Tag Archives: Master Gardeners

Russian Delegation Visits VCE Arlington

At the end of January, VCE Arlington had the pleasure of hosting a delegation from Russia and showing them the valuable work that Extension does in our community. The visit was sponsored by the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Program and funded through a grant that Extension was jointly awarded from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The two day visit was packed with activities.

The visit began with a volunteer showcase where Extension and partner organization volunteers talked about their programs and volunteer experiences. Presentations were given by volunteers and leaders from Master Gardeners, Master Food Volunteers, Master Financial Education Volunteers, Energy Masters, Master Naturalists and 4-H. Hard to believe that all of those organizations are affiliated with VCE Arlington!

After a lunch prepared by our own Master Food Volunteers, our guests visited officials from an important Extension partner, Arlington County, and continued to see Extension in action with a visit to the Save the Earth 4-H Club at Barrett Elementary School.

Saturday’s activities included a visit to see the work done at AFAC where Master Food Volunteers give regular healthy food demonstrations. The agenda continued to be food as they attended a training for the upcoming 4-H Food Challenge. They rounded out the day with a visit to Wakefield High School for the ACE Energy Journey Game.

Our agents and volunteers appreciated the interest and feedback from our Russian visitors and we hope that the visit was a valuable one for them as well.

They are on to further US travels in Ohio and Utah to meet with nonprofits in those states and we wish them safe (and hopefully warmer) travels.

MFEV Bill Guey-Lee talking about his experiences

MFEV Bill Guey-Lee talking about his experiences

Volunteer Showcase

Volunteer Showcase

visit to the Barrett Elem. 4-H Club

visit to the Barrett Elem. 4-H Club

It’s National Volunteer Week! THANK YOU! And How to Get Involved…

This week we celebrate National Volunteer Week.
It is time to say THANK YOU to all our volunteers.
Cooperative Extension relies on volunteers, and we believe that active citizen involvement in our programs ensures success.  The work of volunteers at state and local levels helps leverage our paid faculty and staff resources into a much greater impact and benefit for the people of Virginia.

For Extension Volunteer Stories see http://www.ext.vt.edu/news/centennial-articles/stories/index.html

Get Involved
There are many ways you can get involved as a volunteer with Cooperative Extension to bring your talents and skills to benefit the community.  Some of them are listed below. If you are interested in volunteering, but not sure in what way, contact our offices: Arlington 703 228 6400 and Alexandria 703 746 5546.  Staff will be happy to help you find a way to share your time and talents.

Here’s how to get involved volunteering locally with Cooperative Extension programs:

Arlington and Alexandria Extension Leadership Council (ELC)
The Arlington and Alexandria Extension Leadership Council is composed of interested residents, Cooperative Extension staff, and county and city liaisons who identify community issues and help ensure programs are responsive to real needs. Also, the ELC advocates in support of local programs and staff, and promotes greater awareness of the work of the Extension staff and volunteers.  The ELC meets every two months. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Arlington or Alexandria Extension Office and come to an ELC meeting. ELC 2014 Brochure

.4-H Youth Development
4-H stands for head, heart, hands and health.

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Every 4-H program benefits from this integrated approach to civic engagement and hands-on learning – and the dedication and service of caring volunteers.  If you are interested in contributing your time to help further the development of youth in our community, please contact Reggie Morris, 4-H agent for Alexandria rbmorris@vt.edu or Emily Reiersgaard, 4-H agent for Arlington, emilyr@vt.edu

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Master Gardeners
Master Gardeners encourage and promote environmentally sound horticultural practices through sustainable landscape management education and training.
Kirsten picking greens

Here serving Arlington and Alexandria we have the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.  Master Gardeners training will be offered in the fall. For details contact: Agriculture and Natural Resources agent, Kirsten Buhls kbuhls@vt.edu or Arlington’s Interim Master Gardener Coordinator, Jocelyn Yee jyee@arlingtonva.us

Arlington Regional Master Naturalists
The Arlington Regional Master Naturalist program is part of a statewide corps of volunteers providing education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities. If you’re interested in becoming an Arlington Regional Master Naturalist, go to http://armn.org/contact-us/


Master Food Volunteers
Master Food Volunteers help support Extension’s family and consumer sciences (FCS) agents through education and outreach programs related to food preparation, nutrition, food safety, and physical activity. Contact FCS agent Katie Strong kstrong@vt.edu for information about programs and trainings in the Arlington and Fairfax area.


Arlington Energy Masters http://www.arlingtonenvironment.org/energy/
Arlington’s  innovative Energy Masters program promotes a more energy efficient and sustainable Arlington community. We engage professionally trained volunteers in retrofitting, weatherization, and water conservation techniques serving low-income apartment residents. If you are interested in applying for the 2014-2015 program later this summer, please complete the volunteer interest form.


Master Financial  Educators
Financial volunteers receive a comprehensive training on budgeting, retirement planning, home buying, and many other finance topics, instruction in counseling techniques. Volunteers can choose to help individuals or community groups with financial education programs – including learning to reconcile debts, set goals, budget spending, and organization to improve money management skills. Please contact Jennifer Abel jabel@vt.edu for details of the next training.


Volunteering Counts!
Here is how volunteering counts in Arlington and Alexandria.
In 2012: the Arlington and Alexandria staff and volunteers of Virginia Cooperative Extension reached over 50,000 people with 650+ education programs.  850+ active volunteers contributed over 32, 000 hours. That outreach was conducted with a local office staff of about a dozen people. That’s the power of volunteers!

Interested in volunteering statewide or at national level for Virginia Cooperative Extension? See: http://www.ext.vt.edu/volunteer.html




Plant NOVA Natives! Why are native plants important? How do I select native plants? Where can I buy native plants?

Marketing Native Plants – a statewide campaign
“Plant NoVA Natives is a new campaign that brings together the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, local chapters of the Virginia Native Plant Society, nurseries, and other groups, creating a website, guidebook, workshop series and plant tags to be used in local garden stores.”

The Plant NoVA Natives campaign aims to get the word out more consistently on the benefits of native plants and also will help you identify them.
Watch out for their trumpet honeysuckle and sphinx moth logo on plant tags in the marketplace!


The goals of the plant NoVA Natives campaign are:

  • to raise awareness on the issues surrounding native plants
  • to establish a social norm to increase the use of native plants

Native plants and habitats in our Chesapeake area

  • sustain biodiversity
  • provide habitat for wildlife including pollinators
  • help achieve Chesapeake stormwater goals

For information on VA native plants
See: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/nativeplants.shtml
And the previous blog: http://blogs.ext.vt.edu/arl-alexvce/2014/03/28/the-flora-of-virginia-what-are-our-native-plants/

The March 27, Plant NoVA Natives campaign event at Fairlington Community Center was well- attended by over seventy people, many of whom are Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, and members of Audubon, Virginia Native Plant Society and other conservation groups. 

The Plant NoVA Natives campaign was introduced by Corey Miles (Planner at Northern Virginia Regional Commission), followed by excellent presentations by Jim McGlone (Urban Forest Conservationist, VA Dept of Forestry), Alan Ford (Potowmack Chapter President, Virginia Native Plant Society), and Judy Fraser (Program Developer, George Mason University Sustainability Institute).

Margaret Hawkins gave an overview of the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia  (MGNV) Sustainable Landscapes program and team led by Carol Rosen and Kirsten Buhls (Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Arlington office).

Landscape for Life: Making Your Yard Sustainable
In 2013 and 2014, Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia (MGNV) hosted Making Your Yard Sustainable 6-week workshops based on the national US Botanic Garden’s  Landscape for Life program.  Over 50 home and condo owners in Arlington and Alexandria have participated in these MGNV workshops that teach the principles of sustainable landscape design and how to use native plantings.  These are participants main questions:

  • What are the native plants that grow well here in our suburban and urban environment?
  • What native plants go well together?
  • Where can I buy native plants?

Tried and True – Native Plant Factsheets
In response to residents asking for more information on native plants, Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia have now assembled over 100 factsheets of Tried and True natives that thrive in this area.  Find the Tried and True online http://mgnv.org/plants/.
The factsheets also list where the native plants can be found in the Arlington County and Alexandria City Demonstration Gardens.

Best Bets  Native Plant selections and groupings
In response to further demand from residents, MGNV are producing Best Bets factsheets that show how to select and group native plants to thrive in different conditions such as shade, sun, wet or dry.

Demonstration Gardens in Arlington and Alexandria
Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia maintain several demonstration gardens in Arlington and Alexandria. These demonstration gardens are in the process of being labeled using QR Codes linked to the Tried and True and Best Bet factsheets. The QR Code labeling is a work in progress.  Check back frequently as you visit these gardens over the next year or two to get inspiration for your own garden or another community or school garden.

Where can I buy Native Plants this Spring 2014?
Here’s a selection of upcoming plant sales and nurseries to in our local area:

April 10 – 12, check various times and location online,  River Farm
American Horticultural Society Plant Sale

Saturday, April 26, 1- 5 PM
Native Plant sale at Arlington County’s Long Branch Nature Center
order and buy yours online by April 4 – for pick up on the day…

Saturday, April 26, 9 AM to 2 PM
Park Fairfax Native Plant Spring Sale http://home.earthlink.net/~sknudsen/
3601 Valley Drive
Alexandria, Virginia 22302

Sunday, May 4, 10 AM TO 2 PM
Earth Sangha
http://www.earthsangha.org/ – local ecotype plant nursery
Spring Open House and Plant Sale

Saturday, May 17, 9 AM – 3 PM
Green Spring Gardens Spring Garden Day
The Big Plant Sale
Don’t miss this exciting annual event with over 40 vendors
Master Gardeners will have stall there…

Nurseries and Plant Shops
The Green Spring Garden Gate Plant Shop
Opens regularly beginning April 5:
Monday-Saturday, 9 AM -4 PM
Sunday, noon – 4 PM

Nature by Design
Alexandria http://www.nature-by-design.com/

Herring Run Nursery
If you’re near Baltimore, Herring Run Nursery stocks Chesapeake-area hard to find shrubs, vines and trees as well as perennials

Additional Native Plant Sale Listings for Spring 2014:

You create the market for natives!
Ask for native plants at your local nurseries and other suppliers.
We have plenty of large and small nurseries in the area and all stock some natives.
Remember to thank nurseries for stocking their ever-expanding selection of native plants.
By asking for native plants at the nurseries you will help influence the market for them – and retailers will sell more native plant, and growers will be able to grow more of them.
The market will shift. Plant the seed now, grow and ask for natives! 

Plant NoVA Natives! They are naturally beautiful!


The Flora of Virginia – What Are Our Native Plants?

This week native plants and flowers are the theme of two excellent programs hosted at the Fairlington Community Center.

The Flora of Virginia Project www.floraofvirginia.org
Our first program is a workshop presented by Professor Marion Lobstein as Continuing Education/Advanced Training for Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists on the theme of The Flora of Virginia – the native flowering plants of Virginia.

As if I am in undergrad Botany Class, I listen and take notes as Marion Lobstein, Professor Emeritus at Northern Virginia Community College and Vice President of the Foundation of The Flora of Virginia Project sets the stage for her presentation of the latest research and recording of the wealth of flowering plants currently native or naturalized in Virginia.

First question: What is a “native plant”?
A “native plant” can be defined in several different ways.  It is a fuzzy and messy definition. Generally a “native plant” in Virginia is defined as being a plant that was here in the “New World” prior to Columbus’s arrival.  But before Columbus arrived native americans and wildlife moved around the land changing their habitat, and so inevitably did seeds and plants. These native plants co-evolved with other species, as other factors such as climate and geology also played their parts. So there is no static compilation of what comprised the “native plant” flora prior to Columbus. “Naturalized” plants are plants that come from other places that thrive being part of our local plant community, this is as opposed to “exotic invasive plants” that threaten to “takeover” or reduce a community’s  biodiversity

Marion continues “Did you all know: Virginia has the greatest diversity of native flowering plants compared to its size in the 50 US states?”  No, I had no idea.  But why does Virginia have so many kinds of native plants compared to other states?  Virginia has a very diverse geology and was situated at the intersection of glacial retreats and flows. Virginia is now the “mixing bowl” of “northern” and “southern” types of plant species with over 3200+ species in 198 families. Marion then shares the highlights of her research team and colleagues.  Their work and scholarship during the 11-year Flora of Virginia Project has recently culminated in the published handbook The Flora of Virginia. No wonder this comprehensive Flora of Virginia book weighs in at over three pounds!

Joanne Hutton introduces Professor Marion Lobstein

Marion challenges us, “But how to use this enormous book?”  I thumb through an introduction to plant classification and sections on the geology and ecology of Virginia.  There’s a history of plant discoverers.  And an appealing section for the armchair tourist or the active plant seeker on the hotspots for Virginia flora: the 50 best spots for field botany. Marion tells us about recent taxonomic or classification changes reflected in the book, that have been brought about by research on DNA genetic analysis.  For example, milkweeds are now classified with dogbanes and both families have partially-fused ovaries. We laugh.  And I learn that the native wild ginger is a very ancient plant.  Our native magnolias are also ancient flowering plants on the evolutionary path in the fossil record and do not quite fit the “monocot or dicot” dichotomy of later flowering plants. 

Then we learn the skills to use the Flora of Virginia to “key out” and identify native and naturalized plants. We “key out” Queen Anne’s Lace and Daffodils (both naturalized wild flowers in parts of Virginia).

Looking up Daffodil in the Flora of Virginia

I leave the workshop grateful to Marion for bringing the Flora to life with enthusiasm and humor  – and appreciative of the diversity of Virginia’s native and naturalized flowering plants.

Flora of Virginia exhibition at the Library of Virginia in Richmond
If you are interested in finding out more about Virginia’s rich floral heritage, the stories of early exploration and discovery and recent science, make time this spring or summer for a trip to visit the The Flora of Virginia exhibition at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.  The exhibition is on now through September 13  www.lva.virginia.gov and www.floraofvirginia.org

Digital Atlas of Native Virginia Plants
To identify native and naturalized plants in your locality check out the online digital atlas of VA  http://www.vaplantatlas.org/

The Flora of Virginia – the book  www.floraofvirginia.org
You can buy the book of  The Flora of Virginia at Amazon or elsewhere for $80+ or ask for it at your local library.

Next blog
I will continue with the evening’s discussion on the importance of native plants,  and FAQs “How can I select native plants?” and “Where can I buy native plants?”

Inspiration and Impact:

In January, Arlington and Alexandria VA Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners and 4-H Youth Leaders and agents trained Arlington County staff on some Junior Master Gardener projects. Tomorrow staff at Westover Library are hosting Kids in the Garden – a program inspired by what they learned at the Cooperative Extension training.
The kids will plant some seeds to take home – and see how they grow…

Look out for more youth gardening activities this season at the libraries and in Arlington County Dept of Recreation after-school programs.

And let’s grow these inspirational and successful VA Cooperative Extension training programs!

Poster by Westover Library staff.

Poster by Westover Library staff.




Master Gardeners Put on Arlington County Fair Competitive Flower and Vegetable Shows

Every year Arlington County gardeners celebrate the diversity of their gardens by sharing the fruits of their labors with the public.  Both the competitive Flower and Flower Arrangements and massive-pumpkinthe Vegetable Fruits and Nuts Competitive Exhibits at the Arlington County Fair are supported by VCE Master Gardeners who serve as superintendents, judges, and administrative volunteers.  This year, Extension volunteers will preside over two shows that take in entries from hundreds of exhibitors vying for blue ribbons and maybe even a Reserve or Grand Champion awards.  Last year’s show inspired this entry from Nabih S. whose pumpkin was a huge hit.   How big was it?    Well it took two people to pick it up and the small tomato in the lower left corner will give an idea of its size. VCE booth l-r Armn,tsaa,mgnv anr,fcs,4h,Look again here for postings of this year’s winners and be sure to visit Virginia Cooperative Extension’s fair booth at L-10-11-12 and see our many interactive displays that include a Master Gardeners Plant Clinic, Master Naturalists (and you might get to visit with a snake!), Master Food Volunteers will demonstrate herbs and spices, and our 4-H program will be showing off chicks and embryology science.

See you at the Arlington County Fair at Thomas Jefferson Community Center Thomas Jefferson Community Center 3501 Second Street South  Arlington, VA 22204.  Fair hours and parking details are here: http://arlingtoncountyfair.us/

Tancil Court, Alexandria, “I Can Shine Garden”

“I Can Shine Garden” teaches children to grow vegetables

By Alice Reid

I Can Shine

Thanks to a hard-working group of children and more than a dozen volunteers, we’ve had a productive and fun spring at the “I Can Shine Garden” at Tancil Court in Alexandria.

While the weather was still cool, the children planted seeds for collards, spinach, bok choy, and lettuce as well as peas, radishes, and carrots. For their labors, they have harvested more than 10 pounds of collards, several bags of peas, lots of carrots and so much Swiss chard and bok choi that there’s been enough to supply several dishes for the children’s after school snack. Bok choi was the big surprise. The kids went from “Hunh? What’s that?” to “Yum, we want more.”

Coming along we have four tomato plants, a handful of pepper plants, some zucchini plants, pole beans ready to climb on our teepee, and some cucumbers to compete with them. Over in our little “annex”, i.e. two abandoned tree wells in the court yard of this Old Town Alexandria public housing project, we have a watermelon patch going, and a 10 by 10 foot area that the kids planted with sweet potato slips they rooted themselves. Keep your fingers crossed that the potatoes catch on. Oh, and we have two baskets of regular potatoes coming along as well.

We are also participating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a Harlequin Bug experiment (the Organic Vegetable Garden is also participating in this experiment). The USDA is trying to find the best kind of bait to lure these voracious bugs away from collards and their other cabbage-family favorites and into traps. We have four USDA-supplied collard plants at the corners of Tancil Court. Each one has a pheromone-laced bait  hanging above it to lure the bugs. Each week the children tour the baits, count and collect any harlequin bugs that may be resting on the plant leaves. They bag and freeze any they find, and those are collected by the USDA. Tancil Court is one of several area gardens participating in the experiment.

Summer is when we focus on harvesting our crops and maintaining our garden. We’re also hoping to do a couple of projects such as making solar ovens and baking a pizza using some of our own produce.

We sometimes use healthy snacks as a teaching tool, such as serving “parts of the plant salad,” – carrot roots, celery stems, spinach leaves, broccoli flowers, pea seeds, and tomato fruits – all blended with a little ranch dressing.

This project started three years ago under the auspices of a city effort to combat childhood obesity through healthy activity, i.e. gardening, and healthy eating habits. The garden has certainly helped these children on both fronts.

Reposted from the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia blog.