Wednesday, May 29, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Special Workday; EH Weed Pile; Sweet Potatoes in Buckets; Odds and Ends

Hello Gardeners,

SPECIAL WORKDAY – We’re going to have a workday on Sunday, June 2, at Eagle Heights, at the Garden Arbor, from 5pm – 8pm. We only need about 6 people, so the link won’t stay up long. The task will be clearing a former garden plot, which is going to become part of the Arbor Garden, and planting rain garden plants in it. Meet at the garden shed. Here’s the link to sign up:

EAGLE HEIGHTS WEED PILE – The weed pile at EH became a huge ugly mess. It has been cleared now, and a barrier has been put up to try to prevent gardeners from dumping weeds next to the pile. You can only dump now from the south entrance to the pile (next to the woods.) The weeds must be dumped on the concrete slab – there’s always plenty of room, even when it’s pretty full. Dumping next to the pile not only made a mess, but it blocked the drainage system. So please keep the weed pile tidy now, please?

SWEET POTATO GROWING STATIONS - On Sunday, June 2nd, from 11am to 1pm, members of a group that has a grant to study growing sweet potatoes in buckets will be at Eagle Heights to help people create their own sweet potato growing stations in 5 gallon buckets.  “Sweet potato slips will be available but feel free to bring your slips from the Dane County Sweet Potato Project or build your buckets in advance if you have yet to pick up your slips.  We will also provide buckets, drills and some potting mix but you are welcome to bring your own supplies.” Note: this activity will not be in our gardens, but in the part of the garden that’s north of the community garden section, next to the small blue sheds by the CALS plots. Watch for signs to direct you. For more information, you can contact Savannah at

COMPANION PLANTING – When you’re planting your garden, you should be aware that some plants grow well together, and some don’t. For instance, tomatoes will benefit from being planted next to basil and marigolds – the flowers and herbs will help keep insect pests away. But beans don’t grow well when they’re next to onions and garlic. Here’s an article that explains the concept of companion planting, and it includes a chart:

LOCK YOUR CAR – A gardener has informed me that she left her car unlocked while she was gardening, and her wallet was missing money when she came back. So do be careful to lock up when you park your car by the Gardens.

DON’T LET YOUR RHUBARB FLOWER – If your rhubarb is sending up flower shoots, it’s best to cut the flowers off. It’s natural for the plant to have flowers and set seed, but letting them do it takes energy away from their production of leaves and the nice stalks we want to eat. The flowers are kind of pretty, though….Even if you let them flower, you should definitely cut the flower stalks once they start forming seeds – you probably don’t need dozens of tiny rhubarb plants coming up.

COMFREY – Another widespread weed in our gardens is comfrey. If it’s growing in your plot, and you don’t want it there, it will take a lot of work to dig it out – the roots go very deep. But comfrey is actually a good plant to have around – it makes an excellent green manure. The plant absorbs a lot of nitrogen, and it also decomposes quickly when cut, so that adds the nitrogen to your soil. Here’s some information about comfrey, including a picture – the plants are just starting to bloom in our gardens, and they’re definitely pretty – worth having as ornamentals as long as you can control them. However, I can’t speak to the medicinal qualities attributed to this plant, just to its value in the garden.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Workday This Sunday; Timebanking; Got Burdock?; Weed Juries

Hello Gardeners,

WORKDAY THIS SUNDAYWe will have a workday on Sunday, May 26, at Eagle Heights, from 9am – Noon. The task will be general clean-up and maintenance. Garden gloves would be helpful. Here’s the link to sign up:

TIMEBANKING – One of our gardeners suggested that this might be useful to our gardens, and so I am sharing the information. Timebanking is an exchange system in which people help each other and receive time credits for their service. Anyone who helps another member earns one TimeBank Hour for each hour of help given, which they can then spend on an hour of service from anyone else in the network. Within the garden, possible service activities include watering, hauling leaf mulch, and pulling weeds. The hope is that gardeners can be more successful if they can easily get help when they need it. (This is a completely voluntary program, and has no connection with our workday requirements.)

If you are interested in learning more, take a look at the Dane County TimeBank’s website: We decided to go through them rather than trying to set up our own system. So, if you want to participate, you will start by signing up with the DCTB. Doing this doesn’t obligate you to do any work, and you can stop your participation at any time. You do not need to participate in the DCTB beyond activities in our gardens. Please note that to sign up, you will need to take a half-hour training, and also submit to a background check. Please let me know if you are interested in trying this or have more questions about how this would work at Eagle Heights.

NOXIOUS WEEDS – We have a number of noxious and invasive weeds in our gardens, including Canada Thistle and Common Burdock. Both of these plants get very tall, have deep roots, are difficult to get rid of, and spread widely through seeds as well as their roots. This is a link to a picture of Canada Thistle:  This is a link to information on Burdock:  If you have these weeds in your garden plot, you’ll want to get rid of them. Try one of the new weed poppers to sever the roots. But burdock actually is edible and has some medicinal uses. If you have burdock in your plot, please let me know – one of our gardeners actually wants these plants, and will come dig it out for you. As for thistles, nobody wants them, so just get rid of them as soon as you can. And you’ll probably have to dig them out a number of times before they’re finally all gone.

TURKEYS REVISITED – One gardener wrote in to say that turkeys ate everything they planted until they put up a low fence. She says they can fly, but they’re lazy and not very smart, and haven’t made the effort since their fence went up.

WEED JURIES - We will be starting Weed Juries in June, and we’re looking for volunteers. The purpose of Weed Juries is to find garden plots that are extremely weedy, particularly with invasive plants such as thistles. (Jurors can also take note of very well-managed gardens.) After a jury meets, they send me their notes, and I contact the owners of the problem gardens. Some gardeners are able to improve their plots; other gardeners realize they don’t really want to garden any more, and their plots are assigned to new gardeners. 

Each jury has three people, and is responsible for one section of the garden. The jurors will inspect their section three times over the summer - in June, July, and August. Each jury will set their own schedule. The total amount of time should about equal three hours, and it’s a workday equivalent. The areas at Eagle Heights are 100’s – 300’s, 500’s – 700’s, 800’s – 1000’s, and 1100’s – 1300’s. So we’re looking for 12 people altogether. You’re welcome to apply for the jury in your garden area, or a different area, if you prefer. People who served on juries in previous years and want to do so again are welcome, and I hope that some new people will also want to sign up. It’s also good to have a mixture of experienced gardeners and new gardeners. At University Houses Gardens, the three jurors from the last two years are returning again this year, and they do a fantastic job, so we won’t need any new volunteers there.

I will get more specific instructions to jury members before jurying starts. Let me know if you are interested, and if so, which section of the garden you would want to inspect.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Warm Weather Plant Sale This Sunday, May 19; Workday This Sunday; Turkeys; New Tools; New Garden Workers

 Hello Gardeners,
WARM WEATHER PLANT SALE SUNDAY, MAY 19 AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – On Sunday, Scott Williams of Garden to Be will be back to sell warm weather plants, from 11am – 2pm. Last year, he brought ten kinds of tomatoes, six kinds of peppers, three kinds of eggplants, and other plants including cucumbers, melons, squash, herbs, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Individual plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, will be $2.75 per plant.  The 4-packs and 6-packs will be $2.75 per pack. This is a really good deal, and Scott always has great varieties. So don’t pass this up. If Scott sends me a list of varieties in time, I’ll send that out separately.

We will also again sell compost and row cover on Sunday. We will have the same arrangement as at the earlier plant sale; workday volunteers will load carts and deliver the compost to your plot. Each 2/3 cartload will be $5 – cash and exact change appreciated. Row cover will also be $5 per piece.

WORKDAY THIS SUNDAY – The task (see above) will be filling carts and delivering compost to plots, from 10:30 am – 1:30pm, at the Eagle Heights shed. This will be another limited workday – we will only  need 6 – 8 people. Also, if there’s time, another task will be installing a fence between the out-of-control weed pile and the rock berm. Here’s the workday link:


TURKEYS – Many gardeners are complaining that turkeys are eating all their young transplants. There are a number of animals that live and eat in our gardens, including raccoons, rabbits, voles, cranes, etc. But yes, there are definitely a lot of turkeys, and they do eat greens in the spring. They also eat insects, and will damage plantings while they’re scratching for insects in your garden.

Here’s a little history: wild turkeys are native to Wisconsin. Due to clearing of forests and over-hunting, they went extinct in the state in 1881. In 1976, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources traded birds with the state of Missouri – they gave us turkeys, and we gave them ruffed grouse. Since then the turkeys have spread throughout the state, and increased hugely in numbers. We can only hope the grouse are as much trouble to the Missourians as the turkeys are to us. (probably not)

What can you do to protect your plants from turkeys? Frankly, not much. Some websites recommend fences, but turkeys can fly, and can easily clear a fence. Most websites just talk about not attracting turkeys by feeding them, but it’s too late for us – they already know how much there is to munch on in our gardens. For what it’s worth, here’s a website with a few good ideas: 

NEW GARDEN TOOLS – We have a number of new tools, which will gradually be appearing next to the sheds at both gardens: super-duty digging shovels, tuber tools, 4-tine cultivators, heavy-duty digging forks, field hoes, and weed poppers – these are heavy-duty tools that are used to cut long taproots, such as comfrey and thistles. Try them out when you see them.

NEW GARDEN WORKERS – We are very happy to announce the hiring of two new garden workers – Maggie and Megan, who are starting work this week. They will gradually be taking over the routine maintenance in the gardens, such as mowing and running work days. Meanwhile, our long-time worker, Will, will be transitioning into a more consultative position, but he will still be around, particularly when the plumbing acts up. (Note: we have turned the water off in the 900s/1000s, due to a water leak – it’s going to rain for the next few days, but we’ll fix it when we can.)

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: What to Plant Now; Reminder About the Weed Pile; Clear the Paths; Rhubarb; Workday This Saturday

Hello Gardeners,

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – According to the long-range forecast, we have probably seen our last frost for this season. So if you’re desperate to plant your tomatoes outside, it’s probably safe to do so. However, there’s no hurry. Tomatoes will grow better when it’s warmer. If you have a thermometer, check that the soil temperature is at least 50 degrees before you plant them out.

If you’ve grown the tomato plants yourself in the house, it’s a good time to start “hardening them off,” which means getting them used to being outside. You should start this about 10 days to two weeks before you actually plant them, by bringing them outside for a few hours every day in the middle of the day. Here is some really good information on tomatoes from UW Extension:

It’s still too early to plant beans – wait at least another couple of weeks, for best results. Beans want warm soil to germinate – at least 60 degrees – and the warmer the soil, the better your germination will be. Lettuce, cabbage crops, and root vegetables can all germinate decently in cool soil, so April and May are good times to plant these vegetables. Here’s more information on the best soil temperatures for common vegetables:

HOW TO THROW WEEDS IN THE WEED PILE – The gardeners are doing a much better job now of throwing trash in the dumpsters and throwing weeds in the weed piles. Thanks, folks. However, at Eagle Heights, please be sure that you’re throwing the weeds onto the concrete slab. The weeds have spread beyond the pile now, and it’s becoming more and more of a mess. There’s still plenty of room for the weeds on the slab, especially if you approach the pile from the south (the side towards the woods.)

MOWING COMING TO A GARDEN NEAR YOU SOON – With all the rain we are having, the grass is growing fast. We hope to have two new garden workers on staff in the next few weeks, and then mowing will begin at both gardens. In preparation, please get in the habit now of checking the path by your plot when you’re done gardening for the day – make sure your hose (why are you even watering?) is disconnected from the water spigot and tucked away in your plot. Likewise, milk jugs, watering cans, wood, sticks, blocks, library books, lava lamps, and other debris should not be left in the path. We claim that anything left in the paths will get mowed, but in reality, our garden workers will stop, swear, and remove the obstructions, which slows them down and makes mowing even more tedious and time-consuming than it is already.

RHUBARB – Some early gardeners may be harvesting lettuce and spinach already. But for most of us, rhubarb is about the only crop that’s ready to eat now. Rhubarb is not exactly the healthiest or most versatile of garden produce, but at least it’s fresh. Rhubarb crisp is delicious and easy. But if you’re tired of it, have a look at the hundreds of recipes on this rhubarb-lover’s website:

WORKDAY THIS SATURDAY – We are looking for six gardeners to help sand and paint the handles on our new tools. (We have a limited number of brushes, so we have to limit sign-ups on this one. If you go to the link, and it isn’t there anymore, that means we got enough people.) Saturday, May 11, 9am – Noon, at the Eagle Heights shed.  Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar:  Slow Down; AACT; CALS Family Gardening Day; Volunteer Project; Plant Sales; NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND

Hello Gardeners,

SLOW DOWN – A University Houses resident has complained that gardeners are driving too fast down the road to the garden. Please remember that there are lots of children in this area, and drive slowly.

AACT – On Saturday, May 4, former EH gardener Gary K will make a guest appearance at Eagle Heights to offer his actively aerated compost tea for free to gardeners. This tea, mixed with water, will add helpful microorganisms to your garden and rejuvenate your soil. Gary will leave about 40 containers of it around 9am, on the granite benches near the shed. Each container will be enough for a large plot. Help yourself.

FAMILY GARDENING DAY – On Saturday, May 4, the UW College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will be presenting their annual Family Gardening Day on campus. This free, family-friendly event will run from 10am – 1pm, and will be held at several different locations – Allen Centennial Garden, Steenbock Library, D.C. Smith Greenhouse, Wisconsin Energy Institute, and the Botany Garden. While supplies last, there will be free vegetable plants at the Allen Garden, and sunflower plants at the Steenbock Library. Here’s a link to more details:
VOLUNTEER PROJECT AT THE GARDEN ARBOR– As you know (I hope), each garden plot at Eagle Heights and University Houses Gardens must contribute one person to do a work shift each season (or else pay an extra fee.) But there are other ways, besides the weekend workdays, that gardeners can perform their community service. Here’s one:

We are expanding the Arbor garden at Eagle Heights this year. Because the area around the Arbor has been subject to flooding, we are starting a rain garden next to the existing plantings. We will need people to help plant the rain garden plants, and we are also looking for gardeners who will help to weed the rest of the Arbor garden throughout the season. This will require a regular commitment. Please let me know if you are interested, and I will put you in touch with the Arbor Garden Coordinator. It would be helpful if you are already somewhat familiar with perennial flowers, or have some rain garden experience.


OCCUPY MADISON will hold a vegetable and herb plant sale from 11am – 3pm on May 4 and May 5 at 304 N. Third Street, on Madison’s east side.

HILLDALE FARMERS MARKET – This will start this Saturday, May 4, and will continue from 8am – 1pm, on Saturdays and Wednesdays until the end of October. You can find the market behind Hilldale Shopping Mall, off of Segoe Road.

MONROE STREET FARMERS MARKET – This will start this Sunday, May 5, and will continue on Sundays, from 9am – 1pm, until the end of October.
The market is at Edgewood High School.

TROY FARMS will hold their annual Spring Plant Sale on Saturday, May 11, 10am – 2pm, at Troy Farm, on the northeast side of Madison, at 502 Troy Drive.

The Warm Weather Plant Sale at Eagle Heights will be on Sunday, May 19 – More details on that soon.


Happy Gardening,