Wednesday, June 26, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Jumping Worms; Spotted Wing Drosophila; Cowbirds; Sweet Potato Greens; Don’t Take Sticks From the Preserve; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

JUMPING WORMS – All of the earthworms in North America are European imports, so, in a way, all our earthworms are invasive exotics. However, most earthworms are beneficial to soil, plus they’re an important food source for other animals. But the latest invasive earthworm, the Jumping Worm, is terribly destructive to soil. Jumping Worms spread and reproduce very easily, and, since they consume more nutrients than other worms, they actually change soil structure, and make it harder for plants to grow in it. Also, they taste terrible (or so I’ve heard.)

Jumping Worms have been found in the Lakeshore Preserve, and in areas in our gardens. There is currently no method to control them. But you can keep from spreading them by being careful when moving plants, say, between your home and your garden. Here’s a link to a very good article from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, with pictures, descriptions, and suggestions: By the way, we believe that our leaf piles get hot enough that Jumping Worms can’t breed in them.

SPOTTED WING DROSOPHILA – This is a fruit fly which has become quite a pest for raspberries. It originated in Asia, came to California in 2008, and reached Wisconsin in 2010. Other fruit flies lay their eggs in over-ripe fruit, but this one attacks fruit before it’s even ripe. For commercial fruit growers, this insect can be disastrous. For us, as organic gardeners with small plantings, we don’t have to worry about spraying insecticides to destroy them. They can easily be controlled in our gardens with one simple method – pick your berries as soon as they’re ripe. Don’t let fallen berries rot in your plots. And after you pick, keep your berries refrigerated, so in case there are eggs in them, they won’t hatch. I promise you – the eggs are tiny and you won’t notice you’re eating them. I know, yuck. This is a link to an article from Michigan State University:

COWBIRDS – If you’ve ever been working in your garden, and found a small brown bird hopping around practically under your feet, you’ve met one of our cowbirds. They aren’t shy, and they’ve figured out that gardeners are likely to stir up insects and seeds that they eat. In their original habitat, they used to live on the Great Plains and follow bison to pick up the food they stirred up in the soil. Later, they took to following cows the same way. Hence their name. The cowbird song has a very distinctive liquid sound. Unfortunately, these native birds are parasites – they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. Some host birds are smart enough to push the cowbird eggs out of their nests, but most of them feed and raise the cowbird chicks, while their own chicks often get pushed out of the nest.

SWEET POTATO GREENS – One of the University Houses gardeners has pointed out that sweet potato greens are edible. In fact, I’ve learned, many gardeners in Africa and Asia grow these vegetables as much for the greens as for the roots. Around our gardens, many people are trying growing sweet potatoes in buckets, which should protect the roots from voles, so you’ll actually be able to harvest potatoes in the fall. But in the meantime, if your vines get luxurious and you’re impatient for a crop, here is a website with information about how to prepare the greens:

DON’T TAKE STICKS FROM THE LAKESHORE PRESERVE – Just a reminder that everything in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which borders both our gardens, is protected, including all plants and wood.  Please do not take sticks from the Preserve for garden fences or plant supports. We have barrels for sticks at both gardens – please let me know if we’re running short.


Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Mowing and Water Problems; Weed Pile at U Houses Gardens; Weed Juries; Wild Parsnip; Work Day Unlikely

Hello Gardeners,

MOWING – Our garden workers are still struggling to complete the first cycle of mowing. The mower that tangled with the hose is recovering slowly, but equipment problems and rainy weather, combined with the usual fast grass growth in late spring and early summer, have made for constant delays. It’s almost done, folks. And then it will be time to start it all over again.

WATER PROBLEMS – Our garden workers are also struggling to fix leaks, seeps, and other plumbing disasters in our eccentric irrigation system. The line in the 1300s has been off for most of the season. Every time it’s turned back on, some other problem comes up with it. At this point, frankly, I’ve lost track of which water lines are on and which are off. I can only say two things – one, it keeps raining anyway, and two, we’re working on it – we really are working on it. Parts of the system are old, and the harsh winter may have caused additional problems.

WEED PILE AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES – UHers, please be careful to dump your weeds inside the weed area, not nearby. The pile is getting out of hand, which will make it harder to clear out.

WEED JURIES – The weed juries have begun their dreaded work at both gardens, and even as I write this, there are grim-faced gardeners walking around the garden paths with clipboards. Many gardens look wonderful, but some do not seem to have been started yet, and others look like the gardeners started and lost interest. This is why we have weed juries – to identify plots that may have been abandoned, or those whose weed problems may be more serious than the gardeners realize.

The juries email me their findings, and then I take a look at the plots they’ve mentioned. If I agree with their evaluation, I send an email to the gardener. If you get an email from me about the condition of your plot, please respond right away. If your plot is identified as weedy, and you want to keep it, you have two weeks to improve it. Or maybe you’ll decide to give it up. But either way, please deal with it.

I know many gardeners are busy. But we are a Community Garden. If you have a very weedy plot, your neighbors have to look at it every day. What’s worse is that weeds from your garden will move across the plot line into your neighbors’ gardens. (Weeds are not great respectors of plot lines.) And that is why it’s the responsibility of the garden as a whole, through the weed juries and the registrar, to do what we can to limit the number of abandoned and poorly maintained plots.

WILD PARSNIP – This is a dangerous plant that covers many of the roadsides outside of Madison. Last year, several plants were found (and removed) at the Eagle Heights Garden. The plant burns human skin, so it’s important to not touch it with your hands or any uncovered part of your body. We hope there isn’t any this year, but if you see it in the garden, please let me know, and we’ll remove it. Here’s a website with information and some decent pictures:  There are several native plants, such as Golden Alexander, that look similar, and some gardeners do grow domesticated parsnip as a vegetable. But wild parsnip is a very large plant with thick stems. Keep an eye out for it.

STICKY INSECT TRAPS – Sticky traps are an organic way to control insect pests. Unfortunately, they can also kill beneficial insects, such as bees and other pollinators. Also, several insect traps have attracted birds in our gardens. We have decided to not allow their use. Also, the traps set up by the Department of Agriculture in our gardens now have hardware cloth added to them, to keep birds out of them.

WORKDAY – If we decide to schedule a workday this weekend, I’ll send out a separate message, but the current weather forecast is for thunderstorms both Saturday and Sunday.

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Compost for University Houses; DATCP; Entomology Lab; All About Beans; Planning for Vacation; No Workday This Weekend

Hello Gardeners,

COMPOST FOR GARDENERS AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES– We sold off most of our compost last weekend, but we still have eight or so cartloads left. UH gardeners may request a cartload by signing up at this doodle link:  Just enter your name and plot number. The compost will be delivered on Sunday afternoon, directly to your plot, in the same order that gardeners sign up. When the compost is all gone, it’s gone, for this year. The price is $5 per cartload. I’ll contact you once it’s been delivered to ask for your payment. This offer is for UH gardeners ONLY.

DATCP - The State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection has a division that studies and tracks insects that damage crops and gardens all around the state. They have recently set up 8 insect traps in garden plots at Eagle Heights. The traps will remain until September, and then the results will be analyzed to see what insects we have, and how many of them. Thank you to gardeners who agreed to host one of these traps. And if there’s a trap in your plot, and you didn’t agree to it being there, please let me know – we’ll get it moved.

During the growing season, DATCP issues weekly Wisconsin Pest Bulletins, and they’re quite interesting. Reading them lets you know what insect pests are starting to multiply around the state and heading in our direction. There are also suggestions for how to combat them. This is a link to their homepage:  If you’d like to subscribe and get the
Bulletin in your inbox, you can sign up on the homepage.

UW ENTOMOLOGY DEPARTMENT – And lastly, speaking of insects, the UW Madison Entomology Department has an Insect Diagnostic Lab to help people identify insects, including garden pests. They can also provide specific information about pest control (although they don’t have an organic focus.) If there’s something crawling around your tomatoes, and you don’t know what it is, or what to do about it, here’s a link to their website:

BEANS – Beans are generally planted around here in late May or early June, but with the cold wet spring we’ve been having, it’s taken longer for the soil to warm up this year. If you haven’t planted beans yet, it’s not too late – this is an excellent time to start them.  In fact, some people plant them several times over the season to give themselves a continuous crop. The warmer the soil, the faster and better the seeds will germinate, and the plants will continue to bear most of the season. Unfortunately, we are subject to insect pests for beans, such as Bean Beetles and Japanese Beetles. But hopefully you’ll still get a decent crop before the beetles destroy your plants. Beans are easy to grow, and good to eat, whether you eat them green, or as shell beans or dry beans. They are also good for your garden, since they can take nitrogen out of the air and put it in your soil. Here’s a nice article from Seed Savers on how to grow them, as well as how to save seed for next year:

VACATION? – I never go anywhere, but it’s my understanding that other people do. Some of our long-term gardeners actually travel quite a bit, and yet, their gardens continue to look beautiful. How do they do it? One: they plan for their absences, and leave their gardens well-maintained and mulched before they leave town; Two: they let their garden buddy or buddies know they will be gone, ask them to water if it gets dry, and tell them to pick ripe produce rather than leave it to rot in their plots; Three: they are mentally prepared to do some catch-up garden work when they get back. Remember: a garden will not go into suspended animation just because its gardener is on the other side of the planet for a month. Plants keep growing, including weeds. Especially including weeds. So, if you’re going to be gone for more than a few days during the summer, plan ahead. If you don’t have a garden buddy, you might consider joining the Dane County TimeBank, so you can try to find another gardener to help you out. (And you might be able to help with their garden while they’re out of town.)

Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Last Compost Sale; Workday; Plant Swap; Seed Give-away; Share Shelves; Wood Chips for University Houses; Water Problems; Garden Talk; Radishes

Hello Gardeners,

COMPOST SALE AT EAGLE HEIGHTS - We need to use up the compost, and many gardeners have inquired about it, so we are going to hold a final (for this year) compost sale at Eagle Heights this Sunday, June 9, from 10am – 11am ONLY. Get here early if you want some – it won’t last long. Workday volunteers will again fill carts about 2/3 full, and deliver them to your garden plot, for the low low price of $5 per load – cash and exact change preferred.

WORKDAY AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – We will also hold a workday this Sunday, June 9, from 9am – Noon. Part of the workday will consist of filling and delivering carts of compost to gardeners, but the other part of the task will be path maintenance. Gloves are recommended. Here’s the link to sign up:

PLANT SWAP AND SEED GIVE-AWAY – If you have extra garden plants to share, bring them to the Garden Arbor Sunday morning. And stop by if you want to pick up a few more plants for your plot. Also, we will have seeds for beans, summer and winter squash, cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins to give away.

THE SHARE SHELVES ARE A MESS – Both gardens have share shelves near their entrances. These are places you can leave extra plant pots, seeds, plants, and vegetables. Also…..odd things. Bits of wire, broken tomato cages, single gardening gloves, old toys, etc. It’s true that many of us gardeners are scroungers, and one person’s junk may be just the thing someone else is looking for to complete a project. But frankly, the share shelves are often filled with junk that everyone considers junk. If you’re getting rid of something, and think it might be of use to someone else, sure, go ahead and leave it on the share shelf. But, if that object is still there a couple of days later, please toss it into the dumpster.

WOOD CHIPS FOR UNIVERSITY HOUSES – We have not forgotten that the U Houses Gardens have been out of wood chips for months. The road is firm enough that delivery is no longer a problem. But we can’t control when one of our sources for chips will have some to deliver to us. However, a plan is now underway to get a delivery from Accurate Tree Service, hopefully in the next week or so.

WATER PROBLEMS – At Eagle Heights, there has been very little water pressure in the 1300’s. There is probably a seep from the plumbing, so the water has been turned off until the problem can be fixed, we hope by this weekend. Meanwhile, gardeners in the lower parts of the garden are struggling with standing water in their gardens. Our previous Registrar has made some suggestions: raised beds can help with soil drainage, as will poking holes deep in the clay in the paths between the beds. You can add leaves and other organic materials to the beds before planting them, and then don’t walk on them, so they will retain some aeration. All of this is work, and it takes time to improve drainage. But as she says, every part of the garden has different challenges.

GOOD SOURCE OF GARDEN INFORMATION:  GARDEN TALK – Every Friday morning, Larry Meiller has a special feature called “Garden Talk” on his talk show on Wisconsin Public Radio. Larry has a garden expert as his guest, and they take calls from listeners with garden questions. The show is on from 11am – 12:30pm, and the local WPR ideas station is 970AM.

RADISHES – What can you do with radishes besides carving them into exquisite flowers for garnishes? You can actually eat them! Here are some unusual ideas:

Happy Gardening,