Wednesday, October 28, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: THE END; Some General Reminders for the Future; Would You Like to Have a Formal Garden?; Storing Seeds; Thank Yous!

 Hello Gardeners,

THE END – Though chard and kale and a few other hardy vegetables are still going strong, most of our gardens are basically done. This will be my last weekly Wednesday email for this year. But I will send out a reminder on or around December 15, to let people know that our applications for 2021 will be available. In past years, we have had paper copies at the Community Center, as well as copies online. This year, most likely the Community Center will still be closed to the public. But if it’s possible for us to have applications there, I’ll let you know.

MORE REMINDERS – If you would like to renew your garden plot for 2021, please fill out an application when they become available on December 15. Everybody needs to fill out an application. You may mail it, along with your check made payable to the Division of University Housing, to the Community Center, whose address is on the application. Or you can drop it off in a green garden envelope in the drop box in the vestibule at the Center. Or you may fill out the application online and email it to me, and then mail or drop off your check separately. Please remember that your application is not complete until I receive your payment. We can not accept cash for garden fees – your payment must be a check or money order. The deadline to renew your plot will be February 15.

 If you want to return as a gardener next year, but you want a different plot, please get your application to me by the deadline, and indicate your preferred plot number or the area in the garden you would prefer.

If you know you will not be returning next year, please let me know now, if you haven’t already done so.

Because of the virus, we are combining 2020 and 2021 as far as workdays are concerned. If you paid the no-workday fee for 2020 or did a workday this year, you will not have to do that in 2021. If you did not do either of those this year, you will have until the end of 2021 to do so.

Please let me know if you have any questions about any of this. I won’t be working much in the next few weeks, but I will still be checking emails regularly.

FORMAL GARDEN AVAILABLE – You may have noticed Plot 1004 in the last few years – the gardener worked very hard to create a beautiful, serene, formal garden, quite unusual at Eagle Heights. Unfortunately, the gardener has moved on, and has given up the plot. My preference in reassigning it would be to find a gardener who would like to keep it basically the way the last gardener set it up. Would anyone be interested in switching to this garden, either now, or starting next spring? Please let me know.

SEED STORAGE – If you got seeds in the spring and didn’t use them all, you might be able to plant them next year, depending on how old they are, and how you’ve stored them. Basically, your seeds should be in a place that’s cool, dark, and dry. Some people put them in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator, or even in the freezer, but a drawer is just fine. Be sure that every packet is labeled with the variety and the year. Except for onion seeds, most common vegetable and flower seeds should still be viable at least one year after the packet date. Generally, small seeds will last longer than large ones. Here’s a viability chart I’ve used:  I know gardeners are always telling stories about growing champion tomatoes from seeds that are 20 years old, but generally, fresher seeds are better.

THANK YOUS!!! – This year has been quite a challenge for us at Eagle Heights and everywhere else in the world. I am very grateful that we were able to keep the gardens open despite the pandemic, and that both new and continuing gardeners were able to find safe and satisfying activity for themselves and their families growing vegetables, fruits, and flowers. I would like to thank all the gardeners who took good care of their plots, social-distanced, and maintained good hand-washing hygiene when sharing tools. Thank you to everyone who managed to do a workday despite our not being able to offer group projects. Thank you to our garden workers, Megan and Andy, for outstanding work, and thank you to the many gardeners who do extra work in common areas and on special projects to keep the gardens going.

I hope that 2021 be a better year for everyone. In the meantime, have a good winter, and stay well.





Wednesday, October 21, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: Last Call for Extra Produce; Lasagna Gardening; Overwintering Herbs; Gardens Closing Day November 8

Hello Gardeners,

ANY EXTRA PRODUCE? One of our gardeners is a member of First United Methodist Church, which runs a kitchen that prepares food for homeless people. They are always looking for fresh produce. If you still have any extra produce in your plot, such as winter squash or greens, and you’re done with harvesting, please let me know. This gardener would be very happy to come clear anything edible from your plot to bring to her church.

LASAGNA GARDENING – A lasagna garden is a garden that is built up in layers – this technique is also called “sheet composting.” You can start a lasagna garden any time of year, but fall is the best. So if you’re tired of digging and weeding, you might want to try this out.  I have had a lasagna garden for almost five years – it’s been pretty productive, and it’s very easy to take care of. You can start by hauling off your weeds, or you can also just trample down the weeds you have, since they’ll be covered up by your layers and will feed your soil as they decay. Then you put down the  first layer – cardboard. On top of that, you put down layers of wet newspaper and leaves. You can also add compost, straw, coffee grounds, whatever other soil amendments you might have. Then leave it for the winter. In the spring, it won’t look much different, but you can go ahead and plant into it, and your plants will feed on the nutrients and decompose the layers, while the cardboard continues to block the weeds. Seeds can be planted the same way you plant into soil, If you’re putting in a plant, you only need to dig a small hole into the layers. One of the advantages of lasagna gardening is that, since you do very little digging, you don’t disturb the microbes that live in the soil and improve it. Later this fall, I’ll add another layer of newspaper and leaves to mine. Here’s a link to a good article:

OVERWINTERING HERBS –The best thing about gardening is having fresh herbs to cook with, and the worst thing about the end of the season is having to say goodbye to that. As far as growing is concerned, herbs can be divided into 3 types. There are annuals, which are planted every year. Some of the annuals, such as dill and cilantro, readily reseed themselves, so if you plant them once, they may keep coming up on their own every year. Basil, unfortunately, has to be planted again every spring. Then there are hardy perennials, such as chives, sage, and mints, including oregano. These need no help getting through the winter. Chives can survive just about any winter, and will be one of the first plants to start growing as soon as the ground starts to thaw in the spring. And then there are more tender perennial herbs, such as lavender, which can use a little help to get through the winter. This is a short article about how to protect those, and also about trying to extend the herb season by bringing some of your plants indoors. :

CLOSING DAY NOVEMBER 8 – Our gardens will have their official closing day this year on Sunday, November 8. On that day, most of our carts and tools will be put away in the sheds for the winter. But we always leave a few out for gardeners who do some work during the winter. Also, we’ll bring the UH hoses in for winter storage, and take the opportunity to throw out the worst ones, since we have some new hoses to replace them with. You can help in this process by please please please returning any of the community tools you currently have in your plot.

 Happy Gardening and Stay Well,




Wednesday, October 14, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: Freeze Coming; Water Shut-Off; Portable Toilets; Clean Up; Tomato Seeds; Links to Kimchi Recipes

Hello Gardeners,

FREEZE COMING – After an unexpected few weeks of beautiful, warm weather, we’re back to more seasonal temperatures now, and frost seems likely Thursday and Friday evening. If you have tender annuals, such as tomatoes, that you hope to keep going a little longer, it’s time to bring out extra sheets and blankets to cover your plants at night. According to current predictions, the frost will be light, so a covering that raises the temperature by a degree or two will be enough to keep the plants alive. You’ll also want to return in the morning to uncover them. If you have small plants to cover, buckets work well. Frost is always unpredictable and spotty – the gardens on the hill might escape it, while those of us in the lower areas will probably get it. If it does frost, your plants might look fine at first, and you’ll think they’re okay, but when it warms a little more, they’ll start to deteriorate fast. You won’t have to worry, yet, about your cabbage crops, or root crops. But cover your lettuce if you have any. It can keep growing in cooler temperatures, though it can’t stand a hard frost. The alternative to trying to save your plants is to just pick your last tomatoes, peppers, and squash. I don’t think it’s really going to warm up much.

WATER SHUT-OFF – A request has gone in to the UW Plumbers to shut down our water systems. We don’t have an exact date for when they’ll do the work, but you can expect it any time now. If you are still planning to plant anything this season, you might want to fill up a barrel or bucket with water while it’s still on.

PORTABLE TOILETS – Our portable toilets will be removed from both gardens on Thursday, October 27, and will not be back until March. So again, use them while you can. Unfortunately, the Community Center is still not open to the public, so the closest public restroom is a long way away.

CLEAN UP CLEAN UP EVERYBODY DO THEIR SHARE – If your garden is done for the season, or nearly, this is a good time to clear away the debris, and prepare it for the winter. Pull out the dead plants and haul them to the weed pile. Please try to leave as much soil behind in your plot as you can. We don’t want a lot of dirt in the weed pile – just plants. If you’re coming back next year, you can certainly leave fences and tomato cages, etc., in your plot. But remember that nice-looking equipment can wander off during the winter. It’s best to take it home, if you can make room. Take your hose home, too. And please do not leave any glass in your plot over the winter – it can break very easily, and leave sharp pieces in your plot that future gardeners can find unexpectedly and unpleasantly. Once you’ve cleared the plot, haul a few loads of leaf mulch, and spread that over your soil. And then you’re done. Please do all this, whether or not you’re returning next year. If you will be back, you’ll be ready to plant in the spring as soon as the weather allows. If you’re giving up the plot and you enjoyed gardening, do something nice for the plot and for its next gardener by leaving the place in good shape. Be considerate, and leave the plot looking the way you’d like to find it if you were starting off for the first time next year.

TOMATO SEEDS – We have a huge supply of tomato seeds. Many of them are several years old, but tomato seeds can stay viable for at least four years. I’m going to be putting some of these out on the share shelves in the next week or so. These are not for planting now! These are for starting, in your house, next year in March or April, for transplanting to your garden later on. We  will have a Seed Fair or seed giveaway around that time, but you are welcome to take some of these seeds now, so you can start them a little earlier, if you want.

KIMCHI RECIPES – Several Korean and part-Korean gardeners sent links to good kimchi recipes they have used successfully: and


Happy Gardening and Stay Well,




Wednesday, October 7, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: New Hoses at U Houses; Garlic Planting Time; Are You Renewing Next Year?; Take Down Your Structures; Fermentation

Hello Gardeners, 

NEW HOSES – We have five new hoses at University Houses Gardens, to replace the worst of the old hoses. We will probably replace the rest of the old ones next year. It won’t be long now before the water is turned off for the season, but in the meantime, enjoy.

GARLIC PLANTING – October is the best time to plant garlic in Wisconsin. You can plant it in the spring, but because we have such a short growing season here, a fall planting is better – your garlic plants will start growing in the spring as soon as the ground thaws, so you’ll get as many growing days as possible. (If you plant in the spring, you will have to wait a little before your garden soil can be worked before you can get the bulbs in.) The trick with fall planting is to plant when the bulbs will have time to grow roots and settle into the soil, but not so early that they will start sending shoots up. The middle of October is best for us. And if you don’t have your own bulbs to plant, try a Farmers’ Market for the best prices, quality, and selection. Here’s a website with very detailed information; these are people who really know their Allium sativum:

ARE YOU RENEWING NEXT YEAR? – It may be early for you to know what you’re doing next year. (Or even next month, especially with this pandemic), but I would appreciate hearing from any gardeners who know now that they won’t be renewing their plots in 2021. This will make it easier for me to assign plots when we start taking applications in December. Also, there are a handful of new applicants for this fall, and if I find out that you’re through for the season, I could get them settled in plots now. If you don’t know now, that’s fine, but let me know later on if you make that decision. And in a related topic:

TAKE DOWN YOUR STRUCTURES – The rules of our gardens state that gardeners are not allowed to build permanent structures in their garden plots. This year, there was quite a bit of building this spring, by gardeners who were happy to find a safe activity outside for themselves and their families. And these gardeners did a wonderful job with their creations. However, if you know that you will not be returning to your garden plot next year, it is your responsibility to take down your structures this fall and remove them from the plot. Along with the building, there was also a great deal of use of the bricks and blocks which we still plan to use for garden projects when the pandemic abates. It is particularly important that you remove these and haul them back to the piles by the leaf pile where they came from. Bricks, rocks, and blocks sink over time, and become real nuisances for subsequent gardeners. So don’t leave them in your plot if you’re not coming back next year.

FERMENTATION – Another method of preserving produce and extending your harvest is fermentation, It’s the process that makes beer, wine, and cheese, by adding yeast, bacteria, or molds. (We’ve had so many people growing hops this year, that I expect a lot of beer brewing is going on now amongst our gardeners.) It also makes tasty pickled vegetables. Fermented foods are thought to improve digestion because they add beneficial bacteria to our guts. This is an excellent time of year to make sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods. It’s fun, it’s healthy, it saves money, and it adds a lot of strange smells to your kitchen. Here’s a very simple recipe for sauerkraut -  You can make a smaller or larger batch quite easily – just keep the same proportions of cabbage and salt as in the recipe. I like to add caraway seeds to mine. Kimchi, the Korean national dish, is similar, but made with napa cabbage and/or other vegetables, plus hot pepper, garlic, and other flavors. I tried to find a good, simple recipe on the Internet, but there were so many variations, I gave up. Does anyone have a favorite kimchi recipe they’d like to share?

Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, September 30, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: Frost Approaching?; Seed Information and Seed Saving; Beautiful Photographs on Web Site

Hello Gardeners,

THE F WORD – We’re going to see the temperatures dip down into the 30s tomorrow and Friday evening this week. After that, it looks like it will warm up a bit for a while. But still, this is a good time to start making decisions about the future of your plants. You can divide your vegetables and flowers into three categories – plants that don’t mind a little frost; plants that can’t handle cold temperatures at all; and plants that can get through some frost with help from you. If you have vegetables in the cabbage family – cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc., they should keep living through some chilly nights for a while. Root crops and greens will do fine for a while. Lettuce is the most sensitive of the greens to cold, but a light covering on cold nights (a sheet, for instance) should keep it safe for a few more weeks. But if you have basil and eggplants, prepare to say goodbye. Pick any fruits you still have, and if you have any decent basil leaves left, you can pick that and either use it up fast, or else dry or freeze it. But what about tomatoes and peppers? This is where you have to make a decision. For pepper plants, it’s probably time to either pick the last ones, or else pull up the whole plant, and hang it upside down in a garage or cool room, so that the peppers can mature a little more (for bell peppers), or turn red and dry (for hot peppers.) For tomatoes, if you can easily cover your plants, you can try doing that for a while until we get a hard frost. But cool cloudy days are not going to do much to ripen the fruits you have left. So you might plan to pick the remains pretty soon.

Tomatoes do continue to ripen off the vine, and even green tomatoes can still turn red in your house. Here’s some detailed information about ways to do that (and ways to not do that):,soft%2C%20bruised%2C%20or%20blemished%2C%20separate%20them...%20More%20

Also, there are a lot of ways to use green tomatoes- pickles, chutneys, and of course, breaded and fried. Here’s some recipes, including a cake and a sweet bread:

As for squash, it can be a relief when summer squash plants kick the bucket – mine are way too sprawly to even think of trying to cover them. But winter squash are also sensitive to frost. If it does frost, you’ll still be able to pick your winter squash and pumpkins and eat them, but they won’t keep as long. So consider picking them before you have to. And unfortunately, winter squash are quite subject to theft, so picking them early, and letting them cure inside may be the best plan.

SEEDS – We receive donations of seeds from seed companies, which we then hand out to our gardeners. These are generally seeds that are too old to be sold, but that are still viable. We get free seeds, and the companies get tax write-offs, so everybody wins. We do have a large number of seeds in storage for next year, but it’s possible that we won’t receive as many donations this winter as we usually do. Because of the pandemic, more people have tried gardening this year, both to supplement their food supply, and to give themselves something to do when so many ordinary activities haven’t been available. As a consequence, many seed companies have had a difficult time keeping up with demand.

We’ll just have to wait and see about this, but I encourage everybody to think about saving seeds yourself from some of your plants. Bean seeds are easy enough – if your remaining snap beans have developed big hard seeds, you can keep the pods on the plants until they dry, and then shell them and keep them in containers in a cool dry room. (Of course, you can cook and eat the dry beans too, in soups and stews.) It’s easy to save seeds from flowers like marigolds and zinnias, although these flowers also frequently reseed themselves. But whatever you try to save, make sure it’s an “open-pollinated” rather than a “hybrid” variety. Seeds from hybrids are often sterile, or do not grow into healthy productive plants. Saving seeds is a large topic, but here’s a link to basic information from the University of Minnesota Extension:

BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS ON OUR WEB SITE – One of our gardeners took a large number of excellent photographs of our gardens, and we now have a few of them posted on our home page. Take a look – they’re incredible.

 Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Pick Your Produce; Frequently Asked and Answered Questions; Doodle Poll Links for Weed-Whacking Sessions

Hello Gardeners,

PICK YOUR PRODUCE!!! – Please continue picking your produce. If you have too much, you can always leave extras on the share shelves. I keep getting reports of vegetables sitting and rotting in various plots. It’s hard to see food going to waste.

FAAQ’s – Happy Fall and Happy Equinox, everybody. As things are winding down in our gardens now, I thought this would be a good time to look at the next few months.

Q, When do the gardens close for the season?

A. Depends on the weather. We will probably have a closing day sometime in early November. At that point, we will bring most of the tools and carts into the sheds for the winter. But although we’re officially closed, we always leave a few tools and carts out all winter for gardeners who need them. But no, we won’t plow the snow off the paths. The portable toilets will also be taken away early in November.

Q. When does the water get turned off for the season?

A. Depends on the weather. The water will be turned off some time in October, when there is a good chance of a serious freeze that could damage the pipes. There is usually no notice – it’s generally a sudden decision. Some gardeners keep a water barrel in their plots so they can fill it in advance with water for times our system is off – not a bad idea.

Q. When will we get a frost?

A. Depends on the weather! It can happen any time in October, but chances are we won’t get a hard frost until later in the month. But once we get into October, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weather forecast, and have a plan prepared – i.e., try to keep the plants going, or just pick what’s left and let them go. (I’ll go into greater detail on this in a future message.)

Q. What if I couldn’t do a work day this year?

A. Depends on, oh, sorry. Some gardeners have managed to do workdays this year, and some gardeners always pay the no workday fee with their garden fees when they send in their applications. But please remember that, due to the pandemic, we are not requiring a work day or work day fee this year. If you have done the work, or paid the fee, you have met the obligation for 2020/2021, and you will not have to do it again next year. I will keep reminding you about this.

Q. What about next year? When can I apply? Can I get the same plot I have this year?

A. Our 2021 applications will be on our website starting December 15. If you want to renew your plot, please get the application and payment to me by February 15. You can email the application to me, but you’ll still have to send or drop off the check or money order at the Community Center. Your application is not complete without the payment. And UW Housing will no longer accept cash – you’ll have to have a check or money order.

Q. What if I want to garden again next year, but I want a different plot?

A. That’s perfectly fine. You should still fill out an application and get it to me between December 15 and February 15. Please write on your application that you would prefer a different plot, and give me an idea of the area or conditions you’re looking for. I’ll do my best to find you a plot you like better.

Q. What if I get my renewal in late, after the deadline?

A. If your plot is still open, you can still renew it. If I’ve already assigned it to a new gardener, you’ll have to take a different plot. And please don’t whine about it. (Actually, nobody has, so far.)

Q, I just got a garden plot this fall. Do I have to apply again for 2021?

A. Yes, you do. You only have your plot until the end of this season.

Q. Will there be a Seed Fair next year?

A. Depends on…the virus. We certainly hope so, but we don’t know yet. We’ll either have a Seed Fair, or else a seed-giveaway like we did this year.

Q. When is this virus going away? Who will win the election? What’s eating my tomatoes? Who played third base for the Tigers in 1959? Why is the sky blue?

A. I think that’s enough questions for now.

WEED WHACKING – Here’s the doodle poll link to sign up for weed whacking with Megan on Monday, September 28, at Eagle Heights, 9am – 10am. I’m sending out the link for the UH session only to the UH gardeners, to give them a better chance of getting to sign up.


Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, September 16, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: Water is Off at Eagle Heights for Repairs; Winter Squash; September Garden Tasks; Garlic Seminar Reminder

 Hello Gardeners,

EAGLE HEIGHTS WATER IS OFF – We have two leaks in the water system at EH, and the water is turned off until repairs can be made. We need some parts and one of the repairs will be tricky – we hope the water can be back on by the weekend, but it might not be possible. We’ll do our best.

HARVESTING WINTER SQUASH – Gardeners are starting to harvest their winter squash now. It’s still early – you don’t really have to pick it until frost threatens, so we’ve probably got another three weeks or more. And if you pick it early, it won’t keep as long as if it’s fully mature. On the other hand, we have a fair amount of theft in our gardens, so harvesting it a little early might help to insure that you get some of it. Also, we do have some deer in the gardens, and they apparently love to eat winter squash and pumpkins.

 Your squash is ready to pick once it’s turned a darker color than it was earlier, it sounds hollow when you shake it, and the stem has died off and turned hard. Here’s a website with very detailed instructions on harvesting, curing and storing:

 And by the way, if you’re looking for new ideas for cooking winter squash, here are some recipes: ter-squash/

SEPTEMBER GARDEN TASKS – Some vegetables are still going full-tilt, so keep picking those annoying summer squash and tomatoes. Once it’s winter, you’ll be amazed to remember that you got tired of harvesting your fresh produce. For plants that have died, you might as well start cleaning up, as long as the weather is so nice. When you take plants to the weed pile, please leave as much of the dirt as possible back in your plot – the people who take our weeds to compost them don’t want dirt. (Occasionally when there is too much dirt in the pile, they’ll refuse to take it, and then we have to pay somebody to haul it away. But this hasn’t happened in a while, fortunately.)

If you have perennial flowers in your plot, this is a good time of year to divide them. Also, if you have geraniums, begonias, or impatiens in your garden, this is a good time to take cuttings of them to bring into your house and root for plants for next year. Here’s a website with details for rooting geranium cuttings: 

Also, if your herbs are still in good shape, this is a good time to cut them and dry or freeze them for the winter. They won’t be as good as fresh, but they’ll be better than nothing.

REMINDER OF GARLIC WORKSHOP – Just a reminder that Gary K. will hold his annual Garlic Workshop on Sunday, September 20, at the Eagle Heights shed, starting at 9am. Several people have asked about where to buy garlic to plant – you can buy it at the grocery store, but it might have been treated with something to keep it from sprouting in storage. You’re better off getting it from a garden center, or, even easier, from one of the local Farmers’ Markets, where the prices and quality are good, and you’ll probably have a choice of varieties.

WEED-WHACKING? – I’ll send out the Doodle poll sign-up link for the next weed-whacking session later this week.

Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, September 9, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: Seed-Saving Class; Gary K.’s Famous Garlic Planting Seminar; Sunflowers; More Weed-Whacking at Both Gardens; Remove Your Tomato Blossoms

 Hello Gardeners,

VIRTUAL SEED SCHOOL – Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit seed company whose mission is to save and distribute heirloom varieties of seeds. They’ve donated seeds to Eagle Heights for our Seed Fair for a number of years. They have invited us to attend their Virtual Seed School, which will provide instruction in saving seeds from your own vegetables, fruits, and flowers. The School will take place on Mondays at 6:00 p.m. from September 14 – October 26 via Zoom. The deadline for signing up is September 10, (that’s tomorrow,) and we can send up to 3 people. If you are interested in learning how to save your own seeds and would like to share what you learn from these webinars with the rest of our gardeners, please contact me right away, so I can sign you up.

 GARLIC PLANTING – Garlic can be planted in the Spring, but the best time to plant it in Wisconsin is the Fall. That gives it time to settle in and develop roots, so that as soon as the ground thaws in the Spring, it can sprout and start growing up. Planting garlic in the Fall gives you the longest growing season for it. Our former gardener, Gary K,, will be offering his annual Garlic Planting Seminar at Eagle Heights on Sunday, September 20, at 9am. He will have handouts, in English, with planting information. Gary always recommends that we not plant our garlic until late October, depending partly on phases of the moon. If you’ve never planted garlic before, don’t miss this opportunity to learn from a master.

 SUNFLOWERS – This has been a spectacular year for sunflowers at our gardens, and we seem to have more of them than usual. They get so tall that it’s inevitable that they fall over or the stalks break. A gardener wrote me that she’s finding seed heads tossed in the weed pile, and suggests that gardeners leave them on the share shelves instead – many people would be happy to take the seeds for themselves or to feed to birds in the winter.

MORE WEED-WHACKING – Megan has set up Doodle polls for gardeners to sign up for the upcoming weed-whacking volunteer shifts. This is the link to sign up for the session on Monday, September 14, at Eagle Heights:  And the previous day, Sunday, September 13, there will be a session at University Houses; here’s the link to sign up for that one:  As always with these sessions, only three gardeners can participate in each session. And if you work two sessions, that constitutes a workday.

TOMATOES – Keep picking your tomatoes. Don’t let them rot. They should continue to produce for another month or so. But it’s time to remove new blossoms from your plants, because they won’t have time to set fruit, and you want to encourage the plants to put all their energy into ripening the fruits that are already growing. Pepper and eggplant blossoms, too.


Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: What to Plant in September; Reminder About Workdays; More Weed-Whacking With Megan; UH Fruit Trees Attacked; New Garden Worker!

 Hello Gardeners,

 WHAT TO PLANT IN SEPTEMBER – If you’ve got some empty space in your plot, there is still time to plant vegetables  before the end of the season.  Or if you’ve got a weedy patch, pull up the weeds, and plant late-season vegetables there. This is a good time of year to plant greens such as spinach, chard, and kale. You don’t have to wait for them to mature or get big before you start eating them, and they like cool weather. In fact, kale actually tastes better after frost. Lettuce is a little more sensitive to cold, but it grows quickly and can be eaten when it’s very small. Root crops, such as radishes, beets, turnips, etc. are another possibility. They do fine in cool weather, and since the part you eat is in the ground, they’re protected from early frosts. Radishes also grow quickly. Peas and carrots are also possible as fall crops – they might or might not produce for you, but if you’ve already got the seeds, you don’t have much to lose.

 Remember that when you’re planting later in the season, you need to add about 10 days to the “days to maturity” listed on the seed package. We can’t predict exactly when we’ll have a frost, but it’s most likely to be late October. So, for instance, if radishes planted in spring will start to get big enough to pick in 30 days, you can expect them to take at least 40 days in the fall, and you’ll want to plant them about 40 days before the end of October.

 REMINDER ABOUT WORKDAYS – Normally, this time of year, I’m reminding gardeners that they have to be sure to get their workdays in before the end of the season. But this time, I’m reminding you that, due to all the problems caused by the Coronavirus, gardeners do not have to do a workday this year – they can defer it to next year. If you have already done your workday (or paid the no-workday fee) for this year, thank you – you will not have to do a workday or pay the fee next year. Normally I want you to worry about this. But this year, please worry about something else. I’m sure you can think of something.

 WEED WHACKING – However, Megan is still enjoying her weed whacking sessions on Monday mornings, and is always looking for new recruits, so please contact me if you’d like to do a one-hour session with her, 9am – 10am. Also, if you’ve done one session, you could volunteer for another. Although a work day is usually 3 hours, I will consider 2 sessions of weed whacking to equal a work day. So feel free to sign up again.

 UNIVERSITY HOUSES FRUIT TREES ATTACKED – Our already sad fruit trees near the shed at University Houses have been attacked recently – possibly by children trying to climb them, or by adults trying to pick the fruit. Please remember that our fruit trees are delicate, and not in the best shape – please do not climb them or allow your children to do so. Also, you are welcome to pick the fruit, but do not hurt the trees in the process. And another note to UH Gardeners – what on earth have you been doing with your plot markers? (Late night javelin-throwing sessions?) A lot of the markers are missing. If you have moved your plot marker, please put it back where it was originally. Thank you.

 NEW GARDEN WORKER – Please welcome our new garden worker, Andy, who is joining Megan on our maintenance team beginning this week. Andy started gardening at Eagle Heights this year, and has lots of good ideas for projects. We’re delighted to have him.

 Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Water Your Garden!; All About Eagle Heights Birds; Free Tomatoes 

Hello Gardeners,

WATER YOUR GARDEN – It looks like the current heat wave will be over in another day or two, but we haven’t had a good rain in weeks, and the forecast is not hopeful. It’s turned into a very dry summer. Most of our plants, such as tomatoes, really like this warm, sunny weather, but be sure to keep everything watered. A good soaking twice a week is better than shorter watering sessions every day – you want to encourage your plants’ roots to go deep. That protects them better in dry conditions. And mulch your garden, if you haven’t already done so – that helps keep moisture in the soil. Morning is the best time to water, but if your schedule doesn’t allow that, just water when you can.  And by the way, if your plants look droopy in the middle of the day, even when you’ve kept up with the watering, don’t panic. They may be okay in the morning or by evening – but when it’s very hot, they get a little behind in keeping hydrated. Here’s a lot of information on when and how to water what:

BIRDS AT EAGLE HEIGHTS – Today, I saw two birds in the gardens, about one minute apart. The first bird was one of our hawks, who was perched on top of the shed. The next bird was a hummingbird, which was drinking nectar from one of the red cannas by the share shelves. The hawks are year-round residents, and every year, they have at least one offspring. This year’s youngster spent several weeks screaming constantly, to try to get its parents to feed it. But it’s as big as they are now, and they’ve told it that it’s on its own.

The hummingbirds, on the other hand, will be flying south soon. The hummingbird migration begins in August. The purple martins, which lived for a few months in an apartment birdhouse at the Biocore Prairie, have left for the year already. The garden is still full of goldfinches, and one day I saw two indigo buntings – one at EH and the other at UH. There have been more than 255 species of birds identified in the UW Lakeshore Preserve, which our gardens are part of. In the next month or so, we’ll be seeing a lot of birds flying through on their way south for the winter.

But the bird that most interests (or preoccupies) EH and UH gardeners is the turkey. Yes, every year, we have more and more turkeys, and they eat more of our delicious vegetables. We consulted a UW Wildlife Specialist, who suggested, unfortunately, that fences around individual plots would probably be the most useful approach. He also suggested that gardeners should yell at them (we already do), chase them, and otherwise scare them (without actually harming them) to try to discourage their presence. I suspect, though, that they’ll decide that the great food makes up for the lousy ambience. He also sent a factsheet with more information than you’d ever want to have about these animals:

While we’re on the subject of birds, a gardener saw some children chasing our crane family. Please do not harass our cranes. We are happy and proud to have them in our gardens. Also, you really don’t want an adult crane mad at you – it would not end well, for you at least.

FREE TOMATOES – One of our partners at Eagle Heights (I’m guessing it’s F.H. King, the student agriculture organization) left a huge number of beautiful ripe tomatoes on our share shelves today. Go  check them out, and take as many as you want.

Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, August 19, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: The Arbor Garden; Where Are the Tools? Canada Fleabane; A Few Volun-teer Opportunities; Refrigerator Pickles

 Hello Gardeners,

 THE ARBOR GARDEN – At Eagle Heights, we have a Garden Arbor, next to the 600 row, where gardeners can rest in the shade and have their lunch. Surrounding it is the Arbor Garden, which is maintained entirely by volunteers – very hardworking and conscientious volunteers. Last year, we expanded the Arbor Garden to include a rain garden – this is a plot which has been lowered and planted with native plants that can tolerate wet conditions. This rain garden has really helped other low plots in that area to handle the few big rainstorms we’ve had this year. The Arbor Garden has been receiving a lot of attention this year and is flourishing, so here’s a big thank you to the volunteers!

By the way, the Arbor itself will be taken down some time this fall – it’s old and not in good shape any more. It may be a while before we can replace it, but we will try to find some way to provide shade temporarily until the new structure can be completed.

WHERE ARE THE EH TOOLS? – This is a serious question, and I don’t know the answer. We should have lots more tools at EH than we currently do. This suggests that some gardeners have been keeping our tools in their plots. Please remember that the tools and carts are all shared – we have a lot of them, but if some are being hoarded, then we don’t have enough for everybody. So don’t bogart the tools, ok?

WEED OF THE WEEK – CANADA FLEABANE – Conyza canadensis is a weed/wildflower that can grow quite tall – up to 7 feet. It is also called Canadian Horseweed. Though it is native to the Midwest, it is not particularly attractive, and because it can get so tall, it can shade your plants and your neighbors’ plants. Also, each plant can produce as many as 20,000 seeds, which spread around the garden and can live in the soil for several years. There’s quite a lot of it in the gardens right now – if you have it in your plot, please pull it out. Here’s some information:

A FEW VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES – Our garden worker, Megan, does an hour of weed-whacking every Monday morning, from 9am – 10am, and is always looking for volunteers to help her – we need three people each week. We’ve been doing these sessions at Eagle Heights, but we’ll also do some at University Houses. Also, we need a volunteer to haul mulch and woodchips  to the sandbox/pear plot in the 1100s, and also a couple of volunteers to haul woodchips to the cart yard next to the EH shed – keeping woodchips there keeps the weeds down. Please let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll give you more information.

REFRIGERATOR PICKLES – This is a basic recipe for pickled cucumbers to keep in the refrigerator, but you can use the same method to pickle lots of other vegetables too:


Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, August 12, 2020


From the Gardens Registrar: The Wonderful Wide World of Tomato Diseases; Preserving Tomatoes; Zucchini Gummies

Hello Gardeners,

THE MANY DISEASES OF TOMATOES – Early Blight. Stemphilium Gray Leaf Spot. Late Blight. Septoria Leaf Spot. Verticilium Wilt; Anthracnose. Blossom End Rot. The list seems endless. Tomatoes are a very popular vegetable in our gardens. People have been growing them at Eagle Heights for almost 60 years. No wonder our tomatoes are so subject to a long list of diseases.

Some of these diseases damage plants and fruits without killing them outright, but some can kill your plants. The most important strategy for an organic gardener is to build healthy soil, and provide enough water to prevent plants from getting stressed and vulnerable to diseases. It’s also best to rotate plantings – don’t plant your tomatoes in the same place you planted them last year (if possible, and it may not be.) If you can, plant varieties that are resistant to these diseases. These funguses spread more quickly when plants are crowded – good air circulation is important. When you water your plot, try to keep the water low, or use drip irrigation, because wet leaves can help spread funguses. Check your plants as often as you can, and if they show signs of disease, prune away the diseased leaves and remove them from the plot. Do a good clean-up at the end of the season, because some of these funguses can overwinter.

There is an OMRI-listed organic fungicide – copper. It can be sprayed both to prevent fungal diseases and to combat them. But although it is organic and acceptable for our gardens, it is very strong and can be dangerous both to plants and to people if it is not used carefully. This is best used as a last resort unless you really know what you’re doing. If you buy a garden fungicide which contains this, follow the directions and cautions exactly.

Here is some slightly old information from UW Milwaukee about three of the most serious tomato diseases in Wisconsin:  It includes a list of some disease-resistant tomato varieties. (I know, it’s a little late for this year, but you might consider planting some of these next year.)

PRESERVING TOMATOES – So, if your tomato plants aren’t withering away from horrible diseases, and they’re bearing well, you may have the problem of too many tomatoes. This is a non-existent problem, because almost everybody loves tomatoes, they’re easy to give away if you have more than you want, and there are many, many ways to preserve them for the future. Some people can tomatoes, or tomato sauce. If you have the necessary equipment (which doesn’t cost much), this is a pretty easy process, and you’ll really appreciate these tomatoes in the winter. You can also dry them. To me, the easiest method is freezing. Tomatoes freeze beautifully. All you need is good quality freezer bags (which you can reuse.) Wash and dry the tomatoes, put them in the bag, and put the bag in the freezer. That’s it. They come out mushy, of course, so you won’t be able to use them for sandwiches or salads, but they’re excellent in soups and stews. You can also freeze tomato puree or tomato sauce.

ZUCCHINI GUMMIES – Can you stand to see one more recipe for using up extra summer squash? This stuff is really good -

 Happy Gardening and Stay Well,


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Organic Gardening; New Co-Chair Needed; Are You Going Away?

Hello Gardeners,

ORGANIC GARDENING – According to our rules, all garden plots at Eagle Heights are to be gardened organically. At University Houses Gardens, the A and B rows are officially organic. (Gardeners in C, D, E, and F plots are not required to garden organically; they can stop reading this and go do something more pleasant until it’s over.) What does this mean? First of all, no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or insecticides are allowed in organic plots. Anything you apply to improve your soil, destroy weeds, or protect your plants from insects must be organic, a natural substance, rather than the product of a laboratory. As organic gardening becomes more popular, more and more organic products are available at garden centers, but be sure you see the word “organic” on the label before you buy anything and bring it to your EH or UH garden.

This affects more than just your own garden – if you use chemicals in your plot, whoever gardens in that space after you leave will inherit those chemicals. Also, your garden neighbors may be affected by those chemicals. Again, we are a community garden – we are all in this together.

But there is more to organic gardening than simply not using chemicals. Organic gardening is about a different relationship with your garden and the natural world. It’s not about making your vegetables grow. It’s more about understanding how they grow, and learning, through observation and experience (and a fair amount of dumb luck) how to work with natural processes to help them grow better. It’s more work gardening organically, but it’s better for us, and our plants, and the planet.

NEW GARDEN COMMITTEE CO-CHAIR – Our gardens are run by the Garden Committee, which consists of gardeners. Any gardener can join the committee and help make decisions to keep the gardens going. The Committee in turn is run by 2 Co-Chairs. The Co-Chairs set the agendas and run the meetings. They also sometimes help to settle disputes with gardeners or take on special projects. Most importantly, they look at larger issues with garden management, and guide the Committee and the gardens to develop better procedures and policies. We currently have a vacancy for a Co-Chair. The position generally requires very little time – being present for a one-hour meeting once a month is most of it. (It’s okay to miss a meeting occasionally.) But it’s helpful if you read your email regularly and can respond to the urgent questions and situations that sometimes come up. We would also be particularly interested in having a Co-Chair with a plot at University Houses, who can represent that constituency. We would appreciate a one-year commitment. Please let me know if you’re interested, or would like more details about what is involved.

ARE YOU GOING AWAY (WITH NO WORD OF FAREWELL?) – Just a reminder – if you’re leaving Madison at the end of the summer and giving up your garden plot, please let me know. There are generally new people looking to get garden plots this time of year, and I’m always anxious to find empty plots I can move them into. Or if you’re realizing you don’t have the time or interest in gardening any more and want to quit, let me know. Please don’t just walk away from your plot without communicating with me. And by the way, if you have a friend you’d like to give your plot to, we can accommodate that. Let me know, and I can transfer your plot to your friend. But please don’t just arrange it between yourselves. Let me know. Or to put it another way, let me know. And thanks.

Happy Gardening and Stay Well,