Wednesday, April 25, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Water is On Its Way; Row Cover for Sale; Cancellations and Refunds; More About Workdays; No Cars Allowed in the Garden; Discouraged Plants

Hello Gardeners,

WATER – A work order has gone in for turning on the water both at Eagle Heights and at University Houses Gardens. I don’t have an exact date for completion, but the water should be on at both gardens by the first weekend in May.

ROW COVER – We will have more row cover for sale this SATURDAY at Eagle Heights, by the shed, from 2pm – 4pm. Each piece is 25’ X 7’, and costs $5. Cash only, and exact change, please.

CANCELLATIONS – Now that it finally seems to be spring, some of you may be realizing that you don’t have time for gardening, and you may be considering giving up your plot. If you decide to cancel, please contact me right away. Considering the weather we’ve had up until this week, we can give a full refund to anybody giving up a garden now. But we cannot give any refunds after May 1, and that date is almost upon us.

Both of our gardens are almost full, and I’ll soon be starting a waiting list. It would be a shame for a garden plot to be sitting unused while there are new gardeners anxious to be caring for it.

MORE ABOUT WORKDAYS – We don’t have a workday scheduled this weekend, but we will soon be having one just about every weekend. Our workdays most often are Saturday mornings, and at Eagle Heights. But we do occasionally have Sunday mornings, and we try to schedule a few workdays at University Houses as well. We will also probably try to do one or two weekday evenings later in the season.

The purpose of the workdays is not just to get free labor. It also gives gardeners a chance to meet other gardeners, and to get an understanding that they are part of a community. It feels good to work with a group towards a common goal, and to be able to look later at a part of the garden and know that you helped to weed it or mulch it or whatever. It feels particularly good once your blisters have healed….

NO CARS IN THE GARDEN – Unless you have special permission, do not drive your car into the gardens. Parking for Eagle Heights is along the south side of Eagle Heights Drive – leave your car there. If you do occasionally see a car driving in the gardens, it most likely belongs to someone connected with F.H. King, not our garden.

DISCOURAGED PLANTS – New gardeners often ask if there’s anything they’re not allowed to grow in our gardens. We don’t have many plants we absolutely prohibit, but we do not allow trees in plots, and there are a number of plants we don’t encourage. One is mint. Mint is delightful to smell and to cook with, but it is very aggressive. Once it’s established, it can be almost impossible to get rid of. And it can easily spread into your neighbors’ plots. If you want to plant mint, please plant it well inside your plot, and keep it trimmed. The best solution to the mint problem (short of not planting it at all) is to plant it in a pot, and then sink the pot into your plot. That way, the roots don’t spread.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar:  Plant Sale Sunday April 22; Compost and Row Cover Also For Sale; First Workday; Some Miscellaneous Notes; The Weather

Hello Gardeners,

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE APRIL 22 – On Sunday, April 22, Scott Williams of Garden to Be will be selling plants at Eagle Heights, near the shed. The sale will be from 11am – 1pm. He is planning to bring: lettuces, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale (3 – 4 varieties), chard, cauliflower, parsley, sage, thyme, cabbage, and a few flowers. If the weather cooperates, he may also be able to bring some rhubarb plants and a few other perennials.

Scott’s plants are excellent quality, and his prices are extremely reasonable. You’re never going to find a cheaper and more convenient way to buy good plants for your garden. And the weather for Sunday looks very good – much warmer and sunny.

COMPOST AND ROW COVER – We also have some compost from the West Ag Center to sell. Plus we will again sell row cover, as we did at the Seed Fair. These items will be sold also from 11am – 1pm, in the open space north of our 500 rows. The row cover is $5 for a piece that’s 25’ by 7’. The price for a half-cart of compost will be $5. These are cash only, and please bring exact change, if at all possible.

FIRST WORKDAY OF THE SEASON – We will hold our first workday of the season this Sunday, from 1pm – 4pm. Meet at the Eagle Heights shed. The task will be clearing debris, including old irrigation pipe, from the wooded area next to Lake Mendota Drive. There may also be some brick-hauling, and, if you’re lucky, dumpster-cleaning. This workday might be most appropriate for fairly strong people.

Here’s the link to sign up:  And don’t forget to put your name on the sign-in sheet at the garden.

Remember – unless you paid the no-workday fee, or do other volunteer work for the garden, every plot must supply one person to work one three-hour workday during gardening season. If you can, sign up for this one, and get it over with for the season. Then when it’s hot and mosquitoey this summer, you can relax in the shade with a cold beverage while other people labor and sweat.

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS: At Eagle Heights, the big blue stick barrels have moved to the area next to the shed. The Lakeshore Nature Preserve staff have cut quite a number of nice long sticks for us to use for fences and trellises. Please help yourself to these sticks, but do not take sticks directly from the Preserve.

A group of researchers from the University of Minnesota School for Environment and Sustainability have sent out a survey as part of a study to better understand why people participate in and support urban agriculture. The survey is short, anonymous, and confidential. If you’d like to fill it out, here’s a link:

If you bring plants to the gardens and don’t need the pots or trays any more, please don’t throw them in the dumpster - put them on the share shelf, so other people can use them.

THE WEATHER: T.S. Eliot said that April is the cruelest month. He must have been a gardener. But, according to the long-range forecast, after today, temperatures will gradually go up, and we will have normal Wisconsin spring weather. So, by the end of this week, it is finally going to be gardening season!

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: What To Do With Those Seeds You Got at the Seed Fair; Cool Weather Plant Sale April 22; Rain Garden Volunteer Needed; Registrar Messages Are Now Posted on the Website

Hello Gardeners,

SEEDS – Thanks to our many hard-working volunteers, our Seed Fair this year was very successful. Several hundred gardeners attended and picked out seeds for their gardens. So, if you’re a new gardener, you may be wondering, “Now, what do I do?”

Well, to begin with, sort your seeds into three piles. The first pile is “seeds to start right away, in the house.” This includes tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. To plant these seeds, you will have best results if you buy some seed-starting soil mixture – this will be lighter than normal soil, and your seedlings will grow better in it. (You can buy this at hardware stores and garden centers.) If you don’t have regular plant pots, you can use plastic boxes, like the ones that mushrooms and berries come in at the grocery store. Put some holes in the bottom for drainage. Get the soil thoroughly wet, then put a few seeds on top, and sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds. Place the pot in a warm, sunny window sill, and keep it moist (but not soggy.) Once the seedlings come up, be sure to give them as much light as you can.

Starting seeds in the house can be tricky, so good luck to you. Here’s a link to a website from the University of Minnesota, with lots of detailed instruction:

The second category is seeds that get planted directly in the soil in your plot, whenever your soil is workable. This includes peas, lettuce, radishes, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and root crops such as beets and carrots.

The third category is seeds to sow outside later, once the ground has warmed up, and there’s no longer a chance of frost. This includes beans, cucumbers, melons, and summer and winter squash.
If you didn’t get a chance to pick up Robin Mittenthal’s planting guide at the Seed Fair, here’s a link with much more detail than I’m providing:

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE APRIL 22 – On Sunday, April 22, Gardens to Be will be selling plants at Eagle Heights, near the shed. When Scott, the farmer, gets me a list of plants to be offered, I’ll post it on our website, and I’ll also add it to my next Wednesday message. He will certainly have cabbage, greens, and lettuce, among other things. His prices are very reasonable, and he always offers us a good variety of plants.

RAIN GARDEN – One of our garden plots in the lower garden at Eagle Heights (Plot 115) was under water much of last spring, and we have decided it would be best to turn it into a rain garden, with plants appropriate for moist conditions. It’s just been too difficult for gardeners to grow vegetables in. Is there anybody in our garden community who is knowledgeable about rain gardens? If so, and if you’re interested in helping us plan and plant this garden, please let me know.

WEDNESDAY MESSAGES ARE NOW POSTED ON THE WEB SITE: If you are looking for information from one of my Wednesday messages, and don’t remember when I sent it, you can now find all my messages on our website: go to our home page, and click on the Blogger symbol. 

Happy Gardening,

Friday, April 6, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: More About the Seed Fair; How to Throw Things Away

Hello Gardeners,

EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SEED FAIR, BUT WERE AFRAID THAT THE REGISTRAR WAS TOO TIRED OF THE SUBJECT TO TELL YOU:  A reminder that the Seed Fair will be Saturday, April 7, from 9:30 – 11am, in the gym at the Eagle Heights Community Center. Get here early for the best selection.

We will have seeds for the following: beans, peas, kohlrabi, rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, spinach, kale, radish, beets, herbs, chard, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, melons, tomatoes, and flowers, plus a few others. These seeds have all been donated to us by seed companies. We very much appreciate these donations.

In addition to free seeds, we will also be selling row cover – 25’ for $5. This light-weight fabric can protect your plants from cold, wind, insects, and diseases.  If you don’t want to buy it at the Seed Fair, we will offer it again. This will be cash only, and please bring exact change if possible.
We will also have two of our very experienced gardeners answering questions. Our garden co-chairs will be here to tell people about the garden committee. We have had a donation of plant pots and flats (for starting seeds) and those will be available for free.

Also, we will have a representative from the Sweet Potato Project, who will explain the project and sign people up for it. Here’s a quick summary: you can order free sweet potato plants (although a donation is appreciated), grow them in your garden, and then donate half of the harvest to a local food pantry. 

If you aren’t able to find all the seeds you want at our Seed Fair, there are places in the area to buy seeds. The Ace Hardware Store, near Hilldale, on Midvale Boulevard, is probably the closest source. There are also garden centers, such as Jung’s, which sell seeds and plants. If you are looking for Chinese or Korean vegetables, you may be able to find seeds at local Asian grocery stores. I would also recommend that you look at the Kitizawa Company catalogue, if you’re willing to order seeds by mail:

HOW TO THROW THINGS AWAY AT EAGLE HEIGHTS AND UNIVERSITY HOUSES GARDENS: If you’re throwing something out in our gardens, it’s important for you to put it in the correct place. Let’s start with the weed piles. The weed piles are for weeds and other vegetation you are discarding. Please shake off as much dirt as you can before you take the weeds to the pile. Once you’re there, please throw your weeds into the middle of the pile. You may throw over-ripe vegetables in the weed piles, but not kitchen compost. (However, you may have a compost pile or bin in your plot. The University also has food scrap collection sites all over campus. Here’s a link:

Sticks should be placed in stick barrels, where other people can take them for their plots, and not in the weed piles. Lastly, anything you are throwing away that is not vegetable matter or sticks should go in the dumpsters – that includes old fencing and row cover, food containers, broken furniture, paper, etc. You may throw old plant pots and trays into the dumpsters, but if they’re in good shape, please leave them on or near the share shelves for other people to use.

It is important to throw things away correctly, because the dumpsters don’t get emptied if they have plant material in them, and we have to pay to have our weeds hauled away if there’s too much other stuff in with the weeds.

Happy Gardening,

From the Gardens Registrar: How to Start Your Eagle Heights/University Houses Garden

Hello Gardeners,

HOW TO START – If you’re an experienced gardener here, you can skip my message today. But if you’re new, this is for you.

Here’s the first thing to do with your plot:  figure out your boundaries. Each plot has a metal sign in front of it with the plot number. (If it’s a small plot, there is a metal piece under the number with A and B on it at Eagle Heights, or N and S on it at University Houses.) There should also be two yellow posts at the front of the plot – these mark the corners. Your plot extends from one yellow marker to the other. BUT every gardener must allow six inches on each side of the plot, including the back, for access. Since your neighbor also must allow six inches, this means there is one foot of empty space between each plot. This space is necessary for you and your neighbors to be able to work, push carts, and connect hoses to water. You are not allowed to plant anything in this space, and you should not have big plants next to it that will grow into it or hang over it.

Most of the disputes in our gardens come from gardeners not understanding where they should or shouldn’t plant. This is a very avoidable problem. If you have questions, ask the registrar. And please come to an orientation if you can.

Okay, once you know where you’re supposed to be, what do you do next?

We have a wonderful resource on our website, a Garden Manual written specifically for Eagle Heights, by Robin Mittenthal, who used to be the Garden Co-Chair some years ago. Here’s the link:  This manual is very thorough –in fact, it is 108 pages long! However, I suggest you start on Page 6, where it says, “The Absolute Minimum Amount You Need to Know.”

I’ll summarize it here. First of all, decide what you want to grow. Think about what you enjoy eating. Make room for some flowers, too. Robin then talks about what kind of space different vegetables take up. This is information you can find in his manual, on seed packets, or on the Internet.

Next, vegetables in our climate are either cool-season or warm season. You’ll want to think about your cool-season crops first, such as beets, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, peas, radishes, and greens such as spinach and kale. These vegetables can grow in cool weather, and tolerate some frost.
Most of these cool-season plants are started with seeds that are sown directly into the ground. But you can also buy plants for some of them. (We’ll have these seeds at the Seed Fair, of course, and we’ll also have a plant sale on April 22 where you can buy some of these cool-weather vegetable plants.)

When the ground is workable (not frozen or muddy), pull out weeds and old vegetation. (Shake off as much of the soils as you can, haul them to the weed pile, and dump them in the middle.) Then dig up the soil to get out weed roots and lumps of dirt, and smooth it over with a rake. Then you can plant your seeds, following the directions on the seed packages. Water thoroughly, and keep the planted bed moist until the seeds begin to sprout.

I really recommend that you read Robin’s manual, and refer to it often through the season.

Don’t forget – Seed Fair, Saturday, April 7, 9:30am – 11am. Garden Orientations on Saturday and Sunday (see schedule in last week’s message.)

Happy Gardening,

From the Gardens Registrar: Opening Day; Seed Fair; Garden Orientations; When to Start Gardening; How This Place Works

Hello Gardeners,

OPENING DAY – Opening Day for both gardens will be Saturday, March 24. This is the official first day to work in your plot. Portable toilets will be installed at both gardens. The tools and garden carts are already out of storage at Eagle Heights, and they’ll be brought out at the University Houses Gardens that day. (The hoses and hose reels at University Houses will stay in storage until closer to the time for the water to be turned on.) Remember, water won’t be turned on in either garden until it’s warm enough that the pipes won’t freeze. (probably not until May.)

SEED FAIR – Our annual Seed Fair will be held at the Community Center, on Saturday, April 7, from 9:30am – 11am. This event is for our gardeners only, not for the general public. To get your seeds, you’ll give your name to the volunteers, they’ll check that you have a plot, and then they’ll give you 15 tickets. (Note: this is 15 tickets per plot, large or small, but gardeners with two small plots will only get 15 tickets.) Each ticket is good for one packet of seeds. We have a good selection this year – peas and beans, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, radishes, kale, chard, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons, herbs, and flowers. And lots more – maybe this is the year to try rutabagas? (or maybe not…)

You’ll also have the opportunity to ask gardening questions of two of our very experienced gardeners, and also to meet your Garden Committee Co-Chairs and learn about the Garden Committee. (See “How This Place Works” below.) And we will be selling row cover, a type of light fabric that protects your plants from insect pests. (You’ll have other chances to buy row cover later on, if you don’t want to get it at the Seed Fair.)

If you are not able to come to the Seed Fair, but you still want free seeds, email me, and give me a list of the seeds you want. We may already be out of some things, but I’ll gather what I can for you, and I’ll leave the seeds for you to pick up at the Community Center.

GARDEN ORIENTATIONS – We strongly recommend that all new gardeners attend an orientation to learn some of the basics about our gardens.  We have the following orientations planned for Seed Fair weekend. All orientations will start at the garden shed:
Saturday, April 7               Eagle Heights             11:30a.m.            Orientation in Mandarin
Saturday April 7                Eagle Heights            12:00 Noon        Orientation in English
Saturday April 7            University Houses Gardens          12:00 Noon        Orientation in English
Sunday April 8              University Houses Gardens          12:00 Noon        Orientation in English

If you are not able to attend any of these sessions, but would still like an orientation, please email me, and I’ll try to set something else up for you.

TIME TO START? - Spring is starting, but the ground in our gardens is still frozen. Even once the frost is out of the ground, your garden is likely to be very muddy. Digging a muddy garden is hard work and messy, and it’s also not good for the soil – it compacts it, which makes it harder for plants to send roots through it. An easy way to find out if your plot is workable is to grab a handful of soil, and squeeze it. If it forms a loose ball that easily breaks apart, it’s ready to be planted in. But if you’ve got a mud pie on your hands, you’re better off waiting. You can still pull weeds, and start deciding what to plant where, but it’s better to wait to do extensive digging. By the way, if you are pulling weeds and old vegetation out of your Eagle Heights plot, take them to the weed pile and dump them on the concrete slab. DO NOT DUMP THEM IN THE DUMPSTER.
HOW THIS PLACE WORKS – I’m the Registrar for the gardens. I’m a very part-time employee, who assigns garden plots, answers questions, and mediates disputes. I also send out a message once a week with information about events, answers to commonly asked (or sometimes never asked) questions, gardening tips, reminders about the rules, and links to recipes. We also have two very part-time garden workers. But we employees don’t run this place. Who does? Guess what – you do! Our gardens are managed by the gardeners. We have a garden committee that meets once a month to discuss issues, problems, and projects. Please get involved. We want and need your opinions and ideas. Be sure to stop in at the Seed Fair and meet Co-Chairs Ilana and Janet!
Happy Gardening (soon) and see you at the Seed Fair,