Meet Joanna Woodward

Joanna WoodwardJoanna Woodward recently joined UConn Extension as the Master Gardener Coordinator for Tolland County. Prior to joining Extension, she spent 30 years in corporate IT working in training and help desk services, project management, library and information services, and then technology adoption and education. Joanna emigrated from the United Kingdom almost 20 years ago and earned her bachelor in science in Technical Management.

What is your area of interest?

Since retiring and completing the Master Gardeners program, I have an interest in native plants and landscape design with a view to supporting wildlife in our gardens. I maintain my interest in technology adoption and education which began in the early 90’s training secretaries how to use word processors. I was lucky to be around at a time when technology was being introduced into the workplace for the first time.

What excites you the most about working with UConn Extension?

I’m looking forward to engaging with each of the Tolland County Master Gardeners, with the team of Master Gardener Coordinators and looking to collaboration opportunities with other Extension programs. The 2024 program will be online in Tolland so I’m excited to use my previous experience as a technology educator to engage with the new interns.

What is one thing you hope people will learn from you and your work?

I hope the new Master Gardeners enjoy their gardening learning experience and become even more curious about the natural world through the program.

What is your favorite thing to do in Connecticut?

I enjoy walking with my dog in the Connecticut state parks.

What are some of your hobbies and other interests?

I am a Master Gardener volunteer at the Connecticut Audubon Society Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center in Old Lyme and at Camp Harkness in Waterford. I belong to the local garden club and manage their website. I have recently purchased a Cannon DSLR camera and am learning about nature photography. I am a member of two book clubs, one in the U.S. and one in the U.K. and listen to audio books and subscribe to gardening podcasts. I love watching British TV programs (Gardeners World included of course) which keep me connected to my family back at home. My family here consists of my husband, three grown up children, two moggy cats and a cockerpoo.

Ask UConn Extension: When do I prune my hydrangea?

blue and white hydrangea

If the shrub blooms in spring, then prune immediately after bloom period next year. If you prune it now, flower buds will be lost. If it blooms in summer, prune now or in the spring. Endless Summer hydrangea macrophylla blooms on current season growth and old wood, pruning will still result in some flower loss, but pruning can be done now if you can’t wait.

Answered by the UConn Home & Garden Education Center

Become a Master Composter

outdoor bin filled with compost Registration is open for the 2023 UConn Master Composter Program! Classes consist of two Saturday in-person sessions, September 16 and 30, and two Thursday night virtual ones, September 21 and 28. There are also two field trips scheduled for October. Participants will learn about composting and share their knowledge with others in a variety of venues. UConn Master Composters make a difference! Learn more and register at

Job Opening: Evaluation Specialist

banner of Extension programs

We’re hiring an Extension Evaluation Specialist. Join our team and advance the field of program evaluation by designing and testing methods that lead to improved capacity to measure outcomes of UConn Extension programs. The Specialist designs and delivers education programs and non-credit courses for UConn Extension faculty, staff, and administrators to increase their capacity to evaluate programs aligned with the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources strategic vision and initiatives. Learn more and apply:

Become a Master Gardener – Apply for the 2024 Program

three women in a shed with vegetables and blueberries harvested from gardenDo you enjoy horticulture and want to expand your knowledge and also help others? Apply for the 2024 UConn Extension Master Gardener program.  Applications are due October 13, 2023 and classes begin on January 8, 2024. Class locations for 2024 are Stamford, Norwich, Torrington, New Haven, and online.

Students enrolled in this program receive training in an extensive range of horticultural and environmental topics, including botany, plant pathology, entomology, integrated pest management (IPM), herbaceous and woody ornamentals, fruits, vegetables, turfgrass, invasive plants, and diagnostic techniques for the home gardener.

“I have to say that the quality of the instruction was exceptional. Many of the topics brought me back to my time at UConn as a plant science major, classes that took a semester condensed to a single class,” said Althea Langer, a program graduate. “My outlook on my own garden and those of others has definitely been impacted by this course. I’m much more aware of nature and that we need to be guardians of it by how we all treat our own small spaces.”

UConn Extension Master Gardeners 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.

“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,” said Ken Sherrick, an Advanced Master Gardener.

The program fee is $495.00 and includes all needed course materials. Partial scholarships may be available, based on demonstrated financial need.

Full UConn Extension Master Gardener program course details and information and the application is available at

August 18th: 2nd Annual UConn IPM Seminar Series

pink and purple petunias and geraniums

Join us on Friday, August 18th for the 2nd Annual UConn IPM Seminar Series. This event is free to the public, and will be held in the Wilfred B. Young Building on the Storrs Campus from 10:a.m.-2:30 p.m. Registration is required.


Dr. Nick Goltz- Disease Update and Plant Health Tips

Pamm Cooper- Good Bug- Bad Bug

Marie Woodward- Intro to IPM for Home Gardeners

Cathryn Chapman- Right Plant, Right Place: A Look into Turfgrass Selection

Evan Lentz- Small Fruit IPM in the Home Garden

To register, visit IPM Registration/Survey

Cultivating Education and Food Security with the Master Gardeners

fruit on a persimmon tree with green leaves in backgroundOn Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from early spring through fall, you can find dedicated groups of Master Gardeners lovingly cultivating an organic Demonstration Vegetable Garden at the Fairfield County Extension Center site in Bethel. By summer, the garden is a beautiful oasis teeming with butterflies, and pollinators as volunteers harvest tomatoes, potatoes, beans, and other organic vegetables to donate to area food pantries. In addition to vegetables, the bountiful harvests include a variety of fresh herbs, and gorgeous annual flowers. Recently, the Master Gardeners have collaborated with Extension’s Food and Nutrition EFNEP and SNAP-Ed programs to provide clients with nutritious recipes in both Spanish and English to accompany their produce. Harvests continue all season long and food pantry drop offs are rotated to share the bounty. Among the area organizations who benefit from the donations are the Brookfield Food Pantry, Faith Food Pantry in Newtown, Daily Bread in Danbury, and the Bethel Food Pantry.

The 3,000 square foot garden was started in 2013 by a group of Master Gardener interns excited to assist food insecure clients, and at the same time educate the public about Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and best garden practices. Each year additional Master Gardeners have joined the group and added to the garden’s infrastructure. The garden now has numerous raised beds, an irrigation system, tunnels to protect brassica crops from cabbageworms, and a blueberry enclosure to keep hungry birds at bay.

Advanced Master Gardener, Andrea Sarnik, began working in the garden in 2018. In 2020, Andrea joined Barbara Stauder as a project co-captain. Andrea explains, “The garden’s primary mission is to serve as an educational tool. It does that in a multitude of ways. The garden itself is a showcase of many varieties of vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers. We receive many visitors on Saturdays when we open the garden during the Farmer’s Market. Visitors get ideas on things they might try and get answers to questions regarding gardening from the Master Gardener volunteers. The garden is marked with signs identifying the crops and informational signs such as companion planting and integrated pest management.”

In addition to the educational signage, a small rain garden display hugs the garden shed and a rain barrel system catches water from its roof. A three-bin compost system sits just outside thegraph showing garden produce totals from 2017 through 2022 garden gate. This garden is definitely all about education, but clients are not the only ones who benefit. New interns join the group each year as they pursue their Master Gardener certification. As Andrea Sarnik adds, “Master Gardener interns obtain a broad array of information from the more senior Master Gardeners and even the seasoned gardeners continue to learn as they encounter issues and exchange information.”

Each winter the group of about 30 volunteers meet to plan for the new season. They work to extend the season by careful planning, incorporating more early and late blooming crops, seeking out pest and disease resistant varieties, and discussing other ways to increase harvests and productivity. The enthusiastic group weighs their harvests and tracks their crops with numerous spreadsheets, noting weather and pest issues. “Most years show an increase in total pounds of produce donated with our current top year total of 1365 pounds,” Andrea remarks. Clearly, the Master Gardener’s methods are successful.

three women in a shed with vegetables and blueberries harvested from gardenThis season, the group has already donated hundreds of pounds of produce, having started early harvesting garlic, onions, and cole crops. With the cool, rainy spring, the tomatoes are a bit behind with many green fruits waiting for more sunshine to sweeten and ripen them. This year, over five years after planting, the young native persimmon tree outside the garden will finally fruit. One of the young pawpaw trees also has a few potato shaped fruits for the first time. The Master Gardeners are excited by this development and are already envisioning another abundant harvest to share with their friends at the local food pantries.

To learn more about the Extension Master Gardener Program, which is offered in multiple locations throughout the state, visit our website at Applications will be available by the end of August for the 2024 program.

Article by Sandi Wilson, Fairfield County Master Gardener Coordinator

Master Gardener Plant Clinic at the Darien Library

The Master Gardener program offers a Plant Clinic at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, one of our program locations. Pat Carroll, Coordinator for the Bartlett Arboretum location, wanted to extend their reach since we have Master Gardeners and clients who live in communities ranging from Greenwich to Fairfield and as far north as Ridgefield and Redding.    

Pat met with Joanne Gabriel who is both a Master Gardener and a Darien Library employee. “Joanne shared my enthusiasm of offering Plant Clinic at the library. We decided to run a trial of eight sessions on consecutive Friday mornings in May and June,” she said.

They met with a small group of Master Gardeners to determine the necessary materials, a topic of the day for each session, and a plan for handing off cases that require further research.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm and positive outreach each Friday we were set up at Darien Library,” Joanne says. “Sometimes we had plant cases, sometimes we just talked gardening, garden design, or hot topics. Each week there was a different theme for patrons to learn something new about. Finally, it was a great way for Master Gardeners to socialize, talk and learn from each other, something I think that was lost a bit during COVID.”

During the spring 2023 plant clinics, nearly 200 people stopped in. They had a conversation with a Master Gardener, took the pamphlets being offered, asked a question, brought a sample, brought a donation of a native or rare species (happened a few times!), or listened to the mini-lecture being offered.  While not all ended up being plant clinic cases, each interaction was valuable for both our volunteers and the people they interacted with.

Darien Library offered indoor space during inclement weather, and given the wet year we are having, that was appreciated by all! The library also provided tables and chairs, and assisted with weekly logistics.

The Plant Clinic provided information, pamphlets, live demonstrations, and samples. There are discussions to continue offering some programming for the community in conjunction with the Darien Library. Learn more about the program at

Ask UConn Extension: Residential Gardens and Flooding

The recent flooding has impacted many in Connecticut, including residential gardeners. UConn Extension has collected information on flood resources and information all in one place at Below are answers to some questions specifically pertaining to home gardeners:

Can the produce be eaten after a flood?

person wearing tall rain boots standing in a muddy puddleThis is a very difficult question to answer. The simplest and safest answer is a resounding, “No! You cannot eat produce from your flooded garden.” The floodwaters may have come from pastures, sewage treatment facilities, and other sources of disease-causing contamination. Produce has too many nooks and crannies to thoroughly clean and disinfect. Cooking or preservation does not render it safe to eat. Fresh produce that was submerged by floodwaters should be discarded. Seeds and young plants are unlikely to survive being submerged by floodwater. You will observe discolored leaves and stunted growth, or plant death. However, if a flood occurs early in the growing season, it may be possible to salvage at least some of the garden produce. All produce that is consumed uncooked or raw, e.g., spinach, lettuce, cabbage, should be discarded. Soft fruits, such as strawberries and all melons must be discarded. Flood-damaged garden produce that is unfit for eating should not be preserved, including freezing, canning, or dehydrating. The recommended processing and cooking time may not be sufficient to kill pathogens. Early season crops that will not be harvested for 120 days and have not been touched by floodwaters may be safe to eat if cooked or peeled. It must be completely intact, with no cracks or bruises. If you are unsure if flood water contacted the produce, throw it out! Late-season vegetables that come from flowers produced on growth that develops after floodwaters recede should be safe. Visit UConn Extension’s food safety program for more information.

How long after a flood do I have to wait to plant? 

You can replant after the soil has fully drained and the top two to three inches of soil has completely dried. This may be up to 60 days. Plants that can be started later in the late gardening season after the flood should be safe after an early spring flood. Cover crops can be established on flooded gardens to remediate the soil for the next growing season, rather than letting it lie fallow. When your landscape floods, be patient. Many plants will recover over time. Again, where edible plants are concerned, the safest response is also the simplest, “No! You cannot eat produce from your flooded garden.” Find additional information from Penn State Extension.

What produce can be planted mid to late summer?

You can successfully grow some root crops, greens and other vegetables from late June, July or August plantings. It is important to know the average first frost date in your area. This will help you calculate when to plant these late vegetables so they will mature before cold weather damage. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center has produced an up-to-date of first fall and last spring freeze dates. Some vegetables will tolerate some frost and keep growing even when temperatures are in the low forties. Others cannot tolerate frost and stop growing in cool weather. Bush snap beans mature in 45 to 65 days, but even a light frost (temperatures between 30° and 32°) will kill the plants. Kale takes just as long to mature, but the plants continue to grow when temperatures are cool, and can survive cold down to about 20°F. Cool-season vegetables including kale and others in the cabbage family may be the best choice for mid-summer sowing. An earlier-than-expected frost will not kill them before they are ready to eat. Many of the cold-tolerant vegetables actually have better quality when grown in cool weather. More information: and

How should I treat my flooded lawn?

If your lawn is flooded in the early spring, turf grasses can withstand several days of submersion without serious damage. The damage is done by a lack of oxygen and light. However, later in the summer, when temperatures are high, ponding water can cause damage or even loss within a few hours, mostly due to high water temperature. Once the floodwaters have receded, pick up any debris from the lawn. This is essential as the deposited debris is a safety hazard to persons operating equipment, like mowers. As soon as the lawn is dry, and this can take many days or even weeks, aerate it. If the soil temperature remained below 60°F and the water remained for four days or fewer, the turfgrass will probably recover. If the lawn was submerged for longer, repeat aeration in the autumn, and the following spring. Break up the aeration cores and over-seed in the autumn. Pre- or post-emergent herbicides may be needed to treat weed seeds that have come in with silt deposits. More information is available from Penn State Extension.

What effect does flooding have on trees and shrubs?

It is very difficult to determine the long-term effect of being underwater on trees and shrubs. Some woody plants tolerate wet soils better than others. All will suffer from a lack of oxygen when the floodwaters fill all the air spaces between the particles of soil. Usually, landscape plants can withstand being submerged for about a week. Remember that the waterlogged root systems may be affected by floodwater, even though the soil surface has begun to dry. This makes them susceptible to root-rot diseases. There is not much that you can do about flooded trees and shrubs except wait and hope for the best. Watch for signs of dieback: yellowing and dropping leaves. But, again, be patient. Just because the leaves drop, does not mean that the branch or plant is dead. Often the dropped leaves are a sign of stress and the plant will re-leaf later in the summer. Live stems and buds will have some green tissue – look under the branch bark. Remove limbs that are dead or physically damaged. More information is available from Penn State Extension.

Answered by the UConn Extension Master Gardeners

Flooding Resources

Updated on July 24, 2023

Many of our communities are affected by the statewide flooding from the Connecticut River after heavy rains in New York and Vermont. Flooding conditions continued after more rain arrived. UConn Extension has the following resources to support agricultural producers, consumers, residents, and others affected. You can also sign up for mobile weather alerts by visiting and CT Alerts. Anyone in a Disaster area can use the disaster recovery resources.

Ask a Question

UConn Extension provides answers you can trust. Our educators can also connect with agricultural producers, residents, and businesses individually. Ask us a question.

Agricultural Producers

Agricultural lands in central and northwestern Connecticut have flooded. The examples below are courtesy of farms along the Connecticut River.

Soil and Water Testing

Soil testing can help determine the extent of damage and any soil remediation needed. Visit our soil lab online for more information.

Water testing is also advised in some situations. Visit our website for more resources on how to get water tested in Connecticut.

State and Federal Reporting

In an effort to better understand the scope of the situation, we are asking producers to share estimated losses with us through our online reporting tool. This data will be shared with USDA Farm Service Agency and UConn Extension. By filling out this information it will assist these entities in determining if a disaster declaration can be obtained. Your farm name and contact information is not required, but if you would like to be contacted, please share that.

If you have not done so, please also contact your local Farm Service Agency county office to report your damages as well as your insurance agent to report impacts for covered crops. USDA disaster assistance information can be found on, including USDA resources specifically for producers impacted by flooding. For FSA programs eligibility, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center.

Food Safety

UConn Extension is part of the Produce Safety Alliance, and there are guidelines for flooded farms. We also recommend reviewing our farm worker training video series (y en Español) as the principles will help guide farm recovery after a flood.


Equine owners also need to be cognizant of disaster preparation, especially floods, and we have specific recommendations for these situations as well as on preparing for equine disasters.


Our team offers the following advice on extreme flooding:

Recommendations include: avoid areas with extreme flooding, as little as six inches of water can cause problems, do not drive through flooded water, check weather forecasts, and sign up for mobile alerts.

Flooding and erosion also cause issues on beach properties. Our Sea Grant program has a checklist for coastal hazards.

There are emergency preparedness resources for all residents available at our Adapt CT program. Coastal homeowners and businesses can also use resources specifically made for their situation.

Food Safety

Flooding sometimes impacts homes and gardens too. We have the following resources to help in those situations:

Soil and Water Testing

Soil testing can help determine the extent of damage and any soil remediation needed. Visit our soil lab online for more information.

Water testing is also advised in some situations. Visit our website for more resources on how to get water tested in Connecticut.


We have programs to help municipalities with stormwater and flooding, including the MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems) and the Adapt CT program for climate adaptation, including flooding in coastal and other communities. There are also fact sheets available:

Governmental Resources

Many state and national organizations have programs and resources that can help with extreme flooding:

Resources from Other Extension Systems

From the National Healthy Homes Project

Putting People First is the focus so they will protect their health during the cleanup and restoration process.

Thanks to the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) and Enterprise Community Partners, A Field Guide for Flooded Home Cleanup (also available in Spanish) has received a makeover. The widely-used guide was first developed nearly 15 years ago to teach safe mold removal practices in hurricane-damaged homes.

In addition, NCHH has a free online training course to educate homeowners and contractors in mold removal safety.

The Rebuild Healthy Homes Guide was developed to help homeowners, volunteers, and other workers to restore damaged homes in a way that puts people first. It includes how-to methods, tips, and improvement ideas for safe restoration that result in not just a livable dwelling, but a healthy home that offers even more than before.