Political Commentary

Thursday, June 3, 2021

 Hello Gardeners, 

Cranes: We’re fortunate to have a family of cranes in the Eagle Heights Garden again this year. The cranes are fairly accustomed to gardeners, and it’s interesting to observe them, from a distanceThey will defend themselves though, especially if they think the baby is being threatened. They are really quite large and have sharp bills so it’s best to give them some space 

Theft: I’m sorry to say that we’ve had some reports of theft in our gardens. Please never enter plots that aren’t yours, and never remove materials or produce from another plot. Knowing your neighbors can be helpful for being aware of who has cause to be in a plot. If you notice anything unusual, please do let me know.  

Weeding Paths: Please remember to keep the weeds under control on the paths you share with neighbors. Which brings us to: 

Weed bags: Sometimes weeding can seem especially arduous because you have the added task of carting the weeds to the weed pile when you’re done. If it’s a small number of weeds, one way to deal with them is to keep a heavy-duty black plastic bag in your plot for weeds. The weeds will break down quickly as the bag heats up in the sun, especially if you add some water. Once it’s all broken down you can simply dump the bag back into your garden beds. It can be hard sometimes to get all the dirt off the roots of weeds and this system keeps dirt in your plot (which is better for your garden). 

Thanks, and happy gardening, 



Thursday, May 27, 2021

 Hello Gardeners,

I've very pleased to be sending you my first email as the new Registrar. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

Potato Beetles:

Unfortunately, we've already had a few sightings of adult Colorado Potato Beetles in the Gardens. The adult potato beetles are light orange with black stripes. Soon we'll start to see the orange-red larvae appear on the plants as well. Removing beetles/eggs/larvae from potato plants and dropping them in soapy water is a good way to keep them under control. If left to their own devices the adult beetles and larvae can destroy the leaves of potato plants and other plants in the same family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants).


Late May is the time to think about planting summer and winter squash and other warm weather plants. There are some squash seeds available on the share shelves. Winter and summer squash both do well in our gardens. If you're struggling to find space but you know you want to plant winter squash, you might consider planting it alongside something that you plan to harvest earlier, like garlic. Once the garlic is harvested the squash will have a place to go. Squash can be very prolific and get unruly though, so it's good to be cautious when planting it where it might overwhelm other plants later in summer.


Please remember to disconnect your hose and put it back in your plot after watering. This allows other gardeners to use the faucets and protects your hose from the mower when it comes through.

Thanks, and happy gardening,



Wednesday, May 19, 2021


From the Gardens Registrar: Warm Weather Plant Sale on Sunday; It’s Not Time to Plant Corn; Garden Juries; Seed Information; About the Plant Give-Away Last Sunday; Goodbye

 Hello Gardeners, 

 WARM WEATHER PLANT SALE - Scott Williams of Garden To Be will be selling warm weather plants at Eagle Heights on Sunday, May 23, from 10am – 1pm. He will be bringing basil (5 varieties), cilantro, lettuce, salad mix packs, edible flowers, cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash, pumpkins, melons, winter squash, eggplants, and peppers – both sweet and hot. Tomatoes are still iffy. Please wear masks and social distance.

IT’S NOT TIME TO PLANT CORN – Why not? Because it’s never time to plant corn at Eagle Heights. We don’t prohibit it, but we don’t encourage it. The reason is that it doesn’t grow well in our gardens, and it attracts raccoons. (As if we need to attract more vegetable-eating mammals.) It tends to fall over and get in other people’s way, it takes up space, and most people I’ve talked to who’ve grown it got very little to eat out of it. I love corn on the cob too, but in our garden, it’s just a nuisance.

 GARDEN JURIES – We will be starting Garden Juries at both gardens in June. Garden juries are groups of gardeners who meet to look at garden plots together, and notify the registrar about plots they find that are very weedy or look abandoned. They can also report particularly well-maintained gardens. Each jury has three gardeners, is issued a specific group of plots to look at, and will set their own schedules for their three inspections – one each in June, July, and August. There will be five juries at Eagle Heights, and one jury will handle University Houses. The total amount of time equals about 3 hours, and jurying constitutes a workday. The reason we have these juries is that poorly-managed plots spread weeds to their neighbors. Also, if a plot turns out to have been abandoned, we want to know that as soon as possible, so it can be assigned to a new gardener. And it isn’t always bad for the gardener to be reported on – sometimes, it turns out the gardener needs help, and we can provide that. Gardeners who served on a jury last year can not apply this time, since they do not need to do a workday this year. Also, we want to extend the opportunity to new people. We will need 18 volunteers altogether. Because this is such a popular way to do a workday, we will take names for the next two weeks, until June 1. At that point, if we have more volunteers than we can use, we’ll draw names out of a hat!

 SEED STUFF – The bean seeds are all gone, and so are most of the flower seeds. We have lots of seeds for summer and winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons. We’ll keep bringing seeds out to the share shelves at both gardens for the next few weeks. Gourds, anyone? We’ve got lots and lots of seeds for gourds. Sure, they’re useless and take up a lot of space, but you can store your radishes in them.

 PLANT GIVE-AWAY LAST SUNDAY – The people delivering the free plants last Sunday had more than 1000 plants to distribute at a number of locations, and were not able to get to Eagle Heights until 11am. I had been told the plants would arrive between 9:00 and 10:00, and I know that gardeners started lining up at 9:00, and many waited more than an hour before giving up. It was chilly besides. I’m so sorry that the delivery was delayed, and people who had waited so long weren’t able to get plants. Many thanks to our Co-Chair, Ninja, for waiting with these gardeners and trying to help.

 GOODBYE – Goodbye, gardeners. Be happy and well. Be excellent to each other. And don’t put your &^%$@! fences up on your (^#@! plot borders!


Happy Gardening, 




Wednesday, May 12, 2021


From the Gardens Registrar: Warm Weather Plant Sale; Jumping Worms II; Workdays; Rhubarb

 Hello Gardeners, 

WARM WEATHER PLANT SALE – Scott Williams of Garden To Be will be selling warm weather plants at Eagle Heights on Sunday, May 23, from 10am – 1pm. He will be bringing basil (5 varieties), cilantro, lettuce, salad mix packs, edible flowers, cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash, pumpkins, melons, winter squash, eggplants, and peppers – both sweet and hot. He will (hopefully) also bring tomatoes, but his tomatoes got their tips frosted, and he’ll have to wait to see how they’re doing before he is sure he’ll be bringing them. Please wear masks and social distance. I already have volunteers to help.

JUMPING WORMS II – REVENGE OF THE JUMPING WORMS – Several gardeners wrote me after my last message to explain that mustard water does not kill jumping worms. What actually happens is that they don’t like the mustard, and they come up to the surface of the soil to avoid it. At that point, you can pick them up and kill them by putting them in a plastic bag and leaving it in the sun until they turn to mush. I know, yick. If you do that, please throw that bag in the dumpster – do not try to compost it.

WORKDAYS – In a normal year, a gardener from every plot must either contribute three hours of work to the garden community, or else pay a “no workday fee.” Last year was not a normal year. Due to Covid, it did not seem safe for us to organize our usual group workdays. A few gardeners managed to do projects on their own, and we did have some weed-whacking sessions with small numbers of volunteers. Because it was so difficult for most people to do a workday, (but we still wanted to give credit to those who did, or who paid the fee), we decided to lump together 2020 and 2021 as far as workdays were concerned. So, if you were a gardener last year, and either did a workday or paid the fee, you do not have to do a workday this year. In fact, please don’t – we want as many opportunities available to new gardeners as possible.

This year, I think, by the summer, we will be able to organize workdays in a somewhat more normal way. Typical workdays involve projects such as weeding and wood chipping paths, weeding common areas, weeding and mulching abandoned plots, and so on. We’ve been using Doodle for the scheduling, and publishing the Doodle links in this message when a workday is scheduled. Workdays mostly take place on weekends, but we try to have a few on weekday evenings too, and to have projects at both gardens.

Another workday opportunity will be garden jurying, but I’ll explain that in my next message.

If you want to do a workday, but you would prefer to work alone, or don’t feel comfortable in a group, please contact me, and we’ll see if we can find a good project for you.

Otherwise, if you really don’t want to do a workday, or you aren’t able to sign up for one, you can pay the $32 fee – that is not due until December 1, and there’s no need to do it any earlier.

RHUBARB – Generally, the first crop that can be harvested in our gardens is rhubarb, a perennial vegetable that’s treated like a fruit. The roots have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and it’s been grown in Europe and North America since the 17th Century as medicine and later, as a vegetable. As a vegetable, only the stalks are eaten – the leaves contain a lot of oxalic acid, and are poisonous (though you’d have to eat an awful lot before they would hurt you.). The stalks are very tart, and are usually eaten with a great deal of sugar. It’s not particularly nutritious, but it’s tasty by itself, or with other fruits. If you’re looking for rhubarb recipes and general information, this is the place: Rhubarb Website /Blog - Recipes, Growing, Nutrition and More (rhubarb-central.com)

Happy Gardening, 





From the Gardens Registrar: A Message from the New Gardens Registrar!; Protect Your Tomatoes and Peppers; Hose Etiquette; Jumping Worms; Old Campaign Signs; A Few Painting Volunteers

 Hello Gardeners, 

 NEW GARDENS REGISTRAR – I am delighted to announce that a new registrar has been chosen, and will start on May 14. (However, you’ll still have to put up with me until the end of the month.) Her name is Lily, and she sends this message: 

 Hello all gardeners at Eagle Heights and University Houses, 

I have been gardening at Eagle Heights for a number of years and have had my current plot for about five years. I'm looking forward to learning more and taking on a larger role in our gardens as the new registrar. I feel fortunate to be taking over for Kathryn, who has been an excellent registrar, and Gretel before her. I look forward to seeing everyone at both Gardens! 

  Happy gardening, 


TOMATOES AND PEPPERS  – I’m seeing gardeners bringing in tomato and pepper seedlings, and it’s really too early to plant them. We are expecting cold nights this weekend - if you’ve planted them, keep an eye on the weather forecasts, and be prepared to cover your plants if frost seems possible. By next week, the danger will probably be over. But as for eggplants, they really like warm temperatures, so don’t hurry to plant them. 

HOSE ETIQUETTE – Please keep your hose in your garden plot when you are not using it. Also, do not leave it lying across the path, or leave it attached to the spigot except when you are watering. It is inconsiderate of your garden neighbors. Also, terrrrrrible things happen to hoses that are left lying in the paths. They get mowed and shredded, for instance. Oh, and please don’t take your neighbor’s hose either – if you don’t have your own hose, buy one. (At University Houses, where we provide the hoses and hose reels, we’re still in the process of installing those, so don’t despair if you don’t have one set up by your plot yet. It will be there soon.) 

JUMPING WORMS – Several gardeners have spoken to me in the last few weeks about finding Jumping Worms in their garden plots. Typically, these don’t appear until June, but I think these gardeners had a good idea of what they were seeing. What are Jumping Worms? They’re an invasive earthworm that multiplies rapidly and destroys soil, making it harder for plants to grow in it. Here’s a basic description, along with gruesome pictures: Jumping Worms – Wisconsin Horticulture  We have had these worms in both gardens for a number of years, and they seem to be here to stay, for now. We felt confident that they couldn’t live in the Eagle Heights leaf pile, because it gets very hot inside. But we found that worms, including possible jumping worms, could live on the edges of the pile. The University Houses leaf pile is not as big, and doesn’t get as hot, so it may also harbor them. To be safer, when you get leaves from the pile, try for the newer leaves, more at the top of the pile. If you do get jumping worms in your plot, supposedly you can kill them by mixing 1/3 cup of dry mustard with a gallon of water, and soaking the area. It won’t harm your plants.  

OLD CAMPAIGN SIGNS – This summer, one of our gardeners is going to set up a Storybook Walk at Eagle Heights, and will have book pages displayed along some paths. We’re thinking that the wires from old campaign signs would be good to mount these pages on. If you’ve got old campaign signs sitting in your garage or basement (or dining room), please let me know, and then bring them to the gardens and leave them next to either garden shed. Thank you. 

PAINTING VOLUNTEERS NEEDED – Our garden worker, Megan, is organizing tool-painting parties for next week. She needs two volunteers from University Houses Gardens to help paint with her on Tuesday, May 11, at 6pm, and three volunteers from Eagle Heights on Thursday, May 13, again at 6pm. Please let me know if you’re interested. 

 Happy Gardening, 




Wednesday, April 21, 2021

From the Gardens Registrar: Cool Weather Plant Sale This Sunday, April 25; Two Volunteers Needed; Row Cover Will Return; No Word Yet on Water; A Few Rule Reminders; About Organic Growing

Hello Gardeners,

 UPCOMING PLANT SALE – On Sunday, April 25, Scott Williams, from Garden to Be, will be selling cool-weather plants at Eagle Heights, from 10am – 1pm. These are the plants he will be selling:

Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Lettuces (mixed and individual packs as well as salad mix packs), Napa Cabbage, Green and Red Cabbages, Cauliflower, Kales & Collards, Swiss Chard, Parsley (Italian flat & curly varieties), Thyme, and Sage.  Everything will be $2.50.  (That's the price whether it is a single plant pot (tomatoes, peppers, herbs, flowers, anything in a single pot) or a multipack like 4 or 6 plants per pack.) Please wear a mask and prepare to social distance. Scott will be back towards the end of May with tomato plants and other warm weather plants.

TWO VOLUNTEERS NEEDED – Scott will be bringing a crew to help him unload his truck and sell his plants. But we will need to provide two volunteers to help people social-distance. Volunteers should arrive at 9:45 a.m. to check in with Scott, and will probably be able to leave by 12:45. (I’m assuming he’ll sell out, and the sale will end before 1:00.) This is a work day – please let me know if you’re interested.

ROW COVER – We ran out of row cover at our sale last weekend, but we have more, and will have another sale soon. I’ll announce the date when we have it.

WATER – No word yet from the UW Plumbers about turning on our water, but we’re having cold nights again (and it’s snowing as I write this), so I’m guessing it won’t be until next week.

A FEW RULE REMINDERS – It’s early in the season, but I’m already receiving complaints from gardeners. One gardener complained that they keep finding things rearranged in their plot, plus toys have been left in their garden. Another gardener complained that tomato cages and other equipment left from last year’s gardener, which they were planning to use, has suddenly gone missing. Folks, I shouldn’t have to repeat this, but the rules state clearly – do not go into anybody else’s plot without being invited, and don’t let anybody who helps you with your plot (or who plays with trucks while you garden), go into other people’s plots. And while you’re not going into other people’s plots, be sure to not take anything while you’re (not) there – such as equipment, or plants, or vegetables. A community garden is not just a collection of individual plots – it is a community, and we are all in this together.

WHAT’S THIS ORGANIC THING? – (Gardeners in rows C-F at University Houses may ignore this and go do something useful instead.) New gardeners often ask if everything they plant in our gardens has to be organic. Seeds? Plants? No, it’s okay to use commercial seeds and plants in our plots, although organic seeds and plants become easier and easier to find. But any soil amenities you bring in, such as compost and store-bought mulch, must be organic. Likewise, anything you use in your plot in the way of fertilizer or insect-repelling substances must be organic. The practice of organic gardening is based on the belief that food raised without synthetic chemicals tastes better and is healthier, both for the person eating it, and for the planet in general. Organic gardening is based on a different relationship between the gardener and the garden – less adversarial, more cooperative. An organic gardener tries to build up the health of their soil in order to grow healthier, happier plants, in order to have healthier, happier food to eat.

Happy Gardening,


Wednesday, April 7, 2021


From the Gardens Registrar: Upcoming Plant Sales at EH; What Not to Plant; More Seeds; Water

 Hello Gardeners,

 UPCOMING PLANT SALES – On Sunday, April 25, Scott Williams, from Garden to Be, will be selling cool-weather plants at Eagle Heights. We haven’t set a time yet, but it will probably be from 10am – 1pm. Scott has sold plants to us for many years – he likes us because we give him a lot of business. We like him because he sells plants we want to buy, his quality is excellent, and he gives us good prices. Last year, due to the pandemic, we had a special arrangement, where gardeners had to order directly from him in advance. But this year, we think the sale can take place in a fairly normal way – with social distancing. For the cool weather sale, Scott will bring plants like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, kale, bok choi, and herbs. I will have more details in my next message. And Scott will be back on Sunday, May 23, to sell warm weather plants, such as tomato, pepper, and eggplant.

 WHAT NOT TO PLANT IN OUR GARDENS – New gardeners often ask about what plants are not allowed. We do not allow gardeners to plant trees in their plots. Other than that, the big three plants we do not want planted are mint, comfrey, and annual artemisia. The reason is that all of these plants are very aggressive, spread quickly, and are very hard to get rid of.

As for mint, there’s no need for any of us to plant it – the gardens are full of it. And it’s very tasty mint, too. But if you have it in your plot, and like having it, you’ll still want to pull a lot of it out, to keep it from spreading to your neighbors and taking over your entire plot. Mint is part of a large family of plants, which includes basil, lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, and many others. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if basil grew as easily as mint?) There are also lots of varieties of mint. If you want to have other kinds of mint than what grows wild in our gardens, plant them in pots in your garden. That way, they won’t escape and make trouble.

Comfrey is a beautiful plant with furry leaves and pretty blue flowers. It also grows wild in the gardens, and is very difficult to get rid of, because it has long tap roots. But there is at least one advantage to having so much of it around - the leaves are excellent fertilizer.  You can put them under your vegetable plants, where they will decompose very quickly and add nitrogen and other nutrients to your soil.

 Annual artemisia is often grown as an ornamental  for its foliage – there are lots of varieties. But there is one kind that is really out of control in our gardens – it has a number of names including Sweet Annie and Qing-hao. It’s a native of China, but has naturalized in this country. It spreads like crazy, the roots are hard to get out, and though it smells nice at first, the odor quickly becomes cloying. Though it has medicinal uses and can also be used to make wreaths and flower arrangements, those gardeners who get stuck with it hate it, and battle it constantly.

MORE SEEDS – We’re continuing to put out seeds on the share shelves several times a week. I’m putting the rest of the tomato and pepper seeds back in storage for next year, unless anybody lets me know they want them. Peas and turnips have joined the lettuce, carrots, radishes, kale, beets, and spinach.

WATER – Last year, the water was turned on for the season around April 20, which was a little earlier than usual. We don’t have a date for this year yet. It’s all weather-dependent. It’s very warm (and dry) right now, but we will still have cold nights in the next few weeks that could freeze the pipes. I will let everybody know when a date is set.

 Happy Gardening,