Tag Archives: Arlington County

Time to Register for the Arlington/Alexandria Master Gardener Program

The 2017 Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Training for Arlington County/City of Alexandria residents is now open for registration. There will be an orientation on May 24 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford Street, Arlington, VA. If you would like to come and learn more about the Master Gardener program, contact the VCE Horticulture Help Desk at (703) 228-6414 or e-mail at mgarlalex@gmail.com. Note that there are other Master Gardener programs in the DC/MD/VA area which operate on different schedules. For more information on the Master Gardener program in general, see the Master Gardener page/tab at http://www.pegplant.com

Gardening in Virginia Despite Mosquitoes

EnglishIvy

English Ivy can harbor adult mosquitoes

If you are like me, you are plagued by mosquitoes in the garden. It is one thing to stay out of their way at dusk but it is quite another when the Asian Tiger attacks you all day long. Last year the mosquito population was so bad I could not go outside and I started to wonder if there was a better way. This spring, I contacted several companies to see if my property could be sprayed to prevent mosquitoes while not harming pollinators or my edibles.  I don’t have a pond or pets but I have quite a lot of edible plants intermixed with other plants on the property.  A lawn service mows the grass but I never know when the crew is coming. Plus, I knew I would not always be at home to let the pesticide applicator know where the edibles were in the garden nor would I be able to inform the lawn service crew when and if the place was just sprayed with a pesticide. All of these factors made it complex for me to figure out how to control mosquitoes but fortunately I was able to attend a free presentation at a local library.  Kirsten Conrad Buhls, Extension Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Arlington County, gave an excellent Powerpoint presentation entitled “Gardening in the Time of Zika: Nuisance Mosquito Management.”

I learned that there are 40 mosquito species in Virginia in a variety of habitats but most are aquatic. Up until the mid-1980s, the most problematic species was Culex, which came out at dusk and fed at night. This species lives in the woods and prefers the type of stagnant water that usually does not occur near residential homes but they can also breed in “container water.” Container water is the fresh water that collects from rain and sits in pockets or depressions in objects or in containers.

After the mid-1980s, a Southeast Asian native arrived called the Asian Tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus. The Asian Tiger is active during the day and prefers to breed in container water. The Asian Tiger has a cousin, Aedes aegypti, who also prefers to breed in container water. Both are vectors for transmitting diseases and both can transmit the Zika virus but A. aegypti is more effective and considered a primary transmitter.  Both could prosper here in Virginia, as in we have the appropriate environmental conditions, but currently Virginia does not have a substantial A. aegypti population. At this time, Zika is not established in a population of mosquitoes in America.

Only females bite humans to get a “blood meal” before laying eggs. They are cold blooded so they don’t bite if the temperature is below 50 degrees but they can live as long as 2 to 3 months and adults that hibernate can live up to 8 months. This means that the problem is temporary; it exists only in the hot summer months.

Because they breed in container water which is common in residential areas, anything that collects water should be dumped after it rains. Mosquitoes require as little as one tablespoon of water to lay eggs and it can take as short a time as 3 days for a new generation. After it rains, either dump the water or eliminate the object (e.g., put watering cans back inside the tool shed or throw away old tires). Be aware of what can collect water such as open trash bins, pets’ water bowls, potted plant saucers, toys, buckets and barrels, and the corrugated gutters. If the water cannot be dumped, such as a pond, make sure the pond has plenty of mosquito larvae eating fish, dragonfly larva, frogs, toads, and other such organisms. For rain barrels, use the mosquito dunks that are made of a safe bacteria. Or transform the water feature so that the water is moving instead of still by installing a bubbler or waterfall. Mosquitoes do not like moving water or moving air.

Kirsten dispelled common myths: Bug Zappers are not effective killers of mosquitoes, bats do not prefer to eat mosquitos, and purple martins are not big mosquito eaters. Plants that are reputed to repel mosquitoes do not work if they are just sitting in the landscape; however, a dense groundcover such as English ivy can harbor adult mosquitoes. It does not matter what you eat but mosquitos are more attracted to big people and prefer men over women.

If you are going to garden, wear long sleeves, long pants, socks, and shoes, or spray yourself with repellants such as DEET (25-30 percent), Picaridin (20 percent), oil of eucalyptus, or IR-3535 (Merck 3535), which is found in Avon’s Skin So Soft. Spraying Listerine and using dryer sheets, VapoRub, or vanilla are not effective protection.

The most environmentally friendly effective control is to control the larva stage. Spraying the adult mosquitoes in the landscape should be the last resort and should be based on surveillance data. The most popular mosquito adulticide for home landscapes is permethrin but it is toxic to fish, aquatic arthropods, and the non-target insects (pollinators).  Don’t be fooled when the pesticide applicators try to sell you on the fact that it is “natural” based on a chrysanthemum plant. What they are spraying is not natural, it is a chemical. There are substances called pyrethrins that are the active ingredients in pyrethrum, an extract of a flower, and these are are natural insecticides that act by blocking chemical signals at nerve junctions. However, commercial sprayers are not spraying pyrethrins. They are spraying permethrin, which is based on pyrethroids, synthetic pesticides. Permethrin is a pyrethroid insecticide that is light-stable and has a longer duration of activity against insects than pyrethrins. So what the company is selling and spraying on your garden is permethrin, a chemical that will kill aquatic life and pollinators and render vegetables, herbs, and fruits non-edible.

Mosquitoes have a flying range of 600 feet, about 1 to 2 miles. If your property is sprayed, it will kill the existing ones but the next day more can fly in. If you spray your garden and your neighbors don’t, you can always inherit your neighbors’ mosquitoes. Commercial companies may tell you that the spray last for a month but that does not prevent new mosquitoes from entering nor does the spray continue to kill for up to a month. In my mixed edible garden, only the grass could be sprayed which gets cut every few weeks. Since my grass gets cut by a service, I am concerned that the pesticide company will spray with a chemical one day and the lawn service crew will come and cut the grass the next day. I don’t know what harm that chemical would cause if the crew were to breath it in as they were cutting.

The presentation cleared up a lot of confusion and I decided not to have my garden sprayed. I will be more vigilant about dumping water on my property and educate the neighbors to do the same. I will try the oil of eucalyptus and I will cut back my English ivy as best I can. I will still garden in the cool morning with long sleeves and pants and then I will spend the hot afternoon writing about mosquito control in my air conditioned home.

To learn more about mosquito management, call the Arlington County Extension Office at (703) 228-6414 or visit the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia website at http://www.mgnv.org. The website has a tab devoted to the subject that has several links to resources including the Powerpoint presentation. https://mgnv.org/zika-and-mosquito-control/

Master Gardener Classes Starting in Northern Virginia

The Master Gardener program is a great way to learn more about gardening, meet new friends, and get involved in civic projects. Conducted throughout the United States, the program usually is managed on a county level through state/county extension agents. Interested gardeners receive a manual and horticultural training from horticulturists and experts in the field. In return, they volunteer to assist the community with a variety of activities such as staffing plant clinic booths, answering phones, teaching, gardening in community areas, helping youth or elderly with gardening, etc. The program was initiated as a means of extending horticultural and pest management expertise of the state extension office to the general public. Usually the fee is the cost of the manual and a promise to volunteer and continue with education for a fixed number of hours annually. Becoming a Master Gardener is like joining a gardening club with many extended learning opportunities.

In Virginia, the Virginia Tech University manages the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) program which has extension agents at every county. The extension agent manages the county Master Gardener program. The following is just a quick snapshot of five Master Gardener programs in Northern Virginia to give you an idea; there are similar Master Gardener programs in Maryland and Washington DC. Among these five programs, the application deadlines, times/days programs are offered, cost, and the commitment in terms of hours vary so contact them directly for more detailed information. For example, if you work full time and can only attend evening classes you may find a program that offers evening classes and does not limit registration to county residents. Or some programs have one class a week instead of two thus extending the education over a longer time but making it more manageable.

In Fairfax County, there are two Master Gardener programs because so many people are interested. Green Spring, part of the Fairfax County park system, manages a Master Gardener program that requires a commitment of 100 hours in the first year. The classroom training is held at Green Spring in September and ends in November, usually two three-hour classes per week. Afterward, a 50 hour internship is required (volunteer work). After the first year, the Master Gardener status is maintained by remaining active in the program as a volunteer for 20 hours per year and participating in 8 hours of continuing education in horticulture. The orientation meeting is held in May and applicants are interviewed in the summer. The deadline to apply was this past June 2014 but if you are interested in learning more contact Pamela Smith, Community Horticultural Program Coordinator, (703) 642-0128, pamela.smith2@fairfaxcounty.gov; http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring/gsg-mastergardeners.htm

The other Fairfax Master Gardener program has classes at Merrifield Nursery at Fair Oaks. The classes are January through March, one day a week for 3 hours, during the day or during the evening. To become a certified Master Gardener, one has to complete 30 hours of classroom education per year for 3 years, and 24 hours of community service per year for 3 years. Once a person becomes a certified Master Gardener, he/she has to complete 8 hours of continuing education each year and 24 hours of volunteer work each year. The deadline for enrollment is September 8. There will be an open house on September 10 at Merrifield, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, to learn more about the program and obtain applications (free but register in advance just so they can get a head count). For more information contact Maryellen Leister, (703) 821-1146, meleister@aol.com; http://fairfaxmga.org

In Arlington County, classes start in the beginning of September, Tuesdays, from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm, and last 12 weeks. Classes are held at the Fairlington Community Center in Arlington and other local garden venues. There is no application deadline and acceptances into the program are determined by mid-August. Residents of Alexandria City and Arlington receive preference and all training and internship hours must be completed in the Arlington/Alexandria area. After 75 hours of classroom training, the trainees must complete a 60-hour internship to hone their skills in core Master Gardener educational projects within one year of training. Once the classroom program, internship, and student project are completed participants become certified Master Gardeners. To maintain certification, they must volunteer a minimum of 20 hours and attend 8 hours of continuing education programs every year. For more information, contact the VCE Master Gardener Horticulture Help Desk at (703) 228-6414 or e-mail mgarlalex@gmail.com; http://mgnv.org/about/become-a-master-gardener/

In Loudoun County, the process starts in the fall but the classes start in February 2015. The Master Gardener program requires 60 hours of classroom education and 75 hours of the internship. The classes are held at the Extension office at 30 Catoctin Circle in Leesburg. Certified Master Gardeners must complete 25 volunteer hours and 8 hours of continuing education. This program has an early bird special where if you apply by November 15 you get a discounted tuition fee. Their application form online has quite a lot of information and there is an open house on November 6, 7:00 pm, at the Loudoun County Extension office, 30-B Catoctin Circle, SE, Leesburg. Call (703) 777-0373 or (703) 857-4575 for more information or e-mail at loudounmg@vt.edu; http://loudouncountymastergardeners.org

In Prince William County, 70 hours of classroom education and 50 hours of internship are required. To remain a Certified Master Gardener you must volunteer 20 hours per year and complete 8 hours of continuing education each year. There is an orientation on Monday, August 25, 6:30 to 8:30 pm in room 202A&B, Development Services Building 5, County Complex Drive, Prince William; and another orientation on Wednesday, August 27, 6:30 to 8:30pm, McCoy Conference Room, Sudley North Government Building, 7987 Ashton Avenue, Manassas. Must register for the orientation by calling (703) 792-7747 or e-mail master_gardener@pwcgov.org; http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/vce/Pages/Master-Gardeners.aspx