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.
* JOB OPPORTUNITY * 2017- 2018 Part-Time Coordinator Position with the Connecticut Trail Census
The Connecticut Trail Census CTTC) is seeking a dynamic multi-use trail (bike-pedestrian) enthusiast to serve as the point person and part-time coordinator for project (~17 hours/week). The CTTC is a new study and volunteer based data collection program on 15 multi-use trail sites throughout the state involving partnership with many local and statewide trail advocacy groups and hundreds of volunteers. Duties will include responding to informational inquiries from volunteers and the public, collecting data from and maintaining infrared trail counters, coordinating logistics for and co-teaching volunteer trainings, compiling funding reports and maintaining contact databases, convening partner meetings, and creating communications including media releases, e-newsletters, and website updates. The successful candidate will be an excellent written and verbal communicator, proficient with Word and Excel, have demonstrated program management skills and/or experience, and a passion for supporting trails and the people that use them. Desirable skills include experience with data management and analysis (including data visualization tools), WordPress, MailChimp or other e-newsletter platforms, and volunteer management. This position is funded at $23/hour and is currently funded through January 2018. Location is flexible but candidate must have a vehicle, internet access and be willing to use their own computer. More information about the program can be found at http://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu Please send a short cover letter describing your interest and qualifications, three reference contacts, and resume to email@example.com as soon as possible. Open until filled.
UConn CAHNR faculty member Tracy Rittenhouse was recently featured in the UConn Today article about bears in Connecticut. Tracy tells us: “We recently estimated the population size of black bears in the state at 427+/- 30 bears. We (with UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research) created this online story map that people can use to learn about bears in their neighborhood:
By Mike Dietz
Connecticut is not the first place that would likely come to mind if I asked you to come up with a part of the country that experiences drought; the desert southwest and California might typically be first on the list. However, southern New England has received less than normal amounts of precipitation for the past several years, and the impacts are being felt. Some homeowners with shallow wells are running out of water, a reservoir in Massachusetts got so low that it had to be taken off line, and water restrictions have been implemented in some areas. And for the first time ever, the governor has issued a drought watch for 6 of our 8 counties.
Let’s take a quick look at our annual precipitation totals over the last 120 years. As can be seen in Figure 1 (data from the interactive NOAA website), annual precipitation in Connecticut can be quite variable. Our “normal” annual precipitation is around 47 inches per year (horizontal line in graph). We have had many years with less than normal precipitation, and a prolonged drought in the 1960s. The last four years have all been below normal, and 2016 is looking to finish in that category as well.
What does it actually mean to be in drought condition? For Connecticut, there are several criteria used to make this decision, which can be seen on the State of Connecticut water status page:
- Precipitation: three or more cumulative months below 65% of normal
- Groundwater: five or more consecutive months below normal
- Stream Flow: four out of five months below normal
- Drinking Water Reservoirs: September statewide average at 78.5% of normal
- Palmer Drought Severity Index: -3.0 to -4.0 or less (severe to extreme drought)
- Crop Moisture Index: criteria not triggered
- Fire Danger: High (can vary daily)
The State Drought Preparedness Plan is also available on this page (did you know we had one of these? I didn’t…). The criteria used to determine our drought status cover a wide range of areas; it is not just about how much rain we have had recently. It becomes clear after looking at this list just how much we depend on rainfall to support our existence in this region. Our drinking water supplies and agricultural production in the state are heavily dependent on regular precipitation. This is quite different from the Western U.S. where winter snowpack or large river systems provide irrigation and municipal water.
The U.S. Drought Monitor provides information on national drought conditions. A number of different indices are used to determine the classifications from “Abnormally Dry” to “Exceptional Drought”. Parts of Connecticut are currently classified as being in Extreme Drought, where major crop losses and water shortages/restrictions are possible. Agricultural producers can be extremely vulnerable to drought, as many in this area are dependent on natural precipitation to water their crops. UConn Extension is currently working with agricultural producers in the Connecticut to help them become more resilient to drought. More information on this project can be found at http://water.extension.uconn.edu.
What can you do? If you are on a public water system, your supplier may have already sent you information on how to reduce your consumption to ensure adequate supplies for all. The Regional Water Authority has tips on their website. If you have a shallow well, you will want to pay close attention to your water system, and contact a well contractor if you believe you are running out of water. Any of the tips on the website above will help to reduce your consumption and ensure that you have adequate water for your home.
It is uncertain at this point when this drought will end. Changing climate may be exacerbating this problem; both more extreme precipitation totals and extended periods of drought are expected for southern New England. For now, I will watch hopefully out the window to see if today’s rain will bring some much needed relief.
By: Joan Allen
The obscure mealybug (Pseudococcus viburni) has been confirmed for the first time in Connecticut. High populations were present on numerous host plants in a Connecticut nursery in the fall of 2015. Samples were submitted to the UConn Plant Diagnostic Lab for identification by Donna Ellis, UConn Nursery IPM. Specimens were sent to entomologists at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. to be identified.
The obscure mealybug has a broad host range that includes both woody and herbaceous plants and is an important pest in some grape growing areas in California. It is thought to be native to South America and, according to some reports, Australia. The first report in California was as early as the late 1800s. The obscure mealybug has been reported from Vermont as a greenhouse pest so it may have been overlooked or unreported previously in Connecticut and other New England states. Mealybugs can easily be moved to new areas on infested plant material.
The adult females are similar in appearance to the citrus mealybug (Planocccus citri) but lack the faint stripe on the back and have longer ‘tail’ filaments. The longer tails can make some people confuse this mealybug with the longtailed mealybug (Pseudococcus longispinus) but in that species the tails are much longer than the body. In addition, the citrus and obscure mealybugs both lay eggs in cottony sacs, but the longtailed mealybug produces live young. Crawlers (nymphs) can be dispersed throughout a greenhouse on air currents, workers, water, and ants. Ants feed on honeydew produced by the mealybugs and may defend them from enemies as they sometimes do with aphids. The obscure mealybug is present throughout the year in all life stages and outdoors will overwinter in protected places such as under bark scales.
Mealybugs can be difficult to control. Because they prefer to congregate in plant nooks and crannies they can be protected from applications of contact insecticides. Biological control agents including parasitic wasps, some lady beetles, and lacewings can play an important role in control but not all are commercially available. The obscure mealybug has the ability to encapsulate the eggs of some potential parasites. Biorational options include oils (Suffoil X, horticultural oil) and insecticidal soap. High pressure water sprays can be used on sturdy plants. Neonicotinoids (category 4A) are effective for some mealybugs but can be slow acting. Safari is more water soluble than others and will be faster acting. Mealybugs can develop resistance to insecticides so avoid repeated use of products in the same category.
Sanitation is important in mealybug management. Inspect incoming plant material to avoid introducing pests. In the greenhouse, infestations can be cleaned up by keeping the house free of plants for at least 60 days (the life cycle of some mealybugs). If infestations are light, spot treat with oil or soap products. Some growers have success with spraying first with insecticidal soap to break down the waxy filaments and then follow up with an oil spray the next day. Phytotoxicity may occur on some plant species and at certain temperature and/or humidity conditions. Do a spot test application and observe for injury after 48 hours. Heavily infested plants should be discarded.
More information on obscure mealybugs and mealybugs in general:
Consult and follow pesticide labels for registered uses. To avoid potential phytotoxicity problems, spot test before widespread use. No discrimination is intended for any products not listed.
- 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.
- Pot up tulips, hyacinths and other pre-chilled bulbs and store in a cool, dark place until ready to force.
- Rosemary is not hardy in most areas of Connecticut. Bring plants in before temperatures drop too low but check plants thoroughly for mealybugs.
- Plant shallots and garlic outdoors.
- 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
- 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.
- Avoid the spring rush and have your soil tested now by the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory.
- Add a touch of fall to your home and landscape with hardy mums, asters and fall pansies.
- 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.
- 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.
Several UConn Extension educators worked at the Envirothon Event on May 21st. It’s a great event and well worth all the effort that goes into it. UConn Extension’s Donna Ellis made a presentation at the teacher’s workshop (as the technical expert) during the event on invasive species which is next year’s current issue challenge. This year’s current issue was urban forestry and Chris Donnelly was the technical expert.
By Catherine Hallisey
As 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.
….be sure to grow with food safety in mind
By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH, RD
It is hard to believe that spring is just around the corner. Though we in Connecticut were all teased with 35-degree temperatures, we are quickly back in the deep freeze, surrounded by ugly, dirty snow piles that are just not going away.
But go away, they will…and it won’t be long before many churches, schools, community organizations and day care centers are planning, digging and planting their vegetable garden. Gardens have become very popular. It seems like everyone has or wants one: to teach kids about where their food comes from, to grow food to donate to food pantries or community organizations, to save a little money on the ever increasing food budget, or simply for a little outdoor exercise. The locally grown movement has also helped to fuel the garden trend.
If you are working with a group of folks on a community/school/church garden, have you thought beyond the seed catalogues, watering schedules or how you are going to share your bounty? Will this bounty be grown, harvested and handled post-harvest in a way that will minimize the possibility of contamination with the microorganisms that might cause foodborne illness?
Did you know that fresh produce is the number one food source of foodborne illness in the US? The Centers for Disease Control found that 46% of all foodborne illnesses from 1998 to 2008 were attributed to produce and 23% of deaths from foodborne illness (meat and poultry contributed to more deaths-29%).
And yet, few think as they are growing produce to be shared with school children or those with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables that they might want to consider the fact that there are microorganisms in the soil, in bird poop or on the hands of the harvesters that could, in fact, make someone sick—especially those that may have a compromised immune system such as those that have a chronic disease, are pregnant, or are malnourished.
So what should you do? By using good gardening and harvesting practices, you can help to reduce potential food safety risks from the food you grow.
When planning your garden…
Locate vegetable gardens away from manure piles, garbage cans, septic systems, run-off from any potential sources of contamination, and areas where wildlife, farm animals, or pets roam. Test soil for contaminants, particularly lead, prior to planting. If lead levels are greater than 100 ppm, precautions should be taken as outlined in the document, Soil Lead Interpretation Sheet, available from the University of Connecticut Soil Laboratory at 860-486-4274. Do you want to use compost? To be safe for gardening, your compost must reach a temperature of at least 130°F. Check the temperature with a compost thermometer. Don’t use untreated manure in a garden that feeds a community group, school or neighborhood.
Know your water source and its potential for contamination. Irrigate using water from an approved public water system. You can be sure that water from a municipal or public water system is safe and potable (drinkable). However, water from lakes, ponds, rivers and streams can be polluted by human sewage or animal waste, fertilizers and pesticides from lawns and farm fields, or chemicals from industry and is more risky. Even water from a rain barrel can be contaminated – best to save that for non-edible plants. If well water is used, be sure to test it at least annually to ensure its safety. During the gardening season, keep cats, dogs and other pets out of the garden, as animal waste can be a source of bacteria, parasites and viruses. Curtail nesting and hiding places for rats and mice by minimizing vegetation at the edges of your fruit and vegetable garden. Fencing or noise deterrents may help discourage other animals.
During harvest time…
People who are sick, particularly with vomiting or diarrhea should not work in the garden or harvest produce. Everyone should wash their hands with soap and water before and after harvesting fresh produce. Do you have hand-washing facilities nearby? Harvest into clean, food-grade containers. Food-grade containers are made from materials designed specifically to safely hold food. Garbage bags, trash cans, and any containers that originally held chemicals such as household cleaners or pesticides are not food-grade. If children are helping out, be sure they are supervised by adults who understand safe harvesting practices. It is best not to let them eat fresh picked food before it is washed. If tools are used for harvesting (knives, clippers), make sure that they are cleaned regularly and designated only for garden use.
If you choose to wash fruits and vegetables before storing, be sure to dry them thoroughly with a clean paper towel. (NEVER wash berries until you are ready to eat them). If you choose to store without washing, shake, rub or brush off any garden dirt with a paper towel or soft brush while still outside. Store unwashed produce in plastic bags or containers. Keep fruit and vegetable bins clean.
When washing produce fresh from the warm outdoors, the rinse water should not be more than 10 degrees colder than the produce. If you are washing refrigerated produce, use cold water. Fresh fruits and vegetables needing refrigeration can be stored below 41° F. Those that are safe to store at room temperature (onions, potatoes, whole, uncut tomatoes) should be in a cool, dry, pest-free, well-ventilated area separate from household chemicals.