Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Welcome rain, but a real change of seasons is coming. There is some possibility of frost, especially if you are at University Houses or the bottom of the hill at Eagle Heights. Many things will survive light frost but the tomatoes, basil and other summer vegetables are usually killed by the first frost. One possibility to stretch out the season is to cover the veggies with row cover, fabric or cardboard boxes, but be sure to remove covers in the daytime. These protect the plants just a few degrees but can be useful if we are just near freezing.
Time to start thinking about where to plant the garlic (and shallots) and this Saturday, Oct. 3, there will be a garlic-planting workshop at Eagle Heights at 9 am. The weather should be chilly but clear and come learn about soil preparation, varieties to plant and tips for success from Gary. Meet at the Eagle Heights garden shed. It might be a little early to plant now, but you could still search out varieties at the  farmers' market and get the soil bed ready to plant in mid-to-late October.
Will arranged for horse manure to be brought to Eagle Heights. This is from Hoofer's (Memorial Union horse programs) and is partly composted and available for free. We can't dump any at University Houses because of the proximity of neighbors, but U Houses gardeners can bring vehicles and use carts to transport some to your car in buckets or a plastic-lined trunk. It would be ideal to work into the soil in any vacant spots you have to overwinter. We'd rather not have it piled over winter since runoff at spring thaw will be an issue so hopefully it can go out to plots now.
I've seen many butterflies around the gardens and migrating birds coming through. I'm hoping for a long fall with beautiful colors and plenty of time to harvest the last crops and clean up for next year.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall is here and garlic workshop in Oct.

Dear Gardeners,
Fall comes in this week but we are having lovely weather. The trees are just starting to have a few colored leaves and the geese have been honking overhead, but our gardens continue to produce. There are many fall chores to get done and a great time to be outside. Cleaning up plots now means that there will be less disease problems in the spring and an early start to planting those great spring vegetables.
One possibility if you are returning next year is to plant garlic or shallots to overwinter. Garlic can be planted in the spring, but the overwintered bulbs will get larger and be ready sooner. Gary, a gardener in the 600's , has offered a garlic planting workshop at the Eagle Heights gardens for Oct. 3 at 9 am. Come learn how easy it is to plant garlic bulbs and get some tips on soil preparation and timing. The local farmers' markets will have many varieties to try or you can plant some of your own if you are happy with the results.
The Garden Committee has just approved the application for next year. One change involve making sure that tall plant structures are sturdy and not shading the neighbors. The other is a specific prohibition of glass in the gardens after some difficulties this year. Plexiglass or plastic can be used for cold-frames but glass windows or jars should be removed since broken glass can be very difficult to pick up completely and poses a safety issue for other gardeners.
The new applications will be available on the website in mid-December. Every gardener, new and returning, needs to reapply each year. Please mark your calendars or set a reminder now. Each year, some returning gardeners miss the application period and are very disappointed when they find their plot has been reassigned . I make every effort to get gardeners in good standing back into their plots if they apply on time, but I can't do that if you don't apply. University Houses apartments are newly renovated and  being filled and  Hill Farms gardens are closing  so apply early since we may get more applications than ever next year. After Feb. 15, 2016, any remaining plots are filled on a first-come, first placed basis so don't miss the deadline.
We can expect to continue to get greens and fall vegetables into November. The birds are enjoying the sunflower seeds and soon we'll be getting deliveries of leaves for mulching down the beds. Enjoy your fall and all the good harvest meals. Be sure to check out the lunar eclipse due Sunday night around 9 pm with an especially close and large moon!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
Wet, wet, wet.... The gardens are enjoying the rain and this will help replenish the ground moisture. After the rain, the weeds will pull easily and the weekend looks lovely.
Sunday, Sept. 20, there will be a workday at Eagle Heights to weed common areas and work on paths from 4 pm to 7 pm. This was decided late so please just come if you would like to work this opportunity. Meet at the Eagle Heights garden shed by 4 pm. Bring gloves for working and water to drink. Be sure to sign in on the sheet for workday credit for your plot.
Saw quite a few migrating butterflies in the gardens along with warblers and raptors!
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
The cooler temps are certainly welcome to gardeners after the heat and humidity but the garden plants enjoyed the summer weather. The harvest continues and we hope to have Food Pantry collections again this Saturday morning for any extra produce.
This Sunday, Sept. 13, there will be a workday at University Houses gardens from 4 pm to 7 pm to work on paths and restore the areas around the water system changes. Please reply if you would like more information and want to work. With fall coming on, we will have workdays but can't do evenings too late since the days are getting shorter. We try to move the workday schedule around when we can to accommodate work and activity schedules, but most workdays in the fall will be weekends midday.
You may have noticed the excellent new hose reel installed this summer. Today, more stations are going in at University Houses so that it will be easier to get the hoses to plots and returned in good condition. This will also mean that the paths will be clearer for traffic if the hoses are returned properly. Please take a few minutes to note how to release and return the hose. The reels were a definite investment and we want them to last a long time. There is a good system to store the reels and hoses over the winter and we hope this makes a much improved system for watering.
I have gotten some questions about "no workday option" fees. If you haven't been able to make a workday or haven't already paid, you can meet your obligation by paying this fee ($32 for a large plot; $16 for a small plot) by Dec. 1. After Dec. 1, you lose your priority to ask for you plot back if you haven't met your obligation. If you pay after Dec. 1, you are considered a new gardener and must pay the fee along with a late fee ($20 large plot;$10 small plot) before an application for 2016 can be accepted. You can pay by check made out to Division of University Housing and dropped off or mailed to the Eagle Heights Community Center, ATTN: Gardens, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI 53705. If you have any question about whether you paid or already worked, please just email and I can check the status for your plot.
As plants go to seed, you might consider keeping some seeds for next year. Some hybrid plants or those that cross-pollinate might not breed true, but many heirloom varieties of beans, flowers, herbs and tomatoes can easily be kept and replanted. If you have seeds to share, please consider labeling some extra packets and bringing them to next year's seed fair or sharing with your neighbors. See more information here on seed saving:
Now is a good time to reflect on the wonder of the gardens as we carry away such lovely vegetables and enjoy such good meals. Gratitude for the blessings helps body and soul.
Gretel, Garden Registrar

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dear Gardeners,
I'm enjoying the tomatoes and summer vegetables, but really looking forward to the crisp days of fall. Like the salad greens, I wilt in this heat. The gardens are really ramped up and going strong and the rain last week perked them up too.  The Food Pantry collections will be going on Saturday morning and don't forget to pick a little extra for the hungry.
This Saturday, we'll have a workday at University Houses gardens from 8 am to 11 am Icooler in the morning) to work on the paths and common areas. Please reply if you would like to work this opportunity and I'll get you more information.
I also got notice that there will be some grading work done at U Houses today trying to solve some of the runoff issues. Please be careful around the equipment and keep an eye on the children.
Next Tuesday, at the West Madison Agricultural Station, there will be an organic field day with taste testing of vegetables (try a lot of different varieties and give flavor feedback) and lots of good advice on organic management. The station is just outside the Beltline at 8502 Mineral Point Road and the Field day is Tuesday, Sept. 8 from 4 pm to 7 pm. More information here:
Just a reminder to all gardeners about the 2016 applications. We are revising the application now and every gardener will need to reapply for next year. Returning gardeners in good standing can request their same plot back and I'll make every effort to meet the requests if you apply in time and are paid up. Every year, people forget to apply and are disappointed when their plot has already been reassigned. Please mark your calendars. Applications will be available on the website in mid-December and must be submitted by Feb. 15, 2016 for prioritization. After Feb. 15, plots are assigned on a first-come basis.
It is not too soon to make some notes now about the varieties that you liked or want to replace next year and how you want to change how or when you plant. Make a map of the garden so you know where to rotate the tomatoes and what did well in what places or where to look for the perennials to return. Every year is different but even experienced gardeners try new tricks and keep learning.
I'm amazed at the insect variety in the gardens and the types of birds. The Redtail hawks are "weaning" their young and you'll hear the piteous cries of the youngsters who have to learn to hunt for themselves. The warblers are starting to come through and many hummingbirds fattening up for the trip south. Enjoy!
Gretel, Garden Registrar