Reserve Plots for 2019

The reserve plots link is up and running. The cost this year will be the same as last year–$25 for individuals and $12.50 for non-profits. We hope that the opening date for planting will be Saturday, May 11th. However, since the city tills the gardens for us any start date depends on the weather. We will keep you informed as things progress
Once we have reservations coming in, we will update the plot assignment page for 2019.

2019 Upate #1 Time to Think about Gardening??

We have an early registration for a garden plot for 2019 so it’s time to do an update!

We usually don’t take registrations until April or so but we understand your eagerness to get started.

We are doing some renovations this year.  The City of Cedar Falls will plow up the entire area this spring and we are still  working on a new layout.  We will likely put 4 plots together with a six foot pathway between  each set and may modify plot sizes.  This reduces mowing edges for the mower and fencing for those with multiple plots.   Pricing may change so we’d appreciate if you wait until we get the new configuration drawn up to reserve and pay or there maybe be an additional charge.  Also we will give priority to Cedar Falls gardeners first and then others if space remains.

So welcome aboard for another year  May we stay high and dry!

2018 Garden Update #13

At the back east end of garden looking west towards downtown.

The final flood crest was about 95.6.  Higher than forecast and a lot higher than the one we had in early September though the original forecasts were about the same.  The Cedar River is a capricious spirit!!

Anyway, the flood water filled in Lincoln Street in front of the gardens and lapped into the front gardens and also filled in from the back side and lapped into the back gardens.  Any low spots filled with flood and/or ground water.
If you planned to carve, not eat, your pumpkins, you should be able to give them a quick scrub and still use them for decorations   But Extension tells us you should not eat anything even potentially contaminated by flood waters.
The compost facility will probably be closed off a few more days as the water recedes so you won’t be able to haul your garden debris over there until the end of the week or so.  As we indicated in the last email, no debris piles on site allowed.   We’ll be shutting down by November 1st so clean up needs to be done by then

2018 Garden Update #12

It’s fall.  Time to enjoy those squash and melons, any fall crops you planted and it’s also time to start clean up  on your garden space.
As always we encourage gardeners to take their garden debris to the compost facility just over on East Main.  No debris piles are allowed near the gardens.  If you can’t haul it to the compost facility, please dump it in the tall grass at the far back of the property.  There is a small strip of grass nearer on the east end.  This is NOT a dumping area.  Carry it to the far back grass strip.
Failure to clear your garden plot of all fencing and plants or improper dumping means you will not be able to rent a plot again next year.
We plan to have the water turned off on November 1st.   If you are still babying along some Kale (it loves a little frost) or other fall plantings, you will have to bring in your own water.
Finally, the flood forecast is 95.2 on Sunday morning.  This may close down the compost facility for a day or two but should leave the garden above water (knock on wood). Last flood ended up being a foot below it’s forecast of 95.4.
But this morning, it looks as high as the last flood and rising fairly quickly.   I was out at the compost facility several times and they are closing the bike trails back there since they were already under water.  I could see the increase in water every time I drove in.   I also saw some barriers and road signs on standby in a few areas of town.
Just a heads up  It’s easier to take down fences BEFORE it floods.


2018 Garden Update 11

Getting Maximum Mileage From Your Garden

Every year we comment about the changes in weather patterns and the impact on our gardens.  Just yesterday, we were discussing the late frost dates we have had the last few years.  So will that help us get a few more miles from our gardens this year??

Did you know?
Several vegetables can be planted in late summer for a fall crop. For a fall crop, plant beets, carrots, Swiss chard, kohlrabi and kale in early to mid-August, plant leaf lettuce and spinach in late August to early September and plant radishes from mid- to late September.

Due to hot, dry soil conditions, seed germination in late summer is often rather poor. To promote seed germination, plant fall vegetables when the soil is moist after a rain, sow the seeds slightly deeper than spring plantings and lightly water the row after the seeds have been sown.

Lettuce seeds are sensitive to extreme heat. To achieve good lettuce seed germination, check the weather forecast and sow the seeds when a prolonged period of mild weather is predicted.


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.