Author: UConn Extension

Beware of Volcano Mulch

volcano mulch around a tree in Storrs, Connecticut is damaging the bark and the tree
Volcano mulch on a tree. Photo: Stacey Stearns

In three short decades, volcano mulch has become one of the greatest threats to newly planted and young trees and shrubs. If unchecked, the significant monetary and human investment in greenscapes will result in more and more dead and dying trees.

Volcano mulch is the over-mulching of plant material, notably trees and shrubs. Mulch plays an important role in protecting plant material from irreversible lawnmower and weed whacker damage as well as providing for some control over weed competition and soil water retention. Seemingly, rings of mulch have also become landscape design features.

While deadly, the problem is simple; people are placing heaps and heaps of mulch around trees and shrubs and right next to the thin, vulnerable bark. The fact is you do not need more than 2-3 inches of mulch in depth for the desired purposes. Mulch should not come closer than 2-3 inches from the plant.  Yet people are piling mulch 6 inches or more, and right on the trunks of the trees, causing damage to life sustaining cambium (the live tissue just below the bark). Beware of volcano mulch in your yard.

Article by Robert Ricard, Ph.D.

Plant Sales on May 18th

Fairfield Plant Sale flyer Windham Plant Sale flyer

Gardeners: Join us for a plant sale on Saturday, May 18th. We have one on each side of the state: Bethel and Brooklyn. We’ll be at the Windham County Extension Center in Brooklyn on Saturday, May 18th from 9 AM until 2 PM. The plant sale at the Fairfield County Extension Center in Bethel is from 9 AM until 1 PM. We’ll have perennials, annuals, tomatoes, vegetables, herbs, and house plants. You can bring garden problems to be diagnosed, and purchase soil test kits. Email windham@uconn.edu or fairfield@uconn.edu for more information.

The best time to submit a soil sample

Article by Joseph Croze

soil samples in boxes along a bookshelf in the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Lab on the Depot Campus
Soil samples waiting for analysis at UConn. Photo: Joseph Croze

As most of you are probably already familiar with, the University of Connecticut is home to the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory. This lab is staffed by Dawn Pettinelli, the manager, and myself, the technician. We also have a few part time and student employees throughout the year that help with the receiving, spreading, and sieving of soil samples; among other things. We offer an array of tests designed to help homeowners, community gardeners, farmers, etc… maximize the efficiency of their soil to produce the greatest yields in whatever plant or crop they are growing, from silage corn to turf. We can test for soil organic matter content, textural fractionation, soluble salts, Nitrogen, and Carbon. We also provide tests for plant tissues and corn stalks. However, our most vital and popular test is the Standard Nutrient Analysis. This is a relatively comprehensive test that allows us to make limestone and fertilizer recommendations. We check the pH, add a buffering agent and then retest the pH. From there we are able to determine the soils capacity to resist the change in pH, this allows us to make an accurate and precise limestone recommendation, in lbs/1000 square feet, or lbs/acre, depending on the desired crop production. The second part of the Standard Nutrient Analysis is the actual nutrient content. Soil samples are analyzed for micro and macro nutrients; Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Aluminum, Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, and Sulfur. Samples are also screened for Lead. Using the nutrient results, we are able to make fertilizer recommendations based on what is being grown. We give results in N-P-K format, and also provide organic alternatives.

We get calls year round from customers asking if they can submit a soil sample, and the answer is always yes! You can submit a soil sample any time of the year, we receive soils from throughout the country (although we have to be careful of areas under certain quarantines). Generally, it only takes around a week from when we receive a sample for us to send out the results. As you might imagine, Spring is an extreme exception. We are so busy and backed up with thousands of soil samples right now, we are expecting a 3 week turn-around time. We understand that everyone is eager to get their hands dirty and work on their lawns and gardens, but waiting until Spring to submit soil samples isn’t the best idea.

Continue reading….

Food Safety Webinar for Farmers and Processors

healthy foodWebinar: Food Safety During Planning & Construction of Food Facilities: A Road Map
 
Date and Time: May 16, 2019 at 9:00 AM EST
 
Description: This FREE webinar will feature a panel of industry specialists from the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center (VMEC), VIS Construction Consultants (VIS) and Neagley & Chase Construction (NCC), who will discuss the recent expansion journeys of three successful Vermont Food & Beverage Companies. Panelists will provide an overview of each of these production projects: an expansion, a renovation and a new construction. By the end of the webinar, attendees will have a better understanding of the scope of each case study, including timeline, program, team, integration of food safety concerns into each project and lessons learned along the way.
 
To request a disability-related accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Omar Oyarzabal at 802-651-0054 ext. 503 or 1-800-571-0668 by May 1, 2019, so that we may assist you.
 
This webinar is organized by the University of Vermont Extension in collaboration with VMEC, VIS and NCC.
 
Don’t wait to register for this FREE webinar http://go.uvm.edu/201903

4-H Robotics Team Receives Creativity Award

In April, the Power Surge 4-H Robotics team from Fairfield County was in Maine for a FIRST Robotics Competition. Here is a recap of their competition:

4-H Power Surge Robotics team robot from Fairfield County climbing during a robotics competition.
The robot climbing during competition.

“Things went well in Maine, but we got knocked out in the quarterfinals on our third match for best two out of three.

We were scoring “Hatch” pieces well with a guaranteed climb in every match during qualifications, but we had tough losses by just a few points, and ended up 22 out of 31. However, our scoring and defensive ability was recognized enough to be selected to join a three team alliance to go to eliminations.

In the quarterfinals we had to play defense to shut down the scoring of the second ranked alliance, and got roughed up enough to damage our climber mechanism. With that damage, we just missed our second win to move on to semifinals.

The high honor of the competition was that we won the “Creativity” award for robot design. This really energized the team to not only be recognized for a unique and effective robot climbing design, but also the ability of the students to effectively communicate the strategy and design process to the judges.

The students incorporated the lessons of 4-H into their discussions with the judges and it was reflected in the announcement of the team as the winner of the Creativity award.

Looking back on where we came from, having no shop and equipment in December, this has really been a miracle season to get to where we are and be recognized with an award. We now have a great foundation to really develop the team further next year. We plan to have training classes for the students over the summer in electronics and programming to get a jump on more advanced control techniques for next year.

We will continue competing in post season competitions around New England in late spring and the fall, to give the younger students some competition driving experience. New students can learn from the seniors’ competition experience before they graduate.

Now that the serious competition is over we are concentrating on “catching up” on our 4-H commitment.  Members will be getting their binders up to date etc.

Thank you again to the UConn 4-H – Fairfield County program for all your support. Below are a couple of links that FIRST posted on their sites (Twitter and Instagram) because our design was so unique.”

Dan Biron, Volunteer Leader

Power Surge 4-H Robotics

https://twitter.com/FRCTeams/status/1114295538701209600?s=03

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwDb5JogDH8/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=4v8av22r4hg8

Internship Available – Fall 2019

Community & Economic Development Paid Internship Summer – Fall 2019 – Connecticut Economic Development Association Best Practices Program

Naugatuck Greenway
Naugatuck Greenway

The Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS) is seeking an intern to assist with all aspects of implementation of a new community Best Practices program pilot.  The intern will be involved program’s implementation and will work closely with economic development professionals through the Connecticut Economic Development Association, the state’s only organization for economic development professionals, including opportunities to attend regular professional board meetings and CEDAS events. The intern will specifically be involved with implementation of an innovative economic development pilot program called “Connecticut Best Practices in Land Use and Economic Development.” This program was developed to set a standard for best practices in economic development and land use among communities in Connecticut, recognize communities that document the use of established best practices, and drive communities to pursue excellence in land use and economic development practices.  Partners on the program include the Connecticut Economic Development Association with the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association and University of Connecticut Programs in Community & Economic Development. More information at https://www.cedas.org/Resources/CT-Best-Practices-In-Land-Use-and-Economic-Development/

Tasks will include but are not limited to researching and documenting similar programs and best practices, creating written and online educational materials, assisting with development and assessment of program evaluation, communicating with applying communities, assisting with application management, and providing regular reporting to the CEDAS board of directors. Students applying for this internship must have a demonstrated interest in state and municipal community and economic development programs and policy.  Students with backgrounds in geography, economics, business, geography, public policy, and urban studies are strongly encouraged to apply but other areas of study will be considered. The successful candidate will demonstrate excellent verbal and written communication skills and an ability to manage her/himself professionally in a community setting.  This will be a remote internship (no office space will be provided) so the candidate must also demonstrate an ability to self manage her/his work plan, adapt to changing circumstances and opportunities as the program evolves, and solve problems,  A computer or laptop and internet access as well as a vehicle for occasional travel are required to complete this internship. The intern will be overseen by Laura Brown, Community and Economic Development Educator with UConn Extension with additional guidance from the Best Practices steering committee and the CEDAS board. This will be a part-time (approximately 10 hours per week) remote internship for a maximum of 120 hours to start as soon as possible for Summer into Fall 2019.  Hourly pay is $25.

Apply by submitting a cover letter explaining your course of study and why you are interested in the internship, writing sample, resume, transcript, and three references to Laura Brown, laura.brown@uconn.edu by May 24, 2019.  Please reference the CEDAS INTERNSHIP/  Applicants will be considered on a rolling basis. Open until filled.

Trail Etiquette 101

bicycle on trailHeaded out on the trails? Trail safety and etiquette is vital on our trails for all users, including bicyclists, hikers, and equestrians. Be courteous to other trail users. Here are some simple steps to follow.

What does “Yield” mean?

Yielding means slow down, establish communication, be prepared to stop if necessary, and pass in a safe and friendly manner.

All Trail Users

  • Avoid Wet Trails. Minimize trail erosion and ecological impact around wet trails by walking/ biking/riding through the center of the trail, even if muddy, to keep the trail narrow.
  • Stay on the Trail. Do not go off trail (even to pass), create new trails, or cut switchbacks. Narrow trails mean less environmental impact and happier critters.
  • Respect. If you offer respect, you are more likely to receive it. All user groups have rights and responsibilities to our trails, and to each other.
  • Don’t Block the Trail. When taking a break, move to the side of the trail.
  • Smile. Greet. Nod. Every user on the trail is a fellow nature lover. Be friendly and expect to see other folks around every corner.
  • Travel on the right side of the trail, and pass on the left.
  • Remain Attentive. If you wear headphones, keep the volume down, or only wear one earpiece so you can hear other trail users.
  • Expect the Unexpected. Humans and animals can be unpredictable.

For Walkers, Hikers, Runners

  • Keep dogs on a short leash. Other trail users may be frightened by dogs or be unsure how to pass safely.
  • Dog poop on the trail is a major complaint among other trail users. Clean up after your dog, and take the waste home to dispose it. UConn Extension educator Dave Dickson explains why it’s important to scoop poop: http://s.uconn.edu/4gg.
  • Yield to equestrians.

For Bicyclists

  • You move fast – and many other trail users will be startled, especially if you approach from behind. Greet other trail users early to alert them of your presence.
  • Anticipate other trail users around blind corners.
  • Yield to hikers and equestrians.

For Equestrians

  • Communicate your needs. Most people aren’t familiar with horses and are intimidated by them – let other trail users know what will help make the situation safer for everyone.
  • Slow down to a walk to pass other trail users.
  • Clean up any manure your horse may leave at trail heads and on trails whenever possible.

Download the brochure: http://bit.ly/TrailEtq 

This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We are an interdisciplinary team of University of Connecticut extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health, community & economic development and implementing a social ecological approach to health education.

Private Well Water Testing

dripping tapPrivate wells provide water to 820,000 people in Connecticut, approximately 23% of the population’s water supply comes from private wells according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health. These wells are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, although Local Health Departments do have the authority over the proper siting and construction of private wells. It is the responsibility of the well owners to test the quality of the water—it is recommended that you perform a Basic Indicators Test once a year. Additionally, if you notice a difference in taste, color, odor, or clarity contact your Local Health Department for assistance. Well water testing can be done for bacteriological elements, trace metals and minerals, pesticides and herbicides, and organic and inorganic chemicals. Click here to read about what elements you should test for and how frequently.

After your water is tested you should document the date of the test and the results. The EPA has established standards for maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) and the CT DPH has set action levels for certain contaminants. Should your results come back high you should retest the water to verify the results, stop drinking the water until the issue is resolved, and contact your Local Health Department for advice moving forward.

You can get your well water tested at state certified testing facilities. Procedures vary depending on the facility that is being used. Some facilities will send a technician to the location to take a sample and bring it back to the lab for testing. Other facilities allow for the homeowner to collect a sample. It is important to follow their instructions to ensure the proper collection practices and prevent contamination. Proper maintenance and operation of your well water system is important for protecting the water quality. Check out this best management practice checklist for private well owners.

Originally published by the Eastern Highlands Health District

Is Your Well Water Contaminated?

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack

Is your well water contaminated with road salt? Dr. Mike Dietz of the Connecticut Institute of Water Resources talked to NBC Connecticut last week about how we can reduce contamination.

“‘This is a worldwide problem. It’s a really big problem in the United States because the amount of salt that we’ve been applying has been increasing dramatically over the past few decades,’ he said.

Dietz says the only solution is to apply less salt. Over the winter, a UConn pilot program showed encouraging results, and saved the university $300,000.”

Read the full story:

Reflecting on an Extension Internship

By Kelly Finn

UConn student Kelly Finn, who interned with Extension, stands in front of the Central Bank in Senegal while there as a Boren Scholar.
Kelly Finn in front of the central bank in Senegal.

Coming out of my 2017 marketing internship with UConn Extension, I possessed a newfound quality of discipline and relationship-building that I had honed over the three month experience with Stacey Stearns. Almost two years later, I have been able to employ such skills in my current experience as a Boren Scholar in which I am a student, professional, and volunteer.

Last April, I was nationally selected as one of 250 from a pool of over 1500 applicants to receive the US Government Boren Scholarship: a fellowship that enables qualified students to engage in intensive study-abroad. I am now nearing the end of my year long experience with the Boren, having gotten the opportunity to do a domestic summer program at the University of Florida before going abroad, and of course my nine-month experience abroad in Senegal, which will be coming to end an end this May.

The Boren has been heavily academic, including critical study of international relations, advanced language in both French and Wolof (a native West African language), amplified by my own personal choice to enroll in online American classes to keep up with credit requirements in completing my triple-degree venture in receiving Finance, Resource Economics, and French Honors degrees at the end of my UConn experience. While it has not been easy, I’ve found that my discipline in being goal-oriented and determined has encouraged me to get my work done efficiently while embracing new learning content, just as I had as an Extension intern.

On top of academics, I have further challenged myself to upkeep my professional development in maintaining contact with my career aspirations and experience by leveraging my relationship-building skills in internship pursuits.

I knew at the start of my Boren that I wanted to get involved in a professional capacity in addition to my studies during the program. After countless hours of research in organizations and opportunities in Senegal, I made sure to leverage networking platforms and use relationship-building skills to secure an internship. Not only was I accepted for a professional internship at the headquarters of the Central Bank of West African States in Dakar, but I also became a volunteer intern at the Senegalese office of an American organization that I had been involved with as a high school student in the States.

Thinking back to my days as an Extension intern, I remember how important taking initiative and applying relationship-building skills were. At Extension, all of the projects necessitated cross-departmental communication, and strength in relationship-building to move ideas forward and make tangible progress. Those same skills have evidently assisted me in the process of finding awesome, relevant involvements internationally that has ultimately enriched my Boren experience in Senegal.

Going forward, I will continue to apply what I’ve learned as an UConn Extension intern to my everyday life in academic and professional areas and beyond as I have as a Boren scholar. Extension equipped me with the tools and incredible support by the staff and CAHNR to work effectively to make change while also cultivating a learning environment I clearly profited from. The discipline and relationship-building skills I had gained in the process continue to be put to great use in all the new and challenging experiences I encounter as I continue to grow.