Almost Wordless Wednesday: 2014 National Honey Bee Day

August 19th, 2014 by Connie Schultz

Theme: Sustainable Gardening Begins with Honey Bees

Last Saturday was National Honey Bee Day. I know we already had Pollinator Week and Moth Week but this day is solely for honey bees – and aren’t we glad because honey bees are the ONLY insects that make honey. So next time you stir honey into your tea – thank a little bee.

Bee laden with pollen (photo courtesy Honey Bee Haven)

Bee laden with pollen (photo courtesy Honey Bee Haven)

Bees are hard workers that have to visit 4.5 million flowers to collect enough nectar to make 16 oz. of honey. They travel 112,000 miles to do this. It truly is amazing! But bees need help. There aren’t as many flowers as there used to be.


Plant flowers for bees (photo from Pinterest, photo credit not known)

Plant flowers for bees (photo from Pinterest, photo credit not known)

Bees are such amazing creatures. What can you do to help draw attention to their plight? Get involved! Here’s a short list. Visit these organizations that support honey bees and other pollinators.

National Honey Bee Day:






Long live the Queen Bee! (photo courtesy Center for Honey Bee Research)

Long live the Queen Bee! (photo courtesy Center for Honey Bee Research)


For more information, you can also visit the EPA site to read the most recent update on the Colony Collapse Disorder. If I’ve over looked any group, please contact me below and let me know.  Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (Cornell Extension ’95) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC)

 UPDATE 8/25/2014

Dear Readers, I need to make a correction to my post as I’ve just learned that I may have spoken (or quoted) incorrectly when I said that honey bees are the ONLY insect to make honey. I had an interesting conversation with Amie Newsome, one of my county agents, who was telling me that bumble bees also make a “honey” – not quite the same in all resects as the honey bees.) In the bumble bee life cycle the workers die in the fall and only the queen survives by hibernating through the winter – so they don’t need to store honey to eat over the cold months. She will start a new underground colony again in the spring. The bumble bees collect nectar to feed their new hatchling bumble bees – but only a few ounces or enough for a few days. Bumble bee colonies are also smaller than bee hives with only 50 to 400 bumble bees per colony while honey bees may have as many as 40,000 so they have correspondingly larger stores of honey. For more information on the differences between honey bees and bumble bees, here’s a fun site for kids called BioKids from the University of Michigan and another site which focuses on bumble bees called Bumble Bee Conservation Trust.



Wordless Wednesday – The Beauty of Moths

July 23rd, 2014 by sylviah1


Geometer moth, Erateina sp.

Geometer moth, Erateina sp.


Green-banded Urania, Urania leilus

Green-banded Urania, Urania leilus


Lily moth, Polytela gloriosae

Lily moth, Polytela gloriosae


African Sunset moth, Chrysiridia rhipheus

African Sunset moth, Chrysiridia rhipheus


Scarlet-bodied wasp moth, Cosmosoma myrodora

Scarlet-bodied wasp moth, Cosmosoma myrodora


Snout moth, Pieralid sp.

Snout moth, Pieralid sp.


Crinum moth, Spodoptera picta

Crinum moth, Spodoptera picta


Brahmin moth, Brahmaea hearseyi

Brahmin moth, Brahmaea hearseyi


Idalus herois

Idalus herois


Zigzag White banded Noctuid, Donuca lanipes

Zigzag White banded Noctuid, Donuca lanipes

All photos found on Pinterest

Posted by Sylvia Hacker, Dona Ana Co. NM EMG




Celebrating the Beauty and Diversity of Moths Around the World

July 21st, 2014 by Connie Schultz


What is National Moth Week?

From Maine to Florida, California to Pennsylvania and in more than 25 countries around the world, citizen scientists will mark the third annual National Moth Week, July 19-27, with moth-watching events and educational programs focused on these amazing creatures so vital to the Earth’s environment and ecosystems.


Started in New Jersey in 2012, National Moth Week celebrates the beauty, life cycles, and habitats of moths, encouraging “moth-ers” of all ages and abilities to learn about, observe, and document moths in their backyards, parks, and neighborhoods.


Moth Sheet used for attracting and identifying moths. (Photo courtesy National Moth Week)

Having a moth-watching event is as easy as turning on a porch light at night and watching what happens, or going outside in daylight to find caterpillars and diurnal moths. (Photo courtesy National Moth Week)

 Global Citizen Science


National Moth Week (NMW) encourages children and adults to become “citizen scientists” and contribute photos and data to online databases. Last year, thousands of photos and pieces of data were submitted by participants. With events already registered in 49 states, the District of Columbia and 35 countries  National Moth Week is again aiming to top last year’s registration. Individuals, groups and organizations are invited to register events on the NMW website free of charge and have them posted on the NMW’s U.S. or international map. (All registrants receive a certificate of participation.) Public event locations this year include the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Philadelphia; North Cascades National Park, Washington State; Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Liberty, TX; Museum at Prairie Ridge, Raleigh, NC; Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St. Petersburg, FL; Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson; and Jefferson County Park, Fairfield, IA. All events are listed on the NMW website.  


A sheet and a bright light are all you need! (Photo courtesy National Moth Week)

Participants can use ordinary light bulbs, UV lights, or mercury vapor lights to draw moths, or brush sweet moth bait on tree barks for a bigger response. (Photo courtesy National Moth Week)

 2014 the Year of the Silk Moth


NMW 2014 is designated “the year of the silk moth,” to encourage moth-ers to look for and learn about these fascinating moths in the Saturniidae family. National Moth Week’s symbol, the Automeris io, is a colorful silk moth found in the U.S. and Canada. Silk moths are found throughout the world, but their populations recently have shown declines. Some of the largest and most visually striking moths in the world are silk moths. There are about 2,300 species of silk moths worldwide. For more information and photos of North American silk moths, visit the Saturniidae page of Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA), a partner of NMW. Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories such as BAMONA, Project Noah, Encyclopedia of Life, Discover Life, and iNaturalist, National Moth Week encourages participants to record moth distribution and to provide information on other aspects of their life cycles and habitats. Show us what you found? Post it on our Facebook page. Happy mothing!

Thank you to the National Moth Week and Liti Haramaty for sharing this information with us!   

Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC



National Moth Week 2014

July 19th, 2014 by Connie Schultz
National Moth Week 2014 logo

National Moth Week 2014


National Moth Week 2014 is “the year of the silk moth,” to encourage moth-ers to look for and learn about the fascinating members of the Saturniidae family. National Moth Week’s symbol, the Automeris io, is a colorful silk moth found in the U.S. and Canada.

Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories, National Moth Week participants can help map moth distribution and provide needed information on other life history aspects around the globe. Our partners include Project NoahEncyclopedia of Life, Discover Life, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Many partner websites are repositories for data and photos about moths and other organisms. For more information about National Moth Week, visit

Start your moth week off with these informative videos.




submitted by Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC


Almost Wordless Wednesday – National Moth Week 7/19-27

July 16th, 2014 by Connie Schultz

National Moth Week is coming up this week and 2014 is the Year of the Silk Moth. You can go to the National Moth Week site to sign up to participate in some citizen science or to publicize a mothing event. 

Why Moths?

  • Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
  • Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.
  • Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand.
  • Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen – others fly like butterflies during the day.


 Celebrate Moth Week!

Mothing Sheet (photo courtesy National Moth Week)

What can take the place of a child’s excitement at being out after dark with a flashlight? (photo courtesy National Moth Week)

This is”mothing” - an activity designed to help find and identify moths.

Submitted by Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC




Escape the Heat by Thinking Fall Gardening

July 15th, 2014 by John Porter

It seems as though the sweltering heat of summer has most of us all in a lazy, hazy fog. I know I certainly avoid being outside as much as I can when the thermometer tops 90 degrees. Just sitting outside in the shade can leave you a sticky, sweaty mess.

There’s one way to beat the sultry summer blues, though. Think ahead to fall! Believe it or not, now is the time to start planning and planting the fall vegetable garden.

I would say that a majority of gardeners in our area are the type that run out and plant everything in May, then harvest through summer, allowing the plants to hang on until they fall to some disease or finally succumb to frost. These gardeners are missing the bounty that comes with the fall garden.

Fall crops extend the harvest well after the heat of summer.

What and when to plant for fall
Some crops, like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts will thrive in the cooler weather of fall and even survive well beyond frost. Other plants like beans, squash, and tomatoes will do well in the fall, but won’t survive frost. Plants like tomatoes and squash that are planted specifically for fall will well outperform those that are left to languish from the spring planting.

Starting plants for the fall is also easier than starting them for the spring. Since the temperatures outside are warm, there’s no need to start plants indoors under light. You can simply start them in pots outside in a place where they are protected from heavy rain.

The first step is to check out the seed packet or the plant label for the maturity date. For example, I have a packet of ‘Mammoth Red Rock’ cabbage seeds that I want to start for the fall. The packet says that it matures in 90 days.

Now, here’s where the math comes in. We need to add some time for the period of harvest. Let’s say that I’m planting cabbage that I want to harvest over a two week period, so I’m going to add 14 days. Since plants grow more slowly in cooler temperatures, I also need to add another 14 days for what we will call the “fall factor”. If we were starting a warm season crop like tomatoes, we would also need to add another two weeks for the possibility of frost. When we add up the days to maturity, the harvest period, and fall factor, we get a total of 118 days, or about 16 weeks.

We then look at a calendar to schedule when to start our cabbage plants. We need to look at a calendar and count backwards from the date in which we think the plant will die from frost or we want to finish harvesting. Cool season crops like cabbage can withstand several frosts, so we can say that we want to finish growing them three or four weeks after the first frost in the fall (which for my area in West Virginia is October 10).  If it is something that is frost tender, then you definitely want to use the first frost date as a hard and fast date for calculations.  To find your first frost date, visit the NOAA National Climactic Data Center.

To get the most out of your fall garden, I would suggest that you plant small plots multiple times throughout the rest of the summer until the last feasible time to plant the crop. You can extend these calendar dates, and even over-winter cold tolerant crops like spinach, kale, and the Cole crops by using a row cover fabric.

Turn Your Zucchini or Summer Squash Into “Pasta”

July 9th, 2014 by sylviah1
Zucchini Spaghetti 2

Julienne slicer



Standard vegetable peeler



Large holed grater or microplane



Wide vegetable peeler



Serve uncooked as a salad….



… lightly sauteed and seasoned…



…or topped with your favorite pasta sauce.



Use your imagination!


Posted by Sylvia Hacker, Dona Ana Co. New Mexico EMG

Thomas Jefferson, plant collector extraordinaire

July 7th, 2014 by sylviah1
The view from the Monticello Garden © Britt Conley

The view from the Monticello Garden © Britt Conley

Never did a prisoner, released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power” -Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Like his predecessor George Washington, Jefferson had longed to care for his farm and garden. “My views and attentions are all turned homeward“, he wrote a fellow gardener. Finally on March 15th 1809, after serving 12 years as president and vice-president, Thomas Jefferson returned to his beloved Monticello.

Jefferson's written plans for the gardens at Monticello Drawings of the gardens, orchards and grove at Monticello, Albemarle County, Virginia, by Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to J. H. Freeman. Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

Jefferson’s written plans for the gardens at Monticello
Drawings of the gardens, orchards and grove at Monticello, Albemarle County, Virginia, by Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to J. H. Freeman. Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

I am constantly in my garden as exclusively employed out of doors as I was within doors when at Washington“. He was continually taking notes while supervising the activities on the plantation. These notes were eventually transferred to his Garden Book, a journal he kept from 1766-1824. His estate manager later recalled that Jefferson knew every plant in his garden and would instantly notice if a single tree had died or a specimen was missing. And specimens Jefferson had.

Vegetable Garden Pavillion (reconstructed in 1984) Image Credit: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Vegetable Garden Pavillion (reconstructed in 1984)
Image Credit: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation

There is not a sprig of grass the shoots uninteresting to me”. Plants representing the traditions of Europe, Colonial America, Native America, and Enslaved America filled the grounds.  The vegetable gardens, flower beds, shrubberies, orchards and groves contained plants collected either by Jefferson himself or by others at his request.  5 species of oak, 7 types of fir, 13 different roses, 7 varieties of cherries, 8 species of locust, 5 kinds of both magnolia and pines, and 150 varieties of fruit bearing plants are just a small fraction of the total.

Aerial of Monticello Mountain from the South (showing the West Lawn, Main House, Mulberry Row, Vegetable Garden Terrace, and South Orchard). Image Credit: Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Aerial of Monticello Mountain from the South (showing the West Lawn, Main House, Mulberry Row, Vegetable Garden Terrace, and South Orchard).
Image Credit: Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Lunaria still in bloom. An indifferent flower.                                                                                                 Mirabilis just opened. Very clever.                                                                                                                     Larger Poppy has vanished-Dwarf poppy still in bloom but on the decline.                                            Carnations in full life.                                                                                                                                            Argemone, one flower out”  - Notes from the Garden Book                                     Jefferson didn’t follow the usual pattern of collecting plants just for the sake of having them. He used Monticello as a laboratory, an early American experiment farm. He experimented with different growing methods and ran what are called field trials today, always observing, experimenting, and recording. He was searching for the best possible varieties, the most useful plants for American soils and climate.

The Northeast Vineyard Image credit: Thomas Jefferson Foundation/Skip Johns.

The Northeast Vineyard
Image credit: Thomas Jefferson Foundation/Skip Johns.

He categorized his vegetables into “Fruits”, “Leaves” and “Roots”, recorded sowing, transplanting and harvest dates, recorded weather patterns and temperature. He even measured the circumference of berries. It was a practical and patriotic undertaking. “One service of this kind rendered to a nation is worth more to them than all the victories of the most splendid pages of their history” 

The vegetable garden at sunset. Image by Peter J. Hatch

The vegetable garden at sunset.
Image by Peter J. Hatch

Planting is one of my great amusements, and even of those things which can only be for posterity, for a Septuagenary has no right to count on anything beyond annuals”  As Jefferson grew older, care of gardens and grounds was gradually taken over by other household members. When possible he would ride for hours around his beloved Monticello, often accompanied by a family member who would faithfully note his comments to be added to the Garden Book. His interest in gardening and plants continued until his death.

Frost on the garden Image by Carpe Feline

Frost on the garden
Image by Carpe Feline

I have often thought that if heaven had given me a choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden…I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”  Jefferson to Charles W. Peale, 1811


Portrait by Rembrandt Peale

Want to learn more?                                                                                                                                    Two excellent sources for information on Jefferson’s farming and gardening activities are the digital facsimiles of the manuscripts compiled by Jefferson throughout his lifetime, his Farm Book and his Garden Book. These documents, owned by the Massachusetts Historical Society, have been transcribed and the entire contents are keyword searchable along with excellent quality digital facsimiles of the manuscript pages.

Image Credit: Thomas Jefferson Foundation/Leonard Phillips

Image Credit: Thomas Jefferson Foundation/Leonard Phillips

Posted by Sylvia Hacker, Dona Ana Co. New Mexico EMG

George Washington, passionate farmer

July 4th, 2014 by sylviah1



Aerial view of Mt. Vernon from the Potomac River.

I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world”. — George Washington

There is no evidence that George Washington did any physical gardening himself at Mount Vernon, but his influence on activities was apparent. His designs determined what plants were included and how the gardens appeared. Washington was directly involved in the development and redesigning of the gardens around the mansion.


Mt. Vernon kitchen garden

Bad seed is a robbery of the worst kind: for your pocketbook not only suffers by it, but your preparations are lost and a season passes away unimproved”                                             -George Washington


A glimpse of the mansion from the kitchen garden.

Washington cared about the style and type of plants in his gardens and closely supervised all plantings at Mount Vernon.


Mansion in the background.

It will not be doubted, that with reference either to individual, or National Welfare, Agriculture is of primary importance. In proportion as Nations advance in population, and other circumstances of maturity, this truth becomes more apparent; and renders the cultivation of the Soil more and more, an object of public patronage.”

George Washington, Eighth Annual Message to Congress, 1796


Greenhouse roof in the background.

Every improvement in husbandry should be gratefully received and peculiarly fostered in this Country, not only as promoting the interests and lessening the labour of the farmer, but as advancing our respectability in a national point of view; for in the present State of America, our welfare and prosperity depend upon the cultivation of our lands and turning the produce of them to the best advantage.

George Washington  (Letter to Samuel Chamberlain, April 3, 178?)


View from the greenhouse roof.

Nothing in my opinion would contribute more to the welfare of these States, than the proper management of our lands; and nothing, in this State particularly, seems to be less understood. The present mode of cropping practiced among us, is destructive to landed property; and must, if persisted in much longer ultimately ruin the holders of it. “
George Washington
(Letter to William Drayton, March 25, 1786)

He was a very progressive farmer and experimented with new ideas and plants. He was a firm believer in maintaining soil health and applied compost to his fields and gardens. This process was called “manuring”.

Mt. Vernon compost shed

The compost shed at Mt. Vernon

“When I speak of a knowing farmer, I mean one who understands the best course of crops; how to plough, to sow, to mow, to hedge, to Ditch and above all, Midas like, one who can convert everything he touches into manure, as the first transmutation towards Gold; in a word one who can bring worn out and gullied lands into good tilth in the shortest time.
George Washington (Letter to George William Fairfax, June 30, 1785)


The back of the Mt. Vernon greenhouse showing one of the boxwood knot gardens. Potted plants were brought into the greenhouse to overwinter, the tall windows letting in enough light for them to survive.
The greenhouse also had a fireplace to supply additional heat. The heated air was ducted through flues and channeled under the floor. This was considered quite the innovation over the older method of ducting the hot air through walls and under windows.


The Mt. Vernon greenhouse

I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman’s cares.

George Washington, letter, Jul. 20, 1794

Happy Independence Day everyone!


Posted by Sylvia Hacker, Dona Ana Co. New Mexico MG

John Bartram, America’s Founding Plant Nerd

July 1st, 2014 by sylviah1


“How many gentle flowers grow in an English country garden?
I’ll tell you now of some that I know and those I’ll miss I hope you’ll pardon…”

These are opening words to the delightful tune “English Country Garden” which praises the variety of flora and fauna in an English garden. But did you know that the classic English garden has its roots in America? Without American plants the English garden as we know it today would never have existed.

It’s true!

Let’s set the clock back to 1733 where we see Mr. John Bartram of Pennsylvania sending two boxes of seeds to his London friend, Mr. Peter Collinson. (Mr. Collinson supports his personal gardening and plant collecting addiction by selling cloth.) Over the next 40 years Mr. Bartram will send hundreds of these seed boxes to Mr. Collinson. These are the seeds which will transform English gardens.

Howard Pyle's illustration of John Bartram shows the famed botanist in a marsh holding a plant which he's studying with the aid of a magnifying glass. Ca. 1879 Taken from the February 1880 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine. No contemporary painting of John Bartram exists.

Howard Pyle’s 1879 illustration of John Bartram. 
No contemporary painting of John Bartram exists.

John Bartram (1699-1777) lived on a farm outside of Philadelphia and every fall he would go plant collecting. His wanderings eventually took him from Lake Ontario to Florida in search of new plant species for himself and Mr Collinson. Each winter dozens of seed boxes made the trip across the Atlantic to London where Mr. Collinson and his English gardening friends eagerly awaited their arrival.


“…the Botanick fire set me in such A flame as is not to be quenched untill death or I explore most of the South western vegitative treasures in No. America.” John Bartram, 1761.

For the first time English gardeners had a huge choice of plants which would provide year-round beauty in their gardens. With Winter blooming shrubs, blazing Fall foliage and a successive parade of blooms in the Spring and Summer, many an English gardener’s dreams were beginning to come true.  By the end of the 1800′s England had become a nation of gardeners.

Mr. Bartram’s trees and flowers laid the foundations for the English garden and by the time of his death his American plants were available across Britain. The English gardening style was widely copied across Europe. “Le jardin anglais”, “il giardino inglese” and “der Englische garten” were all recreations of an English garden filled with American plants.


In the late 1700′s garden touring became popular, so much so that in 1786 Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went on a tour of English gardens. Mr. Jefferson soon realized that the beautiful gardens they were seeing were more American than English. He said to recreate the look in America, “we have only to cut out the superabundant plants”. With many of our early leaders like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and others setting the example, Americans soon turned into plant collectors.


Colonial Williamsburg garden

John Bartram’s garden is the oldest surviving botanical garden in North America. It’s near Philadelphia, PA and is located on the west bank of the Schuylkill River. It covers 46 acres which include an historic botanical garden and an 8 acre arboretum which was established in 1728. Three generations of the Bartram family have continued the garden as the premier collection of North American plant species in the world. The current collection contains a wide variety of herbaceous and woody plants. Most were listed in the Bartrams’ 1783 Catalogue of American Trees, Shrubs and Herbacious Plants and subsequent editions.

BartramsGarden2 Image

If you’re in the area, plan to see the the American birthplace of the English garden!

For more info: Bartram’s Garden

Posted by Sylvia Hacker, Dona Ana Co. New Mexico Master Gardener