ALmost Wordless Wednesday: Cyclamen for the Holidays

December 17th, 2014 by Connie Schultz

Just as poinsettias are a staple for holiday decorating, cyclamen are also a popular floral gift during the holidays. While we may be more familiar with them as a potted plant, they’re also a beautiful and hardy outdoor plant. For more information on growing cyclamen try Clemson University’s informational PDF.

 

Holiday Cyclamen (photo by Connie Schultz)

Holiday Cyclamen (photo by Connie Schultz)

 

Cyclamen blooming outdoors (Photo by Connie Schultz)

Cyclamen blooming outdoors (Photo by Connie Schultz)

 

Beautifully patterned Cyclamen leaves (Photo by Connie Schultz)

Beautifully patterned Cyclamen leaves (Photo by Connie Schultz)

 

Cyclamen persicum tuber (Photo by  Millie Davenport, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension)

Cyclamen persicum tuber showing new growth. (Photo by Millie Davenport, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension)

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

2013 Search for Excellence Award First Place – Special Needs Audience

December 7th, 2014 by Terri James

“My Little Green Friends” Horticultural Therapy Program at Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota

The “My Little Green Friends” program is in its 27th year of partnering with Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. The program serves hospital patients–generally between the ages of 3 and 20–plus parents, siblings and visiting friends.

Proud Patient in the 'My Little Green Friends Program'

Proud Patient in the ‘My Little Green Friends Program’

Horticultural projects are usually conducted with children on a one-to-one basis in the patient’s room or playroom. There are approximately 35 projects in all, each documented with an activity plan that includes the project purpose, materials needed, and activity procedure, thus assuring consistency among different Master Gardener volunteers, and from year-to-year. A project typically takes 10-15 minutes to complete. Separate projects are designed for children who cannot be exposed to soil.

 

 

 

 

Project examples and learning outcomes include:

  • Houseplant Zoo Various plants with names that suggest an animal (for example, Elephant Bush, Portulacaria afra) are planted and the child chooses a small plastic animal as “protector;” learning about general care of indoor plants.
  • Bulb Garden Daffodil bulbs are planted on a bed of pebbles, learning how bulbs grow and the role of soil in plant growth.
  • Autumn Leaves Making a collage of colorful autumn leaves, learning where leaf color comes from.

Each Master Gardener volunteer must complete the hospital’s volunteer training program on patient interaction, safety and confidentiality. One or two Master Gardeners at a time conduct the projects, twice a week, year round, including holidays.

The goals of the program are twofold: First, provide an enjoyable activity that brightens the atmosphere of what can be a tedious, fearful and painful experience, while giving children a sense of accomplishment. Second, introduce children to plants and plant care in a fun way, laying the foundation for a long-term appreciation for and enjoyment of horticulture.

The project has shown to have a significant impact on patients’ in-hospital emotional well–being. A more concrete measure of the project’s impact is that the hospital has built a rooftop garden for patient relaxation and therapy. Funding is underway for the second phase of the project, including an on-site greenhouse to provide plants for the horticultural therapy program.

Written by: Tom Guettler, Ramsey County Master Gardener Program, University of Minnesota Extension

Almost Wordless Wednesday: World Soil Day, December 5th, 2014

December 3rd, 2014 by Connie Schultz

On December 20, 2013, the 68th UN General Assembly recognized December 5th, 2014 as World Soil Day and 2015 as the International Year of Soils.  This official recognition emphasizes the importance of soils beyond the soil science community.

The Global Soil Partnership will promote the year long emphasis on International Year of Soils 2015. Their goal is to “make IYS 2015 a memorable year for demonstrating that soils are essential to food security, hunger eradication, climate change adaptation, poverty reduction, sustainable development” and carbon sequestration. Enjoy this official Year of Soils video.

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

2014 CenUSA Bioenergy Project

December 2nd, 2014 by Seth Behrens

Fond du Lac Community Master Gardeners contribute to CenUSA biochar research and teach kids about growing food, too. 

Welcome back for more of our ongoing coverage of how University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners have been helping to support biochar research as part of the CenUSA Bioenergy project. For our last blog post, Extension Master Gardener Meleah Maynard talked with volunteers at Minnesota’s three CenUSA biochar test sites in the Twin Cities metro area: at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus and in Andover at the Extension County and Regional Center, about their experiences working on the project.

This time, you’ll hear what Extension Master Gardener volunteers working on the Fond du Lac tribal community demonstration garden at the Brookston Community Center in Cloquet had to say when Meleah visited last month. To learn more about things like what biochar is and how the test sites were chosen and planted, check out past blog posts written by Extension Master Gardener Lynne Hagen, the project manager for the biochar demonstration gardens in Minnesota. Read on to find out how things are going at the Fond du Lac biochar demonstration garden.

A Community Garden

October 2014

While the Fond du Lac demonstration garden shares the same layout, plants and mission as the three other Minnesota sites, it is different. Instead of being on a campus or other site with ties to the University, it is tucked next to a community center where it can easily be viewed by people of all ages anytime.

Better still, because of its location, children who visit the community center have been able to learn about gardening from Master Gardener volunteers, and find out more about where food comes from in the process. The kids also like eating the vegetables once they’ve been harvested and weighed. Master Gardeners make sure the kids eat only from the control plot that contains no biochar since the soil amendment is still being tested.

Dawn Newman, a Master Gardener and the Fond du Lac site mentor, says the biochar research project has been a positive way to foster a connection between the community and the University. Currently the American Indian Community Vitality Educator for Extension, Newman is an enrolled Ho-Chunk member from Wisconsin and has worked with the Fond du Lac community for years in various roles.

“It takes a long time to build relationships in Indian Country,” she says. “Historically, research has been done on Native Americans without their knowledge and not with true partnership in mind. This project is giving the community a chance to do real research as well as helping to foster healthier eating habits.” Julie Weisenhorn, an associate extension professor in horticulture and Master Gardener who has helped coordinate efforts at the site, agrees.

“Using gardening as a mean of collaboration is a great, fun way to bring the Fond du Lac community and the University together on a project,” she says. “We’ve talked a lot about how to meet community needs while also meeting the needs of Extension education because having a real partnership is so critical.”

Digging In

Newman is one of six Master Gardeners on the Fond du Lac reservation. She started the group four years ago after approaching Weisenhorn, then state program director, with the idea of starting their own community-based group rather than joining the county group. “I explained that we are a sovereign nation so we should be recognized as our own ‘county’,” Newman recalls. Weisenhorn had been looking for the opportunity to pilot a community-based Master Gardener group, so she jumped at the chance to work with Newman on this new way to organize volunteers. Newman and the other five women who wanted to become Master Gardeners took the core course together. Once they completed their volunteer hours, they jumped into projects centered around the Fond du Lac Reservation with Brookston Community Center, one of three centers operated by the Band, being the main volunteer site.

Weisenhorn asked the new Fond du Lac volunteers to become the fourth Minnesota biochar site. Once a sunny site in front of the Center was chosen, the biochar demonstration garden was prepared and planted in 2013, the second year of the research project. At first, the plants seemed to be doing well—or at least as well as expected in the sandy soil the site had to offer. “Plants were small, but the garden looked beautiful,” Master Gardener Danielle Diver remembers. One thing that was obvious, she says, was that the test plot with the most biochar added seemed to be retaining water better than the other two plots.

Soon, though, the deer moved in and started eating the plants to the point where they needed to put up a fence. But as soon as posts started going in, they hit something hard about a foot below the soil. “It was a cement slab,” Newman recalls, “and we found out we were growing a garden where a house used to be.” So Bryan Bosto, the director of the Brookston Community Center, along with Weisenhorn, Newman, Diver and other volunteers, decided to replant in a different location the following spring.

Getting Kids Involved

Planting Day June 10, 2014

Planting Day June 10, 2014

With help from Weisenhorn, who drove up this spring with all the needed plants and supplies to start again, the group tilled and planted a new demonstration garden, this time next to the Center’s playground.

Though the move put them further behind other sites in terms of data collection, the garden was now much more visible to the kids, many of whom were already participating in the Junior Master Gardener program that Newman and the others had started a couple of years earlier. “It’s a great location for a garden, really quite beautiful,” Weisenhorn says. “I’m so proud of these gardeners and their determination to see this project through.”

Diver, who is also the garden program coordinator at the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School, enjoys working with the kids in the garden. “They help us weed and water, especially early in the season,” she says. “You think they’re not really paying attention when you talk about the plants, but then they’ll ask a question that lets you know they were listening.”

Inspired by the children’s interest in the ripening vegetables in the demonstration garden, Diver and the other Master Gardeners added Food of the Week to their Junior Master Gardener lineup. Each week, kids work together with the Master Gardeners to prepare a dish using fresh vegetables.

Salsa was a big hit recently, even with those who said they don’t like tomatoes. “The impact we’re having doesn’t always show immediately, but when you see the kids in January and they say, ‘Hey, when is Garden Club (the kids’ name for the Junior Master Gardener program) going to start up again?’ you know they’re missing it and they clearly enjoy it,” Diver says.

Gathering Data

October 2014

October 2014

This will be the first full season of data collection at the Fond du Lac demonstration gardens and as with the other three Minnesota sites, there have been some challenges learning how to measure growth and track observations. But overall, the Fond du Lac Master Gardeners are feeling good about their work on the project and are looking forward to participating again next year.

“Seeing how the plants and soil have responded to biochar has been exciting and it’s nice to see that there is an amendment that might work,” says Nikki Crowe, a Master Gardener who also coordinates the Thirteen Moons Program,

October 2014

October 2014

which helps strengthen connections between Fond du Lac Band members and the surrounding community with Ojibwe culture and natural resources.

While the kids aren’t involved in the data collection process at the garden, they have helped out with planting and harvesting, and they’re also asked for their opinions on how things are doing in each of the three test plots. “We like to have them make their own observations on which plot is doing better or which vegetables they think look healthier or larger, and they really like that,” says Master Gardener Shannon Judd, who is also the environmental education and outreach coordinator for the Fond du Lac reservation.

Like Crowe, Judd is enjoying working on the project because it’s been interesting and exciting to be involved with a research endeavor of this magnitude from the start. In July, Judd and Newman, along with 30 other University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners involved in the research at other sites, attended the annual CenUSA conference held at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The meeting’s focus was on the Extension objective of the grant, and Weisenhorn was glad they were able to attend. “The CenUSA attendees recognized the volunteers at the meeting and applauded their important contribution to the project,” she recalls.

Judd is hopeful that the research results will make a meaningful difference for home gardeners, including those facing tough soil conditions like they have on the reservation. “Seeing all of the things that biochar may be useful for has been really motivating,” she says. “Anything that can be done to help people grow food more easily, especially around here, would be great.”

Note: CenUSA Bioenergy is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30411 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Master Gardeners grow cranberries “the size of quarters” in home garden

November 24th, 2014 by John Porter
A bounty of  cranberries from the home garden.  Photo courtesy Susan Maslowski

A bounty of cranberries from the home garden. Photo courtesy Susan Maslowski

Cranberry salad … cranberry sauce … cranberry relish … cranberry juice … cranberry cocktails — aah, the holidays are upon us.

There are many ways to enjoy this tart native fruit during the holidays and the whole year-round that don’t include cutting off a slice from a jiggling cylinder of cranberry goo.

You can even grow your own cranberries at home, no bog required!

Vaccinium macrocarpon is the native species of cranberry in North America, and is also the one commercially grown here in the United States.

It is in the same genus as the highly regarded blueberry, the oft-reminisced huckleberry, and the lingonberry, which is famous in Scandinavian circles. It’s even related to something called a sparkleberry, which sounds like it would be grown by someone who likes glitter just a little too much.

Cranberries in cooperation

In 1930, the commercial success of cranberries changed course when three competing companies formed a cooperative called Cranberry Canners Inc. While you might have never heard of that company, I assure you they are still big in the business.

You may know them by their product line, which became the cooperative name in 1956 — Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc.

The cooperative formed to develop markets for cranberries beyond the holiday season. Their first product beyond canned cranberry “sauce” was juice cocktail, giving birth to a whole new world of alcoholic concoctions. An early ad for cranberry juice proclaimed that it was “a pleasant, smooth drink with delicious flavor and sure relief from faintness, exhaustion and thirst. A glass when retiring promotes sleep and a clean mouth in the morning — even to the smoker.”

While the juice may promote a clean mouth, research is showing that its health effects when it comes to urinary tract infections might be more hype than help. There is a compound that can reduce bacterial growth (hence the “clean mouth”), but it isn’t a high enough concentration to help with bladder problems.

Cranberries at home

It is quite possible to grow cranberries in the home garden. While in the wild they do grow in acidic bogs and marshes, you don’t need those to grow them yourself.

Master Gardener Susan Maslowski grew cranberries the size of quarters in her West Virginia garden. Photo courtesy Susan Maslsowski.

Master Gardener Susan Maslowski grew cranberries the size of quarters in her West Virginia garden. Photo courtesy Susan Maslsowski.

I’ve been preaching for years that people need to grow cranberries at home. The native growth in bogs has more to do with the acidic soil than anything else, and commercial cranberries are grown in artificial bogs that are flooded for easy harvest, since ripe cranberries float.

Here in West Virginia, we have Cranberry Glades, a native bog that is home to cranberries and many other rare species, including several orchids and carnivorous plants (I highly suggest a visit). But we also have the farm of Bob and Susan Maslowski in Milton. Bob and Susan are Master Gardeners and are always friendly and smiling at meetings and conferences, eager to share their own story.

Susan started growing cranberries a few years ago in a raised bed, and has been so pleased with their success that they are adding a second raised bed of cranberries. From one single 4- by 8-foot raised bed, she raised enough cranberries to make it through the holiday season (and Susan cooks a lot — she writes a cooking article for the local paper).

The cranberries they raise are the size of a quarter — that puts what you buy at the grocery store to shame.

As Susan tells it, she even had plenty to freeze some for later use, but she found them missing from the freezer. As it turns out, Bob, a winemaker, found the cranberries and turned them into cranberry liqueur. I’m not sure what Susan was planning on cooking, but I think I like Bob’s recipe better.

Growing cranberries

Cranberries form a dense ground cover.  Photo courtesy Susan Maslowski

Cranberries form a dense ground cover. Photo courtesy Susan Maslowski

You can now find cranberry plants in several garden catalogs and even at big box retailers during the growing season. The thing to remember about growing cranberries is the need for acidic soil.  They do appreciate moist soil, so you definitely need to keep them watered.

You need to test your soil, then lower the pH accordingly using something like powdered elemental sulfur, aluminum sulfate or ammonium sulfate. Adding in lots of peat moss may lower the pH slightly, but will provide more of the soil texture and organic matter that the plant needs than altering the pH of the soil.

It will take only a few plants to get started. While the individual plants may be small and short, they will easily spread to form a mat or groundcover (you can easily use them as a ground cover in acidic locations too — they don’t have to be stuck in a bed).

Bob and Susan are adding a second raised bed because their plants have quickly outgrown their raised-bed borders.

 

 

This post was originally published in the Charleston Gazette by John Porter, WVU Extension Agent.  You can find more of his articles archived at WV Garden Guru.  You can follow him on Twitter @wvgardenguru or Facebook at Garden Guru John Porter.

Thanksgiving flavor from ancient herbs

November 21st, 2014 by John Porter

Family and friends are gathered ’round the table. The dog sits patiently below, waiting for a morsel dropped by accident or on purpose.  Platters and bowls fill the table, a reminder of the bounty that sustained our forebears when they first arrived on this continent — and a current testament to overabundance and gluttony.  My mom gets so excited about Thanksgiving dinner that she can’t wait for the day to arrive. She often has to have turkey and dressing sometime between mid-October and Thanksgiving.

Among the smells that waft from the holiday table, the ones that elicit the strongest memory are those of the herbs used to flavor the dressing (or stuffing) and the featured poultry.  These herbs include sage, thyme, rosemary and marjoram.  Let’s take a minute to learn a little bit about these herbs so that we can be even more thankful for them.

Sage, rosemary, and thyme are ancient herbs that are the backbone of Thanksgiving flavors.

Sage, rosemary, and thyme are ancient herbs that are the backbone of Thanksgiving flavors.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) has been used medicinally for centuries. The name Salvia comes from the Roman name for the herb, and means to heal or feel well (the root of the word “salve”). Not only has the herb been used as a diuretic, anesthetic and tonic, but it has also been used to ward off plague and even evil. That’s one powerful herb.

Sage, along with all the other herbs we celebrate and consume at Thanksgiving, are members of the herb family. They’ll have square stems and, most commonly, blue flowers (that bees adore).

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a native of the Mediterranean, where it thrives on rocky sea coasts. The Latin name comes from ros (dew) and marinus (sea), meaning dew of the sea. It has also been long revered as a medicinal plant, and has even been used as a love charm and as a divination tool. Those wishing to divine the identity of their true love would write the name of potential suitors on pots of rosemary. The plant that grew the fastest and healthiest would foretell true love … or so the story goes.

While sage would repel plague, rosemary was said to repel witches. Having a garden full of rosemary was sometimes associated with the woman ruling the home, much to dismay of their husbands. This is probably when men started taking over the garden chores (or at least “accidentally” cutting down specific plants).

Rosemary is also a sign of remembrance, and can still be found as such a symbol at funerals, war commemorations and weddings. The significance of remembrance also led to the belief that rosemary improves memory.

Thyme (Thymus officinalis) may appear on more than just the Thanksgiving table at your house. Thyme oil contains the compound thymol, which is a strong antiseptic. Pre-antibiotics, thyme oil and thymol were used to soak bandages to reduce infection. It is still in use today, in products such as mouthwash (Listerine, for example) and natural, alcohol-free hand sanitizers. It’s even reported to be effective against toenail fungus, which explains why I’ve seen people on Facebook say to soak your feet in mouthwash.

The name, in Greek and Latin, means to “rise in a cloud,” which could be attributed to either the strong smell it gives off or to its historical use as an incense. The ancient Greeks thought that thyme incense would bestow courage, a tradition that continued through the Middle Ages when ladies’ favors given to their favorite knights would often contain the herb.

Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is the least appreciated and understood of the poultry players. And with good reason. It is in the same genus as oregano, which we usually ascribe to Italian, or sometimes Mexican, cuisine, and in some parts of the Middle East the two are synonymous.

To Greeks and Romans, marjoram was a symbol of happiness. The word is connected to, but not directly derived from, the Latin word meaning “major.”

Growing your own Thanksgiving flavors

Most herbs are among the easiest-to-grow edible plants. They grow wild in regions that are dry and are usually drought-tolerant.

Rosemary, for example, does not do well with overwatering. It can typically grow on its own, without your help. Both sage and thyme are pretty hardy and there shouldn’t be any trouble growing them here. Rosemary is sensitive to harsh winter (most of them died in the Kanawha Valley last winter). Marjoram can also be tender.

Sage and rosemary grow as upright woody shrubs, while thyme and marjoram grow as woody groundcovers. They also make great houseplants.

You can usually find rosemary around the holidays, trained up to be mini indoor Christmas trees. You can sometimes also find live plants in the produce section of the grocery store. My local grocery store typically carries thyme as a live plant year-round.

Herbs like lots of light, so keep them in a very bright window or grow them under lights. If you can’t find any this time of year, be sure to add some to your garden next year to flavor your holiday favorites. You can also plan early next summer and pot up some plants to have on hand indoors to keep your turkey perky.

 

This post was originally published in the Charleston Gazette by John Porter, WVU Extension Agent.  You can find more of his article archived at WV Garden Guru.  You can follow him on Twitter @wvgardenguru or Facebook at Garden Guru John Porter.

Wordless Wednesday: Use Nature to Decorate for FAll

November 19th, 2014 by Terri James

This fall think out of the box for any of your fall decorations – look in your backyard to find some inspiration.

 

ornamental grasses

Ornamental grass seed heads can be added to containers for a neutral filler

pine cones

Find pine cones and wire them into your fall decorations – you can even paint them to match your color scheme

color

Use the colors of nature to find a color scheme

structure

Did you do a little pruning this fall? Use the trimming from that to add structure to your designs

Terri James, Extension Horticulturist
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

November15, 2014 is America Recycles Day!

November 15th, 2014 by Connie Schultz

 America Recycles Day November 15th!

America Recycles Day gives us an opportunity to talk about reducing, reusing, and recycling to keep America beautiful! We can “recycle” our food waste too by keeping it from becoming trash at the landfill or dump! A Washington Post article talks about how: Americans throw out more food than plastic, paper, metal, and glass. Our food waste is our biggest “waste” problem.

Food: don't waste it! (poster courtesy USDA)

Food: don’t waste it! (poster courtesy USDA)

Food Waste and Hunger in America:

  • According to figures provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Economic Forum, roughly 70 billion pounds of food is lost in the United States each year.
  • It is estimated that 25 – 40% of food grown, processed and transported in the US will never be consumed.
  • 1 in 6 people in America faces hunger, that’s nearly 49 million people that need the food we haven’t used

Feed People, Not Landfills

As the poster below shows, there are several ways we can stop food waste but one item not on the list is “recycling” our leftover food that would go into the trash by composting it instead. For Master Gardeners, this is a natural and we have lots of places to put that black-gold compost to replenish the soil but, if you haven’t tried composting before, you might want to learn a little more about how to do it by visiting the EPA’s site on composting at home.

A natural way to recycle food waste - give it to the chickens (photo courtesy Connie Schultz)

A natural way to recycle food waste if you’re lucky enough to have chickens (photo courtesy Connie Schultz)

 

The graphic below contains data presented by Sustainable America and gleaned from the Natural Resources Defense Council report on food waste.

Food Waste America 40% (infographic courtesy of Sustainable America)

Food Waste America 40% (infographic courtesy of Sustainable America)

 

Cutting food waste is a win, win, win! We can save money on the food we don’t waste. We could save enough food to potentially feed 25 million hungry Americans. We can also save the water & energy used to grow the food we waste. So this Thanksgiving, let’s save money, food, and resources and share our plenty with others!

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

Wordless Wednesday: November15, 2014 is America Recycles Day!

November 12th, 2014 by Connie Schultz

November15, 2014 is America Recycles Day!

There are many ways to recycle but, because Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, I thought food waste might be the best topic to talk about because, while we feast, someone else is going hungry. Can we help to stop that? Look at the infographics below and let me know what YOU think!

 

America Recycles Day 11/15/2014 (logo courtesy America Recycles)

America Recycles Day 11/15/2014 (logo courtesy America Recycles)

 

 

Pie chart of Food Waste in the U.S. (photo courtesy of National Resources Defense Council)

Pie chart of Food Waste in the U.S. (photo courtesy of National Resources Defense Council)

 

 

Americans waste approx. 245 lbs. of food per person per year (infographic courtesy of Tufts University)

Americans waste approx. 245 lbs. of food per person per year (infographic courtesy of Tufts University)

 

 

25 million people could be fed if we reduced food waste by 15% (Infographic courtesy National Resources Defense Council)

25 million people could be fed if we reduced food waste by 15% (Infographic courtesy National Resources Defense Council)

 

Let’s it do better! Recycle your food waste or better yet, compost it yourself and use it in your garden!

 

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

Search for Excellence Award First Place – Workshop or Presentation (2013)

November 7th, 2014 by Terri James

“In Your Own Back Yard”, Rutgers Master Gardener of Ocean County, New Jersey, USA

Leading the Way for Master Gardener Interns

Towards the end of our interns’ 2012 training period, Rutgers Master Gardeners of Ocean County guided the interns in presenting a program, Fall Garden Day, to the residents of our community. The program informed the residents of good horticultural practices for their home gardens through three PowerPoint presentations and several mini-demonstrations.

Getting the Interns On-Board

A group of master gardeners met with the interns and offered basic ideas of how an outreach program is usually put together by our MG group. They described the various committees needed and asked for two volunteers to act as chairpersons for the project. Enthusiasm built as we put together plans, decided on a title and theme for the program, discussed our modest budget and set a timetable. We encouraged all interns to participate in some way.

Spreading the Word about a Free Horticultural Program for Residents

An intern volunteered to create a flyer advertising the program. Interns and MG’s posted or distributed flyers to community groups, garden clubs, libraries, friends, neighbors, etc.

Attendees at the Demonstrations

Attendees at the Demonstrations

 Selecting Speakers and Demonstrators

The intern co-chairpersons of Fall Garden Day contacted our MG speakers’ bureau and asked for speakers on the topics the interns selected. The co-chairs also asked for volunteers to do mini-demonstrations during a break-out session at the end of the program.

Creating a Feedback Form

A Master Gardener helped the intern who volunteered to put together a feedback form. She offered samples of forms that were used in the past and explained that we need to know if we are meeting our goals and how we might improve the program in the future.

Plants for Attendees

Plants for Attendees

 An Incentive for Participants to fill out our Feedback Form

A committee of interns worked on growing plants for Fall Garden Day participants who handed in feedback forms. The MG’s who work in our hoop house guided this group of interns on the planting and care of about 90 small plants. A separate group of interns was in charge of putting together several baskets for door prizes.

Making it all look Welcoming

Interns on the decoration committee did an amazing job decorating the auditorium and entrance hall with a fall theme. They used some of our stored decorations, added some of their own, and borrowed some more. It looked great and cost very little

Decorations and Exhibits

Decorations and Exhibits

Greeters and Hospitality

Some interns chose to be greeters, welcoming guests, directing them to the auditorium, and ushering them to seats as the auditorium began to get crowded. Interns on the hospitality committee solicited “finger foods” from the Master Gardeners to go along with coffee and tea. They set up a wonderful spread, all from the volunteers.

For Interns who wanted to participate but could not come on Fall Garden Day

These interns put together a folder with a program of the day’s events, informational materials about the Master Gardeners, gardening information and our feedback form. They scheduled their committee to meet at a time convenient for them.

And so it went…

The people came. Our MG presenters were great. The interns did their jobs. Master Gardeners and our MG Coordinator, Linda Schoch, approved all plans and oversaw the event. We had a cleanup committee, but everyone just pitched in and talked about how well the day went. Guided by the Master Gardeners, our interns had their first experience putting together a program for the public. Next year, it will be their turn to help guide the next group of interns to present Fall Garden Day.

Submitted by: Kerren Vallone, Rutgers Master Gardener of Ocean County, New Jersey, USA