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Posts Tagged ‘master gardener’

A Positive Approach to Service

volunteers

Master Gardener volunteers at an event.

Our UConn Extension Master Gardener volunteers are located in each of the eight county Extension centers, and at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford. Master Gardener volunteers donate their time each year to answer horticultural-related questions for the community.

In May, Gail Reynolds, our Master Gardener Coordinator at the office in Haddam received this letter from Carol of Chester, Connecticut:

Dear Ms. Reynolds, 

I am writing to make you aware of the exceptional service I received at the Extension program on May 26, 2017 when I brought an insect sample to your office. Your volunteer employees, Kenneth Sherrick, Susan Goodall, and Liz Duffy could not have been more motivated and interested in identifying the specimen and providing me with appropriate information. These employees exhibited a level of energy and competency that I have honestly never encountered in either a public service or private setting. Together they critically analyzed the resource materials, collaborated effectively to identify the specimen, and patiently explained their findings. They were sincere, welcoming, and friendly. My issue was positively resolved in a short time.

Certainly, we are all used to accessing public and private services – libraries, post offices, school systems, doctor’s offices – and we are accustomed to a particular, acceptable standard of service. But when one encounters a greater level of service, a higher degree of motivation, and a overwhelmingly positive approach to service it is remarkable indeed. These three volunteers operate in excellence, and they exceeded my expectations in every regard. You are quite fortunate to have them!

Sincerely,

Carol

Visit our Master Gardener program at http://mastergardener.uconn.edu.

Got Gardening Questions?

garden questions

Did you know that the UConn Extension Master Gardener program has 9 locations statewide, and our trained volunteers are ready and able to help you answer garden questions. Find a location near you at http://mastergardener.uconn.edu.

Mulch Volcanoes: A Growing Problem

This is a re-post from October 9, 2013. As the weather gets warmer, the problem is resurfacing.

tree volcano

Photo: Wisconsin Extension

UConn Extension has noticed a growing problem in Connecticut landscapes – tree volcanoes. A tree volcano occurs when mulch is piled around the base of the tree and climbs up the trunk. The shape of the mulch resembles a cone or a volcano. Mulch volcanoes waste money and damage trees.

Mulch is useful at the base of a tree for many reasons. When done correctly, the mulch protects the tree from a lawnmower or string trimmer, aids in keeping the soil moist and keeps the ground cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Mulch also improves soil structure, aeration, and prevents soil erosion and runoff.

Bark is the outermost protective layer or skin of a tree. To properly function, bark needs to be exposed to air. When mulch is piled around the trunk of the tree, the mulch softens the bark and allows outside organisms like varmints, insects, bacteria, virus and fungi to penetrate into the tree. Over time a tree volcano will kill the tree.

Ideally, a mulch ring is placed at the base of the tree immediately after the tree is planted. Follow these steps to correctly apply mulch to the base of your trees:

  1. Before you apply mulch, remove any weeds from around the tree.
  2. The mulch ring should be 2-3 feet wide around the tree trunk radius.
  3. Maximum depth of the mulch is 2-3 inches – the roots need to breathe. Taper the mulch layer to the grass at the edge of the ring.
  4. Aged wood chips or shredded bark are the best choices for mulch.
  5. Mulch shouldn’t touch the bark of the tree.
  6. Trees 10 inches in diameter and larger don’t need mulch.

For more information on tree volcanoes or other home and garden questions, visit a UConn Extension Master Gardener program office. Locations can be found at: http://mastergardener.uconn.edu

Master Gardener Volunteer Tracy Burrell

Tracy Burrell

Photo: Dean Batteson

We have 1,587 active Master Gardener volunteers in Connecticut. In 2015, they donated 34,555 hours of community service to towns and cities throughout the state, with an economic value of $797,183. Master Gardener offices are in each of the county offices, on the Storrs campus, and the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford.

Tracy Burrell of Mystic is a Master Gardener volunteer, and president of the Connecticut Master Gardener Association (CMGA), the Master Gardener alumni group. CMGA is a non-profit, all volunteer group that provides scholarships to interns, stipends to the UConn Extension Master Gardener Coordinators, and outreach grants for Master Gardener volunteer projects across the state. In 2014, Tracy also served on the UConn Extension Centennial Committee.

“I became a Master Gardener in 2008,” Tracy begins. “It was something that I was always interested in, and that year, I was finally able to do it. It is a gateway to a whole new world, and becomes all encompassing. You want to learn more and more. As your interests and skills change and develop, there is always someone that you can talk to in the program.”

Tracy continued taking classes and volunteering, and is a Ruby volunteer, the top level in the program. She is also a Master Composter, and an instructor in that program. Through her position as president of CMGA, Tracy works with all of the UConn Extension Master Gardener locations. “Meeting the people is my favorite part about being a Master Gardener,” Tracy says. “I travel regularly to all of the Extension Offices and to the Bartlett Arboretum– the energy and enthusiasm of Master Gardeners is wonderful!”

Reflecting on her own learning experiences through the MG program, Tracy cites learning about rain gardens as a prime example of learning to embrace the landscape, instead of trying to fight it, and being frustrated and disappointed.

“I grew up in a volunteer family; it is natural for me to volunteer,” Tracy concludes. “I think it is a natural part of the American character, as noted by Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America and more recently by President Obama encouraging folks to volunteer. Master Gardeners provide a unique bridge between the knowledge we learn via the university and the knowledge we gain from interacting with Connecticut’s citizens.”

Auerfarm: Growing Opportunities

in gardenThe 120-acre 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm is a private, non-profit education center located in Bloomfield. Over 15,000 students and family members participate in year-round 4-H curriculum-based school science programs, animal clubs, and Junior Master Gardening projects annually.

Hartford entrepreneur and retailer Beatrice Fox Auerbach and her husband purchased the farm in 1925. Beatrice took control of the farm and managed it for 40 years when her husband died in 1927. Dairy, poultry, and apples were produced. At its peak, the farm was 230-acres, and honored in 1950 for its innovation and modern practices. The family of Beatrice Fox Auerbach deeded the farm to the Connecticut 4-H Development Fund in 1976.

A volunteer board of directors and staff run the farm’s day-to-day operations and educational components. The partnership with UConn Extension brings the research from UConn to real life for visiting groups. Educational programs encourage critical thinking and curiosity through hands-on discovery in science and agriculture. Volunteers from the 4-H program, Master Gardeners, and the community are a vital component of the farm.

“We are very passionate about the mission of the organization, which is to connect people, agriculture, and the natural environment through education and recreation,” says Chairman of the Board Bob Lyle. “At Auerfarm we have a wonderful 120-acre outdoor laboratory for learning, and we focus on bringing young people and their families out for fun, hands-on lessons in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“Youth learn about nutrition, food production, plant, and animal life,” Bob continues. “It’s gratifying to observe how participants enthusiastically react and enjoy learning in this kind of living classroom. We offer educational opportunities that many would not otherwise have.”

Through their experiences at Auerfarm, youth connect to their food environment while building a foundation in STEM education. Auerfarm recently finished construction of a new animal barn, and over the course of the year, the farm has many different species including alpacas, sheep, beef cattle, goats, pigs, chickens, and rabbits.

“The 4-H club at the farm works with the animals to further their understanding of various STEM-based concepts such as nutrition and animal health,” Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator Jen Cushman explains. “In addition, various school-based, summer programs, and birthday parties integrate the animals into their learning experiences. For example, enrichment programs highlight the life-cycle connections between chickens and eggs, baby animals, and the role that alpacas and sheep play in the creation of yarn.”

The Master Gardener/Foodshare garden is a quarter acre vegetable garden used as a demonstration site for learning the basics of environmentally responsible vegetable and flower production. Students learn about growing conditions through understanding management of soil, water, insects, and diseases.

Opportunities to watch seasonal progression of plants, as well as observation of birds and wildlife are available in the garden. Master Gardeners work with approximately 300 volunteers throughout the season. Each year, volunteers harvest over 3,600 pounds of fresh produce for distribution to the community kitchens through Foodshare.

An anonymous $50,000 grant allowed the 4-H Farm to install a 20 x 48 polycarbonate rigid-walled greenhouse, which has space for in-ground and bench-top growing. Classes and demonstrations are held in the greenhouse.

“It’s a sunny and green oasis during the winter months,” Hartford County Master Gardener Coordinator Sarah Bailey mentions. “Spinach and herbs grow throughout the winter, and as the season shifts, more varieties are planted. While heated, we run it as a cold house with minimal non-solar heat in the winter, yet it stays warm enough for several cold-hardy plants.”

The greenhouse expands growing space available, and extends growing seasons, allowing for more educational programs. Master Gardener volunteers are growing more plants for the Foodshare production garden in the greenhouse.

Sarah is the Junior Master Gardener program statewide coordinator, and utilizes the greenhouse to teach students how plants grow, science experiments, and techniques for planting and harvesting. Teachers receive instruction at the greenhouse, and take hands-on curriculum back to their schools. Sarah is also developing a multi-generational Gardening with Families series.

“I look forward to engaging current UConn students in the activities of Auerfarm through internships and service learning to expand the connection between Auerfarm and UConn,” Jen concludes. “By tapping the expertise of UConn Extension specialists, I anticipate enhancing the agricultural production and practices that occur on the farm.”

Master Gardeners Assist Grassland Study

grasslands

Photo: University of Saint Joseph

Led by University of Saint Joseph Assistant Professor of Biology, Kirsten Martin, Ph.D., 10 volunteers from the Connecticut Master Gardener Program surveyed the University of Saint Joseph’s (USJ) Grassland on Thursday, August 11, 2016.

The day proved successful, with the volunteers from Master Gardener collecting roughly 32 distinct samples. While they will continue classifying the selection, the group identified approximately 13 species while on campus.

Since Martin’s baseline survey last fall, which resulted in around nine species of vegetation, she noted an improvement in the Grassland area’s biodiversity. The insect diversity improved as well, seen through the group’s capture of at least five species of spiders on the specimens and six species of dragonflies in the area.

Martin plans to continue work in the Grassland by bringing the Master Gardeners back to campus in the fall to explore further.

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. 

Did You Know: Burgdorf Community Garden

working in garden

Hartford County Master Gardener Coordinator Sarah Bailey and a Master Gardener volunteer work in Burgdorf. Photo: Chris Defrancesco.

Burgdorf Community Garden is a signature outreach project for Hartford County Master Gardener volunteers. They helped plant and maintain a garden on the grounds of the Burgdorf/Bank of America Health center, a clinic for the underserved in Hartford’s North End. The garden is used to teach nutrition to clients and also provides healthy produce for residents living in a food desert. Along with keeping the garden healthy and productive, Master Gardeners also helped educate area residents about the ability to grow their own healthy food, even with limited space.

In 2014, two Hartford County Master Gardeners worked on the Burgdorf Clinic project with medical students and other clinic volunteers for approximately 125 hours.

The garden opened on June 3rd in 2015, and six Master Gardeners participated. Early work included new soil and weeding. Planting will include tomatoes, beans, greens peppers, herbs, and callaloo.

UConn Extension Master Gardeners work in communities across the state on gardening projects. For instance, through the Gardening Initiative in Vegetable Education (GIVE) program, there are 19 schools with vegetable gardens in Stamford. The model community garden at Middlesex County Extension Center delivers fresh produce to community food banks and soup kitchens. New London County Master Gardeners work with adults with disabilities at Camp Harkness in Waterford. Master Gardeners in Tolland County are teaching students to garden at Natchaug Hospital. Windham County Master Gardeners work with People’s Harvest of Pomfret to donate produce from the garden to local soup kitchens.

Master Gardener Signature Outreach Projects

group walking

Kelly Vaughan photo

The UConn Extension Master Gardener Program is an educational outreach program that started in 1978 and consists of horticulture training and outreach component in the community. Master Gardeners are enthusiastic, willing to learn, and share their knowledge and training with others. What sets them apart from other home gardeners is their special horticultural training. In exchange for this training, Master Gardeners commit time as volunteers working through their local UConn Extension Center and the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford to provide horticultural-related information to their communities.

Signature outreach projects are determined by the County Master Gardener Coordinators and are carried out by Certified Master Gardener volunteers and interns. Through these outreach programs, the UConn Extension Master Gardener program has a tremendous impact on the communities across Connecticut. In 2013, over 23,500 hours of community service were donated by our Master Gardeners with a value of $664,110 to the communities and citizens served. Signature outreach projects for 2015 include new and ongoing projects.

In Fairfield County, the Master Gardeners installed and maintain exhibition gardens of primarily native trees and shrubs. Plantings were selected to attract birds and butterflies, and the Master Gardeners provide docent walks and special events. The garden includes foundation plantings, a pollinator garden, a vegetable garden and orchard. Signature outreach includes initiatives and activities that help preserve, restore, maintain and protect the natural beauty of the grounds as a cultural and ecological resource to the community. Other signature events in Fairfield County include: the Bethel Garden Fair and the Farmers’ Market Mini-Plant Clinic.

Master Gardeners at the Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens focus on a number of projects. On the grounds of the Arboretum several teams of mentors run the perennial, herb, cottage, sundial and vegetable gardens. The Native Plant garden and Fern garden have been designed, installed and are maintained by dedicated crews of Master Gardeners. In the larger community Master Gardeners support the Gardening Initiative in Vegetable Education (GIVE) program. The goal is to set up and maintain vegetable gardens in schoolyards.  A Master Gardener started it four years ago at one school; now there are 19 schools with vegetable gardens in Stamford. In Norwalk, Ryan Park was renovated by a few Master Gardeners and developed into an urban oasis. Gardens are flourishing and activities for children and parents are held to offer the community an outdoor place to play, gather and learn.

In Hartford County, Master Gardener volunteers helped plant and maintain a garden on the grounds of the Burgdorf/Bank of America Health center, a clinic for the underserved in Hartford’s North End. The garden is used to teach nutrition to clients and also provides healthy produce for residents living in a food desert. Along with keeping the garden healthy and productive, Master Gardeners also help educate area residents about the ability to grow their own healthy food, even with limited space.

Master Gardeners also helped start the Community Court garden in Hartford. The 100 x 100 foot garden is part of the court diversion program, working with first-time and non-violent offenders to keep them out of the larger court system. As part of their community service, these individuals help maintain the production garden, providing food for area organizations and learning horticultural skills in the process. Master Gardeners assist with crop selection, garden maintenance practices and problem solving.

vegetable gardenAt Brooker Memorial Child Care in Torrington, a multi-generational group worked with Litchfield County Master Gardeners to install a raised bed children’s garden. The garden had been a goal of Brooker Memorial’s for years, and the help of the Master Gardener program saw this realized in 2014. The children are very interested in watching the plants grow and take their jobs, like watering, very seriously. Parents and community members are also involved with the garden. Other signature outreach programs in Litchfield County include the Northwest Conservation District Plant Sale and the Master Gardener booth at four local fairs.

Middlesex County Master Gardeners have a focus group and community garden. The focus group presents opportunities for Master Gardeners at all levels to teach and learn in a collaborative environment, provide forums for researching and experimenting with organic gardening, and enhances sustainable living practices through community outreach and education. The model community garden delivers all fresh produce to community food banks and soup kitchens during the growing season, and offers the community an ongoing teaching and learning tool for organic horticultural practices throughout the year.

Master Gardeners in New Haven County focus on two different signature projects. They maintain the shrubs and perennials on the grounds of the UConn Extension Center in North Haven, and revived an herb-teaching garden. Interns and volunteers are also providing maps and cultural information on the plants, and work on the insect collection and other office projects.  An umbrella project, New Haven Urban Agriculture covers a group of interrelated activities in the city of New Haven. Master Gardeners collaborate with the New Haven Land Trust Community Gardens, New Haven Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees, Marsh Botanical Garden, New Haven Farms, Urban Resources Initiative and Common Ground High School. Each volunteer is asked to devote at least five hours of their time commitment to one or more of these signature projects.

New London County Master Gardeners have their signature project at Camp Harkness in Waterford. This educational outreach project puts into practice the concept of horticultural therapy. Every summer the camp welcomes adults with disabilities who participate in activities such as planting and maintaining planters, working with herbs, and more, working with a dedicated group of UConn Extension certified Master Gardeners and interns. During winter months Master Gardeners work with seniors in the greenhouse. Master Gardener and Horticultural Therapist Julia Griswold established the program, which has been ongoing for many years.

Nine different signature outreach projects keep Master Gardeners in Tolland County engaged in community activities. These include: the Tolland youth garden, Belding Wildlife Management Area, Wasp Watchers, Strong Family Farm, Wind Hill Community Farm, Hartford Summer School Garden, Pascal Lane Community Garden, South Windsor Farmer’s Market and the Hebron Harvest Fair. Each of these projects provides opportunities for children, youth and families to discover the joys and benefits of gardening, environmental stewardship and community service. Produce that is harvested through the Tolland Youth Garden is donated to the Cornerstone Soup Kitchen in Rockville. At the Wind Hill Community Farm in Glastonbury, produce from one 40-acre field is donated to Foodshare.

People’s Harvest in Pomfret is one of the signature projects in Windham County. This half-acre vegetable garden and educational project has been run by the Master Gardeners for more than ten years. The produce is donated to local soup kitchens. Many area youth groups visit People’s Harvest to learn about their connections to the environment, raising vegetables using sustainable techniques, and food security issues. Windham County Master Gardeners are also active with: a demonstration garden at the Extension Center in Brooklyn, the Palmer Arboretum in Woodstock, Our Companion Animal Sanctuary in Ashford, and Goodwin Conservation Center in Hampton.

To find out more about the UConn Extension Master Gardener program and our outreach efforts, please visit www.mastergardener.uconn.edu or call State Coordinator Leslie Alexander at 860-486-6343.

Master Gardener Volunteer Wins Award

KenSherrickCongratulations to Advanced Master Gardener Ken Sherrick named “Outstanding CFPA Volunteer” for his work on the Connecticut Forest and Park Association grounds and gardens in Rockfall, CT.