North Carolina Master Gardeners Blaze a Virtual Trail

June 5th, 2015 by Connie Schultz
Harold Johnson, show host, behind the mic at WCOM 103.7 FM  (Photo: Lise Jenkins, EMGV in Durham County)

Harold Johnson, show host, behind the mic at WCOM 103.7 FM (Photo: Lise Jenkins, EMGV in Durham County)


One year ago this month, NC State Extension Master Gardeners in Durham County created a radio show. In developing their concept, the production team discovered that their show is the first in the country to be produced solely by Master Gardener volunteers.  Michelle Wallace, Durham County Horticulture Agent, supervises the show but all of the recording, audio engineering, photography, website management, social media, and promotion is done entirely by her Master Gardeners.  “We have an amazing group of volunteers in our county and they are always looking for new ways to teach people about gardening,” said Wallace.

Find Us on iTunes!

In January, the show expanded their format to include weekly podcasts of their episodes.  “We are thrilled people can now find our stories on  iTunes,” said Lise Jenkins, the show’s producer.  Podcasting allows listeners to subscribe to the show and receive automatic updates that can be heard on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Podcasts Reach More People

While the show began in Durham County, surrounding counties are beginning to participate with agents and Master Gardeners being interviewed and serving as correspondents.  Lucy Bradley, Associate Professor of Horticulture and Urban Horticulture Extension Specialist at NC State University, aspires to involve the whole state:  “We have Master Gardeners all over North Carolina who are enthusiastic educators and want to help their communities.  Using radio and podcasting is another way to reach out to the people of our state.”

Community Radio Stations

Initially carried on WCOM 103.5 FM in Carrboro, the show can now also be found on WDFC 101.7 FM in Greensboro.  “We would like to continue to expand our reach by working with more community radio stations,” said producer, Lise Jenkins. “Our show being done entirely by volunteers is very much in synch with the mission of community radio stations,” she continued.

Where Horticulture and Innovation Meet

The show focuses on stories about the intersection of horticulture and innovation and the people who are leading the way. “One of the reasons I like working on the show is it gives me an opportunity to meet and interview people who are contributing to the public’s education and enjoyment of gardens and gardening,” said Harold Johnson, the show’s host.

The Mission of Extension

Carrying forward the mission of Extension means the show covers a lot of territory.  Master Gardener correspondents have interviewed scientists, a New York Times best selling author, artists, homeowners, farmers, business owners, Extension agents, amateur and professional gardeners, and others. It also means the volunteers working on the show have had to learn how to master several different technologies. In addition to the regular radio broadcasts, the show has a website, a podcast feed which can be found on iTunes, a Twitter account, and most recently a Facebook page.

Six Month Project

“A year ago we decided to do a 6-month pilot project to see if a radio show could help us reach others in our community.  We were surprised at the response,” said agent Michelle Wallace.  She continued, “Every month our numbers keep growing.  But what’s most exciting is the involvement of people from other counties.  We are really starting to tap into the power of Extension and work together to help people all over our state.”

 Hear the Latest Episode

To hear the latest episode, visit Getting Dirty with Master Gardeners .


Submitted by Lise Jenkins, Getting Dirty with Master Gardener’s Producer, Extension Master Gardener (NC State 2011) volunteering in Durham County, NC

New EMG Group to Help Share Good Reads

May 1st, 2015 by Terri James

good reads picReally good books are hard to find, especially with the growing volume of new titles related to gardening and the environment. Master Gardeners are invited to Master Gardener Goodreads, a place to find, recommend and comment on books about horticulture, natural resources and sustainability. It costs nothing, and you can just browse, or write as much or as little as you like. You can even start a discussion about a title or author.


If you are not already familiar with, it’s a great place to keep track of the books you’ve read, or hope to read. The Master Gardener Goodreads group will contain reviews written by Master Gardeners on books of interest to gardeners as well as anyone interested in environmental topics. Before you borrow or buy another book, check out the new GoodReads Master Gardener Group.

Wordless Wednesday – Year of Soil (Soil Test)

April 15th, 2015 by Terri James

Terri James – Nebraska Extension Horticulturist

A microcosm of microbes underfoot

April 10th, 2015 by John Porter

As we celebrate the International Year of Soils, we have to discuss the fact that soil is not just the mineral and organic matter (and air and soil) that we see.  Soil, well at least good soil, is a live and well, filled with all kinds of fauna.  There’s a huge microcosm of life underfoot, namely fungi and bacteria that have evolved over millions of years to live symbiotically with plants.  These microorganisms are necessary to sustain life on the planet- without them organic matter wouldn’t decompose to feed plants.

Rhizobia nodules on a legume root.

One specific set of bacteria live symbiotically with legumes by forming nodules on the legume’s roots.  These Rhizobia benefit from the plant, but also fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia that the plant can use.  Its a relationship that has developed over millions of years.  It can be a beneficial one for gardeners who want to add nutrients to the soil.

Read more about these bacteria in an article from blog contributor John Porter.



Contributor John Porter is an agriculture extension agent with West Virginia University Extension in Charleston, WV.  He writes a local weekly garden column called “The Garden Guru.”  You can find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Wordless Wednesday – Year of Soils

April 8th, 2015 by Terri James

Terri James, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

ALmost Wordless Wednesday: The Earth Laughs…

March 25th, 2015 by Lois Versaw

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Below are just a few of the favorite blooms from gardeners across the country…  The return of spring and nearing arrival of the growing season is cause for much rejoice and laughter.


Climbing Pink Camellia courtesy of Judith Fuselier-Phillips

H.F. Young Clematis courtesy of Cheryl Day Lansdale

Peach Meringue Brugmansia courtesy of Jake Ouellete

Purple Iris courtesy of Judith Fuselier-Phillips

Amethyst Epiphyllum courtesy of Jake Ouellette


Magnolia courtesy of Angela Blue

Gerbera Daisy courtesy of Dorene Lee Harvey

Blood Lily Courtesy of Jan McMahon

Columbine courtesy of Sheila Gilliam-Landreth

Amaryllis courtesy of Eileen Hayzlett


Amaryllis courtesy of Cheryl Day Lansdale

Blooming Nectarine Tree courtesy of Terri Upchurch

Clematis courtesy of Briana Belden

Crocus courtesy of Lois Versaw

Dr. Ruppel Clematis courtesy of Jake Ouelette


 *The above images were shared with this blogger by members of the Facebook community

“The Self-Sustaining Seed Swappers”.



Tips and Tricks of Yesteryear Gardening

March 23rd, 2015 by Lois Versaw
Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Every gardener worth his or her salt probably has a few tried (if not true) gardening tips and tricks up their sleeve, passed down from a family member or learned over time… Perhaps something they read years ago, an old wives’ tale someone thought worthy of re-telling, or advice from an old neighbor.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of


Legend and Lore…

Modern science and the increased study of horticulture, botany and entomology have proven most of these proverbial gardening words of wisdom false. A few of these lessons passed from one green thumb to another do have some scientific merit, practical purpose and sound reasoning, though… Gardeners tend to their gardens in the manner that works for them, and would not so readily share instruction with others if such was not the case.

A few sage tips have proven effective over time and continue to be practiced by the seasoned gardener, but perhaps are not yet known to the newbie. Others have faded into gardening myth and legend. It is not recommended to try any of these tips without first researching each and do note that what may be good for one plant could be bad for another.


Pinterest has Nothing on the Past…!

Interesting gardening tidbits told over-and-over again include pouring a ring of gravel around bulbs when planting to discourage moles and other bulb-lovers from eating them, and placing pinecones in flower beds to deter cats from digging (a Pinterest modern-day take on this utilizes plastic forks instead of pinecones).

Violets are said to bloom longer and more luxuriously if rusty nails are added to nearby soil. Old pennies (newer pennies are not made from copper) in the garden will keep slugs away.  Slate in the soil will grow your hydrangeas blue. Broken terra-cotta pots in the soil are believed to be good for azaleas.

Gardeners have long been saving eggshells, coffee grounds, banana peels, and other kitchen scraps to add to their gardens.  Epson salt added to tomatoes and peppers will make them flourish. Ashes, banana peels, and teabag residue around roses is thought to nourish them.  Wood ash around fruit trees in the fall and winter will result in sweeter fruit, and wood ash or lime around lilacs will increase bloom. Pickle juice is good poured around gardenias, ferns, and cleyera. Beer has been used to trap and drown slugs and/or added to the soil around hollyhocks to promote growth.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of


Polyculture by Common Practice…

Forefathers of today’s “Companion Planting” include dill near tomatoes to discourage worms and radishes or spearmint near squash, acting as a natural insecticide. Growing alium and garlic chives near roses deter japanese beetles, and french marigolds in the garden keep bad bugs at bay.

Other gardeners advise to leave a few carrots overwintering in the ground so that they bloom the following spring. Carrot blooms resemble Queen Anne’s Lace and attract beneficial insects to the garden.


Planting by the Moon and Getting that Garden Started…

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

And as for gardening lore regarding the actual planting of a garden…?  Some say to plant food-bearing plants when the moon is waxing (increasing to a full moon) and ornamentals when the moon is waning (decreasing). Willow water or Aspirin is heralded as helpers for rooting starts, and cinnamon or chamomile tea and water sprayed on seedlings may deter damping off disease. Soaked cigarette tobacco in water (five cigarettes to a gallon of water) is reported to kill fungus and slugs on all non-food plants, and baking soda spray (one to five tablespoons per quart of water) is used as a fungal control.

And finally, an old saying reminds that when planting trees and shrubs; “The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps.”

ALmost Wordless Wednesday: Spring!

March 18th, 2015 by Lois Versaw

This ALmost Wordless Wednesday brings us only two days away from spring!  A time of rebirth and reawakenings, and a time when all that planning and dreaming can start to take real form in the garden.

"No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow." ~ Proverb

“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.” ~ Proverb



One of the very first blooms of the season, the Crocus traditionally symbolizes cheerfulness and gladness, and brings both early to the garden; heralding the arrival of the growing season and of spring.


A Visit to ‘Seed Savers Exchange-Heritage Farm’

March 16th, 2015 by Lois Versaw

After work on Friday, September 26th, 2014 I drove 6.5 hours to Decorah, Iowa so that I could attend the ‘Seed Savers Exchange’ Fall Harvest School.  It was a long drive, but very well worth it.  The one-day workshop promised lessons on seed saving, fall gardening, canning, and fermentation.

Seed Savers' Heritage Farm

Seed Savers’ Heritage Farm

         A Beautiful Drive

Lilliam Goodman Visitors' Center

Lilliam Goodman Visitors’ Center

Unfortunately darkness had descended so I was unable to fully appreciate the scenery of my drive, nor did I get to enjoy the transition from the flat plains of southeast Nebraska to the glorious rolling hills and gentle mountains that awaited near Minnesota.

Starfire Signet Marigolds

Beautiful Orange Blossoms

Beautiful Orange Blossoms

Teaching Garden at Heritage Farm

Teaching Garden at Heritage Farm

Heaven on Earth

‘Heritage Farm’ is beyond beautiful and is the headquarters of ‘Seed Savers Exchange’. Located six miles north of Decorah, Iowa, the farm sits on 890 acres and boasts itself (according to the website) a “living museum of historic varieties”.  Thousands of heirlooms are grown organically on-site in the Preservation Gardens along with a Historic Orchard home to many near-extinct apple and grape varieties.  The farm is one of only two locations in North America where Ancient White Park Cattle may be seen.  Surrounded by stately cliffs and enormous pines, the rustic red barn and accompanying gardens looks a lot like paradise.

A Full Day of Lessons  

The Fall Workshop started bright and early with visitors from all over crowded in and around the ‘Lillian Goldman Visitors Center’.  Attendees were divided into smaller groups and the day’s schedule was broken down accordingly.

The first class I attended was on fermentation, a subject I knew absolutely nothing about.  The lecturing nutritionist shared recipes for homemade coleslaw, fermented beet juice, and many tips and tricks.

The second class was on seed saving.  Attendees were taken to the nearby teaching gardens, where we were instructed on how to harvest, save, and store seeds from beans, peas, melon, squash, and tomatoes.  We were given free-reign of the teaching gardens and allowed to harvest some seeds at-will.  Despite the gardening season obviously winding down and winter soon approaching, the teaching gardens were still gorgeous and I was exposed to so many new varieties of both flower and vegetable that I had never seen nor heard of before.  I went home with a few Radish and Dill seeds, some yellow Drumstick, Hungarian Blue Breadseed Poppy, and gorgeous burgundy Amaranth seeds, which can be enjoyed as both a cereal grain and as a garden ornamental.

Following lunch were classes on canning/food preservation and preparing the fall garden for the following spring.  Visitors saw demonstrations of proper bed clean-up and division of perennials, and discussed the use of nutrient-enriching cover crops.

Seed Shopping!!!  



Following the classes, this blogger lingered to talk with fellow attendees and like-minded gardeners, and patronized the ‘Visitors Center’ where all 2014 seed packets were on sale.  I somewhat maintained restraint and stuck to my shopping list, but did allow for several added varieties (They were on sale!) that I had fallen in love with on-site, which were displayed in the gardens.  I could not leave without having purchased seeds for the brilliant, tall ‘Purple Verbena’ that I had seen covered by masses of butterflies, nor could I leave without the ‘Black-Eyed Susan Vine’ and the prolific ‘Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden Gate’, which will add an abundance of charm and cheery pink color to my front flower garden this coming season.

This blogger urges anyone able to visit the ‘Seed Savers Exchange-Heritage Farm’ to do so.  I left awed by the majestic beauty, inspired by the bountiful gardens, and determined to practice the art of seed saving as I was taught on that day.

Glorious Trees at Seed Savers


Please visit to learn more!

ALmost Wordless Wednesday: National Pi Day!

March 11th, 2015 by Lois Versaw

Today, on National Pi Day (The day honoring a number which seems to go on forever) let us enjoy the infinite and timeless beauty found at Seed Savers’ Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa.

Pi has been been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point… a number so large that most cannot conceive its enormity.

Seed Savers’ Heritage Farm

Seed Savers and other like-minded organizations work diligently to promote and preserve heirloom seeds and to prevent the inconceivable loss of centuries of plant genetics and gardening heritage.

Grandpa Ott's Morning Glories in full glory

Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glories

The birds and the bees love these beautiful blooms!

The birds and the bees love these beautiful blooms!

Dramatic yellow blooms of the Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Morning Glories growing against the Barn