garden

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 mastergardener.uconn.edu , 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.

Save Your Boxwoods: Check Them for the Box Tree Moth!

A Message from USDA to Gardeners in Connecticut

boxwood
(Courtesy: Matteo Maspero and Andrea Tantardini, Centro MiRT – Fondazione Minoprio [IT].)

A New Invasive Pest May Be in Connecticut

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responding to a significant plant health threat and needs your help. Please check your boxwood plants for the invasive and destructive box tree moth. During the spring, a number of U.S. nurseries received potentially infested Canadian boxwood plants. This invasive pest feeds on the plants’ leaves, and can cause complete defoliation, eventually killing the plant.

Many Connecticut residents have already purchased and planted these boxwoods. If you bought one, you may have infested boxwood on your property. USDA wants to prevent the box tree moth from spreading and establishing itself in the State and beyond.

Box Tree Moth
(Photo by iredding01, Adobe Stock.)

Help Protect Connecticut’s Boxwoods!

Here’s how you can help:

If you bought a boxwood plant during spring 2021, please inspect it for signs of the moth and report any findings to your local USDA office or State agriculture department. If State or Federal agriculture officials visit your home, please allow them to inspect your boxwood trees and place an insect trap. Box tree moths can produce several generations between June and October, so acting now is essential to prevent this pest from establishing itself in Connecticut.

This is what you should look for:

Caterpillars and webbing (larvae can reach 1.5 inches long)

Caterpillars
(Courtesy of Matteo Maspero and Andrea Tantardini, Centro MiRT – Fondazione Minoprio [IT].)
Damage

box tree moth damage
(Photo by Lavizzara, Adobe Stock.)

Pupa

Pupa
(Courtesy of Ilya Mityushev, Department of Plant protection of the Russian State Agrarian University – Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy.)

Adult moths (wingspan is 1.5 to 1.75 inches):

box tree moth
(Courtesy of Matteo Maspero and Andrea Tantardini, Centro MiRT – Fondazione Minoprio [IT].)
box tree moth
Dark form of the moth. (Courtesy of Ilya Mityushev, Department of Plant protection of the Russian State Agrarian University – Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy.)

Egg mass under the leaves

Box Tree Moth Egg mass under leaves
(Courtesy of Walter Schön, www.schmetterling-raupe.de/art/perspectalis.htm.)

Report signs of infestation to:

Your USDA local office: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/planthealth/sphd

 

The Importance of Boxwoods

Boxwoods are popular shrubs and are found all over the country. They make an excellent choice for hedges and topiaries.

Older boxwoods can hold great historical value, such as the 150-year-old boxwoods at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in North Carolina. Unfortunately, these plants were lost to boxwood blight. Many States have historical gardens containing boxwoods, which the box tree moth could devastate.

This pest threatens the thriving U.S. boxwood industry, as well as nurseries and other businesses that sell these plants wholesale and direct to consumers. Boxwoods have an estimated $141 million economic impact in the United States, according to one industry estimate.

About the Box Tree Moth

The box tree moth is native to East Asia. It has become a serious invasive pest in Europe, where it continues to spread. The caterpillars feed mostly on boxwood, and heavy infestations can defoliate host plants. Once the leaves are gone, larvae consume the bark, leading to girdling and plant death.

Females lay eggs singly or in clusters of 5 to more than 20 eggs in a gelatinous mass on the underside of boxwood leaves. Most females deposit more than 42 egg masses in their lifetime. They typically hatch within 4 to 6 days.

Pupae typically first appear in April or May and are present continuously through the summer and into the fall, depending on the local climate and timing of generations. Adults first emerge from the overwintering generation between April and July, depending on climate and temperature. Subsequent generations are active between June and October. Adults typically live for two weeks after emergence.

Box tree moths are highly mobile and are reported to be good fliers. Natural spread of this moth in Europe is about 3 to 6 miles per year. One analysis from Europe concluded that natural dispersal from continental Europe to the United Kingdom was possible, suggesting sustained adult flights of over 20 miles.

USDA’s Response with State Partners

In response to the incident, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a Federal Order on May 26, 2021, to halt the importation of host plants from Canada, including boxwood (Buxus species), Euonymus (Euonymus species), and holly (Ilex species). 

In addition, APHIS is working closely with the affected States, including Connecticut, to:

  • Find and destroy the imported plants in the receiving facilities;
  • Trace sold imported plants to determine additional locations of potentially infected boxwood;
  • Provide box tree moth traps and lures for surveys in the receiving facilities and other locations that received potentially infected plants; and,
  • Prepare outreach materials for state agriculture departments, industry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists stationed along the Canadian border, and the public

More Information

For more information about the moth and boxwoods, or USDA’s response with State partners, visit: www.aphis.usda.gov/planthealth/box-tree-moth 

 

Sarah Bailey Receives Mehlquist Award from CT Hort

working in garden
Hartford County Master Gardener Coordinator Sarah Bailey and a Master Gardener volunteer work in Burgdorf. Photo: Chris Defrancesco.
Congratulations to Sarah Bailey, coordinator of our UConn Extension Master Gardener Program on receiving the 2020 Mehlquist Award from the Connecticut Horticultural Society.
 
“… Sarah’s reach and impact on Connecticut’s gardening community has been significant. Sarah’s work to transition the MG class to an online platform in 2018 helped bring the Program into the 21st century. This shift makes it easier for students that are still in the workforce to participate, as the in class commitment was reduced to 4 hours per week. Each day, Sarah leads her team of County Coordinators to provide science-based information to home gardeners. She works tirelessly to meet the challenge of sustaining the MG Program with limited funding from UConn and federal sources. The program is largely
self-sustaining with revenue from MG and Advanced MG classes. …”
 
Visit http://bit.ly/CTHort_Sarah to read more. Congratulations, Sarah!

Apply to Become a UConn Extension Master Gardener – 2021 Class Will Be Online

Master Gardener logoGarden harvests are underway, and it’s a great time to plan ahead for next year. Apply now for the 2021 UConn Extension Master Gardener Program. Classes will be held in Bethel, Brooklyn, Farmington, Haddam and Stamford. The deadline for applications is Friday, October 16, 2020.

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.

“The Master Gardener Program opened my eyes to the wonderful world of horticulture, gardening, and the fragile ecosystem we share with animals and insects,” says Pat Sabosik of Hamden, who completed the program in 2017.

The 2021 class, that runs January through April, will be entirely online. Each topic consists of online educational material to be reviewed before the class date and a weekly interactive online session providing more depth and application of information to real-life situations. The classroom portion runs from 9 AM – 1 PM. There are five class cohorts available; each affiliated with one or more Master Gardener offices. This year’s Haddam class will be held on Saturdays.

“The combination of in-depth classroom learning with subject matter experts, extensive reading materials, and hands-on projects and outreach experiences is a good balance of learning experiences”, says Anne Farnum who also took the class in 2017.

Classes begin the week of January 9, 2021. 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 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 www.mastergardener.uconn.edu , where both the on-line and paper application are located.

There is Still Time to Garden

school garden plant
Photo: Molly Deegan

August is just around the corner, and somehow you never got your vegetable garden started. Perhaps you had a wonderful early-season harvest but didn’t plant any later-season crops. The garden bed is just sitting there, empty except for weeds.

Don’t think the garden season is over! There are plenty of short-season crops and cold-tolerant veggies you can grow starting right now.

Connecticut’s first frost dates vary from mid-September in the area of Coventry to early November along the coast in the Bridgeport area. For most of the state, that frost date falls sometime in October. (You can check your specific area at  https://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-connecticut-first-frost-date-map.php) That means most of us have anywhere from eight to ten weeks (55 to 70 days) of growing season left.

There are plenty of short-season vegetables to choose. Once you have determined your likely first frost date, select plants and varieties that will mature in that time frame. This includes vegetables such as beets, bush beans, some cabbages, lettuce, kale, Asian greens, scallions, radishes, turnips, spinach and Swiss chard.

Some vegetables can tolerate cooler temperatures and even a light frost. These selections provide a little extra insurance against an early frost. These include small, round beets, short carrots, radishes, bunching onions, mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale, and spinach. The cooler temperatures will actually improve the sweetness of carrots, cabbages and beets.

You can extend your season further by using plant protectors such as floating row covers, cloches and other similar devices that will give your plants a little extra warmth when the temperatures drop.

So, don’t put the garden tools away just yet. Get started on round two – or three – of your garden to table season!

Article by Sarah Bailey, State Coordinator, UConn Extension Master Gardener Program

Early Garden Arrivals

Developing buds on bloodroot with its first flower
Developing buds on bloodroot with its first flower

Spring 2020 generally arrived on time in Connecticut, but with some hesitation. A few bright, warm days have been sprinkled between cool or rainy, windy days and some localized snow showers.  Those warm days brought out the rakes, pruners, shovel, and a pop-up yard bag to clear the debris that accumulated since the fall clean up in the shady perennial beds and sunny pollinator garden. Tiny shoots of the ephemeral  bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia sp) were buried under still-soggy leaves and had to be uncovered carefully by hand to prevent damage to the delicate new shoots.

Ephemerals are plants that pop up in early spring, produce leaves, flowers and seeds but then disappear when the summer perennials are at their peak of display.  The ephemerals take advantage of the short period between when snow cover disappears and trees start to leaf out. Usually found in cool, moist, rich soil in shady woodland areas, they produce their flowers for a short time, are pollinated, produce seeds then disappear underground until the following spring. Ephemerals provide essential nectar and/or pollen for early foraging bees and flies

Areas around the home that are in dappled shade are perfect spots to grow ephemerals.  The best way to add these early bloomers to home beds is by purchasing root stock from a trusted supplier. Plant the bare roots or corms 2-3 inches deep in moist, humus-rich acidic soils (4.5-6.5 pH) that drain well and are sheltered from all-day summer sun. In the fall, keep the area with the new plantings moist so they develop a good root system.  A light winter cover of shredded leaves will make it easier for the new growth to emerge in the spring. Eventual cold temperatures will force dormancy. The plants will start to develop roots and shoots after about 3-4 months when soil temperature starts to rise. Divide mature plants in the fall being careful to provide roots for each new section. A light scattering of balanced fertilizer (such as 5-5-5) can be added to each new planting area.

Interested in learning more about other early garden arrivals?

Read more at:

Early Garden Arrivals

Getting Started with Vegetable Gardening

It’s exciting for those of us who are already passionate about gardening to see the recent interest in vegetable gardens. Seed companies have been doing a great business. Every winter I love to browse seed catalogs and gardening websites and dream about the perfect garden. There is a special joy in eating something you grew yourself, it is convenient to have fresh food at hand, and you can even save money.

While there are wonderful benefits of growing your own food, it can also be challenging. How can you be successful from the beginning? Where can you turn for reliable science-based information? UConn Extension has numerous resources available online and you can reach out to any of our nine Master Gardener offices around the state with questions.

Before you spend money on seeds, plants or fancy tools, ask yourself if you can provide the basics of adequate sun, soil, and water. Without at least 6-8 hours of sun, few vegetables can thrive. Similarly, if your soil pH is not in the correct range, plants struggle to get nutrients from the soil. Finally, you should have a way to easily water your new vegetable garden if it does not get at least an inch of rain per week.

As long as you can provide enough sun, a yard isn’t necessary. Container gardening is an easy way to get started without a big commitment. Make sure the container is deep enough for the roots to grow and look for dwarf varieties that will be happy with less room to grow. See the container gardening section for more information.

Consider creating a small raised bed in a sunny area. A few tomato plants, 2 or 3 cucumber plants, lettuce, radishes, and basil fit in a 4 x 8-foot raised bed. Purchased garden soil eliminates the need to dig.  Remember to allow space between plants so air can circulate and reduce the chance of disease. If deer, rabbits, and other animals are a problem, you can use netting and stakes to create a simple fence around the bed.

As a beginning gardener, start small so that you aren’t overwhelmed by weeds, insects, other potential problems, or your aching muscles. Grow what you like to eat. I grew Swiss chard for several years because the foliage is colorful, but I don’t actually like to eat it! Consider choosing plants with fewer pest or disease problems. Cool season vegetables like radishes and lettuce grow quickly from seeds planted in the garden and they have few pests. Soil should be at least 40 degrees and not too wet. Beans can also be direct sown in the garden, but watch out for Japanese, Cucumber, and Mexican Bean beetles. Luckily, hand picking insect pests is manageable in a small garden. Home grown tomatoes are delicious, but they are susceptible to disease and take a long time to mature. Seeds must be started indoors 6 weeks before the last frost date (average of mid-May in CT) or you can buy plants to put in the ground in early June. Warm season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant need warm soil (at least 60 degrees) to thrive so don’t start too early.  Whether you grow from seed or plants, keep track of when you plant and how it grows.  This can be as easy as taking pictures with your phone.

Welcome to the world of gardening!

Article by Michelle Winkler, Litchfield County Extension Master Gardener Coordinator