The Dirt for September 29: MGP Award Winners

URI Master Gardener Program celebrates 40th anniversary with awards recognizing local gardeners, gardening projects

Rudi Hempe of North Kingstown (left) accepts the award for URI Master Gardener of the Year from Charlie Junod during the Master Gardener 40th anniversary celebration. (Photo courtesy of Sue Dunn)

The University of Rhode Island Master Gardener Program recognized its Master Gardener of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Gardening Project of the Year as part of the program’s celebration of its 40th anniversary.

 “We have an incredibly talented group of about 600 Master Gardeners who serve as community educators for Cooperative Extension,” said Vanessa Venturini, the state leader of the URI Master Gardener Program. “The awards are a fun way to celebrate 40 years of service to the community and to acknowledge some of the stars of the program.”

Rudi Hempe of North Kingstown was recognized as the Master Gardener of the Year, having accrued more than 15,000 hours of volunteer service to the Master Gardener Program in the last 20 years. The former editor of The Standard Times, Hempe has led efforts to install a vegetable demonstration garden, a pollinator meadow and greenhouses at URI’s East Farm, grow disease-resistant American Chestnut trees, and establish the immensely popular East Farm Spring Festival, among many other projects.

“In the future, we will be grateful for the return of chestnut trees to our canopies, appreciate the restoration of our coastal landscape, and benefit from new knowledge of how to support our pollinators, all due to the dedication and leadership of this year’s recipient,” said Master Gardener Charlie Junod during the award presentation.

The Master Gardener Rookie of the Year was presented to David Vissoe of South Kingstown who completed the Master Gardener course in the spring of 2017. A former educator, he volunteered this summer at the East Farm Demonstration Garden, happily tackling innumerable tasks while also educating visitors and leading tours. He was subsequently named project leader for the new Kettle Pond Native Demonstration Garden. Vissoe also volunteered at the Charlestown Schoolhouse Pollinator Garden and the Newport Harbor Walk, contributing 300 service hours in his first year.

“When a volunteer can create his own career path within a volunteer program, this is pretty outstanding,” said Master Gardener Nan Quinlan, who presented the award. “If you talk to this Master Gardener, you’ll see why, as that sense of commitment and that eagerness to learn, educate and share the joy just radiates from his being.”

The Master Gardener Project of the Year award honors outstanding volunteer group projects that educate Rhode Island communities on how to enhance and care for the environment. The winning project involved the installation of dinghies repurposed into large container gardens at the Newport Harbor Walk, which has been visited by about 100,000 people since it was established in 2015.

Installed in collaboration with Friends of the Waterfront, the project features native plants and monarch butterfly habitat installed at points of public access to the waterfront. In 2017, the project expanded to include a demonstration rain garden in King Park. Project volunteers hosted gardening workshops for the public, offered tours of the harbor walk, and collaborated with Rogers High School to make the project sustainable for years to come.

The project leader was Johanna Vietry of Newport and included URI Master Gardener volunteers Casey Farley of Newport, Cheryl Hahn of North Scituate, Cheryl McCarron of East Greenwich, Carole Steinbrenner of Newport, Charlene Sullivan of Newport, Catherine Swanson of Newport, Dave Vissoe of South Kingstown and Robert Walker of Newport.

Theresa Melvin of Cumberland was also recognized with a lifetime achievement award, and Dick and Carol Salzillo of Warwick received a special award for their dedicated service working on the URI Gardening and Environmental Hotline.

FAQ: How do I enter Continuing Education Hours?

Any time spent in a continuing education class learning should be entered in Volgistics as shown below in the general “Continuing Education” assignment, with hours entered in the “How many continuing education hours” section.  Please check that you are doing this correctly!

New Project! Taylor Point Restoration

We are pleased to announce a new URI Master Gardener Program project: Taylor Point Restoration, our first in Jamestown. The project’s goal is to create and maintain a Taylor Point Nature Preserve by restoring 20+ acres of habitat with native species.  The URI Master Gardeners bring lessons learned from the Canonchet Farm Restoration project and serve as public educators.  It’s a great opportunity to learn plant identification, invasive plant removal techniques, coastal ecology and more!

Taylor Point is located at Freebody Drive in Jamestown across from the RI Turnpike Authority Plaza.  Taylor Point Restoration Association (TPRA) is managing this project under a 5-year Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) permit and with the Town of Jamestown. Volunteers are trained to identify plants and to follow best practices to remove invasive plants, nurture existing native species, and plant native species. Leadership positions are available for knowledgeable volunteers and each session will feature plant education.  Tools are provided.  Volunteers are asked to wear closed toe shoes, long pants and long sleeve shirts for their protection.

This year-round project takes place on alternating Saturday mornings.  TPRA contacts volunteers with a seasonal calendar and weekly reminders.  The first session for Master Gardeners is Saturday, October 21 from 9 am to noon.

For more information, please contact Master Gardener Project Leaders:
Nadine Mendelsohn
Rosemary Smith
Kitty Wineberg

Calling all Gardeners for the 2019 Garden Tour

Summer is winding down and I am sure most of us are looking at our gardens and thinking about the changes and or additions we want to make.  This is also the perfect time to consider offering your garden for the June 2019 tour.

Thinking about being on the tour now is great because all the garden centers are having their sales so it is the perfect time to plant. Time to add that bed you have been considering or to spruce up your existing beds with some pollinators and or natives. The Garden Tour committee will be looking for gardens next spring and touring them in June to make the selections.  So fall 2017 is the time to decide.

If you are saying sign me up please contact Mary Ann Buckley [] . If you have some questions or need a little more persuasion feel free to talk to any of the committee members Gail Woodward, Sue Stephenson, Mary Ann Buckley, Tom Hoagland, Vanessa Venturini, or Gail Skidmore.

To help inspire you we wanted to share some of the feedback that we received from visitors participating in the last tour.

“I have taken each of my three grandsons on a garden tour when they were old enough.  They find the gardens magical and inspirational.  What a lovely tradition it has become.”

“I had just been to the Stonington Garden Tour which was beautiful and diverse but lacked the interaction with Garden Hosts & Master Gardeners and the focus on learning.  I think that was most helpful and I was able to ask questions about topics & problems that I am experiencing in my garden.”

“The gardens were magnificent.  The gardeners had identified the plants and explained the choices they had made over years of shaping them.  Each garden took advantage of its natural surroundings including trees and nearby water.  Each garden was inviting and rewarding in its own way, and inspirational.  It was good of the hosts to open their gardens to the public, and to do the work necessary to show them to such good effect.  The gardens I visited were diverse in setting, plan, and effect.  Each achieved a result worth spending some time with and enjoying.”

“I’ll think about the overall design and effect differently.  I already have plans in progress to benefit wildlife, to improve the garden’s environmental profile, and to improve its resilience.

“The main benefit of the tour for me was inspiration.  The gardeners have achieved wonderful results with their garden visions.”

The committee is also looking for new members. If interested please contact Mary Ann Buckley [] if interested.

Class of 2017 Profiles in Service

The 2017 class has already volunteered over 2,000 hours! Congratulations to all of you who have already completed the 50 hour internship requirement and will be receiving your pins in September. Learn more about the interns who have already become URI Master Gardeners over the next few weeks through our “profiles in service” articles!


Name: Amanda Ward
Favorite Project/Service:
Prescott Farm Period Gardens, Norman Bird Sanctuary
Love all aspects of volunteering in the gardens, the people are fantastic, the knowledge they share is spectacular, the product fills you with pride, the smile is a bonus and cheaper than therapy.

Here Amanda is pictured in the newly restored vegetable garden at Norman Bird Sanctuary.  She has played an instrumental role in rehabilitating this teaching garden – next step is the hoop house!  More to come on this exciting project in future editions of The Dirt!

September Continuing Education Classes and Meetings

Project Leader Meeting
Saturday, September 30
URI Pharmacy 170, 9am-12:00 pm

We ask that all projects are represented by the project leader or designee for our fall gathering.  This is an opportunity to communicate successes of this year and plan for next year.  Important topics such as budgeting, Project Open House, etc. will be discussed. Please register in Volgistics.

Middletown Library Community Garden

Innovative Demonstration Gardens
Saturday, September 30th, URI Pharmacy 170 12:30-2:00pm

The URI Master Gardener Program has over 40 project demonstration gardens that teach about natives, herb gardening, vegetable production, edible forests and more!  This class will explore ways to increase the educational experience for visitors including signage and live teaching experiences.  Using tools developed at the University of Georgia, we’ll help projects design tours and workshops. We will also hear from some of our project leaders about successful tools they’ve used to engage learners in the garden!  This is a great class for anyone involved in a community project, historic or demonstration garden throughout the state.  All project teams are encouraged to attend!   Please register in Volgistics.

October Continuing Education

pumpkinsSchool Garden Mentor Meeting
Thursday, October 5
Hamilton Elementary, 5:30-7:30 pm

This will be a gathering to tour a school garden and share the year’s successes and challenges.  We’ll share exciting plans for next year and discuss reporting and budgeting.  We ask that all School Garden Mentors make an effort to  attend. Please register in Volgistics.


2017 URI School Garden Conference : Growing Connections in Schools and Communities

Saturday, October 21, 8:30 – 3:30    —    URI Kingston Campus

This full-day conference will bring educators, school administrators, volunteers, gardeners, parents and others together to learn about ways of utilizing school gardens as learning platforms that build student and community engagement, and foster academic achievement and environmental stewardship. Topics include:  The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans – Patricia Klindienst, Award-Winning Author; Connecting Cultural Diversity to Biodiversity in School Gardens – Dr. John Taylor, URI Dept of Plant Sciences and Entomology;  The School Garden as a Vibrant Habitat –  Cynthia Corsair, US Fish and Wildlife Service;  Lessons Alive! A School Garden Curriculum Round Robin –  URI Cooperative Extension, Audubon Society of RI, GEMS-Net & more; and A Farm Visit @ The Compass School

Read more and register.

Upcoming RIWPS Education Programs for Master Gardeners

First Thursday Botanizing at the Eppley Wildlife Refuge
October 5 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

The 1,100-acre Marion Eppley Wildlife Refuge in South Kingstown and Exeter is Audubon’s largest refuge. Eppley is a mosaic of wet and dry habitats from white cedar swamps, shrub fens, dry pine-oak woodlands and dense thickets of mountain laurel and rhododendron. The refuge is also valued for its protection of several miles of the Queen River, a hotspot of rare aquatic diversity.

Join Scott Ruhren, Audubon’s director of conservation, for a trail hike on some new routes through the refuge. We will botanize as we go along as well as discuss plant-animal interactions and the importance of land use, soils and water on the current plant communities.

There is no charge for this walk.

More details at

Seed Workshop: Cleaning and Processing
October 25 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Join Rhode Island Natural History Survey botanist Hope Leeson for the last of three sessions in our Native Plant Seed Workshop Series. This indoor session, at the Rhode Island Native History Survey in Kingston, will focus on cleaning and processing the seeds that were collected in a previous session at the Arcadia Management Area in West Greenwich.   These seeds include those from Lobelia cardinalis -cardinal flower, several species of Solidago – goldenrod, and asters as well as others.

Although this workshop is a part of a series, participants do not need to attend each program in the series.

Fee:  $15.00
Advance registration required.
More detail and registration at

What is the Next Continuing Education Class? It's up to you!

nextclassJoin the continuing education team and help us plan exciting field trips and workshops for 2018! What topics would make me a better Master Gardener? What is a hot topic for gardeners this season? Which speaker would I love to learn from? If you can answers these questions, join our team of staff and MG’s and help us shape future learning opportunities that are fun and relevant. 

The team meets 1-2 times a month on Monday mornings. Volunteer hours are given for time spent planning and attending meetings and proctoring classes.  Our next continuing education planning meeting is on Monday, October 2 at 10 am at the Mallon Outreach Center on the URI Kingston Campus.   Please sign up in Volgistics under my schedule to learn more. 

Questions about this opportunity?  Please contact Alayne Senior at

The UConn Native Plants and Pollinators Conference has SOLD OUT.

We are unable to accommodate walk-in registrations.

If you are pre-registered for the conference, we look forward to seeing you on October 19.

Best Regards,
Donna Ellis, Jessica Lubell, and Victoria Wallace

Join us at the largest & most popular horticulture industry event in the Northeast – connecting thousands of today’s green industry professionals with solution-based experts and innovative suppliers from across the country & around the world.  Learn more.

Hot Topics from the URI Consumer Horticulture Educator

rosanneThe following science-based articles may help you answer questions from the community.  This is Rosanne Sherry’s final contribution as she enters retirement! Note: Feel free to send Rosie an e-message via this link, and we will send those along as well as publish a few in future editions of The Dirt!

Learn more about Rosie’s retirement in last week’s edition:

From Master Gardener Recommended Horticulture Best Management Practices.

Practices that should always be recommended:

Wildlife Control

  • Identify species before you choose a control
  • Remove food, water, and shelter sources that attract and harbor pests
  • Combine tactics for the best control strategy
  • Encourage success of natural predators
  • Seek professional assistance if problem persists


  • Consult resources to ensure that pruning is done at the correct time of year for a specific plant
  • Do maintenance pruning to remove dead, diseased or problem branches as soon as they are found to keep trees and shrubs healthy
  • Select the proper pruning tools for the task for the most effective results
  • In the future, select shrubs with maximum space requirement at maturity in mind so that only thinning pruning cuts will be needed to promote healthy, attractive plants

Indoor plants

  • Identify plant problem and severity of damage before choosing a control
  • Prevent over-watering by watering plants only as needed instead of watering on a schedule.
  • Select houseplants whose growing (light and temperature) requirements meet those in your home
  • Add humidity to the air ion your home using a pebble tray filled with water
  • For optimum growth fertilize house plants once a month during the warm season.


  • Use sterile media and containers for propagation
  • Obtain seeds and cutting material from a reputable, disease free source
  • Harden off plants by reducing moisture and temperatures gradually
  • Avoid over watering for optimal root and plant growth
  • Familiarize yourself with propagation/growing requirements for each variety you want to grow.

From Green Talks, August 24, 2017

The Soil App, for Kids

Once again, technology steps in to help get kids “back to the earth”—or we should say, back to the soil. The Center for Ecoliteracy and the Whole Kids Foundation has released a free tablet app called Starting with Soil.

How does it work? Through an interactive app, it teaches kids about soil and the basics of gardening, along with how animals and humans impact the soil. Users can “plant” a seed with the app and virtually examine the soil with a microscope.

UMass Extension  Hort Notes

September 2017, Vol. 28:8

UMASS Landscape Message August 28, 2017

Fall Home-Invading Insects: Various insects, such as ladybugs, boxelder bugs, seedbugs, and stink bugs will begin to seek overwintering shelters in warm places, such as homes, throughout the next couple of months. While such invaders do not cause any measurable structural damage, they can become a nuisance especially when they are present in large numbers. While the invasion has not yet begun, if you are not willing to share your home with such insects, now should be the time to repair torn window screens, repair gaps around windows and doors, and sure up any other gaps through which they might enter the home.

Eco-RI August 29, 2017

Survey Says: Wet Spring Blamed for Overall Butterfly Decline
Leaded Drinking Water On Tap Across Ocean State

Apple Picking at East Farm

Specifics from the East Farm Apple Harvest Coordinator.  Susan Axelrod

I think it is important to stress that the orchard is not open to the public for drop in.

  1. Liability
  2. The dozen or so varieties all ripen at different times.
  3. If they are picked incorrectly, the trees will be damaged.
  4. They are sprayed at strategic times when we know there won’t be anyone picking.

I expect to have more public picks this year – probably Saturday mornings in October – if folks can send you/me their email address, I will include them in my announcements.

If a scout troop or teacher wants to schedule an outing, we can put together an event.

Feel free to contact me by email!
Susan Axlerod,