Wednesday, July 31, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Chinese Signs at Research Plots; Bricks at EH; Be Kind to the Tools; Beans; Garlic Harvesting; EH Chalkboard; Workday Sunday Morning at University Houses Gardens

Hello Gardeners,

CHINESE SIGNS AT CALS RESEARCH PLOTS – A number of Eagle Heights residents and gardeners have complained about signs put up at the research plots maintained by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, next to the Eagle Heights Community Garden. These signs are in Chinese, and tell people to not pick the vegetables being grown there. In the past, they also had these signs in English, but for some reason, this year only Chinese signs were put up. I am sure the researchers did not intend to offend anyone, but this was a serious mistake, and I’m glad that people complained. I have been told that more signs will be put up, in English, within the next week. (In our community garden, our signs are either in English or in a number of languages.)

BRICKS – We are getting a donation of a lot of bricks and blocks, which will be used eventually to build another retaining wall on the hill at Eagle Heights. We’re having them dumped between the weed pile and the leaf pile at EH, partly because there’s room there, and partly because they block an area where people kept dumping weeds. We have now covered the bricks to keep gardeners from taking them. I apologize - I should have communicated to people what the bricks were for. I didn’t think it would matter if a few bricks went missing, but some gardeners have started building fortresses with them, so I am hereby announcing that the bricks/blocks are off-limits for individual projects.

TOOLS – Once upon a time, long, long ago, garden tools had legs and wings.* But as tools evolved, these appendages gradually got smaller and smaller, until they didn’t have them anymore. So now, when you are finished using tools in your plot, if you don’t bring them back to the shed, the tools will just have to sit out there, helpless and alone. Please be kind to our tools, and bring them back to the shed when you are done working for the day, so they can relax and enjoy the company of the other tools. (If they hadn’t lost the ability to speak, they’d thank you.)

BEANS, BEANS, BEANS – Green beans are a very healthy food – no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, and lots of vitamins and minerals, including calcium. Beans are delicious plain, and also you can make up for the lack of fat, sodium, etc. by adding butter, nuts (especially almonds), cheese, and lots of other flavorings, including garlic and herbs. Here are some simple but interesting ideas:

GARLIC – It’s getting to be harvest time for those lucky people who have garlic in their plots. Timing the harvest is crucial for best results and keeping qualities. Here’s an article that tells you when to harvest garlic, and how to cure it for storage:

EH CHALKBOARD REFURBISHED – Many thanks to two hard-working and highly skilled EH gardeners (M.D. and W.Z.) who removed the ugly dysfunctional green chalkboard from the share shelves, sanded it, covered it with multiple coats of black paint, and set it back up again. Now it is beautiful, and it will be a pleasure for me to write nasty messages to the gardeners on it. THANK YOU!

SUNDAY WORKDAY AT UH – Sunday morning, August 4, we will hold a workday at University Houses Gardens, from 8am – 11am. (University Houses Gardens are at the end of Haight Road, next to Bernie’s Place Child Care Center, 39 University Houses.) The task will be general maintenance – mainly cutting down tall weeds in public areas. Please bring a hat, water bottle, and gloves if you have them. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy gardening,

*completely made-up story.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Fall Planting; Pollinators; Are You Leaving Madison?; Weed of the Week; Free Burlap Bags; Workday Sunday Morning at EH

Hello Gardeners,

PLANNING FOR THE FALL GARDEN – Fall garden? What? We’re right in the middle of Summer! But yes, it’s time to start thinking about this. Our growing season in southern Wisconsin is short, so we want to grow as many vegetables as we can in the time we have. One way to do that is to reuse the space where you planted spring crops. Many of the same vegetables that we grow in the spring here can also be grown in the fall.

The tricky thing is that these plants grow best in cool weather, but you can’t wait until it cools down to plant them – that won’t give them enough time to grow. Plants grow more slowly after the Summer Solstice because the days are now growing shorter. If you’re wondering if you have time to grow a particular crop, you can look at the seed package to find out how many days it takes the vegetable to mature, but you should add another couple of weeks to your calculation if you’re planting it in the fall. We’re likely to have our first serious frost in October some time, (probably not until late in the month, but there’s no guarantees.) Some of the cool weather vegetables are killed by frost, but some of them are quite hardy, and will survive several frosts, especially if they’re protected.

One approach is to start seeds in pots or flats – maybe inside your house, or in a shady spot in your garden – even vegetables you would normally plant directly into the ground.  Be sure to water them every day. By the time they’re big enough to transplant, it will be cooler. I will be putting seeds out on the share shelves for fall crops, such as radishes, beets, peas, and lettuce. Here’s a link to a useful article with a very helpful chart:

ARE YOU LEAVING TOWN? – A reminder that if you’re leaving Madison at the end of the summer and giving up your garden plot, you need to let me know. If you would like to give your plot to a friend, that’s fine, and I’ll be happy to make the transfer. We don’t have a waiting list, so I’m glad when a plot is not going to sit empty. But I’m the one who assigns plots – not gardeners.

POLLINATORS – All around the world, the insects and other small animals that pollinate flowers are declining in population. This has serious consequences for humans, because we depend on pollination to produce the plants we eat. In Wisconsin, the Department of Agriculture has developed a pollinator protection plan that includes strategies for farmers, beekeepers, and gardeners to help the bees, flies, butterflies, etc. Here’s a link to the part of the plan that lists best practices for improving pollinator habitat in gardens:

CREEPING BELLFLOWER – Today’s weed of the week has beautiful blue-purple bell-shaped flowers, but it is terribly invasive, and its thick fast-growing roots can take over a garden, and crowd out all the other vegetation very quickly. It’s so pretty that it’s hard to fight it, but it’s difficult to just have a little of it. You’re best digging it out as soon as it appears.

BURLAP BAGS – What can you do with burlap bags in a garden? You can grow plants in them, for one thing. You can also use them as weed barriers. Burlap is made from jute, which is a natural fiber, and it will eventually decompose. A coffee roaster has offered us a pile of burlap bags, which will be left by the EH share shelves Wednesday evening. Help yourself.  Here’s some suggestions for using them:

WORKDAY – We’ll have a workday at Eagle Heights on Sunday, July 28, from 8am – 11am. Tasks will include cleaning berry plantings, moving compost, stacking bricks, and other miscellaneous tasks. Gloves, hats, and water bottles will be a good idea. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Horse Manure at Eagle Heights; Thefts; Japanese Beetles; Damselflies; NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND

Hello Gardeners,

HORSE MANURE – Thanks to the tireless efforts of several of our keenest gardeners, (plus the equally tireless efforts of a large group of horses), we now have a good supply of aged horse manure at Eagle Heights. The pile is next to the leaf pile. Follow your nose. (It smells good, actually.) Fresh manure can burn plants and can contain weed seeds, but composted manure is safe to use, and is a very nutritious garden fertilizer. So help yourself, and work it into your soil to feed your plants. We will also figure out a way to provide some to U Houses Gardens.

THEFTS – As always, we continue to experience thefts – both of produce and of plants. There is no way to prevent people who are not gardeners from coming in to our gardens and taking what they want. But, just as a reminder, no gardener should ever be in another gardener’s plot without that person’s permission. For any reason. Do not assume that any garden is abandoned, just because vegetables or fruits are sitting unpicked. (Email the registrar if you have a question about a garden plot.) Do not help yourself to anything in another person’s garden, such as their hose or other equipment. Also, one of our gardeners mentioned to me that someone went into their garden and rolled back their row cover, so now the vegetables they were protecting have insect damage. This may have been meant well, but the gardener did not appreciate it.

JAPANESE BEETLES – At last, the moment we gardeners have all been waiting for. The Japanese Beetles have arrived. These are beautiful and voracious insects which eat virtually everything in their paths, but which are particularly fond of raspberries, roses, grapes, and beans. They’ve been a garden pest in the United States for more than a century, and there are more and more all the time, though their populations do fluctuate some from year to year. Again, if you want to get rid of them, hand-picking them off of your plants is the best strategy. Oh, by the way, onions and their relatives repel Japanese Beetles. Also, the beetles are attracted to geraniums, but when they eat the leaves, the chemicals in the leaves make them dizzy. They fall off the plants, and often are eaten by something, or squashed by a gardener, before they get a chance to revive. Here’s some basic information on Japanese Beetles, from the University of Minnesota:

DAMSELFLIES – There are beautiful damselflies all over the gardens these days. These are small, slender, winged insects that are relatives of dragonflies. They are predators, so they’re not interested in flowers, but in small insects such as aphids, mosquitoes, and gnats. I am seeing them particularly hovering about the many dill flowers throughout the gardens. Some of them are practically transparent, but once you start noticing them, you’ll be surprised at how many there are. Dill flowers attract a number of beneficial insects, such as ladybugs. So even if you’re overrun with dill, it’s still good to have them.

NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – Take it easy in this heat.

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Jumping Worms at U Houses Gardens; Thistles; Peruvian Daisies; Do You Want More Garden Space?; Workday This Sunday at U Houses

Hello Gardeners,

JUMPING WORMS – One of the U Houses gardeners sent me a picture of a worm found in their front leaf pile. Unfortunately, it’s been confirmed that it is indeed a jumping worm. I have already emailed the UH gardeners and told them to stop using the leaves. A number of UH gardeners have replied to say that they have the worms in their plots, and in some cases, have had them for several years. So, apparently, finding them in the leaf pile is not such big news. Still, it’s unfortunate.

At EH, some gardens and garden areas have them, but they’re not widespread. Last week, an EH gardener brought a cooking thermometer to the gardens, and took the temperature of the EH leaf pile. It was found to be over 100 degrees in a number of spots. So at least at EH, we can feel confident that our leaf mulch isn’t spreading these worms.

THISTLES – There are many species of wild thistles in Wisconsin. A few are native, but most are not. The very worst one is the Canada Thistle – it’s a perennial plant that is flowering now and preparing to go to seed. The seeds spread easily, but it’s really the root system that makes the Canada Thistle such a widespread invasive. If you have Canada Thistles in your garden, you need to get them dug out now. If you can’t dig them out, at least cut them down so they don’t go to seed. If you don’t do any other weeding in your plot, at least do this much. It’s very important to our gardens, and to the Lakeshore Preserve.

PERUVIAN DAISIES – If you finish weeding your garden, turn your back for a minute, and then find that your garden is suddenly full of little flowering weeds, you’ve got Peruvian Daisies (Galinsoga quadriradiata). Also called Shaggy Soldiers and Quickweed. It’s native to Mexico or Central America, but it’s now spread throughout most of the world, because it makes so many seeds, and makes them so quickly. It’s shallow-rooted and easy for us gardeners to pull out, but it’s a big nuisance for farmers because it spreads so quickly. Here’s some information on a close relative:      

WHERE IS OUR “NO WEEDS IN THE DUMPSTER” SIGN FROM EH? – Has anybody seen this sign in the last week? If you have seen it recently or have any idea of its whereabouts, please let me know. Note: just because someone’s messed with the sign doesn’t mean the rule has changed – we still don’t allow weeds or other vegetation in the dumpster. And while I’m on the subject, at both gardens, please dump your weeds on the concrete slab or within the concrete-lined barrier – NOT NEXT TO THE PILE. Thank you.

DO YOU WANT MORE SPACE? We have a number of garden plots that have been given up or abandoned by gardeners, and we don’t have a waiting list for plots. If you would like an additional plot, or have a friend who’s interested in gardening at Eagle Heights or University Houses, please let me know. Remember, each gardener can only have one full plot, but if you have a half plot, you can add another half plot. For current gardeners who take on an additional plot now, there is no charge, and if the plot is a mess, you can also get workday credit for clearing it. For new people, plots are half-price, but the same workday credit applies.

WORKDAY THIS SUNDAY AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES GARDENS – We will hold a workday this Sunday, July 14, from 8am – 11am, at U Houses Gardens. The task will be clearing the fruit tree area along the northern border. As usual, gloves, a hat, and a water bottle are a good idea. We want a limited number of volunteers, so we’ll take the link down when we have enough. Here’s the link to sign up:  (If you’re not familiar with the U Houses Gardens, they’re at the end of Haight Road, behind Bernie’s Place Child Care Center, 39 University Houses.)

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: More About Jumping Worms; Potato Beetles, Cucumber Beetles, and Squash Vine Borers; What to Plant Now; Dead Apple Trees; Fresh Dill; Workday Sunday Morning at EH      

Hello Gardeners,

JUMPING WORMS UPDATE – One of our gardeners heard Brad Herrick, from the UW Arboretum, talking on Public Radio about recent research he conducted which shows that jumping worm cocoons can’t survive temperatures above about 100 degrees. The research was done in a lab, but they’ll continue to test their basic findings under more real-life conditions. The gardener has suggested that putting black plastic over an infested area on a hot day might raise the surface condition enough to kill cocoons. Here’s a link to an article:

COLORADO POTATO BEETLES – Our potato growers are starting to report the presence of these insects on their potatoes. They’re most likely to be found in gardens where potatoes are grown every year, since their pupae spend the winter in the soil, and re-emerge in the spring. Unfortunately, they don’t just attack potatoes, but other potato relatives, including tomatoes and eggplants. Here is a link to a good article with pictures, so you can know your enemy: Some years when infestations have been bad, our garden workers have sprayed Spinosad, which is an organic insecticide made from naturally-occurring soil bacteria. We would rather not spray, because some gardeners have concerns about it, and also we have to be very careful; our biggest concern is killing bees and other pollinators, so we don’t spray flowers, and we only spray in the evening, when bees aren’t active. Also, we can’t spray when it’s windy, or when rain is expected the next day. But still, if gardeners are finding a lot of beetles, it is a possibility.

CUCUMBER BEETLES AND SQUASH VINE BORERS – These insects are also becoming active. With all of these beetles, the easiest and safest method to protect your vegetables is hand-picking the insects off of your plants, and dropping them into soapy water. As for squash borers, row cover is effective in protecting plants. Also, if you plant more squash seeds now, the borers will be finished laying eggs by the time the new plants mature.

WHAT TO PLANT NOW – You can keep planting seeds for most vegetables throughout the summer. Beans, chard, cucumbers, and summer squash are good candidates, for instance. These grow fairly quickly, especially when it’s warm, and they can tolerate heat. It’s too warm now to plant lettuce and peas, but in a few weeks, it will be time to start thinking about fall crops, which could include peas, cabbage and their relatives, and spinach, lettuce, and other greens.

DEAD APPLE TREES AT EH – Our apple trees were planted in 2010, and there were great expectations for their success. However, they have not really done all that well, and there are now a couple dozen dead ones. The severe cold last winter and damage from hungry predators probably contributed to their demise. We will be cutting them down and hauling the wood away. We’re not sure yet what to replace them with    

FRESH DILL – If you have any dill growing in your garden plot, you probably have too much. It’s almost impossible to grow just a little. Even if you love the taste, and pickle every vegetable you meet, you’ll never be able to keep up with your dill. But in case you’re looking for more ways to use it, have a look at this:

WORKDAYWe will have a workday at Eagle Heights this Sunday, July 7, from 8am – 11am. We’ll start early so we can finish before the day gets really hot. We only want 8 people, so the poll will be taken down when we have enough volunteers. The task will be clearing abandoned plots. Gloves, hats, and water bottles are all a good idea. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy gardening,