sustainability

Ask UConn Extension

food, health and sustainability venn diagramDo you have questions about food, health, or sustainability topics? Ask UConn Extension. Extension educators are working in every town and city in Connecticut to bring the research of UConn to our communities.

UConn Extension is on a collaborative journey. We co-create knowledge with farmers, families, communities, and businesses. We educate. We convene groups to help solve problems. Connecticut is a small, diverse state with urban and rural spaces. We understand that because we live and work here. Extension educators are ready to connect you with our knowledge and help you to improve your community.

Do you have a garden and need help identifying why a plant is dying, or the insects that are eating your vegetables? Or maybe you want to start a garden, but have never planted one before? Our Extension Master Gardenervolunteers are at 9 locations statewide, including the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford.

We received this email from Gloria, a resident of Middletown who recently visited our Master Gardener office in Haddam: “Hi, Just, a note to thank you for taking the time and effort to find answers to my gardening questions. I am starting to try some of your suggestions. Thanks again. I really appreciate your help.” You can also email or Facebook message your questions to our trained volunteers.

Many of our programs work with land use and municipal officials, connecting them with the education and resources needed for their positions. Carol Noble is an Engineer from Bristol who has worked with our Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR)MS4 program.

“Thank you and the NEMO staff for the support provided for theMS4 program. 2017 was a busy year to complete the updated municipal Stormwater Management Plan (SMP), public notifications, submittals and follow-up tasks. The guidance for the submittal requirements and the review comments you provided on the Bristol SMP were extremely helpful. Also, the NEMO webinars provided valuable information and training. The NEMO website for CT MS4 Guide; the GIS Mapping, Control Measures summaries and educational materials have been and continue to be valuable resources for the Bristol MS4 program. Looking forward to your continued support for pollution prevention in CT,” says Carol.

The UConn 4-Hyouth development program serves over 16,000 youth across the state every year. Volunteer leaders are an integral part of the program’s success, and work with Extension educators in our eight county offices.

“By the 2014 4-H Fair I felt ready to impart my knowledge onto others. For the first time I was able to walk someone through all of the steps of an archer. I would always

Garret helping a younger 4-H member
Garret works with a younger 4-H member at the Middlesex-New Haven 4-H Fair. Photo: Kara Bonsack

begin by strapping an arm guard on them and showing them how to position their feet. Then I would go on to explain how to hold the bow, nock an arrow, and pull back the string. What surprised me was adults’ willingness to learn. Although towering over me, they politely listened while I taught them what to do, letting me know that my voice mattered,” says UConn 4-H member Garret Basiel of Middlesex County. Garret is a freshman at UConn in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.

“UConn: Thank you so much for all the time and effort put into having these classes for seniors. They have made a real difference in my life. Sincerely, Fran.” We received this letter from Fran, a Tolland County resident, after one of our recent classes with our Center for Learning In Retirement (UConn CLIR). CLIR offers meaningful and serious intellectual activities for adults from all walks of life, conducted in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. There are no academic requirements.

Extension has worked with farmers in Connecticut for over a century, and we continue to serve farmers in all sectors of agriculture, and at various experience levels. “As a new farmer, there are many things you don’t know that you don’t know. So, these programs encourage you to ask new questions you hadn’t previously thought of before and therefore to be better prepared for the growing season. Since many of the trainers are local, the content of the trainings is more relevant (versus online content) and it’s great that you can follow up with them after the training,” states Yoko Takemura of Assawaga Farm in Putnam, a participant in our Solid Ground Farmer Trainings.

Collaboration has been a cornerstone of Extension’s mission for more than a century. Our most effective programs are built upon collaborations with state and federal agencies, communities, volunteers and families. With these partners, Extension has created and expanded knowledge in the areas and disciplines we serve; food, health, and sustainability.

How can UConn Extension help you? Just ask. Our Extension educators work statewide and are based at 10 locations throughout the state. We have resources available to help solve problems in your community. Find an Extension educator or location on our website at http://extension.uconn.edu, email extension@uconn.edu, message us on Facebook, or call 860-486-9228 with your question.

Stormwater Research from Extension

stormwater running into a street drain

Our UConn Extension educators working in land use, and the environment have recently published two articles:

Extension Educators Mike Dietz and Chet Arnold have an article, Can Green Infrastructure Provide Both Water Quality and Flood Reduction Benefits?, in the May issue of the Journal of Sustainable Water in the Built Environment. You can read the article online at: http://s.uconn.edu/476

The UConn CLEAR NEMO team recently wrote an article on our State of LID in Connecticut study that was published in the Watershed Science Bulletin. The study looked at what is being required for stormwater management practices by Connecticut municipal land use plans and regulations. Much of the leg work for the study was carried out by our Extension intern a few years ago. The article can be read online at: http://s.uconn.edu/477.

Environmental Leadership Award Winners

Dave-Mike
Dave Dickson and Mike Dietz with their Environmental Leadership Awards.

The UConn Environmental Policy Advisory Council recently awarded their 2013-2016 Environmental Leadership Awards, and we are pleased to announce that UConn Extension educators were recognized.

The NEMO Rain Garden Outreach Team, consisting of Dave Dickson and Mike Dietz won the Team Award. Mike Dietz also won the Alumni award.

Luc Dang, a former intern with our Center for Land Use Education and Research was a runner up in the undergraduate category.

Jeremy Jelliffe, a graduate student with Extension Educator Boris Bravo-Ureta was a runner up in the graduate category.

Extension Educator Morty Ortega was a runner up in the faculty category.

Cameron Faustman and Jillian Ives from Academic Programs received a special recognition for their Huskies Ending Food Waste program. Congratulations to all of our award winners!

Sustainable Landscapes

low maintenance lawn-landscape bed-salsedoDr. Carl Salsedo, UConn Extension Educator for Sustainable and Environmental Horticulture has been encouraging Connecticut residents to practice sustainable landscapes for years. Salsedo encourages everyone to practice sustainable landscaping as Connecticut residents look towards spring and warmer weather.

 

“I’ve been gardening sustainably at home in Burlington since before it was trendy,” Salsedo notes. “I use native plants and reduce the maintenance and inputs including fertilizer and water. I had to adapt some of my plant choices to the garden site and different microclimates. My plants are all boilerplate – low maintenance conifers, perennials and broadleaf plants that are easy to grow and maintain.

 

Can you give some examples of native plants from your garden or that people should try?

Shrubs such as northern bayberry (Morella pensylvanica), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) require very little care.

 

Sustainability has an array of definitions. Salsedo has five main principles for maintaining a sustainable landscape:

 

– Develop a sustainable lawn that doesn’t rely on chemicals and nutritional additives. Weeds are okay.

– Use primarily native plants: alternatives to traditional choices.

– Foster a healthy environment utilizing drought tolerant and low maintenance grasses.

– A bio-diverse garden and landscape supports a wide variety of life.

– Recycle your leaves and grass clippings, use them as mulch or compost them in your gardens.

 

leaves as mulch-Salsedo“If you do only one thing at home, recycle your leaves and grass clippings,” Salsedo states. “I use as much as 100 yards of fallen leaves as mulch in my gardens.” Some of these leaves come from a local landscaper who augments my supply.

 

“Through my work with UConn Extension, we have many resources available for people interested in sustainable practices in suburban landscapes,” Salsedo adds. He teaches the class, Fundamentals of Horticulture 1100 at the UConn Greater Hartford Campus. Salsedo also has a series on Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) called Gardening with Nature and a companion website at www.cptv.org keyword gardening. This past year CPTV and the Connecticut Public Broadcasting media lab created an interactive i-book for the Gardening with Natureseries that can be accessed at: (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/gardening-with-nature/id679242172?mt=11 

 

What other resources are available or other upcoming programs are you working on?

I have fact sheets I’ve written and a lot of information is on the CPTV website. I give a lot of talks and am a member of the UConn Extension Connecticut School IPM Coalition team that works on sustainability issues on K-8 school grounds.

 

For more information about Sustainable Landscapes please contact Dr. Carl Salsedo at 860-570-9060 or carl.salsedo@uconn.edu

Be A Scientist for a Day

UConn Extension is hosting a large-scale statewide science project on May 8th

 

ext_top_p_289On May 8, 2014, UConn Extension is asking the public to join our faculty, staff, 4-H volunteers, and master gardeners in a vast science project across the state, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of UConn Extension. One hundred years ago on that date, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act to serve as a conduit for scientific advances in agriculture, nutrition, and natural resources from the nation’s public, land-grant universities to its farmers, youth, and communities.

“UConn Extension ties research to real life for Connecticut communities, citizens, and businesses,” said Mike O’Neill, Associate Dean and Associate Director of UConn Extension. “To celebrate the anniversary of Cooperative Extension, we are asking citizens to be scientists for a day so that all of us will better understand our natural, agricultural, and urban communities.”

“Our programs create practical, science-based tools and technologies to help solve complex problems,” O’Neill continues. “Extension provides outreach, knowledge, and expertise to the public in areas such as: economic viability, business and industry, community development, agriculture, and natural resources.”

Background:

To participate in the UConn Extension Celebration of Science and Service on May 8, people just need to answer any or all of the following three questions:

What do you do for your health?

UConn Extension knows that sometimes it isn’t motivation; it’s just finding the time. On May 8th – we challenge you to fifteen minutes of fitness. Go for a walk, run, bike ride, play basketball, or garden. Be creative. In our 4-H youth development program, healthy living is a holistic approach that addresses eating a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity, recognizing and directing emotions, and developing and maintaining positive social interactions.

Spend fifteen minutes on May 8th focusing on healthy living. Then fill out the form on our blog, or post your name, your town, and what you did on our Facebook page, email this information to extension@uconn.edu or call us with your results: 860-486-9228.

How do you conserve water?

Do you conserve water in your garden, landscape, household, or farm? UConn Extension encourages all residents to sign up for the 40 Gallon Challenge. Sign up today, and then fill out the form on our blog, or post your name, your town and how you plan to conserve water to our Facebook page, email this information to extension@uconn.edu, or call us: 860-486-9228.

“Connecticut is a water rich state,” O’Neill notes. “But drought conditions out west, population growth, and increasing water demands are adding stress to the water supply locally and nationally. Reducing water usage at home will also help homeowners keep more money in their wallets.”

barnum vegetablesWhere is food grown in your community?

Do you grow your own food or get homegrown food from a neighbor who gardens? Is there a community farm nearby, a farmer’s market or farm stand? This project encourages you to discover exactly where food is grown in your community, and at the same time contribute to a statewide understanding of how widespread local food production is throughout Connecticut.

Sign up for UConn Extension’s 10% Local Campaign and then fill out the form on our blog, or post your name, your town and how you plan to buy 10% local to our Facebook page, email the details to extension@uconn.edu, or call us: 860-486-9228.

UConn Extension will be tracking the results of our May 8th science project on our website, blog and Facebook page.

About UConn Extension

This year, during our 100th Anniversary, UConn Extension celebrates the millions of youth, adults, families, farmers, community leaders and others who engage in our learning opportunities designed to extend knowledge and change lives.  UConn Extension will continue to serve as the premier provider of educational services to all Connecticut residents outside of traditional classroom settings.

Dr. Carl Salsedo on the Search for Sustainability

Salsedo copyEver smell a tomato plant? Dr. Carl Salsedo did, and it changed his life. He was three at the time, visiting a greenhouse in Thomaston with his father. One whiff of that singular scent launched a lifetime love affair with plants, gardening, and the interwoven mysteries of the natural world. At six, Salsedo had his own garden. By age 12, he was working at Bristol Nurseries, the world’s epicenter for modern mums. It’s been onward and upward since then.

 

Not so long after he moved to his hilltop home in Burlington in 1977, he was gardening sustainably before it was even a recognized concept, exploring the warp and weft of nature’s networks. That meant, in the most simple terms, using mostly native plants while at the same time minimizing maintenance and inputs such as fertilizer, water, etc. One of the key elements was selecting plants adapted to his site and its varied microclimates. “The plants are all boilerplate,” he says. “Low maintenance, conifers, perennials and broadleaf stuff you can’t miss with. Easy.”

 

But just because it’s sustainable doesn’t mean it’s ugly. Salsedo’s garden has been open to visitors as part of the national Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program for nearly a decade.

 

Sustainability means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but Salsedo boiled the concept down to its essence by identifying what he believes are five basic tenets: development of a sustainable lawn (one that doesn’t rely on chemicals and nutritional additives and in which weeds are okay); use of native plants, not exclusively, but primarily; fostering a healthy environment; creating a biodiverse landscape, and practicing good ecology. “If you do one thing, recycle your leaves and your grass clippings,” he says. As much as 100 yards of fallen leaves are used as winter compost in Salsedo’s gardens.

 

It’s all about gardening with nature, which also happens to be the name of a CPTV series Salsedo hosted about a decade ago.

 

“What I advocate is stuff everybody can do,” he says. “It’s the democratization of the landscape.”

 

And Salsedo can do lots of advocating in his position as Extension Educator-Sustainable and Environmental Horticulture with UConn Extension. He is based in the Hartford County office and his responsibilities include developing sustainable landscaping programs and publications, and teaching the Fundamentals of Horticulture course at the West Hartford campus.

 

In addition, Salsedo completed a series for Connecticut Public Television entitled “Gardening with Nature,” that promoted sustainable practices within the suburban landscape. These vignettes are still broadcast throughout the year and the series has found a new home on the web and has been greatly expanded by Salsedo and Connecticut Public Television (available at www.cptv.org – keyword gardening).

 

Another of Salsedo’s most enduring research interests is exploring how people connect to nature through gardening and what makes us garden in the first place. He shared his findings in a book entitled “Gardening: Cultivating an Enduring Relationship with Nature” published in 2010.

 

Perhaps the seed of that interest was planted back when Salsedo was installing a swimming pool at his Burlington home. He hired a guy with an earth-moving excavator who, Salsedo says, happened to be a genius. Months later, Salsedo’s sloping hillside yard had been transformed into a staircase of terraced beds. The new topography just seemed to Salsedo a natural thing to do. He never wondered why. At least not until he visited his grandfather’s home on a tiny volcanic island not far from Sicily. There, all the land was terraced, the whole island. “So why did I terrace my hillsides?” he asks. Maybe it’s genetic.

 

And so too, there may be a genetic component to Salsedo’s desire to work in harmony with nature. If that’s the case, that desire may lie latent in all our genes, waiting to be rediscovered.

 

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of the Connecticut Horticultural Society newsletter.