2018 Garden Update 10

How to tell if your melons and squash are ready to pick.

For melons, there are two almost-sure ways to tell if the melon is at peak. Melons
will ripen after picking, but not get sweeter and when they have been left too
long, the texture becomes unpleasant, so it’s good to pick them at the perfect

  1. Smell the melon. Gently pick it up from the vine and smell the blossom end- that
    is, the end opposite the vine. It should smell like ripe melons. You will
    recognize it when it’s there.
  2. Look at the vine where it connects to the fruit. It should have slippage- that
    is, when the melon is ripe, it comes off the vine easily (for most varieties).

Watermelons will have a vine that has started to dry out and the tendril leaves
nearest the end of the fine will be brown like an autumn leaf. Watermelons also
will have a yellow spot on the side that rests on the ground. If the spot is
creamy or white, it’s not ready. If your melon is squishy or cracked, it should be harvested immediately.

Summer squash like zucchini is best picked at about 6 inches or after the blossom has died off. The bigger it gets, the more at risk you are for a seedy, woody textured squash.

Winter squash like butternut or acorns, are best when you are able to push against it with a fingernail and not have the fingernail leave a mark. The skin will be hard for most winter squash (Delicata is an exception, it’s skin remains thin). The skin will have lost it’s gloss and the vine will be dry. 

Photos from Peg Keller

2018 Garden Update 9

As some of you know, we’ve had a problem in the past with people who do not garden at the community garden harvesting other people’s produce. Yesterday, two men approached a garden committee member who was out working her garden and asked “When the sweet corn would be ready?”

After spending some time talking to them, it became clear that they thought, like others have in the past, “Community Gardens” means “a garden for the community to share”.

A Community Garden is  a publicly owned area made available to individuals who have no where else to garden.  Local Community members are able to rent a plot each year. Each buys their own plants and seeds and cares for their individual plot.  The plot and it’s produce are the property of the individual gardener.

The rent money is spent on general upkeep for common areas within the gardens and to provide water for the plots..

We know how frustrating it can be to have something you’ve been growing vanish overnight. There will be a new sign in the garden soon urging people to not pick anything they did not plant. We will encourage anyone interested in gardening to get a plot next spring and list the website on the sign.

In the next couple weeks, our gardens will be at their peak. If you are too busy to pick your produce, or just cannot use it, let us know. Please do not let your veggies rot on the vine. We will be happy to harvest your unwanted produce and bring it to the NE Iowa Food Bank.


2018 Garden Update 8

Cleanup Has Begun
A huge thank you to Garden Committee members who braved the heat this week and cleared or cleaned up 6 garden plots that had been forfeited or surrendered for weed  problems.  We were able to salvage a few plants and have reassigned the plots to the volunteers who helped with the cleanup.  We even found this little bird’s nest in the tall weeds and are trying to save it,

We, unfortunately, found some squash bugs on the recovered vines. That is a big  problem in weed infested squash and melon patches.  If you have weeds in your squash or melon patches, clear the weeds first, then spray with Sevin (allowed) or dust with diatomaceous earth.  The garden committee has some of the diatomaceous earth available.  Let us know if you want to try that.  Squash bugs can be controlled!  Even eradicated.

Garden Tips
We have a page of Garden Tips from your fellow gardeners and will be adding more soon.  Tips are specific to our gardens. 

Meet Up Gathering Planned
Our new Outreach Coordinator, Peg Keller, sent this years gardeners an invite to a gathering on Saturday morning, July 21 at 10:00 am.  We’ll meet out at the gardens and we’ll bring the doughnuts,  Gardeners can bring their choice of a drink.  Non-alcoholic, of course.  (Freudian slip:  I originally wrote the meeting was January 21.  Wishful thinking for cooler weather??)

We know you all get tired of hearing about weeds and we are really understanding of the hot weather, but we have a few more gardens in need of some TLC.  Official warnings will be  issued again next weekend.  It’s pretty simple.  Weeds/grasses more than 6 inches tall OR going to seed MUST be removed.

Cooler weather ahead for next week!!   Happy Gardening!

2018 Garden Update 7

Gorgeous Monarch butterfly hovers over the garden next to the Milkweed Preserve.  Photo by Peg Keller.

Finally- Nice Weather
It was a beautiful morning out at the gardens.  We did a quick walk through and, for the most part, this year’s gardeners are keeping up with their work despite the brutal hot weather!!   A few gardens are getting a new flush of weeds from the rain and last weeks heat but the nice weather the next few days will let everyone get caught  up again!

Weed Warnings
We have issued official weed warnings to a couple of gardens.  If not cleaned up by next Monday, the gardens will be forfeited.  We’ll be looking for volunteers to help clean those plots up next week if needed. Email us if you can help.  If anything is salvageable, like tomato or pepper plants, or squash, the plot can be reassigned to someone to care for and use.

Be sure to check your gardens for weeds and grasses over six inches OR going to seed.  Those can and will trigger weed warnings.

If you grew up around gardens, you probably remember the big farm gardens with NO weeds.  Part of that is from early maintenance in the spring but also from the cumulative effect of keeping weed seeds out of the gardens year after year.  We are working towards that goal in our gardens.  It’s early days yet after the gardens were allowed become totally overgrown a couple of years ago but we hope a couple more summers of hard work will get the garden plots back into shape.  Just imagine….part of a beautifully maintained farm vegetable garden will be yours!

The  Fruits of Our Labors
We saw some tiny little watermelons sprouting on the ends of few vines and redirected runners back in to gardens if we saw any runaways.  I should have grabbed a photo. They really are cute,  Be sure to check your vines every week!  The tips are vulnerable to the lawn mower!!

Gardeners are also pulling onions, picking cabbages and other greens.  All the work is starting to pay off.  We’re all looking forward to the new tomatoes and many peppers are starting to bear fruit.

A Reminder to the General Public.
This area is set aside by the City of Cedar Falls to allow area residents to be able to grow vegetable gardens when they can’t at their homes.  Each gardener pays plot rent and invests in plants and seeds and a lot of hard work to grow their favorite vegetables.  Each garden is private and can only be harvested by the individual assigned to it.

Last year we had some problems with theft.  It was especially frustrating as some of the melons and squash stolen weren’t even ripe yet.  When any of our gardeners find themselves with more produce then they can use themselves, they  donate the surplus to the Food Bank.  We encourage anyone looking for fresh produce to shop at the Farmers Market or to get in touch with the Food Bank.

Garden 2018 Update 6

Sturgis Falls
A big thank you to Kevin Cross and the City of Cedar Falls for restricting parking near the gardens this year,  We had snow fence, pylons and caution tape and surveillance cameras.  As of Sunday morning, it seemed as if no one had backed into or driven through any planted plots.

I hope you all double check our Facebook page.  The Garden Committee member who keeps an eye on it has a real knack for finding fun photos and pictures to tie into the commentary!!!  She includes the information from here on the webpage and in garden emails and adds even more.  And each of our gardeners is encouraged to post their garden pictures as well.

Two Legged Bandits
We sadly think the two legged bandit is back.  One gardener had a cabbage stolen from their plot on Friday or Saturday.  So please double check your gardens and let us know if anything is ‘missing’.  The surveillance camera should help with this problem and we will be putting up some signs reminding visitors that while this may be a ‘community’ garden, the individual plots are private.  Each gardener has invested time, money and sweat into their plots and deserve to be able to enjoy the product of their hard work.

Mowing, Weeds and Fences
We feel like we harp about the weeds but asking everyone to pitch in and do their part by keeping their own plots weed free makes the Gardens a better place for everyone.

John mowed again on Sunday morning so stop by and take a look   Any weeds and grasses between the pathways and your garden that didn’t get mowed are YOUR responsibility to clear.  And if there are weeds in your fence, clean it out!! 

Also check your fences (especially that chicken wire and other floppy materials) and be sure the fence is tight.

On Monday, we will be issuing official 7 day warnings for those gardens/fences that are out of compliance with garden rules and standards.  Warned gardeners will have 7 days to clean up their area or they will forfeit their garden.

More Mowing Facts
We did a quick calculation on the number of hours it takes to keep the pathways mowed (2 1/2 hours each mow) and equipment costs and realized that without the volunteer who pushes that mower around (thank you John), we would need to almost double the rental cost for each plot to cover the expense of hiring mowers.

So there is a good reason why we ask you to not toss rocks, dirt and large weeds into the pathways.  Each one can damage the mower and take up valuable mowing time.

Your annual plot rental fee also covers the cost of the water from Cedar Falls Utilities, the watering equipment and anything else that is needed.

Our simple rules make it  nicer and CHEAPER for everyone. And those of you who gardened here before last year, know how awful it is to not have the pathways mowed and the neighbors weeds so high your garden is shaded all day.


Garden 2018 Update 5

Heat and Water
Well, we finally had some rain to ease watering responsibilities but now we have another four day heat wave moving in.  Hard on lettuce and peas but many of our garden plants love the warm weather.

The weeds love the hot weather as well.  This time of year, vegetable gardens need to be tended a few hours every week to keep the weed population in control.  Since we are a community garden, it’s important to remember that your gardening habits impact your neighbors. Weed Warnings will be going out where needed!!!

We are starting to see more caterpillars and butterflies in the garden,  Those milkweed plants really do create a haven for them.  Thanks to all of you who helped weed the Milkweed Reserve and to those of you who found milkweed in your plots and are incorporating them into your garden.

Next weekend is Sturgis Falls celebration.  The City has been erecting fencing and placing pylons around the gardens to protect them from festival attendees parking in the area..  If you move a pylon to pull in to work in your garden plot, please replace it when you leave.

Let us know if you have any questions or concerns,  Meanwhile, stay cool!

Garden 2018 Update 4

It’s Happening
Wow!   Things are growing despite all the hot weather.  We have had lots of ‘community garden tourists’  complimenting all the gardeners on their hard work!!  There are some pretty incredible gardens going in this year!

Sturgis Falls Festival
You will have noticed snow fencing on the west end of the garden.  That is the beginning of the protective measures the Cedar Falls Parks and Recreation Department and the Sturgis Falls Festival Committee are taking to provide protection for the gardens from parked cars and walkers during the festival   Be sure to tell them thank you!!

Weeds Will Grow
Reminder, the weeds need to be managed and doing it now will make it easier to manage the rest of the year.  We ask that weeds be removed before they reach 6 inches or start to go to seed.   This includes squash patches as well as row gardens.  And watch the edges and keep them hoed as well so the mower can get as close as possible to the tilled areas of your garden.  That saves everyone a lot of work.  So far this years, it’s looking pretty good!!

Plots Must Be Planted by June 15
We mentioned this in the last update and on Facebook, but we ask that all plots be cleaned up and planted by June 15th.  This allows the committee to manage any unwanted plots with less work and potential impact on the neighboring gardens.  In the same spirit, we will close registration/payment for plots on June 15th as well.

Here’s to a great year!!

Garden 2018 Update 3





First Crop
The gardening year has started out with a heat wave but gardeners have had some success already.  Jim shows off his radishes grown  from seeds he planted in early May.

Getting Started
We are asking that everyone get their garden plots started by June 15th.  The City tilled the first days of May so if you have not worked your plot yet, you will have some weeds and grasses to clear.

After several years of neglect, the new garden committee last year enforced the garden rules on weed control and one committee member did the mowing to make  sure it was kept up.  It will take several years for all the weed and grass seeds to work out of the plots but it’s better this year.   Last year we solarized some of the plots (but not all) and even those plots are showing grass growth.

Milkweed Reserve
We set aside a plot covered with milkweed as a reserve.  Over the weekend, gardeners chipped in and weeded the grasses.  They found several caterpillars already and encourage other gardeners to check out our little butterfly haven!.  Feel free to pull a weed if you see one while looking!

Several gardeners have discovered milkweed in their plots as well and are just gardening around them,  Kudos!!

At both ends of the gardens, you will see flower gardens planted by the committee to attract pollinators to the area.

Soil Makeup
One gardener sent in a soil sample collected from several plots.  The results came back low in nitrogen but high in phosphorus.  Gardeners may want to look for plant fertilizer with lots of nitrogen and lower in other areas.  You can check with Iowa State Extension for additional ideas.

Meanwhile, happy gardening.

Garden 2018 Update 2

Gardens are starting to go in.  Exciting!

The tilling was deeper this year but because the City uses large equipment, the edges are messy.  Using your hoes, rakes and shovels to even out and clean up the edges will help the garden mower get closer to your garden edges and reduce the weeds sneaking in that you will have to pull to maintain clean edges.   Win Win for both!!

Reminder.  When you find rocks in your plot, carry them to the  base of the trees.  DO NOT leave them in the pathways.  We had to buy a new mower this year because of rock damage to the current one.  Also, remember that we have asked that any bird netting or other plastic/nylon crop covers be firmly anchored at least 15 inches above ground level to protect the mower.  Metal fences need to be set in 4 or 5 inches from the tilled edge.  Tunnel covers need to be set back 6 inches from edge of the plot and be sure the strings are pulled in!

Replacing equipment yearly will force rent increases in the future.  Let’s work together  and keep future costs down.  It’s for the good of the community!

And if you leave tools in the pathways, they’ll be moved to the base of the tree at the east end of the garden.  You can reclaim them there.


Garden 2018 Update 1 Making Plans?

The gardens look lovely.  First picture of the year.  No weeds…yet   And no plants…..yet   But we know the gardeners will be flocking out soon and starting the season. Gardens will be open on May 6th.

Make your plans now!  Each plot is 10 by 20 foot.  Several gardeners have rented more than one plot.  And all these gardeners are thinking through what they hope to grow and how much they can fit in.  Still thinking about getting a plot for this season?  A few plots are still open.  Reserve one today.

The Cedar Falls Farmers Market also opens this weekend on Saturday from 8:30 to noon at Overman Park.  Check them out on Facebook.  A number of vendors will be offering  vegetable plants for sale.  And there will be other delicious and fun things to buy as well.  Several local food trucks will be set up for food options.  Check it out.