Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Hello Gardeners,

WORKDAY – Given the fact that it is ridiculously cold, and everything is covered with several inches of snow, our workdays are at an end for this season. When weather allows, we will be closing down the gardens, and putting away most of the carts and tools for the winter. No, we will not put them all away – we will leave some tools and a few carts out for gardeners who still have work to do.


December 1        Deadline for paying the no-workday fee if you did not do a workday. (Please note – gardeners who received plots this fall are not required to do a workday.)

If you are paying the no-workday fee, please write a check for $32, payable to Division of University Housing, and drop it off at the Community Center, or mail it to Eagle Heights Gardens c/o Community Center, 611 Eagle Heights, Madison, WI 53705. If you use the drop box, please put your check in a green envelope, or else write “gardens” on your own envelope, so it doesn’t get mixed up with rent payments.

If you’re not sure whether or not you did a workday this year, or are required to, or already paid for the no-workday, send me an email, and I’ll check for you. About 200 gardeners have not done workdays or paid, so far.

December 15        First day to apply for a garden for 2020. The new applications will be available on our website (, and can also be picked up in paper form, in English and in Chinese, at the Community Center. They will look suspiciously like the 2019 forms, although I hope someone has the presence of mind to change the date….

February 15        Deadline for returning gardeners to apply to renew the gardens they had in 2019. (New gardeners may apply for gardens at any time.) If you get your renewal application in after the deadline, I will renew your plot if it’s still available. But you’re taking your chances. After February 15, I will start assigning plots that have not been renewed to new gardeners, so if you’re late, your plot might be gone already. If you want to garden again next year, but you want to move to a different plot, you should still get me your application by the deadline – you have priority over new applicants, and I’ll get you settled in a plot you like before I start on the new applications. Also, I cannot renew your plot if you have not taken care of this year’s workday.

March 21         Opening Day for 2020 (approximate date) – tools and carts will come back out of the sheds for the season. (Water will not be turned on until April or May, depending on the weather.)

March 28          Seed Fair at the Community Center – each garden plot will be allowed 15 free packets of seeds. Row cover will also be for sale.

This will be my last weekly message for this season. (Don’t look so happy!) However, I will send an email out next month to remind people when the 2020 applications come out. And please email me if you have any questions about anything. I’ll still be around.

THANK YOU! – Thank you to everybody who had a garden this year, and especially to everybody who did a workday. The workday crews worked hard, and did a lot of great work. Thanks also to Will and Megan, and our other garden workers. Thank you to our Co-Chairs, members of the Garden Committee, and the many members of our garden community who take care of common areas and do many many other extra tasks to keep the garden going. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Have a good winter.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Where’s the Mulch?; Cleaning Up; Glass in Plots; Sprouting Seeds; Lakeshore Nature Preserve Draft Strategic Plan; Workday To Be Determined

Hello Gardeners,

LEAF MULCH AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES – The last several years have been rainy, and we have had great difficulty in getting soil amenities to the University Houses Gardens. Leaf mulch and wood chips have often not been available at that garden for long stretches of time, to say nothing of compost and manure. Meanwhile, the Eagle Heights gardeners have been rolling in the stuff. (Literally, at times.) This is not because we don’t like you. It’s because the EH gardens have graveled roads and the UH garden does not. UH is somewhat low to start with, and the “road” that goes to the parking lot is barely a road at all. Plus, past the parking lot, the ground is soft and turns to mud easily, particularly under heavy machinery. This year, in desperation, we have tried using space in the parking lot for chips and mulch, and it’s been in other people’s way.

HOWEVER, Housing is going to do us a big favor and dump some leaves on the UH parking lot this week, on the understanding that they need to be picked up by gardeners right away. If they get used up quickly, Housing will bring more. But they don’t want the leaves sitting there for a long time. So, when they appear, grab them as fast as you can. Once the ground is frozen (which, unfortunately, might be soon), we’ll be able to get large loads of leaves over there, hopefully enough to last you into next summer.

CLEANING UP – When you’re cleaning your plot, is it okay to leave equipment there over the winter? Yes, if you know you will be renewing your garden plot next year, you may certainly leave tomato cages, fencing, hose, furniture, etc. in your plot. But it is best not to leave anything nice behind – it might be damaged by weather, or be taken by somebody who likes it and assumes it’s abandoned. So it’s safer to take home anything you value and keep it in your garage or basement until spring.

GLASS IN PLOTS – As our rules state, we do not allow glass in the gardens. It breaks easily, and then pieces get mixed into the soil, where gardeners long into the future may continue to find them unexpectedly and hurt themselves. If you have any glass containers in your plot, take them home now. Even if they’re in good shape now, they won’t be after the snow and winter have had their way with them.

SEED SPROUTING – If you already miss fresh, just-picked vegetables, maybe you should try growing sprouts at home. Unlike growing herbs inside, this really is easy. Here’s some basic information:

LAKESHORE NATURE PRESERVE STRATEGIC PLAN – Our gardens (both locations) are part of the UW’s Lakeshore Nature Preserve, and the Preserve Staff has extended the following invitation to all our gardeners: We want your feedback on the Lakeshore Nature Preserve Draft Strategic Plan! Join us Tuesday November 12 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Memorial Union. Refreshments will be served. Check Today in the Union for room location.
The draft plan was created with input from over 650 campus and community members through a series of focus groups and an online survey conducted last spring. Lakeshore Nature Preserve Director, Gary Brown, will present the common themes from the focus groups and the key takeaways from the public survey along with the strategic priorities that came out of those findings. The presentation will be followed by time for discussion, comments, and questions from the public. The strategic plan will establish the basis for a 2020 Lakeshore Nature Preserve Facilities Master Plan.
For more information about the strategic plan public comment meeting please contact Preserve Program Manager Laura Wyatt at 608-265-9275 or

WORKDAY – If we schedule a workday this weekend, I’ll send out a separate message.

Happy gardening, Kathryn

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Parking on Eagle Heights Drive; Translation Requested; Co-Webmaster Needed; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

PARKING ON EAGLE HEIGHTS DRIVE – The University has put up the winter parking signs on Eagle Heights Drive – that means no parking for gardeners (or anybody else) on the street on weekdays. Weekend and holiday parking is still allowed through the winter. With the current weather and forecast, gardening is pretty much at an end for the season. But I know gardeners are still doing clean-up, so I regret the inconvenience. Hopefully, everyone has picked their winter squash and pumpkins, and hauled them home already. (If not, do it NOW because they can be damaged by frost. You can still eat them if they’ve been frosted, but they won’t keep.) If you do drive your car to Eagle Heights on a weekday, the closest parking is at Frautschi Point (2662 Lake Mendota Drive.) Meanwhile, the gardeners at University Houses can feel smug, which they don’t get to do very often.

TRANSLATION – One of the garden committee chairs of the past, Robin Mittenthal, wrote a wonderful guide to planting vegetables in Wisconsin, which is available on our website, at: _ The manual includes a five-page “Quick Reference Guide” (starting on Page 61), which lists common vegetables, and how and when to plant them in our gardens. Unfortunately, this guide is only in English – I think it would be very helpful to have copies available at our Seed Fair in the spring, and on our website, in Chinese and Korean. So I am looking for gardeners who would be able to translate, at least the names of the vegetables and the headings on the guide. Anybody interested? You’ll get workday credit for it – either this year (if you haven’t already done a workday) or else next year. I would also be open to translations into other languages, but we have so many gardeners from China and Korea that those languages are the ones we most need. Let me know if you’re interested.

WEBMASTER – The gardener who has been our webmaster for the last couple of years is giving it up. We have another gardener with excellent experience who has taken over some of the work, but we still need someone to manage the "backend" of the website. This includes wordpress updates and plug-ins, security monitoring, and interfacing with our host lunarpages/hostpapa. This also qualifies for workday credit. Please let me know if you have website experience and are interested. It’s not a lot of work, but when we do have a problem with the site, we need someone who can respond pretty quickly.

GROWING HERBS INDOORS – One of the worst things about losing your garden in the fall is that it’s the end of fresh herbs for a while. There are numerous websites on the Internet that tell you how easy it is to grow herbs inside in the winter, and have as much as you want to cook with. I have tried it, and it is not easy. I have had no success with this whatsoever. But I still want to try it. Here is a website with a lot of information and a more realistic approach:

NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We will probably have another workday or two before the season ends officially, but not this weekend. You can stay home and stay warm.

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Winterization; Lasagna Gardening; Gardening is Good for Us!; More on Sweet Potato Harvests; Workday This Saturday at EH

Hello Gardeners,

WINTERIZATION – The water is now turned off for the season in both gardens. The hoses and hose reels at University Houses Gardens have been collected and put into storage. The last day for the portable toilets at both locations will be November 6, so if you have to go, you better go before then. We will probably continue to hold workdays into November, depending on the weather. We haven’t set a closing date yet this year, but last year, we closed the gardens the beginning of December. Closing Day is the day when we put most of the tools and carts into the sheds for the winter, but we always leave a few outside, for those who are still working in their gardens.

LASAGNA GARDENING – If you’d like to try something new in your garden plot next year, you might consider a lasagna garden. Lasagna gardens aren’t gardens with tomatoes, basil, and cheese (though that sounds really good) – they are gardens that are layered. (It’s also called “Sheet Composting”) 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, woodchips, coffee grounds, whatever you have.  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 have to dig up a lasagna garden. It’s less work for the gardener, and also it’s better for the microbes that improve our soil – they can be damaged by digging. My lasagna garden is now in its fourth year – it’s been reasonably productive, and very easy to take care of. As usual, I’m going to add more newspaper and leaves to it this fall. Here are some instructions:

WHY GARDENING MAKES US HAPPY – Speaking of microbes, this article explains one of the reasons that digging in the dirt makes people happy:

SWEET POTATO HARVESTS – I heard from a few more gardeners who planted sweet potatoes, in the ground (not in containers), and who got bumper crops. It’s good to know these were successful for some of our gardeners.

WORKDAY THIS SATURDAY – We’ll have a workday this Saturday morning, October 26, from 9am – Noon, at Eagle Heights. The task will be finishing the reorganization of the bricks and other construction materials we’ve been acquiring. Gloves are strongly recommended. Here’s the link to sign up: The current weather forecast looks good, but if it rains, the workday will be cancelled.

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Are You Leaving the Gardens?; Clean-Up; Workdays and Workday Fees; Garlic Planting; Sweet Potato Results; Workday Sunday Morning at U Houses Gardens

Hello Gardeners,

ARE YOU GIVING UP YOUR GARDEN PLOT? – If you know that you will not be gardening with us again next year, please let me know this fall. It really speeds up the application process when I can start out with a list of plots I know are going to be empty for the coming year. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, that’s okay – just be sure to make your decision by February 15, which will be the deadline for renewing for 2020.

CLEAN UP BEFORE YOU LEAVE – If you aren’t returning to your plot next year, please clean it up before you go – pull out dead vegetables and weeds, take them to the weed pile, and put some leaf mulch down on the plot. (If you’re at the garden that has some.) Please leave your plot looking the way you would like to see it if you were going to start gardening in it in the spring. Often, when people are assigned to weedy plots, they are never able to get them in good shape, and get so frustrated that they give up long before the end of the season. And then the plot may just get worse and worse. Break this cycle.

WORKDAYS AND WORKDAY FEES – We will probably still have a few more workdays before the end of the season, depending on the weather. So if you want to work one, you have a few more chances. But don’t put it off. If you don’t want to or aren’t able to attend a workday, you have 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 paying this is December 1. I cannot renew garden plots for people who have not either done a workday or paid the fee. If you are not sure whether or not you did a workday this year, or paid for the workday with your 2019 plot fees, please email me, and I’ll be happy to check for you.

HOW LOW CAN YOUR VEGETABLES GO? – I mean, temperature-wise. The cabbage family members, lettuce, root crops, and chard can probably survive temperatures as low as 26 degrees. Brussels sprouts and spinach can survive 20 degrees. Kale can even handle temperatures as low as 10 degrees. Many of these vegetables actually are sweeter and better-tasting after frost.

IT’S GARLIC PLANTING TIME AT EAGLE HEIGHTS! – Isn’t there a song about this? Maybe not. Garlic is best planted in the fall, not the spring, and should go in about 4 – 6 weeks before the ground freezes.  You should start by loosening the soil, then plant the individual garlic cloves 3 – 4” deep, with the pointy ends facing up. You should then cover the bed with a thick layer of leaves or straw – this will give the garlic a chance to grow roots before the ground freezes. Here’s one of many websites on the topic:  If you’re not planting garlic saved from your own harvest, you can buy garlic to plant at garden centers (such as Jung’s), or farmers’ markets. You can even plant garlic from the grocery store – buy organic if you have a choice – some grocery store garlic may be treated with a chemical to prevent it from sprouting.
SWEET POTATO HARVESTS – I haven’t had many replies from sweet potato growers, but it sounds so far as though the people who did the best with these were growing them in containers. Most people who responded weren’t terribly successful. I’d still like to hear from gardeners who tried growing these.

WORKDAY SUNDAY OCTOBER 20 AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES – We will have a workday at U Houses Gardens on Sunday, from 9am – Noon. Please meet at the garden shed. The U Houses Gardens are at the end of Haight Road, next to Bernie’s Place Childcare Center, which is at 39 University Houses. The task will be collecting and storing the hoses and hose reels, plus some path work. Here’s the link to sign up:
Happy gardening,

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Cold Nights Ahead; Leaf Mulch; How Did Your Sweet Potatoes Do?; Do You Have Pictures to Share?; Brussels Sprouts; Workday on Sunday

Hello Gardeners,

COLD NIGHTS – The current forecast is for temperatures close to freezing Friday night, (33 degrees F), and continued night time temperatures in the middle or upper 30s for the next week. So pick your produce unless it’s frost-tolerant, or else protect your plants.

LEAF MULCH – The University Houses Gardens really need leaf mulch. As always, the problem is getting it there. We get our leaves from the Village of Shorewood, and when they start bringing leaves to us, later this month, they will bring a load to U Houses first. We don’t mean to slight U Houses, but with the only access being an unpaved road, and so much of the garden area being really wet and soft, it’s often just not possible to get supplies there.

Meanwhile, there is still lots of leaf mulch at Eagle Heights. As you pull out your dead vegetable plants, you can cover your garden with a good layer of mulch. It will protect any perennial plants in your garden from severe weather. Also, it will improve your soil as it decomposes, suppress weeds, and reduce soil erosion. However, it can also make a nice cozy winter habitat for voles. If you have a lot of voles in your garden neighborhood, you might want to wait until the ground is frozen before bringing the mulch.

SWEET POTATOES – I know that quite a few of our gardeners signed up this spring for the Dane County Sweet Potato Project. (The project provides free sweet potato slips to gardeners who are willing to share half their crop with food pantries.)  If you grew sweet potatoes this year, how well did they do? Did you try growing them in five-gallon buckets? (This was a separate, but related project.) Please email me ( and let me know how this worked out for you. Have you harvested yet? Once you dig them up, it’s best to put them through a curing process before storing or donating them. Here’s a link to the project’s website, which has lots of information about growing and harvesting these vegetables:

DO YOU HAVE PICTURES OF YOUR GARDEN TO SHARE? - Thanks to the generosity of a number of seed companies, which donate outdated (but still viable) seeds to community gardens, we are able to provide free seeds to our gardeners, at our annual Spring Seed Fair, and at other times of the year, as well. I’m sending thank you letters to these companies, and would like to enclose some pictures that gardeners have taken this year of their plots – particularly pictures that show gardeners planting and harvesting. We put pictures on our website, too, and could really use some new ones. Please email them to me. Thank you.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS – Some gardener pulled up their Brussels Sprouts, and threw them in the dumpster. Of course, they should have gone on the weed pile rather than the dumpster, but I can understand throwing them out. They’re not exactly my favorite vegetable, either. But some people love them. Here’s a recipe from the New York Times that sounds easy and good: By the way, Brussels sprouts, like other cabbage family relatives, were originally native to the Mediterranean region. The northern Europeans now known as Belgians started growing them as early as the Thirteenth Century.

WORKDAY – We will have a workday on Sunday afternoon, October 13, from 2pm – 5pm, at Eagle Heights. The task will be path and water system maintenance. Here’s the link to sign up: It will be chilly, even in the afternoon, so dress accordingly.
Happy gardening,

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: It’s Time to Think About Frost; Tomatoes – Ripening or Green; Did You Take Boards From Plot 108?; Workday on Sunday

Hello Gardeners,

FROST – According to the long-range weather forecast, night-time temperatures may be falling into the upper 30’s by the middle of this month. This is fairly typical Wisconsin weather. We usually get a frost sometime in October. But that doesn’t mean the end of garden season. Some plants are killed by frost – tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, squash, melons, and cucumbers, for instance. But lettuce, root vegetables, and cabbage relatives will survive. The early frosts are usually mild, and followed by short periods of warmer weather.

If you still have tomatoes and peppers ripening, you should probably plan to pick them in the next week or two. (see “How to Ripen Tomatoes”, below.) But you can also try covering your plants to protect them. This can really make a difference with light frost – if your protection raises the temperature a degree or two, that’s all that might be needed. You can use row cover, sheets, light blankets, buckets, boxes, all sorts of things. But unless the temperature is going to stay low the next day, you should remove the cover the next morning. There’s a point at which all this covering and uncovering becomes too much work, and then you might just want to give up for the season. Plants this time of year are growing really slowly, so saving them for a few more days doesn’t make much difference.

But whatever you’ve still got growing, and whatever you decide to do – pick or try to protect - start watching the weather forecasts and pay attention to nighttime temperatures.

HOW TO RIPEN TOMATOES OFF THE PLANT – Tomatoes will continue to ripen after they are picked. If you have just a few left, and they’re almost ripe, you can just leave them on your kitchen counter. But if you have lots of under-ripe tomatoes, and don’t want them to go to waste, a little more attention to the process may pay off. Here’s an article with a lot of information and alternatives:

THE JOYS OF GREEN TOMATOES – Or, just use them green. You can enjoy eating them, as long as you don’t think too hard about how delicious they would have been if they’d ripened. These recipes sound pretty good:

BOARD DISAPPEARANCE – Will whoever took two 6’ boards from Plot 108 last week please return them? The gardeners had plans for them. No questions will be asked. Thank you.

WORKDAY AT EH SUNDAY OCTOBER 5 – We will have a workday this Sunday, October 5, at Eagle Heights, from 2pm – 5pm. The task will be path and water maintenance. Here’s the link to sign up:  The weather is looking good for Sunday, but if it rains, the workday will be cancelled.

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: DON’T LEAVE HOSES AND DEBRIS IN THE PATHS; Dayflowers; Roasted Vegetables; Taking Cuttings from your Flowers; Green Thumb Gardening Classes; Are You Leaving?; Workday is Iffy

Hello Gardeners,

HOSES AND DEBRIS IN THE GARDEN PATHS – So once again, our mowing was interrupted by a hose and a tomato cage left in the path. The mower had to be taken apart to remove the pieces of hose and cage. Bad language was probably used. Your garden plot is your own space. But the paths are common areas, shared with all the other gardeners and visitors – no gardener has any right to leave anything in the paths. When you want to water your garden, you can use the path temporarily to connect your hose to a water station. When you are done watering, you must disconnect the hose and bring it back to your plot.  DO NOT leave your hose attached, and DO NOT leave your hose in the path. At our next workday, garden volunteers will be instructed to disconnect any hoses left attached to the water faucets, and these hoses will be taken away to an unknown destination. Don’t let this happen!

DAYFLOWERS – I’m seeing more and more of these beautiful blue-flowered invasives around the gardens, including a large number in the path in front of Plot 115. They come from Asia, and are very hard to get rid of if you don’t want them. But perhaps they can be tolerated – their flowers are true blue, an unusual color in nature. And, apparently, they’re edible, though I haven’t tried them. They have been used as a dye in Japan, and as a medicinal herb in China. They’re related to Spiderwort, a native wildflower that also has cultivated varieties. Here’s more information on them:

ROASTED VEGETABLES – Now that temperatures are coming down, and there are so many root vegetables to harvest, this is an excellent time to eat roasted vegetables. This is a link to a basic recipe:  You can use whatever vegetables you like (or whatever vegetables your garden is producing), and whatever herbs and spices you like. Simple and tasty.

TAKING CUTTINGS FROM YOUR FLOWERS – For gardeners who grow flowers, this is a good time of year to divide your perennials. It’s also a good time to take cuttings from flowering plants such as geraniums. They can be rooted in water or potting medium in your house over the winter, and be ready to plant out next spring. Geraniums can also be brought inside in the winter, to grow and flower, or to be stored in a dormant state until warmer weather:  (Some begonias can also be rooted from cuttings.)

GREEN THUMB GARDENING CLASSES – Dane County UW Extension is offering a series of classes for gardeners on Wednesday evenings, beginning October 9, at their offices on the far east side – 5201 Fen Oak Drive. Classes are $12 each, or $70 for the series. The first class will be “Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter and Seed Saving/Seed Starting”. Here’s a link for more information:

ARE YOU LEAVING THE GARDENS? – Eagle Heights gardeners are busy people, and mobile. It’s not unusual for me to receive an email from a gardener letting me know that they have moved to Bangkok or Beloit, or some other exotic location, and are no longer able to care for their garden plot. I appreciate knowing, but if you could let me know before you actually leave, that would be even better.

WORKDAY – Due to the weather forecast, we will probably not have a workday this weekend. If plans change, I’ll send out a separate email.

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Clean Up; Workday This Weekend; General Workday Information; UH Workday Mysteries

Hello Gardeners,

CLEAN UP – Even this late in the season, many of our garden plots continue to look beautiful. There are lots of cabbages, kales, and greens of all sorts. We are still hosting large numbers of monarch butterflies, and the turkeys and cranes are eating exceptionally well. However, it being mid-September, there are getting to be a lot of dead vegetable plants in plots. If your tomato plants have died (as most of mine have), this is a good time to pull them up, collect the rotten tomatoes, and haul it all to the weed pile. If your bean plants are dead, haul those too. Some people believe you should cut the bean plants but leave the roots in the soil to add nitrogen. Unfortunately, recent research does not seem to back this up. In any case, clear out the dead stuff, get rid of the rotting produce, and haul back some leaves to cover the space. Do your garden clean-up a little at a time, and it won’t be an enormous chore later on.

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We are planning a workday this Sunday, September 22, at Eagle Heights, from 9am – Noon. The task will be path maintenance. Here’s the link to sign up:  The weather this weekend looks iffy - please note, if it rains, the workday will be cancelled.

WORKDAYS (IN GENERAL) – About 250 of our gardeners have not done a workday yet this year. That’s okay – many of the gardeners prefer to pay the “no workday fee”, and will pay it by the deadline, which is December 1. But we really want people to do workdays. It’s a great opportunity to meet other gardeners, and maybe see parts of the garden you don’t normally see. Many people find it satisfying afterwards to see an area they worked on, and know that they had a part in improving it. Doing a workday is an important part of the whole “community garden” experience. Plus, of course, you can get sunburned, calloused, and sore. What’s not to like?

We will continue to have workdays until the end of the gardening season. (Last year’s final workday, for instance, was November 18.) But how late we go into the fall will depend on the weather. If you do want to do a workday rather than pay the fee, it would be a good idea to sign up soon.

LOST SWEATSHIRT AT UH WORKDAY SEPTEMBER 8 – If you left a blue hooded medium-sized Regent Tennis sweatshirt at University Houses Gardens, please let me know. It was found in the garden shed. I would also appreciate any information on the identity of someone named Nick (last name indecipherable) who did the workday, and listed his plot as “700 row Eagle Heights.”

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Garlic Planting Workshop; Garden Arbor and Rain Garden; Squash Facts; Workday at Eagle Heights Saturday Morning

Hello Gardeners,

GARLIC PLANTING WORKSHOP – A reminder – garlic-master Gary K. will give his annual garlic-planting workshop, near the EH shed, on Saturday, September 14, from 9am – 10am. As always, he does not recommend planting garlic until October. In fact, he thinks that the best time this year will be after October’s full moon, October 13. His talk will cover how, when, and where to plant garlic. If you love Allium sativum, you should really hear Gary’s advice before you plant.

GARDEN ARBOR AND RAIN GARDEN – The beautiful Garden Arbor at Eagle Heights is maintained entirely by volunteers. We can always use more people to help out with weeding and other tasks. Yes, you get workday credit for your time. Please let me know if you’re interested. This year, we added more space to the Arbor Garden, by turning the former Plot 606A into a rain garden. The lowest area of the gardens, most of the 500 and 600 rows, was flooded much of last year, and again this spring. We had two reasons for creating this rain garden – one being to establish a perennial garden that would grow well under wet conditions. The other reason was to see if a rain garden could be helpful to neighboring plots. The rain garden volunteers dug out some of the dirt/mud in the space and lowered the area before the rain garden plants were put in. Hopefully, if/when we get heavy rains in the future, some of the water will run into the rain garden, leaving other nearby plots drier. The plants have settled in very nicely and are growing well. One result we’ve seen already is that the plants in this garden are attractive to butterflies – volunteers counted 15 Monarch larvae on the swamp milkweeds last weekend.

WHY ARE SQUASH CALLED “SQUASH”? – Our term for the vegetable,” squash” (okay, botanically, it’s really a fruit) comes from a Narragansett Indian word, askutasquash, which means, “eaten raw or uncooked.” Squash and pumpkins have been cultivated for food (and utensils in the case of gourds) for at least 12,000 years, and originally grew wild in Central America. When Europeans came to North America in the 1500s, they found the native peoples growing and eating a number of different kinds of squash, most of which are still grown and eaten today. Zucchini, like all the other squash, originated in the Americas, but were developed in Italy in the late Nineteenth Century, and then were brought back here by Italian immigrants. Here’s an article on squash history from the Library of Congress:

WORKDAY – We will have a workday at Eagle Heights this Saturday, September 14, from 9am – Noon. The task will be removing weeds and debris from the shed area and the 1300’s path. Please bring gloves. Meet at the garden shed. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: What to Do in the Garden Now; Birds; Plot Markers; Garden Juries; Freezing Beans; Workday To Be Determined

Hello Gardeners,

WHAT TO DO IN YOUR GARDEN IN EARLY SEPTEMBER  – There’s still time to plant a few quick-growing, cool weather-loving vegetables: beets, carrots, chard, lettuce, mustard, radishes, spinach, and turnips. But these should probably be planted in the next week or so, to give them enough time to grow before frost. If you have winter squash and it’s still blooming, you should take off any new flowers, to encourage the plants to put their energy into ripening the fruits that have already been set. (Thanks, Amy.) If you’re lucky enough to have fall raspberries, be sure to pick them as soon as they’re ripe – don’t let them sit and rot, and attract fruit flies. In fact, keep picking whatever vegetables and fruits you’ve got. You may still be feeling overwhelmed, but as the days get shorter, there will be less and less to pick.

BIRD MIGRATION – Some birds start heading south for the winter as early as July. Hummingbirds and warblers start their fall migrations in August. Many of the birds passing through Madison will stop over at the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which our gardens are part of. Some of them may stop in our gardens as well, so be on the lookout for unusual birds, and listen for unfamiliar songs. Here’s some information from a Friends of the Lakeshore Preserve newsletter from a few years ago:

PLOT MARKERS – Each garden plot should have three markers at the front along the path – one is the number marker, which should be in the middle, and the other two are corner markers, which are painted yellow. Many of these markers go missing every year. Sometimes, neighborhood kids play games with them and scatter them around the garden. Some of them are moved by gardeners to become stakes for tomatoes. Others are apparently sucked into black holes, nevermore to be seen again. The next time you’re at your garden, please take a look at your markers, and if you’ve moved them from where they belong, please move them back. They have a purpose.

THANK YOU TO THE GARDEN JURY MEMBERS – The five groups of garden juries have completed their work for this year. These people have surveyed the gardens to look for abandoned and weedy plots. The June reports were not bad. There were a few more bad plots in July. But the August surveys found large numbers of weedy, dreadful-looking plots in both gardens. This is thoroughly depressing. I am still digesting the last jury reports, but I very much appreciate all the work and thought that went into their sessions. So far, 25 garden plots have either been given up by the gardeners or were confiscated, thanks to the work of the juries. Those 25 plots are being worked now by enthusiastic new gardeners. We all benefit from this, so thank you, jurors.

FREEZING BEANS – If you’re still picking beans, and you’re tired of eating them, remember that the easiest way to preserve them is to freeze them. It’s standard to blanch them first, which means giving them a few minutes in boiling water, and then cooling them quickly in ice water before you put them in the freezer. Some people claim their texture is better and they have more nutrients if you blanch them first. Other people think it’s not worth the extra trouble. Why not try doing it both ways and see if the extra step is worthwhile? Here’s a website with detailed instructions:

WORKDAY – If we have a workday this weekend, I’ll send out a separate announcement.

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Why Do People Garden?; Why Do People Not Garden?; Remove Your Tomato Blossoms; Annual Garlic Planting Seminar; Workday on Sunday at University Houses Gardens

Hello Gardeners,

WHY DO PEOPLE GARDEN? – People garden for many reasons. Here are just a few – to grow vegetables to feed their families; to know where their food comes from and to show their children where it comes from; to grow food they eat in their home countries that they can’t get here; for health and exercise; for an excuse to be outside; to be creative; to enjoy the company of the birds and butterflies; they remember their parents gardening; they find garden work relaxing and meditative; because it’s satisfying, and some people can’t imagine NOT having a garden.

WHY DO PEOPLE NOT GARDEN? – If you have garden neighbors who don’t take care of their plots (and yes, I know what it’s like), you may have nasty thoughts about them. “When are they going to cut down their weeds? Why did they get a garden if they weren’t going to take care of it? Why are they letting their tomatoes rot?” It’s true that our garden rules state clearly that “Weeds must be kept under control.” We have garden juries to inspect gardens in the summer, and they tell me when they find gardens that are exceptionally weedy or that seem to have been abandoned. Then I contact the gardeners for those plots. Some people don’t respond, and some people explain that they’ve left town. Those plots get confiscated, and turned over to new gardeners. But quite often the gardeners say they’re very busy – many of our gardeners are students, with jobs, and families. They want to work in their gardens, but they have so many other obligations in their lives. And quite often also, gardeners or family members have been sick. Eventually, weedy gardens do get cleared, one way or another. But sometimes it takes a while – it’s not always a quick process. I’m not excusing people for having weedy plots, but some gardeners really do have good excuses. Please think good thoughts when you pass a bad plot, if you can.

TOMATO BLOSSOMS – I’m sorry, folks, but Fall really is coming soon. After September 1, it is time to start taking any new flowers off of your tomato plants. That will encourage the plants to put more of their energy into ripening the fruit they’ve already set. This is especially important with large-fruited tomatoes. Same goes for larger-fruited peppers and eggplants.

GARLIC PLANTING SEMINAR – Although garlic-master Gary K. is no longer gardening at Eagle Heights, he is going to visit the gardens on Saturday, September 14, from 9am – 10am, to give his annual garlic-planting workshop. You can meet him at the EH shed. As always, he does not recommend planting garlic until October. In fact, he thinks that the best time this year will be after October’s full moon, October 13. His talk will cover how, when, and where to plant garlic. If you love Allium sativum, you should really hear Gary’s advice before you plant.

WORKDAY ON SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1 AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES GARDENS – A long-time UH gardener will lead a workday at UH Gardens on Sunday, September 1, from 8am – 11am. The task will be clearing weeds from around the leaf pile and the paths. Please meet at the garden shed. The U Houses Gardens are at the end of Haight Road, next to Bernie’s Place Childcare Center, which is at 39 University Houses. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Mexican Bean Beetles; Renewing Your Garden for 2020; The Proper Use of Weed Piles; Weed of the Week – Canada Fleabane; Workday TBA

Hello Gardeners,

MEXICAN BEAN BEETLES – I haven’t seen any bean beetles this year in my plot – I think the Japanese Beetles must be chasing them off my plants – but gardeners have been reporting that they have them. One gardener sent me a picture of some strange yellow, spiny creatures under his bean leaves. They are bean beetle larvae, and they’re born hungry. As always, with these beetle pests, the safest and most effective way to get rid of them is to pick them off your plants, and drop them into a container of soapy water. Here’s a link to information on bean beetles, with pictures of their different life phases, suitable for framing:

NEXT YEAR – It seems early, but I’m already getting inquiries about applying for garden plots for next year. So here’s the scoop. The 2020 garden applications will be available on-line and at the Eagle Heights Community Center starting on December 15. For people who have gardened in 2019 and want to renew their plot, the deadline to get your application in is February 15. After that date, any garden plots that haven’t been renewed will be assigned to new applicants. If you have gardened this year, and you want to garden again next year, but you want to move to a different plot, you can indicate that on your application, and I’ll try to find you something else.

THE WEED PILES – Folks, this message applies to gardeners at both EH and UH. Please do not dump weeds near the weed piles. Please do not dump weeds next to the weed piles. At Eagle Heights, there is a concrete slab for weeds. At University Houses, there is an area with concrete walls. Please put your weeds on the slab at EH, and inside the concrete area at UH. At EH, please approach the weed pile from the south side (the side towards the woods.) Thank you.

CANADA FLEABANE – Erigeron canadensis is a very tall weed that grows throughout our gardens on abandoned or poorly managed plots. It’s also called horseweed. This plant is a major agricultural problem, because it’s developing resistance to herbicides. But in our gardens, it’s easily controlled – just pull it up, and don’t let it get big and tall. It’s not very interesting to look at, anyway, and doesn’t seem to be edible or have medicinal uses.

WORKDAY – We might have a workday this weekend – if we do, I’ll send out the notice separately.

Happy gardening,