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The focus of the day was soil - good soil, bad soil, what's in soil - a2013-06-18 11.30.23.jpgnd how worms compost soil. Gopher adventurers gathered 'round as Extension educator and Master Gardener state director Julie Weisenhorn demonstrated worm composting using a commercially available worm bin called the Worm Factory.

"Do any of you compost at home?" Weisenhorn asked the kids. Almost all raised their hands. "What do you put in your compost pile?" Kids replied "Veggies!", "Bananas!", "Coffee filters!" Weisenhorn talked about carbon and nitrogen, and the importance of balancing green items (fruit rinds, vegetable peelings, grass clippings) with brown (dead leaves, paper). When Weisenhorn saw the kids were getting a little fidgety, she pulled the lid off the worm bin and separated the two bin sections. Worms dangling from the top section held their attention as she explained how worms need mucus to slither through soil and how they consume (and eliminate) soil through their digestive system to create vermicompost or "black gold" that's high in nutrients for plants.

"The worms are always a hit", said Weisenhorn. "No one can resist these squirmy, living creatures - especially when they find out how important they are to our gardens."

Gopher Adventures is one of the summer day camps offered by the University's Rec Sports Deparment for kids ages 7-11. Gardening is one option campers select when they register. Kids also choose from sports, computers, dance, art and more. Taught by Extension Master Gardener volunteers, the gardening option is a collaboration between the U of M Department of Youth Sports and Rec, Department of Horticultural Science and the College of Extension.

Read more:
Youth Sports & Rec
Horticultural Science
Extension Master Gardener

171712-18.jpgBy Adrienne Richter

Every Tuesday from June through August, U of M Extension Master Gardeners have been sharing their penchant for plants with students of the University of Minnesota's Gopher Adventures program--a day-camp style, summer youth program designed to open the minds and imaginations of local kids, ages 5-12.

Held in the Department of Horticultural Science Display Garden on the St. Paul campus, weekly themes like Gardening Basics, Soil Sleuths, and Trash to Treasures are designed to work as stand-alone lessons for those enrolled in the program for only a single week, while the overarching, acronym-based topic: "PLANTS" (P-lace, L-ight, A-ir, N-utrients, T-hirsty (water) and S-oil), ties everything together for those who attend on a regular basis.

This year, the "Goldy in the Garden" program has been headed-up by Extension Master Gardeners Betsy Massie, Kate Wodtke, and Rochelle Jansen from Hennepin County --with help from a rotating support staff comprising volunteer Master Gardeners from across the state.

Each class typically begins with a brief lesson, group discussion, and activity centered around073112-6.jpg that week's unique theme in the Garden's Outdoor Classroom. During last week's Plant Parts class, students first discussed the structural components of familiar garden vegetables and flowers, and then applied what they had learned through the dissection of locally-grown Asiatic and day lilies.

As the day heats up, students migrate to the covered gazebo to record the past week's weather conditions and contemplate issues of conservation and environmental stewardship. This past week, "re-use" was the topic of discussion, and students were tasked with brainstorming ways to repurpose old shoes. Creativity flowed as students suggested options like donation, making hamster beds, and even using rain boots as vessels for potting plants.

071012-1.jpgThe most anticipated part of the day is the time spent in the ever-evolving Children's Garden--a kid-friendly, botanical oasis chock full of fragrant mint and basil; neon-stemmed Swiss chard; towering trellises of morning glories; and beds of eye-catching annuals. After taking inventory of the plants, discussing their various uses, and pulling out the errant weed (or two), the students were let loose in the garden to observe, discover, and (of course) harvest a few goodies to take home and share with their families.

Next week, Pollution Solutions takes center stage, followed by a plant-based scavenger hunt in the garden. In week ten, everything comes full circle, as students are able to see how their planting, weeding, and watering has paid off--with an end-of-the-season harvest party, where students can literally "eat what they sow."

For more information:
Extension Master Gardener Program - mgweb@umn.edu
Department of Rec Sports Youth Progams: drsyouth@umn.edu

1st_drawing_by_youth_in_our_asa_garden_classes_2012(2).jpgU of MN Extension Master Gardeners recently taught a Children's Gardening Class in the Aurora-St Anthony Neighborhood. Eight children attended including one mom (who helped weed)!

Master Gardener volunteers on the scene were Diane, Sarah R, Ge, Z, Melvin, and Sean.

The class started out with the gardeners drawing a picture of their ideal garden or coloring a plant part picture. Attached the works of the 2 older girls. One gardener designed a pea teepee in her ideal garden!. The students acted out 'radishes and weeds' in an effort to understand why weeding is important. Then, Gardeners to the Rescue! The class weeded the west border where we will be planting lettuce this week and did a great job!

Next up was a demonstration of what plant parts people eat. The class examined carrots (roots), celery (stem), cauliflower (flower), lettuce (leaves), cherry tomatoes (fruit), and sunflower seeds (seeds). Then they ate these plant parts in 'plant part roll-ups' -chopped carrots, celery, cauliflower, tomatoes, and sunflower seeds rolled up in a lettuce leaf, dipped in Ranch or Western dressing. SUCCESS!!!!!!! The kids ate them, liked them....even asked for seconds.

One Master Gardener volunteered to be a radish! That is truly being present to the cause!

Looking forward to our next class--BUGS!

Submitted by M. P., U of MN Extension Master Gardener - Ramsey County

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

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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.

School-based projects thrive in Ramsey County

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Battle Creek Middle School students

Last year in Ramsey County, Master Gardeners spent approximately 604 volunteer hours working with 1,865 students and 89 adults through school-based projects. These school-based community enrichment projects will have a lasting impact upon future gardeners. The gardens will help manage storm water run-off, beautify schoolyards, inform future school education activities, serve as demonstrations to students, staff, residents and visitors, and provide valuable wildlife habitat. Master Gardeners explained and discussed garden design elements, evaluated sites for schoolyard gardens and residential rain gardens, explained soil types and conducted soil sampling, taught students to identify common garden weeds, and instructed students on seed starting and transplanting.

Check out this thank you note from a Battle Creek Middle School student: "Thank you so much for everything you've done. You've been really helpful to Battle Creek. I think it's awesome that you care about our community. What I'm trying to say is that it means a lot to us middle-schoolers that you helped take care of our environment. Thanks a bunch."

Several county Master Gardener programs collaborate with local corrections departments on projects that benefit the corrections system clients and the greater public. In Olmsted County, Master Gardeners teach Dodge, Fillmore, Olmsted (DFO) Community Corrections staff and community work service clients the basics of vegetable gardening. The participants learn to grow and harvest vegetables from a 1-acre garden they maintain. About 200 youth performing community service and about 50 adults on daily work release from jail are involved. Upon harvest, they prepare and sell the vegetables. Over 5000 pounds of vegetables are harvested. This project provides a constructive environment for youth to serve their community service hours. It also acquaints the participants with all aspects of gardening and experiences that illustrate the rewards from work.

Junior Master Gardener pilot project

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Junior Master Gardener planting

The Master Gardener Program collaborated with Extension's 4-H program to pilot the Junior Master Gardener 4-H SET (Science, Engineering, and Technology) project in 2009. The pilot was generously funded by a grant from the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) Foundation.

There were six expectations of each site.

  1. engage at least 10 youth in a minimum of 8 learning sessions
  2. involve a local MNLA member sponsor
  3. incorporate a science experiment and a service project
  4. use technology to teach, communicate and report
  5. utilize JMG curriculum and have some type of teaching garden
  6. participate in evaluations

Six counties were selected to participate; two had multiple sites: Clearwater, Crow Wing, Olmsted (2), Sherburne, Stearns (2), and Winona. Seventy-two participants attended one of two trainings. Each site received JMG materials and a $125 grant for supplies.

All sites were successful. Data from the pilot evaluation shows that in total:

  • 125 youth enrolled in the project; 97 youth completed the entire project
  • 30 percent of youth participants were non-white/persons of color; 70 percent were white/Caucasian
  • 87 youth were new to the 4-H program

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