December Blog Post Recap

This will be a really quick monthly recap: aside from the November Blog Posts Recap on December 18, we featured just one other post in December. That’s okay, though, because it was a good one that opened the door to many additional posts on the same topic! Connie Schultz, of the Johnston County, NC Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, wrote a lovely piece about regional wreaths (Celebrating Christmas with Regional Wreaths). Appearing on December 9, this post touched on some of the huge assortment of regional items (think red peppers in the Southwest) that are pressed into service as holiday decorations. Here in the Southeast, we have more traditional evergreen foliage we can use, along with the colorful berries of plants like nandina, aucuba, and hollies. Connie concluded her post with an invitation to our readers to send in photos of their wreaths so we can all enjoy the creativity and beauty.

Traditional wreath from JC Raulston Arboretum NCSU
Traditional wreath from JC Raulston Arboretum NCSU


What’s Next?

Now that 2014 is off and running, we should have many more posts to highlight at the end of this month. Wouldn’t you like to share something from wherever you garden? We’d love to hear from you, and we’d also love you to share these blog posts with your friends and colleagues. Happy New Year!

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Extension Master Gardener Blog

Blog Recap prepared by Linda Brandon, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator, NC Cooperative Extension/ Guilford County Center, Greensboro, NC


October 2013 Blog Post Recap

For gardeners in many parts of the country, the growing season is winding down with the fall harvest; for others, things are still incredibly busy. Regardless of your location, the blog was chock-full of outstanding information during October! Let’s see what you might have missed if you weren’t able to read regularly . . .


On October 1, we were celebrating Native Plants (Celebrating the Native Plant), which can form the backbone of a great garden no matter your location. While the natives may vary from region to region, they are all hard-working plants ideally suited to local conditions; many believe we should give more emphasis to natives and be very discriminating in our introductions of non-native species into local ecosystems. Here are a couple of the highlighted plants:

native 1
Aster – Nebraska – Zone 5
Sumac - Nebraska - Zone 5
Sumac – Nebraska – Zone 5

Mary-Jean Grimes, of Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties in Washington State, had a great post October 2 about the Lake Sylvia Native Plant Project (Wordless Wednesday – Lake Sylvia Native Plant Project), including photos of families being introduced to the local plants at the park:

End of walk- Still using id sheet
(Photo by Helen Hepp)

October 3 featured a plant profile of the Desert Four O’Clock (Mirabilis multiflora), native to the southwestern states, by Susan Buffler of Cache County, Utah. This fascinating plant grows from a large tuber, which makes transplanting difficult; it’s a beauty, well worth whatever trouble it may be to establish!

Close up picture of magenta Desert Four O'Clock flowers
Photo Credit: Bryant Olsen
Flickr CC BY –NC 2.0

On October 5, we learned much more about the Native Plant Projects from Two Washington Counties. This post, from Mary-Jean Grimes, went into detail about the Lake Sylvia Park project, which included the development of plant identification cards for the native plants, and the Discovery Garden project in Ilwaco, which entailed the renovation of an overgrown planting at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum. (As a North Carolina gardener, it’s particularly fascinating to me to see what our most distant gardening neighbors are up to.) Both projects look absolutely terrific!

#1 welcome
Informational Signage at the Discovery Garden


October 8 brought us a listing of Favorite Natives of WA Master Gardeners; the top five plants were trillium, red flowering currant, evergreen huckleberry, vine maple, and Oregon grape. The results were tabulated from the participants in the Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties MG and the Washington State Master Gardener Advanced Education Conference in September. The overall listing included more than 50 plants, as well as a link to more information about all of them.

natives for blog

Wordless Wednesday: Farmer’s Markets & Fall Festivals for October 9 brought some gorgeous photos from North Carolina: Johnston County’s Connie Schultz highlighted just a few of the many Farmers Markets that have popped up statewide in recent months as the interest in locally grown food has virtually exploded. Combine the colors of ripe produce, beautifully displayed, with the background of a crisp, clear October day, and the results are sure to be captivating!

October 11 brought my first Monthly Blog Recap (EMG Blog Learning Notes – Recapping September 2013); if you feel you missed anything from September, here’s where to start tracking it down.

On October 12, we took an in-depth look (Native Plants, Native Foods: Ramps) at a native food plant that some Americans may never have heard of: the ramp (Allium tricoccum). Just as the Southwest has chili peppers, and the Northeast has maple syrup, the Southeast has ramps. This odiferous wild leek grows in Appalachia, and its history as a “spring tonic” is fascinating, as is its place in society today, with annual ramp festivals devoted solely to its cultivation, lore, and use. If you love both history and horticulture, this post is worth every second of your time: go read it right now!

Ramps ready to eat. Photo: dano272,

Permaculture was the topic for our October 14 post (Work With Nature Rather Than Against It – What is Permaculture?), featuring a new campus permaculture garden at Utah State University. Since permaculture – which essentially means working with nature rather than against it to create sustainable landscapes and ecosystems – is very much in the news lately, this is an extremely timely post, accompanied by beautiful photos. Susan Buffler, of Cache County EMGs in Utah, provided links to additional permaculture information, as well, and the post even includes a brief video at the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute.

Various vegetables in a permaculture garden
Photo credit: Milkwoods
Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

October 16 featured another Almost Wordless Wednesday post, this one focusing on some Southwest farmers markets (Wordless Wednesday: Southwest Farmers Markets Fall). Thanks to Eileen Kane for a lovely glimpse at the glory of fresh produce. It’s fascinating to see how the produce shown in her photos differs from the veggies in Connie Schultz’s earlier Wordless Wednesday post about North Carolina farmers markets.

Southwest Farmer's Market in the fall (photo credit Eileen Kane)
Southwest Farmer’s Market in the fall (photo credit Eileen Kane)

For those of us who are orderly and disciplined enough to keep records of their gardens, the post from October 17 will be particularly fascinating. Carla Albright, of Tillamook County, Oregon, created a wonderful piece on maintaining a consistent and useful garden journal (7 Steps for Keeping a Consistent (and Useful) Garden Journal). With the simplicity of incorporating digital photography into computerized documents, journaling is easier than it’s ever been . . . if you make the time to do it! This is an excellent, illustrated primer on the topic that will make it easy for you to get started. So what are you waiting for?

Garden Journal page
Garden journal with plant tags, August 3

October 19 brought us an outstanding post from Lisa Tompkins, Chair, Southern Piedmont Chapter, North Carolina Native Plant Society, on the top ten native plants of North Carolina (North Carolina’s List of the Ten Top Choices for Native Plants). This article highlights some of the plants that can form the foundation of a great garden in the Southeast, including photos and essential horticultural information about each of the plants.

American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana
American Beautyberry, Callicarpa Americana (photo courtesy Lisa Tompkins)

Eileen Kane, of the University of Arizona Maricopa County EMG program, provided the October 22 post on Low Desert vegetable and herb gardens in the Southwest (Southwest Autumns Feature Herbs and Vegetable Transplants and Seeds). This piece provides real insight into just what is going on this time of year in Southwestern gardens; it’s fascinating to compare and contrast it with what’s happening where I garden in the Southeast.

Fall Demonstration Garden
University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Demonstration Vegetable Garden


October 23’s Wordless Wednesday highlighted the North Carolina Food Corps Salad Days for kids at school gardens (Almost Wordless Wednesday: Salad Days for Kids at School Gardens with North Carolina Food Corps). It’s amazing to watch school kids carrying bunches of freshly-harvested greens down the hallways at school, bouquet fashion, munching as they walk . . . especially when you realize that some of these children have never eaten fresh vegetables in their lives.

Salad Days for NC Food Corps (photo courtesy NC Food Corps) Gaston County
Salad Days for NC Food Corps in Gaston County, North Carolina (photo courtesy NC Food Corps)

And on October 24, FOOD DAY, we posted an infographic about the American Diet, provided by Food Day. Fascinating to see how well – or how poorly – the average American eats.

food day 2013 infographic
Food Day 2013 infographic The American Diet (courtesy Food Day)

On October 25, the blog post featured an absolutely outstanding iBook created by Mary Free, an EMG in Northern Virginia (Consumer Horticulture iBook Publication Contest Winner Announced). Mary won the Virginia Cooperative Extension 2012 consumer horticulture iBook publication contest with her creation, “For the Birds, Butterflies & Hummingbirds: Creating Inviting Habitats.” It’s also available in PDF and ePub formats on the VCE publications website, and it looks absolutely wonderful – visually appealing and packed with good information.

For the Birds, Butterflies & Hummingbirds: Creating Inviting Habitats.

October 27 featured another look at school gardens: Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth – Can we prove the benefits of school gardens?. Kerri Wilson, WSU Pierce County Extension, sent in this article on the benefits of school gardens and attempts to prove those benefits through a pilot research project in her four-state area.

The plight of the honeybee was the topic of the October 29 post from Gladys Hutson, Union County EMGV in North Carolina (Bees 101 – 2013 – WOW a Tough Year on Honeybees!). She outlined some of the trials and tribulations beekeepers faced during 2013.

Three of our Four Hives
Three of our Four Hives

And the October 30 Almost Wordless Wednesday showcased photos from Kerri Wilson, WSU Pierce County EMG Coordinator, taken at a number of area school gardens (Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth-Almost Wordless Wednesday). In a time when food insecurity is an increasingly obvious issue in this country, school gardens are receiving more and more focus as an attempt to help our children learn about proper nutrition and where food actually comes from.

Photo by Linda Mathews
Photo by Linda Mathews


What’s Next?
Please stay tuned for next month’s blog recap. Until then, we’d love to hear from you about what’s going on in your area as we head into winter, so please stay in touch!
Find us in the following spaces:
Here —
Extension Master Gardener Blog

Linda Brandon, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator, NC Cooperative Extension/ Guilford County Center, Greensboro, NC







EMG Blog Learning Notes – Recapping September 2013

Greetings, everyone! I hope you’ll all bear with me as Karen Jeannette hands off these monthly blog post recaps. I’d love to think we can all visit the Extension Master Gardener blog on a regular basis to check out new posts, but since real life sometimes intrudes on our plans, these monthly summaries suit my personal style of dealing with information overload perfectly.  Having information aggregated like this and served up to me in one neat package makes it much easier for me to tap into items of interest . . . that I might otherwise have missed. I hope you’ve found Karen’s excellent recaps helpful in the past (I know I have), and I truly hope you’ll find them beneficial in the future. Comments are always welcome.

(A quick note: I know different localities refer to their Extension Master Gardener programs and people in various ways. Obviously, “Master Gardener” is the easiest, and we all know what we’re talking about. In North Carolina, though, we’re required to use “Extension Master Gardener.” For example, we discuss an “Extension Master Gardener plant sale,” and we call our members “Extension Master Gardener Volunteers.” Rather than tie myself in knots trying to adapt nomenclature to each part of the country, I’ll likely stick with the North Carolina way of describing our volunteers and our activities, and I hope each of you will know who and what I’m actually referring to without too much confusion.)

September was a busy month (have any of you actually seen a month that was not busy?), as EMG programs around the country saw summer fading and autumn moving in, so let’s see what happened:

On September 4,  our (Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Ohio Ask a Master Gardener at the State Fair and Online post featured the Ask a MGV booth set up for fairgoers; volunteers shared information with visitors on insect pests and vegetable gardening, and also promoted eXtension’s Ask an Expert service, which allows consumers to email their questions at any time.

Ohio State Fair Ask a MGV Booth
Ohio State Fair Ask a MGV Booth

Regular contributor Connie Schultz reported on September 5th about the often-overlooked issue of heat stress on gardeners and gardens in Heat Stress Tips for Gardeners and Gardens. The kind of heat we see in the southern parts of the country can lead to serious problems with vegetable pollination . . . and can cause dangerous health problems in unwary gardeners, too. The Extension Master Gardener Volunteers of Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, NC)  have developed an excellent guide –  Garden Smart and Safe During the Summer Heat – to help both gardens and gardeners cope with high temperatures.

Flowering Tomato
Flowering Tomato, photo by Sara Siegers

In a shining example of adapting to new technologies, the September 10 post focused on the efforts of the University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program. Their ambitious project took an existing PDF on growing vegetables and — drumroll, please! — converted it to three ten-minute long YouTube videos (From PDF to Video: Ten Steps to a Successful Vegetable Garden). Developed with funding from the University of Arizona Green Fund, the videos focus on the basics of low Desert vegetable gardening. I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of this type of project in coming months; please share with us if your group has tackled any innovative ways to use emerging technology in getting information to the gardening public.

Fall, Maricopa County Demonstration Garden
Fall, Maricopa County Demonstration Garden

Our (Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Agave americana, a closer look, posted September 11, featured several spectacular photos of the amazingly architectural Agave americana, a plant ideally suited for arid conditions. Here’s just one of the great shots:

Agave americana
Agave americana

Karen Jeanette’s EMG Blog Learning Notes – Recapping August 2013, posted on September 12, summarized the varied activities tackled by EMG programs during August, including National Moth Week, fabulous daylilies, additional biochar and biofuel research, hunger issues, xeriscaping, and a host of educational opportunities.

Maine Hunger for Harvest
Maine Hunger for Harvest

The September 19 post featured a reprint of John Porter’s newspaper article (Charleston, WV Charleston Gazette-Mail) on Seed Saving in the Fall, including great information on knowing which seeds can be saved, which are ready to save, how to harvest and save them, and a special focus on techniques for saving tomato seeds in order to ensure success. If this post doesn’t encourage gardeners to get out there and grab some seeds before they’re gone, I don’t know what will!

Collect tomato seeds and ferment for best results.
Collect tomato seeds and ferment for best results.

North Carolina is fortunate to have a very strong, extremely knowledgeable native plant society (North Carolina Native Plant Society,, and some of their photos of just a few of the state’s spectacular and varied native species comprised the September 25 Wordless Wednesday: Native Plants post from Connie Schultz.  Here’s just one of the gorgeous photos; remember we’ll be highlighting natives in coming weeks, so we hope this post will whet your appetite and encourage you to send in your own pictures!

North Carolina Native Plants
North Carolina Native Plants (photo by Lisa Tompkins, NC Native Plant Society)

Our September 26 post, Go Native! Idaho Xeriscape Gardens Grow in ‘Tough’ Conditions (submitted by Martina Breuer, University of Idaho Extension Master Gardener, Elmore County), outlined the fascinating story of a large xeriscape garden project at a city-owned golf course . . . a project that ultimately involved EMGVs, area volunteers both young and old, probationers from the local jail, and golfers working together to beautify a site with very poor soil. From funding, to sourcing soil amendments and plants, to doing the actual work of building and maintaining the gardens, this was a fascinating look at how plants can draw people together and create something much more profound than “just a garden.” This post is truly worth a read if you’re feeling any doubt that the human spirit can overcome just about any obstacle or challenge.

Native Plants in Xeric gardens (Photo by Martina Breuer)

And our final September post, from the 29th, featured a look forward to Food Day, October 24 (Master Gardeners and Food Day 2013!) This event featured more than 3200 events in all 50 states  last year, which was only its second year in existence. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, in coalition with a diverse group of food movement leaders, started Food Day in 2011 to focus on more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, with activities culminating this year on October 24. The post suggested a number of ways EMGVs can get involved in Food Day (and Food Month, as well, which is all of October), including working with school gardens and teaching children and adults about food gardening and related activities like composting. In a time when some areas of this country have nearly a quarter of the population wondering where their next meal may come from — including, of course, small children for whom good nutrition is absolutely critical — any increased awareness of the connection between growing food and eating well is a step in the right direction. This wonderful post was submitted by Molly Geppert, a Food Day Fellow at the Center for Science in the Public Interest with two EMGVs in her family.

Food Day 2013
Photo by Mihline Zahoran


Remember to check regularly to see if you’ve missed anything, and don’t forget that we all have free access to more educational webinars than we could hope to view in a lifetime. Find them here:


What’s Next?

Happy Harvest!  Please stay tuned for next month’s blog recap.  Until then, we’d love  to hear from you about what’s going on in your area as we head into the colder months, so please stay in touch!

Find us in the following spaces:

Here – Extension Master Gardener Blog:

Linda Brandon, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator, NC Cooperative Extension/Guilford County Center, Greensboro, NC