Gardening: Where to start?

It was so lovely to get to meet all the new members to Crowley Station Community Garden last Saturday! I met a lot of members who were new to gardening, and they all had such wonderful questions. I thought I’d take the opportunity to write out a few of the most basic questions in case others were wondering how to get started.

What do I do first? 

Ah, such a broad question! It can be intimidating to start a new project, especially when the subject matter can be as expansive as gardening. Your first garden, though, is a chance for you to take chances and really dive into the exciting world of gardening. Don’t worry so much about doing things right. Just dig in! Your bed at Crowley Station is pretty small; that means it’s easy to fix if a “mistake” happens. “Mistakes” are really just experiments where the results don’t match your expectations. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been gardening, you will still experience surprises every year.

Generally, the first thing you want to do is prepare the soil. Adding some compost is a great first step. There are also probably some small weeds in your bed. You can pull those or just work them into your new compost. Second, pick ONE plant that you want to try this year. Feel free to plant more than just one thing, but maybe you do extra research online, reading books, or asking fellow gardeners about that one plant that you love.

What can I plant in the Spring? 

Good things to start in the spring include short day, cold hardy plants. Most seed packets will mention these traits. Try herbs, greens like lettuce and spinach, and root crops like carrots and beets. Save your tomatoes and peppers for warmer temperatures. As evident today, we could still get snow even though our last frost date was April 15!

How do I plant seeds?

First, read the back of the seed package. This will tell you how close together you can plant your seeds and how deep your seeds should be. Some seeds are really tiny. Remember that you can always thin, pull unwanted plants, later when things are bigger. Water your seeds after planting. You can then cover your plants with something like straw or leaf mulch. Olbrich Gardens has a leaf mulch sale until the end of May. Don’t forget to check your bed at least weekly for weeds and watering.

If you have any further questions feel free to contact me, the Educational Director, or leave comments below. Happy Gardening!

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Brr, it’s cold out there! Gardening in autumn

autumn garden harvest

Gardeners,

Wow, the weather has certainly changed quickly this year! I know that some of our members are new to gardening. I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips on how to garden in the Autumn. Please feel free to share with everyone your own tips and tricks on growing during the chilly weather!
1) Know your first frost date! Our average frost date (the first date we get temperatures at night at 32F or lower) is around Oct. 10-15th. You can plant fall crops by subtracting the days to maturity (found on the back of seed packets) from this date. For instance I planted some Swiss Chard at the beginning of September, about six weeks before our frost date. This weekend we will be getting close to have an early frost, keep an eye on the weather. 
2) Protect your crops from the first frost. We often have a couple nights in the autumn where it gets really chilly and frosty but warms up during the day to at least the 60s. For those evenings you can cover your crops during the night with old sheets and blankets, remove the sheets during the day, and prolong your veggies a couple weeks.
3) Protect your Perennials. Some of you might have planted things that come back year after year, like strawberries. Do some research on how best to winterize those plants. Usually it means putting some extra straw or mulch around the plant to help it transition from hot to cold and provide extra insulation for super frigid winters.
4) Plant your Winter Crops. Do you dream of your very own garlic next year? I know I do! Now is a great time to start planting your garlic and other crops that need a good long winter to grow through.The garlic you plant now will be ready for harvest next August.
5) Think about Cover Crops.  The garden will be discussing what we want to do for the winter. Our goals are to protect the soil against erosion, build the soil health, and keep things pleasant visually through Winter. One of the best ideas is planting a cover crop. If you are interested in deciding how we prepare the garden for the Winter, come to the next Executive Team Meeting September 15 at 7PM at Barriques.  All members are welcome! 

Some local press and upcoming garden events

crowley both working horizontalWe’ve been featured in an article on the City of Madison website! Click here to read it. It features interviews with Danni and Danna, from our executive team, and gives a little background on how Crowley Station Garden got started!

We’d also like to share a few local garden resources with our fellow garden enthusiasts:

  • Dane County Community Gardens For information on Dane County garden events, see this very helpful calendar. The same website also has helpful links on how to plan and maintain a community garden.
  • The West Madison ARS Display Gardens Open House

On Sat. Aug 9, 2014, from 10am-2pm the UW Display Gardens will be holding their annual summer event in which the public is invited to tour the outstanding collections of flowers, vegetables, and fruit.  This year’s trials and demonstrations include nearly 400 cultivars of annual and perennial flowers and nearly 130 different cultivars of vegetables.

University and Extension experts include Jim Nienhuis, UW veggie expert and professor of Horticulture; Brian Hudelson Senior Outreach Specialist and director of the Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic; Scott Craven, Wildlife Ecology emeritus; Julie Dawson, Urban and Regional Food Systems Specialist from Horticulture; Dick Wiedman, grape expert; P.J. Leisch from the Insect Diagnostic Lab; and, and pollinator experts from USDA-ARS will be on hand to offer samples and answer questions on insects, disease and animals that may affect your garden and lawn.

Master Gardeners and garden staff will also be available to field general garden questions on growing techniques and variety selection.

Enjoy tasting of the gardens’ fresh fruit and vegetables, including roasted chili peppers, activity booklets for the kids, pollinator exhibits, and large farm equipment on display.  This event is FREE and open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to bring their cameras and questions.

The open house will be held at University Display Gardens that is located at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station approximately 0.5 miles west of the Hwy 12/14 beltline at 8502 Mineral Point Road, Verona, WI 53593.

  • Seed Saving Workshop

Sat, August 23, 2pm – 4pm

Where: Madison Public Library: Goodman South Madison Branch, 2222 S. Park St. (map)

Description: Join us for a seed saving workshop with UW Extension Master Gardener Volunteers. Learn how to dry and harvest seeds to save for next year, and how to return seeds to the seed library! We will meet in Meeting Room 115. Space is limited, please register at http://host.evanced.info/madison/evanced/eventsignup.asp?ID=36426