Wednesday, September 25, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: DON’T LEAVE HOSES AND DEBRIS IN THE PATHS; Dayflowers; Roasted Vegetables; Taking Cuttings from your Flowers; Green Thumb Gardening Classes; Are You Leaving?; Workday is Iffy

Hello Gardeners,

HOSES AND DEBRIS IN THE GARDEN PATHS – So once again, our mowing was interrupted by a hose and a tomato cage left in the path. The mower had to be taken apart to remove the pieces of hose and cage. Bad language was probably used. Your garden plot is your own space. But the paths are common areas, shared with all the other gardeners and visitors – no gardener has any right to leave anything in the paths. When you want to water your garden, you can use the path temporarily to connect your hose to a water station. When you are done watering, you must disconnect the hose and bring it back to your plot.  DO NOT leave your hose attached, and DO NOT leave your hose in the path. At our next workday, garden volunteers will be instructed to disconnect any hoses left attached to the water faucets, and these hoses will be taken away to an unknown destination. Don’t let this happen!

DAYFLOWERS – I’m seeing more and more of these beautiful blue-flowered invasives around the gardens, including a large number in the path in front of Plot 115. They come from Asia, and are very hard to get rid of if you don’t want them. But perhaps they can be tolerated – their flowers are true blue, an unusual color in nature. And, apparently, they’re edible, though I haven’t tried them. They have been used as a dye in Japan, and as a medicinal herb in China. They’re related to Spiderwort, a native wildflower that also has cultivated varieties. Here’s more information on them:

ROASTED VEGETABLES – Now that temperatures are coming down, and there are so many root vegetables to harvest, this is an excellent time to eat roasted vegetables. This is a link to a basic recipe:  You can use whatever vegetables you like (or whatever vegetables your garden is producing), and whatever herbs and spices you like. Simple and tasty.

TAKING CUTTINGS FROM YOUR FLOWERS – For gardeners who grow flowers, this is a good time of year to divide your perennials. It’s also a good time to take cuttings from flowering plants such as geraniums. They can be rooted in water or potting medium in your house over the winter, and be ready to plant out next spring. Geraniums can also be brought inside in the winter, to grow and flower, or to be stored in a dormant state until warmer weather:  (Some begonias can also be rooted from cuttings.)

GREEN THUMB GARDENING CLASSES – Dane County UW Extension is offering a series of classes for gardeners on Wednesday evenings, beginning October 9, at their offices on the far east side – 5201 Fen Oak Drive. Classes are $12 each, or $70 for the series. The first class will be “Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter and Seed Saving/Seed Starting”. Here’s a link for more information:

ARE YOU LEAVING THE GARDENS? – Eagle Heights gardeners are busy people, and mobile. It’s not unusual for me to receive an email from a gardener letting me know that they have moved to Bangkok or Beloit, or some other exotic location, and are no longer able to care for their garden plot. I appreciate knowing, but if you could let me know before you actually leave, that would be even better.

WORKDAY – Due to the weather forecast, we will probably not have a workday this weekend. If plans change, I’ll send out a separate email.

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Clean Up; Workday This Weekend; General Workday Information; UH Workday Mysteries

Hello Gardeners,

CLEAN UP – Even this late in the season, many of our garden plots continue to look beautiful. There are lots of cabbages, kales, and greens of all sorts. We are still hosting large numbers of monarch butterflies, and the turkeys and cranes are eating exceptionally well. However, it being mid-September, there are getting to be a lot of dead vegetable plants in plots. If your tomato plants have died (as most of mine have), this is a good time to pull them up, collect the rotten tomatoes, and haul it all to the weed pile. If your bean plants are dead, haul those too. Some people believe you should cut the bean plants but leave the roots in the soil to add nitrogen. Unfortunately, recent research does not seem to back this up. In any case, clear out the dead stuff, get rid of the rotting produce, and haul back some leaves to cover the space. Do your garden clean-up a little at a time, and it won’t be an enormous chore later on.

WORKDAY THIS WEEKEND – We are planning a workday this Sunday, September 22, at Eagle Heights, from 9am – Noon. The task will be path maintenance. Here’s the link to sign up:  The weather this weekend looks iffy - please note, if it rains, the workday will be cancelled.

WORKDAYS (IN GENERAL) – About 250 of our gardeners have not done a workday yet this year. That’s okay – many of the gardeners prefer to pay the “no workday fee”, and will pay it by the deadline, which is December 1. But we really want people to do workdays. It’s a great opportunity to meet other gardeners, and maybe see parts of the garden you don’t normally see. Many people find it satisfying afterwards to see an area they worked on, and know that they had a part in improving it. Doing a workday is an important part of the whole “community garden” experience. Plus, of course, you can get sunburned, calloused, and sore. What’s not to like?

We will continue to have workdays until the end of the gardening season. (Last year’s final workday, for instance, was November 18.) But how late we go into the fall will depend on the weather. If you do want to do a workday rather than pay the fee, it would be a good idea to sign up soon.

LOST SWEATSHIRT AT UH WORKDAY SEPTEMBER 8 – If you left a blue hooded medium-sized Regent Tennis sweatshirt at University Houses Gardens, please let me know. It was found in the garden shed. I would also appreciate any information on the identity of someone named Nick (last name indecipherable) who did the workday, and listed his plot as “700 row Eagle Heights.”

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: Garlic Planting Workshop; Garden Arbor and Rain Garden; Squash Facts; Workday at Eagle Heights Saturday Morning

Hello Gardeners,

GARLIC PLANTING WORKSHOP – A reminder – garlic-master Gary K. will give his annual garlic-planting workshop, near the EH shed, on Saturday, September 14, from 9am – 10am. 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.

GARDEN ARBOR AND RAIN GARDEN – The beautiful Garden Arbor at Eagle Heights is maintained entirely by volunteers. We can always use more people to help out with weeding and other tasks. Yes, you get workday credit for your time. Please let me know if you’re interested. This year, we added more space to the Arbor Garden, by turning the former Plot 606A into a rain garden. The lowest area of the gardens, most of the 500 and 600 rows, was flooded much of last year, and again this spring. We had two reasons for creating this rain garden – one being to establish a perennial garden that would grow well under wet conditions. The other reason was to see if a rain garden could be helpful to neighboring plots. The rain garden volunteers dug out some of the dirt/mud in the space and lowered the area before the rain garden plants were put in. Hopefully, if/when we get heavy rains in the future, some of the water will run into the rain garden, leaving other nearby plots drier. The plants have settled in very nicely and are growing well. One result we’ve seen already is that the plants in this garden are attractive to butterflies – volunteers counted 15 Monarch larvae on the swamp milkweeds last weekend.

WHY ARE SQUASH CALLED “SQUASH”? – Our term for the vegetable,” squash” (okay, botanically, it’s really a fruit) comes from a Narragansett Indian word, askutasquash, which means, “eaten raw or uncooked.” Squash and pumpkins have been cultivated for food (and utensils in the case of gourds) for at least 12,000 years, and originally grew wild in Central America. When Europeans came to North America in the 1500s, they found the native peoples growing and eating a number of different kinds of squash, most of which are still grown and eaten today. Zucchini, like all the other squash, originated in the Americas, but were developed in Italy in the late Nineteenth Century, and then were brought back here by Italian immigrants. Here’s an article on squash history from the Library of Congress:

WORKDAY – We will have a workday at Eagle Heights this Saturday, September 14, from 9am – Noon. The task will be removing weeds and debris from the shed area and the 1300’s path. Please bring gloves. Meet at the garden shed. Here’s the link to sign up:

Happy gardening,

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

From the Gardens Registrar: What to Do in the Garden Now; Birds; Plot Markers; Garden Juries; Freezing Beans; Workday To Be Determined

Hello Gardeners,

WHAT TO DO IN YOUR GARDEN IN EARLY SEPTEMBER  – There’s still time to plant a few quick-growing, cool weather-loving vegetables: beets, carrots, chard, lettuce, mustard, radishes, spinach, and turnips. But these should probably be planted in the next week or so, to give them enough time to grow before frost. If you have winter squash and it’s still blooming, you should take off any new flowers, to encourage the plants to put their energy into ripening the fruits that have already been set. (Thanks, Amy.) If you’re lucky enough to have fall raspberries, be sure to pick them as soon as they’re ripe – don’t let them sit and rot, and attract fruit flies. In fact, keep picking whatever vegetables and fruits you’ve got. You may still be feeling overwhelmed, but as the days get shorter, there will be less and less to pick.

BIRD MIGRATION – Some birds start heading south for the winter as early as July. Hummingbirds and warblers start their fall migrations in August. Many of the birds passing through Madison will stop over at the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which our gardens are part of. Some of them may stop in our gardens as well, so be on the lookout for unusual birds, and listen for unfamiliar songs. Here’s some information from a Friends of the Lakeshore Preserve newsletter from a few years ago:

PLOT MARKERS – Each garden plot should have three markers at the front along the path – one is the number marker, which should be in the middle, and the other two are corner markers, which are painted yellow. Many of these markers go missing every year. Sometimes, neighborhood kids play games with them and scatter them around the garden. Some of them are moved by gardeners to become stakes for tomatoes. Others are apparently sucked into black holes, nevermore to be seen again. The next time you’re at your garden, please take a look at your markers, and if you’ve moved them from where they belong, please move them back. They have a purpose.

THANK YOU TO THE GARDEN JURY MEMBERS – The five groups of garden juries have completed their work for this year. These people have surveyed the gardens to look for abandoned and weedy plots. The June reports were not bad. There were a few more bad plots in July. But the August surveys found large numbers of weedy, dreadful-looking plots in both gardens. This is thoroughly depressing. I am still digesting the last jury reports, but I very much appreciate all the work and thought that went into their sessions. So far, 25 garden plots have either been given up by the gardeners or were confiscated, thanks to the work of the juries. Those 25 plots are being worked now by enthusiastic new gardeners. We all benefit from this, so thank you, jurors.

FREEZING BEANS – If you’re still picking beans, and you’re tired of eating them, remember that the easiest way to preserve them is to freeze them. It’s standard to blanch them first, which means giving them a few minutes in boiling water, and then cooling them quickly in ice water before you put them in the freezer. Some people claim their texture is better and they have more nutrients if you blanch them first. Other people think it’s not worth the extra trouble. Why not try doing it both ways and see if the extra step is worthwhile? Here’s a website with detailed instructions:

WORKDAY – If we have a workday this weekend, I’ll send out a separate announcement.

Happy gardening,