Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dear Gardeners,
I was greeted this morning in the gardens by the cries of the red-tailed hawk offspring. Apparently, Mom and Dad are trying to get the young to hunt for themselves and they are begging to be fed. Quite a racket, but at least they are bringing the kids to hunt for rodents in the gardens. Those first tomatoes and peppers are coming in along with lots of squash and beans. I rejoice as I see gardeners walking out with their vegetables and loaded down with produce. The food pantry donations are picking up but please only donate on Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning by 8 a.m. or Friday evening/Saturday morning by 10 a.m. so that the vegetables will be in good shape when they are delivered.
This week we have two workdays at Eagle Heights to do the 100/200 row of plumbing replacements. We could really use your help in this project so that it goes as smoothly and quickly as possible and we get the water turned back on soon. This Thursday, July 31, we'll work to dig out the old water line from 5 pm to 8 pm. We'll be renting a trencher and digging in for the new line on Saturday (Will and Adam will do this) but on Sunday, August 3, we'll have a workday from 8 am to 11 am to replace the dirt and get the path back into shape in order to get the water back on late on Sunday. All of this is weather dependent but we are trying to do the shortest job we can. If the weather doesn't cooperate, we'll need to do it the following weekend.
Please be careful in the 100/200 path not to scatter the dirt around and handle the taps carefully. We hope to have the water on until late Friday although the pipes will be exposed. There won't be cart access during the process, but you should be able to get to the plots. Water should remain on in the rest of the gardens.
Some of you have discovered the lake weeds piled uphill of the leaf pile. These are smelly and disgusting, but great fertilizer. They are probably too strong to put directly on most plants and are quite an active soup (with a few dead minnows). Please be careful not to let children play in this and wash your hands carefully after using since it is fermenting and slimy. If you have an open spot in the gardens where something has come out (maybe the garlic or onions), you can pile up the lake weeds, cover with leaves and let them sit a while to dig in later.  This is a way to take the nutrients that are polluting the lake and use them to grow food instead.
Please also keep an eye out for bean beetles. We have had problems with these in the past but released some predators for them. We can do this again if there are widespread problems so please report if you see the fuzzy yellow larvae.  Pictures of what to look for here:
Crushing the eggs or larvae by hand is recommended and can be quite effective.
The gardens are studded with sunflowers in bloom now. It is great to see them poking up among the other plantings and the goldfinches are very busy eating at the seeds. They always remind me of cheery faces as I get to the plots.
Hoping for some rain (but not during the plumbing project).
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dear Gardeners,
Whew! I'm not used to the warm weather, but the plants are loving it. The onions and garlic are finishing up along with some of the potatoes and the green beans, cucumbers and even tomatoes are coming in.
In the wildlife side, we are pestered with small rodents, especially voles, but there are two new sightings that may help. First, we have had multiple sitings of mink in the gardens. Last year, one was sighted at University Houses and this year at Eagle Heights. These may be from the same family, but probably not. One Eagle Height's sighting was a younger one. Mink are weasel-like with furry long tails and their favorite food is voles (Yeah!). They do have a bad temper and sharp teeth so don't corner them or approach closely, but we are happy to have them around.
Secondly, the pair of cranes in the Preserve lost their first nest, but were seen in Eagle Heights with a new chick (called a colt). The young one is only about a foot tall, all legs and bill and fluff, and guarded carefully by the parents. Please don't approach too closely, but the parents seem used to us gardening and are rather calm unless any dogs are around. We rejoice in their success in offspring after a couple of years without any young.
We will have a workday this Thursday evening (7/24) from 5 pm to 8 pm to work on the Eagle Heights arbor and other common plantings. It is likely to be cooler by then. On Saturday, 7/26, there will be a workday from 8 am to 11 am. That day, we'll be moving wood chips, working on the weed pile area and paths. If you would like to work either of these opportunities, email me and I will get you more details.
Upcoming workdays: We are going to have a need for workers on Thursday, July 30 and Sunday, August 3 when the plumbing for the 100/200 water line is being replaced. We have had problems with this, our oldest plumbing, for some time and the line is not buried very deep so prone to problems. We will be replacing it with a better line and new faucets but that means digging up the old line, placing new and attaching faucets. We want to minimize the disruption of water supply and the other water lines will remain working during the time. So if you want to be part of this project, set aside some time to help on Thursday evening or Sunday morning next week. I'll have more details later.
Now is the time when you may have more produce than you can immediately eat. Of course you can share with family and friends or give to the Food Pantry on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. You might also want to preserve some of it for later meals by canning, freezing, pickling, dehydrating and other methods. This is a chance to learn some new techniques. Check out our website for some pointers at the bottom of this page.
This is probably the last week to put in the final bush beans.  You can start to put in some fall crops now. Think about Napa cabbage, bok choi, spinach, lettuce, radish, carrot, beet, kale, arugula and many more greens. The flea beetles die down in the fall and so these crops do even better than in the spring.
Giving thanks for the generosity of the earth,
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dear Gardeners,
Well the summer crops are coming in although the temperature today doesn't seem very summery. I've seen red tomatoes in a few places, lots of beans and cucumbers and squash and a few peppers and eggplant. It is a bit of a jungle with the squash trailing all over and the beans trying to climb the other plants.
We are looking for some additional help for the food pantry program. Every culture has a charitable tradition and most plots have extra produce at some times of the year. We need to have at least one more coordinator to make sure that the food pantry gets our donations in good shape and that we build an enthusiastic community of contributors to the program. If you would be willing to help, please let me know. We also need a few more delivery drivers for Wednesday deliveries. You can get workday credit for supporting the program so please volunteer if you can. Pick-ups are Wednesdays by 8 am and Saturdays by 10 am if you would like to donate produce.
We will have a workday at Eagle Heights on Saturday, July 19 from 8 am to 11 am. We will be working on the common plantings and plot weeding and moving wood chips. Please email me if you would like to work this opportunity and I will get you more details.
I see a lot of garlic and onions about ready to harvest (or already coming out). Some of the potatoes are ready too. Be sure to plan some fall plantings to go into these beds when you get the crops out. Last year, I was harvesting bok choi and kale into December so lots of time to grow some additional vegetables and extend the season.
Take some time to enjoy the smells of the summer season. I love the basil and dill and cilantro and flower smells as I walk to my plot.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dear Gardeners,
We continue to get rain when we need it and the gardens are looking fine and prosperous. I see beans coming in and the raspberries in full swing. Cucumbers and even some cherry tomatoes are getting ready. Really great summer eating is already starting and I hope you are enjoying the results of the hard work.
This Saturday, July 12 from 8 to 11 am, we'll have a workday at Eagle Heights to do mulching of the sunflowers, weeding in the common plantings and some plot clearing. Please email me if you would like to work this opportunity and I will get you more details.
This is vacation season and people are doing more traveling. If friends are watching and harvesting your garden, please be sure they can identify your plot and its boundaries. Each year, we have visitors who harvest in the wrong plots and this can lead to serious consequences including police involvement. You might try putting ribbon or tape on your plot corners or numbered sign to make your plot very identifiable and be sure visitors know the rules of the garden and don't enter other plots. We take thefts seriously so please watch over your neighbors plots as well to make sure mistakes don't occur.
The mid-summer brings some bothersome pests and Japanese beetles have been sighted in the gardens. These black and multicolor beetles are very destructive and they like raspberries, grapes and flowers as well as beans and other vegetables. The best way to get rid of them is to hand pick or knock them off into a cup of soapy water where they drowned. There are some commercial traps to attract them into a jar, but be aware you may be calling them into your plot if you use this method. Usually, they have a short run but can eat a lot of foliage during that time.
See more information here:
We are also starting to see downy mildew on basil plants. Here is some information on this pest :
Please note that overhead watering is not a good idea for these fungal diseases and that includes the septoria leaf spot that we see on tomatoes each year. Lots of air, weeding, and watering at the base of plants are recommended to avoid spreading the diseases. Vegetables and basil are OK to eat even with the problems, and some varieties are more resistant to these diseases so make a note of good varieties to plant in later years.
In just a couple of weeks, it will be time to plant some fall crops to continue the harvest. Last year, we were harvesting vegetables into December, so be sure to consider putting in some crops in August as the spots open up.
Happy eating,
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dear Gardeners,
What a rain last night! I swear my tomatoes have doubled in size this week and at least the weeds are pulling easily.
There is construction starting on University Houses apartments and expect some new fencing and equipment. We have been assured that the road to the parking area will remain open and that a path alongside the woods in the northeast corner of the gardens will cut through to Eagle Heights. Please let me know if you have any problems getting to the gardens, but we understand that there will be temporary difficulties as the work goes on.
This Wednesday, we start our donations to the food pantry. The Share the Bounty project collects produce from Eagle Heights and University Houses gardeners and transports it to the St. Vincent De Paul food pantry, the county’s largest food bank. Here’s how it works. Starting Wednesday, 7/2,, containers are placed behind the University Houses garden shed on the white stands. Put your extra vegetables in the containers by 8 a.m. Wednesday or by 10:00 a.m. Saturday. Volunteers take the vegetables to the pantry where they will be much appreciated by families who can’t afford to buy enough healthy food. Growing fresh food in our community garden is great. Sharing our bounty with those in need is even better. Please donate if you have good quality produce to share and please do not remove anything from the bins.
Extra produce can also be put on the "share" shelves by the bulletin board anytime and anyone is welcome to take items from there.
This Thursday, 7/3, we'll have a workday at Eagle Heights to move wood chips, weed plots and fruit plantings and general maintenance from 5 pm to 8 pm. We'll continue that work on Saturday, 7/5, from 8 am to 11 am. If you would like to work one of these opportunities, please reply with which one you are volunteering for and I will get you more information.
As you pull out your bolting lettuce and spinach, consider putting in some bush beans or cilantro to stretch out the harvest. I see the peas are finishing up but the carrots and bush beans are coming in. There are still lots of big toads in the gardens and I've started seeing baby toads as well. Thanks to all of those who planted flowers that make the gardens a happy place and encourage the pollinators.
Gretel, Garden Registrar