What’s Inside: Garden Party Recap, Volunteer Recognition Speech, Distinguished Educator Awardee, Blue Pin Awardees, American Bumblebee, Help Wanted, Continuing Education, Program Reminders


Garden Party Recap 

After close to 19 months of separation, over 100 members of the URI Master Gardening family gathered on Saturday, October 16 to celebrate group accomplishments and individual achievements. The setting, adjacent to the URI Botanical Gardens, was spectacular and the company, sublime. Watch for details on award winners and pin recipients in this and future editions of The Dirt. Thank you to the many committee members who worked so hard on this wonderful event. 

Image credit: Douglas Smith


2021 Volunteer Recognition Speech 

Remarks of Vanessa Venturini, URIMGP State Program Leader, October 16, 2021

What a year. What a time to be alive. It felt like seeing family when the hotliners came back to the office, but this is truly a family reunion. Truly a time of great transformation and transition. Leaves are changing and people are changing careers, retiring, moving to new places, coming back to Rhode Island. And people are stepping up to make a difference. It’s a time to decide what we want to take with us into the future and what we want to leave behind. 

Thank you for deciding to bring the URIMGP with you into the future. 

All during the quarantine and especially as we built our new veggie raised bed garden, my family got really into listening to Lukas Nelson, ya know, Willie’s son.  As fate would have it, he’s in town tonight and Kate and I are going to see him.  There was one song in particular that just truly spoke to what we do with the URIMGP. 

“Turn off the news and build a garden
Just my neighbourhood and me
We might feel a bit less hardened
We might feel a bit more free
Turn off the news and raise the kids
Give them something to believe in
Teach them how to be good people
Give them hope that they can see
Hope that they can see
Turn off the news
And build a garden with me”

I want to thank everyone here for building gardens and community.  And for your resilience and adaptability over the past year and a half.  If you were in the class of 2020 or 2021 you know that we got really into doing Cheers over Zoom. Well here’s my cheers to you all:

• Cheers to the leaders for helping us navigate rough waters,  growing more food than ever, overcoming challenges, and keeping us motivated

• Cheers to the JEDI taskforce. Thank you for showing up every. darn. month during the pandemic to see how we can build a volunteer base rich in life experience, learning together, starting something new, working toward real and lasting change that will allow every Rhode Island gardener to have access to the amazingness of the MGP.  And by the way, we are already serving as inspiration for many other states to engage in similar equity efforts.

• Cheers to our ed services people who learned new technology in order to keep teaching and soil testing as more and more people turned to gardening for the first time and looked to us 

• Cheers to everyone who kept learning with us over the past year about gardening or social justice, food sovereignty and more. It was nice to see, even through a computer screen. Kept me going. 

• Cheers to the greenhouse crews for accomplishing seemingly impossible feats with very few people and continuing to think of ways to have an impact

• Cheers to the school garden mentors who supported their school gardens in one of the most difficult times for kids and teachers we’ve ever lived through

• Cheers to the project teams for prioritizing your volunteer service even when it was uncertain and scary 

• Cheers to our Gardening with the Masters Tour volunteers, who worked tirelessly to prepare for not one, but two, weekends of tours that attracted over 1000 people



David Vissoe: 2021 Rosanne Sherry Distinguished Educator Awardee

Remarks of Nan Quinlan, Hall of Fame Extension Master Gardener

The winner of this year’s award is a unique individual.  Coming to the MG program with high energy, love of science, projects and people, this individual is surely one we project leaders want on our team.

As an intern this individual never stopped asking questions, always saying, ”I want to learn, I want to learn.”

As this individual progressed in the program to a project leader, his interest turned to native plants.  Volunteering in a native garden, this individual became consumed with native plants, taking thousands of photos, collecting seeds, and winter sowing.

It got so extreme that this individual had to move the family dogs out of their favorite fenced-in doggie play area so thousands of potted native seedlings could be placed there and remain safe.

Be that as it may, we need people like this individual who amassed vast knowledge through constant study and began successfully educating teammates at Kettle Pond, members of the RI Wild Plant Society, the public at senior centers, garden clubs and libraries – anywhere and everywhere, spreading the mantra: Educate, Demonstrate, Propagate, Research and Maintain.

This individual joined the MG Program in 2017 and interned with me in the East Farm Demo Garden.  That same year this individual was chosen Rookie of the Year and became a project leader at Kettle Pond that won Project of the Year in 2019.  This individual is also a Mentor to Interns and has amassed over 2250 volunteer hours.  This individual has done a lot in a short time and is well deserving of this award.  It is my pleasure to give you the winner of the Rosanne Sherry Distinguished Educator Award – Dave Vissoe.


Congratulations to Our Newest Master Gardeners: Blue Pin Awardees (50 hours)!

Eric Anderson
Susan Besse
James Brcak
Michelle Caron
Maude Chasse
Kim Dixson
Firmino Fatuda
Dona Giglio
Christine Hill
Michaela Knott
Elizabeth Lennon
Lauren McGovern
Grace Obrien
Rebecca Riley
Lee Smith
Diane Stacy
Julie White
Kristen Anderson
Melanie Borges
Emily Buonaiuto
Barbara Carpenter
Cyndee Clark
Joan Dorney Collins
Suzanne Faucher
Brian Hanlon
Elisabeth Hoy
Sean Lane
James Lilley
Kathleen McGowan
Judy Pratt
Lindsay Robinson
Tracey Solon
Anna Stuart
Allynn Wilkinson
Charles (Chuck) Beltz
Barbara Bronstein
Catharine Calianos
Colleen Cavanaugh
Edmund Croteau
Thomas Dziedzic
Ruth Gerath
Cheryl A.R. Heroux
Mary Johnson
Lura Lauf
Jane Mara
Diann Miele
Jeffrey Renzi
Andrea Sarrasin
Nichole Speciale
Vieira Leslie Weber
Jaclyn Witterschein





American Bumblebee Found in R.I. After More Than a Decade

Excerpted from the Boston Globe, Carlos R. Muñoz, Globe Staff

A team from the University of Rhode Island has discovered the first American bumblebee in the state in more than a decade.

Steve Alm, a professor of entomology at the University of Rhode Island, and graduate students Casey Johnson, Elizabeth Varkonyi, and Julia Viera made the discovery in August, but the location of the single bee is being kept secret to protect it from individuals who may want to eradicate it.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing a petition to add the bee to the endangered species list.

“This species has declined almost 90 percent,” said CBD staff scientist Jess Tyler. “That was striking to us. How can it be? It was so common across the country. It’s distinctive.”

Tyler said the American bumblebee, and many other insects, are facing threats from pollution, contamination by pesticides, disease spread, and the effects of climate change.

“It’s no coincidence that pesticides are a huge contributing factor,” he said. “If you look at neonicotinoids – a group of insecticides that have quickly become the most popular insecticides – their rise in popularity really only started in the 1990s and 2000s. We don’t think that’s a coincidence that at the same time these gained popularity, that the American bumblebee declined.”

Image credit: URI

 Read the entire article


COVID-19 Updates

Submitted by Kate Venturini-Hardesty, Program Administrator

Please visit COVID Resources at URI  for the latest information on URI COVID-19 policies, guidelines, and requirements. Volunteers are asked to pay particular attention to information on vaccination, on-campus events, and general safety measures. Thank you for helping to keep our community safe!



RI Veterans Home residents Bill and Al, enjoying one of the six patios maintained by MGs.

Volunteers Needed at the RI Veterans Home in Bristol

Submitted by Barbara Jones, URIMGP Class of 2004

Like most MG projects, work at the Veterans’ Home came to a halt in March of 2020, just after we had gotten approval to plant in the six patios gardens that grace the brand-new facility. We have spent this year trying to clean up and plant raised beds with vegetables and flowers. It has been exciting, but a little overwhelming. We are using a brand-new state-of-the-art greenhouse for starting and raising vegetables and flowers planted in the patios this year. We are looking forward to planning for 2022! 

Short term, we are looking for volunteers for 3-4 hours on Saturday mornings (rain date, Sunday): 10/23, 10/30 and 11/6. 

We will complete any outstanding work in the patios, including weeding, planting, mulching, and removing spent plants. The greenhouse may need cleaning and organizing as well. Ideally, short-term volunteers will become long-term volunteers in patios, greenhouse, or both. Please join us on these workdays and consider joining our team. Contact Barbara Jones with your interest and availability. 

Image: RI Veterans Home residents Bill and Al, enjoying one of the six patios maintained by MGs.




CE Catch Up!

Take advantage of these Virtual Learning Opportunities:

• View past webinars from Cooperative Extension’s Learn at Home series

• Watch archived URIMGP Continuing Education class recordings

• Watch School Garden Mentor 101 Training 


Hydroponics 101

Tuesday, October 26 | 7:00 p.m.
Webinar via Zoom

Amy Chauvin, Master Gardener Intern Class of 2020, will be giving a talk on everything Hydroponics, including:

• "What is Hydroponics?"

• History of Hydroponics 

• Why Hydroponics?

• ...and much more! 

This class will convey growing techniques increasingly important in providing local food sources to increase resiliency and reduce long distance transportation, thus reducing CO2 emissions. Amy Chauvin has been a professional in the growing industry for over 10 years. She has done everything from building commercial hydroponic growing facilities to creating hydroponic growing programs with schools. 

Register for the Zoom link.


Winter Sowing: Native Plants & How to Propagate Them

Wednesday, October 27 | 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Webinar via Zoom

Join URI Master Gardener Dave Vissoe for a virtual talk about native plants and how to propagate them!He will offer a virtual tour of the garden and discuss native plant propagation techniques such as winter sowing. Register for the Zoom link.


Plugged into Energy Research Lecture Series - It Takes a Village: Advancing Solar Energy in RI

Wednesday, October 27 | 6:00 p.m.
Webinar via Webex

 Solar energy is proving to be an integral part of the future of the New England power system. Rhode Island has mandated lofty renewable energy goals for the electric sector and an increased reliance on solar energy will be a key factor in reaching those goals. How can we reach these important targets while maintaining a vibrant economy and conserving the natural environment in our state? Hear perspectives and considerations from our panelists in public administration, academic research and non-profit advocacy.

Register for the Webex link.


Are You a Smart Well Owner?

Wednesday, November 3 | 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Webinar via Zoom

During the workshop you will learn about:

• Regular water testing

• Well water protection

• Good housekeeping practices to protect your drinking water quality 

 Register for the Zoom link.


NEW! Pruning Basics - Second Section Added

Saturday, November 13 | 1:00-2:00 p.m. (Rain Date Sunday, November 14)
URI Kingston Campus, Mallon Center, 3 East Alumni Ave, Kingston, RI 02881

Please join Vivian Schaull, URIMGP Class of 2014 to learn proper pruning techniques: the why, how and when of pruning. 

This is a hands-on course in two parts.  Part one is to watch a short Powerpoint presentation on pruning basics at home before attending part two. A link to the recording will be provided.  Part two is a hands-on class where attendees practice some pruning.

New master gardeners from the class of 2020 and 2021 are encouraged to register for this in-person workshop. Attendees must bring their own pruners, loppers and hedge trimming tools.

Register in Volgistics.


How Native Plant Cultivars Affect Pollinators

Sunday, November 14  | 1:30 pm
Webinar via Webex 

Native plant species are often recommended to provide optimal foraging and nesting habitats for pollinators and other wildlife. The growing demand for native plants, coupled with the horticulture industry’s desire for plants with unique characteristics, has led to the increased breeding and availability of native cultivars or “nativars”. But do native cultivars provide the same valuable habitat as the straight native species? Annie White will share her field research on this topic and discuss the complex benefits and challenges of using both native species and native cultivars in landscape design.

Annie White is an Ecological Landscape Designer and the owner of Nectar Landscape Design Studio in Stowe, Vermont. She is also a full-time Lecturer of Sustainable Landscape Horticulture + Design at the University of Vermont.  Annie earned an MS in Landscape Architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005 and a PhD in Plant & Soil Science from The University of Vermont in 2016. She is passionate about designing cutting-edge and science-based ecological landscapes at all scales-from urban backyards to rural agricultural landscapes.

This lecture is underwritten by the Lisa Lofland Gould Native Plant Program Fund and cosponsored with the Rhode Island Natural History Survey and University of Rhode Island Master Gardener Program.

Register for this Webex event.


Renewable Energy and Our Electric Grid: Innovation at URI

Wednesday, November 17 | 6:00 p.m.
Webinar via Webex

Renewable energy will be an integral part of New England’s future power system. Rhode Island has mandated aggressive renewable energy goals for the electric sector, which will increase our reliance on the electric grid and demand innovation in the space. Research into technological innovations to improve the efficiency, security and reliability of our electric grid are underway right here at URI. Hear about this exciting research in the second lecture of the 2021 PIER Lecture Series on Wednesday, November 17th at 6:00 p.m.!

This event is free, registration required.


Regional Continuing Ed & CE on the Web 

Each week, The Dirt curates a short list of upcoming learning opportunities from around the local region and on the web. Earn CE hours for your attendance! Select the event links below for full descriptions and registration information.

• Ongoing through November 22: Annuals, Perennials, Vines and Groundcovers

• Ongoing through November 22: Houseplants, Succulents, and Cacti

• Ongoing through November 22: Trees, Shrubs, and Conifers

• Ongoing through November 22: Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Nuts

• Friday, November 5 | 9:00 a.m.: 2021 UCONN NativePlants and Pollinators Conference 

• Friday, November 5 | 10:00 a.m.: UVM Extension Community Horticulture Annual Conference


2021 Program Reminders

URI MGP resumed program activities with proper precautions. Please refer to the Covid-19 safety and Reopening Guidelines before volunteering.

Face coverings are required indoors where people gather, including classrooms, offices, laboratories, etc. URI allows for medical exemptions to its face coverings guidance. 

In lieu of 20 volunteer/10 continuing Ed hours this year, MGs may complete 5 hours of virtual learning. If you miss gathering with other MGs, the Continuing Ed Committee invites you to attend small group programs at on-site projects and other locations this fall.  Watch the Dirt’s CE listings and sign up in Volgistics.  Other learning options: 

• Browse CE listings in The Dirt each week 

• Watch recorded webinars from Cooperative Extension’s Learn at Home series or URIMGP Continuing Education classes

• JEDI Taskforce: A Conversation with African Alliance's Julius Kolawole(previously recorded)

Need Volgistics help? Follow these demonstration videos or email urimastergardener@gmail.comwith questions.


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