Author: Stacey Stearns

Water Testing for Homeowners

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack
When was the last time you had your well water tested? The Connecticut Department of Public Health has certified testing locations throughout the state. Visit for locations and other resources.
If you have “city water”, your supplier is required to test your water on a regular basis (check your water company website or call for specific information). If you have a private well, it is up to you to have the water tested! It is a good idea to have your water tested on a regular basis to detect any changes in quality. A standard potability test can be performed at many state-certified lab. Additional information can be found in this CT Dept. of Public Health Publication on Private Well Water.

UConn 4-H’er Selected as Runner Up for National 4-H Award

Olivia HallNational 4-H Council announced that Olivia Hall of Litchfield County is a runner up for the 2022 4-H Youth in Action Award for Healthy Living. Hall is recognized nationally for her commitment to addressing food insecurity in her community and surrounding areas.

Already aware of the food insecurity issues in her community, Hall noticed how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these needs further. School and business closures caused dairy farmers to dump their now-excessive milk supplies. The resourcefulness and leadership skills gained through 4-H helped motivate Hall to create “Operation Community Impact,” a bi-weekly milk delivery service to food insecure families in her county and across her state. She has taken on the responsibility of recruiting volunteers, loading and delivering pallets of dairy products, and raising money to continue supporting this project further.

Still planning to continue her project from college, Hall is a freshman at University of New Haven studying Criminal Justice.

The 4-H Youth in Action Awards began in 2010 to recognize 4-H’ers who have overcome challenges and used the knowledge they gained in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their community. To learn more about the 4-H Youth in Action program and the 2022 runners up, please visit

About 4-H Nationally
4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career tomorrow. 4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. 4-H is the youth development program of our nation’s Cooperative Extension System and USDA, and serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3,000 local Extension offices. Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs to empower one million youth in 50 countries. The research-backed 4-H experience grows young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs.

Learn more about 4-H at, find us on Facebook at and on Twitter at

About UConn 4-H

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more and enroll your child in the UConn 4-H program at

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.


Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Help Maintain the Spread of the Spotted Lanternfly in Connecticut

The Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) is continuing its move through Connecticut. It has been found in Orange and Milford, Connecticut. It is important that everyone help spread the word about this invasive pest. Many farms in Connecticut have visitors that travel from areas where SLF populations are established in Connecticut and outside Connecticut.

map of spotted lanternfly locations in Connecticut

What can you do if you see an SLF?

All Residents:

1. Photograph it
2. Kill it
3. Report it
4. See management strategies on the the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station website.

Agricultural Producers:

There are 2 posters from USDA APHIS you can download and post at your farm stands, farm markets and pickyourown locations to alert the general public. If they understand this pest has the potential to have a negative impact on their favorite farm your place they may be more inclined to take an active role in slowing down the movement of SLF. And for every adult female they destroy, there will be roughly 90 less SLF the next year.

September Checklist for Connecticut Gardeners

Written by Colleen Amster and Arianna Ege, UConn Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

mums on a bench
Photo: Michelle Winkler

September is a good time for Connecticut gardeners to begin the fall cleanup and assessment process. It is also a good time to shop for trees, shrubs, and bulbs, and prepare for next year’s growing season. Here is a helpful list to get you started:

Annual and herbaceous perennials

  • Take note of which annuals did well in your garden this year and decide what plants you would like to add to your beds next spring, and where. It is helpful to take photos of the bare spots that you would like to fill.
  • Remove and compost spent annuals. Some annuals like geraniums can be dug up and placed in a cool place to overwinter in containers.
  • Some annuals are cold hardy, like pansies, calendula, sweet pea and ornamental kale, and can be planted now.
  • Begin to harvest and dry (in paper bags) seeds for herbaceous perennial plants that are ready to be collected by late September like hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon), echinacea (coneflower), rudbeckias (black-eyed susans), baptisia (false indigo) and some helianthus (sunflowers), just to name a few. Store seeds, once they are dry, in containers or bags in a cool dry location. Some coneflower seed heads, like echinacea, will need to be shaken in a container to separate the seeds from the chaff. Seeds can be started outdoors later in the fall or, for better results, inside in potting medium in the spring. Some will need to be refrigerated and stratified.
  • As herbaceous perennials turn brown, begin cutting back plants from 4-8” from the ground, depending on the plant. Some fibrous herbaceous perennials do best when they are divided every few years, including echinacea, hostas, and peonies.
  • Take note of any perennials that have been impacted by powdery mildew or fungal diseases. Look for fungal problems on leaves and remove and dispose of any diseased plant parts. This is a good time to research and implement treatments for plants that have been impacted by botrytis, or root rot, or other diseases over the last growing season.
  • It is also a great time to buy discounted plants that transplant well in fall. Many local plant trusts have sales in September and some will sell grouping of pollinator plants. Planting in fall allows root systems extra time to develop.

Bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, and corms

  • Decide what bulbs you would like to add to your garden beds and buy from a reputable source.
  • Before purchasing bulbs, check for disease or damage, such as rot, cuts, or bruises and do not buy bulbs that are soft or moldy. Make sure bulbs are firm and have a protective papery skin. Purchase hardy bulbs in August-September and plant the bulbs as soon as possible. Plant from mid-September to mid-October so the bulbs can grow roots before the ground freezes.
  • Store bulbs in a dry place away from direct sunlight until you are ready to plant them.
  • A special note about garlic: Garlic is especially beneficial in the garden. It is nutritious, easy to grow, repels pests and wildlife, and is a good pollinator plant if some is allowed to bloom. It comes in three varieties, hardenck, softneck, and elephant. If you are planting garlic next month, cloves should be purchased from a reputable supplier or local garden center. Garlic bulbs sold in the grocery store are mainly grown in China and California and may have diseases, nematodes, or viruses that can impact your soil.

Vegetable and herbs

turnips growing in a garden
Photo: Michelle Winkler
  • Maintain good sanitation in your vegetable gardens, pruning and removing diseased leaves, weeds, and any plants that are no longer producing viable fruit to reduce insect and disease issues, and staking plants like tomatoes to keep them off the ground.
  • Make room for cool weather greens like spinach, lettuces, radishes, collard greens, swiss chard, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, and mustard. Brussel sprouts can still be started now, as well as carrots and rutabagas. Check out this planting calendar for best dates to plant in your zip code:
  • Harvest veggies as they ripen. Harvest and dry herbs that are beginning to get leggy or that have begun to flower or bolt.
  • It is a good time to save heirloom seeds for next season, including tomatoes. Fun fact: any tomatoes that haven’t ripened on the vine by the first forecasted frost can be harvested green and stored indoors until they begin to ripen! See this article for details:
  • You can take herb cuttings at this time to start herbs like mint and oregano indoors in a sunny window.
  • Protecting your fall vegetables and flowers with row covers will give you extra growing time in the season and protect tender plants from sudden temperature changes.

Trees and shrubs

  • Focus on removing deadwood and deadheading flowers after they bloom. Don’t prune too heavily, because new growth will not have time to harden off before winter and will be more susceptible to frost damage.
  • It is a good time to plant trees and shrubs, many of which are on sale this time of year!
  • Continue harvesting seasonal fruits.
  • Sanitize the area around each plant by removing fallen fruit and plant debris to prevent the spread of disease and pests.
  • Never add a heavy application of fertilizer to perennials or trees in the late fall as it will encourage new growth and plants can be injured by an early frost.


  • Mow grass below 3” now that temperatures are dropping to reduce matting and fungal issues.
  • If your lawn is compacted, consider de-thatching and aerating.
  • Remove weeds and dead grass to expose soil and apply fertilizer. Now is the best time of year to plant grass seed and fill those bare patches in your lawn!

Soil and pests

  • Make plans to add mulch around plants that will need extra protection during the winter months and order a delivery of mulch if that is more economical than buying it in bags. Evergreens and other perennials will need a protective layer of mulch before the first frost. Remember to ask your supplier if they sell certified compost and mulch–and heat their products to at least 104 degrees to kill invasive earthworm cocoons and other pests.
  • All plants should be quarantined and observed before planting and some invasive pest research groups are recommending that all new plants be thoroughly rinsed and planted with bare roots.
  • Prepare your leaf collection bin and compost bin for cool weather.
  • Check for insect pests including the spotted lanternfly and invasive earthworms.
  • Apply deer repellent or plan for netting trees and perennials that deer tend to browse, including arborvitaes and yews.
  • Continue to weed garden beds and maintain good sanitation.
  • Many Connecticut gardeners are reporting infestations of the invasive Asian jumping or snake worm. Wood ash is always a beneficial fall amendment but has the added benefit of repelling these worms; diatomaceous earth or biochar may also be used to combat them.
  • Last, collect soil samples to be tested while the soil is still easily workable so you can plan soil amendments accordingly:

References and further reading

Bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, corms:
Seed saving:
Flowering sequence of different types of bulbs:

Saving seeds:
Invasive earthworms:
September gardening:
Fall gardening:
Tree, shrub, and perennial planting and aftercare:
Fall lawn care:

Unpeeled: The Case Files of Maya McCluen Game is Available

Maya McCluen and the text Unpeeled behind herNavigating the grocery store aisle is challenging for many consumers—especially those who want to buy the most nutritious food and stay within their budget. The University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension New Technologies in Agricultural Extension (NTAE) team developed an interactive learning activity (or game), Unpeeled: The Case Studies of Maya McCluen. Our team sought to clarify food marketing labels and empower consumers to make science-based decisions while shopping. The game and other resources from our team are available at

Food manufacturers and distributors cover their boxed, canned, and bottled foods with labels like “whole grain” and “low-calorie” to suggest that their food has certain health benefits. Among the most misunderstood food marketing labels are “non-GMO,” “natural,” and “organic:”

  • In a representative survey conducted by GMO Answers (2018), 69% of consumers could not define GMO (genetically modified organism). Wunderlich et al. (2019) surveyed members of Montclair State University and found that over 98% of respondents had heard of the term “GMO,” but only 8% of consumers were familiar with the definition.
  • “Organic” foods are often credited with health and nutrition benefits that the food does not have (Noone, 2019). This is in part due to media framing that portrays organic as ethical, healthier, and more nutritious (Meyers & Abrams, 2010).
  • The “natural” label, which is not well regulated, has various meanings depending on who is using it (Nosowitz, 2019).

Our project started in 2017 when members of our team formed the Science of GMOs working group at UConn ( Our team was one of the eight selected for NTAE’s second annual grant program, and we expanded the project to encompass additional food marketing labels and include new members with other areas of expertise. Team members include representation from nutrition, biotechnology, youth development, communications, and food marketing.

Dr. Cindy Tian, a member of our team and biotechnology professor, answered some common questions about GMOs for audiences:

  • Why is there not a human trial on GMOs? It is not required by the regulation of the FDA. However, a myriad of tests and safety requirements must be conducted/met before any GMOs are marketed. Humans have been consuming GMOs since 1996 and not a single credible adverse event has been reported.
  • Do GMOs change our genome? No. Everything biological we eat today has been genetically modified mainly by breeding and a few by genetic engineering. Humans have been eating genetically modified food since the beginning of time. We are still humans.
  • Is our genome pristine? No. Like other species, our DNA changes constantly. DNA molecules are very fragile, they break all the time, get sewed back and many times wrong pieces get put together. If these changes happen in our germ cells, they may get passed down. But this is rare. Through millions of years of evolution, the human genome accumulated 10,000 copies of viral DNA molecules.
  • Speaking of virus, the COVID vaccines (in the US) are GMOs. The viral genome is broken down and only small pieces are used for the vaccines so we will never get COVID from the vaccine itself (unlike some earlier Polio vaccines).

Members of our team are also offering the virtual course Let’s Talk GMOs: Creating Consistent Communication Messages. Participants are introduced to the basics of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They will learn how to create consistent communication messages and manage dialogue processes about GMOs with various audiences. The asynchronous course is available on-demand; it has eight online modules with instructors from UConn. The fee is $49. Register online at

Game development was made possible through support by the Learning Games Lab at New Mexico State University. An eFieldbook about our project will be available on Connect Extension in early September. The Extension Foundation supports this team through key informant expertise to help grow the overall project. We had additional funding and support from UConn Extension and Northeast AgEnhancement and Farm Credit East.

Apply to Become a UConn Extension Master Gardener

2022 classes will include hybrid and virtual options

vegetable gardenFall is a great time to plan for next year’s gardening activities! Apply now for the 2022 UConn Extension Master Gardener Program. Classes will be held in New Haven, Norwich, Tolland, Torrington, and Stamford. The deadline for applications is Friday, October 18, 2021.

“The program provides the opportunity for beginner, intermediate or experienced gardeners to increase their personal knowledge of the practice of gardening … The program allows you to meet with like-minded people over a common interest – growing plants,” says Advanced Master Gardener Ken Sherrick of Middletown.

UConn Extension Master Gardeners have an interest in plants, gardening, people and the environment.  Specifically, they are willing to share their knowledge, passion and enthusiasm with their communities, providing research-based information to homeowners, students, gardening communities and others. They receive horticultural training from UConn, and then share that knowledge with the public through community volunteering and educational outreach efforts. UConn Master Gardeners help with community and museum gardens, school gardens, backyard projects, houseplant questions and more.

Four of the program cohorts will be in a hybrid class format, with three to four hours of online work before each of 16 weekly in-person classes, running from 9 AM to 1 PM. There will be one entirely online evening cohort, on Thursdays from 5:30 – 9:30 PM, hosted by the New Haven office.

Classes begin the week of January 10, 2022. Subject matter includes basic botany, plant pathology, soils, entomology and other aspects of gardening such as plant categories, native plants, and pest management. After the classroom portion, students complete 60 hours of outreach experience during the summer, along with a plant identification project.

“The Master Gardener program gave me an understanding the role of plants and insects within the ecosystem, which fostered a passion for removing invasive plants,” says Advanced Master Gardener Karen Berger of Canton, who now volunteers on a project to remove invasives, replacing them with native plants that benefit the local environment.

The program fee is $450.00, and includes all needed course materials. Partial scholarships may be available, based on demonstrated financial need.

For more information, visit the UConn Extension Master Gardener website at , where both the on-line and paper application are located.

September Gardening Tips

Gardening Tips for September

landscaped lawn

  • Mid to late September is a great time to add accent plants, like vivid mums and starry asters, that will provide autumn colors in the landscape. Use them along with cool-colored ornamental cabbages and kales to replace bedraggled annuals in containers as well.
  • Lawns can be renovated or repaired between late August and mid- September for best results. New grass should started well before fall leaf drop.
  • Watch for frost warnings and cover tender plants.
  • Examine houseplants carefully for insect pests before bringing them back inside. Give them a good grooming if necessary. You may want to spray plants with insecticidal soap after hosing off the foliage. Let the plants dry before applying the soap.
  • Remove and compost spent annuals and fallen leaves.
  • Weed and mulch perennial beds using a loose organic material such as bark chips or leaves to keep down weeds, preserve moisture, and give roots a longer time to grow before the soil freezes.
  • Outwit hungry squirrels and chipmunks by planting hardy bulbs in established ground covers.
  • Lift and store tender bulbs, such as cannas, dahlias and gladiolus, after first frost.
  • Perennials like day lilies and bearded irises can still be dug up and divided.
  • Visit a local nursery or garden center and select spring flowering bulbs to add to your gardens. Plant the bulbs among perennials, under trees and shrubs, or in larger groups for a splendid spring show. Choose colors that complement other spring flowering plants as well as nearby plantings. Work a little Bulb Booster or 5-10-10 into the bottom of the planting holes.

Fall 2021 Paid Student Internship with CT Trail Finder

people walking dog on a trailSupervisor contact: This internship will be co-supervised by Laura Brown, Community & Economic Development Educator – New Haven County Extension Center, Contact- Laura Brown: Cell 608-886-0655 and Kimberly Bradley, CT Trail Census/Trail Finder Coordinator Cell 860-581-3130

Office location: Remote. Weekly online meetings (computer required) will be required.

The CT Trail Finder will be a free, interactive mapping site designed to help Connecticut residents and visitors find hiking, walking, snowshoeing, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and paddling trails across the state. Our goal is to help people get out, be active, and explore our state’s treasures. Detailed trail description pages will allow users to view the trails, get essential information, submit trip comments and photos, find nearby geocaches, and a whole lot more. Users will be able to track trail experiences, noting trails that they have completed, their favorites, or ones they want to visit.

This internship will involve assisting with communications, outreach, and technical aspects of the CT Trail Finder including: developing topical social media postings for Facebook and Instagram, supporting development of narrative for trail postings, working within website platform to publish trail information, assisting with in-person outreach events, participating in team coordination meetings. The student should have excellent communication, writing and organizational skills, and ability to work effectively independently as well as coordinate with a professional team involved in overseeing these projects.

Date ranges and work times: Remote. Weekly online meetings (computer required) will be required and some travel around the state may be required to fully participate in the program. Interns will have the opportunity to be present in an office in New Haven or Haddam as needed but the majority of the work hours will be self-managed. Dates and work hours will be mutually agreed upon at the start of the internship.

The intern will have the opportunity to:
• Learn about the multiple values of trails as resources for recreation, health promotion, and economic or tourism development;
• Learn how state agencies partner with local and private conservation organizations to advance and promote outdoor recreation.
• Enhance their skills in educational communications (writing and verbal presentation skills) for a public audience

Mentorship commitment:
Trail Finder Coordinator Kim Bradley and Community & Economic Development Educator Laura Brown will work closely with the intern to discover key learning objectives and interests. The intern will be required to participating in weekly team coordination meetings. We would also encourage the intern to participate in trainings, meetings and activities around the state proving them with connections and career contacts in our program partner organizations such as the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Forest and Park Association and the National Park Service. We will also support the student in identifying additional related learning and career opportunities following the internship experience.

Compensation: $15/hour, ~10 hours per week for 10 weeks. Total compensation will be $1,500 with potential for continuing through the Spring and Summer semester.

To Apply: Please send a short cover letter expressing interest and resume to and Applications will be considered on a rolling basis with estimated start date October 4, 2021

Tackling Food & Justice, Youth Style!

youth food justice zoom event powerpoint and participantsOn Wednesday, August 18th, The CT Farm to School Collaborative partnered with The CT Youth Food Program Alliance to host a virtual event, for youth, by youth!

The virtual event included a career panel, and mini-workshops, that were hosted by the following Youth MCs, Sayaada Arouna of Grow Hartford Youth Program, Melyssa Cristino of Grow Windham, and FoodCorps CT Alumni, Ms.Vetiveah Harrsion.

Thank you to our CT Farm to School Youth Planning Committee Interns, Darlenne Cazarin, Common Ground High School Alum, Treyvion Taylor of Nonprofit Accountability Group, Fatima Santos of Stamford Public Schools, and adult lead planner, Ally Staab FoodCorps CT Alumni.

This event was created with the intention to expand opportunities for youth in CT farm to school.  What better way than to engage youth in educationally fun workshops related to nutrition, food justice, careers, and farm life. Local CT community leaders were our workshop facilitators and career panelists.

At the end of the event, students were sent a Certificate of Contribution, and Grow Kits from UConn Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Students also were invited to become youth participants in UConn’s EFNEP Program.

Birch Mill Farm – Connecticut Dairy Farm of the Year 2021

New England Green Pastures Connecticut Dairy Farm of the Year 2021

Kinsella familyWe are delighted to announce that Katlyn and Tim Kinsella of Birch Mill Farm have been selected as the 2021 New England Green Pastures Connecticut Outstanding Farm. Birch Mill Farm is located in Falls Village in the bucolic northwest corner of Connecticut. They are proud first generation dairy farmers and along with their young family, Emma and Henry, they milk 45 cows made up of Brown Swiss, Ayrshire and Holsteins. Tim and Kate grew up in the agriculture community, both their grandparents are retired farmers and as kids they raised and showed purebred dairy cows and were very active in 4-H and FFA. After high school Tim went to work full time on a local dairy farm and Kate worked as a DHIA milk tester. In 2009 when a good friend and long time farmer decided to retire, Tim and Kate were given the opportunity to rent the farm and purchase his 28 young stock. Those young stock along with the 5 milk cows they already owned became the foundation for their now, herd of 100 head consisting of 50 mature cows and young stock.

They maintain a 22,500 rolling herd average and they are proud of the latest DHI test of 82 pounds of milk per cow. They maintain high quality milk with average SCC far below 100,00- cells/mL. They have bred several Excellent Brown Swiss cows and are particularly proud of a favorite Brown Swiss cow who’s daughter has ranked in the top 100 for Heifer G-PPR. The secrets to their success is their commitment to high quality forage, cow comfort with the installations of water beds in their tie stalls, and a strong focus on hygiene in housing and milking time routines.

They are farming at a rented facility with 25 acres and rent an additional 500 acres. This additional land base supports a secondary hay business. Their forages consist of 100% BMR corn, grass and alfalfa. They use cover crops and have recently explored the feeding potential of this crop.

They have a strong commitment to the dairy industry and support local school activities and are involved in the local FFA and 4-H programs. They have leased calves to 4-H youth and Kate just became co-chair of the Goshen Fair Dairy Committee.

Over the last 12 years, they have focused on updating facilities to ensure cow comfort, hygiene and high quality milk, along with making high quality forages. The Kinsella’s consider themselves to be relatively ‘risk adverse’ and they make sure that all new investments will be economically sound. They are positive and resilient and maintain a can-do attitude that shows in all aspects of the farm. They look forward to moving their farm to the next level and they are great representatives of the sustainability of dairy farming in Connecticut. We congratulate Kate and Tim Kinsella on their achievements.

Respectively Submitted by, Sheila M. Andrew, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Dairy specialist, University of Connecticut