Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Online IPM Modules for Master Gardeners- A New Educational Tool

Friday, March 15th, 2013
Basil plant heavily infected with basil downy mildew (Picture by Bruce Watt, University of Maine,

Basil plant heavily infected with
basil downy mildew (Picture by Bruce Watt,
University of Maine,

Need to brush up on your pests to answer client garden questions?

Learn about newly emerging or persistent plant diseases and insect problems in the home landscape with the NEW University of Illinois Extension Online IPM modules. These modules are designed for Extension Master Gardeners but can be used by home gardeners and green industry professionals.

Eight Self-paced Online IPM Modules

Eight online IPM modules are currently available, covering landscape pest and problems such as:

  • Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
  • Thousand Canker Disease
  • Spruce Problems
  • Downy Mildew on Impatiens,  and more.
  • Bacterial Leaf Scorch
  • Sudden Oak Death
  • Emerald Ash Borer
  • Bur Oak Blight

Module Quick-Facts

Each module is self-paced and contains information and pictures about the pest or pathogen, host plants, symptoms, diagnosis, management and much more. Here we answer a few common questions you may have:

  • Can I earn continuing ed (CE) credits for each module? Each module provides about  1/2  hour of continuing education for Illinois Master Gardeners.
  • Will the CE credit apply in my state? Check with your local coordinator to be sure these modules fulfill the educational requirements in your county and state. (As mentioned, the modules are also a great resource to answer client questions in the office.)
  • How will I get a certificate of completion? After completion of the module content, a short quiz should be completed. Participants must receive a perfect score on the quiz before completing a brief evaluation and then printing a certificate of completion.
  • Is there a charge? The course is free of charge, but participants must register and create a login and password.

The modules were written by University of Illinois plant pathologists and entomologists and more modules are currently under construction. Evaluations show that Master Gardeners value this new easy tool for completing educational hours while staying abreast of current landscape pests and pathogens.

Want to see what a module looks like? View the brown marmorated stink bug example below or directly access these Online IPM modules at

Example of IPM Online Module

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, University of Illinois IPM Module Example

– Monica David, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

Nature’s Notebook and Master Gardeners: A tool for all seasons

Monday, January 14th, 2013
Sonoran Desert in August, monsoon season

Sonoran Desert in August


Lush green mountains and creeks filled with rushing, crashing water – not exactly what one thinks Arizona looks like.  But this is the Sonoran desert in southern Arizona in August during monsoon season.

Summer wildflowers spread cheerfully across open patches between cholla and prickly pear ripe with brilliant burgundy fruit.

Just the Beginning – Phenology Training and a Citizen Science Project

My friend Pat and I are treated to these glorious sights as we travel the rocky dirt road up to the Florida Canyon ranger station, part of the Santa Rita Experimental Range, in the Santa Rita mountains south of Tucson to do our observations for Nature’s Notebook, the citizen science program sponsored by the USA National Phenology Network.

Pat , Pima County Master Gardener Participating in Nature's Notebook

Edy, Pima County Master Gardener Participating in Nature's Notebook

Phenology  – Observing and studying plants leads to a lot more!

As part of the Master Gardener class at the Pima County Cooperative Extension though University of Arizona in the spring of 2012, LoriAnne Barnett, the Education Coordinator for the USA National Phenology Network based at the University of Arizona, taught a class on phenology.

What is phenology?

Phenology, we learned, is a branch of science that deals with the relationship between climate and periodic biological phases of flora and fauna.  Okay.  But what did that really mean to us as Master Gardeners?  To find out, Pat and I volunteered to observe and monitor four plants in the Florida Canyon of the Santa Ritas.Tucked away in this remote canyon is a ranger station where scientists from all over the country can come to conduct research.

Our work becomes part of long-term studies

At the station, LoriAnne had tagged the plants we were to watch – two velvet mesquite trees, an ocotillo, and, unbelievably, a very old lilac bush!!  This particular lilac is part of a historic long-term USDA cloned plant phenological study begun in the 1950s, which provides over 50 years of consistent data for scientists to study.  Lucky, lucky us!

Lilacs in spring 2012 - We recorded its bloom time this year.

Lilac in Winter 2013 - As part of Nature's notebook, we'll record when they first bloom again this spring.

Observing 4 plants leads to lots of new questions and beautiful scenery!

As the months have passed, we have observed the mesquite trees flower and develop pods (no pods on the small one, despite the bloom – something to wonder about) and marveled at the gorgeous color of the ocotillo flowers and the continual drop of leaves and regrowth after a monsoon storm.

Observing the flower on velvet mesquite, Prosopis veluntina, during the growing season.


Velvet mesquite, Prosopis veluntina (January)

But our true joy was the heavenly scent of the lilac in bloom in the spring.  Those tiny purple flowers filled the air (and our noses!!) with their delicate fragrance as we would return again and again before reluctantly making our way back down the canyon towards home. As a Midwestern transplant trying to learn about desert flora, this activity opened my eyes to life in the desert in a way I could not have imagined.

Each week Pat and I would delight in the changes we were seeing so very up close and personal.  We also were treated to sightings of fauna that made our trek even more amazing – javalina scurrying along the dry creek bed, a bobcat strolling across our path, snakes and a frightened gila monster running for cover, deer dashing after each other in a panic as we approached, and birds.  So many birds.  Fortunately, Pat is an extraordinary birder and can identify birds by their calls, shapes, and flight patterns.  I’m in awe!  Hummingbirds abound in the canyon while red tail hawks soar over head looking for lunch.

Nature’s Notebook – An Opportunity for Master Gardener Volunteers & Science

Master Gardeners are already in tune to blooms and buds, planting times and zones, emergence and migration.  Having an opportunity to observe and record these events in a program like Nature’s Notebook helps us to remember the how and when of each season and encourages us to create our own hypotheses about what may be to come.

Our data also contributes to a valuable ongoing study about how species and ecosystems are influenced by environmental changes.  

No, this is not work.  This is pure pleasure.  Phenology, it seems, is much more than the science of the seasons. To be with a friend out in the midst of the wonderful place just to monitor and observe the flora and fauna is something I am so very happy to be able to do.

Opuntia engelmannii

Arizona poppy, Kalistoemia grandiflora

Prickly Poppy, Aremone platyceras

Participate in Nature’s Notebook Through Your Local Program

While we participated in the phenology training through our local Master Gardener chapter in Arizona, Nature’s Notebook is a national program. Master Gardener chapters around the country are adding phenology to their list of volunteer projects so check with your local coordinator to find out if your state is participating.

If not, encourage your chapter members to join in tracking phenological changes. You will find all of the resources you need to get started on the USA-NPN website: For information about how you can be involved with Nature’s Notebook, or how to add it to a Master Gardener training course, contact LoriAnne Barnett at

-Submitted by

Edy Alderson, Pima County Cooperative Extension, Green Valley Master Gardener Chapter volunteer
Pima County Master Gardeners on Facebook
Pima County Extension on Facebook

LoriAnne Barnett
Education Coordinator | USA National Phenology Network

Review: The Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello – Celebrating Food and Gardening at Thomas Jefferson’s Historic Estate

Monday, October 29th, 2012
Tents fill the lawn at Monticello

Tents and festival-goers fill the lawn at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Every first or second weekend in September, something fun and fantastic happens at the home of our third president – tents pop up and a crowd gathers to learn about history, heirloom gardening, homesteading, and more at the Heritage Harvest Festival.  The festival’s website proclaims that “Thomas Jefferson, America’s ‘First foodie’ championed vegetable cuisine, plant experimentation and sustainable agriculture.”  This year, the two-day event included classes on growing garlic, making wine, small-space gardening, chickens in the garden, and more.  Aside from workshops presented by such authors as Barbara Pleasant, Harvey Ussery, and Peter Hatch, the festival also featured a grand preview dinner with farmer/advocate  Joel Salatin and Growing a Greener World’s Joe Lamp’l.

Porter teaches in TJ's garden

Extension Agent John Porter teaches in Thomas Jefferson's Vegetable Garden

One of Those “Once-in-a-Lifetime” Opportunities

I had the opportunity to attend the festival for the first time in 2011.  I was lucky enough to make a connection with a friend and classmate from my days at grad school, who happens to be the Operations Manager for the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants and who also gladly hosted my stay for the festival.  This year, I had the opportunity to participate even more in the festival, by presenting a workshop on the festival grounds.  It is definitely one of those career moments when you realize that you are teaching a gardening class to around 100 people in Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden.

Extension Master Gardeners and More!

Master Gardener Activity

A girl makes a nature frame at the Extension Master Gardener booth (courtesy

In addition to the workshops, the local Extension Master Gardeners share fun and knowledge with a new generation of gardeners in their “Roots and Shoots” tent with activities such as making picture frames from natural items and a horticulture quiz.  There are other booths, too.  Garden companies sell their wares, farms sell their products, and a local group does mini-workshops and booths for traditional crafts and skills such as woodworking, dyeing, and more.  Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, which is a major sponsor of the event, has a tasting tent where you can sample some of their heirloom tomatoes, peppers, watermelons and more.

This festival has a lot to offer for Master Gardeners and non-MGs alike.  I’ve resolved that if at all possible, I’ll be attending every year.  Next year I even hope to arrange a bus trip for our Master Gardeners to attend.  It is an excellent way to combine education and fun, where you can get a taste of the old and the new.  I definitely get a recharge at the festival, and come back with more ideas to try and information to share than you can even imagine.

An opportunity for fun and education (and plants and seeds)

If you are within driving distance of Charlottesville, Virginia or are looking for a nice fall vacation getaway, I definitely recommend that you check out the Heritage Harvest Festival and Monticello.  Entry is reasonable at $10, which includes entry to the grounds and a number of free workshops.  “Premium” workshops are available both days and are priced at $10 – $15 each.  Volunteer opportunities are also available, where a 4 hour volunteer shift will earn you a free t-shirt and entry to the festival.  I hope to see you there next year (September 6 & 7, 2013).

If you are passing through, be sure to visit the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants, which is near Monticello.  It is a hidden gem that most people don’t even realize exists.  They have gardens featuring plants from Thomas Jefferson or from the Jeffersonian era.  They also have events and open houses throughout the year.

by John Porter
WVU Kanawha County Extension Service
Agriculture Extension Agent
Charleston, WV


Drip Systems. . . for Grass?!

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

We have all heard of drip irrigation, right? This is a water-saving irrigation technique that delivers a measured amount of water directly to a plant’s root zone, therefore reducing waste. There is no water lost due to wind, evaporation is reduced, and weeds are controlled by not watering “extra” areas.

What about using subsurface drip irrigation to irrigate our lawns? This technique makes a lot of sense for irregularly-shaped and/or small grass areas. Sprinklers work best for areas that are squares or rectangles. But many times we want a curved “kidney-bean” shaped lawn. Sprinklers will over spray in these areas, and we end up watering the sidewalk! What’s the solution? Subsurface drip!

Volunteers working hard to dig trenches for dripline installation during a turfgrass subsurface drip irrigation workshop. Photo taken by Bernd Leinauer, NMSU.

Drip irrigation system in place and running. The wet areas will coalesce to provide a uniformly wet area. The area is ready for sod installation or seed. Photo taken by Bernd Leinauer, NMSU.












Installation is not difficult. A little pre-planning is necessary. The water pressure must be measured and used to calculate how many irrigation zones are needed. Some additional valves may need to be installed. If this all sounds like Greek (it did to me), just contact me (Cheryl Kent, so I can e-mail you some educational materials with all the details.

Once the set-up is done, it takes a few friends to help dig, pop together the pieces, and lay the dripline.

I have included a few pictures of a recent subsurface irrigation workshop held by New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension. NMSU Turfgrass Specialist Dr. Bernd Leinauer and Valencia County Agriculture Agent Kyle Tator hosted this workshop.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Cheryl Kent (Bernalillo County Horticulture Agent) at with questions about the process or materials used.

The Power of Pollinators – Spreading the Buzz with Three Educational Modules

Monday, June 25th, 2012


As National Pollinator Week 2012 comes to a close, the Extension Master Gardener blog detailed how EMG’s observe Pollinator Week through both the week and the past year.  As Master Gardeners, we all love to cultivate our gardening knowledge — therefore the Power of Pollinators training modules created by The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, University of Wisconsin-Madison and The Ohio State University is the best conclusion to a week dedicated to pollinators.

Access Three Pollinator Educational Modules at eXtension Campus

Each Power of Pollinator module has a train the trainer approach to help spread the word about pollinators. This set of three modules covers:

  1. Why Pollinators Matter
  2. Bee Biology and Identification
  3. Gardening for Pollinators

You can easily access all three modules through the eXtension Campus website,

First, set up an account using the “Create an account” link on the left side of the page. It’s free, easy and secure.

Once you have that account created (you will receive an e-mail with confirmation and a password), log into the eXtension Campus site, scroll through the available course categories and select , “Yard and Garden”. Then select “The Power of Pollinators”.

See the Intro to the Power of Pollinators video for a quick overview of what you’ll find in the educational modules:

As we end the celebration of National Pollinator Week 2012 on the EMG blog,  we look to see the daily benefit of pollinators in our gardens. To assist others learn about pollinator benefits and gardening for pollinators, check out these three modules and begin to get the latest knowledge to identify and care for them throughout the entire year.

Terri James, Extension Assistant-Urban Gardening
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

Hands-On Training and Evaluation Are Important in Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties

Saturday, May 19th, 2012


{Editor’s note: As Washington State University Master Gardener Volunteer week comes to a close, it seemed fitting to talk about what makes for rich learning opportunities for Master Gardener volunteers.  Master Gardener Mary-Jean Grimes describes how new hands-on training and a subsequent evaluation are supporting volunteers in Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties, Washington.}

Washington State University (WSU) Master Gardener Training has two parts, the online modules presented by the WSU experts and the local county component. The content & exams were set up to make sure that all the Master Gardeners in Washington State receive consistent training from WSU.  The second component is planned by the local counties and varies in content and number of sessions.

From Lecture to More Hands On Training

Sifting Compost during Master Gardener training

Sifting compost during Master Gardener training

Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties decided 2 years ago that a practicum aspect of training was needed.  We used the objectives from each module to determine the focus of the activities. Then we asked for Master Gardener volunteers to plan and facilitate the hands-on activities. We changed our terminology from presenter to facilitator because people heard presentation or lecture when we used the term presenter and we didn’t want PowerPoint presentations or lectures. Just changing the term forced a change of mindset. The sessions became very active.

This type of training is successful. Trainees were very enthusiastic and felt more confident about working in plant clinics, demo garden, and presenting to the public.

Another aspect of the local training days is the trainees’ evaluations of each session of the day. The evaluations are required, but they are anonymous. (The papers are numbered so we know who has turned in the forms, but the numbers are removed before the evaluations are read by anyone.) The evaluation form is simple:

1. Which activities were worthwhile?

2. Next year it might work better to:

3. Please eliminate or change:

What do MGs think of training sessions?

For our last training we had an evaluation for each day, but the information we got was too general.  This year our evaluation was specific to each topic. This gives us better subject information as well as overall information.  The trainees also can focus their comments , offering very good feedback and insights.

One particular day (The day we spent the day in a garden working with small fruits, in an orchard, deciding on a veggie garden site and determining how to plant to rotate crops, and propagating plants!) we got this in the Please Change section:

“Don’t make such a long day of standing, plan some time to sit and do things.”

We also get praise for the use of small group and practicum activities:

“Small groups worked well; everyone was able to engage/practice.”

We also got these 2 comments:

“Somehow have raspberries that show disease (BUT NOT AT MY HOUSE!) and Serve berry smoothies.”

This was another comment:

Each module should include some of the “common questions that you’ll likely be asked…” or perhaps, “here are the most common questions that WSU receives on this…So, I’m suggesting that the leaders of each exercise spend time collecting this background on “Here’s what to expect…” so that the exercise imparts not just basic knowledge & skills, but also emphasizes that this is a program to “train the trainer” for the eventual public support/service responsibility.”

Integrating Feedback Back into Training

Which crop where training

"Which crop where" training

Needless to say this immediately went out to the remaining facilitators for use planning their sessions. By making adjustments and using the suggestions shows the trainees that their evaluations are important and used.

Our county agent stresses,

“What is the impact of what you are doing as master gardeners?  How are you going to measure it?”



Besides getting good feedback on how to make training the best, we are also showing the trainees that evaluation & impact are important parts of the master gardener program.  For a full summary of feedback from one Grays-Harbor-Pacific training class, see: GraysHarbor-Pacific_SummaryEvalClass3_4-7-12)

-Mary-Jean Grimes,
Master Gardener Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties, Washington State

How I Became a Master Gardener

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

I finally decided to take the plunge and become a Master Gardener this spring.  I recently moved to Indiana.  New to the area I recognized becoming a Master Gardener would be a great way to make friends with fellow gardeners, become active in the local community and learn the specifics of gardening in my newly adopted home town.   

Master Gardener Class of 2012 - I'm the pregnant gal in black on the far left.


My classes started the second week of January, meeting once a week until the last week of April.  Kurt Campbell, Extension Educator for Ag and Natural Resources for Purdue, organized our classes and taught a chunk of them.  He did a wonderful job encouraging socializing.  We didn’t need too much help; the class was made up of 19 verbose students.  Apparently we were one of the bigger more talkative classes in recent history.  We had a good time sharing our personal gardening stories, favorite local nurseries and plotting out all the new things we were going to try in our gardens that we learned in class. 

Each class was a different topic.  We covered:

  • Plant Science
  • Weed Identification and Control
  • Pesticide Safety and Alternatives
  • Soil and Plant Nutrition
  • Woody Ornamentals
  • Insect Pest Diagnosis and Control
  • Plant Disease Diagnosis and Control
  • Home Lawn Care
  • Home Fruit Production
  • Herbaceous Ornamentals
  • Composting
  • Indoor Gardening
  • Home Vegetable Crop Production

I loved that we had guest speakers for many of the topics. They were local horticulture business owners or State Extension Specialists.  Not only did I learn a lot from them, but now I know who to contact to learn more about bee keeping or which variety of apple is best for my zone and soil type. 

Master Gardeners Tour Local Farm

Nathan Fingerle giving a tour to our Master Gardener class of his green houses where he uses colored plastic to boost growth and repell insects.


For the last class we did a field trip to the Fingerle’s River Ridge Farm, a local small farmer who grows vegetables year round in a series of green houses and in the summer on a two acre plot of land.  It was a fascinating look at how productive an intensively managed vegetable garden could be, especially with a little added protection from row covers.  I think we all left with a bag of spring mix lettuce, freshly dug carrots or leeks as well as a whole lot of ideas to implement in our own gardens. 

At the end of the class we took a written test to make sure we had learned enough to graduate to Master Gardener Interns.  (We’ll get to be full Master Gardeners once we complete 35 hours of approved volunteer service.)  There was quite a bit of concern that it would be hard to get the minimum of 70% and fail.  Many questions were asked to make sure everything on the study guide was understood.  In the end all the hard work paid off and everyone passed! 

I miss my weekly class and I can’t wait to see everyone again at the monthly Master Gardeners Club meetings.

Fire Ant Resources for Extension Master Gardeners

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

The Imported Fire Ant eXtension Community of Practice has provided information on fire ants, specifically for Master Gardeners located in the seventeen U.S states where Imported Fire Ants frequent or have been found.

PowerPoint files for Use in Educational Programs

The basis of the modules are six PowerPoint files, which can be found at the eXtension Fire Ants Master Gardener Module page.  There is a separate eXtension page for each of the PowerPoint presentations. On that page you will find a PowerPoint file that can be downloaded and used in educational programs. Each page also contains a video which is a narrated version of each presentation (in lieu of a script). The topics for the six PowerPoint Presentations are:

Overview of Imported Fire Ants in North America – A Resource for Master Gardeners

  • Biology of Fire Ants – – A Resource for Master Gardeners
  • Biological Control of Fire Ants – A Resource for Master Gardeners
  • Advanced Fire Ant Biology and Identification – A Resource for Master Gardeners
  • History of Imported Fire Ants in North America – A Resource for Master Gardeners
  • Advanced Training on Imported Fire Ant Management — A Resource for Master Gardeners

Following the PowerPoint files are more links to resources on and off the eXtension site that should be of interest to Master Gardeners, and to those who train Master Gardeners.

Master Gardeners may also find “How to Kill Fire Ants” to be a useful starting point.

Lastly, we hope that Master Gardeners will like us on Facebook, where we are known as ‘Fire Ant Info’, so that they can get timely information about fire ants.

Contributors to the Master Gardener module included Kerry Smith, Molly Keck, Bart Drees, Dale Pollet, Chazz
Hesselein, Molly Keck, Karen Vail, Rufina Ward, and Kathy Flanders.

Guest post by Kathy Flanders, Auburn University
Imported Fire Ant eXtension Community of Practice


Education Committee Chair’s Home a Lesson in Discovery

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Virginia’s Wythe-Bland Region Master Gardener Association Education Committee Chair, Tommy Vaught, taught a propagation course at his home yesterday, but the grounds themselves were a lesson in discovery.

Gas Plant

The group was treated to a flowering Dictamnus albus, also known as Gas-plant, Burning-bush, False Dittany, White Dittany, and Fraxinella. Originally planted by his mother, Vaught’s Gas-plant is a rare pink variety that takes up the better part of one side of his beautifully stone-clad home.

Tommy Vaught (2nd from right) tells MG interns about his gas plant

During the summer, the plant emits methane which will produce a flash if it makes contact with an ignited source. This characteristic has led to its comparison with the burning bush from the Bible.

Flowering Gas Plant

Vaught has never tested the flammability of his plant. Have you ever witnessed this phenomenon? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments, below.


The group was also delighted to find just about every color iris under the sun, including a rare transplant from Madagascar, within the confines of Vaught’s grounds. With the exception of the Madagascar variety, Amelia Earhart’s grandmother brought the irises from Washington State in the ’20s.

Maroon-colored Iris from Madagascar

Madagascar Iris

Blue Iris

Purple Iris

Yellow Iris

Mini Monet

We also found a greenhouse full of geraniums and a pond which invariably draws local artists every summer to capture its beauty on canvas. By the time we left, we were convinced that Tommy had recreated the beauty and variety of Monet’s gardens in Wytheville, Virginia!

Greenhouse Full of Geraniums

Tommy's Plentiful Pond

Washington State to Lead $1M School Garden Pilot Project

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Washington State University will lead the cooperative extension services of  University of Arkansas, Cornell University, and Iowa State University in a $1 million USDA Food and Nutrition Service school garden pilot program. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award on April 7th:  

“School gardens hold great promise for educating our kids about food production and nutrition,” said Vilsack. “Learning where food comes from and what fresh food tastes like, and the pride of growing and serving your own fruits and vegetables, are life-changing experiences. Engaging kids in our efforts to end childhood hunger and curb childhood obesity is critical if we are going to succeed.”

Iowa State Extension 4-H and Youth Development specialist Janet Toering was quoted in a recent press release, which described the four main goals of the project: 

  • Increase fruit and vegetable consumption: “We want to increase kids’ access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables through hands-on learning about growing food,” Toering said.
  • Empower youth in their communities: Youth will be highly involved in building and sustaining the gardens to maximize their interest and learning.
  • Contribute toward a sustainable environment and food system: The pilot will help kids and educators appreciate the public health, environmental and social benefits gardens provide to local communities, such as physical activity, the connection to nature, fresh food production, social networks and sustainability.
  • Build a nationwide network: Extension educators and volunteers will work across disciplines to leverage existing federal, state and local investments in programs like SNAP-ED (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education), 4-H Youth Development, Master Gardeners and other community-based horticulture programs through a common garden-based learning program.

Congratulations Washington State (and Cornell, and Arkansas, and Iowa State)!

Bill Hoffman, USDA/NIFA