Political Commentary

Sunday, July 12, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Garden Horror Stories; Woodchips/Leaves; Black Walnut Trees; Sandbox on the Hill; Damselflies; EH Leaf Pile Temperatures
Hello Gardeners,
GARDEN TALES OF WOE – Last week, I asked gardeners if they had been losing vegetables to garden pests, and I got a lot of responses. Here’s a sample: “something furry eating my beet greens”, “beans, broccoli, peas lost to voles”, “beets eaten by bugs”, “my friends lost all their beets to voles”, “turkeys ate all the berries”, “beans eaten by small rodent”, “carrots, beets, cilantro lost to voles. Beans eaten – by rabbits?’, “beets, beans, broccoli, cabbage, and peas attacked by a bunny or deer?” A gardener also informed me that turkeys are eating his tomatoes – just before they turn ripe. I didn’t know that turkeys ate tomatoes, but yes, they do, unfortunately.
There was only one hopeful response, from a gardener who had huge problems with pests eating beans, peas, and radishes. They put up 3’ plastic netting around their bean plants, which were suffering the same fate, and the plants have made an amazing recovery. They don’t bury the netting; just its presence seems to deter the animals. We don’t encourage putting up fences, because they make so many problems between neighbors. But with what seem unusually high populations of voles, rabbits, deer, and turkeys, I’m afraid fences might be the only solution for some gardeners.
WOODCHIPS/LEAVES – Both gardens now have woodchips again. We are establishing some new relationships with mulch suppliers, as well as renewing old ones, so that we should be able to keep up a continuous supply. More leaf mulch will be delivered to UH as soon as we’ve cleared the front plots where they’ll be dumped. Volunteers are already working on this project, but we will also have to clear some large boulders before delivery can take place.
BLACK WALNUT TREES – A gardener from University Houses sent an email about black walnut trees and their bad effect on tomato plants. The roots of black walnut trees produce a substance that is toxic to many other plants. Tomatoes and their relatives, such as peppers, potatoes, and eggplants, are particularly sensitive to this chemical, juglone. This gardener noticed her tomatoes looking bad, and was able to transplant them to another part of the plot, where they recovered. There are black walnut trees growing in the woods next to our gardens, but also they often sprout in our plots and paths. If you know what they look like, pull them up immediately if you find any in your plot. Here’s some information on gardening near these trees: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/growing_vegetable_gardens_near_black_walnut_trees
THE SANDBOX ON THE HILL – One of our gardeners has done extensive work clearing weeds from the plot on the hill under the pear trees, which contains a sandbox. This plot has been overgrown and inappropriate for children to play in for years. Now that it’s been cleared to some extent, do gardeners think we should put sand in the box again? (There’s not much left anymore.) Or should it continue to be a public area, but more for family and adult use? It is going to take constant maintenance to keep it in decent shape – are there any gardeners who would like to adopt it and take responsibility for it?
DAMSELFLIES – I hope that gardeners have noticed the damselflies in the gardens these days. These are a smaller relative of dragonflies. The ones I’m seeing are called Bluets, and I see them particularly hovering around dill plants. They’re not enjoying the flowers – they’re carnivores that eat tiny insects that are attracted to these plants. I don’t know the exact species we have, but here’s information on Azure Bluets: https://uwm.edu/field-station/azure-bluet/
EH LEAFPILE TEMPERATURES – One of the gardeners at Eagle Heights has taken the temperature in several spots at our leaf pile. The temperatures ranged from 104 degrees to 128. The lowest temperature was at eye level on the road side of the pile. Since I reported that jumping worms have been seen in the pile, a number of gardeners have asked if they should still use leaves. It’s up to you, but I would recommend that if you do use leaves, you  take them from the hottest part of the pile, (the side away from the road). Studies done last year at the UW Arboretum showed that temperatures over 100 degrees could kill the cocoons of these worms, so I think the risks are lowest where the pile is hottest.
Happy Gardening and Take Care,

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