Wednesday, June 24, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Jumping Worms in the Leaf Pile at EH; Should You Prune Your Tomatoes?; Spinosad Spraying for Potato Beetles; Have You Lost a Necklace?; Wildflowers and Weeds; Nominate Your Favorite Plot

Hello Gardeners,

JUMPING WORMS – Sad to say, but not unexpected, it has now been confirmed that we do have jumping worms in the leaf pile at Eagle Heights. At this point, there’s not much we can do about that. But please don’t move plants from our EH gardens to your home or share them with friends outside of our gardens, because of the risk of spreading the worms to their gardens.

PRUNING TOMATOES?  - Tomato growers are divided about whether or not it is helpful to prune tomato plants. Partly, it makes a difference what kind of tomatoes you’re growing. “Determinate” tomatoes are bred to grow only to a certain size, and then stop. They are generally smaller, more compact plants, and will give you a large number of tomatoes at one time. You do not need to prune determinate tomatoes. Paste tomatoes, such as Romas, are determinate, and so are some larger-fruited tomatoes, such as Rutgers and Celebrity. “Indeterminate” tomato plants will keep growing throughout the season, producing their tomatoes over a longer period of time. Some gardeners believe these plants have to be pruned for best yields. But not everybody agrees. Here’s an article which goes into some of the pros and cons:

SPINOSAD SPRAYING – Last week, I asked if gardeners were interested in our spraying spinosad, an organic insecticide, to kill potato beetles. Five gardeners were in favor, and two were opposed to the plan. Based on this response, we will spray only the plots of the five gardeners who were in favor. Spraying can only be done in the evening, when bees aren’t active. (The spinosad will dry overnight, so the bees will not be affected by it the next morning when they return to work.) It can’t be windy, to make sure the spray goes only where it’s directed, and there’s no point in spraying if it is likely to rain the next day. We will only spray one time. So if you want your plot sprayed, tell me in the next few days.

FOUND NECKLACE – Found, one nice-looking necklace, on Eagle Heights Drive near the garden parking, Tuesday evening. If you’ve lost it, let me know, and I’ll connect you with the gardener who found it.

WILDFLOWERS AND WEEDS – What’s the difference between these two things? One definition would be - if we have a plant that we didn’t put in our garden, and we like it, it’s a wildflower. If we don’t like it, it’s a weed. Essentially, they’re the same thing, except for our attitude towards them. Most of the weeds in our gardens are not native to this area, but they may still be attractive or interesting to look at, and many of them attract bees and other beneficial insects to our gardens. Many of our weeds are good to eat, and nutritious. Some have medicinal value. The weeds we definitely don’t want are “invasives”, which means that they take over garden areas, and crowd out other species. Here’s a link to an article by a gardener who enjoys at least some of their weeds:

NOMINATE YOUR FAVORITE PLOT – Our garden juries have been surveying plots, and finding far fewer weedy gardens than usual. Good job, (almost) everybody. But the juries tend to concentrate on discovering bad plots. Some gardeners think we should do more to encourage good gardening by recognizing especially well-tended plots. So if there’s a plot you particularly admire, figure out the number, and let me know. Even if it’s your own plot!

Happy Gardening, and Stay Safe,  

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: It’s Thistle Time at Eagle Heights!;  Leaf Mulch at UH; Mowing and Paths; Jumping Worms; Potato Beetles

Hello Gardeners,

THISTLES – Thistles are a large group of plants in the Aster family, characterized by leaves with spines or prickles on them. The family includes artichokes, and some garden ornamentals, as well as some native plants. Also, many small birds, such as goldfinches, enjoy eating thistle seeds. But most of the thistles found in our gardens and in the Lakeshore Preserve are invasive and obnoxious. The worst of them is the Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense.) This plant is classified as “restricted” by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, because it causes significant environmental harm, by invading natural areas, spreading, and crowding out other vegetation. Here’s a link to their website on this topic:  The website includes pictures. The thistles are getting big now, and starting to get flower buds. If you have this plant in your plot, dig it out immediately. It spreads most through its roots, but it can also spread by seed, so don’t let it flower and go to seed. If you can’t dig it out, at least cut it down to keep it from flowering. You do not want this plant in your own garden, and you don’t want it spreading from your plot to anyone else’s.

LEAF MULCH AT UNIVERSITY HOUSES – The University Houses Gardens finally have leaf mulch from the Village of Shorewood, thanks to the persistence of your fellow gardener, Gemma. Thank you very much, Gemma. Also, bark mulch will be coming soon. We’re cutting down dead apple trees at Eagle Heights, and they will be taken to UH to be chipped.

MOWING/PATHS  – The paths are looking better now, thanks to work by our garden worker, the Housing workers, and some volunteers. If you have a weed whacker at home, you’re welcome to use it at the gardens to knock down tall grass and weeds that still border a few of the paths. (Let me know if you’re doing this, and I’ll give you workday credit.) On a related topic, one of the University Houses gardeners asked me to remind their fellow gardeners to keep their side paths cleared, so that the gardeners in plots farther from the main path can get around.

JUMPING WORMS – All earthworms in North America are actually invaders – there are no native earthworms here. But most worms are welcome garden residents, because they aerate and fertilize the soil. But Jumping Worms are harmful to soil, and spread rapidly. There isn’t yet a way to control them. We have had them in our gardens for a number of years, and gardeners have wondered if they lived in our leaf mulch. We always felt that the pile got hot enough that nothing could live in it. But this year, I have been seeing earthworms in the leaf pile. I haven’t seen jumping worms (yet), but I suggest that gardeners take leaves from higher up in the pile, and avoid leaves on the ground, which is where I’ve seen worms. Here’s the DNR information on jumping worms:

POTATO BEETLES – More bad news. Many gardeners are reporting potato beetles on their potato plants. They attack other plants as well, including potato relatives such as tomatoes. The surest way to get rid of these beetles is, unfortunately, picking them off your plants, one by one, and tossing them into soapy water. But you can also try neem oil – this is an organic pesticide. Some years, the garden workers spray Spinosad, which is an organic treatment for the beetles. But Spinosad can be harmful to bees, so spraying has to be done very carefully, and some gardeners don’t want it used on their plots. (When we spray, it’s done in the evening after the flowers are closed and the bees aren’t around. Also, it can’t be done safely when it’s windy or raining.) Let me know if you’d like us to spray.

Happy Gardening, and Stay Safe,  

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Mowing (i.e., Why Does It Look Like This?); Other Garden Residents; Dogs; Bicycles

Hello Gardeners,

MOWING Mowing started for the season at Eagle Heights last week. Under a new agreement, our paths are being mowed by UW Housing employees. They were told to just mow a strip down the middle of the path, and later we would take care of the edges. Unfortunately, on some paths, they mowed only a very narrow strip, leaving very wide and tall sections of grass and weeds next to the plots. This is not how we want the paths to look, and we apologize. The original idea behind this plan was that we would follow up to trim the edges with weekend volunteer crews. Of course, due to the virus, we can’t have workdays. Still, we will get these edges knocked down as soon as we can, and in future, the mowers will mow wider paths. It’s a new system for us, and communication was poor, but it will get better from here.

Also, Housing employees will start mowing at University Houses as well.

OTHER GARDEN RESIDENTS – The Eagle Heights Garden shares space with several other gardening entities. One is F.H. King, a student organization named after Franklin Hiram King, a professor of agricultural science at UW, who is considered the father of sustainable farming. Another is the Greenhouse Learning Community, another student group focused on the environment; and CALS – the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. These other groups have garden space, which they use to grow vegetables to share with the UW community, or for research.

There are also many non-human residents of Eagle Heights and University Houses Gardens. They include animals that annoy us by eating our vegetables, such as voles and turkeys. But we are very proud to also share our space with sandhill cranes and red-tailed hawks. This year, we have a resident crane family, with one colt (that’s a young crane.) The hawks also raise young in our gardens every year. And both cranes and hawks eat voles, which is only part of why we like them. More than 250 varieties of birds have been seen at the Lakeshore Preserve, which adjoins our gardens, and many of those birds can be spotted among our plots, including bluebirds, wrens, and many others.

If you’re not familiar with voles, here is some information about them, including a number of nontoxic approaches to getting rid of them:

As for turkeys, a garden near mine has been decorated with holographic tape to scare them away. I’ve tried to find out whether or not this works, but all the websites I can find are either selling the tape, or else claiming it’s useless because they want to sell you a different product. I hope it works, but all I know so far is that it certainly gives that garden a festive air.

DOGS – Many of our gardeners bring their dogs to the garden when they are working in their plots. And also, many people who live in the neighborhood walk their dogs in our gardens. We like dogs, and this is all good. But for many reasons, dogs MUST be on leash when they’re not in your own plot. We don’t want dogs running loose, messing with other people’s gardens, or scaring children and wildlife. Earlier this week, there was a scary confrontation between an unleashed dog and our crane family. Fortunately, cranes can take care of themselves. But if you’re not willing to leash your dog, please leave it at home.

BICYCLES – While I’m on the subject, we also like bicycles, and no you don’t have to keep them on leash. But please ride them only in the gardens – bikes aren’t allowed in the Lakeshore Preserve. And lock your bike – we’ve had one stolen from the gardens this year.

Happy Gardening, and Stay Safe,  

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

From the Gardens Registrar: Community; Seeds; Insecticides; Maintenance Projects

Hello Gardeners,

COMMUNITY – A Community Garden is more than just a group of individual gardens that share tools and resources. We share a space and an experience, and much of what each of us does (or doesn’t do) has a big effect on our garden neighbors and the garden as a whole. Our long-term gardeners understand this, and even many of our brand new gardeners get it almost immediately. But unfortunately, not all of our gardeners are able to look or act beyond their own personal interests.

Last week, one of our long-term gardeners wrote this to me:

“Building community, and with that building communication, is very important and, in my mind, intrinsic in the term "community garden."  Community gardeners need to be reminded, repeatedly, that we are truly in this together.  It is up to each and every one of us to keep things moving forward on a positive and productive note.  Little things like picking up garbage, fixing a broken item, making a pathway better, taking care of tools, hanging them up, dumping weeds properly to NOT obstruct the path.  Simple stuff.  We need to be considerate, community gardeners.  And since we have so many cultures and customs among our group, we need clear and focused communication.   The three C's --  Communication, Consideration equals Community.”

SEEDS – We still have free seeds for winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, and flowers. (Beans and summer squash are gone now.) I will continue bringing them to the gardens for another week or two, but I’m assuming that most gardeners who want to plant these things have already done so. Unfortunately, most of the melon seeds we have are for large melons that are better suited to longer growing seasons than we have. But if you want to try growing these, get them planted as soon as you can.

ORGANIC INSECTICIDES – Several gardeners have asked for suggestions for organic pesticides that they could buy or make. We have a short list on our website:  and then click on “organic gardening products.” But I’d like to hear suggestions from some of our experienced gardeners – what do you use on flea beetles, cucumber beetles, potato beetles, bean beetles, etc.? Do you have a favorite insecticidal soap you mix up yourself? Other strategies to keep your vegetables safe from six-legged predators? (My method for getting rid of flea beetles is shouting “Off!” at them. It doesn’t work.) Please let me know, and I’ll pass on your tips. And by the way, if you’ve got an insect you can’t identify, you can send a picture of it to the UW Insect Diagnostic Lab – here’s their website:

MAINTENANCE PROJECTS – We’re still interested in ideas you might have for workday activities that could be performed by one or two people. Here’s the link to the google doc you can use to contribute your ideas:

Meanwhile, our blueberry, currant, and gooseberry bushes along the south gravel road at EH could use weeding and mulching. Also, the daylily and iris planting between the cart area and the 100/200 path needs weeding. I think each project would take two people, who wouldn’t necessarily need to work at the same time. Let me know if you’re interested.

Happy Gardening, and Stay Safe,