The Dirt for September 19, 2017

Premier: School Garden Mentor Impact Video

It is our honor to premier the School Garden Mentor video with the entire URI Master Gardener community!  We invite you to watch it and share it with your family and friends.

This film was produced earlier this summer to showcase the impact of our specially trained URIMG volunteers who support outdoor school garden classrooms.  It features SGMs from Richmond, East Providence, Providence and Woonsocket working in a diverse mix of K-12 school settings including a hoop house, pollinator garden, vegetable garden and a classroom lesson using lessons from the garden.  Various superintendents, principals and students are interviewed to demonstrate the support for these efforts from the entire school community.   There are so many lessons to learn in the garden!  Kudos to all of our School Garden Mentors who do the important work of inspiring our next generation of gardeners and environmental stewards.

As you may recall, this video was aired in front of 2,000 of our national colleagues in July in Oregon as we received first prize in the Youth Category in the International Search for Excellence contest.  Click here to read more about that award.

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a School Garden Mentor, please contact your region’s SGM Manager:

Vanessa Venturini
State Program Leader, URI Master Gardener Program

Vote for MG Plant of the Year 2018!

As part of our land stewardship focus area, we will be launching a “Master Gardener Plant of the Year”in 2018.  This plant will be grown in our URIMG greenhouses, sourced locally from Rhody Native™ when possible and highlighted in the spring plant sale.  We have carefully selected three (red hot) Rhode Island native plant candidates.  Native species protect Rhode Island’s biodiversity by supporting wildlife such as hummingbirds and butterflies while adding beauty to the garden.  Each plant has its ecological purpose as well as its own advantages in the garden.  It’s up to you to decide! Read more about each plant by clicking on its name below.

  1. Red Columbine  2. Little Bluestem 3. Cardinal Flower

Please cast your vote for MG Plant of the Year by Wednesday, September 20. 

Click here to vote

Help Wanted: Edible Forest Garden At Roger Williams Park

Saturday, September 23,  9am to 12pm

FORESTgardenThe Edible Forest Garden is the URI Master Gardener Program’s only permaculture demonstration garden.  We need a crew to help with the following tasks:

  • Pruning hardy kiwi, elderberry, hazelnuts and service berries
  • Clearing the primary paths
  • Cutback all Comfrey for composting
  • Clearing patches of invasives
  • Completing the coppice fencing

Those of you who would like to help and learn about permaculture at the same time please email Jaime Nash at

The Edible Forest Garden is below the Roger Williams Botanical Center right next to the Community/Produce Donation Garden. Read more on our website.

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, September 18 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

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: Stephanie Serino
East Greenwich
Favorite Project/Service:
I have thoroughly enjoyed the Master Gardener program.  The classroom work motivated me to create my own pollinator garden in my backyard which has already been visited by many birds and bees.  In my first volunteer experience, I encountered Charlie Junod who got me hooked on the Kiosk programs!!This made me realize I enjoy most making the public aware of the various resources at their disposal through our program and identifying what their  issues and needs are.  I look forward to many more volunteer hours to come.  Keep on digging!

URIMGP Project Featured by RI Green Infrastructure Coalition

RIGICReprinted from RI Green Infrastructure Coalition Announcement

This past June, Friends of the Newport Waterfront (FOW), Friends of King Park, and the City of Newport joined forces to install a URI Master Gardener demonstration rain garden in Newport’s King Park.

A rain garden is a shallow, landscaped depression planted with native plants that collects and filters storm water runoff. When it rains, water picks up pollutants from everyday activities. Rain gardens are designed to hold this runoff, allowing it to infiltrate into the ground. This removes pollutants and reduces flooding. Building rain gardens is a simple but important step in protecting our local waterways – in this case, Narragansett Bay.

“Our new rain garden can absorb 25,000 gallons of water a year,” said Johanna Vietry, URI Master Gardener Project Leader.  If forty King Park neighbors planted a rain garden similar to the one in the park, together they could treat one million gallons of rainwater each year.

The Newport community has shown great enthusiasm for this innovative garden. For homeowners concerned about water quality, a rain garden is an inexpensive way to make their property more earth friendly. The Friends of King Park hold regular meetings with neighborhood residents to discuss how they can install rain gardens in their own backyard.

CELS Researcher Testing Vegetable Growing Methods Popular Among Ethnic Communities

CELSresearcherJohn Taylor is intrigued by the methods that ethnic communities use to grow their native vegetables in urban settings in the United States. So the University of Rhode Island scientist is testing some of those strategies to see if the methods could increase crop yields of more conventional vegetables.

“The U.S. has an increasingly diverse population, and for many immigrants, continuing their food ways is an important way to reproduce their culture,” said Taylor, URI assistant professor of plant sciences, who earned his doctorate studying ethnic home gardens in Chicago. “The way some ethnic groups grow their crops is often quite different from how other people grow those same crops.”

Taylor is focusing his initial studies on growing several varieties of amaranth, a leafy vegetable popular among African, Asian and Caribbean cultures, and bitter melon, a warty cucumber-shaped fruit with medicinal values favored in India and Southeast Asia. He is growing the two, along with a sweet potato variety grown for its leaves, all together in the same space, a practice called polyculture.

Read more.

Success at Mabel’s Garden

As stewards of the native plants in Mabel’s Garden at the Norman Bird Sanctuary, we now approach the end of our second season.  What a delight to discover that beneficial pollinators have been visiting this year, but they have also made this garden their home.

Indeed, living proof of our restoration activities to preserve plant species and enhance biodiversity at the most basic level.

Read more about this project.

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
Location TBD, 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.

School Garden Conference
Saturday, October 21
URI Kingston Campus

This conference is a great opportunity for School Garden Mentors to learn about curriculum tools available to their schools. SGM’s will be sent a coupon code to register free of charge.   Scholarships available to students and on a needs basis.

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

Seed Workshop: Seed Collection
September 20 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Join Rhode Island Natural History Survey botanist Hope Leeson for the second of three sessions in our Native Plant Seed Workshop Series. This field session, in the West Greenwich section of the Arcadia Management Area, will focus on collecting seed from plant that we identified our first session. These include Lobelia cardinalis -cardinal flower, several species of Solidago – goldenrod, and asters as well as others

Although the workshop is a part of a 3 part series, participants do not need to attend all three sessions.

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

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

Hot Topics from the URI Consumer Horticulture Educator

rosanneThe following science-based articles may help you answer questions from the community.  Rosanne Sherry, URI Consumer Horticulture Educator, recommends you read them to help sharpen your own gardening and educator skills! Please send comments or suggestions for articles to

From Master Gardener Recommended Horticulture Best Management Practices.

Practices that should always be recommended:


  • Top-dress existing lawn with ¼” of compost to improve the soil structure of clay soils. A simple formula to calculate how much compost is needed is: Area to cover (square feet) X depth of compost (inches) X 0.0031= compost needed (cubic yards)
  • In late spring, add about 1 inch of compost around the trees and shrubs. Cover with a mulch of shredded pine needles, straw, bark chips, or leaves 2 to 3 inches deep.
  • In the fall, spread about 2 inches of compost over your entire garden and work it 6 to 8 inches into the soil


  • Identify the pest and susceptible life stages before you treat with a pesticide
  • Maintain healthy plants by meeting their cultural requirements with the goal of using fewer pesticides
  • Monitor plants in the landscape regularly to recognize when pests are present
  • Learn which insects are common to the plants growing in your landscape/garden.
  • Reduce pest populations by hand removal and regular clean up
  • Establish thresholds for acceptable levels of pest infestation

From New Terrain August 16, 2017

Tree-of-heaven’s prolific seed production adds to its invasive potential by Penn State University on
Saving the monarch butterfly—biologist explains population census discrepancies from Iowa State University on
Ag Department Is Censoring Use of Term ‘Climate Change’, Emails Reveal on the Society of Environmental Journalists website.
Study shows Maine’s roadside habitats an important area for pollinators by Julia Bayly in the Bangor Daily News (Maine).
Green Roofs Are Saving Birds and Hatching Bird-Watchers by Lucy Wang on City Lab.

From ELA newsletter August 17, 2017

Three Invasive Plant Species to Really Watch Out For
by Mike Bald

Following up on his Eco-tour of invasive plant control at King Arthur Flour’s headquarters in Vermont, Mike details the species that he finds of greatest concern. His control efforts rely on active management, which necessitates safe access to the land. Read the article.

Is There Hope for Growing Lilies in New England Again?
by Lisa Tewksbury

In the early 1990s New England acquired a new pest from Europe: the lily leaf beetle. Now found in a dozen states, the lily leaf beetle makes growing lilies to their full potential almost impossible. After extensive testing, the release of three parasitoids in New England is having an effect on lily leaf beetles populations. Read the article.

Developing Sterile Invasives (Why Bother?)
by Ellen Sousa

Efforts to develop sterile varieties of exotic invasive plants continue in spite of notable failures to contain presumably sterile cultivars. Is it worth the energy and money required to develop plants that do not belong in the local ecosystem? Read the article.