Gardens

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….

Join UConn for a Panel Presentation on GMOs

UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources is offering two events on the science of GMOs next week that we welcome you to attend.

GMO 2.0: Science, Society and the Future is on Wednesday, April 24th in the UConn Student Union Theater on the Storrs Campus at 7 PM.

The panel features four experts that have research connections to GMOs, and will be moderated by Dean Indrajeet Chaubey from the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Panel topics include the risks and benefits of genetically engineered crops; ethical, legal, and social implications of GMOs; CRISPR and other GMO technologies; and the future of GMOs and big agriculture. It’s open to anyone interested in attending.

The goal of the panel presentation is to provide science-based, and unbiased information on GMOs, and the misinformation around them. The panelists will present information in a non-science format for those unfamiliar with the terminology and nuances of the subjects.

GMOs: Answering Difficult Questions from your Customers is being held on Thursday, April 25th at 7 PM at the Tolland County Extension Center, 24 Hyde Avenue, in Vernon.

This presentation is specifically for farmers, but all are welcome to attend. Dr. Paul Vincelli from the University of Kentucky will give a presentation on the risks and benefits of GMOs, and answering questions about GMOs. His presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

Both events are free for anyone to attend, but registration is requested for planning purposes. For more information on the events, or to register please visit https://gmo.uconn.edu/events/ or call 860-486-9228.

Ten Tips for the April Gardener

Ten Tips for the April Gardener

flower

Click on highlighted links for additional information.

  • Prune old, leggy growth from heather (which flowers on new growth in late summer) but prune heath (which sets its flower buds in late spring) just enough to shape it in the early spring.
  • Start dahlia tubers in pots indoors in a cool spot. Pinch back tips when they reach 6” and transplant outdoors when the ground temperature reaches 60°F.
  • Inspect houseplants for pests and use low-toxicity insecticidal controls as needed.
  • Place seedlings in cold frames around April 25 or later to harden off.
  • Continue to directly sow​ ​peas, ​carrots, ​radishes, ​lettuces, ​and​ ​spinach every two weeks through mid-May for staggered harvests.
  • Spread​ ​fertilizer​ ​under​ ​apple​ ​trees​ ​and​ ​small​ ​fruits​ ​except​ ​strawberries​ ​which​ ​are​ ​fertilized​ ​in late​ ​August.
  • Apply pre-emergent crabgrass weed control when the forsythia bloom.
  • Early spring is a great time to spot spray or hand-dig dandelions. If spraying, choose a product that won’t kill grass. If digging, wait until after a rain, when soil is soft.
  • Celebrate​ ​Arbor​ ​Day​ ​on​ ​April​ ​26th​ ​by​ ​planting​ ​a​ ​tree. Choose planting sites based on exposure to sun, shade, wind and distance from water source.
  • Check for raised mole tunnels in the yard and plan to put down a grub control product as necessary (the presence of moles does not mean there is a grub problem) between mid-June and mid-July.

For more information contact the UConn Home and Garden Education Center.

Join Us for #UConnGives

UConn Gives logo

UConn Gives is BACK for year two. And we need your help to grow our programs, and continue serving Connecticut communities. Put your paws in by supporting UConn 4-H, the UConn Extension Master Gardener Program, the 4-H Sports and Nutrition program, or the Natural Resources Conservation Academy on March 27-28, 2019. 

Extension program collage

All four of these programs work in communities statewide, and we need your help to increase their impact. Please consider donating $1 (or more) to the program(s) of your choice.

#AllPawsIn

Take the Climate Change Challenge with UConn Extension

CEAD imageConnecticut Environmental Action Day (CEAD) is a one-day conference that seeks to inspire students to take the #ClimateChangeChallenge and then post their actions using #ExtendtheChange to encourage friends and families to do the same. CEAD is sponsored by UConn Extension with our partners from UConn’s Department of Marketing, Department of Anthropology, and UConn PIRG.

The goals of Environmental Action Day are:

  • Increase students’ understanding of the environment and natural resources.
  • To foster students’ capacity to become environmentally responsible citizen by increasing their understanding of principles governing individual and collective action.
  • To provide students with access and educational opportunities from UConn.

CEAD is on Friday, March 29th in the Student Union at the UConn Storrs Campus and features workshops for middle school students, and a climate change challenge for UConn students. Approximately 100 middle school students from Coventry, Ellington, and Mansfield are attending. Each middle school student will attend two workshops in the morning. During the afternoon, they will reconvene in small groups facilitated by UConn students to commit to environmental action in their communities that will reduce climate change.

UConn students are invited to join CEAD at the Student Union and sign the action pledge to extend the change. Students are also encouraged to share their climate change challenge actions on their social media accounts, using the hashtag, #ExtendtheChange.

Suggested climate change actions anyone can pledge include:

  • Reuse and recycle
  • Ban the bag (plastic)
  • Conserve energy (turn off lights!)
  • Use public transportation, walk, or bike
  • Eat locally
  • Plant a garden
  • Plant trees, green roofs and other vegetation
  • Inform and educate others

Those not on the UConn campus can join us in the #ClimateChangeChallenge by taking the pledge at http://bit.ly/CCC_UConn to help #ExtendtheChange. For more information on CEAD visit http://extension.uconn.edu/ead.php or email Marc.Cournoyer@uconn.edu.

UConn Extension is on a collaborative journey. We co-create knowledge with farmers, families, students, communities, and businesses. We educate. We convene groups to help solve problems in the areas of food, health, and sustainability. Join us.

National Nutrition Month; a time to celebrate school food!

Kale Yeah child at schoolWhen you think “local food” do you also think “school food”? You should. About 25% of food served by Hartford Public Schools is local.

This helps the local economy, and bolsters hometown pride. Lonnie Burt, Senior Director of Child Nutrition for Hartford Public Schools explains that, “Purchasing local products is important on so many levels; it has a positive impact on our community and the residents.”

Knox Inc, a community organization and farm in Hartford, sells vegetables like bok choy, collard greens and fresh cilantro directly to Hartford Public Schools. Brunella Ibarrola, Assistant Director of Nutrition Support for Hartford Public Schools Food and Child Nutrition Services, shares that students are thrilled when they see “Hartford grown” on the menu. “When students become aware that a vegetable has been grown right in Hartford by Knox’s Incubator Farmer program, they become really excited and proud of their city!”

Local food purchasing requires building relationships and UConn Extension’s Put Local on Your Tray program is a matchmaker for many of these connections. The Tray Program helps Connecticut school districts serve and celebrate locally grown products.

“Schools want to increase their farm to school programming, which is where we come in; and when we are able to establish a partnership between a school and a farm, it benefits the larger community” says Molly Deegan, Put Local on Your Tray Coordinator.

Besides the benefits for the community, the students are learning valuable lessons in the cafeteria – a space that is sometimes overlooked as part of the learning environment in a school. Using local products allows “students [to] gain knowledge about local farmers and their products which are grown in their community” shares Maureen Nuzzo, Director of Food Services, Old Saybrook Public Schools. Old Saybrook is one of 59 school districts serving nearly 300 schools that have taken the pledge to source and serve local foods. Programming which highlights local foods, gets students involved in, and excited about, school lunches and nutrition. With National Nutrition Month in March, it’s a great time to celebrate local food and that’s just what UConn Extension’s Put Local On Your Tray program is all about.

When Maggie Dreher, Director of Nutrition Services for Avon Public Schools, Canton Public Schools, & Regional School District #10 served local kale from Sub Edge Farm (the first of many local produce items) she had no idea that just months later she would be hosting a district-wide event that put the farm on display. On March 21st, Maggie will be hosting a Jr. Chef competition featuring two teams per school district (6 total) where they will be challenged with a “chopped style mystery box,” where local produce from Sub Edge farm will be featured.

Through a combination of technical assistance and promotional materials, the Tray team works with schools to build a culture of health in the cafeteria, celebrate school nutrition programs, and support local agriculture. Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).

GMO Working Group Hosting April Events

GMO panel flyerThe CAHNR GMO Working Group is hosting GMO 2.0: Science, Society and the Future, a panel presentation on Wednesday, April 24th at 7 PM in the Student Union Theater. Please save the date and make plans to join us. The event is free and anyone is welcome to attend.

The panel is moderated by Dean Indrajeet Chaubey. Speakers include: Paul Vincelli from the University of Kentucky, Robert C. Bird from the School of Business, Yi Li from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, and Gerry Berkowitz from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. 

A second event, GMOs: Answering Difficult Questions from your Customers is specifically for farmers, but all are welcome to attend. Dr. Paul Vincelli from the University of Kentucky will give a presentation, followed by a question and answer session. The event is Thursday, April 25th at 7 PM at the Tolland County Extension Center in Vernon.

More information on both events is available at https://gmo.uconn.edu/events/.

Applications Open for FoodCorps CT

FoodCorps service member banner photo

Are you ready to #serveupchange in your community? Apply now for a year of service with FoodCorps Connecticut! The deadline is March 15, but aim to submit early: we’re reviewing applications on a rolling basis. Go to http://foodcorps.org/apply to apply yourself (or share this post with a leader who shares our passion for healthy food in schools!)