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tomato trial 2014 web.jpg
by Julie Weisenhorn, University of Minnesota Extension educator, horticulture

This year, one crop being trialed by Extension Master Gardeners is patio tomatoes. These are tomatoes developed to be grown in containers - smaller, more compact and prolific producers. Extension Master Gardener volunteers Clarie Kari, Lynn Meyer, and Anita Hoaglund, along with Extension educator Julie Weisenhorn, planted the trial tomatoes in large containers in the outdoor classroom of the Hort Science Display Garden on the St. Paul campus. The team is asking the public to rate the tomatoes via an online survey. Visitors can click on a QR Code with their smart phone or type in the survey link. The Extension Master Gardener campus trials team is looking forward to seeing how using this technology in the garden might help gather the public's taste preferences for the patio tomatoes.


JMG donation to Crow Wing EMGs P1010112 (1).jpgNearly 150 fifth grade students at Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy for Math and Environmental Sciences in Champlin, MN walked across the stage on June 6 to receive their certificates and pins to become certified Junior Master Gardeners. As part of the event, they presented a check for $500 to Crow Wing County Extension Master Gardeners to start a Junior Master Gardener (JMG) program in Brainerd. The donation came as a result of the students' JMG service project.

The Junior Master Gardener program was integrated into the Academy's fourth and fifth grade science curriculum several years ago. It is comprehensive. Over the two-year period, students complete all the requirements to become a certified Junior Master Gardener. Through classroom activities, teaching gardens, independent work assignments and service projects, students learn not only about plant science, but see the curriculum integrated into math, language arts and other subjects.

Since the school program began, Extension Master Gardeners from Anoka and Hennepin Counties have collaborated with teachers to assist in delivering Junior Master Gardener classes. Extension Master Gardener volunteers from Hennepin County currently conduct month classes with each of the five 4th grade and five 5th grade classes. To achieve the service project requirement for the program, students grew seedlings and created hanging flower baskets for a plant sale. A portion of the proceeds of the sale go to a charitable group. This year students wanted the donation to go to an organization starting a Junior Master Gardener program. They chose the Crow Wing County Extension Master Gardeners who are making plans to initiate a JMG program in 2015.

Crow Wing County Extension Master Gardener volunteers, Coralee Fox and Ken Lueken, traveled from Brainerd to Champlin to participate in the June 6 ceremony and to receive the donation presented by Denise Schnabel, curriculum integrator at the Academy.

Welcome New State Advisory Board Members

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Thumbnail image for IMG_8072.JPGThe University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener State Advisory Board welcomed five new board members on June 13 at the first quarterly meeting of the 2014-2015 program year. Board members represent Extension Master Gardener volunteers in each of the five regions of University of Minnesota Extension.

The State Advisory Board provides input and recommendations to the state Extension Master Gardener staff about program visions, strategies and governing policies. Board members act as ambassadors of the statewide program. In 2014-2015 board members intend to increase communications and connections with local Extension Master Gardener groups within each member's region.

The current board is comprised of fourteen Extension Master Gardener volunteers, one county program coordinator, and four state staff representatives. Pictured above (l to r): David Moen (state program manager), Howard Markus (Washington Co.), Dave Knapp (Anoka Co.), Bob Azman (Ramsey Co), Melinda Ludwiczak (Hennepin Co.), Barb Gasterland (Hennepin Co.), Kit Sitter (Lake Co. & board chair), Rick Ellis (Stearns Co.), Diane Henry (Douglas Co.), Nancy Lizette Berlin (Goodhue Co. & board secretary), Paula Zollman (Olmsted Co.), Leslie Yetka (state education manager), (Bonita Kallestad, Kandiyohi Co.), Sue Riesgraf (Carver-Scott program coordinator), Tim Kenny (state director), and Diane Greiwe (state volunteer coordinator). Not pictured are Coralee Fox (Crow Wing Co. & board vice-chair) and Carol Rethemeier (East Otter Tail Co.).

P1150490.JPGDid you know that you can email your gardening questions to U of M Extension Master Gardeners - and get an answer by the next day?

Ask A Master Gardener, part of the national Extension Ask An Expert online Q&A tool, is staffed by Extension Master Gardeners ready and willing to provide solutions to your gardening problems within 24 hours. Minnesota recently completed online volunteer training and currently 71 Master Gardeners are volunteering for Ask A Master Gardener.

How does it work? Simple. Click on the link to Ask A Master Gardener, type in your question, attach a photo if you like, and click Submit. Your question is filtered at the national level and sent to a Master Gardener who's criteria (location, topic, etc.) matches your question and location. The Master Gardener volunteer receives your question via email, researches and responds to your email.

Archives of answered gardening questions can also be searched on the national eXtension website. And don't forget to visit the U of M Extension Garden website for publications, classes, events, and other great resources!

The next time a gardening problem perplexes you, Ask A Master Gardener!

MDE June 24 2013 008 5x7.jpgJune 24, 2013 - Commissioner Brenda Cassellius of the Minnesota Department of Education, visited the Woodland Elementary School Garden in Alexandria, MN. The garden and the youth gardening program is a community partnership with District 206 Food and Nutrition Services, Woodland School, University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners in Douglas County, 4-H, and the United Way Target Volunteers.

During her visit, Cassellius met with summer school age childcare (Compass) children to learn how the children care for the garden. She also met with Master Gardeners Diane and Steve Henry (pictured here). Organized by the Master Gardeners, lessons in gardening as well as harvesting, weeding and watering are provided five days a week. The produce grown is served for meals to the children with extra produce donated to the United Way's combat hunger campaign. Read more ....

2012 Fair Booth Grow Yourself Healthy Display 005.jpgBy Terry Salmela, Extension Educator - Pine County

The U of M Extension Master Gardeners, Simply Good Eating and Community Nutrition staff in Pine County promoted healthy eating at the local fair and community garden. "Grow Yourself a Healthy Handful" was inspired by an educational program through the MN Landscape Arboretum.

Trina Barno, Simply Good Eating Director, and Kelly Appeldorn, Pine County Community Nutrition Educator put together two impressive display boards that Master Gardeners used in fair booths in both Kanabec and Pine counties. They also put together helpful handouts on U of M Extension recommended canning and freezing processes and recipes.

Extension Master Gardeners planted five gallon pails as well as five plastic flower pots full of the five most nutritious vegetables in May. They watered, fertilized and weeded them throughout the summer. The live potted examples were on display at the Pine County community garden and at the fair.

2012 Fair Booth Grow Yourself Healthy Display 010.jpgMaster Gardener fair booth co-chairs Roger and Linda Fischer designed the display, utilizing materials from the MN Landscape Arboretum as well as two tipping container stands and planted herbs in them. They were a favorite of fairgoers! The booth was located between two walkways, so it was visible from two sides. Nineteen Extension Master Gardeners answered visitors' questions on powdery mildew on vine crops, herbs, stringy snap beans, brown spots on hostas, flowers, vegetables and many other gardening topics. They even had a door prize sign-up for a four-hour tiller rental at a local dealer.

For more information:
Extension Master Gardener Program:
Extension Master Gardeners - Pine County: Terry Salmela,
MN Landscape Arboretum:

The Variety of Broccoli You Eat May Make a Difference

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Thumbnail image for RROC_Brassica_Trials.jpgMaster Gardeners don't just experiment with plant varieties on their own, they assist University of Minnesota faculty with research. Beginning in 2009, Master Gardeners in Dakota County aided Extension horticulturist Dr. Vince Fritz on a Brassica research project. The project set out to evaluate variety performance and to characterize each variety's relative health benefit based on the variety's phytonutrient concentration. Vegetables with high phytonutrient concentrations are thought to have preventative benefits against some forms of cancer. The research is directly connected to a collaborative study Dr. Fritz is conducting with the U's Masonic Cancer Center.

Master Gardeners helped to plant and maintain the trial plots at the University of Minnesota's Rosemount Research and Outreach Center (RROC). They also assisted with data collection and as co-educators about the research during annual open house events at the RROC. Later this year a variety trial report will be published. The report will include relative phytonutrient concentrations in each of the varieties trialed.

Dr. Fritz says of the Master Gardener volunteers, "I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Master Gardeners in Dakota County over the years. Their enthusiasm, desire to learn, and desire to 'pass it on' is contagious."

Do you have gardening questions? We have answers!

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An important goal of the Master Gardener program is to answer the public's questions about gardening using University research-based information. Find answers to your questions several ways - whatever suits you!

By email: Use the national eXtension Ask an Expert tool. Submit your question anytime - images too! - and a University of Minnesota Master Gardener will answer it via email within 48 hours!

Online: The Extension Garden website is filled with useful information, including diagnostic tools, Extension publications, Yard & Garden News, and more.

By phone: Many Minnesota counties have garden hotlines managed by local Master Gardeners. Find yours. If your county doesn't have a hotline, you may also call the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Yard & Garden Line at (952) 443-1426 and leave a message. A Master Gardener will return your call.

Can't get enough UMN Extension news and research? Follow UMNExt and UMNGardenInfo on Twitter!

Master Gardeners cultivate healthy environment

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smith.jpgExtension Master Gardeners contributed more than 111,000 volunteer hours in Minnesota communities last year, many of which were spent teaching homeowners environmentally-sound landscaping practices or how to eradicate invasive plant species.

Community-wide programs, such as a long-term partnership with the Ramsey- Washington Metro Watershed District, illustrate what can happen when local alliances take off.

As part of the partnership, Ramsey County Master Gardeners work to revitalize Battle Creek, which drains a large part of the east Twin Cities metro area. As water rises in the creek, it undercuts the banks and vegetation is lost, causing further erosion and loss of animal habitats.

"Master Gardeners were instrumental in selecting long-rooted plants that would best stabilize the shoreline," says Sage Passi, watershed education specialist.

Master Gardeners also mentor Battle Creek Middle School students, showing them how to drive plants into erosion blankets. The school's science teachers are working with Master Gardeners to create a creek research area where students can compare different approaches to erosion control.

Protecting rivers, lakes and streams from yard-waste pollution is another priority for Ramsey County. Runoff from lawn chemicals can enter the waters through storm sewers causing fish kills, algae bloom and plant decay.

To help prevent that, Master Gardeners share tips on low-impact lawn care and composting at the county's yard waste and compost sites. The sites draw more than 500,000 people each season. Master Gardener Kathy Smith coordinates the effort.

"It all comes back to proper management of materials and reducing waste," says John Springman, environmental health supervisor with the St. Paul-Ramsey County Department of Public Health. "Master Gardeners extend our capacity to hone in on our environmental goals with the public."

A solar heated greenhouse for Grand Marais school


A $10,000 grant from the Lloyd K. Johnson foundation allowed Cook County Master Gardeners to expand their youth gardening program by building a small solar heated greenhouse onto the Great Expectations School in Grand Marais. This will allow more local food production for the school and provide a space for after-school youth gardening programs.

The Master Gardeners are working with a licensed teacher to develop lesson plans on growing plants in the classroom as well as nutrition education. These grade-appropriate activities will be tied to the Minnesota educational standards.

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