sustainability

Sustainable Landscape Tips

Question: What are important considerations for plant selection when designing a sustainable landscape? 

Answer:

red and green bush in a sustainable landscape
Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ photo by Victoria Wallace

Proper plant selection is the most important step in designing a sustainable landscape.

  • “Right plant, right place” is the fundamental principle for the environmentally sound management of landscapes. Plants should be selected for not only aesthetic value, but also because they are adapted to the existing soil conditions, available water, microclimate, and space available.
  • Biologically diverse plants should be selected to tolerate reduced irrigation (once established), fertilizer, and soil amendment inputs.
  • Establishing strong, healthy, vigorous plantings is crucial for pest management in sustainable landscapes. A vigorous, healthy, unstressed plant can usually survive, avoid, or outcompete many potential disease, insect, and weed pests without further intervention.
  • Native plants are best adapted to the local soils and site conditions. Incorporating native plants helps to restore local ecosystems that support a wide variety of indigenous and beneficial insect, bird, and animal species. Over time, as these native plants become established, they can increase biodiversity and contribute to a reduction in expense and time spent on maintenance.
  • A healthy and diverse landscape supports naturally occurring beneficial insects. Native predators and parasitoids will help control harmful pests when provided the opportunity and necessary habitat for their survival. Many practices that support pollinators also support pest-controlling insects.

For more information, see UConn Extension Native Plant & Sustainable Landscaping Guide, available at www.s.uconn.edu/UConnNativePlantGuide.

 

Question: How do I maintain my garden in a more sustainable way?

Answer:

plants in a sustainable landscape with orange flowers
Photo: Alyssa Siegel Miles
plants along a sidewalk
Photo: Alyssa Siegel-Miles
  • Perform a soil test when renovating both landscapes and turfgrass areas. Find instructions at soiltest.uconn.edu/sampling.php. Consider the soil characteristics, climate, sun exposure, water conditions, and pest possibilities when selecting plants.
  • Utilize native plants wherever possible, incorporating them into the landscape, along with annuals, to maintain season-long color and aesthetic interest. Native plants can be interplanted in existing landscapes, even among non-native plants.
  • Group plants with similar watering, pH, fertilizer, and light requirements together to allow for the most efficient use of resources.
  • Ensure that the mature height and width of each plant is factored into the landscape design to avoid the need for excessive pruning or regular replacement.
  • Select more stress-tolerant species or cultivars to manage periodic dry/wet conditions. Where feasible, design with drought tolerant and low water use plants that require minimal irrigation. Where irrigation is necessary, utilize high‐efficiency irrigation systems (e.g., drip irrigation) or recycled water features in all landscaped areas for maximum efficiency.
  • Utilize a diverse range of plant species. Choose plants that offer ornamental interest in every season. Bark, foliage, fruit, and fragrance are ornamental characteristics to consider, in addition to flowers.
  • Select flowers with a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, heights, and growth habits to attract pollinators. Choose plants with a wide range of flowering times to extend the forage season and attractiveness of the planting. Select plant material not regularly browsed by deer.
  • Plant in “floral clumps,” which imitates the way plants naturally seed themselves and is both aesthetically pleasing and beneficial for pollinators. It is easier for pollinators to find and benefit from plantings when there are five or more of each pollinator-supporting species in a group.
  • Consider including species that support both butterfly/moth larvae and adults. Many butterfly and moth species are highly specialized, requiring specific plants for their survival, especially for their larvae. For example, monarch caterpillars can only survive by consuming milkweed plants. Many trees, including oak, maple, and willow, also serve as butterfly/moth larval host plants. While larval host plants will endure some damage as insects or other wildlife consume their leaves, native plants can tolerate and thrive in balance with the native insects that depend on them for survival.
  • For lawn areas, select improved and low-maintenance cultivars of turfgrasses suitable for home lawns, with improved drought tolerance and pest resistance. Consult UConn Extension specialists. Several national programs evaluate turfgrasses, including National Turf Evaluation Program (NTEP), Alliance for Low Input Sustainable Turf (ALIST), and Turfgrass Water Conservation Association (TWCA). UConn serves as an evaluation site for reduced input or low maintenance turfgrasses.

For more information, see UConn Extension Native Plant & Sustainable Landscaping Guide, available at www.s.uconn.edu/UConnNativePlantGuide.

By Vickie Wallace and Alyssa Siegel-Miles, UConn Extension

Visit https://news.extension.uconn.edu/answers/ for more answers to your questions.

Mitchell Elementary School Receives UConn 4-H Tower Garden

people standing in a classroom with tower garden
Left to Right: Cremeans, Dominello, Hale, Davenport

A good side of the Coronavirus Pandemic, people want to eat and live locally. As we are becoming more and more aware of our neighboring farms, farmers, and small businesses a push to be local seems to have swept the nation. That is no different in Connecticut where Litchfield County UConn 4-H Extension Educator Bill Davenport is bringing that food and individual connection to the classroom.

At Mitchell Elementary School in Woodbury, Davenport helped bring UConn 4-H’s first ever tower garden to students to teach them the importance of agriculture and sustainably grown food. Alongside Tyler Cremeans (Aquaponics and Farm to Table teacher at Nonnewaug High School’s Agriscience Program), John Dominello (Culinary and Farm to Table Teacher at Nonnewaug High School), and Shelby Hale (Science Instructional Coach at Mitchell Elementary School) they plan to provide the students not only with the tower garden but also have high school students and 4-H club officers from the agriscience program mentor the younger learners.

To Davenport this is simply the very beginning of what can become a collaborative effort between 4-H clubs and members across the state and the elementary schools in their communities. With the goal to have two of these tower gardens up and growing within the coming weeks at Mitchell Elementary School and Bethlehem Elementary school this is the start of a much larger project to help UConn 4-H members collaborate with younger community members. Not only will there be collaboration amongst 4-H, but Davenport hopes to bring in individuals from the Northwest Conservation District and the Bethlehem Conservation
Commission turning this into a community based effort. The project has the potential to gain traction and result in tower gardens being provided to schools and students across Connecticut. Teaching elementary students about the environment, agriculture, and sustainability through a hands-on-learning approach helps foster a population that understands where their food comes
from, how it is grown, and how to do so sustainably.

 

NRCA Program Receives Award

nrca students in water

Congratulations to our Natural Resources Conservation Academy on their 2020 Excellence in Conservation Org Award from the Connecticut Land Conservation Council! The NRCA team comprises faculty members in Natural Resources & the EnvironmentUConn Center for Land Use Education and Research, Extension, UConn CAHNRUConn Neag School of Education, and NRCS!

Extension in Our Communities

map of UConn Extension program in Connecticut communities using 2019 data

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. UConn Extension has collaborated with our partners, communities and stakeholders for over 100 years. Find your community on our map of Extension programs (based on 2019 data) and see how active we are in your city or town. Learn more about our Extension programs.

 

Ask UConn Extension Your Questions

Indu
Indu Upadhyaya, Food Safety Assistant Extension Educator. Photo: Kevin Noonan

UConn Extension has collaborated with our partners, communities and stakeholders for over 100 years. We are proud to serve all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut. The worldwide pandemic involving COVID-19 (coronavirus) has produced unprecedented challenges in the UConn community and around the world. Our services continue during this challenging time.

We are still delivering the science-based information you need. We are ready to answer your questions. Consult with us by email or on the phone. All of our educators are working and ready to serve you. Ask us a question online.

We are developing virtual programs to offset canceled in-person learning Abby Beissingeropportunities. Our educators are writing and updating fact sheets and other information. You have access to educational materials on our YouTube channel. We are growing our suite of online resources every day to meet the needs of our communities and stakeholders.

UConn CAHNR Extension educators have curated resources related to COVID-19 for our statewide audiences, including families, businesses, and agricultural producers.

Resources for all audiences includes:

  • Food safety and cooking
  • Hand washing and sanitizers
  • Infection prevention
  • Financial advice
  • Listings of open farms/farmers’ markets and school emergency meal distribution

Parents and families with children out of school can use the resources from our UConn 4-H program to provide new educational activities for youth. Activities available will keep youth engaged and learning and are appropriate for a variety of age groups.

Bruce Hyde presenting at Land Use Academy
Bruce Hyde presenting at Land Use Academy.

A list of resources has been collected for Connecticut businesses. It is a clearinghouse of resources, and not an official site. Business owners can connect to the state resources we provide for official and legal advice.

Agricultural producers are still working on farms, in greenhouses and along the coast in Long Island Sound during the COVID-19 outbreak. Extension educators have developed resources for specific agricultural sectors, including fruit and vegetable farms, aquaculture, and nursery and landscape professionals. Links to important updates from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture also are available.

Our Extension educators are updating and adding resources regularly. Please visit http://bit.ly/COVID-19-Extension.

We are also ready to answer your other questions, including:

  • How do I get my water tested?
  • What is wrong with my plant?
  • Can I eat healthy on a budget?
  • How does my son/daughter join 4-H?

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.

We are here. We are ready to serve you.

 

Free Environmental Webinar Series from UConn CLEAR

social distancing
The UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research is offering free webinars. Here is the schedule for the next three weeks:
 
WEDNESDAY MARCH 25, 2020 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
UConn Environment Corps: Harnessing Student Power to Help Towns
Chet Arnold, CLEAR Director
THURSDAY MARCH 26, 2020 11:00 AM – 11:45 AM
Emergency Changes to the Land Use Process in the COVID-19 Era
Sara C. Bronin
Thomas F. Gallivan Chair of Real Property Law, UConn Law School
Chair, Hartford Planning Commission
 
MONDAY MARCH 30, 2020 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Collaboratives & Utilities: New Options for Municipal Stormwater Management
Amanda Ryan, CLEAR MS4 Extension Educator
 
WEDNESDAY APRIL 1, 2020 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Moving with the Marshes
Juliana Barrett, Coastal Resources Extension Educator, CT Sea Grant
 
MONDAY APRIL 6, 2020 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
From Maps to Apps: Accessible Tech for field scientists and citizen scientists alike
Cary Chadwick, CLEAR Geospatial Extension Educator
 
WEDNESDAY APRIL 8, 2020 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Statewide Lidar Elevation Points in Interactive, Color 3D!!
Emily Wilson, CLEAR Geospatial Extension Educator
 
Registration:
 
 
 
 

Growing Food with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and UConn Extension have been collaborating thanks to a U.S.D.A. Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program to enhance agricultural production, food security, and health of tribal community members.

UConn Extension Growing Food With the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation

#AskUConnExtension #UConnImpact

Ask UConn Extension

food, health and sustainability venn diagram

Do you have food, health, or environmental sustainability questions?

Ask UConn Extension.

We have specialists located throughout the state to answer your questions and connect you with the power of UConn research.

Fill out this form with your question: http://bit.ly/AskUConnExtension

Risk Management Tools: Helping Connecticut Farms Grow

Horsebarn Hill at UConn
A view of Horsebarn Hill at sunrise on July 20, 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

“Agriculture is inherently a risk filled profession,” says Associate Extension Educator Joseph Bonelli. “Utilizing risk management is a tool for farmers to minimize the impacts of threats they can’t completely control by reducing the impact of certain dangers on their farm business.”

UConn Extension has a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management Association (RMA) grant for farmers and growers, specifically focusing on crop insurance and its options. USDA offers fewer disaster assistance funds, and wants farmers to take a greater interest in managing their risks and related financial impacts. The program is designed to create a safety net for operations through insurance for weather incidents, pests, or a lack of market.

The beauty of the programming is that Extension educators can weave in other topics of interest in areas of risk management for farmers. Examples include production risk, plant diseases, or labor. RMA covers any practice that mitigates risk on a farm operation.

“I enjoy helping farmers develop solutions to problems,” Bonelli states. “I ask them what keeps them up at night. For many farmers its problems that risk management can help them mitigate. Extension helps farmers understand the tools that are available, and grow the farm for the next generation.”

Mary Concklin, Visiting Associate Extension Educator for Fruit Production and IPM, is the co- principal investigator on the RMA grant with Bonelli. An advisory board of 12 people meets annually to provide input on programming. Members of the committee include Extension educators, Farm Bureau, the Department of Agriculture, and industry organizations.

Programs offered include workshops and one-on-one sessions with technical advisors. The RMA program has a suite of educational resources. A video series was created featuring farmers from different sectors of agriculture discussing how crop insurance has helped their operation. A monthly e-newsletter was recently introduced. Each issue showcases a farmer, and provides tips that farmers can immediately put into practice.

Agricultural producers appreciate that RMA programs have an impartial approach, and are not trying to sell anything. Program instructors serve as technical advisors and a sounding board.

UConn Extension is part of a network of information through our association with other land grant universities and Extension systems, and brings in outside expertise as it’s needed by our farmers. Risk management is also incorporated into other UConn Extension programs for agricultural producers.

Connecticut farmers have experienced a tremendous shift from wholesale to retail marketing. The demands on farmers and growers to understand how to promote and market value added crops has added another level of responsibility, where before farmers only focused on production. Direct marketing brings another whole area of risk through product liability and competition.

Not all national crop insurance programs fit Connecticut agriculture. Farmers need to make an informed decision
based on the facts as to whether or not a policy fits their business, and should be purchased. Bonelli and Concklin provide feedback to USDA on the reasons why Connecticut farmers choose not to purchase insurance, with the goal of improv- ing federal programs available.

“We try to be on the leading edge of what’s new to help farmers be more productive and financially viable,” Bonelli concludes. “It’s rewarding that UConn Extension is part of the success and resiliency of farmers in our state. No one organization is responsible, we’re part of a team working with the farmers to grow their businesses.”

Article by Stacey Stearns