Wednesday, May 30, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Plant Exchange June 3; Comfrey; Voles; Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

PLANT EXCHANGE JUNE 3 – On Sunday, June 3, starting at 10:00am, we will have an informal plant exchange at the Eagle Heights Garden, at the Arbor. If you have extra plants to share, or hope to pick up some plants you’re missing, stop in. Please note that the plants people bring have not been raised professionally, so keep an eye out for diseases. We’ll also have more free seeds for summer crops – summer and winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons.

COMFREY – Comfrey is another widespread weed in our garden, and many gardeners struggle to get rid of it. If it’s taken over your garden, the only way to get rid of it is to dig it up, over and over again, until it’s finally all gone. It has big thick roots that go deep. But unlike the wire grass and thistles, it’s actually an attractive and useful plant. It will be blooming soon, with large beautiful blue/purple flowers. The plant is sometimes grown as a decorative perennial, and has uses in herbal medicine. But its greatest use for organic gardeners is as mulch and compost. Because the leaves are high in nitrogen and potassium, and they break down very quickly, you can cut them and use them as mulch around your plants. Or you can add them to a compost pile. Here’s a link to the ever-useful Wikipedia, with a good article on comfrey and a few pictures:

VOLES – One of the worst pests in our gardens is the vole. Voles are small mouse-like animals also known as meadow mice or field mice. They reproduce ferociously – one pair can produce as many as 100 offspring in a year. They eat insects and slugs, but unfortunately, they also eat just about every kind of plant. Fortunately, they have many natural predators, such as hawks, owls, and coyotes.  One of the best ways to deter them is to not give them habitat, by pulling your weeds and removing mulch from your garden. They don’t like feeding on bare ground – they prefer to be able to hide in vegetation. But many of us depend on mulch to protect our plants from weeds and reduce watering. (I’m not giving up my mulch.) Here are some other ideas about how to control them naturally:

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We are tentatively planning a workday for this Saturday morning, June 2, 9am – Noon, at Eagle Heights. There will be two projects. Some gardeners will work to organize and control the weed pile, which has spread out beyond its boundaries. Other gardeners will start work on renovating a garden plot. I’ll send out the Doodle Poll link separately.

Happy Gardening,  

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Water Lines in the 700’s and 900’s Are Back in Service; Path Mowing – Move Your Hose!; Plant Swap June 3; Bad Plant of the Week;  Rhubarb; Are You Still Planning to Garden? Row Cover Still Available

Hello Gardeners,

WATER LINES – The water is back on in the 700’s and 900’s. Thank you, Will!

PATH MOWING – Path mowing has begun this week, and will continue throughout the season. Mowing is hard work and very time-consuming, whether it’s done with a scythe, a tractor, or a gas mower. Our garden workers do not have the time to keep stopping to move hoses, or other items left carelessly in the paths. So, PLEASE do not leave your HOSE in the path, and do not leave bricks, wood, furniture, piles of weeds, milk jugs, tools, bottles, gloves, books, sandwiches, children, OR ANYTHING ELSE in the paths. Thank you.

PLANT EXCHANGE JUNE 3 – On Sunday, June 3, starting at 10:00am, we will have an informal plant exchange at the Eagle Heights Garden, at the Arbor. If you have extra plants to share, or hope to pick up some plants you’re missing, stop in. We’ll also have more free seeds for summer crops – summer and winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons.

BAD PLANTS – Today’s “bad plant” is the Canada Thistle, one of the two worst weeds in our gardens. (The other one is Wire Grass.) Thistle is invasive and persistent. It’s hard to get rid of it by digging it up, because if you leave a tiny bit of the root in the soil, it can grow a new plant. (This is one reason we no longer provide roto-tilling of garden plots – that just spread the thistles and wire grass around.) It propagates both by roots, and by seeds, which can spread over large distances.
It takes persistence on the gardeners’ part, but you can get rid of them eventually, if you don’t give up. This website has some good information:  Whatever you do, don’t let thistle flower – cut off the flower buds as soon as they appear, and keep them cut.

RHUBARB – One of the first harvestable crops in our garden is rhubarb. It’s very easy to grow – once established, it comes up every year and provides you with a delicious, if not terribly versatile, vegetable, which is treated as a fruit.  Rhubarb is very good for you, with lots of vitamins and minerals, (although once you add enough sugar to it to make it palatable, I don’t know how healthy it ends up.) Just use the stalks; the leaves are poisonous, but you can use them in your plot as mulch. Here’s a website that’s all about rhubarb, including how to grow it, and lots of ways to cook it:

ARE YOU STILL PLANNING TO GARDEN? – Many gardeners already have lots of vegetables coming up. Others have cleared their gardens, and are ready to plant, as soon as time and weather allow. However, there are some plots sitting completely unworked, covered with weeds and tall grass. If you haven’t started working in your plot yet, it’s time now! With all the rain we’ve been having, weeds are growing like crazy. And, if you’re realizing that you’re not going to have time to garden this year, send me an email right away. Don’t let the plot continue to sit. We have a waiting list, and I can easily find another gardener for your plot.

ROW COVER – We still have ten pieces of row cover left. If you want some, email me, and we’ll arrange to meet each other for a sale. $5 per piece, cash only, and exact change please. We won’t be ordering any more until next year.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Warm Weather Plant Sale at Eagle Heights May 20; Free Fencing, Stakes, and Tomato Cages; Volunteers Needed for Weed Juries

Hello Gardeners,

PLANT SALE ON MAY 20 - Here's a list of the plants that Scott Williams of Garden to Be will bring to sell on Sunday, May 20, at the Eagle Heights Gardens, near the shed. 11am – 2-pm. These will be sold as individual plants, $2.50 per plant:
Tomatoes: Sun Gold Cherry, Super Sweet 100 red cherry, Big Beef red slicer, Valley Girl red slicer (determinate/bush type), Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Juliet, Green Zebra, Valencia orange slicer, Striped German
Peppers: Green/Red Sweet Bell, Jalapeno, Serrano, Spanish Padron, Habaneros, Carmen Italian Frying (super sweet red!)
Tomatillos, Eggplants (Asian Long, Italian Globe, and Bianca Rosa), Diva cucumbers, Muskmelon/Canteloupe, Zucchini, Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash, Curly Parsley, Thyme.

Plants in 4-packs will be Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Green Cabbage, Red Russian Kale, Napa Chinese Cabbage, Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, Broccoli, and Basils – Genovese, Purple, and Lemon.  In 6-packs, there will be 5 different varieties of lettuce, plus sweet corn and kohlrabi. Each pack will be $2.50.

Scott says he is bringing lots and lots of plants. You won’t find a better selection or better prices anywhere else. So please stop in and give Scott your business!

FREE FENCING, STAKES, AND TOMATO CAGES: We have had a large donation of garden accessories – much of it brand new. When you stop in for the plant sale on Sunday, take a look around the share shelves, and help yourself.

WEED JURIES - We will be starting Weed Juries in June, and we’re looking for volunteers who like inspecting  other people’s plots. The purpose of Weed Juries is to find garden plots that may be abandoned, or are extremely weedy, particularly with invasive plants such as thistles. (Jurors can also take note of very well-managed gardens.) After a jury meets, they send me their notes, and I contact the owners of the problem gardens. Some gardens get cleaned up; others are given up and are given to new gardeners.

This year, we’re going to organize this a little differently than last year. Each jury will have three people, and will be responsible for one section of the garden. The jurors will inspect their section three times over the summer - in June, July, and August. Each jury will set their own schedule. The total amount of time should about equal three hours, and it’s the equivalent of a workday. The areas at Eagle Heights will be 100’s – 300’s, 500’s – 700’s, 800’s – 1000’s, and 1100’s – 1300’s. So we’re looking for 12 people altogether. You’re welcome to apply for the jury in your garden area, or a different area, if you prefer. People who served on juries last year and want to do so again are welcome, and I hope that some new people will also want to sign up. It’s also good to have a mixture of experienced gardeners and new gardeners.

At University Houses Gardens, the three jurors from last year are returning this year, and they did a fantastic job, so we won’t need any new volunteers there.
I will get more specific instructions to jury members before jurying starts. Let me know if you are interested, and if so, which section of the garden you would want to inspect.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Troy Farm Plant Sale; Warm Weather Plant Sale at Eagle Heights; Actively Aerated Compost Tea; Tomatoes; More Free Bean Seeds

Hello Gardeners,

TROY FARM PLANT SALE – On Saturday, May 12, Troy Farm will be selling certified organic garden plants. The sale will be from 10am – 2pm, at 502 Troy Drive on Madison’s north side (in the parking lot at the intersection of Troy Drive and Lerdahl Road). There will be 20 types and 75 varieties of vegetables and herbs. 4-Packs will be $2.50 per plant or $8 per pack. 6-packs will be $1.50 per plant or $8 per pack. Here’s a link to a full list of plants and descriptions:

WARM WEATHER PLANT SALE: Garden to Be will return to Eagle Heights for the second plant sale of the season on Sunday, May 20, from 11am – 2pm. Plants to be sold will include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basils, cucumbers, zucchini, some squashes/pumpkins, melons, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuces, and parsley. I’ll get you a more complete list closer to the date.

AACT – On Saturday, May 12, 9am – 11:30 am at Eagle Heights, Gary K will offer his actively aerated compost tea for free to gardeners. This tea, mixed with water, will add helpful microorganisms to your garden and rejuvenate your soil. Bring an empty gallon container for it. Gary will be happy to share his recipe, so you can make your own.

TOMATOES – Almost everyone in our gardens plants tomatoes. But there are hundreds of varieties - how do you know what kind to plant? Well, to begin with, tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomato plants are developed to stop growing once they start setting fruit.  This means generally that determinate tomato plants give you earlier tomatoes. Also, all the tomatoes on a plant tend to ripen at pretty much the same time. Indeterminate plants will continue to grow larger until frost or diseases kill them, and they will produce tomatoes over a longer season.
Think about how much space you have – some tomato plants are compact, and some can get quite big. Think about color – tomatoes can be red, yellow, orange, black, or green. Or striped. Decide whether you want modern hybrids, or old heirloom varieties. Once you get past all that, think about what kind of tomatoes you use. Cherry tomatoes for salads? Paste tomatoes for sauce? Large round tomatoes for bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches? (or tofu, lettuce and tomato? I know – it’s not the same.)

Whatever varieties you choose, give your tomato plants your sunniest spot, and best soil. Mulch well, and water frequently if it’s dry. Here’s a link to a website with a lot of information:

MORE BEAN SEEDS – It seems a little early, but the long-range forecast is showing continued warm weather for the next few weeks. So it’s time now to plant beans. We have a box of bean seeds from 2014, which I will be putting out on the share shelves at both gardens in the next few days. Bean seeds typically last three years, but these should still germinate pretty well, if you plant them thickly. Help yourself.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Drive Slowly at University Houses; What to Plant Now; A Few Words on Lettuce; Fences; Warm Weather Plant Sale; Thefts

Hello Gardeners,

SLOW DOWN! – One of the residents at University Houses has complained to the Housing Office about people driving their cars very fast on the drive that goes to the parking lot for the University Houses Gardens. If you drive your car to this garden, please remember that this is a residential area, with many children playing outside.  SLOW DOWN AND DRIVE CAREFULLY.

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – It is planting time for most vegetables in our gardens – peas, lettuce, cabbages and their relatives, spinach, chard, greens, root crops, and so on. But it is still too early to plant beans and squash - we may have another frost or two before we’re completely through with cold weather. Also, the soil is still cool – beans won’t germinate in cold soil. Tomato plants should not be planted outside until the middle of the month – and watch the weather forecasts carefully before you plant them. Peppers and eggplants like really warm weather, so some people don’t plant them out until June.

ABOUT LETTUCE – Lettuce is in the Aster Family, and there are at least five types – iceberg, Batavian, bibb, romaine, and leaf. Generally, the darker the lettuce, the more nutrition it has. Lettuce is a good source of Vitamins A and K. It’s one of the easiest vegetables to grow, especially leaf lettuce. This web site has some good information on different types, and how to grow them:

FENCES – The American poet Robert Frost is famous for having written that “Good fences make good neighbors.” Frost was a very good poet, but not an Eagle Heights gardener. We would love it if nobody here had fences. Fences are a regular source of conflicts between gardeners.

Do you have a fence around your plot? If so, please finish reading this, and then run right out to your plot to look at your fence. Is the fence right on your boundary line? If it is, it’s in the wrong place. All fences must be at least six inches inside your plot – on all four sides of your plot, including the side next to the path. Remember – your garden neighbors need access to their plots and to water. If you don’t like to garden without a fence, make sure it’s in the right place, keep it in good repair so it doesn’t lean over or collapse on your neighbor’s plants, and keep it weeded.

WARM WEATHER PLANT SALE: Garden to Be will return to Eagle Heights for the second plant sale of the season on Sunday, May 20, from 11am – 2pm. Plants to be sold will include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basils, cucumbers, zucchini, some squashes/pumpkins, melons, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuces, and parsley. I’ll get you a more complete list closer to the date.

THEFTS – It’s gardening time again, and that means people happily working in their plots, getting into disputes with their neighbors, violating rules right and left, and stealing things! When will it be winter again? No, seriously, a few thefts have already been reported to me. I do appreciate people letting me know when this happens, although all I can do is tell people I’m sorry. But I do want to remind all gardeners that we are subject to theft, of equipment, plants, and vegetables. I am convinced that the perpetrators are mostly not fellow gardeners. Having people steal your stuff is annoying, if not infuriating, but it is a fact of life in a community garden.

Happy Gardening,