Gardens

Bug Week Photo Contest Accepting Entries

monarch butterfly on lilacUConn Extension, part of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR), is pleased to announce the 5th Annual Bug Week Photo Contest. Take your camera and find that special bug shot. All entries must be a photograph of a bug or insect in their natural habitat.

There are three categories – Junior Amateur (under 18 years old), Senior Amateur (18 years old or older) and Professional with prizes for first, second and third place. Submission deadline is August 7, 2020.

For entry guidelines and submission details go to https://bugs.uconn.edu/photo-contest, and if you have questions, please contact bugweek@uconn.edu.

Bug Week is an annual event for adults and youth to participate in educational outreach activities that showcase insects and their contributions to our environment. Bug Week is going virtual for 2020 and more details about our virtual programs are available at https://bugs.uconn.edu/.

Bugs are the unsung heroes of our ecosystem, providing services such as pollination and natural pest control. However, bugs don’t stop at environmental benefits. They have also impacted our culture through the manufacturing of silk, sources of dyes, wax and honey production, food sources, and the improvement of building materials and structures. There are also problem bugs, like the Emerald Ash Borer and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that are a concern in Connecticut. Visit our website at http://www.bugs.uconn.edu for featured insects and resources.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

 

Raised beds for my vegetable garden?

Raised BedsThere’s a growing interest in using raised beds in vegetable gardens, and if that’s your interest, read on. It’s always a good idea to plan a project before jumping in and consider the many variables. Let’s explore some of these.

Why you’re considering raised beds. Many people are interested in raised beds as a way to eliminate as much bending and stooping over in the garden as possible; the higher the beds, the less bending required as you tend your plants. This, in turn, will impact the type of material your beds are made of and the amount of soil your beds will have in them. If you’re interested in portable raised beds (perhaps to be able to move your beds during the day to get the maximum amount of sunlight), that will limit the size each bed will be and what they’re made from.

Space needs and sizes of beds. If you’re a patio-gardener, and have limited space, your beds will need to be smaller than if you set beds within a larger garden area. What you want to grow can also determine the size of your beds. For example, herb gardens fit nicely in smaller beds, while tomatoes, root vegetables, and many other crops need beds that are deeper and larger. If you want to use raised beds with walls, a bed that is wider than four feet will be more difficult to tend; a length of more than eight feet will require more movement to get around the bed itself. The layout of raised beds that are simply mounded soil hills, without structured walls, can much more easily be changed than structured beds with walls.

Materials for raised beds. Raised bed kits are readily available, especially online, and made from a variety of materials, including wood and plastic. Will you buy raised bed kits, which can be expensive, or create your own? If you create your own raised beds, will they be very simply made from highly-mounded soil in your garden, or will they have a solid, box-like structure? If they’re structured, what will they be made from…. wood, concrete block, brick, or plastic? Some materials are more readily available than others, some will last longer outside than others, some are more decorative and easier to disassemble and move, and prices will vary, depending on what you choose.

Irrigation needs of plants in raised beds. Soil in raised beds generally dries out more quickly, since air circulation around the perimeter of the bed contributes to drying, so your garden may need to be watered more frequently. Whether you water by hand, sprinkler, or soaker hoses, it’s important to check the amount of moisture in the soil when setting a watering schedule. As with a ground-level garden, mulching will help retain soil moisture. If you decide to use soaker hoses, it’s helpful to draw a layout of your garden and how the hoses will be laid out to assure that you can water each bed when necessary, especially if some plants need more water than others. Hose layout is also important to plan so that you don’t end up with raised hoses draping from one bed to another, making it more difficult to move among the beds.

Overall, gardening in raised beds can be very rewarding, and much easier if you take the time to plan before you build. If you’re unsure if using raised beds is the right choice for you, start with one or two small raised beds, learn as you go along, and determine what best meets your gardening needs for the future. If you have further questions, you can contact the UConn Extension Master Gardeners at https://mastergardener.uconn.edu/ask-us-a-question/

Article by Linette Branham, 2019 UConn Extension Master Gardener

How To Weed Your Garden: How Often, What to Weed, Tips or Best Management Practices

Yellow FlowerAny undesirable plant in your garden can be labeled a weed. The vegetables or flowers you want to grow will be robbed of nutrients, moisture, light, and space if weeds are not managed. Weeds seem to always outpace the desired plants in growth. They can also harbor insects and diseases.

To be fair, it needs to be noted that some “weeds” in our gardens have a positive side in other circumstances, such as when not surrounding our tomato plant. Many weeds play a healing role in restoring worn-out soil or prevent erosion. Many also provide nectar and shelter for beneficial insects, and can be a food source for animals.

Common garden weeds in our area include annual bluegrass, crabgrass, henbit, creeping Charlie (also known as ground ivy), nutsedge, prickly lettuce, broadleaf plantain and, of course, the dandelion! The best way to know if a self-invited plant on your territory is a potential friend or foe is to get to know your weeds. We can’t eradicate the weeds but we can learn about the ways to manage them.

For weed control it really all comes down to well-timed physical measures. Preparing the ground properly for planting and doing modest clean up often results in a good-looking and productive result.

The simple rule to live by is to avoid procrastinating by waiting for weeds to mature and set seed. Whether annuals, perennials, or biennials, weeds are famous for their rapid seeding and spreading ability.

Hand pull in small enclosed garden spaces. Loosen the soil around the weed with a hand fork so you can remove it with its root. Be careful not to pull flowers or vegetables if weeds are too close to them. Practice close planting when possible to suppress weeds.
Hoeing is the most useful and easiest method to remove the plants you don’t want. Skim the soil surface, don’t dig in too deep to avoid hurting the roots of your plants, and avoid bringing up more seeds to the surface. Hoe on a warm, dry day so the weeds wilt and die quickly after hoeing.

Remove stems and leaves from the garden beds as they may root. Do not compost any weeds that
have set seeds!

Mulching is an effective deterrent to weed growth. When weeds do come up they are usually lanky and can be easily hand pulled. Hay, straw, wood chips, and compost are all natural mulches that work well to smother weeds, and are a good buffer to protect the soil from evaporation and erosion. For large flower areas or vegetable beds, landscape fabric or plastic roll-out weed barriers can be installed, with or without a covering of mulch.

Also, consider where the weeds are, and their amount. If they are in the lawn and there are only a few of them, hand weeding will be more efficient. If the weeds have overtaken an entire bed, hoeing or digging them out may be the best action to take.

Most garden spaces can be managed with physical and cultural controls. If you do chose to use an herbicide, make sure the product is right for your situation – both for the weed in question and the location. Follow the instructions for correct timing and application rates and wear the appropriate personal protective gear.

If you have further questions, you can contact the UConn Extension Master Gardeners at:
https://mastergardener.uconn.edu/ask-us-a-question/

Article by Tatiana Ponder, 2020 UConn Extension Master Gardener Intern

Celebrate National Pollinator Week!

This week highlights the crucial role of pollinators in our food supply, crop success and persistence of the plants we admire. Pollinator activity is needed for the reproduction of over 85% of the world’s flowering plants including  over 1,200 crop plants. We can take time to learn more about pollinators and reflect on the need to celebrate and protect them every day.  Most pollinator species are insects and many of them continue to face significant conservation challenges. Reports indicate significant declines in 28% of North American bumble bee species and 19% of U.S. butterflies species are at risk of extinction. So lend them a hand by planting a pollinator garden or creating nesting sites for native bees.  

To learn more about pollinators and how to protect them visit this website: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Wildlife/Learn-About-Wildlife/Pollinators-in-Connecticut

For fun family activities for this week you can visit   https://www.pollinator.org/pollinator-week#pw-activities

Partner Testimonials

boy eating from a bowl outside with another little boy behind himPartnerships are at the foundation of Extension’s work statewide in all 169 towns and cities of Connecticut. We integrate with agencies and non-profits in communities in a variety of ways.

“Our partnerships strengthen Extension, and in turn increase our statewide impact. Our innovative collaborations allow Extension and our partners to reach respective goals together.” ~ Mike O’Neill, Associate Dean and Associate Director, UConn Extension

“For the benefit of Connecticut farmers, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture collaborates with UConn Extension across many disciplines. From FSMA Produce Safety Rule education and outreach that expand market opportunities to Viability Grant funding of crucial research done by Extension educations, our strong partnership will help to sustain and foster innovation for agriculture in our state.” ~ Bryan Hurlburt, Commissioner, Department of Agriculture

“The Master Gardener Program has provided significant value to the Bartlett Arboretum for many years. We rely on Master Gardeners to support our community outreach in so many different ways. Examples of their contribution include Master Gardener availability in Plant Clinic from May through September of each year to address homeowner plant problems and issues. Master Gardeners conduct visitor tours of our gardens and our champion and notable trees. They provide Arboretum management with ideas for plants in our gardens. All of these activities enhance the visitor experience at the Bartlett Arboretum and further its mission.” ~ S. Jane von Trapp, CEO, Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens in Stamford

“The information and assistance provided by CLEAR has enabled our town to save resources while complying with the requirements of the MS4 Permit. The template for the stormwater management plan alone saved us a significant amount of money by allowing staff to complete an acceptable plan in a minimal amount of time.” ~Warren Disbrow, Assistant Town Engineer, East Hartford

“We are grateful to partner with SNAP-ED and EFNEP to ensure the people we serve not only have access to nutritious food but also have opportunities to participate in evidence-based nutrition education. In food insecurity programs we can bring healthy food, and a pantry shopping experience directly to schools, senior centers and other community-based organizations. Through partnerships with SNAP-ED and EFNEP clients can learn, sample healthy recipes and then apply new skills to shopping.” ~ Jaime S. Foster, PhD, RD

“The Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS) found a great partner in UConn Extension as we rolled out the Best Practices in Economic Development and Land Use Program that really asks, ‘How do we do our jobs better?’ In economic development in Connecticut we face a fiercely competitive landscape for jobs and investment. How we compete as a state matters, but at the end of the day, a company locates in a community. We want our communities to be as well-prepared as possible, and that’s something that UConn Extension’s programs in Community & Economic Development is doing every day. CEDAS offered the3platform to create a set of standards and the UConn team helped add the details. More importantly, they were the support to our communities that wanted to get better. We can all want to do a better job at local economic development, but if3there’s not someone there coaching and mentoring us along we’re not going to get there. UConn Extension was the helping hand that truly pulled our communities through the process and in the end, raised our standards for economic development in Connecticut.” ~ Garret Sheehan, CEcD, President Connecticut Economic Development Association, President and CEO Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce

What is It?

Spotted Pine Sawyer BeetleWhat is it?

The Spotted Pine Sawyer Beetle. It is right on time with adults appearing in June. It’s look alike is the Asian Longhorn Beetle, but the adult stage for the ALB occurs during August, says Carol Quish from our UConn Home & Garden Education Center.

Ask us your question at: http://bit.ly/AskUConnExtension_form

Our colleagues at University of Maine Cooperative Extension have a fact sheet with more information: https://bit.ly/BeetleFactSheet

Photo: Bruce Shay

#AskUConnExtension

A Message to the CAHNR Community

banner of Extension programs

Dear Friends and Colleagues –

The events of the past few weeks have brought sadness and outrage to communities across our nation. The senseless killing of black men and women demonstrates that as a nation, we need to make further and strong progress toward our aspirations of a diverse and inclusive society.

The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources remains steadfastly committed to our goals of creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive environment for us all. In these troubled times, we must stand tall in our beliefs and redouble our resolve to ensure that all members of our community feel safe and welcome. We will continue to take multiple steps to promote diversity and inclusion throughout our college and our communities.

On behalf of the college and in cooperation with our Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to all who have been impacted by these senseless acts. I know that you share my commitment to supporting all individuals in communities across our state, the nation, and the world.

Best regards on behalf of myself and the CAHNR Committee on Diversity and Inclusion,

Indrajeet Chaubey, Dean

CAHNR Committee on Diversity and Inclusion
Maria-Luz Fernandez, Nutritional Sciences, Chair
Sharon Gray, Extension
Miriah Kelly, Extension
Beth Lawrence, Natural Resources and Environment
Michael O’Neill, Associate Dean, ex-officio
Sara Putnam, Communications, ex-officio
Farhed Shah, Agricultural and Resource Economics
Ellen Shanley, Allied Health Science
Brandon Smith, Animal Science
Young Tang, Animal Science
Beth Taylor, Kinesiology
Huanzhong Wang, Plant Science and Landscape Architecture
Xiaohui Zhou, Pathobiology and Veterinary Sciences

What is a Virus?

covid bannerA virus has a very simple makeup. It is just a piece of DNA or RNA, a protein coat, and in some cases a fatty (lipid) layer. The protein coat provides protection for the piece of genetic information (DNA or RNA), and can code for different functions when the virus infects a host organism.

Viruses are considered neither alive nor dead. Viruses do not consist of cells or have any components to carry out basic functions on their own. They rely on the cell functions of their host to replicate. They hijack their host’s cells to operate in a way that allows the virus to thrive.

For this exact reason, viruses have a biological incentive to keep their hosts alive. If their hosts die, the virus can no longer replicate. Viable virus particles can exist on a surface, such as a table. But without a host, the virus can not cause disease or infection.

The first virus to be crystallized and therefore each of its parts were able to be studied, was actually a plant virus, Tobacco mosaic virus. Rosalind Franklin made this discovery in 1955. Since then, thousands of new viruses have been described.

Potato virus Y (PVY) is one of the oldest known plant viruses, and the 5th most economically important plant virus in the world, meaning that it can cause a lot of damage. Hundreds of plants can infected by PVY including potato, tomato, pepper, eggplant, tobacco, and many species of weeds.

Historically, PVY has been easy to detect in fields because of the beautiful mosaic symptoms it causes on foliage. On potatoes, other symptoms include veinal necrosis, deformed or rotting (necrotic) potatoes, and up to 70% yield losses.

Read more at:

What is a virus?

 

 

 

May Wildflowers

flowerWhy are wildflowers the most beautiful of flowers? Perhaps it is because they are untamed by mankind and often appear when one is not even looking for them. In spring, one of the pleasures of getting out on nature trails or trekking through the woods is coming across some of Connecticut’s spring blooming wildflowers. These colorful and interesting signs that warmer weather has arrived are a welcome distraction to the events around us. Whether found on purpose or by a happy coincidence, these wildflowers are interesting in their own ways.

Canada lousewort Pedicularis canadensis, also called wood betony, is a native plant in the broomrape family that is found in open woods, clearings and thickets. It has small, 2-lipped yellow flowers in a tight spike. Flowers open from the bottom and progress upward. Plants can range from as low as 5 inches in height to 14 inches. Leaves are fernlike and form a basal rosette. It is a hemiparasite that attaches to the roots of other plants while still producing chlorophyll of its own. Look for these wildflowers as early as April- June. Bees will pollinate wood betony.

Asarum canadense, wild ginger, is native to eastern North America and can create a slow-growing groundcover in shady deciduous forests and can be found in the rich soils of shady deciduous forests. Flowers are seldom seen unless one knows where to look. Lifting the leaves reveals the bell-shaped flowers at the base of the plant close to the ground. Flowers have three triangular reddish- brown petals that fold back to reveal with an attractive red and white pattern that reminds me of looking into a kaleidoscope.

Read more at:

May Wildflowers

 

Plant Diagnostic Lab Offers Hot Water Seed Treatment

Our Plant Diagnostic Laboratory now offers hot water seed treatment. What is it? Watch Abby Beissinger, our plant diagnostician, explain how hot water seed treatment works and can help you.

Hot water seed treatment is supported in part by a UConn CAHNR Innovation in Extension Programming Award and a grant from the New England Vegetable & Berry Growers Association. The Plant Diagnostic Laboratory is currently closed due to the university closure for COVID-19 but will accept seeds for treatment when we re-open. The Plant Diagnostic Laboratory is a service of the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture and Extension.

Video: Mike Zaritheny – https://www.mzaritheny.com/