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,