Ask UConn Extension

Connecting Connecticut: Our Podcast Answers Your Questions

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack

Have you ever asked yourself if it is safe to drink tap water? Or how do I store and handle cheese? Maybe you were wondering what is the best way to put mulch around my tree? All these questions and so many more can be answered looking no further than the UConn Extension program in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. 

Finding this information has never been easier thanks to the restart of the Connecting Connecticut Podcast, a podcast with the goal of informing all Connecticut residents about the opportunities, information and research found within the UConn Extension and our programs. 

Stay tuned for our new Mini-Series: Connecting Connecticut|Sea Grant, take a dive with us into the Connecticut coast and all the work our Sea Grant educators are doing. Taking on climate resilience, improving fishing techniques and exploring the robust shellfishing industry. 

You can listen to all episodes on our Spotify channel at

Ask UConn Extension: Why are Maple Leaves Turning Brown and Falling Early?

brown maple leaves along a roadsideThis summer has been one for the books, at least weather-wise. It has been rainy with little periods of dry weather, and the warm nights coupled with high humidity have provided an excellent opportunity for certain fungal pathogens to develop. Anthracnose species are just some of the fungal diseases that affect many plants, especially those under stress, and certain maples were infected earlier this season.

Driving along the road, maples infected with anthracnose can be clearly seen. The foliage has turned brown, leaves appear to be drying up, and leaf fall may be extensive. On some trees, it appears as though only seed clusters remain on the trees while leaves are almost all on the ground. This premature leaf drop may affect the tree’s ability to manufacture carbohydrates for next spring’s growth spurt. When leaf fall occurs early enough in the year then trees can produce new leaves before fall so this is not an issue. Leaf drop began on many trees in August, so time will tell what lingering effect this will have on some maples.

All maples including sugar maples (Acer saccharum), Norway maples (A. platanoides), red maples (A. rubrum), and others are susceptible to infection from anthracnose when environmental conditions, host pathogens, and a susceptible host plant combine to make a perfect storm for disease development. While normally a minor disease of maples, environmental conditions that promote disease infections that are persistent can be more than just an aesthetic issue and be more serious on trees already weakened by other issues.

Anthracnose fungi overwinter within dead leaf tissue and in any infected twigs and buds. The fruiting bodies are produced in the spring from any leaves left on the ground or from the infected twigs and buds. The spores that are produced will be spread by splashing rainwater or wind. Spores are only produced when the environmental conditions are right – usually during periods of mild and wet weather that occur from spring into late summer. Typically, these spores are more numerous in late spring and early summer, as they were this year. During hot dry weather, spore activity is less, but we certainly did not experience these conditions this year.

What can a homeowner do if their trees have suffered from anthracnose this year? The easiest thing to do is rake up the leaves from infected trees and remove them from the property. If dumped in the woods, infections can occur on any trees near those leaves. Infected twigs can be pruned off, and discarded, but that is not practical for large trees. Get a soil test to determine if any nutritional deficiencies need correcting. A pH that is too acidic can be raised by liming correctly based on soil test results. Maples can struggle in soils where the soil pH is too low. Sometimes repeat limestone applications are needed.

Do your best to make sure the growing conditions you can control like compaction issues, fertilization needs, problems with flooding, infected leaf pick up, and other things that may affect tree health are taken care of. Next year may be the total opposite of this year and may or may not bring a different set of problems for maples. Anthracnose may not be a concern if we have a drier year, and that is what many of us homeowners and gardeners hope for – perhaps!

By Pamm Cooper, UConn Home and Garden Education Center

For questions on maple anthracnose or if you have any other gardening questions, contact the UConn Home & Garden Education at (877) 486-6271 or www.homegarden.cahnr, or your local Cooperative Extension Center.

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

Ask UConn Extension: What’s Wrong With the Maple Trees?

thinning maple treesThis year people are noticing that maple leaves appear wilted or browned and heavy leaf drops are premature in many cases. UConn Extension educator and forestry expert, Tom Worthley, says that this “maple leaf phenomenon is a foliar fungus from the anthracnose group. During summers with high humidity and lots of rainfall these fungi can be very active and that is what we are seeing this year. It is not generally fatal unless a particular tree is under some other severe stress, and there is not much that people can do.” Maple anthracnose overwinters in fallen leaves and the disease is worse in natural or wooded areas where the fallen leaves collect from year to year. Along roadsides, this is especially in evidence by the noticeable difference in the leaves of infected maples compared to other trees surrounding them. Learn more about Maple Anthracnose.

Answered by the UConn Home & Garden Education Center and Tom Worthley  

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 for Agriculture, Residents & Municipalities

cornfield flooded with rain
Photo: Joe Wojnilo

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. 

Flooding Resources

Sesame in the News

Article by Sharon Gray MPH, RD 

As of January 1, 2023, Sesame is now required to be labeled as an allergen on packaged foods, including dietary supplements. This has been the culmination of efforts for years among food allergy advocates. Sesame is now the country’s ninth major allergen, affecting approximately 1.6 million people (about the population of West Virginia) in the United States. Cases of Sesame allergy, some quite severe, have been rising in recent years along with a growing number of foods that contain the ingredient. Dr. Michael Pistiner, Director of Food Allergy, Education and Prevention at Mass General Hospital for Children believes one reason for the rise in sesame allergies is due to more people in the United States eating sesame- containing products (2019). 

Sesame can be found in obvious places like sesame seeds on bagels. But it is also an ingredient in many foods from ice cream, hummus to protein bars and can be added to sauces, dips and salad dressings and hidden in spices and flavorings. Because it is in a lot of foods as hidden ingredients, it is very hard to avoid. 

The Food Allergy, Safety, Treatment, Education and Reasearch (FASTER) Act became law in April 2021, requiring sesame to be listed on packaged foods beginning January 1, 2023. 

This federal law establishing Sesame labeling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require food products that were already on their way to the store or in stock before 2023 to list sesame as an allergen. So, unlabeled packaged foods will still be on store shelves in the near future. However, the new federal law did go into effect on January 1, adding sesame to the list of allergens that must appear on food labels if present in the product. Unfortunately, the new labeling requirements are so strict that it costs less to add sesame to food products than to try and keep it out of those foods not meant to contain it. Some of the companies adding sesame to foods that didn’t contain it before include Olive Garden, Wendys, and Chick-fil-A and bread makers that stock grocery shelves and serve schools.  Bakers, especially, find it simpler and less expensive to add sesame to a food – than to try and keep it away from other foods or equipment with sesame.  

Although these actions don’t violate the law, the FDA does not support them. These moves have the unintended effect of the law making it more difficult for sesame allergic customers to find foods that are safe for them to consume. Sesame labeling has been required for years in Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. So, labeling can be done. It is of interest how many companies in the United States will comply with the new labeling law or simply add sesame to their list of ingredients to avoid the law. 

New Label Law has Unintended Effect:  Sesame in More Foods, J. Aleccia 12/21/22 

Here are two examples of how sesame would be labeled on a food package under the new law: 

example of sesame food label example of sesame food label

UConn Extension Internship Application Deadline Extended

woman with UConn shirt smiling, and navy blue & green text over a green background

The application deadline for our summer internships has been extended to March 26th. 

Get paid while learning and working in a career-oriented role. We offer internships in the following disciplines:

  • Food
  • Health
  • Nutrition
  • Sustainability
  • Research
  • Agribusiness
  • Youth Education
  • Community Development
  • Marketing

Click here to view internship descriptions.

Most of these roles are for an average 18-20 hours per week over the 10 week summer period with some requiring a bit of weekend and/or evening hours, although these circumstances vary by position. Some of these positions for employment are contingent upon the successful completion of a pre-employment criminal background check.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to intern with us this summer!

Click here to apply.


Top 10 Cool Season Tips to Get You the Best Yard

bentgrass stand dormant in hot summer, may be mistaken for disease activityClean up Gently

In the spring, remove any large debris from the lawn that may have the potential to smother and kill your grass as it starts to resume growth in the spring.  Once excess debris is removed, rake your lawn to remove any dead grass.

Get Rid of Bare Spots

Reseed any bare patches with grass seed to reduce spaces where weeds can grow and help to create a dense and consistent turfgrass surface to match the rest of the lawn’s lush look.

Don’t Cut the Grass too Short

Mowing the lawn too short can cause it to “stress”, which in turn will prevent it from flourishing.  The height of cut should be maintained at least 3 inches tall.  Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade during the mowing process.   Grass clippings should be returned to the turfgrass surface. As the leaf clippings degrade, they release nutrients back into the turfgrass lawn.

Sharpen Mower Blades and Clean Up

Sharpen mower blades and clean mowing equipment of debris. When cleaning off equipment, make sure that grass clipping stuck on the underside of the mower is not rinsed where they can get washed into stormwater drains.

Water (If needed)

During the growing season, consider watering lawn areas, if there have been no measurable rain. Lawns require about an inch of water/week, therefore deep and infrequent watering will keep the lawn healthy during the hot summer months. Water early in the morning to allow the turfgrass roots to absorb the water, but also time for the leaves to dry.

Lawns that are not irrigated will become dormant and “rest” during the hot summer months, but will resume active growth when hot summer temperatures turn cool.

Different turfgrasses require different watering or nutrients to persist.  Consider turfgrasses that utilize less water or fertilizer in lawns with little activity. Some grasses are better suited to full sun, others better suited to partial shade.  Fine fescues can survive with few inputs and do well in dry partial shade conditions.

Feed Your lawn

Like people, turfgrass lawns, require nutrients protect itself against insects, weeds or diseases that grow in the turfgrass canopy.  Fertilize when turfgrass is actively growing so that the lawn will benefit from each fertilizer application.

Fertilizing your lawn is important, especially if the lawn may thin out due wear damage from active children and pets.

Fertilizers that release nutrients slowly over time (slow release) can extend the duration of feeding.  Quick release fertilizers provide a quick response and do not provide a consistent slow release of nutrients.  Slow release fertilizers can be synthetic or organic.

Older lawns typically require less fertilizer than younger lawns.  Overtime older lawns can release nutrients back into the soil.

Attract Pollinators to your Garden

Pollinators will be attracted to all flowering plants, including weeds in the lawn.  If pollinators are to be protected, mow the lawn to remove the flowers before any herbicide is applied.  Pollinators will not travel to weeds to collect pollen if the flowers have been removed.

Clean and Polish

Make sure you have cleaned and lubricated all the garden tools you have been using before storing them away.

Give Your Lawn What It Wants

Fertilizing your lawn is absolutely necessary if you find that it is struggling to grow. Completing this process in the early spring will jumpstart the growth of your grass.

Hire the Professionals

Hire a professional landscape contractor or lawn care company to help manage your lawn.  These professionals are trained to make environmentally friendly adjustments that will help you grow a healthy lawn.


Visit for more tips on how to maintain the perfect yard.