Friday, July 31, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
The harvest is really on now and even the tomatoes are starting to come in. There are many wonderful vegetables to eat now and I hope you are enjoying your meals after the hard work. The rains have come at good times this year but now it is getting a little drier. Be sure to mulch to conserve water and keep the roots at even moisture. Still time to plant fall crops in any open spaces.
This Sunday, August 2, we will have a workday at University Houses from 8 am to 11am to work on paths and common areas. Please reply if you would like to work this opportunity and I will get you more information. We will have workdays quite late into the fall but please remember that you need to meet your workday obligation by Dec. 1 (by working or paying the "no workday option" fee.
An event you might be interested in is coming up. There is a national and international movement to protect open-pollinated and heirloom varieties of vegetables and other food crops. Here in Madison, there will be a conference , a three day event sponsored by the Department of Horticulture. They invite farmers, gardeners, and curious eaters to Organic Seed School on August 9
Register by August 6! There is a fee, but there are meals involved. More information at
This is a great local opportunity to learn about seed programs and the importance of evaluating varieties for organic and home production.
The cranes have been sighted with an offspring so keep your eyes open in the gardens. The "colt" is so cute at this age. The parents might be extra protective so please move slowly around them.
Finally, I hope that some of you will consider serving the gardens as co-chairs. (Send a statement of interest by August 8). More information is available on our website under the email archive in the left column. We really appreciate the work it takes and how many volunteers contribute to making the gardens function.
Happy eating!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dear Gardeners:
We all know the Eagle Heights Community Gardens are a special place. And Madison Magazine called it one of Madison’s 8 hidden gem gardens. But it takes a lot of behind the scenes work to make the gardens run so well.
Although our gardens run smoothly thanks, in part, to the efforts of our excellent part-time paid employees, we also rely heavily on volunteer efforts. One of our main volunteer positions is that of Garden Committee Chair. This position is held by two individuals (Co-Chairs), who share the responsibilities and duties. We, Jennifer Mirrielees and Diana Bottomley, will be stepping down from our co-chair positions in the upcoming months.
Candidates for Co-Chair must be current Eagle Heights or University Houses gardeners. Ideally, the candidates could also be UW students and/or residents of Eagle Heights, University Houses, or Harvey Street Apartments. It is, however, not necessary for both of the Co-Chairs to be students/residents.
Thank you for considering serving the gardens in this capacity, and please pass this message on to anyone you know who might be interested. Attached is a document that provides a description of the chair position and what the chair does.  If you are interested, please send in a statement of interest by August 8th. The committee will discuss and vote at the September 9th committee meeting.
Please contact us with any questions or join us at our August 12th Committee Meeting at 6:30 at the Eagle Heights Garden to see what the chairs do and/or ask any questions at the end of the meeting.
Happy Gardening!
Jennifer Mirrielees and Diana Bottomley
Co-Chairs, Eagle Heights Garden Committee

Eagle Heights Garden Committee Chair Description
The description below outlines all the responsibilities the Chair has in the gardens. While we often refer to “The Chair”, remember that the position is split between two individuals, each acting as a Co-Chair. Communication between the Co-Chairs is critical.
The Chair of the garden committee is a volunteer position whose primary responsibility is facilitating communication within the gardens. The main duty of the Committee Chair is presiding at and moderating the garden meetings; the Chair also helps to moderate the forum and the discussion list. The Committee Chair has no particular power to make decisions but does have power to frame the debate, set agendas, encourage or limit debate, and bring issues to a vote. Because of this, the Chair has a special responsibility to make sure that all voices are heard and that everyone who is interested has a chance to participate.
Other aspects of the Committee Chair's role as communication facilitator include making sure that minutes are taken at garden meetings, taking notes at the Garden Oversight Committee (GOC) meetings, and being a representative from the garden committee to the GOC, along with the Registrar and Field Staff. The Chair also announces garden meetings and agendas and ensures that minutes and other relevant information is distributed. While the Registrar is the primary person who communicates with all gardeners via the e-mail list, the Committee Chair also has some responsibility to make sure that all gardeners are staying informed and are given the chance to be involved in decision making.
In addition to the communication role outlined above, the Chair is expected to help the Registrar and Treasurer prepare annual budgets and provide oversight to make sure that income and expenses are in line with projections. The Chair is expected to check in regularly with the Registrar and Field Staff regarding the hours they work and their completion of necessary tasks. The Chair also assists the Registrar in the general running of the gardens, for example by reminding the Registrar or other committee members of things that might be falling through the cracks, and by making sure that policies are clear and the pertinent issues are brought up at the garden meetings.
The Chair may also choose to take on special projects as desired. Ideally, the Chair would also set an example to gardeners and other Garden Committee members by providing leadership at occasional workdays.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
We are having a really great year for weather with well-timed rains and warm temperatures. The abundance at the gardens is amazing with the beans, cucumbers and squash coming in and the spring vegetables still holding in there. Even the birds are nesting for second and third times with the favorable conditions.
Workday opportunity:
This week on Sunday, July 26, there will be a workday from 8 am to 11 am at Eagle Heights garden to work on common areas, fruit plantings and the weed pile maintenance. Please email if you would like to work this workday and I'll get you more information.
With the harvest comes the question of how to put away all the extra veggies for winter and keep things from going to waste. There are many options including the Food Pantry but also canning, dehydrating, freezing and pickling. Check out some resources from Extension here
Also on our website: resources for dehydrating and pickling recipes (bottom of the page)
Onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots and beets will keep a long time if properly stored and don't forget to put in some fall crops now to keep the harvest going.
This is really mid-season now so I'd like to ask you a favor. Take a couple of minutes and contribute to the garden upkeep. Pick up trash, get things out of the paths, return tools or carts that are left away from the shed and be a good garden citizen. We need many hands to keep the gardens going and you can show your appreciation in many individual ways or join the garden committee and participate that way (next meeting is at Eagle Heights on August 12).
Happy gardening and eating!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Worms, weeds and thefts

Dear Gardeners,
The harvests are really coming in now. The squash plants are growing daily and threatening to take over. I see lots of beans and squash and even some peppers and eggplants. Just a few cherry tomatoes so far but the vines are looking great.
There is a new invasive species of earthworm coming into Wisconsin and we have now had a confirmed observation of them in the Gardens. For background, all earthworms are introduced (not native ) in Wisconsin and we generally think of them as beneficial in gardens. These new earthworms ("crazy" worms or" jumping" worms) are a big problem in forests and natural areas since they have large populations that eat all the material on the forest floor. They will eat the organic material in gardens too and will change the soil texture. A gardener in University Houses gardens took some in for diagnosis and had confirmation but we have had several reports from Eagle Heights as well.
More info and pictures here:
The cocoons can be spread in soil, transplants, on boots and tires and tools and with discarded fishing bait. To avoid spreading these around to natural areas or your home landscaping, please clean your tools and boots. Otherwise, be aware that you might want to mulch more heavily to increase the organic material in your soil. Pulling weeds and using them as mulch around the plants is certainly easier than taking them away to the weed pile and you should consider this as a way to keep soil and organic material in your plot.
Sometimes, I worry about the weekly message about pests in the gardens, but then I look around and see all the production. There are strategies to work on the pests and to encourage predators to keep them in balance. We have a very active ecosystem and pests are just a part of it. Each year, some crops suffer, but others do very well. Don't get overwhelmed by the ups and down and just enjoy the vegetables that are thriving.
Finally, I am discouraged by the report of thefts from the gardens and the food pantry bins. This is despicable behavior and our best way to prevent this is to watch out for each other's plots and the food pantry bins. Please get to know your garden neighbors and question people if you see them in someone else's plot. If you are going to be away on a trip and ask someone to watch your plot, please make sure they know the location and the boundaries so they are not harvesting in someone else's plot. You are responsible for getting this message to all the gardeners in your plot and there are serious consequences for thefts including loss of gardening privileges and possible police involvement.
The middle of July is usually the last point to plant additional summer crops, but from now until the end of August, you can plant fall vegetables: bok choi, napa cabbage, arugula, lettuce, beets, carrots, broccoli raab, turnips  and many more.
Don't forget to enjoy your gardens as you are working. The flowers look so great now and the smells (basil and dill and cilantro) are heavenly and the bees are busy and buzzing. This is a great time of salads and curries and stir-fry with real abundance. We all await the tomatoes and cucumbers that are not far away.
Gretel, Garden Registra

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dear Gardeners,

What great timing for the rain this week! The gardens are getting to be quite a jungle as the beans get tall and the tomatoes get bushy.  I see some early green beans being harvested and squash starting to bloom. The hummingbirds and bees have been very happy with all the flowers blooming.

This weekend, we'll have two workdays at University Houses gardens: Saturday, 7/11 and Sunday, 7/12, both from 8 am to 11 am. Please reply if you would like to work one of these opportunities (workday credit is available working at either garden site). The plans call for weeding in the blueberries, fixing up the paths and maintenance of common areas.

You might want to check out the Garden blog by Jennifer for more info and pictures about last year's crane chick. On the webpage at :

I've seen a few Japanese beetles in the gardens. These black, shiny and metallic-looking beetles eat a lot and like many crops and flowers. They are slow and you can hand-pick them into a jar of soapy water to kill them. Pictures available here:

Please remember that all of the plots at Eagle Heights are restricted to only organic methods , including fertilizers and pest control. You can find some guidelines on our website. We have a lot of children (and ourselves) and wildlife to protect.

As you pull out the lettuce and spinach in this warmer weather, be sure to replant some bush beans, cilantro or basil.  It is getting late for tomatoes or peppers to go in, but you still might get some summer squash which grow very fast.

Hoping you are enjoying the beets and carrots and onions I see being harvested now,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Looks like a stretch of incredibly nice weather in store for us this week and for the holiday weekend.  The summer crops will be happy with some sunshine and we'll all have a chance to catch up in the plots.
Happy, happy news!
I had some very good news to share. The crane chick from last year was hit by a car on University Bay Drive but went to a rehabilitation center for the winter. She is fully healed now and flying well and has formed a friendship with a male crane at the center. We are so happy since her injuries prevented her from migrating and now it seems she has recovered and comes and goes from the center at will.

Workday at EH:
This Sunday, we'll have a workday from 8 am to 11 am at Eagle Heights to work on weeding in the fruit trees and paths. Please reply if you would like to work this opportunity and I'll get you more information.
Mexican bean beetles sighted:
I've had one report of bean beetles starting up in the bean plants. We have released insect predators for these pests in the past and may do so again if there are a lot of problems. You can see pictures of the yellow fuzzy larvae and eggs here:
Hand-picking the larvae and destroying the egg masses is the best control, but please let me know if you see these on your beans so we can decide whether to purchase the insect controls. We will only do this if we have a lot of damage since they are expensive and won't be effective unless we have a lot of beetles for them to eat.
Garlic harvest?
A few varieties of garlic are getting ready to harvest. Some early varieties may be ready now but others may be up to a month from now. There is a narrow window if you want to harvest and store garlic for all winter. Too soon and the heads aren't finished growing and won't dry well; too late and they coverings will not prevent spoilage.   Most recommendations are that there are some dry leaves and some green leaves on the plants at harvest and you can read about it here as well as how to cure for storage:
I've seen some beans with blossoms and even a few with little beans. The onions are starting to bulb up and the squash plants are really starting their growth spurt and some are starting to produce. Just a wonderful time now in the gardens. Please remember the Food Pantry program (Saturday before 10 am pickup or Wednesday before 8 am) if you have surplus.
Gretel, Garden Registrar