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Posts Tagged ‘gardens’

4-H Club Grows Bountiful Harvest

Article by Kim Colavito Markesich

Orginally published by Naturally.UConn.edu

eating strawberry

Photo: Amy Walker

Amy Walker, third grade teacher at W.B. Sweeney Elementary School in Willimantic, serves as adult leader for the school’s new 4-H Club. Funded through CT FANs IM 4-H STEM grant, the program started last winter with the planning and construction of six raised bed gardens.

“This school garden has been a wonderful opportunity to connect young, urban children with healthy, local produce,” says Marc Cournoyer, UConn Extension 4-H Youth Development Program Coordinator. “These kids are very excited to not only learn where some of their food comes from, but they also get to know the pride of growing, harvesting and eating food that was created by their own hands.”

Desiree Parciak, Sweeney Before and After School Program coordinator, worked with the CT FANs IM 4-H STEM staff to help establish the club. Students from her program were given the opportunity to join the club. In addition to Walker, the team includes Extension Public Service Specialist Kelly Caisse and CT FANs IM 4-H STEM teen mentor Mackenzie Hill, a former Sweeney student.

Linda Castro, Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs IM 4-H STEM program administrator, assisted the team with several training sessions. “It was very interesting because we did some great activities that really identified our unique personality traits and showed how different we work,” Walker says. “I think that is what makes the team so successful.”

Last spring, eighteen students planted the gardens that by early summer were overflowing with of tomatoes, corn, peppers, cucumbers, string beans, dill, basil and strawberries.

The team planned a summer reading night, but due to construction at Sweeney, the event was held during the afternoon at Memorial Park. The gardens were harvested before the event. Children heard a story about gardening while parents watched a food demonstration. Families left with a healthy recipe and an armful of vegetables.

“We had adorable chef hats for the children, which they loved,” says Walker. “And story time was a hit. Families from the school attended as well as a few other residents from town. It was a wonderful feeling to share the vegetables. There was enough for all the children and everyone went away happy.”

With the gardens still brimming with produce, Walker plans to continue harvesting as the students return to school. She hopes to secure additional funding to continue the program, expand the gardens and include educational sessions on nutrition and fitness.

“We had parents from the PTO notice how excited the kids were with the program,” Walker says. “Every administrator wants parents involved in their kids’ school, but it’s difficult for many parents in this district, where so many work multiple jobs to support their families. My goal is to encourage the students to eat healthier through gardening, while increasing parent involvement at the school. That’s the big thing for me, to see parents interested in learning with their kids and sharing the gardening process.”

Planning for the Regan Elementary School garden in Waterbury began during the winter of 2015, under the direction of technology/library teacher, Kimberly Williams. The cold frames and raised beds arrived in spring, along with seeds and worms for the worm factory. Students planted carrots, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, watermelon, pumpkins, lettuce, basil, beets, spinach, snapdragons, and cosmos. The first family harvest was held in July, followed by summer maintenance and fall clean up. A fall planting of broccoli rabe, lettuce, and carrots went in during October. The school club is in the works. Club recruiting began with Family Night events.

“Our parents have been very enthusiastic about the program and have enjoyed the Family Nights that we’ve held,” Williams says. “Students and families are excited to be part of the program. Everyone is looking forward to playing fitness games, getting into the garden and making healthy choices. Our staff is excited to see the science learning in our club translate to the classroom, and enable our students to make connections in their learning that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.”

In March, two New Haven schools, Hill Central Music Academy and West Rock STREAM Academy, will begin a spring CT FANs IM 4-H STEM program.

For more information visit the 4-H FANs IM website at http://www.4-hfans.uconn.edu/index.php.

10 Tips for the October Gardener

Iowa State mumsTen Tips for the October Gardener:

  1. Remove, bag and trash any gypsy moth or bagworm egg masses or spray with a horticultural oil to smother them.
  2. This summer was very dry so continue to water ornamental plants up until a hard frost.
  3. Clean up any remaining debris from the garden beds but do not add it to the compost pile unless disease free.
  4. Get your soil tested for next year’s garden now to avoid the spring rush. Collect samples before the ground freezes. More information at www.soiltest.uconn.edu.
  5. Apply winter mulches around trees and perennials once the ground has frozen. Do not spread it beforehand as it can delay dormancy for plants and also provides cover for chipmunks and voles.
  6. Bring any houseplants back inside before the first frost. Scout for insects and rinse the foliage and containers.
  7. Place daffodil, hyacinth, tulips or other pre-chilled bulbs in pots in a cool dark place so that they can be forced to bloom during the winter.
  8. Keep any newly seeded areas of lawn well-watered.
  9. Replace spent annuals with cold-hardy mums, asters, pansies, or kale for color well into December.
  10. Divide and replant clumps of rhubarb that have become congested.

UConn Extension Hosts Fall Open House

New Haven officeNorth Haven—UConn Extension’s New Haven County Extension Center invites the public to a Fall Open House on Thursday, September 15, 2016 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 305 Skiff Street, North Haven.

The New Haven County Extension Resource Council, Inc. (NHCERC, Inc.), a volunteer organization supporting the educational outreach programs based in this center, is hosting this event. Faculty, staff, and volunteers will be available to discuss Extension outreach programs offered via this Extension Center. Brief spotlight presentations will be made on “4-H STEM Activities to Do with Kids”, “Your Garden in Fall” and “How we sometimes get sick from the food we eat”. Educational displays and materials will also on hand. At 5:45 pm there will be a very brief Annual NHCERC, Inc. Meeting followed by The Extension Volunteer Recognition Ceremony. The public is welcome to attend all or any portion of this event. Light refreshments will be available. Call 203. 407. 3160 for more information. RSVPs are appreciated.

The New Haven County Extension Center, one of eight county-based UConn Extension Centers, provides a wide variety of educational outreach programs for families and individuals, youth, staff, farmers, professionals, businesses, and social service and public agencies, among others, in New Haven County and beyond. UConn Extension faculty and staff, based in the New Haven County facility, work in fields such as 4-H youth development, food safety, master gardening, financial literacy, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), and Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion (CT FANs IM) and coastal storm preparedness. For more information, visit http://www.extension.uconn.edu/extension-centers/newHaven.php.

UConn Extension connects the power of UConn research to local issues by offering practical, science-based answers to complex problems. UConn Extension enhances small businesses, the economic and physical well-being of families and offers opportunities to improve the decision-making capacity of community leaders. Extension provides scientific knowledge and expertise to the public in areas such as: economic viability, business and industry, family and community development, agriculture and natural resources. UConn Extension brings research to real life.

UConn is an equal opportunity employer and program provider. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Marcia Johnson

Teacher and 4-H Volunteer Brings Gardening, Nutrition and Fitness to Students in the Classroom and Beyond

By Kim Markesich

Originally published by Naturally@UConn on January 26, 2016

 

students in garden

Nathan Hale students care for a garden bed.

Twenty-eight years as an elementary school teacher has not dampened the enthusiasm of 4-H volunteer Marcia Johnson. She’s upbeat, energetic and clearly excited about teaching. Five years ago, Johnson created a school gardening program for her students at John Barry Elementary School in Meriden. When Johnson took a position at Meriden’s Nathan Hale School, she created the 4-H Environmental Education and Garden Club. She says, “I love the 4-H curriculum, and the kids really enjoy it.” In 2013, Johnson brought the Junior Master Gardener curriculum to her program, and a year later, she decided to complete the 4-H volunteer training so she might bring 4-H to students in her after-school and summer clubs. This year, thirty students joined the club from grades three, four and five. High school students volunteer to assist with the program.

“I am by no means a gardening expert,”  says Johnson. “I am learning along with the kids. For two years before we planted our first seed, I collected information on gardening curriculum at every grade level. I’m always searching online for gardening ideas. I would love to take the Master Gardener Program at UConn.” The students planted eight raised beds filled with strawberries, eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash, basil and green beans, in addition to a few annual flowers chosen to attract pollinators. Johnson added a hydroponic tower to house a lettuce crop. She uses the harvested produce to teach the children healthy cooking and food preparation. Students are able to take produce home as well.

Umekia Taylor, associate extension educator with UConn Extension, was so impressed with Johnson’s program, she awarded the school a 4-H CT FANsIM mini grant that provided raised bed kits, curriculum materials and tools, as well as programming assistance. Over the summer, two 4-H CT FANsIM staff spent two days a week with Johnson’s students, providing fun activities that focused on gardening, nutrition and fitness. Cheyanne Stone, a former teen mentor and student at Green Mountain College in Vermont, worked as a 4-H leader and CT Fans IM public service specialist. Shawn Mogensen is a 4-H CT FANsIM graduate assistant from the College’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. “I can’t get over how fascinated the kids are to see things grow from a seed,” Johnson says. “We live in such a technological society where kids go to a restaurant and food suddenly appears. We rarely take the time anymore to teach children about nature.”

Marcia and group

Left to right: Donald Downes vice-chairman, Eastern States CT Corporators; Marcia Johnson; Jo-Ann Hall, parent of a former Nathan Hale student; Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO, Eastern States Corp.

Johnson is continually looking for new club activities to provide experiential learning for her students. She brought in chicken eggs to incubate in the classroom. After the eggs hatched, Johnson taught the students about caring for the chickens, and it was decided that the thirteen chickens would be given to local farmers with the knowledge and resources to raise them.

Kathy Olsen, a retired teacher from Meriden, now known as the Bee Lady, visited the students and spoke about bees and set up a honey tasting. Students were given bread sticks to dip in various types of honey. Johnson likes to involve parents in the club as well and brought Olsen in for a parent seminar.

In addition to Olsen, Connecticut registered beekeeper Robert Gavel, of Meriden, visited the club with an observation hive. “He teaches them everything from A to Z about keeping bees and the importance of bees,” she says.

Johnson never tires of working with her students. “It’s the best part of my day. The kids just love it and they never want to go home.”

Johnson received the 2013 and 2014 Connecticut AgriScience Award sponsored by the Connecticut Corporators to the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E).

She is also the recipient of the American Farm Bureau’s White Reinhardt Award and received a grant from the Connecticut Agricultural Education Foundation.

FoodCorps Making an Impact

FoodCorps service members

Our FoodCorps Connecticut service members are making a large impact across the state!

Since September 1st:

The 15 superstar service members have interacted with  6257 students! 

They have harvested 355.25 lbs of produce from school or community gardens!

They have worked with 545 volunteers!

CT Service members have also worked with 40 farmers!

What amazing numbers!!!!

10 Tips for the December Gardener

Amaryllis Bulbs

Amaryllis Bulbs. Photo: LSU Ag Research Center

  1. Check for spider mites on houseplants by misting plants. If mites are present you will see water droplets clinging to the mite’s webbing. Control them by misting daily to keep humidity high after giving them a thorough drenching in the sink.
  2. Store your opened bags of fertilizer in a sealed plastic bag or plastic waterproof container with a snugly fitting lid in a dry location to avoid caking.
  3. Check fruits, vegetables, corms and tubers that you have in storage. Sort out any that show signs of disease and dispose of them.
  4. Tap evergreen branches gently to remove snow and prevent the branches from breaking. If ice forms on tree and shrub branches, don’t try to break it off – you’ll risk breaking branches. It’s best to let the ice melt naturally.
  5. Amaryllis bulbs may be started now. If they are established bulbs in old pots, two inches of soil should be removed from the surface and replaced with new potting mix.
  6. If you have a real Christmas tree, recycle it after the holidays are through. Cut off branches and use them as insulation over perennials. In spring, chip or shred branches to create mulch or add to the compost pile.
  7. Continue to harvest Brussels sprouts. They’ll typically keep even when buried in snow drifts.
  8. Don’t walk on frozen grass, especially if there is no snow cover. Without the protection of snow, grass blades are easily broken causing die-back in your lawn.
  9. Drain the fuel tanks of the lawn mower and any other gas-powered lawn tools. Check the belt and spark plugs, change the oil and sharpen the blades.
  10. Avoid using sodium salts or fertilizers to melt ice on driveways or walks. When possible use sand or kitty litter. This will help prevent salt damage to plant roots.

 

For more information contact the UConn Home & Garden Education Center at 877-486-6271 or ladybug@uconn.edu

10 Tips for the October Gardener

Iowa State mums

Photo: Iowa State Extension

 

  1. All houseplants need to be brought inside before the first frost. Connecticut had a frost over the weekend; if your houseplants aren’t inside, make a note on your calendar for next year.
  2. Pot up tulips, hyacinths and other pre-chilled bulbs and store in a cool, dark place until ready to force.
  3. Rosemary is not hardy in most areas of Connecticut. Bring plants in before temperatures drop too low but check plants thoroughly for mealybugs.
  4. Plant shallots and garlic outdoors.
  5. Beets, parsnips, and carrots can be covered with a thick layer of straw or leaves and left in the ground for harvest, as needed, during the winter
  6. Mulch perennial beds using a loose organic material such as bark chips or leaves to keep down weeds, preserve moisture and give roots a longer time to grow before the soil freezes.
  7. Avoid the spring rush and have your soil tested now by the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory.
  8. Add a touch of fall to your home and landscape with hardy mums, asters and fall pansies.
  9. If rain is lacking, continue to thoroughly water trees, shrubs, planting beds and lawn areas and recently planted evergreens. Plants should go into the winter well-watered.
  10. As tomatoes end their production cut down plants and pick up any debris and put in the trash or take to a landfill. Many diseases will over-winter on old infected leaves and stems so these are best removed from the property.

 

For more information, please contact the UConn Home & Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 877-486-6271.

New Greenhouse Teaches Science of Gardening

New Greenhouse helps 4-H Center at Auerfarm Teach Youth the Science of Gardening

By Sarah Bailey, Master Gardener Coordinator, Hartford County Extension Center

 

Auerfarm greenhouseWinter may have been unusually cold and long this year, but there was a sunny and green oasis at the 4-H Center at Auerfarm. Spinach and herbs grew throughout the winter, to be joined by all manner of vegetables, herbs and flowers as the seasons shifted. Over the last year students planted seeds, weeded the ground-level beds and sampled fresh produce right from the source. The first killing frost is no longer an end to the growing season; it simply signals a shift into the new greenhouse. Funded by an anonymous $50,000 grant, the 20 x 48 foot polycarbonate rigid-walled structure provides both in-ground and bench-top growing space, along with room for classes and demonstrations. While heated, it is being run as a “cold house” with minimal non-solar heat in the winter, yet stays warm enough for several cold-hardy plant varieties. On a sunny January day, it feels like July!

The building is home to a variety of programs and events. Area schoolchildren take part in Farm to School programs, and Junior Master Gardener (JMG) participants learn about how plants grow, do plant science experiments, and plant and harvest produce. Teachers receive JMG program training to bring gardening and environmental hands-on curriculum back to their schools. Along with the specific youth programming, the greenhouse also hosts programs for the adult UConn Master Gardeners who help grow plants for the Foodshare production garden on the farm.

Additional growing space and an extended spring and fall growing season have allowed for additional gardening and food-related events throughout the year. An additional benefit has been the creation of venues for multi-generational experiences. Currently under development is a series on Gardening with Families along with a Saturday program on gardening and the environment for youth.

The Untimely Death of a Worm

By Catherine Hallisey

Connecticut FoodCorps

holding a wormAs I was kneeling by a raised garden bed, planting snap peas with a couple of students, I heard a third grader scream “NOOOOOO!” from the other side of the garden.  An array of thoughts immediately sped through my mind in the split second it took me to get over to her section of the garden—

“Is she hurt?”

“Did someone pull a kale plant thinking it was a weed?”

“Did she accidentally pour the watering can on herself instead of our radishes?”

It turned out none of the above scenarios were what caused a quiet eight year old to yell out in fright.  When I reached her side, she had a small trowel in one hand, and a half of an earthworm in the other.  The rest of the earthworm, I presume, was somewhere left in the soil of the garden bed she had been weeding in.

This girl was absolutely heart broken that she had killed a worm.  Obviously, I too was a little upset- here I had a distraught girl in the garden, and, a dead worm.  However, I was also proud. I was proud because this student had taken to heart our number one garden rule “respect all living things” — fellow classmates, beautiful sunflowers, tasty strawberries, slimy worms, scary beetles, buzzing bees, and much, much more.    She knew that worms were good for our soil, and therefore our plants, and was disappointed that she had killed a beneficial creature.  I consoled her by explaining there were a lot of worms in our garden, and it wasn’t that big of a deal.  She decided to be more careful in the future, and then gathered the rest of the group to give the worm a proper burial in the compost bin.

Barnum School in Bridgeport

Barnum School 4-Hers in Bridgeport celebrated Earth Day on April 25th. Parents, students and community volunteers celebrated with a Garden clean up. Twenty-seven beds were cleaned, wood chips laid, and eight new beds were built.
   Barnum(5) working in raised bed dumping wheelbarrow Barnum garden group building a raised bed teamwork building a raised bed planting seeds working in raised beds