Insects in the Garden


The heat of the year is starting to drive some populations of insects. We are starting to see increased populations of japanese beetles and large numbers of cucumber beetles  and western corn rootworm adults  The beetles are severely attacking the blooms and even the vegetative growth of the vine crops.

The cucumber beetle can be devastating in particular. Besides destroying blossoms they also transmit bacterial wilt(, which will ultimately lead to the death of infected plants. In our garden we have not seen the numbers like we have this year. Especially this early in the season. Because we manage our vegetables organically we have sprayed for the beetle using a certified organic compound Pyganic. This pesticide effectively knocks down the population. It does not have a long-term persistence in the environment.

Berries Ripening

Garden staff evaluating sugar content of Raspberries.

The mild winter and now the recent heat has led to a very early season for our berry crops. The Raspberries are ahead about 3 weeks from last season with the berries being of a smaller size. Varieties currently at or just past peak include Prelude, Encore, and Boyne.

Evaluating fruit set.

The blueberries are 2-3weeks ahead with what looks to be a good crop. Sugar content and flavor are developing nicely. ‘Duke’ is our earliest variety and has some of the largest berries. So far ‘Ka Bluey’ is the favorite of evaluators. Sugar content on the varieties currently range from 11-18%.

‘Duke’ blueberries.

The garden is planted!

The Verbena, Lantana, and Geraniums in this picture are a few of the 388 cultivars of flowers being trialed this year.

The University Display Garden is planted and freshly mulched. This year we are trialing a total of 388 cultivars of annual flowers and approximately 127 varieties of vegetables and other food crops. With the help of irrigation the plants are settling in nicely. We continue to hope for rain.

Please come and see our selections grow throughout the summer.

April showers DID bring May flowers!

As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers and after the dreary and rainy April, May has showered us with warmth and sunshine. Here are some of the beautiful things blooming in the gardens today! Don’t forget to come check them out, there is something to see all season long here!

The azaleas smell amazing!!

The Baptisia will soon be at its peak

The peonies are about to pop!

Alliums all over the city have been blooming, and the display gardens are no different.

Weigela and clematis, and amsonia oh my!

Our native pollinators bed looks amazing. The lupine is in full bloom here as well as in state and county parks in southern Wisconsin.

Seedless Table Grape Trial

In 2007 we planted 15 varieties of seedless table grapes at the West Madison Research Station in the University Display Garden fruit plots. We will be releasing the full results of our trial in early January.

Below you will find our short list of favorites and a little description.

Somerset Seedless Table Grapes

Somerset Seedless

One of our favorite reds at this point is Somerset Seedless.  It has overwintered very well, and produces abundant fruit.   The berries are small but have a very complex taste.

Canadice - Red Seedless Table Grape


Canadice is also one of our favorite reds.  The fruit is beautiful on the vine and extremely complex.  In taste testing this was everyone’s favorite red.  We are still waiting to see how it will grow in 2011.  There was some early bud damage in 2010 due to a May frost and early-April warm temperatures that resulted in our grape vines breaking bud early in mid-April.

Trollhaugen - Blue Seedless Table Grape


One of our favorite blues is Trollhaugen.  It has nice large clusters, the fruit is very spicy and more complex than the old Concord Seedless.   It has overwintered well all 4 winters.

White grapes are still a challenge in Wisconsin.  Our favorites are Interlaken, Lakemont, and Marquis.

Interlaken - White Seedless Table Grape


In 2009 they each overwintered well and produced abundant fruit. Many of  fruiting buds were lost during the spring of 2010 due to early bud break.  However, their fruit is a beautiful green/white with blushes of rose, and we feel worth the wait to see what another year brings.  The taste of each is so spicy and sweet that we have been known to eat five or six clusters in a taste testing session……   We will have more information on these after the 2011 growing season.

Two Varieties of Broccoli Still Producing Very Well.

Our favorite broccoli variety is still producing well on November 5.

Broccoli 'Diplomat'

Harvesting began in early August and we are still harvesting.

‘Diplomat’ is a broccoli variety that we have been trialing for three years: 2008, 2009, and 2010.   The first year we weren’t sure of the great results.  So we decided we needed to trial this selection for at least one more year.

We loved the taste, production, and ease of growing so well that we decided we needed to taste this selection one more time……………….

Imperial Star - Broccoli

Imperial Star - Secondary Heads - Harvested Nov. 5

The plant produces a huge first head.  It begins to produce in 68 to 75 days from transplanting.  Secondary heads are produced until hard frost and are at least 3 to 4 inches across.

Squash Vine Borer-Update

About a month ago we discussed the arrival of the squash vine borer and our control methods. Since that time we have had incredible growth on the plants and have continued to watch for the adult moths. Since the first large influx of moths in June, we have seen a smaller second flight of the moths during the second week of July. Late last week we began to see the tell tale wilting of some vines. During the heat of the day we would see the wilt, then at night and in the morning the vine seemingly recovered. This signaled that the eggs of the moth had hatched and the larvae had burrowed into the base of the vine.  Thus compromising water uptake and subsequently fruit formation.

Total infestation rate on our squash and pumpkins is probably about 5-10%. It is interesting to note that certain varieties are affected more than others. This year ‘Triamble’, ‘Blue Magic’, and ‘Guatemalan Blue Banana’ were the prefered cultivars. All are Cucubrita maxima and all are blue fruited. Not sure if this is a coincidence, but surely something to observe in upcoming seasons.

We have tried to save the wilting vines by slicing open the base and removing the larvae.Squash Vine Borer dxtraction After the base is slit you can remove larvae with a paper clip or knife. Some of our vines contained 10 or more larvae of different sizes. After extraction we mounded soil over the base and rooting nodes furtherSquash Vine Borer larvae down the vine. The hope is to encourage secondary rooting along the vine which will supplement the compromised vascular system at the base of the plant. So far the plants seem to be recovering we will see if our efforts are enough to mature the fruits that have already set on the vine.

For more info on the squash vine borer visit

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

Garlic Harvest

GARLIC HARVEST EARLY THIS YEAR: We harvested our garlic this week.   The harvest is two weeks ahead of last year.

Several of our new varieties have produced terrific bulbs.  Some of the new selections from Ontario, Canada and from Romania have produced very large cloves.

We will have more pictures of the garlic after a few days of drying.  

Each clove of the ‘Duganski’ variety has beautiful purple stripes and the taste is very fiery.

The garlic varieties will be for sale at our August 21, Urban Horticulture Field Day.