The Dirt for September 21, 2017: Farewell to Rosanne, New Project in Jamestown

September 20, 2017

To all the volunteers,

As some of you know I’m retiring from URI and the Master Gardeners effective September 29. My birthday! I will be moving to Arizona for the sunshine, my health and of course the birds. I’ll have a whole new world of plants, gardens and habitat to learn about. I can’t wait!!

While it’s impossible to personally thank everyone, this letter will have to do.

Some of you I have known for decades, some I’ve barely met, but through it all I thank URI Master Gardener volunteers, past and present, from the bottom of my heart for the many examples of how to spend a meaningful retirement serving people. The passion for gardening and the environment you all bring to the table and your other skills have helped throughout the years to build the URI Master Gardener Program into one of the best in the country. Many will give me credit, thank you, I’ll take a little, but really it is you and your commitment to your fellow humans and the beautiful environment of Rhode Island who deserve the credit. Whether you recently received your blue pin for the first 50 hours or a pin for 6000 hours each of you have fulfilled this teacher’s dream of turning yourselves from students into teachers.

Some people have asked me what I will miss about Rhode Island: fresh fish, Narragansett beer, and my garden for the birds. But after those I will miss dinners with Mother Theresa, Betsey, Lee, Sue and Big Brother Scott, helping the hotline teams solve the stumpers, the lines of gardeners waiting to talk to kiosk workers and soil testers at various events, the new class members each year, the dedicated mentors who guide them into service, continuing education classes in the garden, the MG bus trips to Longwood, NY Botanical Gardens and Maine Coastal Botanical Gardens, the many Master Gardener and Coordinator conferences around the country, picking your brains about plants and garden techniques I didn’t know about, and last but not least, the many friends and mentors that have been called back to tend Heaven’s gardens.

And before I close please always remember a few things from our Master Gardener time…

  1. It’s called SOIL.
  2. Identify it before killing it.
  3. A cut flower is a dead flower.
  4. Skunks are your friends.
  5. Don’t believe the witchcraft!
  6. Watch out for Mow, Blow and Go and their cousins Chip and Snip.

While I’m in transition from RI to Arizona, feel free to send correspondence to the Mallon Center, 3 East Alumni Ave, Kingston, RI 02881 and Mamie Chen will forward it on to me.

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!

I am on Facebook but beware!! I may send some interesting things back! My email at URI will not be monitored after September 29. If you ever get brave and want to leave the state and head west let me know! I’ll have an extra bed, and a great place or two for margaritas.

I thank the universe for the blessings called URI Master Gardeners.

Thanks for all you do,


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: Janet Sells
Hometown: Middletown
Favorite Project/Service: Great  Friends Community Garden
Quote: The MLK Center in Newport has a summer school program that we involved on  the Great  Friends Community Gardens. The children from the center have a plot. One of my goals was to have the children experience donating food to the center. The director took this picture of the kids who helped grow and harvest the beans  There were about 12 children(7-9 yr olds.) attending the garden class once a week for an hour.

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.

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, 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

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

In case you Missed it - School Garden Mentor 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

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:


  • Learn which diseases are common to the plants growing in your landscape/garden.
  • Look first for ways to improve cultural conditions as a means to reduce plant disease.
  • Maintain healthy plants by meeting their cultural requirements with the goal of using less pesticides
  • Monitor plants in the landscape regularly to recognize when pests are present


  • Identify weeds before using a chemical control. Decide which species you can live with and which species you want to control. Contact the Extension office for identification, appropriate timing and control recommendations.
  • Use plants or mulch to conserve water, suppress weeds and prevent soil erosion
  • Minimize the conditions that produce more weeds than you are willing to tolerate
  • Avoid tilling as it exposes weed seeds deep in the soil to favorable growing conditions.
  • Hand-pull weeds or use spot herbicide treatments where possible.
  • Apply pre-emergent for summer or winter annual weeds at the correct time for most effective control. Choose a product that does not contain fertilizer.
  • Read the label; many products require a second application or need to be watered in to activate.

Websites of interest from Rosie’s files Heather Faubert’s website for moth updates  National Drought Monitor  excellent source for in depth science based organic and IPM information. horticultural myths very interesting  the best  general resource for national audience excellent resource for fact sheets

From UCONN September Home and Garden newsletter

Saving Milkweed Seeds

Many gardeners are aware of the plight of the monarch butterfly. Population declines due to habitat loss, herbicide use, lower availability of host plants and pollen producing plants, and temperature and precipitation swings due to climate change have caused the monarch butterfly population to plummet in recent years. Organizations like Monarch Watch and others have encouraged residents throughout the migration range of the monarch to plant species of milkweed (Asclepius) that can feed the Monarch caterpillars as well as a diversity of other plant species that can supply nectar and other support to the adult butterflies, either on their way up north or, to fuel them for their journey south to overwinter. One way to increase the number of milkweed species in your garden is to collect and sow the seeds from plants either in the wild or in your gardens. Seedpods are similar looking for Asclepius species and are rather conical in shape and on the top part of the stem. As they dry, the pods turn brown and open to reveal seeds with feathery plumes (called coma). Left to their own devices, the seeds become airborne and the colony of milkweed spreads both by seeds and by underground rhizomes from parent plants. Many gardeners collect some seeds and sow them in areas they desire plants to grow but because germination is sporadic also start some inside in late winter. Here is some information about propagating milkweed seeds:

Cure for Fire Blight?

Just announced this week is a possible cure for fire blight. This is a serious bacterial disease of apples, pears and other members of the Rosaceae family. It is spread by splashing rain and pollinators and although some copper compounds and antibiotics could help stem its spread, the disease is difficult to control. With new developments, scientists (some from Connecticut) now believe they are on a path to be able to counter this destructive pathogen.