Tag Archives: Virginia Cooperative Extension

Master Gardener Program: Learn to Garden While Getting Involved with Local Community

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. Below is information for the Washington DC metropolitan area. More detail is given for Virginia to illustrate the difference in commitment and schedules across counties. Maryland and Washington DC are similar. All have fees and a registration process.

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 a snapshot of five Master Gardener programs in Northern Virginia to give an idea of the application deadlines, times/days programs are offered, cost, and the commitment in terms of hours. For example, if one works full time in an office and can only attend evening classes one 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 due to the high level of interest. Green Spring, part of the Fairfax county park system, manages a 13-week Master Gardener program that starts in September and ends in November. The classroom training is held at Green Spring on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00 to 4:00 pm and labs on Saturdays. When the trainees complete the classroom part, they graduate to become Master Gardener interns. They have to complete 50 volunteer hours within one year including 15 hours working at the Master Gardener Help Desk.  They retain their certification by completing 20 hours of volunteer service hours and 8 hours of continuing education in horticulture per year. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring/gsg-mastergardeners.htm

The other Fairfax county 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 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, one has to complete 8 hours of continuing education and 24 hours of volunteer work per year. http://www.fairfaxgardening.org/join-us/

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. After 66 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 per year. http://mgnv.org/about/become-a-master-gardener/

In Loudoun county, classes are twice a week for 10 weeks, from January through March, at 750 Miller Drive, Leesburg. The Master Gardener program requires 60 hours of classroom education and 75 hours of the internship. Certified Master Gardeners must complete 25 volunteer hours and 8 hours of continuing education per year. http://loudouncountymastergardeners.org/become-a-master-gardener/training-requirements

In Prince William county, the program runs from September through December and requires 75 hours of classroom education and 50 hours of internship. To maintain certification, Master Gardeners must volunteer 20 hours and complete 8 hours of continuing education per year. http://www.mgpw.org

Maryland

The Maryland Master Gardener Program is administered by the University of Maryland Extension and each county has a coordinator and its own schedule of classes. For a table of county coordinators’ contact information, see http://www.extension.umd.edu/mg/find-local-mg-program.

Washington, DC

The Master Gardener program is managed through the University of the District of Columbia at 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW. The program is held once a year, from the first Tuesday in February through the last Thursday in March, every Tuesday and Thursday evening, 6:30 to 9:00 pm, for 8 weeks. After completing the program, interns must complete 50 hours of volunteer service. http://dev.udc.edu/college_of_urban_agriculture_and_environmental_studies/master_gardening

 

New Videos on Plant Propagation From Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program

The Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program has produced a series of 10 short videos on YouTube about plant propagation. Filmed in the Virginia Tech greenhouses, each video is about 4 minutes or less. Topics include seeding, transplanting, grafting, air layering, tomato grafting, and the many different types of plant division. These will be helpful as you begin to start seeds indoors now or if you are interested in dividing and multiplying your houseplants.

 

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/

Saturdays In the Garden with Prince William County Master Gardeners

tweety statue

Tweety in the Woodland Garden

This month I attended “Saturday in the Garden” at the Teaching Garden. Hosted by the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Prince William County staff and Master Gardener volunteers, this month’s event was “Lessons from the Deer Resistant Garden, Woodland Garden, and the Four Seasons of Interest Garden.” For me it was a 45-minute ride from my house in Fairfax County to Prince William County but easy to find. The program was free and outside in the garden, from 9:00 am to noon. Set on the grounds of the St. Benedict Monastery, the Teaching Garden is quite large, in full sun with the exception of the woodland garden and home to deer, critters, and ticks.

Solomon's seal

Solomon’s Seal in Woodland Garden

About twenty of us sat in chairs under tents while Nancy Berlin, coordinator of the Prince William County Master Gardeners, presented the speakers, all Master Gardener volunteers, and agenda. We received a handout listing each garden’s inventory of plants and characteristics. There were three presenters for three garden beds who first talked for a few minutes under the tent and then guided us to the beds. We also visited the Cook’s Garden and had the opportunity to buy plants culled from the gardens. The Master Gardeners gave everyone water bottles, milkweed plants, and a variety of seeds.

Harriet Carter started us off in the Woodland Garden, which was heavily shaded and vulnerable to deer. This garden demonstrates alternatives to growing grass in tree-shaded areas of one’s yard and is low maintenance with drifts of mostly native plants. Although it is basically dry shade, the volunteers have rain barrels and soaker hoses to use during extended times of drought. At this time of year, June, there were no flowers but Harriet showed us large photos of the spring blossoms for each plant. Harriet pointed out hellebores, witch hazels, bluebells, woodland phlox, toad lilies (“which deer do not eat”), Solomon’s seal (“the foliage make a good groundcover”), wood poppies, and epimediums. Harriet has the lead on this particular garden and you could tell it is a labor of love. She is trying to develop a glen of ferns, is learning that the yellow twig dogwood needs more sun, and just planted a summer blooming rose campion for a little bit of color. She also pointed out the garden’s “mascot,” a statue of a girl with small birds on her arms, named Tweety.

bears breeches

Bear’s Breeches in the Four Seasons of Interest Garden

Jean Bennett gave us a tour of the Four Seasons of Interest Garden, which was one of the original gardens started by Sister Pat, a nun who also was a Master Gardener. This bed was created to show year round beauty and blooms from late March through mid-November. She said that in the winter they have colored bark from the yellow and red twig dogwood and flowers from witch hazels and hellebores. In early spring they have daffodils (they sell the daffodil bulbs in the fall), followed by iris and then dianthus, gaillardia, spiderwort, and red hot poker plants in the summer. One of the more unusual plants is the bear’s breeches. With its large coarse leaves, it is easy to see why deer don’t like them.  Jean recommended the sweet pepper bush as a nice native shrub to have at home. The threadleaf coreopsis and daylilies were just starting to bloom. The only ornamental grass in the garden was a red switch grass (“a great grass to grow in Virginia”). Currently its green blades are tipped with red but by fall the leaves will turn burgundy color.

Leslie Paulson showed us the Deer Resistant Garden although she cautioned that the only truly deer-resistant plant is the one the deer do not eat today. Leslie suggested using textured, thorny, fragrant, waxy, and/or poisonous plants. The younger the plant the more likely the deer will eat it and the younger the deer the more extensive their palate so they will try a wider variety of plants.

sumac

Sumac in the Deer Resistant Garden

Leslie showed us a beautiful sumac bush, only a few feet high. Sumac is a large shrub or small tree, very common on Virginian roadsides. It is more noticeable in the fall when the leaves change color but trained as a shrub in the garden, sumac adds elegance with its lacy leaves. Leslie recommended growing lion’s tail next to it because its tall orange flowering structures make a great combination. There was blue flowering nepeta which is in the mint family so deer do not like it (“the white flowering one behaves itself a lot better than the purple one”) and alliums (“all alliums are poisonous to deer”). There was a large area covered with fuzzy lamb’s ears, a low growing native type and a taller type with large flowers that bees love. Yarrow was blooming and two ornamental grasses, pink muhly grass and red switch grass, will provide color in the fall.

squashwithcontainer

Squash and Nasturtiums in the Cook’s Garden

Harriet gave us the tour of the Cook’s Garden which was fenced to keep out the groundhogs, rabbits, and deer. They use their own compost but are starting to experiment with cover crops such as alfalfa, buckwheat, and crimson clover to add nutrients back to the soil. To control small bugs they hand pick and put them in a jar with soapy water which they call the “bad bug swimming pool.” We saw potatoes blooming and tomatoes with basil planted nearby as a companion plant. There were Brussel sprouts under a row cover to keep bugs out, onions protruding out of the ground, and squash plants with nasturtiums nearby as a companion plants. Next to each squash plant was a plastic container with drainage holes submerged in the soil. Harriet explained that the squash leaves will cover the ground so filling the bucket with water will ensure that the water reaches the roots.  A large bushy cilantro plant was flowering in the corner, attracting pollinators. We then walked to another area that was netted on all four sides, much like a rectangular box, which contained sweet potatoes.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and highly recommend this monthly event. I plan to go back at different times of the year to see how the plants change and to view the rest including the Zen, white, children’s, fairy, fragrance, mailbox, lavender, bee/butterfly/hummingbird, rock, shrub, and native plant sections. The gardens are open to the public every day but volunteers recommend that the public check in with the Monastery office before entering.

Saturday in the Garden is held once a month from April through October, 9:00 a.m. to noon, in the Teaching Garden, St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA 20136. The program is free but registration is requested to ensure adequate handouts and weather cancellation notifications. Call (703) 792-7747 or e-mail master_gardener@pwcgov.org to register; visit the link below for more information http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/vce/Pages/Saturday-in-the-Garden.aspx

Free Gardening Handouts from Virginia Cooperative Extension Website

L_HORT-76-JPGAs a garden communicator I am always collecting information for use with my own garden, for other gardeners, and even for future articles. A reliable source of local gardening information is the Virginia State Cooperative Extension office, located at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg. The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) website has scores of handouts on gardening–everything from annuals to vegetables to trees and shrubs. Most are short, black and white, pdf files that one can download quickly but some are small, full color publications such as “Fooling Mother Nature: Forcing Flower Bulbs for Indoor Bloom.” Written by George Graine, a local VCE Master Gardener, reviewed by Holly Scoggins, Associate Professor at Virginia Tech’s Department of Horticulture, and produced by Lindsey Nelson, Communication Project Coordinator at VT’s Department of Horticulture, this 10-page handout is very easy to read with several color photos of bulbs and charts that provide additional information. In fact, Publication HORT-76NP is so well written that it won a Silver Award of Achievement from the Garden Writers Association’s Media Awards Program this year.

All of the VCE gardening publications are designed for home gardeners but they are science-based and reviewed by horticulturists or experts in the field. All are available for public use and can be re-printed without further permission, providing the use includes credit to the author/photographer and to the VCE, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University. Simply put, these publications can be copied and distributed at garden clubs and nurseries, for seed/bulb fund raisers, for teachers and children who have school-based gardens, and for people who have community garden plots. They are great resources for writing articles and even stimulating ideas for future articles. Check out https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/ every season for timely information!

Peg’s Picks: July Edible Gardening Events in Washington DC Metro Area

In addition to my pick of edible gardening events below, remember that July is National Park and Recreation Month so check local parks to see if they have demonstration gardens, classes, and tours related to gardening.

11, Saturday, 9 to noon, Composting and Starting the Fall Vegetable Garden. Hosted by the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Prince William County Master Gardeners as part of their “Saturdays in the Garden” series. Teaching Garden at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA. Free but must register in advance, (703) 792-7747 or e-mail master_gardener@pwcgov.org. http://www.pwcgov.org/grow

25, Saturday, 10 to 11:30 am., Low Tunnels and Winter Gardening, Course #316453, Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. Must register, fee involved; (301) 962-1451.
http://www.montgomeryparks.org/brookside/

25 and 26, Saturday and Sunday, The Montgomery County Farm Tour and Harvest Sale, most farms will be open 10:00 am to 4:00 pm both days. A map and brochure are on the site below.
http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/AgServices/agfarmtour.html

The Arlington Central Library hosts the “Garden Talks” series of free, one-hour presentations every Wednesday evening from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm starting in mid-March through the end of October. The web site lists the topics and also serves as a resource for gardening in the area.
1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA; (703) 228-5990.
http://library.arlingtonva.us/events/garden-talks/

July 1: Top Ten Vegetable Plant Diseases: Rot Not!
July 8: Solar Cooking
July 15: Foraging the Wild Edibles
July 22: Lasagna Gardens – the Layered Approach
July 29: Preparing Your Entry for Arlington County Fair

The DC Department of Parks and Recreation is offering over 50 free garden workshops from May through September, taught by the leaders of DC’s urban garden movement. Each class is 2 hours long, on Monday or Wednesday evening, and there are various Saturday field trips. Free but must register online at http://dcdpr.asapconnected.com. For a full list of classes and locations, check out http://dpr.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dpr/publication/attachments/SummerGardenWorkshopSeries2015.pdf

For further questions, contact the DPR community garden specialist, Joshua Singer, e-mail: Joshua.singer@dc.gov. Here is a sample of July topics:
• Starting Seeds, Propagating and Grafting at Home
• Intro to Urban Bee Keeping
• Fall Asian Vegetables from the Garden
• Dealing with Deer and Other Mammal Pests in Your Garden
• Soil Biology

Look ahead: August 1, Saturday, University of Maryland Extension’s Grow It Eat It Open House, 8:30 to 1:00 pm, Agriculture History Farm Park, 18410 Muncaster Road, Derwood, MD. Free but must register for some classes, check out their brochure.
http://extension.umd.edu/growit/montgomery-county-vegetable-gardening-classes-and-events

Free Master Gardeners Plant Clinics to Help You With Your Garden

Tomato hornworm, plucked off plant

Tomato hornworm, plucked off plant

School is out, summer is here and the garden is in full swing. Now is the time for gardening questions — what is that bug, why does my tomato look like that, and what should I do about my zucchini! Fortunately for us, the Fairfax County Master Gardeners offer free advice on caring for our gardens. They provide gardening fact sheets, soil test kits, and help us to identify bugs, insects, diseased plants, and assorted problems. It is always best to actually bring a sample of the diseased plant or the bug in a jar to show the Master Gardeners but if not, just talk with them at their plant clinics, no appointment necessary. The Master Gardeners staff plant clinics at the Fairfax County Farmers Markets, several Fairfax County libraries, Green Spring, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension office at the Fairfax County Government Center. Plant clinics at the farmers markets and libraries are open May through September 2015.

Farmers Markets

See the link below for street addresses. Note the times below are for the plant clinics, not necessarily for the rest of the market time; http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/farmersmarkets

  • Annandale, Thursday, 9 am to noon
  • Burke, Saturday, 8 am to 11 am
  • Fairfax County Government Center FM, Thursday, 3 to 6 pm
  • Fall Church City, Saturday, 9 am to noon
  • Herndon, Thursday, 9 am to noon
  • Kingstowne, Friday, 4 to 7 pm
  • Lorton, Sunday, 9 to noon
  • Mclean, Friday, 9 to noon
  • Mt. Vernon, Wednesday, 9 to noon
  • Vienna, Saturday, 9 to noon
  • Wakefield, Wednesday, 2 to 5 pm
  • Reston, Saturday, 9 to noon

Libraries

  • Chantilly, Saturday, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm
  • Fairfax Regional, Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Kings Park, Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Oakton, Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Richard Byrd, Tuesday 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Tysons-Pimmit, Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm

Other Locations