasive plants such as thistles. (Jurors can also take note of very well-managed gardens.) After a jury meets, they send me their notes, and I contact the owners of the problem gardens. Some gardens get cleaned up; others are given up and are given to new gardeners.

This year, we’re going to organize this a little differently than last year. Each jury will have three people, and will be responsible for one section of the garden. The jurors will inspect their section three times over the summer - in June, July, and August. Each jury will set their own schedule. The total amount of time should about equal three hours, and it’s the equivalent of a workday. The areas at Eagle Heights will be 100’s – 300’s, 500’s – 700’s, 800’s – 1000’s, and 1100’s – 1300’s. So we’re looking for 12 people altogether. You’re welcome to apply for the jury in your garden area, or a different area, if you prefer. People who served on juries last year and want to do so again are welcome, and I hope that some new people will also want to sign up. It’s also good to have a mixture of experienced gardeners and new gardeners.

At University Houses Gardens, the three jurors from last year are returning this year, and they did a fantastic job, so we won’t need any new volunteers there.
I will get more specific instructions to jury members before jurying starts. Let me know if you are interested, and if so, which section of the garden you would want to inspect.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Troy Farm Plant Sale; Warm Weather Plant Sale at Eagle Heights; Actively Aerated Compost Tea; Tomatoes; More Free Bean Seeds

Hello Gardeners,

TROY FARM PLANT SALE – On Saturday, May 12, Troy Farm will be selling certified organic garden plants. The sale will be from 10am – 2pm, at 502 Troy Drive on Madison’s north side (in the parking lot at the intersection of Troy Drive and Lerdahl Road). There will be 20 types and 75 varieties of vegetables and herbs. 4-Packs will be $2.50 per plant or $8 per pack. 6-packs will be $1.50 per plant or $8 per pack. Here’s a link to a full list of plants and descriptions:

WARM WEATHER PLANT SALE: Garden to Be will return to Eagle Heights for the second plant sale of the season on Sunday, May 20, from 11am – 2pm. Plants to be sold will include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basils, cucumbers, zucchini, some squashes/pumpkins, melons, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuces, and parsley. I’ll get you a more complete list closer to the date.

AACT – On Saturday, May 12, 9am – 11:30 am at Eagle Heights, Gary K will offer his actively aerated compost tea for free to gardeners. This tea, mixed with water, will add helpful microorganisms to your garden and rejuvenate your soil. Bring an empty gallon container for it. Gary will be happy to share his recipe, so you can make your own.

TOMATOES – Almost everyone in our gardens plants tomatoes. But there are hundreds of varieties - how do you know what kind to plant? Well, to begin with, tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomato plants are developed to stop growing once they start setting fruit.  This means generally that determinate tomato plants give you earlier tomatoes. Also, all the tomatoes on a plant tend to ripen at pretty much the same time. Indeterminate plants will continue to grow larger until frost or diseases kill them, and they will produce tomatoes over a longer season.
Think about how much space you have – some tomato plants are compact, and some can get quite big. Think about color – tomatoes can be red, yellow, orange, black, or green. Or striped. Decide whether you want modern hybrids, or old heirloom varieties. Once you get past all that, think about what kind of tomatoes you use. Cherry tomatoes for salads? Paste tomatoes for sauce? Large round tomatoes for bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches? (or tofu, lettuce and tomato? I know – it’s not the same.)

Whatever varieties you choose, give your tomato plants your sunniest spot, and best soil. Mulch well, and water frequently if it’s dry. Here’s a link to a website with a lot of information:

MORE BEAN SEEDS – It seems a little early, but the long-range forecast is showing continued warm weather for the next few weeks. So it’s time now to plant beans. We have a box of bean seeds from 2014, which I will be putting out on the share shelves at both gardens in the next few days. Bean seeds typically last three years, but these should still germinate pretty well, if you plant them thickly. Help yourself.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Drive Slowly at University Houses; What to Plant Now; A Few Words on Lettuce; Fences; Warm Weather Plant Sale; Thefts

Hello Gardeners,

SLOW DOWN! – One of the residents at University Houses has complained to the Housing Office about people driving their cars very fast on the drive that goes to the parking lot for the University Houses Gardens. If you drive your car to this garden, please remember that this is a residential area, with many children playing outside.  SLOW DOWN AND DRIVE CAREFULLY.

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – It is planting time for most vegetables in our gardens – peas, lettuce, cabbages and their relatives, spinach, chard, greens, root crops, and so on. But it is still too early to plant beans and squash - we may have another frost or two before we’re completely through with cold weather. Also, the soil is still cool – beans won’t germinate in cold soil. Tomato plants should not be planted outside until the middle of the month – and watch the weather forecasts carefully before you plant them. Peppers and eggplants like really warm weather, so some people don’t plant them out until June.

ABOUT LETTUCE – Lettuce is in the Aster Family, and there are at least five types – iceberg, Batavian, bibb, romaine, and leaf. Generally, the darker the lettuce, the more nutrition it has. Lettuce is a good source of Vitamins A and K. It’s one of the easiest vegetables to grow, especially leaf lettuce. This web site has some good information on different types, and how to grow them:

FENCES – The American poet Robert Frost is famous for having written that “Good fences make good neighbors.” Frost was a very good poet, but not an Eagle Heights gardener. We would love it if nobody here had fences. Fences are a regular source of conflicts between gardeners.

Do you have a fence around your plot? If so, please finish reading this, and then run right out to your plot to look at your fence. Is the fence right on your boundary line? If it is, it’s in the wrong place. All fences must be at least six inches inside your plot – on all four sides of your plot, including the side next to the path. Remember – your garden neighbors need access to their plots and to water. If you don’t like to garden without a fence, make sure it’s in the right place, keep it in good repair so it doesn’t lean over or collapse on your neighbor’s plants, and keep it weeded.

WARM WEATHER PLANT SALE: Garden to Be will return to Eagle Heights for the second plant sale of the season on Sunday, May 20, from 11am – 2pm. Plants to be sold will include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basils, cucumbers, zucchini, some squashes/pumpkins, melons, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuces, and parsley. I’ll get you a more complete list closer to the date.

THEFTS – It’s gardening time again, and that means people happily working in their plots, getting into disputes with their neighbors, violating rules right and left, and stealing things! When will it be winter again? No, seriously, a few thefts have already been reported to me. I do appreciate people letting me know when this happens, although all I can do is tell people I’m sorry. But I do want to remind all gardeners that we are subject to theft, of equipment, plants, and vegetables. I am convinced that the perpetrators are mostly not fellow gardeners. Having people steal your stuff is annoying, if not infuriating, but it is a fact of life in a community garden.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Water is On Its Way; Row Cover for Sale; Cancellations and Refunds; More About Workdays; No Cars Allowed in the Garden; Discouraged Plants

Hello Gardeners,

WATER – A work order has gone in for turning on the water both at Eagle Heights and at University Houses Gardens. I don’t have an exact date for completion, but the water should be on at both gardens by the first weekend in May.

ROW COVER – We will have more row cover for sale this SATURDAY at Eagle Heights, by the shed, from 2pm – 4pm. Each piece is 25’ X 7’, and costs $5. Cash only, and exact change, please.

CANCELLATIONS – Now that it finally seems to be spring, some of you may be realizing that you don’t have time for gardening, and you may be considering giving up your plot. If you decide to cancel, please contact me right away. Considering the weather we’ve had up until this week, we can give a full refund to anybody giving up a garden now. But we cannot give any refunds after May 1, and that date is almost upon us.

Both of our gardens are almost full, and I’ll soon be starting a waiting list. It would be a shame for a garden plot to be sitting unused while there are new gardeners anxious to be caring for it.

MORE ABOUT WORKDAYS – We don’t have a workday scheduled this weekend, but we will soon be having one just about every weekend. Our workdays most often are Saturday mornings, and at Eagle Heights. But we do occasionally have Sunday mornings, and we try to schedule a few workdays at University Houses as well. We will also probably try to do one or two weekday evenings later in the season.

The purpose of the workdays is not just to get free labor. It also gives gardeners a chance to meet other gardeners, and to get an understanding that they are part of a community. It feels good to work with a group towards a common goal, and to be able to look later at a part of the garden and know that you helped to weed it or mulch it or whatever. It feels particularly good once your blisters have healed….

NO CARS IN THE GARDEN – Unless you have special permission, do not drive your car into the gardens. Parking for Eagle Heights is along the south side of Eagle Heights Drive – leave your car there. If you do occasionally see a car driving in the gardens, it most likely belongs to someone connected with F.H. King, not our garden.

DISCOURAGED PLANTS – New gardeners often ask if there’s anything they’re not allowed to grow in our gardens. We don’t have many plants we absolutely prohibit, but we do not allow trees in plots, and there are a number of plants we don’t encourage. One is mint. Mint is delightful to smell and to cook with, but it is very aggressive. Once it’s established, it can be almost impossible to get rid of. And it can easily spread into your neighbors’ plots. If you want to plant mint, please plant it well inside your plot, and keep it trimmed. The best solution to the mint problem (short of not planting it at all) is to plant it in a pot, and then sink the pot into your plot. That way, the roots don’t spread.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar:  Plant Sale Sunday April 22; Compost and Row Cover Also For Sale; First Workday; Some Miscellaneous Notes; The Weather

Hello Gardeners,

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE APRIL 22 – On Sunday, April 22, Scott Williams of Garden to Be will be selling plants at Eagle Heights, near the shed. The sale will be from 11am – 1pm. He is planning to bring: lettuces, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale (3 – 4 varieties), chard, cauliflower, parsley, sage, thyme, cabbage, and a few flowers. If the weather cooperates, he may also be able to bring some rhubarb plants and a few other perennials.

Scott’s plants are excellent quality, and his prices are extremely reasonable. You’re never going to find a cheaper and more convenient way to buy good plants for your garden. And the weather for Sunday looks very good – much warmer and sunny.

COMPOST AND ROW COVER – We also have some compost from the West Ag Center to sell. Plus we will again sell row cover, as we did at the Seed Fair. These items will be sold also from 11am – 1pm, in the open space north of our 500 rows. The row cover is $5 for a piece that’s 25’ by 7’. The price for a half-cart of compost will be $5. These are cash only, and please bring exact change, if at all possible.

FIRST WORKDAY OF THE SEASON – We will hold our first workday of the season this Sunday, from 1pm – 4pm. Meet at the Eagle Heights shed. The task will be clearing debris, including old irrigation pipe, from the wooded area next to Lake Mendota Drive. There may also be some brick-hauling, and, if you’re lucky, dumpster-cleaning. This workday might be most appropriate for fairly strong people.

Here’s the link to sign up:  And don’t forget to put your name on the sign-in sheet at the garden.

Remember – unless you paid the no-workday fee, or do other volunteer work for the garden, every plot must supply one person to work one three-hour workday during gardening season. If you can, sign up for this one, and get it over with for the season. Then when it’s hot and mosquitoey this summer, you can relax in the shade with a cold beverage while other people labor and sweat.

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS: At Eagle Heights, the big blue stick barrels have moved to the area next to the shed. The Lakeshore Nature Preserve staff have cut quite a number of nice long sticks for us to use for fences and trellises. Please help yourself to these sticks, but do not take sticks directly from the Preserve.

A group of researchers from the University of Minnesota School for Environment and Sustainability have sent out a survey as part of a study to better understand why people participate in and support urban agriculture. The survey is short, anonymous, and confidential. If you’d like to fill it out, here’s a link:

If you bring plants to the gardens and don’t need the pots or trays any more, please don’t throw them in the dumpster - put them on the share shelf, so other people can use them.

THE WEATHER: T.S. Eliot said that April is the cruelest month. He must have been a gardener. But, according to the long-range forecast, after today, temperatures will gradually go up, and we will have normal Wisconsin spring weather. So, by the end of this week, it is finally going to be gardening season!

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: What To Do With Those Seeds You Got at the Seed Fair; Cool Weather Plant Sale April 22; Rain Garden Volunteer Needed; Registrar Messages Are Now Posted on the Website

Hello Gardeners,

SEEDS – Thanks to our many hard-working volunteers, our Seed Fair this year was very successful. Several hundred gardeners attended and picked out seeds for their gardens. So, if you’re a new gardener, you may be wondering, “Now, what do I do?”

Well, to begin with, sort your seeds into three piles. The first pile is “seeds to start right away, in the house.” This includes tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. To plant these seeds, you will have best results if you buy some seed-starting soil mixture – this will be lighter than normal soil, and your seedlings will grow better in it. (You can buy this at hardware stores and garden centers.) If you don’t have regular plant pots, you can use plastic boxes, like the ones that mushrooms and berries come in at the grocery store. Put some holes in the bottom for drainage. Get the soil thoroughly wet, then put a few seeds on top, and sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds. Place the pot in a warm, sunny window sill, and keep it moist (but not soggy.) Once the seedlings come up, be sure to give them as much light as you can.

Starting seeds in the house can be tricky, so good luck to you. Here’s a link to a website from the University of Minnesota, with lots of detailed instruction:

The second category is seeds that get planted directly in the soil in your plot, whenever your soil is workable. This includes peas, lettuce, radishes, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and root crops such as beets and carrots.

The third category is seeds to sow outside later, once the ground has warmed up, and there’s no longer a chance of frost. This includes beans, cucumbers, melons, and summer and winter squash.
If you didn’t get a chance to pick up Robin Mittenthal’s planting guide at the Seed Fair, here’s a link with much more detail than I’m providing:

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE APRIL 22 – On Sunday, April 22, Gardens to Be will be selling plants at Eagle Heights, near the shed. When Scott, the farmer, gets me a list of plants to be offered, I’ll post it on our website, and I’ll also add it to my next Wednesday message. He will certainly have cabbage, greens, and lettuce, among other things. His prices are very reasonable, and he always offers us a good variety of plants.

RAIN GARDEN – One of our garden plots in the lower garden at Eagle Heights (Plot 115) was under water much of last spring, and we have decided it would be best to turn it into a rain garden, with plants appropriate for moist conditions. It’s just been too difficult for gardeners to grow vegetables in. Is there anybody in our garden community who is knowledgeable about rain gardens? If so, and if you’re interested in helping us plan and plant this garden, please let me know.

WEDNESDAY MESSAGES ARE NOW POSTED ON THE WEB SITE: If you are looking for information from one of my Wednesday messages, and don’t remember when I sent it, you can now find all my messages on our website: go to our home page, and click on the Blogger symbol. 

Happy Gardening,

Friday, April 6, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: More About the Seed Fair; How to Throw Things Away

Hello Gardeners,

EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SEED FAIR, BUT WERE AFRAID THAT THE REGISTRAR WAS TOO TIRED OF THE SUBJECT TO TELL YOU:  A reminder that the Seed Fair will be Saturday, April 7, from 9:30 – 11am, in the gym at the Eagle Heights Community Center. Get here early for the best selection.

We will have seeds for the following: beans, peas, kohlrabi, rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, spinach, kale, radish, beets, herbs, chard, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, melons, tomatoes, and flowers, plus a few others. These seeds have all been donated to us by seed companies. We very much appreciate these donations.

In addition to free seeds, we will also be selling row cover – 25’ for $5. This light-weight fabric can protect your plants from cold, wind, insects, and diseases.  If you don’t want to buy it at the Seed Fair, we will offer it again. This will be cash only, and please bring exact change if possible.
We will also have two of our very experienced gardeners answering questions. Our garden co-chairs will be here to tell people about the garden committee. We have had a donation of plant pots and flats (for starting seeds) and those will be available for free.

Also, we will have a representative from the Sweet Potato Project, who will explain the project and sign people up for it. Here’s a quick summary: you can order free sweet potato plants (although a donation is appreciated), grow them in your garden, and then donate half of the harvest to a local food pantry. 

If you aren’t able to find all the seeds you want at our Seed Fair, there are places in the area to buy seeds. The Ace Hardware Store, near Hilldale, on Midvale Boulevard, is probably the closest source. There are also garden centers, such as Jung’s, which sell seeds and plants. If you are looking for Chinese or Korean vegetables, you may be able to find seeds at local Asian grocery stores. I would also recommend that you look at the Kitizawa Company catalogue, if you’re willing to order seeds by mail:

HOW TO THROW THINGS AWAY AT EAGLE HEIGHTS AND UNIVERSITY HOUSES GARDENS: If you’re throwing something out in our gardens, it’s important for you to put it in the correct place. Let’s start with the weed piles. The weed piles are for weeds and other vegetation you are discarding. Please shake off as much dirt as you can before you take the weeds to the pile. Once you’re there, please throw your weeds into the middle of the pile. You may throw over-ripe vegetables in the weed piles, but not kitchen compost. (However, you may have a compost pile or bin in your plot. The University also has food scrap collection sites all over campus. Here’s a link:

Sticks should be placed in stick barrels, where other people can take them for their plots, and not in the weed piles. Lastly, anything you are throwing away that is not vegetable matter or sticks should go in the dumpsters – that includes old fencing and row cover, food containers, broken furniture, paper, etc. You may throw old plant pots and trays into the dumpsters, but if they’re in good shape, please leave them on or near the share shelves for other people to use.

It is important to throw things away correctly, because the dumpsters don’t get emptied if they have plant material in them, and we have to pay to have our weeds hauled away if there’s too much other stuff in with the weeds.

Happy Gardening,