Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

2017 Workshop 3rd Place (tie) – Beginner and Newcomer Gardening Series, Hamilton County, TN

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Chattanooga may have twice been voted Outside’s “Best Town Ever,” but its primarily clay soil and often unpredictable Southeastern weather can be a challenge for new gardeners as well as experienced gardeners who are new to the area.




Master Gardeners of Hamilton County hosts a series of classes on soils, fertilization, turf care, wildlife, trees and shrubs, landscape design, herbs, perennials, annuals, and wildflowers specifically tailored to the Tennessee

Valley. Since the series is about local gardening, a number of local nurseries and gardening suppliers also participate. “We felt the newcomers should become familiar with the local green industry, not just the big box stores,” said Mike Payne, who has led the beginner and newcomer class for the past 22 years. Many Southeast Tennessee retailers shared information and donated materials and door prizes.

Hamilton County Master Gardeners’ motto is “We teach you how.” In addition to teaching these new gardeners and newcomers to the region, the series opens the door for community-wide education through coverage on local television and radio stations as well as newspaper articles.


Since 1995, an average of 50 people have participated in the annual newcomer series, and anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of each year’s participants go on to take the Master Gardener training classes. Master Gardeners have volunteered more than 450 service hours to the series over the past two years, which provides them with opportunities to develop their teaching skills, learn new gardening techniques, and extend the resources of the University of Tennessee to the public.

2017 Workshop 3rd Place (tie) – The Sustainability Series of Workshops, Durham Region, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

In response to questions asked at our advice clinics, the Durham Master Gardeners created a series of workshops linked around the theme of sustainability in gardening. Our goal was to stimulate interest and create awareness of sustainable concepts among Durham Region gardeners and demonstrate its relevance in everyday living. We worked closely with the community sustainability committees as well as with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Ontario Nature, the Legends Centre Community Garden group, the Oshawa Garden Club and Durham College.

Here are the workshops the Durham Master Gardeners developed:

Balcony Workshop: A presentation on growing vegetables from seed including the importance of soils, organic techniques and hygiene, natural fertilizers, small space gardening, and the culture and requirements of different vegetables.

Introduction to Vegetable Gardening: We discussed and demonstrated the planning of vegetable gardens. Categories of vegetables were discussed with when, where and how to grow, an introduction to soil and composting, and intensive gardening techniques such as square foot gardening and companion planting of commonly grown vegetables.

Xeriscaping Workshop: This workshop covered drought-friendly plants including ornamental grasses, bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees. We explained how to create a moisture friendly landscape including mulch, use of rain barrels, and rain gardens.

Native Plants and Invasive Species Workshop: We talked about the four types of native perennial gardens and the plants typically found in each one. We also discussed how to choose native plants for your garden, buying plants and growing from seed. We then introduced participants to invasive plant species found in Ontario using information published by the Ontario Invasive Plant Council.

Pollinator Workshop: In this workshop we wanted to raise awareness about the plight of our native pollinators and what individual gardeners can do to help them. We discussed plant species, which ones provide food for pollinators and demonstrated how to make bee nests out of common materials around the home. We distributed lists of appropriate plants, seeds for pollinator plants and a page with sample bee nests.

Composting Workshop: We talked about basic composting do’s and don’ts and how to build a pile. We discussed the pros and cons of different composters and various techniques including showing participants how to create a vermicomposter.

Seed Saving Workshop: This workshop was designed to introduce participants to the wonders of collecting and saving your own seed. Topics included what are seeds, selecting seeds to save, how to store seeds and how to check for viability. The activities included identifying and gathering seeds from a nearby park or garden, sorting and preparing seeds for storage.

Happy Gardener Workshops: In late 2015, we were asked to create a series of workshops to be run in partnership with Durham College’s Continuing Education program for the spring of 2016. We developed and delivered the Happy Gardener Workshop series, four, 4-hour sessions held over a month at the Durham College Whitby Campus. We utilized our existing presentations and workshops and combined them in this unique series. The curriculum for the 4 weeks was as follows:

  • Day 1 – Introduction to Soil (2 hours) and Starting Plants from Seed (2)
  • Day 2 – Introduction to Vegetable Gardening (2 hours) and Culinary Herbs (2 hours)
  • Day 3 – Balcony Gardening (2 hours) and Potscaping (2 hours)
  • Day 4 – Composting (2 hours) and Pollinators (2 hours)

Each of the workshop sessions was accompanied by hands-on activities such as seed planting, creating square foot garden designs, creating bee nests and worm composters, as well as demonstrations by the various master gardeners who participated.

The feedback from all of our workshop sessions was overwhelmingly positive. We felt that certain techniques helped to engage the participants. These included “hands-on learning”, “show and tell,” and Q. and A formats.

One of our greatest accomplishments was the formation of so many new partnerships and, as a result, a wider audience for these important issues. Nor were our audiences the only ones to benefit. The workshops were valuable training for our own members as well. They gained experience and confidence in both horticulture and public speaking while having fun and meeting new people in a relaxed environment.

Our program has raised the profile of the Durham Master Gardeners and the Master Gardeners of Ontario while we continue to educate the public in sustainable gardening practices. We believe we have made a significant contribution to the understanding of food and soil security, the importance of wildlife habitats and the application of those ideas in both backyard and balcony gardens.

We continue to offer the sustainability workshops to our community while keeping them updated and topical. We are a small group of 16 who strive to increase awareness of sustainability concepts in challenging times.

2017 Special Needs 2nd Place – Garden Smart – Garden Easy, Sussex County, DE

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Entering its seventh year, the “Garden Smart – Garden Easy” program, designed and presented by the Delaware Master Gardeners – Sussex County, promotes and shares the joy of gardening while demonstrating how to make gardening available to individuals with age, mobility, space or time limitations.

The program is the result of Extension’s observation of a need in their local communities. Retirees are drawn to Delaware, specifically Sussex County, due to affordable housing and low property taxes, no sales tax, and a slower pace of living. With the aging population, more health-related organizations such as hospitals, physical and occupational therapy organizations have sprung up, thus the need for Sussex County Master Gardeners to respond with educational tips for aging gardeners.

Launched in 2010, Master Gardeners continue to share information with the public via hands-on and interactive presentations and information tables at community events, tours, local civic and gardening clubs, hospital events attended by patients, health care and other staff, seminars and support groups such as the Arthritis Foundation, and many University of Delaware/Extension-sponsored outreach events in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Information is also provided in news articles, tri-fold brochures, posters, and other handouts. The Garden Smart – Garden Easy program is easy for new master gardeners to participate in, good information for an aging population and their adult children, adaptable for children with physical limitations or adults with little time for gardening.

Since its inception, almost 6,000 gardeners or prospective gardeners have learned about ergonomically-designed tools or the benefits of adapting existing tools to accommodate gardeners with limitations, benches, kneeling pads, hoses, irrigation systems, planting flowers in container gardens and raised bed gardens, safetytips for working in the garden for those with strength or weaknesses, and designing garden paths accessible by wheelchairs, scooters, or walkers.


The “Garden Smart – Garden Easy” program is presented in several forms. First, in a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation that includes a Question and Answer session and a hands-on demonstration of tools. Involving the audience is important for this successful program One-on-one communication provides a valuable opportunity to address the attendees’ specific needs and concerns. Fact sheets and other handouts are also provided. While manning informational tables at events, the PowerPoint presentation is replaced with an instructional poster. Workshops held at the Sussex County Extension office include a garden tour of our demonstration garden where examples of raised beds and other tips can be seen and considered by the participants for their own benefit.

Master Gardeners feature many tips that can assist gardeners with physical challenges such as mobility, fine motor coordination, eye-hand coordination, decreased strength or stamina, vision impairment, flexibility challenges, poor balance, chronic pain, sensitivity to heat, sun or cold, as well as time and space limitations.

Highlighted in the interaction with participants are the physical/social/mental benefits of gardening: improved self-esteem, stimulated creativity and problem solving, friendship-inducing, preventing depression, helping to maintain/increase fine motor skills, increased physical ac

tivity and stamina, and promoting hand-eye coordination.

The entire program demonstrates:

  • the benefits of planting flowers and vegetables in container gardens and raised bed gardens as alternatives to in-ground gardening (light-weight – can be moved, wide edges so the gardener may sit),
  • placing them in appropriate positions (at eye level, in window boxes, in interesting containers), and
  • growing indoors (cleans inside air, brings color inside)
  • a simple plan to build a raised garden,
  • adapting existing tools to accommodate strengths and weaknesses, and
  • new ergonomically-designed, lightweight, sharper tools, benches, pads, hoses, irrigation systems, designed especially for gardeners with limitations.

Some featured tools and their benefits are:

  • Trowels with ergonomically-designed handles take the pressure from the wrist and spread pressure outwards over
  • the arm.
  • Gear-driven pruners and ratchet pruners are easier to use and require less hand strength.
  • Extension handles on trowels, rakes, and spreaders can make for less bending and reaching.
  • A kneeling bench can make getting up and down so much easier.       The seat can be used while working.
  • Placing pipe wrap on broom, rake, and shovel handles makes the grip a lot softer and easier to hold for someone with arthritis.
  • Using a simple long-handled grabber to reach behind plants to pick up yard waste avoids bending over.
  • A five-foot piece of PVC and a funnel can be used as a seed planter and prevents bending.
  • A light-weight hose, soaker hose, water kits, timers all make watering gardens easier.
  • Table gardens can be used on a deck or patio where garden space is not available.
  • Using a wheel barrow with two wheels provides better balance, or a lightweight garden cart with wide handles that is pulled instead of lifted like a wheel barrow is excellent for people with back problems.
  • Using empty milk bottles or plastic “peanuts” for the bottom of large containers saves soil and is lighter to lift or using light-weight potting soil keeps containers lighter.
  • Kneeling pads or benches help those with arthritic knees.
  • Using a tool carrier or carpenter’s apron for frequently-used garden tools.
  • Finally, gardeners are encouraged to design garden paths accessible by wheelchairs, scooters, or walkers; appropriate assistive canes; and tips for gardening safely.

Garden Smart-Garden Easy Handouts include:

  • Accessible Gardening Tips (tri-fold brochure used at multiple events to promote the program )*
  • Keep the Fun in Gardening – Coping with Physical Limitations*
  • Indoor Gardening: Houseplants*
  • Accessible Gardening in Containers*
  • Tools Make the Difference*
  • Easy Light Weight Potting Soil “Recipe” (used successfully by current master gardeners)
  • How to Construct a Raised Garden Bed (4’x8’x2’)*
  • Resources*
  • Grow Your Own Greens With Salad Tables™ and Salad Boxes™ – University of Maryland Cooperative Extension
    * Master Gardeners assisted in creation of these documents.

There is minimal start-up and continued costs: $600.00 for appropriate tools and $100.00 for a poster. Donations from businesses, master gardeners, and the county extension agent enhanced the collection of ergonomically-efficient tools used in the program. Printing of brochures, flyers, handouts, and posters, is provided by the Sussex County Extension office. Twenty Sussex County Master Gardener volunteers are active in the program.

For more information, visit the Sussex County Extension webpage at: ; contact Garden Smart, Garden Easy Chairperson Bob Williams at or Sussex County Extension Agent, Tracy Wootten, at or 302-236-0298 cell; 302-856-7303.


Photos: To follow in sep

2017 Special Needs 3rd Place – NORCOR/Spring Plant Fair, Wasco County, OR

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Wasco County Master Gardener’s NORCOR and Spring Fair Project

Wasco County Master Gardener Association headquartered in The Dalles, Oregon created an educational project partnering with the Northern Oregon Region Correctional Juvenile Detention Facility. The NORCOR/Spring Plant Fair Project is a juvenile inmate educational project that incorporates classroom learning with hands on learning experiences. The project serves as the major fundraiser for WCMGA and provides Detention some funds to operate the facility’s greenhouse.

Wasco County Master Gardeners partner with NORCOR to collectively use their large greenhouse. NORCOR provides the greenhouse, water and power along with the staffing required to monitor the detained youth. Their educational staff provides the academic background for their science curriculum. We share the greenhouse space and worked with the students growing a large variety of plants: annuals, herbs, perennials, vegetables, and ornamental grasses.

In the fall when we select plant varieties that should grow well in our region. We prepare the greenhouse including needed electrical and plumbing repairs, and with NORCOR purchase the soils, pots etc. necessary to grow the plants. We review our planting records and determine the order that the seeds will be planted to have them ready to market on a single day.
This is no small task. From January to May we grow over 250 different varieties totaling approximately 6,500 plants. The large variety of plants complicates the greenhouse management since they have varying growing requirements. Each year additional new plants are grown to increase variety and maintain interest.

The students can only participate after they have maintained several days of exemplary behavior as rated by NORCOR Staff. They are escorted to the greenhouse by officers who remain while they are in the greenhouse. Master gardener volunteers assign tasks and develop short lessons for the students when they arrive at the greenhouse.

This activity provides them an opportunity to learn and enjoy nature in an otherwise restricted residence. The officers have indicated that the youth that participate in the greenhouse are better behaved. They learn about seeds, soils, plant identification, transplanting, irrigation techniques, fertilizer schedules, temperature control, while engaging with adults and co-workers, learning the ability to work together while gaining life-long work skills and experience.

When asked the teacher at the detention center stressed three major benefits for the students’

  • A sense of pride and accomplishment especially for the longer-term residents.
  • The opportunity to collaborate and work together on a project with adults. Teenagers working along with adults on a mutually beneficial project is an unusual experience especially in a correctional facility.
  • The opportunity to find and create interest at the secured facility besides the teacher’s academic courses which helps them transition to a ‘bigger world’ on their release.

Master Gardeners presented about 20 certificates of accomplishment for the students that worked in the greenhouse five times during the 2016 season. The participating NORCOR youth are assigned write a thank you letter to the master gardeners that indicates the emotions that they feel while working at the greenhouse. A few are allowed to leave the facility and attend the plant fair; participating by providing information to buyers, making sales, and helping to transport the plants to vehicles.

Our project culminates with a Spring Plant Fair at The Dalles City Park on the day before Mother’s Day each year. The fair is a festive event. We sell all the plants we have grown at the greenhouse, local vendors participate selling their wares, and organizations set up informational booths on their projects. Our community eagerly supports these activities. Over 750 people attended our spring fair in 2017 in a community of approximately 15,000 residents, some arriving thirty minutes early to ensure getting the best plants.

All involved earn a sense of accomplishment working towards a goal, and the ability to work with strangers. The best result is the look on the faces of those involved when we roll out approximately 6,500 plants and load them on the flatbed trucks and into vehicles. The colorful parade of healthy beautiful flowers and plants is very impressive. The youth are stunned when they see the results of their labors; taking pride in their accomplishment, many of these students have had few successes in their lives. At the end of the project the greenhouse once filled with colorful flowers and plants is stark, it’s empty.

We do not have any method of knowing how our program affected the lives of our team members after their release. We have been told from correction officials that our certificates have been used for job references.

We also consider this project challenging and educational to ourselves. The impact for Master Gardeners is that we have greatly increased our knowledge of greenhouse management and developed techniques to ensure the health of our plants. The project is a great practical hands-on teaching tool experience supplementing classroom Master Gardener training. It has been a great way to bring new master gardeners hands on experience and a chance to practice what they have learned in master gardener training.

Attendance at the Spring Plant Fair has increased significantly over the years. The people who attend the fair often tell Master Gardener volunteers that they intentionally buy our plants to support the NORCOR youth and show appreciation for our involvement with the NORCOR project. The community support for the partnership of WCMGA and NORCOR is impressive, proven by watching the plants raised collectively with incarcerate youths and Master Gardeners leave the city park to home and community gardens. The community benefits, the detainees benefit, and so do the Wasco County Master Gardener’s. Our Wasco County Master Gardeners have dedicated a lot of time and effort to make this project successful. It is a win-win-win project and could be modified to be used in other institutions and locations.

2017 Research 1st Place – Grafted Vegetable Garden Trial, Marion County, OR

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Grafted Vegetable Research

And Demonstration Gardens

How it all started

In 2011, grafted tomatoes first became available to the home gardener. Ads featuring amazing comparative pictures were published, but no real information was available to gardeners. Master Gardeners Harry Olson and Tobie Habeck recognized a need to test these claims and determine the real worth of grafted vegetables, both for Master Gardeners and the public.

A decision was made to grow five (5) varieties representing the full range of tomato types in a side by side comparison (grafted vs ungrafted) in the Marion County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden, Salem, Oregon. The results of this trial would be shared with the public and Master Gardeners by public observation and media coverage.

Our trial provided evidence of profound improvements through grafting, including: greater plant vigor, earlier fruit production, more fruit, bigger fruit, better disease resistance, and fruiting season a full month longer than ungrafted plants.

These results were shared with Master Gardeners and the general public through visits to the trial garden, newspaper features of our trial, and reprints in the local and statewide Master Gardener Newsletters. Findings were also shared through presentations to numerous garden clubs around the state. We were able to demonstrate how home garden production could be significantly improved, and serious garden challenges reduced, by the use of grafted plants.

In 2012 & 2013 we conducted further grafted tomato trials in the Marion County Garden, including a comparative test of early grafted tomato varieties, “First to Ripen”, and demonstrations of the new Indigo Tomato varieties pioneered by Oregon State University (OSU).

In 2014 we conducted public trials of grafted watermelons and cantaloupes that were not yet publicly available, with spectacular results. We were able to produce large and numerous watermelons in the Willamette Valley, an area not known for its ability to grow melons due to the cooler climate.   This trial ended with a live on-site radio interview on “In the Garden with Mike Darcy”, and a well-attended public watermelon tasting at the trial garden. The Salem Statesman Journal Newspaper also reported on our findings.

All trials since 2012 have been well attended public events with extensive media coverage by two major local newspapers (the Oregonian and the Statesman Journal). In addition, the OSU Extension Service and radio garden shows including “In the Garden with Mike Darcy” and “Down in the Dirt with Diana” helped to publicize our project and results

In 2014, our three years of successful public trials caught the attention of the Oregon Garden in Silverton (a nationally known destination garden) and they invited us to establish a grafted vegetable demonstration garden.

Tram Stop #5

The Oregon Garden gave us a prominent raised bed complex immediately next to Tram Stop #5 located at the garden entry to the Silverton Market (edible) Garden. The tram takes Oregon Garden visitors on a tour around the garden every 30 minutes and tram drivers routinely include information about the trial garden in their tour talk.   Our trial includes a large banner declaring it the “Master Gardener Grafted Vegetable Demonstration Garden” For our 2015 Oregon Garden Trial we grew multiple types of grafted vegetables, including: tomatoes of every shape, size and color, peppers, eggplant, watermelon, and basil. We even grew the potato-tomato grafted “Ketchup ‘n Fries. The “Ketchup ‘n Fries” was extremely popular with the public, and was always mentioned by the tram drivers on the Oregon Garden tour. Our focus was on “Big Tomatoes” and tomatoes never before grafted.   These were also well received by visitors.

The trial garden is protected by a first class deer fence that not only protects from the deer, but serves to emphasize the area of the garden.   A large banner, and laminated placards surround the entire project, explaining what visitors are seeing and describing the grafting process. Visitors and their families are frequently seen gathered around these placards. (See attached pictures.) During our weekly visits to maintain the demonstration garden, we experience significant interaction with garden visitors.   Ty Borland, the Oregon Garden Horticultural Manager, reports that the exhibit is very popular with visitors, and he has received numerous positive emails regarding the Demonstration Garden.

Public interest grew in 2015, and it was again a great public education and promotion project for the Master Gardener Program. The “Garden Time” TV Show visited our trial and did a show on-site, as did Portland radio and TV personality, Mike Darcy.   Kelly Fenley of the Eugene Register Guard paper visited the trial and wrote a lengthy article for his newspaper.

In 2016, we again established a demonstration garden of both large and colorful varieties of tomatoes. We selected many new varieties, some never previously grafted. We held Master Gardener Q&A sessions at the trial site over the summer with the goal of answering visitor questions, telling the Master Gardener story, and distributing information about the Master Gardener program.

One of our new and exciting things to talk about with visitors this year is an innovative method of pruning tomatoes to promote greater growth and production. The “Harry Prune” was developed by team member Harry Olson and verified by several years of confirming trials.

One of the best days of this trial was the Home Schooled Kids Day at the garden. Our project team happened to be working onsite that day, and talked to parents and kids by the hundreds, spending most of our morning work period just interacting with that group. We finally had to terminate “tomato tasting” as our plants were getting bare. It was rewarding and fun, and likely started some young gardening careers. Our trials at the Oregon Garden have been well covered by the media, including the Oregonian, Statesman Journal, radio and television. Oregon State University Extension Service Communications Specialist Kym Pokorny’s first article for OSU Extension Service was about our Trial in the Oregon Garden. That article was distributed statewide and was reprinted numerous times in other publications.

We can only estimate the number of people reached by our project. The Oregon Garden reports nearly 50,000 visitors between May and October (our trial time). The majority of those visitors take at least one Tram Tour which brings them within 15 feet of our demonstration garden. Tram drivers consistently provide information to riders about our trial. Because our trial is located in the center of the Oregon Garden, it is visited by many who wander the garden on their own. Appearances on radio and television and newspaper stories obviously reach large populations, but they can’t be counted. It is our belief that our trials have reached more members of the public than likely any other. They have also well represented the Master Gardener Organization as a leader in public education and demonstration.

Our Chapter’s mission is to educate and serve the community by supporting and enhancing the sustainable gardening work of Oregon State University and Marion County Extension Service. Our grafted trials have done that. We have found a simple, yet easily replicated method to educate an amazing number of people, including children, about the wonders of gardening by capturing their attention with new and novel types of plants. Many visitors have never heard of grafted plants, and are amazed and interested in including grafted plants in their own gardens.

Budget / Partnerships

Since the Oregon Garden graciously hosted our trial, the cost of our trial has been minimal and borne largely by the participating Master Gardeners. Our grafted plants were generously donated by Alice Doyle of Log House Plants in Cottage Grove. It was Log House Plants who originally brought grafted vegetables to the home gardener. Their premier grafted vegetables made this trial possible.

Impacts & “Take Aways”

For Master Gardeners: Our Demonstration project provides a model to encourage Master Gardeners to be alert to emerging technologies or activities that hold an opportunity for Master Gardeners to serve their organization and the public through trials, testing, and public reporting. We also provide a model to greatly improve the number of public served and improve dissemination of information through use of all available media outlets. Our community role as trusted leaders in gardening is enhanced and solidified by these activities.

For the public: Engaging in demonstration projects such as this provides a great service to the public, clarifying and demonstrating the worth and impact of emerging technologies on gardening. While servicing our trial garden during the summer we have direct contact with at least a thousand garden visitors. Most are impressed with what they see and many have never heard of grafted vegetables. Nearly all expressed an interest in trying grafted plants in their garden next year and thanked us for our demonstration garden.

The children we encountered and spoke with in the Oregon Garden most impressed us. Many were truly in awe and responded excitedly to our invitation to step into the garden and try some tomatoes. It is a certainty that many future gardeners were born of this experience.

Closing Thoughts:

In this trial, we, as Master Gardeners, saw an opportunity to test new garden technology and report our findings to the public and to other Master Gardeners. We went on to conduct five (5) years of public demonstrations of our findings and related technology in a manner that affirms and solidifies the role of Master Gardeners as leaders in hands on testing and providing gardening information and guidance directly to the public. Our trial has also been a model for the use of news media, in the promotion of our work.

Participating Master Gardeners:

Harry Olson             Tobie Habeck              Eric Suing
Marion County Master Gardeners

A picture is worth a 1000 words

This is the picture that started our journey

Left: Brandywine Tomato ungrafted(left) and grafted roots. The grafted root (on right) 10 ft out is still pencil size. Note the plant size difference and that the ungrafted is long dead while grafted is alive and well (October 17th).

Below: Our consistent findings after five years of trials





2017 Research 2nd Place – Milkweed Field Trials for Monarch Butterfly Habitat, Clark City, NV

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Milkweed Field Trials for Monarch Butterfly Habitat

The Southwest Monarch Butterfly population is in decline. Southern Nevada is part of the Monarch Fall migration from late August to early November. Reproductive Monarchs arrive early as part of the premigration and Milkweeds are their required host plant. The project seeks to identify and cultivate Milkweed species which will survive, flower and attract pollinators in the Mojave Desert. The trials are conducted by the Master Gardeners of Southern Nevada, Monarch Habitat Research Team.

The focus is on gathering sufficient data to determine which Milkweeds are best suited for inclusion in residential landscapes. Another goal is to increase availability of rare native Milkweed seeds through cultivation in the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Botanical Gardens at 8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, NV 89123.

Our target audience is Clark County residents who want to include Milkweeds in their landscape to support the Monarch Butterfly. We are also helping public and non-profit projects by propagating and donating rare native desert-adapted Milkweed seeds. By Fall of 2017, we should be able to share 7 rare species: Asclepias angustifolia, Asclepias erosa, Asclepias fascicularis, Asclepias linaria, Asclepias speciosa, Asclepias subulata and Asclepias texana.

Asclepias angustifolia                                                    Asclepias linaria

Asclepias subulata                                                           Asclepias erosa

Horticultural Challenges

The Mojave Desert is a harsh growing environment:

  • 4” average rainfall and 80” evapotranspiration
  • Strong dry winds
  • Winter temperatures that can dip into the teens
  • Summer temperatures in the 120s
  • Native soil is alkaline, salty and poor with very low amounts of organic matter.

Six species of Milkweed (Asclepias asperula, A. erosa, A. nyctaginifolia, A. speciosa, A. subulata, A. subverticillata) are native to Clark County. They are not abundant in the wild and are not grown in landscapes. Their seeds are quite rare and difficult to obtain, especially by the general public.

Ease of germination and transplantation varies widely among the Asclepias species.

The best time to germinate seeds appears to be in January for early March planting and in July for early September planting.

Desert-adapted plants can grow deep tap roots very quickly and are sensitive to transplanting. Seedlings do well when germinated indoors and planted ASAP with the second set of adult leaves without disturbing the young tap root.

Milkweed Requirements

Each Milkweed in the trials is evaluated:

  • Can it survive here?
  • Does it need full sun, partial sun or shade?
  • Is it dormant or evergreen?
  • Is it clumping or does it have rhizomes? How aggressive?
  • Is it available to feed Monarch Butterfly caterpillars from late August to late October?
  • Are Monarch Butterflies attracted to this Milkweed?
  • Is it decorative in a residential garden?
  • Can the seed or plant be found?

To help answer these questions, Master Gardeners of Southern Nevada are conducting field trials of 30 different Milkweeds and seven cultivars in the Botanical Gardens of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

As of Spring 2017, we have determined that the Milkweeds best suited for use in a residential garden in Southern Nevada are Asclepias subulata (Rush Milkweed), Asclepias erosa (Desert Milkweed), Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed), Asclepias angustifolia (Arizona Milkweed), Asclepias linaria (Pineneedle Milkweed), Asclepias texana (Texas Milkweed), Asclepias subverticillata (Horsetail Milkweed) and Asclepias curassavica (Tropical Milkweed).

2017 Research 3rd Place (tie) – Kennesaw Science & Math Academy Hydro/aeroponics Project, Cobb Cty, GA

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Kennesaw Charter Science and Math Academy

Elementary Garden Club Hydroponics SFE Blog Summary for 2015/16 project.

Michael Donnelly, Cobb County Teacher Master Gardener

Amanda Green, Amazing educator

Background: The Education Committee of Cobb County Master Gardener Volunteers, Inc. (MGVOCC), Teacher Master Gardener, Michael Donnelly and his colleague, Amanda Green, teamed up to develop a hydroponic and aeroponic gardening program for grades 1-5 at Kennesaw Charter Math and Science Academy in Kennesaw, GA. The Academy is part of the Cobb County Public School District. The collaborative effort enabled students in grades one (1) through five (5) to experiment with the basic requirements of plants in order to grow them successfully outside of the soil and to compare the effectiveness of growing them with roots in air or submerged in water

The teachers and students began the 2015-16 school year with some donated commercial hydroponic and aeroponic growing equipment, which consisted of two towers (aeroponic and shown in first photograph) and a water table (hydroponic, not shown). They were intended to be used in the classroom. However, additional funds were needed to purchase supplies and more importantly, some basic knowledge was needed in order to successfully grow the plants. In August 2015 the school received $140 in funds from MGVOCC for their gardening program (they have an outside garden as well). Michael Donnelly took this opportunity to question Cobb MG Linda Hlozansky, about hydroponics, but since the MG training did not include this study, MGVOCC saw this as an opportunity to further its knowledge of hydroponics. A separate equipment and supplies budget was requested for developing a hydro/aeroponics gardening program and was presented to the MGVOCC Education Committee, which approved a $300.00 budget and the program began. In exchange, the students presented Cobb County Master Gardeners the results of their “experiments” at the end of the school year.


  • successfully grow edible plants with roots either in air, or submerged in water
  • replicate consistent results
  • discover less costly ways of achieving the same results (with less expensive equipment)
  • expand knowledge base of Cobb County Master Gardeners in hydro and aeroponic gardening


The wonder in this project began with the uncertainty that plants could truly thrive without some type of soil medium. Though most students had some experience with gardening either at home or in our school gardens, those experiences were in traditional growing methods when it came to soil and light. Research wasn’t too difficult, the internet is full of videos, articles, and blogs on hydroponic growing, and our learning curve, though steep at first, was only slowed down while we got ourselves competent with the pH needs of plants and the methods in acquiring and maintaining proper pH.

The expense of quality U.V. lighting, and the limits in donations of funds and materials naturally set up the comparison between growing in natural light (in a window on a rotating base), and artificial light 9attached to the fixture and run on a timer. We decided on using “optimal summer conditions” and set the timers on 12-hour rotations.

Two unanticipated challenges we met along the way were pests, and premature bolting.

Without adequate scientific knowledge, we came to the assumption that the premature bolting (spinach from seed to flowering in 4-weeks) was most likely due to the “optimal lighting conditions” brought about by continuous exposure to 12-hours a day full sun.

Our pests came in two forms, aphids and fungi. How the aphids got in is unclear, but left unchecked by predation, aphids thrived and were a constant enemy of our young gardeners who chose soap water and manual labor as the best practice to safely cull the attackers without strong chemicals. The fungi was ignored except for extreme spots that were cleaned with towels and soap water. Neither of these foes was damaging to the overall success of the plant growth.

Maintaining proper nutrient density was a challenge since evaporation was pretty high and the need to replenish water seemed to thin the nutrient availability.

A digital meter was purchased to measure the initial density and nutrients were added in recommended ratios on regular intervals to maintain those levels.

Results/Conclusion: This is still an ongoing project, and as of this writing we have succeeded in optimizing plant growth by better controlling lighting and continually tracking the nutrient levels in the water. We now are reaching plant maturity in about 60-days. The aphid problem has not returned and in retrospect, we were storing plants purchased for our traditional outdoor gardens in the same room as our infested indoor plants. Those store bought plants were the likely source and care is now used to keep the indoor plants isolated to prevent re-infestation.

Fungi is an ongoing occurrence but we choose to see this as a byproduct of the environment that will not harm our efforts. So far it hasn’t.

Because these growing systems are maintained in our science lab and entry foyer all our 800+ students are aware of the project, and many more have had the opportunity to participate. Even greater are the number of students who have enjoyed tasting our rotating hydroponic crops such as chard, kale, spinach, various lettuce, and broccoli.

Because of the decreased growing time and increased growth speed, these students are also able to witness the entire lifecycle of edible annuals, from seed, to flower, to seed…

2017 Research 3rd Place (tie) – McCollum Park Pollinator Garden, Snohomish County, WA

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Pollinator Teaching Garden
McCollum Park, Everett, WA 98208
Information and Process of Construction and Reporting

When we began we realized we had quite a daunting job ahead of us. The garden that we had volunteered as interns to adopt was surrounded completely by parking lots and driveways. Others had tried in the past to take on this pretty little spot but had given up because there was no irrigation in the garden.

So it was, that we determined that our first order of business would be to figure out how to bring water to our garden.

We talked about many options:

1) Running a hose with sort of a tent to cover it, but people would have to drive over that and it could be a tripping hazard etc..

2) Digging a shallow trench and running the hose just under the surface then repaving, but then if it developed problems we would have to dig up the road.
3) We finally decided the best way would be to ask the foundation for funds to hire a company to boar down well under the freeze line and run a pipe so we could run plenty of water lines to accommodate all of our water needs both present and future. Thankfully our Foundation generously agreed to fund this.

After meeting with our coordinator, the person in charge of this particular demonstration garden, the facilities manager, the people at the county, their superiors and finally the inspectors who all gave us the necessary approvals. We were on our way….

This was a huge task. We dug holes on both sides of the driveway, then the company we hired came in with the boring equipment.

Our second step was to draw plans, both action plans and a garden design plans. Our Plan was to promote pollinators locally so we decided to make this garden a pollinator friendly spot. We envisioned bees, hummingbirds, bats, butterflies and a host of other insects flocking to our garden, so of course this determined what type of plants we would choose.

We wanted to make it a place to teach and to learn, for MGs, children, students and adults alike.

Next we needed a way in, so we made a path in to the garden and a place to sit and enjoy the flowers and flying and crawling visitors.

After the construction we began adding plants, trees, shrubs, a small mud bath , arbors, bug hotels, and bee boxes. We hope to add bat boxes later this year.

Some of the things we did to encourage pollinators were to:

  • We provided mason bee boxes.
  • We left some bare soil and provided a muddy area for ground nesting bees.
  • We built a bug hotel with 6 different sections, each containing a different medium such as reeds with holes in them for mason bees and other insects that like to climb inside, soft fluffy things like cattail and cottonwood fluff for hummingbird nests and other birds, straw, twigs and other items that various bugs and pollinators might use.
  • We built underground Bombus nests.
  • We provided misting to attract the hummingbirds. And…
  • We included rotting logs to attract decomposer insects.
  • We also made a display of a wasp nest enclosed in Plexiglas for the public to see.

And of course we wanted the garden to be pretty:
We dug a path, then added gravel.

We lined the gravel with large river rocks.

We added a Drip Irrigation System

We brought in mulch to improve the soil added a bench to sit on to enjoy the garden and started adding a plethora of plants. We tried to make sure we had something blooming in all seasons so that the pollinators always have something to choose from.

We added Fuchsia baskets to the arbors for the hummingbirds and put misters on each end for them as well. Then we waited for the pollinators to come.

We have also added some stumps and rock piles for other insects. We continue to add new plants every season and our garden has become quite a lovely place to sit and enjoy the afternoon.

Part of our job now is to observe what plantings are most effective and what nesting areas are most popular so that we can continue to improve the garden.


2017 Innovative Projects 2nd Place – Snetsinger Butterfly Garden (SBG): Satellite Garden Program, Centre County, PA

Sunday, June 11th, 2017



In the fall of 2010 Master Gardener Pam Ford received a worried call from a teacher at Easterly Parkway Elementary School in State College, Pennsylvania. Her pupils were studying the Monarch butterfly life cycle, and in their display tank hungry caterpillars were fast depleting the supply of milkweed leaves. Someone had suggested that the teacher contact the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden; surely they would have some milkweed. Well yes, responded Mrs. Ford, and meeting at the garden, she helped the teacher gather milkweed leaves so that the hungry caterpillars might be rescued. A bit later, meeting at the Snetsinger Butterfly garden with other Master Gardeners and “Butterfly Bob” himself, the group discussed the incident. Ford wondered aloud, why not encourage the school children to raise their own milkweed? The children could observe the life cycle as it actually happened in nature. Watching caterpillars pupate in a tank is fun, but finding an egg or caterpillar on a milkweed plant outdoors, or seeing an adult sip nectar from a flower – now that is truly electrifying! The idea developed in conversation; soon students were planning their own butterfly garden. The next spring, Master Gardeners helped the children with design and planting, and gave presentations in the classroom. In this school setting the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden’s Satellite Garden program was born.


Today (2017) there are thirty-nine “satellite gardens” and more are planned. These satellites can’t be explained without reference to the “mother ship.” The Snetsinger Butterfly Garden (SBG) is a three-acre habitat within Tom Tudek Park, a public park in State College, Pennsylvania. The SBG came into being when Robert and Wendy Snetsinger, friends of the Tudek family, proposed a partnership to develop three acres in the park as a butterfly garden in memory of their children Clare Snetsinger and Tom Tudek. So around 1996 Robert Snetsinger, a retired Penn State entomologist, set about improving this old farm field as butterfly habitat. Thanks to Snetsinger’s steady work (he passed away in 2016) the number of butterfly species in the garden increased fivefold. In 2011 the garden was formally designated the “Snetsinger Butterfly Garden” in recognition of his achievement. Meanwhile in 2007 the Penn State Centre County Extension Master Gardeners had joined forces with Snetsinger. Under the direction of Pam and Doug Ford, Master Gardeners created several demonstration gardens that educated the public about gardening for butterflies and other pollinators. Before long the Master Gardener participation had grown to fifty; signature events like “Wings in the Park” drew hundreds of families; and the SBG’s lovely gardens and public programs had earned a glowing reputation throughout the region. As concern about monarchs and pollinators got into the news, more and more local groups got interested in doing something to help. The stage was set for the satellite garden program to take shape.

The innovative idea behind the satellite garden program is that Master Gardeners can multiply the power of outreach by teaching satellite garden stewards how (and why) to plan, plant, and tend a pollinator or butterfly garden. Satellite garden stewards then become actively involved in transmitting these gardening principles to their own constituents. They take ownership. This approach complements more passive techniques such as public presentations by Master Gardeners. The latter tend to draw self-selected audiences, but a pollinator garden project at a school, church, or retirement community has the potential to reach people who might not otherwise get exposed to ideas about pollinator conservation or native plant gardening.

The satellite garden program aims to disseminate science-based content about garden practices that promote habitat for butterfly species and for pollinators, mainly native bees. Briefly, we stress several basic principles: keep the entire life cycle in mind when planting; focus on natives; avoid pesticides; provide appropriately designed water sources; delay end-of-season cleanup until spring. Of course, more traditional presentation of information on specific plants’ horticultural needs and characteristics is part of the message, but the program is also innovative in that it encourages people to reconceptualize home gardening, to think about gardening not only for aesthetic enjoyment but for wildlife habitat.

By the Numbers:

  • Thirty-nine satellite gardens, each with its own Master Gardener “captain.”
  • Twenty-eight presentations at satellite garden sites in 2016
  • 2,130 contacts at satellite garden sites in 2016
  • Over 400 plants distributed to satellite gardens in 2016

The majority of SBG satellite garden sites are at schools, but there are also gardens at churches, retirement communities, public parks, a public library, a children’s museum, and a community organization dedicated to providing opportunities for developmentally disabled young adults. Typically the process begins with someone contacting coordinator Pam Ford. Conversations ensue and a Master Gardener captain is identified to serve as liason. (This aspect of the program affords leadership experiences for Master Gardeners.) A representative from the Master Gardeners will usually travel to the site and give a presentation about pollinator and butterfly gardening, tailoring the material to suit the prospective stewards’ ages and specific goals. The Master Gardeners help to develop a planting plan and list; a hands-on activity developed by Ms. Ford teaches about garden design principles specifically geared to pollinator and butterfly habitat. The plan in hand, a planting date is set. Stewards marshall their volunteers. If the garden is at a school a PTO group might help; at a retirement community or church it might be a garden committee.


The plants are mainly natives, of course, though nonnative annuals are important for late season nectar sources and to fill gaps while the perennials are still growing. Where do the plants come from? Occasionally a group will have funds to purchase plants on the commercial market. In general, though, this is a very low-budget program. For example, Master Gardeners winter-sow thousands of seeds in milk jugs. (The SBG website has details on how this is done.) Sometimes milk jug projects are incorporated into the satellite garden development process – this way school children can raise seedlings for their own satellite gardens and learn in the process. By using this method, satellite garden hosts can obtain robust plants at very low cost. Other plants come at no cost, from divisions dug up at the SBG itself. In a quite literal way the gardens are “satellites” of SBG.







Planting seeds in milk jugs,
State College Friends School


On planting day several Master Gardeners attend to demonstrate proper techniques. Plan in hand, stewards install the plants, water, and compost. As the garden matures, the captain stays in touch with stewards to advise on issues like maintenance, watering, cleanup, replacing dead plants, and the like. Often the stewards will hold a formal dedication. This can be an joyful and inspirational occasion as the community members gather to celebrate their achievement and to mark it with an official sign. Once the garden is established, the stewards are responsible for ongoing care, but Master Gardener captains are always available to ensure continuity, help solve problems, and supply educational resources.

Installing the satellite garden at Phillipsburg Elementary School

The satellite garden idea has sparked a ripple effect in terms of outreach. For example, at several elementary schools the fifth-grade class members serve as the official stewards for the garden. They “pay forward” by giving presentations to younger pupils. In this way they not only master important content and presentation skills, but foster an ongoing, school-wide commitment to the garden. The satellite garden becomes an integral part of the school’s life. This may engender still more ripples. When the Corl Street PTO decided to plant trees on the school grounds, for example, they asked for advice to make sure they chose appropriate native trees – an indirect result of the educational outreach that occurred when the satellite garden was first installed. Students have “paid forward” in other ways. At a nearby high school, for example, students in the Agricultural Sciences program established a pollinator garden and then gave presentations to the school board. They are expanding their garden (located in a heavily used parking lot area) nearly every year. At all the gardens, public signage creates another type of ripple effect by provoking curiosity on the part of random passers-by in settings like state parks, where people may visit out of an interest in nature but not necessarily connect wildlife habitat with gardening.

Another way the satellite gardens have a ripple effect is as educational resources in their own right. At Corl Street Elementary, for instances, the garden is used not just for science studies but even for art classes. One fifth-grade class researched all the plants in the garden and created laminated cards that will be posted at the garden site, so children can learn about the plants while interacting directly with them. And of course the kids will probably educate their parents too! Going forward, many garden stewards will pursue Pollinator Friendly Certification, and in the process they can keep on learning about pollinator habitat.

A number of materials have been developed to support the satellite garden program. Satellite garden guidelines explain criteria for qualifying, responsibilities of both the Master Gardeners and the hosts, and the like. A more detailed Stewardship Manual is in progress. Checklists for Master Gardener captains outline yearly duties. Several Power Point presentations geared to different age levels explain pollinator friendly gardening. An original garden design activity was created by Pam Ford. First, the presenter explains that pollinator gardens need to supply host plants as well as nectar resources from spring through fall. Then a brief discussion of design principles follows: plants should be in large clumps (to help pollinators find them); large plants should be placed behind shorter ones, etc. The activity kit contains laminated cardboard symbols that are labeled for color, height, whether they are host plants, etc. Participants move these around on a cloth background to create a design. Physically manipulating these symbols facilitates a powerful learning process. The SBG itself is a supporting resource, of course; satellite garden stewards often incorporate tours there as part of their learning process. Finally, the SBG website provides plant lists, a bird directory, planting plans, and many other resources that satellite garden hosts can use.

Results! Monarch caterpillar on
milkweed at Centre Learning
Community Satellite Garden

It is important to note that though SBG as a whole is large, the actual pollinator demonstration garden area at SBG takes up only the periphery of the three-acre site. So even though the SBG is unique, the satellite garden idea is certainly replicable. Any reasonably sized Master Gardener pollinator demonstration garden could potentially spawn its own “satellites.”



2017 Youth 2nd Place (tie) – Morris Elementary School Greenhouse, Madison County, AL

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Morris Elementary School Project

The Morris Elementary School Project (MES), in its fourth year, is the result of a local Principal wanting her students to learn about gardening and the environment, and to be engaged in nature utilizing the school’s unused greenhouse and center courtyard. Our primary goal is to teach them the principles of horticulture to demonstrate healthier food choices and to make them aware of the things around them and that they just don’t miraculously appear on the table. The program teaches them confidence, planning, nurturing, marketing and charity. We introduce them to healthy food options each week during a 45-minute class period utilizing the Junior Master Gardener program and incorporating science projects. We invite speakers from the Huntsville Botanical Garden (HBG), MGNA, NASA and other community experts to present a variety of topics: growing food in space, perennials, migrating birds, and how animals survive the winter.


Children learn by planting and maintaining gardens. Daylilies, bulbs, perennials and annuals have been planted by the students under the tutelage of MGNA members. The students have installed two lasagna gardens, square foot gardens, various bird houses and feeders around the school. Weekly a student researches a new fruit or vegetable and gives a presentation to the other students, thus practicing research and public speaking. Samples are passed around and seeds are planted if possible. The students learn about recycling and sustainability by making ‘news’paper pots and old race tire flower gardens, painted in vibrant colors. Leaves were recycled for mulch and compost. Donated hub caps were painted and ‘planted’ in a flower bed to help hide an ugly fence. Plastic water bottles were reused to make worm bins for the classrooms and watering bottles for the gardens. Donated landscape rocks were painted with encouraging and positive words (e.g. hope, smile, be happy) to decorate a barren pond area during the winter.

Conservation methods include three rain barrels near the gardens used for watering.  Two different composting systems aredemonstrated and used; students often bring material from home to add. After hearing a local expert speak about pollinators, the class planted wildflowers and registered for the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Bird feeders are made annually from pinecones and toilet paper rolls and hung outside the classrooms and library for the enjoyment of the school children. One student reported that he used his newfound knowledge to make birdfeeders over the Christmas holidays for his home.

Students journal after each garden class; Master Gardener volunteers collect the journals to read them, make notes and answer questions. Each week a student uses my camera to take photos, learning about color, composition and angles. These photos are shared with the local association newsletter, Facebook and the school – to the utter delight of the children.

Science and math projects are incorporated using transpiration and seed growing experiments. When we have a special day with cookies or pizza, the children have to trace the ingredients back to plants before enjoying the treat. Lessons are built upon weekly.  Our end of the year scavenger hunt culminates the year’s lessons and results in a new garden being completed. Students answer questions such as “I am made up of paper and used to mail items to people. I can be placed on the ground to help deter weeds from growing. What am I?” After answering cardboard they went on to the next question, “I can be found on cars and trucks. There are usually 4 of me and I am round and black, but today I’m a different color. What am I?” (A tire) They find the tire, place it on the cardboard, and started to build their recycled tire garden.

Giving and community involvement are taught and encouraged, the majority of the vegetables grown are donated to a local Food Bank. Last year, after their first successful plant sale, the students wanted to share what they had earned and elected to give a portion earned to a local Elementary school to help fund a newly established song bird garden. Mother’s Day plants are raised and sold to students for $1 each (or 3 quarters and a Chucky Cheese coin!).

Non-participating students, teachers, school staff and visitors often stop to see what the week’s events include and to ask how they can get involved. The program has a huge impact on the children. At the end of the school year, a winning essay read at graduation talked in detail about how Master Gardeners “teach us how to grow different kinds of plants, encourage us to research and taste different plants, and they plan special activities for us. They helped us grow plants to sell, so we could go to camp next year.


We also had a scavenger hunt and planted lilies in painted tires. We have painted rocks, hubcap flowers, bird feeders and small gardens all over the school. This helps Morris look really nice.” Each week the students were excited to try the new fruit or vegetable. Towards the end of the school year, when offered cookies instead of a vegetable, the students all choose the vegetable!