Wednesday, April 24, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar:  Water in the Gardens!; Sunday Events at Eagle Heights; What to Plant Now; Cancellation Policy

Hello Gardeners,

WATER! – Water is now on at Eagle Heights! And it will be on shortly at University Houses.

Lots of things going on at Eagle Heights this Sunday:

WORKDAY AT EAGLE HEIGHTS  – This Sunday, April 28, we will hold a workday at Eagle Heights, from 10am – 1pm. The task will be organizing the garden shed to prepare for electrical installation, followed by loading and delivering compost to plots. (see Compost and Row Cover, below.) Here’s the link to sign up for the workday:  

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE – Our cool weather plant sale will be held on Sunday, April 28, from 11am – 1pm, near the Eagle Heights shed. Plants that Scott Williams will sell will include: broccoli, red and green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, napa cabbage, lettuce, sage, marjoram, kale (several varieties), collards, parsley – both curly and flat leaf, and bok choi. He hopes to also be able to bring plants from his fields, including rhubarb, chives, thyme, alpine strawberries, violas, and pansies.

By the way, we need two volunteers to help Scott on Sunday morning, starting at 9am or 9:30, and going until Noon or 12:30. This constitutes a workday. Please let me know if you’re interested.

COMPOST AND ROW COVER – Along with the plant sale, we will also be selling excellent compost from the UW West Ag Station. The price will be $5 for a 2/3 cartload, delivered to your Eagle Heights plot. (We’ll try to make arrangements soon to get compost to UH gardeners.) Also, row cover will be on sale, at $5 per piece. Payment should be in cash, and exact change would be appreciated. (If you prefer to write a check, make it payable to Division of University Housing.)

WHAT TO PLANT (AND NOT PLANT) NOW – We will still have some cold nights and possible frost for a few more weeks. This is a good time to plant lettuce, radishes, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, peas, cabbage and their relatives), kale, chard, and other greens. It is too early to plant beans; beans not only are sensitive to frost, but they also need warm soil to germinate and grow. It is waaaay too early to plant tomatoes outside. Wait until mid-May for beans, tomatoes, summer and winter squash, cucumbers, and melons. Peppers and eggplants like really warm temperatures, so those shouldn’t be planted outside until late May or even early June.

CANCELLATION POLICY – Around this time of year, I often get emails from people who have taken a garden plot, and have just found out they won’t be in Madison this summer. If this has happened to you, please let me know as soon as you find this out. I will get you a refund, and assign your plot to someone else. The last couple of years, we’ve made May 1 the deadline for refund requests, but since it’s been a late spring, I am going to relax the deadline a little. But absolutely no refunds after May 31.

If you have a friend who wants to take your garden, let me know that too. We don’t have a waiting list yet, so I’m happy to transfer your plot to someone you know. I will have your friend fill out an application, and then I’ll assign them the plot. But please do not arrange this without involving me.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar:  How to Throw Things Out; Workday This Saturday; Cool Weather Plant Sale; Fences

Hello Gardeners,

HOW TO THROW THINGS OUT – If you’re throwing something out at our gardens, you have to think about what it is you’re getting rid of, because it doesn’t all go in the same place.

If you’re throwing out vegetation, such as weeds, old plant material, and old vegetables – that all needs to go into the weed pile, as far in the middle as you can pitch it. But if you’re throwing out old row cover, broken tomato cages, plant containers, broken hoses, etc. – that stuff all goes into the dumpster. This is really important – if there’s vegetation in the dumpster, the people who pick up our trash can refuse to take it. If there’s trash in the weed pile, the people who pick up that material and compost it may also refuse to take it. Either way, we have to pay somebody to haul it away. So please think before you throw, and get it right.

If you are digging up old plants with big roots, you can actually leave the roots in the soil, where they will rot and feed your new plants. This is less work for you, and will make for less dirt in the weed piles, which is also important. Lastly, if you’re throwing out plant containers that are in good shape, leave them on or near the share shelves – someone else will be happy to reuse them.

WORKDAY – Last weekend’s workday was a rousing failure. Not a single person signed up. The current forecast for this Saturday is sunny and warm. This work needs to be done, so please sign up and get your workday obligation done for the season (before it’s 95 degrees in the shade, and wall-to-wall mosquitoes.) The location again will be University Houses Gardens, at the end of Haight Road, past Bernie’s Place Childcare Center. Again, the main task will be setting up the hoses and hose reels. There will also be some work to get junk out of the weed pile. If the soil is dry enough, there will also be work on the retaining wall for the end of the B path.  SATURDAY, APR. 20TH, 9 AM — NOON. MEET AT THE UNIVERSITY HOUSES GARDEN SHED. Here’s the link to sign up: HTTPS://DOODLE.COM/POLL/2Q9Y6Y79YNV9SG7P

COOL WEATHER PLANT SALE – Our cool weather plant sale will be held on Sunday, April 28, from 11am – 1pm, near the Eagle Heights shed. Plants will be sold by Scott Williams, who owns a business called “Garden to Be”, and has sold garden plants to Eagle Heights for many years. These are the plants he has growing in his greenhouses for us: broccoli, red and green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, napa cabbage, lettuce, sage, marjoram, kale (several varieties), collards, parsley – both curly and flat leaf, and bok choi. He hopes to also be able to bring plants from his fields, including rhubarb, chives, thyme, alpine strawberries, violas, and pansies. Scott always has good quality plants, he gives us special prices, and he’s very knowledgeable about what he sells. So give him your business if you’re looking to buy plants.

GOOD FENCES DO NOT ALWAYS MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS - At our last Garden Committee meeting, we discussed the fact that there are more fences in our gardens than ever before. We also talked about how many voles and rabbits we had last year – more than any long-term gardeners had ever seen in our gardens. Obviously, there is a connection here.

Unfortunately, long-term gardeners also agreed that fences don’t work. Animals can climb, jump, and dig, and most fences don’t really keep them out. We understand peoples’ desperation. But there are three reasons we don’t really like fences – one is that they are too often put up in the wrong places. Be very sure if you put up a fence that it is not right on your border with any of your neighbors. It must be at least six inches inside your plot – and a full one foot would be even better. Secondly, fences are often allowed to fall apart and to lean into neighboring plots. Lastly, fences often collect weeds. So be sure, if you do put up a fence, to set it up in the right place, keep it in good shape and weed it often.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Check Your Plot Assignment!; When Will the Water Be On?; Workday at University Houses Gardens Saturday April 13; Seeds vs. Plants

Hello Gardeners,

PLOT ASSIGNMENTS – The plot assignments have finally been posted on our website. I apologize for the delay. Here’s the link:                      If you’re a new gardener, please check the assignment listing, and make very sure you are gardening in the correct plot. So far, there have been at least two gardeners who have started working in the wrong plots. We may have given out a few wrong plot numbers at the Seed Fair – if we did, it’s our fault, and not yours. But please check, and email me if you have any questions. Also, if you took tomato cages from Plot 208, please return them immediately – these were not abandoned.

WHEN WILL THE WATER BE ON? – I don’t know. Next question? On Monday, the temperature was in the 70s. Today, it is snowing. In other words, it is April in Wisconsin. We will not turn the water on until it is warm enough that we can be sure the pipes will not freeze and burst. This is completely weather dependent. It will be at least another two weeks – maybe longer. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.

WORKDAY AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES GARDENS – We will have our first workday of the season this Saturday, April 13, from 9am to Noon, at University Houses Gardens. The tasks will be installing the hose reels for the water system, and also working on a retaining wall for the end of the B row. If you have a plot at the end of the B row, you may have noticed piles of cinderblocks on your plot. We plan to use these blocks to improve the path. The sooner we get a good number of workday volunteers to work on this project, the sooner we can get these blocks installed and out of gardeners’ way.  I especially urge UH gardeners to volunteer for this project, because you’ll be able to see the results every time you’re in the garden. Dress warm, bring gloves, and don’t forget to put your name and plot number on the sign-in sheet. Here’s the link to sign up:   (University Houses Gardens is at the end of Haight Road – if you can find Bernie’s Place Childcare Center, at 39 University Houses, the gardens are next to that.)

SEEDS VS PLANTS – If you’re a new gardener, you may be wondering which vegetables to start from seed, and which to buy plants for. Basically, if you’ve got more time than money, seeds are always much cheaper than plants. (If you don’t have either time or money, join the crowd.) But if you plant seeds, it will take some time for them to grow, and things can easily go wrong. If you plant plants, you’ll spend much more money, but you’ll get faster and probably more reliable results.

Some vegetables (and fruits) are always started from plants. Strawberry seeds exist (we don’t have any), but they’re hard to find. Most people start with strawberry plants, which you can get at garden stores. Potatoes are always planted from pieces of potatoes – not from seeds. Rhubarb and berries are always started from plants. Asparagus and rosemary are more often grown from plants than from seed. Onions can be started from seed, if you start them inside in February – otherwise you can buy plants or “sets”, which are tiny onions that will grow quickly into green onions or bulb onions.

By the way, if you’re not finding seeds for all of the vegetables you want to plant, there are many reputable seed companies you can order from on-line, including the companies that donate seeds to us: Renee’s Garden, Seed Savers, Seedway, Berlin, E & R, and Baker Creek. Garden stores and some hardware stores have seeds, too. For Asian vegetables, some of the Asian groceries on Park Street sell seeds for those, and you can also try Kitizawa, a California company that specializes in Asian vegetables.

Happy Gardening (or Snowman-Making),


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: What To Do With Your Seeds; Know Your Boundaries; How This Place Works

Hello Gardeners,           

SEEDS – Thank you to the more than two hundred gardeners who came to our Seed Fair on Saturday. I hope you enjoyed yourself, and got at least most of the seeds you were hoping for.

If you’re a new gardener, and you’re ready to move beyond enjoying the pretty pictures on the seed packets, you may be saying to yourself: “Now what am I supposed to do?”

Well, to begin with, sort your seeds into three piles. The first pile is “seeds to start right away, in the house.” This includes tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. To plant these seeds, you will have best results if you buy some seed-starting soil mixture – this is lighter than normal soil, and your seedlings will grow better in it. (You can buy this at hardware stores and garden centers.) If you don’t have regular plant pots, you can use plastic food containers. Put some holes in the bottom for drainage. Get the soil thoroughly wet, then put a few seeds on top, and sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds. Place the pot in a warm, sunny window sill, and keep it moist (but not soggy.) Once the seedlings come up, be sure to give them as much light as you can.

Starting seeds in the house can be tricky. Here’s a link to a website with more detailed instructions:

The second category is seeds that get planted directly in the soil in your plot. This includes peas, lettuce, radishes, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and root crops such as beets and carrots. If your garden is still wet, you should continue to wait to plant. But you can certainly try planting some lettuce and radishes until the soil is ready for more serious work.
The third category is seeds to sow outside later, once the ground has warmed up, and there’s no longer a chance of frost. This includes beans, cucumbers, melons, and summer and winter squash.
If you didn’t get a chance to pick up Robin Mittenthal’s one-page planting guide at the Seed Fair, here’s a link with much more detail than I’m providing:

KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES – If you’re a new gardener, here’s the first thing to do with your plot:  figure out your boundaries. Each plot has a metal sign in front of it with the plot number. (If it’s a small plot, there is a metal piece under the number with A and B on it at Eagle Heights, or N and S on it at University Houses.) There should also be two yellow posts at the front of the plot – these mark the corners. Your plot extends from one yellow marker to the other. BUT every gardener must allow six inches on each side of the plot, including the back, for access. Since your neighbor also must allow six inches, this means there is one foot of empty space between each plot. This space is necessary for you and your neighbors to be able to work, push carts, and connect hoses to water. You are not allowed to plant anything in this space, and you should not have big plants next to it that will grow into it or hang over it. If you put up a fence or trellis, it CANNOT be placed on the boundary – it must be at least six inches into your plot – 12 inches would be better.

HOW THIS PLACE WORKS – I’m the Registrar for the gardens. I’m a very part-time employee, who assigns garden plots, answers questions, and mediates disputes. I also send out a message once a week with miscellaneous and occasionally bizarre information. We also have several part-time garden workers. But the staff doesn’t run the Gardens – the gardeners do. We have a garden committee that meets once a month (the second Wednesday of the month) to discuss issues, problems, and projects. 
 Any gardener can attend these meetings. We also have an email discussion group – any gardener can be on the discussion list – just email me and ask me to add you. So please get involved!
Happy Gardening,