What’s Inside: Magic Maple, Outstanding Master Gardener Award, Red Pin Awardees, Year-End Reports Deadline, #ChooseMagic, The Weed Guy, Ask the Expert, Leave the Leaves Coloring Book, Help Wanted, Continuing Education, Program Reminders


Maple Foods Beyond Syrup: Maple Sap Water, An Emerging Functional Beverage

Submitted by Vanessa Venturini, URIMGP State Program Leader

Save the date for an upcoming webinar on December 1 at 6pm to learn about the magic of maple! Maple water is one of the newest rehydrating drinks on the market, joining the ranks of coconut water, and other "functional beverages". Explore the science behind maple water, how it's made, its sustainability, and its potential health benefits. This webinar will include Kate Weiler, the Co-Founder of Drink Simple, Dr, Navindra Seeram, Professor and Chair of the Dept of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at URI, and Dr. Amanda Missimer Clinical Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Nutrition and Food Sciences at URI.

This webinar is free, but registration is required.

2021 Outstanding Master Gardener Award

Submitted by John Twomey, URIMGP Class of 2015 & 2020 Outstanding MG

It is my pleasure to present the 2021 Outstanding Master Gardener award this year to a Master Gardener who has taken it to a higher level.

The recipient has shown exceptional leadership before and during the pandemic. This Master Gardener is always the first at the project site and the last to leave. This Master Gardener always has an answer to a question and if a problem comes up, a solution is not far away. This Master Gardener even during covid was able to bring his project to a higher level and helped more people than the year before.

This Master Gardener is from the class of 2016, has over 4000 volunteer hours, and is the project leader at the Produce Donation Garden at the Roger Williams Park Community Garden.

Please join us in presenting the 2021 Outstanding Master Gardener award to Kevin Rabbitt.

Kevin is pictured with his daughter Lisa, who has volunteered at the Roger Williams Park Produce Donation Garden and Flavor Lab. Kevin looks forward to her upcoming wedding! 

Congratulations to Red Pin Awardees!

The URIMGP is proud to announce the MGs who have earned Red Pin status, completing 250 hours of service. Congratulations!

Jean Apostolou                                  Erin Beuka              Candice Blanchard

Jenifer Bond                                     Mark Cordle                      Cheryl Cotter

Eileen Czyrklis                                 Michele Fogg               Deborah Gorman

Sheila Lawless                            Margaret McCafferty                Kathy Parker

Alyce Pedder                                   Paula Quigley                      Kenneth Rix

Barbara Rounds                              Paul Sheinkopf                 Cathy Solomon

Joe Studlick                                    Sheila Sullivan                   Andrea Trubia

Susanna Williams                             Helena Willis

Last week, we neglected to list Brenda Woodward as a recipient of a Blue Pin (50 hours). Our apologies! 

Year-End Reports Due November 8, 2021

Year-end reports are due for all projects and activities by November 8, 2021.  Leaders may find the link here: https://web.uri.edu/mastergardener/project-report-form/

Questions? Reach out to your Council Coordinator for more information. 


#ChooseMagic: Nature Can Restore Itself — Like Magic

A local project is featured in #ChooseMagic, a new short video! Two programs, Billion Oyster Project in New York City and Harvest Cycle Compost in Providence, Rhode Island, are profiled for their critical work on oyster shell recycling and composting to restore our ocean to its natural vibrancy.

Harvest Cycle Compost is also a partner with our sister program, Food Recover for Rhode Island. If this inspired you, consider applying to our winter session 

The Weed Guy: Boneset and Snakeroot

Submitted by Julius Ferraro, URIMGP Class of 2021

If you’re wondering about small, white puffball flowers with longish stamens that emerged a few weeks ago, you’re probably looking at late boneset (Eupatorium serotinum) or white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima). I have not seen much of the former, but snakeroot follows me everywhere, from the fringes of my garden in Providence all the way down to my parents’ home in Doylestown, PA, where it blooms in vast colonies on the roadside.

Snakeroot is usually short but can grow to about five feet tall. Its 2-5 inch leaves are flat, broadly toothed, heart-shaped, and arranged opposite along the stem. Boneset can be a few feet taller, and its leaves are narrower and longer.

Despite this, the two are considered lookalikes. Both have white flowers, but snakeroot’s small starburst flowers, with stamens radiating out circularly with a messy near-symmetricality, contrast easily with boneset’s somewhat stingier blooms, which are fewer and pinch in one direction.

Boneset is medicinal; snakeroot is its poisonous look alike, and a pest to ranchers, as cows will sometimes eat it, poisoning their milk.

Despite this, some Ageratina varieties are common decorative plants, and it was once believed to have some medicinal uses (for one, as a snakebite curative); it’s possible Abraham Lincoln’s mother died from this mistake.

As a general rule, do not eat any foraged plant until you are certain you do not have an allergy, and then eat only a small amount the first time to make sure. Do extensive plant research before identifying the plant; I recommend Leda Meredith's Northeast Foraging.

Image Credits: "Eupatorium serotinum - Late Boneset" by Fritzflohrreynolds is licensed under CC BY 3.0  "Ageratina_altissima_002" by H. Zell is licensed under CC BY 3.0

URI Campus Sustainability: Ask the Expert

Excerpted from the URI Sustainability, original article by Erin Harrington

An average day of research for Dr. John Taylor (Assistant Professor, Agroecology) is anything but average. It consists of walking through and cataloging community “food forests.” Food forests are essentially just what the name suggests — forests of food. And according to Taylor, depending on the age of the forest, walking through a food forest can be almost like taking a stroll out in the woods.

Picture walking through the Northwoods on campus, except most of the trees and bushes that you pass by on the path would be nut and fruit-bearing plants that you could actually harvest and eat. As you look up, a canopy of Chinese chestnut trees comes into focus, and below that, you see smaller trees like juneberry, with maybe some blueberry bushes and strawberries sprinkled around the ground floor as you walk. You may also spy a few other plants that wouldn’t necessarily produce food, but would be beneficial for pollinators like butterflies and bees.

If you happen to be walking through a food forest in a city, you would likely also come across a smaller community garden, areas for socializing, beautiful, culturally-relevant murals, and maybe even a community center with an area for activities like dancing and barbecuing! Taylor isn’t simply interested in the food that these systems produce, he’s also interested in the people who create these agroecosystems.

“How can food systems be designed in ways that are ecologically sustainable and socially sustainable and contribute to equity and inclusion?” “I’m interested in developing urban food systems that are sustainable in the fullest sense of the word,” Taylor explains.

Taylor studies what are referred to as urban “agroecosystems.” Put simply, agroecology is any form of agriculture developed with principles of ecology in mind. An agroecosystem can be anything from a farm to a community garden, or even your own garden at home. But fully understanding the concept of agroecology is a bit tricky.

“Agroecology has been defined as a science, a practice, and a movement,” Taylor informs me. “It’s a practice with roots in traditional and indigenous agriculture and agricultural systems. Agroecologists take a lot of their inspiration from those traditional systems which had to be very circular in their metabolism so that they’re not relying a lot on outside inputs, but they’re self-supporting like a natural ecosystem.”

One example of practicing agroecology when growing food is using polycultures rather than monocultures. Rather than growing just one large crop of one type of plant, you grow a variety of plants that complement, or sometimes even facilitate, the growth of one another. The classic case study of polyculture is the Three Sisters garden: beans, squash, and corn. These three plants grow on a different timeline, and so they don’t compete for resources. The corn grows tall first, and provides a place for the bean vines to grow up at just the right time. The squash grows last, and its leaves spread out across the garden floor, keeping moisture in the soil for all three plants. This style of farming was originally practiced by many different American Indian nations and confederacies such as the Haudenosaunee.

Read the full article here

Photo Credit: Dr. John Taylor is an Assistant Professor in Agroecology at URI. Photo Credit: Nora Lewis.

Leave the Leaves Coloring Book

Submitted by Vanessa Venturini, State Program Leader, URI Master Gardener Program

LEAVE THE LEAVES creator MJ Robinson is a local artist and educator - check out their work at mj-robinson.com, on Instagram, and via their monthly newsletter. Lee Ann Freitas is the director of Roger Williams Park Botanical Garden, where you can pick up a physical copy of the coloring book.

A PDF version of the coloring book is available for download.


Project in Need of Compost

Submitted by Joe Carberry, Central Region Coordinator

The Varnum House historical garden located in East Greenwich is in need of 1-1.5 yards of compost in order to winterize the rose hedge. Any individuals or projects that have compost to share, please contact Joe Carberry (joe.urimg@gmail.com) to coordinate.  Bagged compost would be ideal, but anything would be greatly appreciated!

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. Short term, we are looking for volunteers for 3-4 hours on Saturday mornings (rain date, Sunday): 10/30 and 11/6.  Please join us on these workdays and consider joining our team. Contact Barbara Jones (bsjones@cox.net) 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 

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.

Pruning Basics

Register for only 1 session:

Saturday, November 13 | 11:00a.m.-12:00 (Rain Date: Sunday, November 14)

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, MG 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 is provided below.  Part two is a hands-on class where attendees actually do some pruning. 

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

Please watch this Pruning Basics video before the hands-on class or enjoy it any time to learn more about the pruning techniques.

Please 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 space. Research into technological innovations to improve the efficiency, security, and reliability of our electric grid is 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

MGP program activities follow URI COVID-19 safety guidelines. Please refer to URI’s COVID-19 Response site for the latest updates. Volunteers are asked to pay particular attention to information on vaccination, on-campus events, and general safety measures. Face coverings are required indoors where people gather, including classrooms, offices, laboratories, etc. URI allows for medical exemptions to its face coverings guidance.Thank you for helping to keep our community safe!

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.com with questions

The Dirt on The Dirt

Submission Instructions

Send URI Master Gardener Program submissions to thedirtnewsletteruri@gmail.com as an email or Word/Google document by Tuesday at 7:00 pm for that week’s newsletter. Include your URIMG class year and please identify fellow MGs in photos. The Dirt arrives in your inbox on Fridays.

Updating Your Subscription

To update your email address for receiving The Dirt, send an email to URIMGP's Program Associate, Francesca Gallo with the email address you would like removed and your new, preferred email.

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