Wednesday, September 27, 2017

From the Gardens Registrar: The “F” Word; How to Protect Your Plants, and Which Ones to Protect; Leaf Mulch and Compost Coming to EH Soon; Workdays

Hello Gardeners,

FIRST FROST – Despite the recent heatwave, we are now at the end of September, and it’s time to start thinking about the inevitable plunging of temperatures. Once we get into October, frost becomes increasingly likely, and we will probably have our first one of the season around the middle of the month. Most often, the first frosts are light. If you cover your cold-sensitive plants, they’ll probably survive. Nevertheless, you should plan to harvest the last of your peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants soon. If you have cherry tomatoes, you can pull up the whole plant, and hang it up inside to let the fruits ripen. If you have small-fruited hot peppers that have turned red, you can also pull up the plant, and hang it up inside until the peppers have dried. They’ll keep for years, and even stay hot if you keep them in closed containers.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PLANTS FROM LIGHT FROST – A light fabric covering can really save your plants when there’s only a few degrees of frost. Sheets and old blankets are traditional. Cardboard boxes work too. You can also buy fancy plant protectors from garden centers, but the home remedies are just as good until it gets seriously cold. You should cover the plants in the evening so that they’ll retain some of the warmth of the day, but it’s best then to take off the coverings once the sun comes out the next morning, so they don’t get too warm. Start watching the weather forecasts carefully, and be ready to take action when frost threatens. By the way, frost tends to settle, so those of us in the lower parts of the gardens will probably get frost before the gardeners up on the hill do. 

WHICH VEGETABLES ARE MOST SENSITIVE TO FROST? The plants that we’ll probably lose first include: beans, cucumbers, melons, eggplants, peppers, basil, and both summer and winter squash. (With winter squash, the plant is sensitive, but the fruits can survive a few light frosts, though that will affect their keeping qualities.)

WHICH VEGETABLES WILL SURVIVE FROSTS? Peas, cabbages (including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc.), spinach, lettuce, onions, radishes, parsley, chard, and root crops can withstand some frost. Kale and some of the other greens taste better after a frost. If you mulch these crops heavily, some of them will keep producing almost until the ground freezes.

WHEN WILL EAGLE HEIGHTS GET MORE LEAF MULCH? The Village of Shorewood Hills has  already begun their leaf collection, so we should start seeing leaves for mulch soon at EH. These will be fresh leaves, though, not half-composted like the ones we started out with this spring. They’ll still be excellent for protecting crops from frost, or for leaving on your garden to protect and nurture the soil over the winter. Also, we still have some compost from the West Ag Station, and we’ll hold another compost sale in October, in time for putting your garden to bed for the winter. I’ll let people know when a date has been set.

WORKDAYS – I’ve already sent out a notice about tomorrow’s workday (Thursday, September 28) at University Houses Gardens (at the end of Haight Road), 4pm – 7pm. The task will be continuing to cover the paths with wood chips. In case you missed it, here’s the link to sign up:

We’ll also have a workday on Sunday morning, (October 1) also at University Houses Gardens, from 8am – 11am. The task will be completing the path work, and then cleaning and clearing the fruit tree area. Here’s the link for the Sunday morning workday:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

From the Gardens Registrar: Weed Disposal; Root Balls; Jumping Worms; Tomatoes; Garlic Workshop; Two Workdays!

Hello Gardeners,

WEED DISPOSAL – The area where the weeds and leaves used to be has to be kept clear, in preparation for the big concrete pad construction coming later this fall. So don’t throw your weeds in the old place -  please place your weeds at the east end of that area, just across the road from the wood chip pile. Most people have made the switch, but it only takes a few people throwing their weeds in the wrong place, and then everybody else starts doing it.

ROOT BALLS - Also, our weed pile has to be just weeds, and no soil. When the Village of Shorewood picks up our weeds, they take them to an organic compost site. When there’s a lot of dirt in the pile, it gets rejected, and has to be taken somewhere else. (This just happened.) This is even more important now, because of the jumping worms. (see below.) So when you’re getting rid of big plants with big root balls, don’t dig them up – just cut them down, leaving the roots in the soil in your plot. This is less work for you, and it will mean less soil in the weed pile. The roots will deteriorate and rot before you plant next spring.

JUMPING WORMS – We definitely have jumping worms in our gardens, and they spread very easily. In fact, it’s practically impossible to stop them. So be very careful if you dig up plants in your plot and move them to your home garden – that’s a good way to spread worms. And of course, be careful if you’re sharing plants with friends in the gardens. These worms are very destructive to soil, due to their feeding habits and their large numbers. Unfortunately, they do survive our winters, and they have no real predators – apparently, they taste yucky, even to toads. Here’s an article on research done at the UW:

TOO MANY TOMATOES? – If you’re over-run with tomatoes, take a look at these recipes and ideas, and try some out. However, please do not throw your tomatoes at other people (a suggestion at the end of the list, for the truly desperate):
GARLIC WORKSHOP - On Saturday, September 23, Gary, the Eagle Heights Garlic Czar, will offer his yearly talk about how and when to plant fall garlic. The title will be, “Why It Is Best to Plant Garlic After October 5 This Year.” This will take place at 10am near the Eagle Heights Shed.

TWO UPCOMING WORKDAYS –  FRIDAY AND SATURDAY – We will have a workday this Friday afternoon, September 22, from 4pm – 7pm at University Houses Gardens, which is at the end of Haight Road. The task will be continuing path maintenance. Here’s the link to sign up for the Friday afternoon at University Houses:

We will also have a workday on Saturday, September 23, 8am – 11am, at Eagle Heights. The task will be clearing weeds and debris from the tree line. Here’s the link to sign up for the Saturday morning at Eagle Heights:

Remember, gloves, a hat, and a water bottle are always useful. If you have trouble signing up for a workday, you are welcome to just show up. For most tasks, we don’t really have a limit on participation. Just be sure to put your name and plot number on the workday sheet so you get credit for participating.

Happy Gardening and Happy Autumn Equinox on Friday,