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,

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: The EH Sign is Back!; There Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime Blues*; Preserving the Harvest; Clearing Empty Plots for Workday Credit; Workday Sunday at EH

Hello Gardeners,

EAGLE HEIGHTS WELCOME SIGN – Many thanks to Will and Dave for remaking and repainting our welcome sign at EH. It looks beautiful. It’s great to have it back up.

SUMMERTIME BLUES – Did you have big plans for the summer? Getting outside a lot! Bicycling! Travelling! Doing aaaamaaaazing things in your garden! And now, we’re less than three weeks from Labor Day, and what have you accomplished?

Many of our garden plots are still looking wonderful. But I’m seeing increasing numbers of plots that look like the gardeners are wearing out and falling behind. Folks, it’s too early to give up. We still have more than two months before frost, and there’s plenty of time to grow beautiful and tasty things. If you have weedy patches, get those weeds out, and plant something new – beets, radishes, carrots, lettuce, greens.  Or cover the area with a good layer of leaves, so it doesn’t get weedy again. Improving your garden is indeed a cure for the summertime blues. And let me know if you could use some help. We are a community garden, and we can and do help each other.

PRESERVING THE HARVEST – Too many tomatoes? There’s no such thing. There are lots of ways to preserve tomatoes, so you can enjoy them all year. None of them have to go to waste. The very fastest, easiest way is to freeze them, provided you have some freezer space. Pick the tomatoes, wash and dry them, and put them into good quality freezer bags or containers. Freeze. That’s it. You don’t have to blanch them or peel them or anything else. When you thaw them, they won’t be any good for salads, but you can cook them in many ways. If you want to take the skin off, just hold them, one by one, under the faucet, and the skin will slip off. You can also puree your tomatoes in a blender or food processor, and freeze the puree, or make sauce or salsa and freeze that. Canning tomatoes is more work, but it’s easy to do, and won’t take up freezer space. Or you can dry them in a dehydrator or an oven. Here are ideas and directions:

As for cucumbers, here’s a simple refrigerator pickle, which you can change to suit your own taste:

As for zucchini and summer squash, one good and easy way to preserve them for the winter is to shred and freeze them. Then you can throw them into soups, casseroles, breads, cookies, you name it.  

WOULD YOU LIKE TO CLEAR AN EMPTY GARDEN PLOT FOR WORKDAY CREDIT? – We currently have sixteen empty plots – 8 at Eagle Heights, and 8 at University Houses. If you are willing to do a workday, but have trouble getting to scheduled weekend work, let me know, and I’ll assign you to clear a plot. If you have a friend who also wants to do this, I can assign the two of you to clear a large plot together. You can work on your own schedule, and you don’t have to do it all at once, although I would appreciate you getting the work done within a couple of weeks. Email me if you’re interested.

WORKDAY SUNDAY MORNING AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – We will hold a workday Sunday morning, August 18, at Eagle Heights, from 9am – Noon. The task will be working on fruit areas adjacent to the weed pile. We will cancel if it rains. This requires a limited number of people. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy gardening,

*song by Eddie Cochran, 1958 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Korean Translation Requested: Pick Your Produce; Plots Still Available; Tomato Diseases; Weed of the Week – Velvetleaf; Thai Cucumber Salad; NO WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND

Hello Gardeners,

KOREAN TRANSLATION – The CALS Research Plot staff are looking for someone who can translate a short message into Korean. Would any of our gardeners be able to help? Please let me know. Thanks.

PICK YOUR PRODUCE – If your vegetable plants are producing well, the most important thing you can do to keep them going is to keep picking. I know – it’s exciting to pick your first cucumbers or tomatoes, but after a while it becomes a chore. (In January, you’ll be amazed to remember that you got tired this summer of picking fresh, local, organic vegetables.) But if you stop picking, bad things happen – one is that you will find giant killer zucchini in your plot that you won’t really want, (and neither does anyone else.) Or your tomatoes will just rot, and there’s nothing rottener than a rotten tomato. Or your plants will decide that they’ve achieved their objective, which is to develop seeds to reproduce themselves, and then they’ll stop flowering and making vegetables. Then you’ll have nothing. So keep picking, every day, if possible, or as often as you can get here.

Remember – if you’re getting more vegetables than you need, you can pickle, preserve, or freeze the excess. Also, you can put extra vegetables on the share shelves. Another very good option is to donate your extra produce to a food pantry. There are a number of them in the area. One is St. Vincent de Paul, at 2033 Fish Hatchery Road, on the south side of Madison. They accept donations six days a week. You can look here to see the hours they’re open, plus a phone number if you have questions:  Please bring only good quality produce to food pantries – food you’d enjoy eating, yourself (if you weren’t sick of eating it.)

WE STILL HAVE GARDEN PLOTS AVAILABLE – We still have about a dozen empty plots that are available for free to EH and UH gardeners - large and small, and in both gardens. Send me an email if you’re interested. Or if you have a friend who’d like a garden, plots are half-price for new gardeners.

TOMATO DISEASES – Are tomato plants subject to more diseases than other vegetables? Or does it just seem that way? Leaf spot, wilts, blight and other funguses, blossom drop, blossom end rot, sunscald: the diseases are practically endless. Unfortunately, some of these diseases are in our soil, and so are transmitted to our plants, year after year. The good news is that most tomato plants will keep producing, even after they are affected by disease. Here’s a basic article that describes some of the most common tomato diseases:

VELVETLEAF – This is a common weed in our gardens. It’s in the mallow family (related to hollyhocks and okra), and has a pretty yellow flower, and a distinctive seedpod. It’s been used in China for its fiber, and was introduced to the United States as a fiber crop. But it’s very invasive, and has become a major pest in farm fields, particularly corn. It’s easy enough for gardeners to pull up. But watch out – it grows very quickly, and can get very tall:

CUCUMBER SALAD – Sliced cucumbers are very good with dill, onion, vinegar, and salt. But maybe the greatest cucumber salad of all is Thai. Here’s a simple version:  Of course, you can use fewer hot peppers than this calls for. Some recipes also call for fish sauce, or other Thai sauces. Shallots are typical also. Peanuts are optional, if you’re allergic, but really good with this.


Happy gardening,