Growing Together.
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Spring E-News
March 16, 2017
Table of Contents

State of the Gardens Network

The Garden’s Network has been working actively on stabilizing and expanding the work we are doing in Dane County. Thanks to the City of Madison, during 2016 we had funding to support general garden work, garden leadership development, new garden planning, and operational tasks, such as establishing a master lease for gardens on city-owned property.
Moving into 2017, we’re pleased to announce that Dane County has funded the Gardens Network for similar functions, and the City of Madison is continuing funding through both general funds and Community Development Block Grant funding.
95% of the 2017 income for the Gardens Network will come from municipalities and 96% of the expense supports hands-on gardening operations by staff, coordinators, interns, volunteers, and seasonal workers. It takes personnel to establish the structures of the Gardens Network – leases, liability insurance, policy work with municipalities, coordination with various departments and municipalities – and Community GroundWorks supports the work by providing for many of the operational needs of the Gardens Network – space, telephones, accounting, audit, etc.

UW Dane County Extension will continue to support the Gardens Network by coordinating Master Gardner volunteers and providing resources (plants, gardening materials) and technical assistance (weed and pest identification and consultation) to gardeners.
The city of Madison contributes to the Gardens Network by allocating a portion of George Reistad, Food Policy Director, to community gardens, and through coordination with various departmental staff, most notably Parks and the Water Utility. Dane County municipalities also support gardening efforts through staff participation in planning, coordination, and collaboration. Fitchburg and Verona are strong partners with the network.
In 2017 the Gardens Network will continue to provide training, support, technical assistance, resources, and consultation to community gardens throughout Dane County. Our goals are to shift more toward policy advocacy, funding, and securing additional land for future gardens.

Micro Grants

2016 was the first year that the Gardens Network awarded Garden Enhancement Micro-Grants, using a Garden Fund account held in trust by the Madison Community Foundation. Garden enhancement grants are small grants, not to exceed $500 per project. Projects may consist of a wide variety of enhancements to your garden, including, but not limited to:
  • Little libraries
  • Benches
  • Pollinator projects
  • Tools
  • Bird houses
  • Soil amendments
  • Gardener education, such as Master Gardening training, mentoring, engagement, pollinator/bee classes, or other educational opportunities that directly relate to your garden enhancement
  • Community connection/engagement projects
  • Community food areas (fruit/nut trees, raspberries, blueberries, etc.).
  • Garden features or programs for children, seniors, disabled, teens, and/or features such as raised garden beds for people with disabilities who are interested in gardening
  • Neighborhood beautification, informational signs, garden art, or other aesthetic components
  • A plan to contribute produce to food pantries
The awardees for 2016 were:

Bridge-Lake Point-Waunona Community Garden

We propose to build a combination farm stand and community bulletin board, as well as 2 Leopold benches for shared use by community gardeners and the Bridge-Lake Point-Waunona (BLPW) community as a whole. The farm stand will be placed at the entrance to the garden, and we will designate 1-2 days a week when gardeners can drop off excess produce from their plots at the stand. We will advertise days that free produce is available for anybody in the community on the bulletin board and through the BLPW Community center. The farm stand will have a bulletin board and chalk board for announcements about the garden, and we also hope this will become a place to post information of interest for the broad community. The Leopold benches will provide a natural place for individuals from the garden and the community to gather and enjoy the garden.

Hammersley Garden
Hammersley Community Garden used the Gardens Network micro-grant at the end of August 2016 to transform one of our awkwardly shaped, shadier plots into a common perennial and pollinator garden. Gardeners worked together during a work day to clear and plant the plot with perennials purchased from Home Depot and Menards, including butterfly weed, allium, hydrangea, sedum, azalea and more. Many of the plants purchased were discounted, allowing us to reserve a small amount of the grant for additional planting in the spring. 
This exercise was great for community building and making a less-than-ideal plot space into an asset for our garden, and its bees! We plan to continue to maintain and grow this space with additional perennial and self-seeding native plants so this space can keep getting established. When the garden opens this spring we will plant additional seeds and small plants to fill in the plot and contribute to weed prevention and pollinator habitat. 

Gardening for Good (Troy Gardens)
Gardening for Good is a program that supports garden-based exploration for community members with special needs. Each week, we gather at our garden plots at Troy Community Gardens. We work together in the garden, and socialize over weekly mini workshops and tasty garden snacks. We enjoy the connections we make to the land, the food, and each other. With the installation of the ADA-approved pathway (pictured above), funded by the Gardens Network micro-grant, our garden is as accessible as ever. We have a handful of participants that use wheelchairs and walkers, who are now able to fully enter the garden. Thanks to this pathway, all participants of all abilities will feel more comfortable and sure-footed. More people now have more opportunity to participate, and to explore the wonders, discoveries, and therapeutic values that come with gardening together. We look forward to fully utilizing our path next season and in many years to come!

Garden Funding: How Do We Become Sustainable?

The Gardens Network has been working with garden leaders, gardeners and our partners to determine some of the barriers to sustainable, long term community gardening. Policy changes on a State level are trickling down to our local gardens in the form of changes in the infrastructure requirements for water systems. Historically, community gardens could connect to hydrant systems and install shallow water systems that were considerably less expensive than deeper systems. At this point, those shallow hydrant systems are grandfathered, but new gardens are facing serious barriers to water system installation and maintenance costs.

The Gardens Network is currently working with the City of Madison to understand and address water system issues impacting gardens on public land. We are taking the position that it is the city’s role to install and maintain community garden water systems on public land, just like they do when installing courts and lights for basketball or tennis. Fortunately, the city shares our concerns and commitment to food equity and access, so we’re optimistic moving into the future.
Water is a big issue for gardeners. County-wide, a majority of community gardeners meet the income threshold for reduced plot fees. Since gardens rely on plot fees to pay for their needs, not being able to pay for water usage is a challenge for several gardens. And water is getting more expensive every year. That’s why we solicit our community – gardeners or not – to join the Gardens Network and provide funds to help low income gardens survive and become sustainable. In terms of prevention and reducing water use, the Gardens Network has targeted 2017 as a water conservation awareness year and we’ll be offering resources for implementing best watering practices in your garden.
Money for garden expenses isn’t the only challenge. Land tenure – having a long term agreement with landowners – creates stability for the community and gardeners. No one knows more than the Sheboygan Garden gardeners what it’s like to lose your land, your soil, your improvements, and have nowhere to go that can accommodate all of the gardeners. To that end, Community GroundWorks (as the fiscal and operational agent of the Gardens Network) has signed three master leases with the City of Madison. One lease encompasses three low income housing properties, another is for one garden on Sewerage District land, and one for fourteen (soon to be 15) sites on Parks and Water Utility land.
Changes in leadership and hands-on commitment to a garden is a threat to garden sustainability. Gardens may be stable for as long as a garden coordinator is engaged, but people move and get tired and have changes in their lives. Loss of stable leadership and/or a rocky transition can be discouraging and can threaten the sustainability of any garden.

Finding resources to fund more hands-on garden support for emerging garden leaders is our goal. Hands-on resources won’t replace garden leadership, but they can be on hand to train, support, and help put systems (fees, registration, assignments, etc.) in place. Also, the Gardens Coalition offers consultation and mentoring to emerging leaders. Membership and donations are used help offset fiscal burdens for some gardens and to assist in bringing on a supporting or transitional coordinator for a season or two.

Membership and Garden Heroes – Join a Movement!

The Gardens Network is encouraging gardens to become members of the Gardens Network. The goal of encouraging membership/contributions is to support the work of the network and share resources among the gardens in Dane County. Equity is an important part of a healthy food system in our community and the network is committed to support gardens across a continuum of financial resources, size, gardening experience, leadership development, sustainability, stability, and land security.
Check out our membership and contributor information and please consider joining the network as a supporter, either as a garden group or an individual Garden Hero. Gardens may access resources in the network without being a member, but won’t be eligible for having CGW as a leaseholder, liability insurance coverage, or the micro-grant program.

Does your garden get covered for liability insurance under Community GroundWorks’ (CGW) policy? If so, there is an annual charge of $100 for that coverage. If your garden can’t afford it, please email to let us know so we can work out alternatives. Not sure if you’ve covered? Send us an email and we’ll check.
Gardens Network Membership Information

Community gardens have contributed plot fee income for many years and the Gardens Network also asks that gardens contribute 10% of their plot fees in order to support the Gardens Network. The Advisory Team will review the annual balance of the garden fund account to determine what amount will be allocated to the micro grant program. The balance of any other income will be used to support the operations and implementation of the community gardens program in Dane County.

Contributions by check can be made out to Community GroundWorks and mailed to:

Gardens Network Garden Fund
Community GroundWorks, Inc.
3601 Memorial Drive, Suite 4
Madison, WI 53704

You may join/contribute online by clicking the button below!

Become a Garden Hero!

Successes: 2014-2016

  • Reimagined community gardens’ support
  • Built inter-agency partnership of CGW, City, and County: The Gardens Network
  • Crafted business plan for Gardens Network (with financial support from City)
  • Established teams for daily operations and administration
  • Convened and participated in citizen-based advisory group
  • Facilitated relocation of Sheboygan Community Garden to Rennebohm Park; continue support
  • Host annual leadership summit
  • Hold master lease for 19 Madison gardens and provide liability insurance for those gardens
  • Collaborated with neighborhood groups seeking new community gardens, e.g., High Point, Door Creek
  • Liaise billing for Madison Water Utility
  • Funded micro-grant program for garden enhancements and place-making

The Gardens Network Brochure!

Click the button below to check out the new Gardens Network Brochure. It is downloadable and sharable!
Check Out Our Brochure!

The Gardens Coalition is Two Years Old!

The Gardens Coalition of garden leaders will be marking its second anniversary in March of this year. The idea to form a Gardens Coalition of garden leaders was initially proposed at the Community Gardens Summit in February of 2015, where approximately 13 community garden leaders signed up to meet and discuss the formation of a Gardens Coalition. Over the ensuing two years we have had 15 meetings, averaging 13 leaders in attendance at each meeting. Not bad for a group of very busy people!

At our initial meeting, we discussed several reasons why a coalition of leaders should exist. These included: advocacy for community gardens, mentoring each other, better communication, building community, representation to the Gardens Network, educational opportunities, social opportunities, and help plan a yearly summit for community gardens with an emphasis on learning opportunities for leaders.
Over the last two years, we have worked with the Dane County UW Extension, a partner in the Gardens Network, to host a series of Community Garden Educational Workshops, each one held at a different community garden. These were well-attended and covered a wide range of topics, including water conservation, pest and disease control, composting, weed identification, community building, communicating across languages, volunteer management, and finally, putting your garden to bed.

What we’ve learned meeting over the last two years is that once leaders gather together, there are endless topics to discuss, and no, it’s not always about compost. One of the most interesting aspects of our meetings are the meeting locations. We decided in the summer of our first year to hold our meetings at each other’s gardens. After the business part of the meeting, the host garden leaders give us a tour of their garden. This has been an excellent way to learn about each other’s garden challenges and successes.
Our latest project has involved surveying area community garden leaders to determine the top 10 problematic insect pests, animal pests, diseases and weeds at their garden. From that information, we worked with over a dozen Master Gardener Volunteers to create “information sheets” for each of these pests, diseases and weeds. These are brief, one-page sheets with pictures to help identify the problem, offer prevention and treatment methods, and list additional resources to learn more. These sheets were presented at this year’s Gardens Summit on Saturday, February 18, as part of the “Tools for tackling the Top 10 Pests, Diseases and Weeds in a Community Garden” session. We used the session to discuss ways gardens can use these sheets to help make their gardeners more successful.

What's the most important thing you should know about the Gardens Coalition? You’re not alone out there; there is a dedicated, and growing, group of people working to make community gardens succeed. Be part of it.
Jill Schneider
“Unofficial Leader”
Gardens Coalition

Dane County UW-Extension is Here to Assist All Gardeners

Gardening continues to become more popular as both a hobby and a healthy activity that increases access to fresh produce. According to a recent national gardening survey, Baby Boomers make up the largest percentage of gardeners but Millennials dominate the new gardener category.  Five million of the six million "new" gardening households were Millennials last year. And food gardening has surpassed flower gardening as the most popular gardening activity. Gardens come in all sizes from patios to community garden plots to multiple acres. And about one out of every three households participate in food gardening at some level. 

So where do all these gardeners get the information they need to successfully raise a garden? Many of them turn to their local Extension service. Here in Dane County, we are fortunate to have two full time horticulture educators and hundreds of trained Master Gardener Volunteers available to provide the education and resources gardeners need. The horticulture helpline is available 9 am – 1 pm Monday to Friday during the gardening season to answer garden questions. The hotline is staffed by the Master Gardener Volunteers who have received additional training as plant health advisors. To reach the hotline call 608-224-3721 or email You can also visit the Dane County UW-Extension office for walk-in assistance during those hours.

Dane County UW-Extension also offers workshops throughout the year such as the Master Gardener course and the Green Thumb Gardening Series. To learn more about these workshops and access other helpful information visit

Garden Recipe Corner

Butternut Squash Soup
Submitted by Yimmuaj Yang
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoon oil (any kind)
2-3 glove garlic
6 cups chicken stock
Black pepper
Green onion

  1. Remove the skin and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Then cut the squash into 1 inch pieces.
  3. Finely, chop up the garlic.
  4. In a large pot, add the oil and garlic. Stir the garlic quickly but carefully with a spatula.
  5. As soon as the garlic turns light brown. Add the chicken stock.
  6. Cover the pot with lid and bring it to a simmer.
  7. Add the squash and cook it until tender.
  8. Remove the squash chunks from the pot. Turn down the temperature to the lowest setting. You have two choices at this point. Either puree the squash in a blender or use a potato masher to mash the squash.
  9. Return the puree or mashed squash to the pot and turn the heat back up.
  10. Stir and season with salt.
  11. Serve.
  12. Add black pepper, green onion, and cilantro to your liking.
Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Spring Fritter

Submitted by Linnea Phillips
Inspired by The River Cottage Family Cookbook.
Basic Fritter Batter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 egg
½ cup or more milk or water, very cold
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sunflower or vegetable oil for frying
Greek Yogurt Sauce
3-4 tablespoons Greek Yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste
Dash of Cumin
Filling Option #1
A large handful of spinach, stems removed & chopped finely
2 green garlic stalks, bottom 7-8 inches thinly sliced
¼ cup feta or sharp cheddar cheese
Filling Option #2
2-3 cups bok choy, chopped finely
2 radishes, very thinly sliced
2 green garlic stalks, bottom 7-8 inches thinly sliced
First prep your batter and stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir in the egg and melted butter until well blended.  Add very cold milk or water, mix well.  Let stand for 30 minutes.

Prepare the simple yogurt sauce by combining plain Greek yogurt with salt & pepper and the juice of a lemon.  Sprinkle a dash of cumin on top.  Set aside in the refrigerator.

Prepare your fillings.  Be sure the greens are dry to avoid excessive oil splatter.  Place both filling options into two separate bowls.

Heat the oil in a frying pan with medium heat.  Meanwhile, add half of the batter to each bowl of filling and mix together well.  Once the oil is hot, pick up about 1 tablespoonful of the batter mix & drop the mixture into the pan and flatten with the back of the spoon.  Repeat to make 3 or 4 more fritters.  There only needs to be a very little bit of batter to hold the fritters together.  Fry for 1 or 2 minutes on each side, or until the fritters are golden brown.  Transfer cooked fritters to a plate lined with paper towels.  Cook the rest of the fritters in batches.  Add more oil to the pan in between batches as needed, but allow it to heat up before continuing. Serve warm with yogurt sauce.
Help Build Community!
Do you have photos, stories, recipes or anything else you want to share in a Gardens Network Newsletter? If so, send it to
We’d love to share your experiences, challenges, hopes, accomplishments and photos!


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