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Wordless Wednesday – Korea Master Gardener International Conference

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Welcome Banner at the GARES (Gyeonggido Agricultural Research and Extension Services) Facility

Hello from South Korea! Well we are back but the memories are still fresh!

The South Korean Master Gardener Program hosted its first Korea master gardener international conference – a small group of Extension Master Gardeners and Coordinators from the United States attended this conference we were welcomed with open arms and had a wonderful experience – this is a Wordless Wednesday post (almost) with pictures from the conference!



A group of Korean Master Gardeners gave us a demonstration on how to make Kimchi and Bibimbap


Getting instructions on how to make Bibimbap

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The ingredients for Kimchi

Many participants spoke about their projects at workshops and in a poster session


Haru and Toshi Hikicha speaking at the Conference

We were able to visit many gardens maintained by Master Gardeners

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Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at GARES

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Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at GARES


The whole experience was amazing – we meet a fantastic group of people, saw great gardens, and made many new friends!

Terri James, Horticultural Extension Assistant-Urban Gardening
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

Research Experience, Wasp Nests, Teamwork and Sprinklers Gone Wild

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Three years on, Master Gardeners talk about the rewards and challenges of volunteering at Minnesota’s three CenUSA biochar test sites

It’s been a while since we offered an update on the CenUSA biochar demonstration gardens. As you may already know, there are four sites in Minnesota: at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus, in Andover at the Extension regional center, and at the Brookston Community Center in the Fond du Lac tribal community (Cloquet).

Bio char  Arboretum plot3

U of MN Extension BioChar Project

Extension Master Gardeners have been helping support biochar research at each site since 2012 as part of the larger CenUSA Bioenergy project. Ken Moore at Iowa State University and staff are leading a team of eight institutions that are participating in the five-year, USDA-sponsored CenUSA project. The goal is to investigate the creation of a Midwestern sustainable biofuels and bioenergy products system. (To learn more, check out the 2012 CenUSA Bioenergy Overview YouTube video.)

For this post, we asked Extension Master Gardener Meleah Maynard to write about what it’s been like to volunteer at the metro sites for the past three seasons. In her next post, she’ll turn the spotlight on the Fond du Lac volunteers. Meleah talked with Lynne Hagen, project coordinator for the University of Minnesota Extension biochar demonstration gardens, and Master Gardener volunteers who are currently serving as leaders at each of the sites about their experiences—positive, negative and everything in between. Here’s what they had to say.

Trial and Error

Lynne had never heard of biochar when she went to the initial CenUSA Bioenergy Project meeting at Iowa State University. But once she saw the depth of the project, she remembers thinking that it seemed like an exciting research project to be involved with. “So I put my Extension hat on and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m in!’” Three years later, she feels even more passionate about the project, which focuses on helping to answer the question of whether biochar could be a good soil amendment for use in home gardens.

Lynne has also learned, through trial and error, what it takes to engage and motivate 50 frontline volunteers. And she does that while working closely with everyone to ensure the gardens’ success and the collection of the most accurate data possible “Our project is not hard science,” she told me. “It’s more observational, and instructions for planting, maintaining plants and collecting data can be subjective in terms of how things are interpreted. Kind of like judging an art show.”

By that she means Master Gardeners must do their best to record their observations of the three plots at each site: the control plot with no biochar added, treatment plot 1 with ½ pound of biochar per square foot added and treatment plot 2 with 1 pound of biochar per square foot added. How much did the biochar appear to improve soil structure? Did the vegetables and flowers in the biochar plots do better or worse than those in the control plot? What impact could the weather be having on the data? What differences can be seen between the sites with silt loam soil and those with sandy soil?

Working Out the Details

Data collection processes have been continually streamlined throughout the project, and things are running more and more smoothly over time. Sandra Shill, who co-leads the Arboretum site with Mary Burchette, remembers the first year was especially difficult because everyone was trying to understand how to do everything and do it in the same ways. “Measuring plants sounds simple, but measurements have to be taken in specific ways so there were a lot of nuances to work out,” Sandra says.

For example, she recalls her husband, who went with her to tend to the plot one day, wondering aloud whether she was really supposed to stretch the prickly cucumber vines out straight when taking measurements. She was. But were volunteers supposed to flatten plant leaves out completely when measuring leaf width? Yes. Thankfully, it’s much easier to determine the color of leaves (one of several indicators of plant health) thanks to a color guide that was introduced last season.

Challenges and Rewards

Sandra says she got involved with the biochar project because she grew up in Iowa and “things that make use of crops always attract my attention.” The possibility of using switch grass, corn stalks and leaves and other charred biomass as a soil amendment intrigued her. And like her co-leader, she’s enjoying the research aspect of the project, especially one that could potentially make a difference.

“It’s been rewarding to be involved in every stage of the project,” says Mary, who signed on because she’s always enjoyed science. “In the largest sense, every aspect of this project could have a positive impact on the environment and that’s been extremely rewarding.” That’s not to say that there haven’t been challenges. Scheduling and coordinating volunteers is no easy job, and it’s hard to keep people motivated to continue weeding and picking insect pests off plants once the season starts winding down in August.

And yes, a volunteer once stepped in an anthill and got ants all over her feet and was hopping around until another quick-thinking volunteer turned the hose on her shoes. But, really, the Arboretum site is largely ideal—except for watering. Unlike other sites that have easy access to sprinklers, volunteers have to use a brass key to hook up to a nearby water source to get their sprinklers going. “If you don’t do it right, you get totally soaked,” Mary says, laughing.

U of MN BioChar Project - First Tomato Harvest

U of MN BioChar Project – First Tomato Harvest

Over at the St. Paul campus site, watering couldn’t be easier because the demonstration garden is equipped with programmable irrigation, says site leader Carol Skalko. Better still, because they’re on campus, they were fortunate the first year because University of Minnesota Extension Plant Pathologist Michelle Grabowski had a research plot right next to the test plot. “It was great because we could ask her questions about plant diseases whenever we needed to,” Carol recalls.

One of the things Carol likes best about being a Master Gardener volunteer is the social interaction with others who share her love of gardening. So she’s especially glad that scheduling has often worked out so that volunteers could work together as a group. “There’s a real sense of community at our site and that’s been significant for me,” she says, adding that everyone has particularly enjoyed getting to know Master Gardeners from other counties.

Like other site leaders, she appreciates how things have gotten easier and more understandable over time. But she continues to worry about making mistakes that could throw off the data: Like this year, when the lettuce crop was considered a failure because it didn’t germinate. “We ignored it because we thought it wasn’t being counted, but it turned out they did want us to collect data on that and I misunderstood,” Carol says.

Everybody Wins

Jeff Stahmann, who co-leads the Andover site with Dave Knapp, is a scientist and engineer who develops medical devices like pacemakers. It was the research aspect of the biochar project that drew him in. While most Master Gardeners are taking knowledge from University-based research and applying it, he likes that in this case, Master Gardeners are providing data for researchers to us. “It would be great if Master Gardeners could get involved in some way with more University-based research projects like this because everybody wins,” he says.
At the same time, as a scientist, he is keenly aware of the “enormous number of variables” that need to be considered when interpreting the data from a project like this: the quality of seeds, the sizes of seedlings, variable weather and different types of soil, to name a few. “It’s a very dynamic environment in which to work for all of us,” as he aptly puts it. And his words sound all the more charitable when you consider what volunteers have faced at the Andover site.
Situated on the Anoka sand plain, the Andover site is by all accounts the most challenging of the three metro-area sites—and not just because of the sandy soil. Unlike the other two metro demonstration gardens, which were established in areas with silt loam soil, this plot had to be carved out of an area of woods filled with underbrush and poison ivy, the latter of which continues to pop up in areas where the volunteers work occasionally. “And then there was the time that wasps got into our supply cabinet and built a nest that we had to get out of there,” Dave says, before adding that gophers have been a problem in past years too.
Even so, he thinks the positives of working on the biochar project always balance out the tough parts. Harvesting the crops is one of the processes Dave likes most because until you actually weigh the kale, Swiss chard, potatoes and other crops, you’ve only got a visual assessment of which crops did better than others in the different plots.
It’s nice too that volunteers get to take home herbs and vegetables once the data has been collected. “For me,” Dave says, “whether what we observe turns out to be of major or minor significance, having the chance to participate in the discovery process has been really rewarding for me.”
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.


September is National Mushroom Month!

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

September is National Mushroom Month and we’re starting it with a TED talk by mycologist Paul Stamets who lists 6 ways the mycelium fungus can help save the universe: cleaning polluted soil, making insecticides, treating smallpox and even flu viruses.

Wordless Wednesday – The Beauty of Moths

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


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

Monday, July 21st, 2014


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

Saturday, July 19th, 2014
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

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

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




Turn Your Zucchini or Summer Squash Into “Pasta”

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
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

Monday, July 7th, 2014
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

Friday, July 4th, 2014



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