Archive for the ‘About’ Category

Celebrating Christmas with Regional Wreaths

Monday, December 9th, 2013

I’m intrigued by regional wreaths made with unusual materials. Since moving to North Carolina, I’ve seen the beautiful magnolia leaf wreaths they have here. Having lived in the desert near Palm Springs, I’ve see the red pepper wreaths of the Southwest and the spiny cactus in people’s yards decorated with lights like trees - incongruous symbols of the season but strangely satisfying. I was especially amazed at the diversity of materials people used and the creativity with which they met the challenges of decorating without traditional evergreens handy.


Traditional Christmas Wreath from West Virginia State University

Traditional Christmas Wreath from West Virginia State University

They used corn cobs, wheat straw, holly, bittersweet, eucalyptus leaves in the West, palm fronds in Hawaii, Japanese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi), pine cones, dried hydrangea flowers, bird seed, hellebores, olive leaves, oranges, gourds, lavender, colorful fall leaves, jar lids (that’s right – jar lids), and more. (You can visit my Pinterest Wreath board to see some pictures.)


Traditional wreath from JC Raulston Arboretum NCSU

Traditional wreath from JC Raulston Arboretum, NCSU


If you have a picture of a regional wreath or a wreath made with some unusual plant material, would you share it with us? Please email it to We’d love to share them here and on our Facebook page. Be sure to include you name, where you live (what state), what the picture is of, and anything else that will help your photo tell its story and your permission to use your photo (along with your name credit) in a future eXtension blog post or through other social media/promotional channels.We’ll share the season by sharing wreaths!

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


Bees 101 – 2013 – WOW a Tough Year on Honeybees!

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Well, the honey harvest is over and the bees are busily getting ready for winter.  Just as in the spring, there are flowers that the honeybee visits to bring in pollen and nectar.  There are not as many flowering plants that contain nectar in the fall, so feeding the honey bees with sugar syrup may be necessary.  So far in 2013 in North Carolina and in most of the Southeastern part of the US, there has been a drastic shortage of both pollen and nectar all year long.

Three of our Four Hives

Three of our Four Hives

As I stated in a previous blog, the weather has a lot to do with the bees success or failure.  In 2013 we had late cold spells in March and April and then continual rain through most of May, June & July.  The cold made it hard for the Queen to lay and for the worker bees to be able to keep the brood warm.  The cold also made the honey flow in 2013 very short.  The blooms on the flowers froze or the blooms were never produced by the plant or tree.   This cold weather made it impossible for the bees to collect, make and store honey.  Most of the  nectar that the bees collected was used immediately to feed the Queen, the brood and themselves.

Then the rain started.  It rained all spring and a big part of the summer.   It rained almost everyday and when it rains, not only are the bees stuck in the house, but when the rain stops, all of the nectar and pollen have been washed out of the flowers.   When we went into the hives to check things out, we saw very empty grocery cupboards!

So we fed the bees sugar syrup and pollen.  The sugar syrup is mixed with a solution called “Honey Bee Healthy”.  It is a product that closely mimics flower nectar.  We also fed the bees pollen.  It comes in granular form and we just poured it into a bird feeder and hung it about 100 feet from the hives.

Old Bird Feeder Used to Feed the Bees Pollen

Old Bird Feeder Used to Feed the Bees Pollen


It’s Necessary to Go Into Your Hives Monthly

The bees were nourished from the sugar syrup and pollen substitute until the weather broke.   Finally, about middle July, the rain stopped and the bees were then again free to gather nectar and pollen from the flowers in the area.   Who would ever think that in a wonderfully green agriculture area like North Carolina, our bees would be starving.   For those beekeepers that did not go into their bees, at least monthly, bee hives were probably lost to starvation.

Our bees are now filling up the hives with brood and food in order to make it through another winter.

-Gladys Hutson
North Carolina -Union County Extension Master Gardener
Union County Beekeeper’s Assoc.


Consumer Horticulture iBook Publication Contest Winner Announced

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Mary Free, a Northern Virginia Master Gardener, is the winner of the Virginia Cooperative Extension 2012 consumer horticulture iBook publication contest.

Her publication, For the Birds, Butterflies & Hummingbirds: Creating Inviting Habitats, is now available for download as an iBook, as well as in PDF and ePub formats, on the VCE publications website,

“I’m excited to be able to share this information with a wider audience,” Free said. “Education is a priority for cooperative extension, and I’m glad to be able to contribute to that.”MaryFreeCover

The 2012 contest, designed to get VCE Master Gardeners involved in the creation of VCE publications to use with their clientele, was the first of its kind. To give added incentive for Master Gardeners to submit their manuscripts, an iPad2 was offered as the prize for winning.

“A few years ago we began encouraging Master Gardeners to submit articles,” said Dave Close, Consumer Horticulture and Master Gardener Specialist. “The idea for the contest was to potentially attract more entries with the intent of making them available as Extension publications in the new iBook and ePub formats.”

Contest submissions were accepted from active VCE Master Gardeners and judged on educational content, creativity, use of multimedia resources and quality of illustrations. Free’s publication won the statewide contest.

“When the contest was announced I looked on the VCE website and saw there were no publications about birds and butterflies,” Free said. “There were some on one or the other, but not both.”

Free said her winning manuscript is a natural progression of the publications she has been doing since becoming a Master Gardener in 2010. While volunteering in the shade garden at Bon Air Park in Arlington, Free did the photography for educational posters and pamphlets about birds, butterflies and other insects in the garden.

“Our brochure was popular so I thought there would be a need for a publication about it and that other people would enjoy it,” Free said.

Although she had been involved with the creation of these Master Gardener publications about birds and butterflies in the garden, Free admits she had to do a lot of research to complete the manuscript for the contest. The photography, on the other hand, was something she already had. Almost all of the nearly 70 photos for the publication are ones she has taken.

“The photographs that Mary submitted helped her entry stand out from the others,” said contest judge Mark Sumner, Senior Information Technology Analyst for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “I had no problem visualizing how the iBook would turn out with the text and photos that she submitted.”

The publication contest is being held again this year, with an iPad4 being offered as the prize for the winner. Submissions will be accepted until November 27, 2013.


For more information contact:
Dave Close, Consumer Horticulture and Master Gardener Specialist
(540) 231-4026


Celebrating the Native Plant

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

This week we are celebrating the Native Plant! All week the EMG Blog is taking a closer look at native plants. Although every region across the country has different natives we can all appreciate the workhorse model many of these plants convey in our landscapes.

native 1

Aster – Nebraska – zone 5

native 2

Blue Grama Grass – Nebraska – zone 5


What is a ‘Native Plant”?

According to Wikipedia “Native plant is a term to describe plants endemic (indigenous) or naturalized to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (e.g. trees, flowers, grasses, and other plants). In North America a plant is often deemed native if it was present before colonization. Some native plants have adapted to very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions. Although some types of plants for these reasons exist only within a very limited range (endemism), others can live in diverse areas or by adaptation to different surroundings”  Wikipedia Link

Gardeners have many go-to plants and often times those turn out to be the native plants!
Native 3

Lead Plant – Nebraska – zone 5

Native 4

Sumac – Nebraska – zone 5

Enjoy this week of natives and let’s see if we can create a great list of our favorite native plants. List your:

  • State
  • growing zone
  • and your favorite natives

in the comment area below -


(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Ohio Ask a Master Gardener at the State Fair and Online

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Ohio Master Gardener Volunteers recently answered gardening questions and shared the latest information about emerald ash borer, asian longhorned beetle, and vegetable gardening concerns at their state fair booth this past month.

Ohio State Fair Ask a MGV Booth

Ohio State Fair Ask a MGV Booth (click to enlarge photo)

They also shared the news about their Ask a Master Gardener service, a 24/7 email-based question answering service, powered by eXtension’s Ask an Expert. Using the link to their site, Ohio fairgoers can email a question to Ohio Master Gardener Volunteers months later if a garden question or problem emerges.

Ask a Master Gardener

Ask a Master Gardener display (click to enlarge photo)

EMG Blog Learning Notes – Recapping July 2013

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

The monthly update is out ….except not as early as it usually should be!

In subsequent posts, you’ll know why it took awhile to get this update out (it has to do with switchgrass fields and summer travel)….but we still wanted to share what happened here in our July 2013 posts archive. Below we take a closer look at what we did in July, and some of the take-aways.

  • Mary-Jean Grimes was curious and asked a few Master Gardener trivia questions about how many hours other state Extension Master Gardener programs have contributed in 2012. So far 4 states commented and just those four have contributed 923,159 volunteer hours equalling nearly 20 million dollars (see the comments section for the math)!
Word Cloud

Word Cloud from July 2013 Extension Master Gardener Blog Posts

  • As you can see, the word biochar is big in the word cloud above. Lynne Hagen, provided a comprehensive year two update from the CenUSA Extension Master Gardener Biochar Demonstration Gardens. Don’t miss out on her explanation of the surprises Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have encountered, and some of the questions they are seeking to learn as citizen scientists.
  • Sylvia Hacker shared about Sandoval County New Mexico’s Seed2Need program.  If you didn’t catch this post the first time, don’t miss out on the video that explains how this project came to be.
  • Great ideas can be learned through a few photos. Take a quick look at the photos Mary-Jean Grimes captured during the Washington Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties Sustainable Garden Tour. The  signage you seen in the photo below highlights what kind of sustainable principles were emphasized at various stops in the tour.

Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties Sustainable Tour signage

  • On a personal note, one of my favorite ways to learn science is through art and humor.  Debbie Courson-Smith shared some lessons learned from her experience last summer with misshapen potatoes formed during hot and dry spells. Not only did her post emphasize the importance of providing a steady supply of water to potatoes (which can be hard to do in extreme heat and drought), but  I also learned a bit more about how potatoes grow.
  • Connie Schulz piqued our interest in moths as pollinators and in National Moth Week!  These creatures are often over looked, but not on our Facebook page this July.  Over 50 other pages shared the photos of some amazing moth specimens  - encouraging me, and I think quite a few others, to think about the role they play in nature.
National Moth Week 3

National Moth Week in July (Left to right: Leopard moth; Banded Sphinx Moth Caterpillar, Eumorpha pandorus, unidentified moth. (Photos courtesy C. Schultz)


Gardening Webinars and Online Courses

Last, but not least, there have been some Webinars and online courses that might interest you.  What’s coming up or available this month?

Looking for more? View our Pinterest Gardening Webinars and Online Courses board.

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for next month’s update.  Until then, what kind of gardening observations or events in your Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program are on your mind?

Let us know! Find us in the following spaces:

Here – Extension Master Gardener Blog:

-Karen Jeannette

-Editorial Reviewer
Linda Brandon, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator
NC Cooperative Extension/Guilford County Center







Wordless Wednesday: An Artistic Way to Encourage Veggie Gardening!

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

-Mary-Jean Grimes,
Reporting from Brisbane, Australia this week
Master Gardener,  Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties, Washington State

   Very artistic way to encourage veggie gardening.  Were you able to guess the word before the last picture IIIIIIVVVI


Were you able to guess the word before the last picture?

How the Master Gardener Program Started 40 Years Ago at WSU Extension

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

{Editor’s note: As described in this blog post, WSU Extension established the first Master Gardener program in 1972, with the first public training in 1973. Today Extension Master Gardener programs exist in nearly all 50 states. For more information, see the EMG White Paper or find an Extension Master Gardener Program near you. To learn how the Master Gardener program ties into the history of the nation’s land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Service, see Exploring Our Roots: A Short History of Extension and the Master Gardener Program. }

Some Early Days in Extension

Donald Tapio "Some Early Days in Extension"

Donald Tapio recalls some early days at WSU Extension and how the Master Gardener program began.

I welcome the opportunity to share some history of Extension prior to the Development of the Master Gardener program. I cannot think of anyone more appreciative of Master Gardener volunteers than I, since I was involved with Washington State University (WSU) Extension prior to the development of the Master Gardener program.

My career with WSU Extension actually began in the summer of 1969 when I was hired as a summer work-study student in the Pierce County Extension office in Tacoma, WA. I was assigned to work with a horticulture agent who was very pleased to have me in the office to take the hundreds of calls that came each week from home gardeners. WSU was well aware of the demand for home gardening information and soon installed a “Dial a Garden Tip” service with daily messages on seasonal pest problems and options for their control.

Answering Hundreds of Gardening Questions Per Day

After graduating from WSU, I was hired by WSU Extension as a Horticulture Program Assistant in Seattle. Home gardening calls coming into the King County office averaged over 100 per day. Most days I never got off the phone for more than a short lunch break. In addition to the incoming calls, there were dozens of letters and plant samples delivered to the office on a daily basis. A year later Mr. Johanson retired and I was asked to work in the Pierce County office in the mornings and the King County office in the afternoons.

WSU made it clear that I would never receive agent status without an advanced degree. Just as I was leaving for graduate school, a young woman came into the office and after a long discussion made the remark that she thought my job and extension work would be so much fun. That individual was Sharon Collman and she was hired by WSU to fill my position. (You will read more about her in another blog post. She was one of the first teachers in the new Master Gardener progam.)  After completing my graduate degree I was hired as the horticulture agent in Snohomish County.

While I was gone, WSU hired Dr. David Gibby as the horticulture agent for King and Pierce counties. He was a true visionary in recognizing that in many respects Extension was simply “bailing out the ocean.” The demand for home gardening questions and information was so great it was nearly impossible to do any programming beyond answering the telephone. WSU Extension in King County at the time had 8 incoming telephone lines and we had one individual who was a switchboard operator to direct calls.

Master Gardener Program Trains Volunteers to Teach Others

Soon after his arrival, Dr. Gibby made his historic trip to Puyallup where there were discussions with a number of specialists and agents on the idea of training volunteers who would then conduct diagnostic plant clinics in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. I am convinced that no one at that time was aware that the Master Gardener program would become what it is today with thousands of volunteers throughout the state or nation-wide. The concept of training volunteers to teach others seemed to be the answer to addressing the need for home gardening education and the program was quickly adopted throughout the nation.

Master Gardener training in these early days was much different then. There was no charge and no textbook for the classes. However, I vividly recall as an instructor, lugging around boxes filled with publications for the class. (Many agents were assigned station wagons during those years since we hauled so many publications to various meetings. Both the springs and shock absorbers on these vehicles were usually shot from the weight of the publications!) At the end of training, an individual from the Washington State Department of Agriculture would come in and give a closed book exam. Those passing the exam became licensed pesticide applicators, which qualified them to provide recommendations for pesticide use. We quickly learned that many, many volunteers had great anxiety over taking a closed book exam and did not do well.

The evolution of the Master Gardener program continued as more and more counties throughout the state adopted the program. Those of us involved as instructors would schedule our training so that we were presenting in a different county each day beginning with Whatcom, by the Canadian border, and ending in Clark, on the border with Oregon. Once trained, most counties utilized their newly trained volunteers to staff plant clinics. As more and more volunteers became trained, volunteers were able to expand their educational outreach through presenting programs, writing news articles, and developing demonstration gardens.

Appreciation for the Work of Master Gardener Volunteers

I know that I speak for many agents in saying we simply cannot imagine Extension work today without Master Gardener volunteers. The amount of time invested in training and managing volunteers is paid back more than a thousand fold. I continue to be in awe of how innovative, enthusiastic, and dedicated Master Gardener volunteers are in carrying out the mission of WSU Extension. I am convinced that Washington State University will continue to be recognized nationally for the impact and success of the Master Gardener program in making our communities better and more beautiful places.

Donald D. Tapio
WSU Extension Regional Specialist
Grays Harbor/Pacific Counties Extension

“Reprinted with permission from the July 2009 issue of Seeds for Thought, the newsletter of the Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State.”  Parts of this have been abridged with permission from the author. To see the entire article go to:


EMG Blog Learning Notes: Recapping April 2013

Friday, May 10th, 2013

When the organizers of National Earth Day, National Arbor Day, and National Volunteer Week just happened to organize all three celebrations to be in the same week in April, I wonder if they had the Extension Master Gardener program in mind?!  We’ve had a great month, hearing how programs across the country are celebrating and volunteering during National Volunteer Week 2013, Earth Day, and Arbor Day.

Celebrating National Volunteer Week – NVW13

'Father of Extension'?

Seaman Knapp ‘Father of Extension’?

Kicking off the week with an NVW “how-to-get-involved” announcement, we saw many Extension Master Gardener programs across the country gearing up to celebrate National Volunteer Week. We asked for examples of how local programs were celebrating or volunteering during National Volunteer Week, and we found some great responses which we turned into blog posts:

Thanks to Bob Kellam, president of the North Carolina Extension Master Gardeners Volunteer Association for sharing his article, originally posted in their association’s newsletter.

  • Extension Master Gardeners During National Volunteer Week.  What did Master Gardeners do during NVW13, April 21 – 27, 2013?  Programs across the country contributed pictures and stories to share here, including examples of recognition in their counties, and volunteer activities they participated in during NVW13, Earth Day, and Arbor Day.

Volunteer Recognition in Sacramento, County, California

Volunteer Recognition in Sacramento, County, California

Master Gardeners and other volunteers participate in Phenology celebration via the Tucson Phenology Trail

Master Gardeners and other volunteers participate in Phenology celebration via the Tucson Phenology Trail


 National Earth Day and Arbor Day Inspired Blog Posts

One could say every day is earth day for Master Gardeners, as they are literally working with the earth, a lot.  But, Master Gardeners are pretty passionate about trees, too, thus the following posts were inspired in celebration of April’s National Earth and Arbor days:

April Wordless Wednesday

This month, we admired the tiny treasures in the garden, how the Chihuahua desert bloomed on less than 5 inches of rain (in 1 1/2 years!) , and Trees and Master Gardeners.

(Lft to Rt) Serissa foetida flower, moss fruiting bodies, Virginia Creeper pads or sticky fingers (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), tiny Testudinaria flowers.

Tiny treasures

Echinocereus triglochidiatus or Claret cup cactus

Claret cup cactus

Volunteers plant tree - an activity that could be celebrated during National Volunteer Week 2013, Arbor day, and Earth day!

Volunteers plant trees


Gardening Webinars and Online Modules/Courses

For more upcoming and recorded Webinars on a variety of gardening and non-gardening subjects, see: eXtension Learn

Until Next Month

Until next month, please join us and share your gardening or volunteer experiences with us in the following spaces:

Here – Extension Master Gardener Blog:

-Karen Jeannette

-Editorial Reviewer
Linda Brandon, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator
NC Cooperative Extension/Guilford County Center


(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Master Gardeners During National Volunteer Week

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

In today’s (Almost) Wordless Wednesday post, you’ll see examples of how some Master Gardeners from across the United States are volunteering or being recognized this National Volunteer Week 2013.

As Terry Straub mentioned last year in his Well-Educated Volunteer article, while volunteer recognition is definitely appreciated, so are meaningful, and life-long learning opportunities. Thus,  you’ll see examples of Master Gardeners participating in meaningful and fun volunteer events and also how Master Gardeners are being recognized in programs across the U.S during National Volunteer Week 2013!

This is just a beginning.  We’d like to know: How are Master Gardeners volunteering or being recognized in your program this week? (Let us know in the comments section).

Educating Youth

Educating Youth via the Junior Master Gardener Program
University of MN Extension Master Gardeners – Hennepin County
April 23


Instructing youth on how to measure plants

Citizen Science

Phenology Day Walk
Pima County Master Gardeners, University of Arizona
April 20

VolunteerDataPhenoDay 2013

Master Gardeners were part of the 25 people plus 15 volunteers who collected data at 6 sites along our Tucson Phenology Trail

Master Gardeners and other volunteers participate in Phenology celebration via the Tucson Phenology Trail

Master Gardeners and other volunteers participate in Saturday’s phenology celebration via the Tucson Phenology Trail

Get the latest on Master Gardeners and Nature’s Notebook

Find more about Master Gardeners and Citizen Science Opportunities


Answering Gardening Questions

Answering Infoline Questions
North Carolina Extension/Guilford County Master Gardeners
April 24 (date photo taken)

Dana and Jim on Infoline

Dana and Jim on Infoline


Betty & Anita- Answering the InfoLine

Betty & Anita- Answering the Infoline

Annual Plant Sales

Prep for Annual Master Gardener Plant Sale
UNCE Master Gardeners

April 20, 2013

UNCE Master Gardener and Katie from Hungry Mother Organics starting seeds to prep for annual MG plant sale.

UNCE Master Gardener and Katie from Hungry Mother Organics starting seeds to prep for annual MG plant sale.

Left to Right Mark, Walt, Katie, Joyce, Sadie, Celia.
Photo by Bill Kositzky

UNL Spring Plant Affair Plant Sale
Nebraska Master Gardeners
Photos from 2012
Plants Sale is April 27 

Volunteer Photo 3

Nebraska Master Gardeners at Spring Plant Sale


'Plant Sitter' Station keeps purchased plants so people can attend talks and educational events.

‘Plant Sitter’ Station keeps Spring Affair purchased plants so people can attend talks and educational events.

Propagation Team Propagates for Plant Sale
Lafayette Parish Master Gardeners
April 20th

Propagation team, propagating usual plants to raise funds for outreach programs.

Propagation team, propagating usual plants to raise funds for outreach programs.

See more about Spring Master Gardener Plant Sales

Volunteer Recognition and Awards

Appreciation for Answering Horticulture Questions
Hillsborough County Master Gardener Program
, University of Florida
April 22

April 21st – April 27th is National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week honors the people who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their communities.

I want to personally thank each one of you [Master Gardeners] for all that you do to make the Hillsborough County Master Gardener Program a success. You give your time, talents, and creativity, and provide science-based, research information that improves the natural environment and the lives of our adult and youth citizens. THANK YOU!!!


Thank You Volunteers

Thank You Volunteers!


County Proclamation
Somerset County, Rutger Master Gardener Program
April 23

“Here in  Somerset County, NJ we honor all our Extension program area volunteers with a County Proclamation recognizing their efforts”

-Nicholas Polanin, Associate Professor, County Agent II, State Coordinator, Rutgers Master Gardener Program

Rutger Program Recogntion

Rutger Program Recogntion

Volunteer of the Year
Sacramento County MG program

Tuesday, April 23

University of California Lifetime Master Gardener Farmer Fred Hoffman was honored as Master Gardener “Volunteer of the Year” for 2012 by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (April 23). Fred hosts two popular Northern California gardening radio shows each week and spreads extension information via numerous social media platforms, his website, blogs and newspaper columns. Next to Fred and dressed in green, is Sacramento County MG program coordinator Judy McClure.


Sacramento-Volunteer of the Year


Volunteer Recognition
UNCE Master Gardener, Washoe County
April 22

Master Gardener Volunteer Dale Hildebrandt’s volunteer service was acknowledged on Monday at the Washoe County Commissioners meeting. She is pictured here with the other volunteers recognized, she’s in the center of the third row, to the left of the Nevada flag and to the right of the uniformed gentleman in the third row.

Master Gardener Volunteer, Dale Hildebrandt with other Washoe County, Nevada Volunteers


Awards Breakfast
NC Cooperative Extension/Guilford County Center
April 17

We held an Awards Breakfast last Wednesday, during which our Horticulture Agent, Karen Neill, presented County Commissioner Linda
Shaw with a “check” for $368,854.26, representing the volunteer contribution of Guilford County’s EMGs to the residents of the County.

During the Breakfast, Jeanne Aller was presented the award for Veteran of the Year for 2012, honoring in part her contribution of more than 500 hours to the program; Intern Ken Bastion, who put in more than 180 hours as well as signing on as Co-Chair of our Demo Garden Committee during his trainee year, is shown accepting his Rookie of the Year award.

-Linda Brandon, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator
NC Cooperative Extension/Guilford County Center