Political Commentary

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: THE END; Some General Reminders for the Future; Would You Like to Have a Formal Garden?; Storing Seeds; Thank Yous!

 Hello Gardeners,

THE END – Though chard and kale and a few other hardy vegetables are still going strong, most of our gardens are basically done. This will be my last weekly Wednesday email for this year. But I will send out a reminder on or around December 15, to let people know that our applications for 2021 will be available. In past years, we have had paper copies at the Community Center, as well as copies online. This year, most likely the Community Center will still be closed to the public. But if it’s possible for us to have applications there, I’ll let you know.

MORE REMINDERS – If you would like to renew your garden plot for 2021, please fill out an application when they become available on December 15. Everybody needs to fill out an application. You may mail it, along with your check made payable to the Division of University Housing, to the Community Center, whose address is on the application. Or you can drop it off in a green garden envelope in the drop box in the vestibule at the Center. Or you may fill out the application online and email it to me, and then mail or drop off your check separately. Please remember that your application is not complete until I receive your payment. We can not accept cash for garden fees – your payment must be a check or money order. The deadline to renew your plot will be February 15.

 If you want to return as a gardener next year, but you want a different plot, please get your application to me by the deadline, and indicate your preferred plot number or the area in the garden you would prefer.

If you know you will not be returning next year, please let me know now, if you haven’t already done so.

Because of the virus, we are combining 2020 and 2021 as far as workdays are concerned. If you paid the no-workday fee for 2020 or did a workday this year, you will not have to do that in 2021. If you did not do either of those this year, you will have until the end of 2021 to do so.

Please let me know if you have any questions about any of this. I won’t be working much in the next few weeks, but I will still be checking emails regularly.

FORMAL GARDEN AVAILABLE – You may have noticed Plot 1004 in the last few years – the gardener worked very hard to create a beautiful, serene, formal garden, quite unusual at Eagle Heights. Unfortunately, the gardener has moved on, and has given up the plot. My preference in reassigning it would be to find a gardener who would like to keep it basically the way the last gardener set it up. Would anyone be interested in switching to this garden, either now, or starting next spring? Please let me know.

SEED STORAGE – If you got seeds in the spring and didn’t use them all, you might be able to plant them next year, depending on how old they are, and how you’ve stored them. Basically, your seeds should be in a place that’s cool, dark, and dry. Some people put them in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator, or even in the freezer, but a drawer is just fine. Be sure that every packet is labeled with the variety and the year. Except for onion seeds, most common vegetable and flower seeds should still be viable at least one year after the packet date. Generally, small seeds will last longer than large ones. Here’s a viability chart I’ve used: https://www.highmowingseeds.com/blog/seed-viability-chart#  I know gardeners are always telling stories about growing champion tomatoes from seeds that are 20 years old, but generally, fresher seeds are better.

THANK YOUS!!! – This year has been quite a challenge for us at Eagle Heights and everywhere else in the world. I am very grateful that we were able to keep the gardens open despite the pandemic, and that both new and continuing gardeners were able to find safe and satisfying activity for themselves and their families growing vegetables, fruits, and flowers. I would like to thank all the gardeners who took good care of their plots, social-distanced, and maintained good hand-washing hygiene when sharing tools. Thank you to everyone who managed to do a workday despite our not being able to offer group projects. Thank you to our garden workers, Megan and Andy, for outstanding work, and thank you to the many gardeners who do extra work in common areas and on special projects to keep the gardens going.

I hope that 2021 be a better year for everyone. In the meantime, have a good winter, and stay well.





Wednesday, October 21, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: Last Call for Extra Produce; Lasagna Gardening; Overwintering Herbs; Gardens Closing Day November 8

Hello Gardeners,

ANY EXTRA PRODUCE? One of our gardeners is a member of First United Methodist Church, which runs a kitchen that prepares food for homeless people. They are always looking for fresh produce. If you still have any extra produce in your plot, such as winter squash or greens, and you’re done with harvesting, please let me know. This gardener would be very happy to come clear anything edible from your plot to bring to her church.

LASAGNA GARDENING – A lasagna garden is a garden that is built up in layers – this technique is also called “sheet composting.” You can start a lasagna garden any time of year, but fall is the best. So if you’re tired of digging and weeding, you might want to try this out.  I have had a lasagna garden for almost five years – it’s been pretty productive, and it’s very easy to take care of. You can start by hauling off your weeds, or you can also just trample down the weeds you have, since they’ll be covered up by your layers and will feed your soil as they decay. Then you put down the  first layer – cardboard. On top of that, you put down layers of wet newspaper and leaves. You can also add compost, straw, coffee grounds, whatever other soil amendments you might have. Then leave it for the winter. In the spring, it won’t look much different, but you can go ahead and plant into it, and your plants will feed on the nutrients and decompose the layers, while the cardboard continues to block the weeds. Seeds can be planted the same way you plant into soil, If you’re putting in a plant, you only need to dig a small hole into the layers. One of the advantages of lasagna gardening is that, since you do very little digging, you don’t disturb the microbes that live in the soil and improve it. Later this fall, I’ll add another layer of newspaper and leaves to mine. Here’s a link to a good article: https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-make-a-lasagna-garden-2539877

OVERWINTERING HERBS –The best thing about gardening is having fresh herbs to cook with, and the worst thing about the end of the season is having to say goodbye to that. As far as growing is concerned, herbs can be divided into 3 types. There are annuals, which are planted every year. Some of the annuals, such as dill and cilantro, readily reseed themselves, so if you plant them once, they may keep coming up on their own every year. Basil, unfortunately, has to be planted again every spring. Then there are hardy perennials, such as chives, sage, and mints, including oregano. These need no help getting through the winter. Chives can survive just about any winter, and will be one of the first plants to start growing as soon as the ground starts to thaw in the spring. And then there are more tender perennial herbs, such as lavender, which can use a little help to get through the winter. This is a short article about how to protect those, and also about trying to extend the herb season by bringing some of your plants indoors. : https://garden.org/learn/articles/view/2508/

CLOSING DAY NOVEMBER 8 – Our gardens will have their official closing day this year on Sunday, November 8. On that day, most of our carts and tools will be put away in the sheds for the winter. But we always leave a few out for gardeners who do some work during the winter. Also, we’ll bring the UH hoses in for winter storage, and take the opportunity to throw out the worst ones, since we have some new hoses to replace them with. You can help in this process by please please please returning any of the community tools you currently have in your plot.

 Happy Gardening and Stay Well,




Wednesday, October 14, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: Freeze Coming; Water Shut-Off; Portable Toilets; Clean Up; Tomato Seeds; Links to Kimchi Recipes

Hello Gardeners,

FREEZE COMING – After an unexpected few weeks of beautiful, warm weather, we’re back to more seasonal temperatures now, and frost seems likely Thursday and Friday evening. If you have tender annuals, such as tomatoes, that you hope to keep going a little longer, it’s time to bring out extra sheets and blankets to cover your plants at night. According to current predictions, the frost will be light, so a covering that raises the temperature by a degree or two will be enough to keep the plants alive. You’ll also want to return in the morning to uncover them. If you have small plants to cover, buckets work well. Frost is always unpredictable and spotty – the gardens on the hill might escape it, while those of us in the lower areas will probably get it. If it does frost, your plants might look fine at first, and you’ll think they’re okay, but when it warms a little more, they’ll start to deteriorate fast. You won’t have to worry, yet, about your cabbage crops, or root crops. But cover your lettuce if you have any. It can keep growing in cooler temperatures, though it can’t stand a hard frost. The alternative to trying to save your plants is to just pick your last tomatoes, peppers, and squash. I don’t think it’s really going to warm up much.

WATER SHUT-OFF – A request has gone in to the UW Plumbers to shut down our water systems. We don’t have an exact date for when they’ll do the work, but you can expect it any time now. If you are still planning to plant anything this season, you might want to fill up a barrel or bucket with water while it’s still on.

PORTABLE TOILETS – Our portable toilets will be removed from both gardens on Thursday, October 27, and will not be back until March. So again, use them while you can. Unfortunately, the Community Center is still not open to the public, so the closest public restroom is a long way away.

CLEAN UP CLEAN UP EVERYBODY DO THEIR SHARE – If your garden is done for the season, or nearly, this is a good time to clear away the debris, and prepare it for the winter. Pull out the dead plants and haul them to the weed pile. Please try to leave as much soil behind in your plot as you can. We don’t want a lot of dirt in the weed pile – just plants. If you’re coming back next year, you can certainly leave fences and tomato cages, etc., in your plot. But remember that nice-looking equipment can wander off during the winter. It’s best to take it home, if you can make room. Take your hose home, too. And please do not leave any glass in your plot over the winter – it can break very easily, and leave sharp pieces in your plot that future gardeners can find unexpectedly and unpleasantly. Once you’ve cleared the plot, haul a few loads of leaf mulch, and spread that over your soil. And then you’re done. Please do all this, whether or not you’re returning next year. If you will be back, you’ll be ready to plant in the spring as soon as the weather allows. If you’re giving up the plot and you enjoyed gardening, do something nice for the plot and for its next gardener by leaving the place in good shape. Be considerate, and leave the plot looking the way you’d like to find it if you were starting off for the first time next year.

TOMATO SEEDS – We have a huge supply of tomato seeds. Many of them are several years old, but tomato seeds can stay viable for at least four years. I’m going to be putting some of these out on the share shelves in the next week or so. These are not for planting now! These are for starting, in your house, next year in March or April, for transplanting to your garden later on. We  will have a Seed Fair or seed giveaway around that time, but you are welcome to take some of these seeds now, so you can start them a little earlier, if you want.

KIMCHI RECIPES – Several Korean and part-Korean gardeners sent links to good kimchi recipes they have used successfully: https://youtu.be/eTucCw1w6Ak and https://www.koreanbapsang.com/baechu-kimchi-napa-cabbage-kimchi/


Happy Gardening and Stay Well,




Wednesday, October 7, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: New Hoses at U Houses; Garlic Planting Time; Are You Renewing Next Year?; Take Down Your Structures; Fermentation

Hello Gardeners, 

NEW HOSES – We have five new hoses at University Houses Gardens, to replace the worst of the old hoses. We will probably replace the rest of the old ones next year. It won’t be long now before the water is turned off for the season, but in the meantime, enjoy.

GARLIC PLANTING – October is the best time to plant garlic in Wisconsin. You can plant it in the spring, but because we have such a short growing season here, a fall planting is better – your garlic plants will start growing in the spring as soon as the ground thaws, so you’ll get as many growing days as possible. (If you plant in the spring, you will have to wait a little before your garden soil can be worked before you can get the bulbs in.) The trick with fall planting is to plant when the bulbs will have time to grow roots and settle into the soil, but not so early that they will start sending shoots up. The middle of October is best for us. And if you don’t have your own bulbs to plant, try a Farmers’ Market for the best prices, quality, and selection. Here’s a website with very detailed information; these are people who really know their Allium sativum:  https://wisconsingarlic.com/grow/

ARE YOU RENEWING NEXT YEAR? – It may be early for you to know what you’re doing next year. (Or even next month, especially with this pandemic), but I would appreciate hearing from any gardeners who know now that they won’t be renewing their plots in 2021. This will make it easier for me to assign plots when we start taking applications in December. Also, there are a handful of new applicants for this fall, and if I find out that you’re through for the season, I could get them settled in plots now. If you don’t know now, that’s fine, but let me know later on if you make that decision. And in a related topic:

TAKE DOWN YOUR STRUCTURES – The rules of our gardens state that gardeners are not allowed to build permanent structures in their garden plots. This year, there was quite a bit of building this spring, by gardeners who were happy to find a safe activity outside for themselves and their families. And these gardeners did a wonderful job with their creations. However, if you know that you will not be returning to your garden plot next year, it is your responsibility to take down your structures this fall and remove them from the plot. Along with the building, there was also a great deal of use of the bricks and blocks which we still plan to use for garden projects when the pandemic abates. It is particularly important that you remove these and haul them back to the piles by the leaf pile where they came from. Bricks, rocks, and blocks sink over time, and become real nuisances for subsequent gardeners. So don’t leave them in your plot if you’re not coming back next year.

FERMENTATION – Another method of preserving produce and extending your harvest is fermentation, It’s the process that makes beer, wine, and cheese, by adding yeast, bacteria, or molds. (We’ve had so many people growing hops this year, that I expect a lot of beer brewing is going on now amongst our gardeners.) It also makes tasty pickled vegetables. Fermented foods are thought to improve digestion because they add beneficial bacteria to our guts. This is an excellent time of year to make sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods. It’s fun, it’s healthy, it saves money, and it adds a lot of strange smells to your kitchen. Here’s a very simple recipe for sauerkraut - https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/food-cooking/recipes/a100555/how-to-make-sauerkraut/  You can make a smaller or larger batch quite easily – just keep the same proportions of cabbage and salt as in the recipe. I like to add caraway seeds to mine. Kimchi, the Korean national dish, is similar, but made with napa cabbage and/or other vegetables, plus hot pepper, garlic, and other flavors. I tried to find a good, simple recipe on the Internet, but there were so many variations, I gave up. Does anyone have a favorite kimchi recipe they’d like to share?

Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, September 30, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: Frost Approaching?; Seed Information and Seed Saving; Beautiful Photographs on Web Site

Hello Gardeners,

THE F WORD – We’re going to see the temperatures dip down into the 30s tomorrow and Friday evening this week. After that, it looks like it will warm up a bit for a while. But still, this is a good time to start making decisions about the future of your plants. You can divide your vegetables and flowers into three categories – plants that don’t mind a little frost; plants that can’t handle cold temperatures at all; and plants that can get through some frost with help from you. If you have vegetables in the cabbage family – cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc., they should keep living through some chilly nights for a while. Root crops and greens will do fine for a while. Lettuce is the most sensitive of the greens to cold, but a light covering on cold nights (a sheet, for instance) should keep it safe for a few more weeks. But if you have basil and eggplants, prepare to say goodbye. Pick any fruits you still have, and if you have any decent basil leaves left, you can pick that and either use it up fast, or else dry or freeze it. But what about tomatoes and peppers? This is where you have to make a decision. For pepper plants, it’s probably time to either pick the last ones, or else pull up the whole plant, and hang it upside down in a garage or cool room, so that the peppers can mature a little more (for bell peppers), or turn red and dry (for hot peppers.) For tomatoes, if you can easily cover your plants, you can try doing that for a while until we get a hard frost. But cool cloudy days are not going to do much to ripen the fruits you have left. So you might plan to pick the remains pretty soon.

Tomatoes do continue to ripen off the vine, and even green tomatoes can still turn red in your house. Here’s some detailed information about ways to do that (and ways to not do that): https://www.epicgardening.com/how-to-ripen-tomatoes/#:~:text=%20How%20to%20Ripen%20Green%20Tomatoes%20Indoors%E2%80%8B%20,soft%2C%20bruised%2C%20or%20blemished%2C%20separate%20them...%20More%20

Also, there are a lot of ways to use green tomatoes- pickles, chutneys, and of course, breaded and fried. Here’s some recipes, including a cake and a sweet bread: https://www.thespruceeats.com/recipes-using-green-tomatoes-3057091

As for squash, it can be a relief when summer squash plants kick the bucket – mine are way too sprawly to even think of trying to cover them. But winter squash are also sensitive to frost. If it does frost, you’ll still be able to pick your winter squash and pumpkins and eat them, but they won’t keep as long. So consider picking them before you have to. And unfortunately, winter squash are quite subject to theft, so picking them early, and letting them cure inside may be the best plan.

SEEDS – We receive donations of seeds from seed companies, which we then hand out to our gardeners. These are generally seeds that are too old to be sold, but that are still viable. We get free seeds, and the companies get tax write-offs, so everybody wins. We do have a large number of seeds in storage for next year, but it’s possible that we won’t receive as many donations this winter as we usually do. Because of the pandemic, more people have tried gardening this year, both to supplement their food supply, and to give themselves something to do when so many ordinary activities haven’t been available. As a consequence, many seed companies have had a difficult time keeping up with demand.

We’ll just have to wait and see about this, but I encourage everybody to think about saving seeds yourself from some of your plants. Bean seeds are easy enough – if your remaining snap beans have developed big hard seeds, you can keep the pods on the plants until they dry, and then shell them and keep them in containers in a cool dry room. (Of course, you can cook and eat the dry beans too, in soups and stews.) It’s easy to save seeds from flowers like marigolds and zinnias, although these flowers also frequently reseed themselves. But whatever you try to save, make sure it’s an “open-pollinated” rather than a “hybrid” variety. Seeds from hybrids are often sterile, or do not grow into healthy productive plants. Saving seeds is a large topic, but here’s a link to basic information from the University of Minnesota Extension: https://extension.umn.edu/planting-and-growing-guides/saving-vegetable-seeds

BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS ON OUR WEB SITE – One of our gardeners took a large number of excellent photographs of our gardens, and we now have a few of them posted on our home page. Take a look – they’re incredible.

 Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Pick Your Produce; Frequently Asked and Answered Questions; Doodle Poll Links for Weed-Whacking Sessions

Hello Gardeners,

PICK YOUR PRODUCE!!! – Please continue picking your produce. If you have too much, you can always leave extras on the share shelves. I keep getting reports of vegetables sitting and rotting in various plots. It’s hard to see food going to waste.

FAAQ’s – Happy Fall and Happy Equinox, everybody. As things are winding down in our gardens now, I thought this would be a good time to look at the next few months.

Q, When do the gardens close for the season?

A. Depends on the weather. We will probably have a closing day sometime in early November. At that point, we will bring most of the tools and carts into the sheds for the winter. But although we’re officially closed, we always leave a few tools and carts out all winter for gardeners who need them. But no, we won’t plow the snow off the paths. The portable toilets will also be taken away early in November.

Q. When does the water get turned off for the season?

A. Depends on the weather. The water will be turned off some time in October, when there is a good chance of a serious freeze that could damage the pipes. There is usually no notice – it’s generally a sudden decision. Some gardeners keep a water barrel in their plots so they can fill it in advance with water for times our system is off – not a bad idea.

Q. When will we get a frost?

A. Depends on the weather! It can happen any time in October, but chances are we won’t get a hard frost until later in the month. But once we get into October, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weather forecast, and have a plan prepared – i.e., try to keep the plants going, or just pick what’s left and let them go. (I’ll go into greater detail on this in a future message.)

Q. What if I couldn’t do a work day this year?

A. Depends on, oh, sorry. Some gardeners have managed to do workdays this year, and some gardeners always pay the no workday fee with their garden fees when they send in their applications. But please remember that, due to the pandemic, we are not requiring a work day or work day fee this year. If you have done the work, or paid the fee, you have met the obligation for 2020/2021, and you will not have to do it again next year. I will keep reminding you about this.

Q. What about next year? When can I apply? Can I get the same plot I have this year?

A. Our 2021 applications will be on our website starting December 15. If you want to renew your plot, please get the application and payment to me by February 15. You can email the application to me, but you’ll still have to send or drop off the check or money order at the Community Center. Your application is not complete without the payment. And UW Housing will no longer accept cash – you’ll have to have a check or money order.

Q. What if I want to garden again next year, but I want a different plot?

A. That’s perfectly fine. You should still fill out an application and get it to me between December 15 and February 15. Please write on your application that you would prefer a different plot, and give me an idea of the area or conditions you’re looking for. I’ll do my best to find you a plot you like better.

Q. What if I get my renewal in late, after the deadline?

A. If your plot is still open, you can still renew it. If I’ve already assigned it to a new gardener, you’ll have to take a different plot. And please don’t whine about it. (Actually, nobody has, so far.)

Q, I just got a garden plot this fall. Do I have to apply again for 2021?

A. Yes, you do. You only have your plot until the end of this season.

Q. Will there be a Seed Fair next year?

A. Depends on…the virus. We certainly hope so, but we don’t know yet. We’ll either have a Seed Fair, or else a seed-giveaway like we did this year.

Q. When is this virus going away? Who will win the election? What’s eating my tomatoes? Who played third base for the Tigers in 1959? Why is the sky blue?

A. I think that’s enough questions for now.

WEED WHACKING – Here’s the doodle poll link to sign up for weed whacking with Megan on Monday, September 28, at Eagle Heights, 9am – 10am.  https://doodle.com/poll/2u8yi7wahc3nvhss I’m sending out the link for the UH session only to the UH gardeners, to give them a better chance of getting to sign up.


Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, September 16, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: Water is Off at Eagle Heights for Repairs; Winter Squash; September Garden Tasks; Garlic Seminar Reminder

 Hello Gardeners,

EAGLE HEIGHTS WATER IS OFF – We have two leaks in the water system at EH, and the water is turned off until repairs can be made. We need some parts and one of the repairs will be tricky – we hope the water can be back on by the weekend, but it might not be possible. We’ll do our best.

HARVESTING WINTER SQUASH – Gardeners are starting to harvest their winter squash now. It’s still early – you don’t really have to pick it until frost threatens, so we’ve probably got another three weeks or more. And if you pick it early, it won’t keep as long as if it’s fully mature. On the other hand, we have a fair amount of theft in our gardens, so harvesting it a little early might help to insure that you get some of it. Also, we do have some deer in the gardens, and they apparently love to eat winter squash and pumpkins.

 Your squash is ready to pick once it’s turned a darker color than it was earlier, it sounds hollow when you shake it, and the stem has died off and turned hard. Here’s a website with very detailed instructions on harvesting, curing and storing: https://www.growveg.com/guides/curing-pumpkins-and-winter-squash/

 And by the way, if you’re looking for new ideas for cooking winter squash, here are some recipes: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipes/1097/fruits-and-vegetables/vegetables/squash/winsOME ter-squash/

SEPTEMBER GARDEN TASKS – Some vegetables are still going full-tilt, so keep picking those annoying summer squash and tomatoes. Once it’s winter, you’ll be amazed to remember that you got tired of harvesting your fresh produce. For plants that have died, you might as well start cleaning up, as long as the weather is so nice. When you take plants to the weed pile, please leave as much of the dirt as possible back in your plot – the people who take our weeds to compost them don’t want dirt. (Occasionally when there is too much dirt in the pile, they’ll refuse to take it, and then we have to pay somebody to haul it away. But this hasn’t happened in a while, fortunately.)

If you have perennial flowers in your plot, this is a good time of year to divide them. Also, if you have geraniums, begonias, or impatiens in your garden, this is a good time to take cuttings of them to bring into your house and root for plants for next year. Here’s a website with details for rooting geranium cuttings: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/geranium/how-to-start-geranium-cuttings.htm 

Also, if your herbs are still in good shape, this is a good time to cut them and dry or freeze them for the winter. They won’t be as good as fresh, but they’ll be better than nothing.

REMINDER OF GARLIC WORKSHOP – Just a reminder that Gary K. will hold his annual Garlic Workshop on Sunday, September 20, at the Eagle Heights shed, starting at 9am. Several people have asked about where to buy garlic to plant – you can buy it at the grocery store, but it might have been treated with something to keep it from sprouting in storage. You’re better off getting it from a garden center, or, even easier, from one of the local Farmers’ Markets, where the prices and quality are good, and you’ll probably have a choice of varieties.

WEED-WHACKING? – I’ll send out the Doodle poll sign-up link for the next weed-whacking session later this week.

Happy Gardening and Stay Well,