Wednesday, October 25, 2017

From the Gardens Registrar; Winterization; Compost Sale; Fruit, Common and Uncommon; Produce Theft; Freezing Swiss Chard; Workday

Hello Gardeners,

WINTERIZATION IS STARTING – Night-time temperatures are going to mostly be in the 30’s from now on, so frost is likely any time – maybe tonight? Water has now been turned off for the season at Eagle Heights, and will be off at University Houses by the end of this afternoon.  The gardens won’t officially close for the season until the last weekend of November or the first weekend of December, depending on the weather. At that point, we’ll put most of the tools and garden carts into the garden sheds for the winter. But we do always leave a few out, for people who may be working a little later in the season.  However, the portable toilets will be gone on November 15.

COMPOST SALE – We will be selling the rest of our West Ag Station compost at Eagle Heights on Sunday, October 29, from 1pm – 2pm.  The site will be open space north of our 500 rows. (From the shed, walk down into the gardens on the path that parallels Lake Mendota Drive, pass the Arbor and the 500’s.) The price for a half-cart will be $5, and our garden workers or volunteers will load the carts. Please bring exact change if at all possible. This is a great opportunity to get a pile of compost you can leave in your plot until Spring. Then you can spread it and plant at your own convenience.

COMPOST FOR UNIVERSITY HOUSES – If you garden at University Houses, here’s a link for you to sign up to have compost delivered to your very own plot. YOU MUST PROVIDE YOUR PLOT NUMBER in order to get compost delivered.  Otherwise, we won’t know where we’re bringing it to, right? (Note: this is for University Houses gardeners only.)

FRUIT IN COMMON AREAS – It’s good that so many of our gardeners know that we have common areas with fruit that everyone is welcome to pick. Unfortunately, some people are not careful about making sure the fruit they’re gathering really does belong to everybody. There are a number of gardens with lots of raspberry bushes. Be careful and respectful. If a plot has a plot marker, it’s not a common area – it’s somebody’s plot. And they won’t appreciate you helping yourself to their fruit.

CONTINUED PRODUCE THEFT – I continue to get reports from people who are finding their vegetables missing – not just a few, but entire rows gone. Just another reminder – we all work hard on our gardens, and it’s maddening and frustrating when other people take our stuff. To reiterate – nobody should be in another gardener’s plot without that person’s permission. Nobody should consider a plot abandoned just because they haven’t seen somebody working there for a few days. With fall upon us, people aren’t spending as much time in their gardens as they were in the summer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve stopped gardening or don’t care about their produce any more.

FREEZING SWISS CHARD – Chard doesn’t mind light frost, but hard frost will kill it. You can mulch your chard heavily to keep it alive longer, but considering the current forecast, you might as well just pick and freeze it. These directions also apply to freezing any greens, such as spinach, collards, and kale: wash the leaves, blanch them in boiling water, plunge them into ice water to stop them cooking, and then freeze them in freezer bags. More details:

WORKDAY – This weekend’s workday will be at Eagle Heights, on Sunday, October 29, from 1pm – 4pm. The task will be prepping the tree lines for winter. (Which is what the task has been for the last couple of workdays, only the weather has been crummy.) Please bring gloves – there are lots of thistles in the tree lines. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

From the Gardens Registrar: Bicycles, Compost Sale; Leaves; Compost Tea; Garlic Planting; Workday

Hello Gardeners,

BICYCLES IN THE GARDENS – We are all very glad that so many people ride their bicycles to and through our gardens. Bicycles are definitely allowed and encouraged. But please remember that our gardens are part of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, and bicycles are not allowed in the prairie and woods in the Preserve. Bicycles are a great method of transportation, but they can be very destructive to natural ecosystems. So, within the gardens, yes, but outside of the gardens, no, except on paved paths.

COMPOST SALE – We still have some compost left from the West Ag Station, and we will be selling it the last weekend of this month, October 28 or 29, depending on the weather. The price will be $5 per half-cart, and our garden workers will load the carts. This will be a great opportunity to get mulch to use when you’re preparing your garden beds for the winter. I’ll announce the day and times in my next message.

The sale will be at Eagle Heights. BUT if your plot is at University Houses, you can put in a request for mulch to be delivered! We’ll have a Doodle poll set up for you to use to make your requests. I’ll get you the link for that in my next message too.

LEAF MULCH – University Houses will be getting more leaves this fall, which we hope will last through next summer. As you’ll remember (bitterly), the constant wet weather this spring made it impossible to deliver leaves to you, so UH was without leaves for many months. This time, you should have plenty for a long time.

At Eagle Heights, we will also get leaves, but we are trying to delay delivery, because the big weed pile construction project has finally started, and we want to avoid conflicts between all the trucks. However, we know that gardeners want leaves for their gardens, and Shorewood also wants to get rid of them, so Eagle Heights will still get leaves pretty soon, in our usual spot. Meanwhile, the CALS garden plots, in the northwest part of the garden space, next to the Water Utility building, will be getting leaves, and we can use some of those as well.

ACTIVELY AERATED COMPOST TEA – On Saturday, October 21, Gary K., our garlic czar and compost tea guru, will be bringing containers of compost tea to share with fellow gardeners. This tea, when mixed with water and spread on your plot, introduces useful microbes to your soil. It will be available 9am – Noon. You may use the water in the gardens, or else bring a gallon of (hopefully non-chlorinated) water from home. Gary will also have handouts in case you’d like to make your own.

GARLIC PLANTING – Now is the time. Jung’s garden centers have seed garlic for sale, or you could buy it at Farmers’ Markets or even the grocery store. Here’s a website that looks like it has good information, though the gardener lives in Pennsylvania. Also, if you have questions about planting garlic, stop in on Saturday morning, and talk to Gary K.

WORKDAY – This weekend’s workday will be at Eagle Heights, on Sunday, October 22, from 1pm – 4pm. AN AFTERNOON WORKDAY YOU WON’T HAVE TO GET UP EARLY FOR! The project will be clearing the fruit tree lines for tree tubing, which keeps the rodents off the bark. Please bring gloves – there are lots of thistles in the tree lines. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

From the Gardens Registrar: The Last Tomatoes; Renewing Your Plot for Next Year; Workday Payments and Workday

Hello Gardeners,

THE LAST TOMATOES - It’s probably time to pick the last of your tomatoes, if you’ve haven’t already done so. I think the frost will hold off for another week or two, but things can change suddenly this time of year. With day-length and temperatures going down steadily, plus lots of cloudy days, ripening is about coming to an end anyway. So pick them and sort through them.

If you have tomatoes that are rock-hard and have no hint of color at the blossom end, you’ll need to use them now, as is. So fry them up, or make pickles, salsa, or jam out of them. Here’s a collection of recipes for green tomatoes:

For the tomatoes that look like they might ripen, you can leave them on the kitchen counter, and let nature take its course. But you can speed up the process by putting the tomatoes in a bag or cardboard box with a ripening banana. The banana will emit ethylene gas, which will help to ripen the tomatoes. Keep checking on them, take out any that are rotting, and use them as soon as they’re ripe. Here’s an article with more details:

RENEWING YOUR PLOT FOR 2018 – The 2018 applications will be available on our website beginning on December 15. We will also have applications at the front office of the Eagle Heights Community Center. Fees will (I think) be the same as this year, and the application will be pretty much the same as this year’s. If you enjoyed your garden plot this year, and want to renew it, fill out the application and mail it in or drop it off, along with a check for the fees. It will also be possible for you to fill in the application on-line and email it to me (we hope.) But you will still need to get me the check before I can process the application. The deadline for the applications and payments will be February 15. Please note that if you did not do a workday this year or pay for the no-workday option, you will not be able to renew your plot until you’ve paid the $32, plus a $20 late fee. (So please don’t put this off. See below.)

If you want to garden again next year, but you don’t want to renew the same plot, please indicate that on the application, and give me an idea of a location you’d prefer. I’ll try to find you a plot that will work better for you. Once the February 15 deadline has passed, and I have all the returning gardeners settled, then I will start assigning plots to new gardeners.

WORKDAY PAYMENTS – We will still have more workdays this month and next before the season is over, but in case you’ve realized that you’re never going to get around to doing a workday, please go ahead and pay for the no-workday option now. It’s $32, and should be in the form of a check made payable to Division of University Housing. You can drop it off at the Community Center, or mail it to Eagle Heights Gardens, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI  53705. Be sure to include a note explaining what the check is for, and also include your plot number.

WORKDAY – This weekend’s workday will be Sunday, October 15, from 9am – Noon, at Eagle Heights. (Please note later start time.) The task will be clearing the fruit trees for tubing. Please bring gloves – there are lots of thistles in the tree lines. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

From the Gardens Registrar: Words on Winter Squash; Eagle Heights Drive; Harvest Moon Walk THURSDAY at Eagle Heights; No Workday This Weekend

HARVESTING WINTER SQUASH – Your winter squash will keep better if they are fully mature when you pick them. The details depend on the variety, but the fruit will turn a darker color, and the rind will be hard. Cut the vine two or three inches from each squash, and don’t try to use the stem as a handle. Store your squash in a dry, cool area, preferably in a single layer. If you have under-ripe or damaged fruit, it won’t keep as well, so use it up earlier. The current long-range forecast, always subject to change, is for continued warmer than usual temperatures, so I don’t think frost is going to be an issue for the next couple of weeks, at least.

Although each type of squash has its own taste and texture, recipes for winter squash, including pumpkin, are pretty interchangeable. Pumpkin pie is excellent made with butternut squash, and it’s much easier peeling and cutting up a butternut than it is a pumpkin. Here is a website from the University of Illinois Extension, with a lot of great information about winter squash:

EAGLE HEIGHTS DRIVE RESURFACING – As you all know, this project was originally scheduled to be completed early in August. Unfortunately, some of the work was done incorrectly. It has now been resurfaced again, and the project is finally almost done. The street is reopening for two-way traffic, and our regular parking spots for the garden will probably reopen early next week. Just in time for lugging home big winter squash.

HARVEST MOON POT-LUCK AND WALK - This Thursday, October 5 will be the Harvest Moon, and we’re having a community celebration! (I apologize for scrambling the day and date in previous communications.) The evening will begin at 6:00pm with a potluck meal at the Arbor, featuring everyone's fresh produce. Then enjoy a silent walk through the gardens under the moonlight. Feel free to bring a musical instrument if you would like. Come share your harvest, and enjoy the beauty of our garden under a full moon. Weather note: There is a 50% chance of showers, so the event may be rained out. But if the weather looks clear, please try to come. 

FALL HARVEST FEST AT FH KING – And if it isn’t raining on Friday, F.H. King will be having a harvest event at their garden on October 6, with a potluck dinner and live music at 5:00pm.

NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND Workdays will resume next weekend, and will continue well into November, in case you still need to do yours.

Happy gardening,