Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Baby crane update!

Hello all -

Here is a quick update on the baby crane that was hit and sent to a farm for recovery last August. We featured a blog post about her recovery last October, and today we have received more information about her new life from Patrick Comfert with Public Health-Madison and Dane County! Patrick's message and photos are below.

"The baby crane is not longer a baby. I am pretty sure that he is a SHE, and she is doing fine.

She is still on the farm, (most of the time) and has bonded quite closely with a single adult male crane that also lives on the farm.  He has a bad wing that will not let him migerate but he is able to fly short distances, hop the fences, go down to the marsh, etc. NOT the same crane that was her foster parent last fall. She is still friends with that crane but has switched her attentions to the other one for some reason. He is wilder and spends much more time in the fields foraging, only coming back to the farm to sleep and mooch  a meal from time to time. She is capable of full flight and often goes soaring out over the valley, and is sometimes gone for a day  or even two on some young crane adventure, but so far always comes back.

It would be neat if her relationship with our resident male blossomed and she struck up a pair bond with him. They have done some unison calling,  and dance together quite often, but I also know that young cranes date quite a few other cranes their first few years before they settle down for good, so he may just be a first crush."

The baby crane is on the right.  Her head is just starting to turn red.
Happy gardening!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Warm weather plant sale this weekend

Hello all -

This is a reminder that the warm weather plant sale is this weekend:

Warm Weather Plant Sale 2015
Sunday, 5/17, 11 AM to 1 PM 
Eagle Heights Community Garden
Hosted by: Scott Williams of Garden-to-Be

Drop by to pick up transplants including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and beyond. Cash is preferred, but checks are ok.

Happy gardening!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Seed Fair 2015

Hello all -

We had the Seed Fair this weekend at the Eagle Heights Community Center. Approximately 300 plots, represented by over 600 people, checked in to the Seed Fair. This means we gave away about 4500 seed packets (!!!) this year. We also sold over 100 sheets of row cover. I'm glad so many people were able to come out to get a jump on the gardening season. For more photos of the 2015 EHCG Seed Fair, go here.

This is a reminder that we will have a cool weather transplant sale this coming Sunday, 4/19/15, at the Eagle Heights garden site. Scott Williams from Garden to Be will join us, along with starts for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, rainbow chard, and more. If you are interested, bring cash; each set of transplants typically runs $2 - $5.

We are in the process of turning on the water in the gardens, now that the nights are warmer and the days longer. Such an exciting time of year!

Below is some seed planting advice excerpted from Will Waller, one of our Field Staff at EHCG. I've included this as some motivational reading to help you get in a gardening state of mind.

Top 2 Rules for Springtime Planting

1) Do not to put plants (except cole crops) into cold soil. 
                While many plants simply grow slowly before the soil has warmed, most don't grow at all, or even die. Check the planting guidelines on the back of your seed packets to get an idea of when to plant. At EHCG, the average last frost date is around May 1; use this as a reference for your timing. You can also follow Will's advice literally - watch the soil for when it is frost-free and warmed. An exception to this rule, as Will points out, is thBrassicaceae family, ie cole crops. This family includes broccoli, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
2) Do not to disturb soil more than necessary. 
                 The reason for this rule is that disturbed soil becomes compacted soil, which becomes a less welcoming environment for root growth. Imagine trying to plant seeds in clay. Could their delicate baby roots push through the clay? When you overwork the soil, you impart a clay-like texture to your plot. This can be amended by adding organic matter, and avoiding compacting the soil in the first place.

Examples of plants that grow without help:

1) The best is kale. Kale always germinates, is hardy, mostly insect free, and when picked young, is sweet and excellent in salads or lightly braised

2) Radishes are easy, kids love them, and the greens are great for deflecting flea beetles from salad greens. Flea beetles prefer radishes, so I recommend them as bait crop. 

3) Potatoes are easy to manage, have a good canopy that makes the bed essentially weed free. Hilling them is easy. Most folks have never had a really fresh potato. 

4) Peas are easy, and can be trellised up raspberry cane (there’s quite a bit in the weed pile every spring) . Secure the cane in the ground, plant peas. Quick, easy to do. And puts the waste cane to productive use. 

5) Zucchini or yellow squash are dead easy. The trick is to plant 1 hill. Only one. Else you’ll never eat it all. 

6) Carrots. Use a broad fork to loosen the soil so the carrots grow straight. Broadcast seed on surface, tamp with foot, cover with 1/4” of soil. Put plastic down (anything: old grocery bag plastic even) (or newspaper) for a week to keep the soil moist while waiting for germination. 

7) Bush beans are easy. One seed package, planted over 3-4 weeks is perfect. 


I have personally started spinach, fava beans, peas, radishes, beets, and carrots so far. I will wait until early May to start beans, corn, and squash, and finally tomatoes and other hot weather-loving crops later that month.

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Opening day and orientations

Hello all -

This is a reminder that Opening Day at EHCG is this Saturday, March 28. Plot assignments will be posted that day on both the website and the bulletin boards at Eagle Heights and University Houses gardens. While checking your plot assignment and taking the trip to your plot, be sure to pay attention to detail. If you have a half plot (example: 627A), please be absolutely sure that you end up in 627A and not 627B. If you are uncertain at all, please email Gretel (, the registrar, for more information. You can also ask any of your new neighbors, many of whom (about 2/3) are returning gardeners and familiar with the system.

Speaking of your neighbors, it is a great idea to get to know them right away. One's "neighborhood" is an important resource in the community garden. Whether you are interested in learning more about gardening structures, uncertain about the best time to plant tomatoes, or even confused about plot boundaries, your neighbors are likely to be able to steer you in the right direction. This sense of community can also be helpful in resolving minor disputes or confusion that can arise in any group setting. We highly value neighborliness at EHCG.

Another important resource for beginning the 2015 gardening season on the right foot is Orientation. We will hold 8 Orientation sessions this year, 5 at Eagle Heights and 3 at University Houses. We highly encourage new gardeners to attend an Orientation session, but feel free to stop by if you are a returning gardener as well. Orientation will begin at the sheds at both EHCG sites.

Orientation Sessions: Gardening Season 2015

Opening Day: Saturday, March 28

                    Noon at Eagle Heights and also at University Houses
                   5:30 pm at Eagle Heights with Mandarin translation

Sunday, March 29

                     Noon at Eagle Heights

Tuesday, April 1

                    5:15 pm at Eagle Heights

Seed Fair Day, April 11

                   Noon at Eagle Heights and University Houses
                  1 pm at University Houses with Mandarin translation

Gardens Maps (to help you find the sheds)

Next week, expect a post about what to plant in your garden this year, with expert advice by EHCG Field Staff Will Waller. The Seed Fair is coming up quickly, so get your plans in order for April 11.

Happy gardening!

Monday, March 23, 2015

6 days until Opening Day at EHCG

Hello all - 

Well, the weather has taken an interesting turn. Snow blankets the ground close to Opening Day for us this year, at Eagle Heights Community Garden. Today we may have lost the battle against the creep of winter into early spring, but by the end of the week will feel with confidence that we have won the war.

Keep an eye out for an upcoming post about choosing what to plant in your garden. This post will be geared at beginners who may feel uncertain about the feasibility of growing the various foods they like to eat, and will offer some advice excerpted from a recent exchange between myself and Will Waller, one of our Field Staff at EHCG.

Happy gardening!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring has come to Madison!

Hello all -

This is a quick update spurred by the wonderful weather we experienced all weekend, and is getting better every day. I am keeping an eye on the melting snow, water rushing toward storm drains on every road, and flora waking up in the sunshine.

This photo is the view from my office, just south of EHCG. Phenomenal.

While Madison is not quite gardening-ready yet, the day is close at hand. Take some time to take a walk outside this week, dust off your gardening gloves, and set a date for your first spring planting. I'm trying for favas next weekend.

Happy gardening!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Planning your plot: a reminder

Hello all -

The EHCG gardening committee was busy this week preparing for the Seed Fair, which we will host April 11. Seed Fair preparations put me in the mood for reflection on last season and planning what I will grow in 2015. Don't let the snow on the ground and cold temperatures fool you - spring is around the corner! I find that meditating on the coming season and the joys it will bring warms these final winter weeks.

Whether you are a new gardener or have grown your own food for years, this is a reminder that the time for planning for the spring planting is upon us. The internet is full of handy spring planting calendar tools; an example can be found in this link. Whatever method you decide to use, be sure to plan around all of your spring favorites, and allocate space in the plot for these early crops.

If you like, re-visit my post from last year about planning the plot out, month by month. While you may not plant the same crops as me or use the same schema, generating a monthly garden plan of your own can help you to allocate space for your spring, summer, and fall crops as necessary.

Finally, you can identify the sources of your seeds and/or transplants for the coming year. EHCG hosts the Seed Fair in April as well as two transplant sales in April and May. In addition to these events, you can buy seeds in stores and online from myriad vendors, and buy transplants around town including the Dane County Farmer's Market. You will benefit from having a plan handy in March to carry you through the season.

Think warm thoughts, and happy garden planning!