EMG Involvement at the 2018 State Fair of Virginia

By: Gabrielle Sanderson

Last fall, people from around Virginia flocked to the Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Virginia to attend the 2018 State Fair. Once there they were met with carnival rides, funnel cakes, and multiple educational exhibits that offered learning opportunities for all ages; these informative attractions are why people call the State Fair “Virginia’s Largest Classroom.” Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOLs) were able to come to life this year for 14,000 youth at the State Fair, and Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners (EMGs) were able to take part in the process.   Continue reading

Buffer Landscaping in Action: Master Gardeners & Master Naturalists Collaborate at Smith Mountain Lake

Photo Provided by Smith Mountain Lake Association Buffer Landscape Committee

When Smith Mountain Lake experienced an increase in runoff of fertilizers and sediments due to a housing boom in the 80’s, the Smith Mountain Lake Association (SMLA) recognized the importance of landscaping to prevent harmful runoff and erosion of the lake’s shoreline. In addition to promoting Phosphorous-free fertilizer, the SMLA manages a Buffer Landscape Advisory Service Team (BLAST) that helps introduce and support buffer landscaping to homeowners near the lake. Continue reading

When it Rains, it Pours: An Introduction to Stormwater Management

The autumn weather can be unpredictable. When storms come to visit, they often lead to messy runoff that carries away your garden’s dirt and form large puddles in the most inconvenient places. But where does all that water go once the storm passes?

This water, known as stormwater, often runs into storm drains that lead directly into the nearest streams with little to no filtration. Along the way, it picks up chemicals and oils from the street, plastic and other litter, and all the dirt that was washed from the garden along with whatever fertilizers and chemicals it contains. These pollutants end up in the local waterways, contributing to issues such as increased sedimentation and water pollution right in our own neighborhoods. Continue reading

master food volunteers prepare food at a demonstration

From the Cookbook to the Community: Who are Master Food Volunteers?

By: Gabrielle Sanderson

The famous red and white cookbook Joy of Cooking is a timeless classic for any kitchen, and it’s referenced throughout the training manual for the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Food Volunteer program. Just as Joy of Cooking educates its readers about the food they are preparing, Master Food Volunteers (MFV) are able to reach and educate people around Virginia about food preparation, nutrition, food safety, and physical activity. The program allows volunteers to merge their appreciation of cooking, nutrition, and physical activity with the act of  helping others. Melissa Chase, Master Food Volunteer Virginia State Coordinator, states that an aspect that draws people to this program is “their love of cooking,” although their love for volunteering fuels their passion as well. Continue reading

Cultivating Collaboration: Master Naturalists in the Garden

Extension Master Gardeners love to grow. We grow plants in our gardens, cultivate knowledge through continuing education, but most of all, Master Gardeners love developing friendships and connections within the community.

As part of Virginia Cooperative Extension, we’re always looking to strengthen our networks through collaboration. Extension Master Gardeners do a lot of important work in the community centered around education, horticulture, and working outside. We bring important skills and knowledge into communities regarding the domesticated plants we grow in our gardens, but what about those wild plants and animals that we encounter in the flower beds?

Continue reading

hanover master gardeners at help desk

Growing Our Program: Introduction to EMG Recruitment

By Maeghan Klinker

It’s that time of the year again.

The summer is ending, the leaves are just starting to blush with the first thoughts of autumn, and it’s time to start thinking about the future. With all the work still to be had in the garden, surely we could use a few more helping hands…

That’s right, it’s recruitment season for Extension Master Gardeners!

Continue reading

Parasitic Plants Offer Insight Into Plant Communication

dodder

You might be familiar with carnivorous plants (like the Venus fly trap) that feed on insects, but have you heard of parasitic plants that feed on other plants?

Parasitic plants aren’t much of a problem for home gardeners in Virginia, but they do have very important lessons to teach us about the ways that plants communicate with and sense one another. For example, dodder, a relatively common parasitic plant in Virginia, germinates and then grows towards a host plant that it will latch onto in order to steal water and nutrients. Dodder has evolved a sophisticated set of sensory adaptations that allow it to find appropriate host plants without being able to “see” what’s around it.

Continue reading

Diplopoda: The Not-So Creepy Crawlies

Picture1

By Jackson Means (mjacks4@vt.edu) and Derek Hennen (dhennen@vt.edu)

Millipedes (Fig. 1) are one of those insect-like creatures that you’re likely to encounter in your garden on a regular basis, and toss aside as just another natural oddity you would rather not look at too closely. One could not be blamed for this reaction; millipedes do frequently produce chemical defenses that can smell quite powerful and have a few too many legs to remain in the comfort zone of most people. This really is a shame, as millipedes are one of the most fascinating and diverse groups of animals on the planet. Plus, some of those chemical defenses smell like cherry cola, which is pretty cool.

Continue reading