Friday, December 14, 2018

December 14, 2018

Hello gardeners,

We will begin taking applications for garden plots at Eagle Heights and University Houses Gardens tomorrow, December 15. The 2019 applications will be available on our website, in both English and Chinese. This is the link:
We will also have paper copies available at the Eagle Heights Community Center. The Center will be open tomorrow from 9:45am - 12:30pm. The deadline to RENEW your plot is FEBRUARY 15. After that date, I will start assigning gardens to new applicants.

If you won't be getting a garden next year, this will be the last email you'll get from me. If you've let me know you're not renewing, thank you very much. If you know you won't renew and haven't told me, I'd appreciate your sending me an email now.

I will not be able to renew your plot if you have not either done a workday or paid the no-workday fee.

If you email the application to me, you will still need to send or drop off a check for your plot fees. Your application will not be complete without payment. Please remember also that we can only accept checks, cashier's checks, or money orders - no cash or credit cards. Checks must be made payable to Division of University Housing.

If you want to garden again next year, but don't want to renew the plot you had this year, please indicate that on the application, and give me an idea of locations you would prefer. I will do my best to find you a spot you will like better.

Please let me know if you have ANY questions. We'll still have to get through winter, but at least renewing your garden plot and thinking about the fabulous things you're going to plant next year will remind you that spring will come.

Thanks, everybody.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Last Workday for the Season; Closing Day; Dates to Remember

Hello Gardeners,

FINAL WORKDAY – We will hold our last workday for the season on Sunday, November 18, from 1pm – 4pm, at Eagle Heights. The task will be removing plastic debris and collecting stray tools from plots, plus preparing the shed for shutting down. It will probably be chilly, but working will warm you up. (Last year, we were able to go later in the season with workdays, but it’s turned cold early this year, and the cold is predicted to continue, so it’s time to give it up for the year.) Here’s the link to sign up:

CLOSING DAY – Our Closing Day this year will be Sunday, December 2. On that day, we will round up all the tools at both plots, do an inventory, and put most of the tools and carts in the sheds. However, we always leave a few carts and tools out through the winter. We would appreciate help from a few gardeners – no, it does not qualify as a workday. Times at Eagle Heights will be 10am – Noon, and at University Houses, 12:30 – 1:30.


December 1         Deadline for paying the no-workday fee if you did not do a workday. 

(Please note – gardeners who received plots this fall are not required to do a workday.)

If you are paying the no-workday fee, please write a check for $32, payable to Division of University Housing, and drop it off at the Community Center, or mail it to Eagle Heights Gardens c/o Community Center, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI 53705. If you use the drop box, please use a green envelope, or write “gardens” on the envelope, so it doesn’t get mixed up with rent payments.

December 2           Closing Day for both gardens

December 15         First day to apply for a garden for 2019. The new applications will be available on our website (, and can also be picked up in paper form, in English and in Chinese, at the Community Center.

February 15           Deadline for returning gardeners to apply to renew the gardens they had in 2018. (New gardeners may apply for gardens at any time.)

March 23              Opening Day for 2019 (approximate date) – tools and carts will come back out of the sheds for the season.

March 30              Seed Fair at the Community Center – each garden plot will be allowed 15 free packets of seeds. Row cover will also be for sale.

This will be my last weekly message for this season. However, I will send an email out next month to remind people when the 2019 applications come out. And please email me if you have any questions about anything. I’ll still be around.

THANK YOU! – Thank you to everybody who had a garden plot this year. Thank you especially to everybody who did a workday - volunteers did a lot of great work this year. Thank you also to our garden workers, Will and Michaiah, to members of the Garden Committee and our Co-Chairs, the weed jurors, and the gardeners who take care of the Arbor Garden and other common areas. 2018 was a difficult year for many gardeners – the heavy rains flooded many plots, particularly in the 500s and 600s, and at University Houses, but even plots on the hill were damaged. The weeds grew really fast, the mosquitoes went crazy, and the voles proliferated. I sincerely hope that 2019 will be a better year for everybody.

Have a good winter.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Colder Weather; More Books; How to Pay for the No-Workday Option; Workday Sunday, November 11 at University Houses Gardens

Hello Gardeners,         
COLDER WEATHER COMING – If you haven’t planted your garlic yet, hurry up and get it in the ground. It’s best for the garlic to start to develop roots, but not to sprout, so once the ground begins to freeze up, it will be too late for this year. You still have time, but don’t put it off much longer. The current forecast is for cold weather, with nighttime temperatures way below freezing. If you have fall crops, such as greens and cabbages, it would be a good idea to start watching the temperatures carefully. We’re going to get down to temperatures about as low as they can tolerate. You may want to cover them at night, to give them a few degrees of protection. Or maybe it’s time to pick them and give up for the season.

MORE SUGGESTIONS FOR WINTER READING – Several gardeners have written in to suggest the following books: Farm City by Novella Carpenter; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver; Lab Girl by Hope Jahren; and The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson.

Another gardener recommended Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. Leopold was a professor of game management here at the UW in the 30s and 40s, was part of the group that started the UW Arboretum, and became famous for his idea of a “Land Ethic”, a view of humans as being part of a larger community of animals, plants, and the earth itself. Here’s a more detailed explanation from the Aldo Leopold Foundation:  A Sand County Almanac is a collection of his essays, put together shortly after his death.

PAYING FOR THE NO-WORKDAY? – A reminder – if you haven’t been able to do a workday, and you’re paying instead - please make your $32 check payable to Division of University Housing, and mail it to Eagle Heights Gardens c/o Community Center, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI. 53705. I’ll let you know when I get your payment. Thanks.

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We will have a workday Sunday afternoon,  November 11, 1pm – 4pm, at University Houses Gardens. The gardens are at the end of Haight Road, next to Bernie’s Place Childcare Center, at 39 University Houses. The task will be path restoration. Bring gloves and water, and dress warmly – it will be chilly. But hey – no mosquitoes, right? Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,                                                  

Monday, November 5, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: VOTE; Odds and Ends; Workday on Saturday, November 3, at U Houses

Hello Gardeners, 
VOTE NOVEMBER 6 – Our gardeners come to Madison from all over the world, and we’re very proud of that. But this message is only for those of you who are U.S. citizens – if you are eligible to vote, don’t forget to cast a ballot on Tuesday, November 6. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, but it does matter that you vote. If you’re not already registered, you can register at the polls. Whether you’re registered or not, you’ll need to bring a current photo I.D., and you’ll need proof of your current address if you’re not registered, or if you’ve changed addresses. Here is some information specifically for UW Madison students from the League of Women Voters:

DOES ANYBODY HAVE EXPERIENCES WITH GROWING BLACKBERRIES? One of our gardeners is wondering if anybody has tried growing blackberries in our gardens. Have you? Have they been successful? Please let me know, and I’ll pass the information on.

WHAT TO LEAVE IN YOUR PLOT – If you plan to renew your garden for next year, you may certainly keep your tomato cages and other gardening equipment in the plot over the winter. But if you have a place to store your tools over the winter, it’s probably safer to take them home and bring them back in the spring. Otherwise, they might be gone. It’s also better for the tools if they’re not outside during fierce winter storms.

PORTABLE TOILETS – The portable toilets at both gardens will go away for the winter on November 1. They’ll come back some time in late March. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to hold it until then.

WINTER READING – Winter is a good time to do more reading. For gardeners, it’s an opportunity to learn more about plants, different approaches to gardening, and new ways to prepare and preserve your harvests.  I recently read the book, What a Plant Knows, by Daniel Chamovitz, which was quite interesting. These are a few lists of recommended books I’ve found on the Internet:     

If you have a favorite book about gardening, botany, the natural world, preserving, or anything else related to gardening, send me the title, and I’ll share it with the group.

THANKS FOR THE WORK ON 115 – A big thank you to the workday crew that hauled leaves to Plot 115 at Eagle Heights. It’s looked terrible all season, and now it looks wonderful. You did a great job.
NEW LEAVES IN BOTH GARDENS – The new leaves from Shorewood have begun to arrive at both gardens. The old leaves are dark and matted, while the new leaves are light in color, and fluffy. Both make great mulch – why not use some of both, and make attractive patterns with the two colors? I’m joking…

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We will have a workday on Saturday, November 3, from 9am – Noon, at University Houses Gardens. The gardens are at the end of Haight Road, next to Bernie’s Place Childcare Center, at 39 University Houses. The task will be clearing abandoned plots. The weather looks good – cloudy and cool, but dry. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening and Happy Halloween,

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Corner Posts and Plot Markers; Workdays and Workday Fees; When Can You Apply For a Garden For Next Year?; Workday To Be Determined

Hello Gardeners,                       

CORNER POSTS AND PLOT MARKERS – A couple of our fellow gardeners have just spent quite a number of hours walking through Eagle Heights looking for corner posts and plot markers, and making sure they were correctly placed. Every plot now has corner markers, and most are in the correct position. (There are a few oddities that still have to be corrected – why can’t all the rows be in straight lines?) Miraculously, only two plot number signs are missing. Thank you very much to the gardeners who took care of this. And a reminder – these markers are not to be moved. They mark the boundaries of plots, and are placed where they are for a reason.  (If you think one is in the wrong place, email me and I’ll take a look at it.) Also, these markers are not plant stakes. Please do not move them.

WORKDAYS AND WORKDAY FEES – We will probably still have four more workdays before the end of the season. So if you want to work one, you’ll have more chances to sign up. If you aren’t able to attend a workday, you will need to pay the $32 workday fee instead. This must be in the form of a check, made payable to UW Division of Housing. The deadline for submitting that fee is December 1. I cannot renew garden plots for people who have not either done a workday or paid the fee. If you want to pay the fee, and it’s after December 1, there is a late penalty of an additional $20.
If you are not sure whether or not you did a workday this year, or paid for the workday with your 2018 fees, please email me, and I’ll be happy to check for you. And a reminder: when you do a workday, be sure to write your name and plot number on the workday sheet, so I know you were there. (But if you forget your plot number, like most people do, I can find it.)

WHEN CAN GARDENERS APPLY FOR 2019? – The 2019 applications will be available on our website ( beginning December 15, 2018. They will look suspiciously like the 2018 applications. (Except that they’ll say, “2019.”) I don’t expect we will be changing either the application or the fees for next year. You can fill the application out on-line and email it to me, but you will still need to drop off or mail the fees. Your application isn’t complete until I get your check. We cannot accept cash or credit cards – only personal checks or money orders, made payable to UW Division of Housing. Money orders are easy to get – at post offices, grocery stores, and convenience stores. We will also have paper applications, in English, and in Chinese, at the Community Center, beginning December 15. Please read through the garden rules and regulations before you fill out the application – you’re responsible for knowing and following those.

The deadline for RENEWING your plot is February 15. If you send in an application after that date, I’ll renew your plot for you if it’s still available, but it might already have been assigned to someone else.

What if you want to return to the gardens, but you want a different plot? – Fill out the application, including the number of the plot you had in 2018, and indicate that you want a different location. Please explain the location you’d prefer to move to, or the conditions (i.e., sunnier or dryer) you’d prefer. I will do my best to find you what you’re looking for, once I know which plots aren’t being renewed.

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND? – If a workday is set for this weekend, I will send out an announcement separately, with the link to sign up.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Hello Gardeners,

TREE AND BRUSH CLEARING – The Hooper Corporation will be clearing that narrow brushy area between Lake Mendota Drive and the EH Gardens access path, starting next week. A crew will be using a forestry mower to knock down the trees and shrubs. This work is being done on behalf of Madison Gas and Electric, which has power lines overhead. A few of the larger trees will be left, but all of the ash trees will be cut down. Most of this area is just a mess, so clearing is overdue. However, the work will be noisy, and occasionally access to some garden areas may be affected. We don’t know how long the project will take. The overhead electric lines will eventually be buried. Once the area is cleared, this is going to be a big change for us, because there will be very little vegetation between us and the road.

IF YOU’RE NOT RENEWING IN 2019, PLEASE LET ME KNOW – I would appreciate hearing from gardeners who do not plan to garden next year – it will help me when I start assigning plots to new gardeners next February. Please send me an email. Thanks.

WHERE DO THE OTHER GARDEN RESIDENTS GO IN THE FALL? – We share our gardens, willingly and unwillingly, with quite a large number of animals – birds, toads, insects, and mammals such as voles, rabbits, coyotes, and other voles. Where do they go in the fall and winter? The hummingbirds have gone south for the season – to Mexico or Panama eventually. The robins may go south, too – possibly as far as Texas or Florida. But some robins stay in Madison in the winter – they gather in flocks and move to wooded areas, such as the UW Arboretum. Goldfinches and chickadees stay through the winter, and the hawks probably will too. The sandhill cranes have gone – first they go to hang out in large groups with other cranes, and then some time next month, they’ll take off for Florida or the southeast coast. The turkeys stay year-round (sorry.) But some northern species of birds actually spend their winters here – juncos and tree sparrows, for instance, have appeared in the gardens. The mammals are year-round residents. Toads hibernate – they burrow into loose soil, and sleep through the winter. As for insects, they primarily die, although the monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico. Unfortunately, the Japanese beetles live through the winter as grubs and larvae in the soil, and will emerge again next summer. But hey, the mosquitoes are gone – that’s one good thing about frost.

THEFTS – Thefts seem to be increasing now that we’re near the end of the season. I think most of the thieves are not our gardeners, but, just to make sure, please remember that no gardener should be in another person’s garden, or take another person’s produce, without that person’s permission. Do not assume that another gardener has quit for the season. Do not assume that produce sitting in a garden is unclaimed. Please don’t break your fellow gardeners’ hearts. And keep an eye out for suspicious behavior. Oh, and by the way, if you still have winter squash in your plot, please pick it – don’t leave it for thieves to take or for voles to devour.

WORKDAY SUNDAY AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – We will have a workday on Sunday, October 21, from 1pm – 4pm, at Eagle Heights. The tasks will be working on the blueberry and blackberry plantings, and hauling materials to the future rain garden in Plot 115. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: FROST IS PREDICTED; Cold Frames; Sweet Potatoes; F.H. King Harvest Fest; Do You Have Pictures of the Gardens?; Saturday Workday at U Houses Gardens

Hello Gardeners,

FROST LIKELY – The latest forecast predicts temperatures on campus of 32 degrees Thursday night, and 30 degrees Friday night. Nighttime temperatures in the 30s are also currently predicted for most nights next week. In other words, folks, this is it – THE END. Frost can be spotty – those of us in the lower part of the Eagle Heights gardens will probably get hit, while gardeners on the hill might well be spared. The University Houses Gardens are a little more protected, and might also survive the first frosts. Say goodbye to the summer vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, summer squash, basil – these will shortly be history. You can cover your tender crops each night to get them through, but since the nighttime temperatures are likely to stay low for a while, you’re probably better off picking what’s left and giving up for the season. However, greens and cabbage family plants won’t mind the cold at this point. And expect our water to be turned off any time now – to protect the pipes.

COLD FRAMES – It gets really cold here in the winter, and gardening outside is impossible once the ground is frozen. But you can extend the season a little with cold frames. You can buy them at garden stores, or if you’re handy, you can build them easily enough with scrap wood and recycled components. The more sophisticated your cold frame, the more it will protect your plants and the longer you can keep your garden going. But even simple ones can extend the season a couple of weeks or more. Lettuces and greens are the plants most often grown in cold frames – but other short season plants are also possible. Here’s an interesting collection of plans for unusual, inexpensive cold frames you can make yourself: You can also use cold frames to start plants earlier in the spring. So if you’re a serious gardener, it’s worth the time it takes to build and set up one of these.

SWEET POTATOES – Did any of our gardeners sign up this spring for the Dane County Sweet Potato Project? This group provides sweet potato slips to gardeners who are willing to share half their crop with food pantries. How well did they grow? Have you started harvesting yet? Their website says you can grow them right up until frost. Once you dig them up, you should put them through a curing process before storing them. Here’s a link to their website, which has lots of information about growing and harvesting these vegetables:

F.H. KING HARVEST FEST OCTOBER 13 – Our garden neighbors, F.H. King, will be holding their annual fall celebration this Saturday at Eagle Heights from 3pm – 7pm. They’ll have a workday in the afternoon, and then gather for food and music starting at 5:00. Local punk-folk band Wimbledon will be performing.

DO YOU HAVE PICTURES OF YOUR GARDEN TO SHARE? We are able to provide free seeds to our gardeners, thanks to the great generosity of a number of seed companies, which donate seeds to community gardens. I will be sending thank you letters to these companies, and would like to enclose some pictures that gardeners have taken this year of their plots – particularly showing people working, planting, and harvesting. We can put some on our website, too. Please email them to me at  Thanks.

WORKDAY THIS SATURDAY AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES – We will hold a workday this Saturday, October 13, at the University Houses Gardens (on Haight Road) from 1pm – 4pm. The tasks will be draining water hoses, putting away hose reels for the season, and fertilizing the blueberry plantation. Dress warmly – it will be cool, but a nice temperature for working outside. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Putting Your Garden to Bed; Lasagna Gardening; Garden Co-Chair Still Needed; Garlic Workshop October 7; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,       

PUTTING YOUR GARDEN TO BED FOR THE SEASON – If you planted fall crops, you won’t be shutting your plot down for a few weeks yet. But if you mainly grow tomatoes and other summer vegetables, this is a good time to start preparing your plot for the winter. Please do this whether you are returning to your garden next year or not. If you’ll be gardening again next spring, you’ll appreciate being able to plant right away as soon as the ground has thawed. But if your plot will be hosting new gardeners next year, please help them by giving them a cleared plot to start their garden in. Especially for new gardeners, starting out with a plot that’s a wreck makes for frustration and disappointment, and often leads to failure. Please leave your plot the way you would like to find it in the spring.

The first thing to do is to haul your dead plants and weeds to the weed pile. But please remember to shake off as much of the dirt as you can – we want as little dirt as possible in the weed pile. (If there’s too much dirt, it won’t get picked up, and we’ll have to pay to haul it to a landfill, so this is important.) After you’ve cleared the plot, please bring a few loads of leaves from the leaf pile and spread them on the plot. This will protect your soil from erosion, and the leaves will add nutrients to the soil as they decay.

LASAGNA GARDENING – Lasagna gardens aren’t gardens with tomatoes, basil, and cheese – they are gardens that are layered. Fall is probably the best time to start this type of garden. You can start by clearing and hauling away weeds – or else you can just knock the weeds down and leave them in the plot – they’ll get covered up and will add nutrients to the soil as they decay. You then cover each bed with cardboard, and then layers of other materials – leaf mulch, newspapers, compost, straw, whatever you have. Water it well (especially after you put down the newspapers, because otherwise you’ll be chasing them all over the garden if it’s a windy day.) Then leave it for the winter. In the spring, the layers will still be there, but your plants will quickly feed on the nutrients and decompose the layers, while the cardboard will keep out a lot of the weeds. You can plant right into the layers – you don’t dig up a lasagna garden. My lasagna garden is in its third year – it’s been reasonably productive, and very easy to take care of. I’m going to add more newspaper and leaves to it this fall. Here are some instructions:

I do want to mention that I know a very good gardener with a lasagna garden who lost everything she planted to voles – that is a possible drawback to the method.

GARDEN CO-CHAIR STILL NEEDED – I can’t believe the response to the request for a new garden co-chair! Which is to say, not a single person has responded. We will need a new co-chair to replace Janet, who is leaving in November. If you care about the Gardens, if you have ideas on how to run them better, if you want to ensure that they continue into the future, or if you’re just looking for something to add to your resume, (in case you’re hoping one day to be appointed to the Supreme Court, for instance), please consider applying. It’s very little work – one meeting per month, and an occasional dispute to settle. We’d prefer a one-year commitment. Please let me know if you’re interested or you’d like more information. 

GARLIC WORKSHOP – Gary K’s garlic workshop, Growing Great Garlic, will be held on Saturday, October 6, 10 – 11:30, at the Eagle Heights shed. Growing Great Garlic will cover seed selection, soil preparation, planting, and harvesting next year. Gary will have handouts – only in English. You don’t want to start your garlic before you’ve heard Gary’s advice.

NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – Looks like rain both days, so we’re not planning one.

Happy Gardening,

Thursday, September 27, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: This Season is Nearing Its End; Saving Your Own Seeds; Reminder – Garlic Workshop October 7; Workday This Saturday

 September 26, 2018

Hello Gardeners,

THE F WORD – I am, of course, referring to frost. (What else could F stand for?) Our weather is very unpredictable, and especially so in transitional seasons. But several Internet sites show the typical first frost in this area occurring between October 1 and October 10. Be ready – keep checking the weather forecasts as the temperatures go down. The first frost is usually light, and most plants will survive it, with a little help – sheets, blankets, cardboard boxes, plastic – these light covers will keep your plants alive, and then the plants should be okay on their own for a week or two until the next frost. But the most heat-loving plants, such as basil and eggplant, will probably not survive. Root crops, and cabbages and their relatives are not damaged by light frosts – in fact, for some of them, such as kale, their flavor improves after frost.

If your tomato plants are too big to cover very effectively, you might want to just give up and pick all the tomatoes – if they’re close to ripe, you can get them to finish ripening inside. Here’s a website with good information:

If you have tomatoes that are completely unripe, green and hard, you can cook them that way:

CLOSING DAY– We will have a closing day in late November or early December, when we will collect and inventory the garden tools, and then store them, along with the carts, in the garden sheds for the winter. (However, we always leave a few carts and tools outside for the few people who continue working into the winter.) The water will be turned off some time in October, when we start to be threatened with frost. We can’t take any chances with our water pipes freezing. (It may be a sudden decision, and I might not be able to give gardeners notice. So start expecting this any time after October 1.) The portable toilets will be leaving around November 1.

The 2019 applications will be available on our website starting December 15. Fees will be the same as this year. If you want to renew your garden for next year, you will need to fill out the application and get it to me with the fees by February 15.  Please note: if you got a plot late in summer or this fall, you will still need to apply again for a garden for 2019, and pay the standard fee.

SEED SAVING – This is a good time of year to think about saving seeds. Bean seeds are especially easy to save – just let the beans dry on the vines. Pick them when they’re dry, shell them, and store them in a cool, dry place. Provided your beans are an open-pollinated variety, rather than hybrids, you can then plant them in your plot next year. You can save seeds from a number of vegetables – this website has a lot of information: Also, it’s easy to save seeds from flowers, such as marigolds and zinnias. There’s even more satisfaction in gardening when you can plant seeds that you saved yourself.

REMINDER ABOUT GARLIC WORKSHOP – Gary K’s garlic workshop, Growing Great Garlic, will be held on Saturday, October 6, 10 – 11:30, at the Eagle Heights shed.

WORKDAY THIS SATURDAY – We will have a workday at Eagle Heights this Saturday, September 29, from 1pm – 4pm. The task will be clearing abandoned plots. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Don’t Waste Water; What to Do in the Garden in September; Garlic Workshop; Cover Crops; Workday at Eagle Heights Saturday Afternoon

Hello Gardeners,

WATER USAGE – A University Houses Gardens gardener reported that last week, someone in a nearby garden had set up a sprinkler, with water shooting high into the air, and then left the garden. The water ran for more than an hour before my informant turned it off.  Why on earth anybody was watering last week, when there was still standing water in several places in the garden, is anybody’s guess. But I want to remind people that turning on the water and leaving is against the garden rules. The result is often that your neighbors’ plots get flooded. It is also very wasteful. Also, please do not leave your hoses attached to spigots, and don’t leave them lying in the paths.

SEPTEMBER GARDEN TASKS – Keep picking your produce, and pulling out your weeds. If you have vegetable plants that have died, or are nearing that stage, pull them up and take them to the weed pile. But if your bean plants are done, cut them off above the ground, leaving the roots in the soil, and take only the tops to the weed pile – the roots put nitrogen in the soil, so leave them in the soil to decay and feed your vegetables next year.
If you have geraniums in your garden, this is a good time to take cuttings of them to bring into your house. You can root them over the winter, and plant the new plants next year. Begonias and impatiens can also be grown from cuttings. Also, if you have perennial flowers in your plot, this is a good time of year to divide them.
If your herbs are still in good shape, you can pick them to dry or freeze for the winter.

GARLIC WORKSHOP – Wondering when to plant garlic? Don’t plant until after you’ve attended Gary K’s annual Garlic Workshop, which is scheduled for Saturday, October 6, 10am – 11:30am at the Eagle Heights Shed. “Growing Great Garlic” will cover seed selection, soil preparation, planting, and harvesting next year. Gary will have hand-outs, in English.

COVER CROPS – If your garden is nearly done for the season, and you plan to be back next year, you might want to consider planting a cover crop. These are plants that are grown to add nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil. Some of these plants will naturally die down in the winter – others will need to be cut down and dug in, in the spring. Here is some good information from UW Extension:  You can find seeds for some of these at garden centers and farmers’ co-ops. Also, we still have a few packets of Austrian Winter Field Peas – let me know if you want to try them.

WORKDAY AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – We will have a workday this Saturday, September 22, from 2pm – 5pm, at Eagle Heights. The project will be working on the tree lines. As always, gloves are a good idea, plus hats, long pants, and long sleeved shirts. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: PICK YOUR PRODUCE!; Harvesting Winter Squash; Winter Squash Recipes; Plants in Paths; What If You Can’t Do a Workday?; Workday Sunday Afternoon at Eagle Heights

Hello Gardeners,

PICK YOUR PRODUCE! – The gardens are currently full of ripe, over-ripe, and just plain rotten tomatoes, plus the same for raspberries. (It’s really a crime to not pick your sweet, succulent raspberries – how many months will it be before you’ll be able to eat fresh raspberries again?) Don’t let your produce rot – it invites diseases and pests, such as voles, into your plot and into your neighbors’ plots. Remember – if you have too much, you can leave the excess on the share shelves, or take it to a food pantry, if it’s still in good shape. Please don’t waste food.

HARVESTING WINTER SQUASH – Gardeners are starting to harvest their winter squash now. It’s still early – you don’t really have to pick it until frost threatens. And it won’t keep as long if it’s picked too early. But if the squash has turned a darker color than it was earlier, it sounds hollow when you shake it, and the stem has died off and turned hard, then it is ready to pick. Another consideration with squash, unfortunately, is that we have a fair amount of theft – some people will harvest their winter squash early to make sure someone else doesn’t walk off with them. Here’s a website with very detailed instructions on harvesting, curing, and storing:

COOKING WINTER SQUASH – If you cure and store your squash well, you won’t have to be in a hurry to eat it up – it should last most of the winter. But here are some recipes if you don’t want to wait:

PLANTS IN PATHS – The intense rain and flooding have delayed mowing operations at both gardens, but path mowing will resume as the ground dries out. There are a lot of plants growing out into the garden paths – please understand that anything growing in the paths is likely to be mowed. I know that winter squash spreads faster and farther than anybody can control, but still, please try to pull anything growing into the path back into your plot. And if you don’t or can’t, don’t complain when your plants get mangled. And, while we’re on the subject, anything left in paths, such as hoses, bricks, sticks, tools, etc., delays mowing and is also in danger of being damaged.

WHAT IF YOU CAN’T DO A WORKDAY? We will continue to have workdays well into November, so you will have plenty more chances to sign up before the season ends. But what if you are too busy, or simply don’t want to do one? You can meet your obligation by paying the $32 “no workday” fee. This isn’t due until December 15, but in case you want to just get it over with, the check should be made payable to Division of UW Housing, and mailed to Eagle Heights Community Gardens, c/o Community Center, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI, 53705. Or you may drop the check off at the Community Center; put it in a green garden envelope, so it doesn’t go to pay your rent. I’d also appreciate a note telling me what the check is for.

WORKDAY SUNDAY AFTERNOON - And, speaking of workdays, we will have a workday at Eagle Heights, Sunday afternoon, September 16, from 2pm – 5pm. The task will be clearing weedy areas around the garden shed and blueberry beds. Gloves, a hat, and a water bottle would be advisable. Also, long pants and long sleeves would help with the mosquitoes. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: The Advantages of Mulch; Spotted-Wing Drosophila; Make Some Salsa; Reminder about Workdays; Workday at Eagle Heights Sunday, September 9

Hello Gardeners,

MULCH – Both of our gardens are well-supplied this year with leaf mulch. Mulch, such as the leaves we have, plays a very important role in an organic vegetable garden. For instance, it helps retain moisture in the soil. Okay, with all the “moisture” we’ve had the last few weeks, that’s not currently very important. But it is in an ordinary year, when plants can dry out between waterings. It is also useful in preventing soil erosion, which we’re certainly getting this year. Mulch is tremendously effective in controlling weeds - the weeds are growing like crazy this year, with this weather. Mulch improves soil fertility, and increases vegetable yield. Our gardens are mostly heavy clay, and mulch is very helpful in lightening the soil. So keep replenishing your mulch as the season goes on. And if you have empty spots in your garden now, dump some mulch on them so that you won’t have to weed them any more this year.

SPOTTED-WING DROSOPHILA – It’s raspberry season again, and if you have raspberries, be aware that these invasive fruit flies are very active now.  It’s important to pick your berries every day. Don’t leave over-ripe berries on the plants or on the ground, because that just encourages them. Also, if you aren’t going to eat your berries immediately, refrigerate them to keep the larvae from developing and chewing on your berries.

SALSA – With all the fresh vegetables in our gardens, this is a great time to make salsa – here’s a simple and quick recipe:

REMINDER ABOUT WORKDAYS -  Please remember – one gardener per plot is required to help with one workday during the gardening season. At this point, fewer than half of the gardeners have met their workday obligation for the year. We will continue to plan workdays well into the fall, probably into November, depending on weather, but if you haven’t done your workday yet, you really need to plan to do it as soon as possible before you forget about it altogether. We have tried to give people more options this year, with some weekday evening sessions, and projects on both Saturdays and Sundays. Also we will do a few more sessions at University Houses, when suitable projects come up.

Be sure to put your name and plot number on the workday sheet, so you get credit for your work.

WORKDAY AT EAGLE HEIGHTS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 1pm – 4pm – The project will be clearing abandoned plots. The weather looks great for this weekend, so this will be an excellent time to do your workday. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Don’t Dump Weeds in the Dumpster; Vegetables You Can Still Plant in September; Austrian Winter Field Peas; Tip for Tomatoes; Tomato Recipes; Weed of the Week: Pigweed; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

A REMINDER – Please don’t dump weeds and/or vegetable debris in the dumpsters. At Eagle Heights, please dump them on the concrete slab at the weed pile, which is at the end of the 300 row. Thank you.

YOU CAN STILL PLANT VEGETABLES NOW – There is still time to plant root crops and greens for fall harvest. Kale, lettuce, spinach, and chard will still have time to produce leaves before frost. And kale is actually better after it’s been frosted – it’s sweeter and better-tasting. You can still plant radishes and beets. If you want to plant carrots, which grow slowly, try smaller varieties, which will mature a little faster. We still have about two months before the end of garden season – the end will come sometime in late October or so.

AUSTRIAN WINTER FIELD PEAS – One of our long-term gardeners, who ran an organic farm in Kansas for thirty years, has just bought seeds for a cover crop for his family’s plots, and will have extra seeds to share. The plant is Austrian Winter Field Pea. It did very well for him in Kansas, so he wanted to see how well it will do in Wisconsin, with its colder climate This plant, like other legumes, adds nitrogen to the soil, which increases fertility for main-season crops. These peas should be planted in the next few weeks, and will probably die over the winter. You can then dig them into the soil in the spring.
Let me know if you’re interested in getting some of these seeds – note that quantities are limited. Here’s a link to more information about these field peas:

PIGWEED – Today’s weed is pigweed. This is a type of amaranth, a plant family which includes a number of edible plants as well as ornamentals.  The leaves of pigweed are edible, at least when young. The seeds can also be eaten, and are said to be very nutritious. Like burdock, however, it is in our gardens primarily as an unwanted and unappreciated invader; it can grow quite tall, and spreads like crazy. It’s easy to pull out when it’s small, but when it’s big, the root is very solid, and it takes muscle to get it out of the ground. If you’ve got it in your plot, please pull it out.

TOMATO TIP – If your tomato plants are still flowering, September is the time to start pinching off the blossoms. Particularly with large-fruited tomatoes, these flowers won’t have enough time to produce ripe vegetables. By preventing the plants from setting more fruit, you’ll encourage them to put more of their energy into ripening the tomatoes that have already formed.

TOMATO RECIPES – If you’re inundated with beautiful ripe tomatoes, here are some recipes for them:  As for using up those rotten tomatoes we all have, we’ll just have to wait until some politicians come to town and make campaign speeches…

NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – Enjoy the long weekend.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: The Weather; Birds in Our Gardens; Garden Netting; Are You Going Away with No Word of Farewell?; Reminder – Workday at Eagle Heights, Thursday, August 23

Hello Gardeners,

THE WEATHER - Two days after the record-breaking rain we experienced on Monday, there is still standing water in several plots in the 600 row. Many of the plots in both gardens are soggy, and gravel roads were damaged. High winds also knocked over tall plants. If you are not a native Wisconsinite, please let me reassure you – this is not normal weather. Is it global climate change? Hmm, could be…Unfortunately, more rain is forecast for Friday. Our soil is heavy in clay, and plots will continue to be soggy for some time, especially if it keeps raining and storming.

FALL BIRD MIGRATION – Eagle Heights Gardens are part of the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which is home to as many as 255 bird species. Many of these birds can be found nesting in our gardens in the summer (sometimes in the middle of a gardener’s prize vegetables.) Among the bigger birds, we have a family of red-tailed hawks that raises young every year, a sandhill crane family which has two colts (that is, chicks) this year, and of course, numerous turkeys.  Although it’s still summer, several bird species are already starting their fall migration, and starting to head south. Hummingbirds are some of the first to leave.  By late August, the warblers will be heading south, and many of them will stop in the gardens on their way. So keep an eye out.

GARDEN NETTING – A few weeks ago, one of our sandhill cranes was injured when it got tangled up in some garden netting. Two brave gardeners helped to free it, and it seems to have recovered from its injuries. A lot of gardeners use netting for growing climbing vegetables, such as beans, peas, and cucumbers. If you have netting in your plot, and you have plants climbing it, that’s fine. But if you have netting just sitting empty in your plot, please take it down until you’re actually going to use it again. Although it’s unlikely that there will be another such incident, we can minimize the risk to our birds.

ARE YOU LEAVING US? – If your time in Madison has come to an end and you are leaving town for your next adventure, please let me know that you are through with your garden. I can assign it to a new gardener. Or even if you’re not going away, if you’re no longer interested in gardening, let me know. If you have a friend who wants to take over your garden, I can transfer your plot to them. But please let me know. Thank you. And good luck with whatever you’re going to do next.

REMINDER: Workday tomorrow, Thursday, August 23, at Eagle Heights – 4:30 – 7:30. The main task will be clearing plots. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,