Online IPM Modules for Master Gardeners- A New Educational Tool

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

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

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