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,