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,