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,