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,

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: Garden Committee Co-Chair Needed; Freezing Tomatoes; Plots Are Still Available; Zinnias; Dilly Beans; Workday at University Houses Gardens on Saturday

Hello Gardeners,

GARDEN COMMITTEE CO-CHAIR VACANCY – One of our co-chairs is leaving us at the end of October to take a job at a prestigious agricultural research station, so, sadly, we will need a new co-chair starting in November. The co-chairs run the monthly garden committee meetings and set the agendas. They help develop garden management policies, and may be called upon to settle disputes. The work is very responsible, but generally takes up very little time. What do you get in exchange? Beyond workday credit, you do get to use your knowledge, skills, and opinions to help our gardens keep operating, and, hopefully, continue far into the future.  If you’re interested, please send me an email. We’ll want to know why you want the position, what kind of time commitment you can make (we would prefer a one-year commitment), and any relevant experience you may have.

FREEZING TOMATOES – If you have any freezer space at all, and you’ve got extra tomatoes, you should freeze tomatoes for the winter. All you need is plastic freezer bags or containers, or canning jars. Wash the tomatoes, dry them, put them into the containers, and then into the freezer. That’s it. You don’t have to blanch them or do anything else to prepare them. You can also puree your tomatoes, and freeze the puree, or you can make sauce, and freeze that. Whichever way you do it, you’ll be happy to have your very own tomatoes to cook with in January.

PLOTS ARE STILL AVAILABLE – This time of year, empty garden plots are accumulating, and are available at no charge. You can take a plot, clear it of weeds in lieu of a workday, and get it ready for planting next year. A gardener is only allowed one (full) plot, but if you have a half-plot now, and you’re thinking you’d like more growing space next year, this would be a good opportunity to get another half-plot.

ZINNIAS AND BUTTERFLIES – Many gardeners plant zinnias in their plots. They’re colorful, easy to grow, take very little care, and may be beneficial to some of your vegetables. They attract bees, which pollinate plants, and they also deter cucumber beetles and tomato worms. But this time of year, they’re especially enjoyable, because they attract butterflies – monarchs, swallowtails, and others, which come to the flowers for nectar. Frankly, your registrar dislikes zinnias. But which would you rather have fluttering around your plot – a big beautiful butterfly or the registrar? You don’t have to answer this.

DILLY BEANS – These are very easy, and very good.

WORKDAY – We will have a workday at University Houses Gardens this Saturday morning, August 18, from 8am – 11am. The task will be clearing and chipping paths. Here’s the link to sign up: (University Houses Gardens are at the end of Haight Road, past Bernie’s Place Childcare Center.)

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: A Reminder – Workday and Gardener Gathering Today at Eagle Heights; Weedy Plot Notices; Garden Buddies; Squash Bugs; Weed of the Week – Burdock

Hello Gardeners,

TWO REMINDERS: Today’s workday is at Eagle Heights from 4pm – 7pm. Here’s the link to sign up:

Also, from 6pm – 7pm this evening, there will be an informal gathering at Eagle Heights to meet your fellow gardeners, and look at each other’s gardens. Meet at the shed at 6:00 if you want to tour, or else you can work in your garden and talk with other gardeners when they walk by.

WEEDY PLOT NOTICES – Here’s a quiz for you: what should you do if you receive a weedy plot notice from the registrar?

A.      Ignore it               B. Panic                C. Send an email back in response

The correct answer, of course, is B. I mean, C. We have four garden juries inspecting the plots at Eagle Heights, and one jury at University Houses. They send me monthly reports, I take a look at the plots they’ve marked, and then I send notices to the weediest ones. We inspect plots to try to solve two problems. One problem is that sometimes people give up gardening and don’t let the registrar know. This means that a plot can sit and get more and more weedy before anybody does anything about it. The other problem is that some kinds of weeds spread very easily, through roots and/or seeds, to neighboring plots. Very weedy plots can also harbor rabbits and voles. Plots in this kind of condition cause problems for other gardeners.

If you get a weedy plot notice, please email me back as soon as you can, and tell me what’s going on. Some gardeners will get right to work, and will clear out the weeds within a couple of weeks. That’s the best scenario. Other gardeners will admit that they’re busier than they expected, and will give up their plots. That’s the next best scenario. The worst scenario is the people who say they’ll get to work, and then nothing happens. Please don’t do that. Your garden plot is your own, but everything you do, and don’t do, affects other gardeners – that’s because we’re a COMMUNITY garden.

WHO’S YOUR GARDEN BUDDY? – Here’s our next quiz: what happens in your garden when you’re away for a week or two or three?

A.      Everything just sits there in suspended animation until you return
B.      Some vegetable plants die, some vegetables rot, and the weeds go crazy!

If you want to have a good garden, but you also want to (or have to) travel, be sure to find yourself a garden buddy. This is a person who will look after your plot while you’re gone – they’ll water if it’s very dry, pull a few weeds, and pick (and devour) your produce. Presumably, you’ll do the same for them when they travel. Because, (in case you guessed wrong), your plants and weeds will keep growing, even if you’re not around to watch. Let a friend, or one of your garden neighbors, know that you’ll be gone, and ask for their help.

FROM THE WISCONSIN PEST BULLETIN - SQUASH BUG - Adults and nymphs are active in pumpkin and winter squash plantings across the state. Vegetable growers should continue to inspect the undersides of leaves for the bronze-colored eggs, deposited in groups of 15-40 between leaf veins or on stems, as long as small nymphs are present. Squash bugs are capable of damaging mature fruit, thus control may be needed as the crop nears harvest.

BURDOCK – Today’s weed is burdock, which is an invasive plant which grows all over our gardens. Although the roots (and sometimes the stems) are eaten in Italy, Japan, and China, and are considered very healthy, I believe that most of the burdock in our gardens was not deliberately planted, and is not likely to be harvested. It makes a long taproot, which is hard to dig out, so try to find this and pull it out when it’s still small. The plants have lots of seeds, which spread widely, and the plant also can serve as a host for diseases which can attack your plants. Here’s some pictures:


Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

From the Gardens Registrar: What to Plant in August; Harvesting Garlic; Rabbits; Swiss Chard; Workday Tomorrow Evening at Eagle Heights

Hello Gardeners,

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – If you have empty space in your garden, this is a good time to start some fall crops, such as beets, carrots, chard, kale, lettuce, spinach, mustard, turnips, and radishes. Root crops and leafy greens are your best bets for productive fall vegetables because they grow pretty quickly, and many of them are hardy enough to survive some frost. I know – it’s only August, but we will be thinking about frost before you know it.

Planting this time of year is always tricky – some of these plants don’t do well in hot weather, and if you start them too early, they’ll just shrivel up. But you have to start them early enough to give them enough time to grow. Since the solstice (late June), the days are getting shorter and the sun less direct. This means that, despite warm temperatures, everything grows progressively slower in late summer and fall.

If you plant now, be sure to water frequently. It can be helpful if there’s shade in your garden (maybe from your taller plants) to start these cool weather-loving plants.

HARVEST YOUR GARLIC – For those lucky gardeners with garlic, this is the time to harvest it. Here’s an article on how to tell when your garlic is ready, how to dig it, and how to cure it for storage:

RABBITS – Are there more rabbits in the gardens this year than usual? Maybe not, but I’m seeing lots of them, and they’re fat and healthy-looking, too. No wonder – they’re stuffing themselves with our fresh, organic vegetables. There are a number of things you can try to repel rabbits, but there’s one thing for sure – if you have tall weeds in your garden, that gives rabbits (and voles) a place to live and hide. Remove their habitat, and it’s bound to help. This is the sort of reason we have garden juries reporting on weedy plots.  Here are some other ideas:

SWISS CHARD – Chard is a Mediterranean green (It’s not Swiss), that grows very easily in Eagle Heights gardens. It can be planted in spring or summer, requires little or no care, can be cut repeatedly, is healthy, tastes good, and is versatile to cook with. So if you haven’t planted it before, try it. 
WORKDAY AUGUST 2, AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – We will have a workday at Eagle Heights tomorrow, Thursday, August 2, from 4pm – 7pm. The project will be rechipping the 1300 row, and possibly working more on the weeds in the tree line. Please bring garden gloves. Here’s the link to sign up:


Happy Gardening,