Agriculture 101-Wisconsin Army National Guard

Soldiers receive instruction on growing root crops from garden manager Brian Emerson

On July 26 soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard received training at the University Display Gardens. The instruction focused on growing techniques for grapes, apples, and vegetable crops. The training was part of a week long series ‘Agriculture 101’ that was coordinated by the UW Babcock institute. The soldiers were given an overview of many agricultural topics to help prepare them for their service dealing with civilian farmers abroad.


Full scale irrigation on 6/25/12

The dry weather that started last summer has continued through the winter and spring and now into the summer of 2012. Since April 1 we have received only 6.25in of rain. The lack of rain in combination with the high temperatures and strong winds last few weeks has put some of the plants under stress.

At the University Display Gardens we are lucky to have access to irrigation. Our water is from a onsite well. Near the top of the gardens we have connections to a water line. To this we connect a series of 30 ft aluminum pipes, each with an elevated sprinkler head. We connect enough pipes to reach desired beds.

We try to maintain an equivalent of 1.5inches of rain each 7-10 days. With our irrigation system in place this takes approximately 1.5 hrs for each run. We then have to move the pipes to the next rows. All together irrigation is an all day affair. It takes a lot of work. So in essence we are always hoping for rain. There is no substitute for rainwater to make plants grow.

Lasagna garden planting 5/31/12

Lasagna Garden Installation 5/3/12 -Roger Reynolds and volunteer

On May 3, 2012 garden staff assisted in the creation of a Lasagna Garden at the University Display Gardens. This demonstration garden will showcase a new and popular method for homeowners to convert existing lawn or overrun garden area into a productive garden space.

The process starts by laying a layer of cardboard on the ground and covering with 18in of clean alfalfa hay. In total about 3300lbs of hay was added on top of our 16 x 40 ft bed. We applied the hay on May 3, 2012 and in the past three weeks we have kept it wet to encourage the decomposition process. On May 31, 2012 the garden will be planted by project coordinator Roger Reynolds. Roger has done many of these gardens around the state and will be  planting the bed in a mix of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers. It is intended to demonstrate that a garden can be both decorative and functional.

Join Roger on May 31, 2012 as he plants his Frank Loyd Wright inspired design. He will be in the garden from 2-6pm to answer questions and give advice on this system of gardening.

Family Horticulture Day Activities Galore

How many people in Wisconsin eat ice cream outside in during cold weather………lots.   The Family Horticulture Day on Saturday, May 14 was a great success even though it was rainy, cold, and very windy.   People braved the cold, toured the gardens, picked out their favorite vegetable plants, ate ice cream and popcorn, and had a great time communing with bees, other insects and creatures.

Insects, vegetables and flowers always go together, but when have you seen insects the size of the ones visiting the station on Saturday.  Insects joined in the fun and made fast tracks out of their boxes.

The student Insect Ambassadors brought their collection of Madagascar Hissing cockroaches, and other exotic insects.  Children had a great time, even though some parents cringed, providing walking space for the large   critters.

Visitors learned how to garden in small spaces.  Square Foot gardening, raised beds, and container gardens were a part of Saturday’s program.  Visitors were able to take home plans for beds and containers for patio gardens, in addition to plants for instant gardening pleasure.

Colorful carrots, colored popcorn, fresh from Wisconsin cranberries and Babcock ice cream were all features of the pigment in foods portion of the program.

Many hands-on activities were available for children and their parents.   Children had great fun observing plant parts, at the cellular level, using new technology, practicing being a bee pollinating plants, and making shaken drums using beans, balloons and lot of imagination.

Don’t miss the show next year.  Join us for a great time and an opportunity to experience the wonderful world of plant science.

Family Horticulture Day

You might want to grab a notebook, camera and tote bag before you head to Family Horticulture Day on May 14 at the University of Wisconsin’s West Madison Agricultural Research Station.
You’ll be bringing home a bounty of ideas and samples, provided by research station staff, Extension specialists, Master Gardener volunteers and UW students.
Those experts will be staffing a variety of outdoor and indoor displays and demonstrations, all geared toward helping you grow your greatest garden ever—and the most colorful.
A Beauty and the Beet display will show an underappreciated vegetable in unexpected hues and offer samples of organic golden beet seed.
The Popcorn Challenge will let you compare the textures of red, yellow and black kernels. You’ll also have a chance to sample red, white and yellow carrots, and afterwards, you can clear you palate with ice cream made with Wisconsin strawberries and raspberries.
You can also learn how to grow purple, red and yellow potatoes in a pot or garbage can—one of several demonstrations focused on planting and maintaining a kitchen garden in a small space—and take home seeds and seedlings to grow the potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, squash and pumpkins.
Experts will also show how to create inexpensive, attractive  “island gardens” to attract native pollinators that can give a big boost to vegetables, flowers, and fruit trees.
Late blight-resistant tomatoes seedlings and unique peppers will be available for sale. And the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society will be holding their annual sale during the field day.
The event is for all ages. Kids can take home herbs to plant a “fragrance garden,” get close to hissing cockroaches and other intriguing bugs in the Wisconsin Insect Ambassadors collection, extract DNA glop from wheat and create a seed-filled shaken drum.
Admission and parking are free. A small donation will be requested for plants and seeds . There’s roadwork going on near the station, it’s easy to get through.
Family Horticulture Day runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The West Madison Agricultural Research Station is located about a mile west of the Beltline at 8502 Mineral Point Road. More information and directions to the gardens are available   http://universitydisplaygardens
You may also down load the flier for more information.  Family Hort Day flier2011
Questions call: 608-262-2257 and check out our listings on the phone or talk to Judy or Theresa.

Evening Walk with Wildlife Specialist – David Drake

Tuesday, September 7, 7:30-9:00pm – A Walk with the Wildlife at West Madison Research Station, David Drake, Extension Wildlife Specialist

An evening garden walk focusing on urban wildlife will be held at 7:30 p.m. on September 7,   at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Please join us to learn about the many different animals that may call your garden or yard home or those that may be migrating overhead—listen to the night life. If you have questions about the wildlife in your area, this is your chance to ask an expert! This tour will be led by UW Extension Wildlife Specialist David Drake, and is open to the public (donation requested).  For complete details about this and other garden walks, please visit

Urban Horticulture Field Day- August 21

On Aug 21, 2010 from 10-3 we will be hosting our annual Urban Horticulture Field Day. Every year on the third Saturday in August we invite the public to our gardens for a fun, family-friendly, and educational event. This year we will be featuring the following:

  • Extension experts on insects and disease
  • Master gardeners to answer questions on flowers and vegetables
  • Garden staff and interns available to discuss this years varieties and trials
  • Organic vegetables and fruit for tasting and sale
  • Pepper roasting and salsa 11-3
  • Solar food dryer demonstration
  • Square Watermelon, Squash, and Tomato
  • Wisconsin Native Pollinators and how to attract them
  • Cut Flowers for Sale
  • Rain Barrels for sale -Sustain Dane
  • Garden Reference and Cookbook for sale-238 pages
  • Children’s Activities
  • Tour the garden 550 selections of flowers and vegetables.

We hope to see you there!

Solar Food Dehydration

A solar dryer is a low cost, simple mechanism that traps light energy and uses that energy to dry fruits, vegetables, and meat.   Solar dryers are usually very simply designed, highly effective and incurre virtually no operation cost. 

Food dehydration has proven to be an efficient form of long term food preservation that reaches far back in the history of food storage.  Minimal food nutrients are lost through solar  preservation.  Some measure need to be take to preserve the Vitamin C.  The design of our dehydrator preserves the Vitamin C content from being effected, by shielding the UV rays and only allowing the food to have contact with radiated heat.

University Display Garden staff worked with University of WI – Freshmen, Engineering students, to designed and built a solar food dehydrator, for the display gardens.  The garden staff is now using this dehydrator to preserve fruits and vegetables being trialing in the garden.

We are recording the temperatures attained within the dehydrator on throughout several drying periods.   Temperatures over 160 degrees, or higher,  have been attained on most sunny days.  In a few days we will know how long it takes to dehydrate a large selection of fruits and vegetables.

If you wish to find out more about the dehydrator, please visit the gardens or come to our Urban Horticulture Day on August 21 – 10:00 to 3:00.  We will be demonstrating how the dehydrator works and have plans available for this style and plans for small, simpler systems.  We will also have hand-outs available on the basic drying guidelines and samples of dried fruits and vegetables will be available for tasting.   Join us and have fun learning a new way to use old methods of preserving your garden produce.

For more information see the following link:

Solar Food Dryer Plans

Time to Heel the Leeks…………….

It may be time to heel the leeks again.   We have now heeled our leeks for the fourth time.   We planted the leeks in a deep trench and then began to fill the trench with soil as the leeks grew.

The last “heeling” was completed on July 27.   We mounded the soil over the shafts of the leeks to ensure that we will  have nice long, white shafts when they are harvested later in the fall.

Leeks are in the same family with onions and are truly a great vegetable to add to soups, saute and serve with other herbs and a Leek tart is terrific.

AUGUST 21, 2010 Field Day

With one month to go until our annual Field Day the gardens are looking spectacular. Each year, on the third Saturday in August, we invite the public to come out and enjoy the sights, smells, and tastes of our garden. The event is free and  features UW Extension specialists, Master Gardeners, and garden staff available to answer questions on weeds, insects, disease, and other gardening topics. One of the highlights of the day is tasting samples of the ripe varieties of fruits and vegetables.  In addition we will have children’s activities, as well as seed garlic and produce for sale. Field Day Sunflower

Please join us on Sat. August 21, 2010 from 10am to 3pm for a relaxing, beautiful,  and educational day at the West Madison University Display Gardens. 8502 Mineral Point Rd/ Verona, WI 53593. (608)-262-2257.

Check for More Information: Urban Hort 2010aaa