The UConn Home and Garden Education Center offers information on all things horticulture. Our mission is to give the public answers to their plant and insect related questions by our well-trained horticulturists and staff via phone calls, emails and in person. We provide outreach from UConn to the citizens of the State of Connecticut and many other states, through the Cooperative Extension System and the Plant Science and Landscape Architecture Department. We may be contacted at:

UConn Home and Garden Education Center

Room 4, 1380 Storrs Road

Storrs, CT 06269-4115







Powdery Mildew on Squash Leaves, C.Quish photo

Powdery Mildew on Squash Leaves, C.Quish photo

Milkweed Beetle, C.Quish photo

Milkweed Beetle, C.Quish photo

We diagnose plant diseases and identify insects, and solve plant problems. Samples of plant material and insects can be mailed or brought to our office located in Storrs on the UConn campus. If a physical sample is received, there is a lab fee of $15.00. There is no charge for emails, phone calls and advice. All of us truly love our jobs, and could (and do) talk about plants all day long!


IPhone and IPad App –  The UConn Home and Garden Education Center’s Plant Diagnostic Lab in conjunction with Purdue University, has developed an IPhone and IPad App for folks to submit photos of plant problems.If you don’t have an IPhone, email us directly. All submissions may include plant disease or insect problems, and plant or insect ID. It is a free service and free to download. To find the app, search for ‘plant diagnostic sample submission’ at the app store. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/plant-diagnostic-sample-submission/id669269520?mt=8

When we are not busy helping people, we write about gardening to keep you informed. New research and current happenings in the environment will be made known to the public through our many ways getting the news out. Several of us develop and present talks to garden clubs and other groups around the state. Some also lecture in the The UConn Master Composter Program and the UConn Extension Master Gardener Program. We have a booth at the CT Flower and Garden Show in Hartford during the month of February each year.


UConnLadybug Blog – If you are reading this, you already know we have a weekly blog! Our well-versed group of five take turns writing about gardening, plants, pest, insects, birds and just about anything we think might interest our nature centered audience. We each have a little bit different style to enlighten and educate. https://uconnladybug.wordpress.com/


Newsletter Subscription

Home and Garden Newsletter Subscription


Home and Garden Newsletter – A quarterly paper newsletter mailed to you home contains timely and accurate information from faculty and staff throughout the college and eight Extension Centers who contribute their knowledge and expertise on a wide variety of issues such as entomology, food safety, drinking water, soil testing, home horticulture, lead poisoning, indoor air quality, septic system management and family financial management. Cost is $10.00 per year. http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/newsletter/index.html



E-Update monthly newsletter – Dawn Pettinelli, our manager, scours the internet for science based, university researched and accurate articles and tidbits of timely information, to gather all that knowledge in one place which is then sent out through our listserv to those wishing to receive it. She also includes what is happening in the landscape during that particular month. It is informative and comforting to know others may be having the same problems and how to handle them. If you wish to have your email added to our Listserv, send an email request to Ladybug@uconn.edu.

Soil Testing in Process

Soil Testing in Process

UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory – Have soil tested for pH and nutrient levels, lead screening, organic matter content and soil texture by visiting  UConn Soil Testing Lab Their goal is to increase the public’s awareness of the benefits of soil testing and the necessity of environmentally sound soil fertility management programs. The lab also functions as a teaching resource where CANR graduate students learn to run their samples on sophisticated equipment and as a base for numerous outreach activities.


Facebook – We are on facebook as UConn Home and Garden Education Center. Please Like us to see great photos and more current happenings in the natural world around us.


Website – Last, but not least, we have a website. Our fact sheets are located here,  as is a lot of other information. We are the midst of creating a new one, but are leaving the original in place until the new website is unveiled. http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/index.html


-Carol Quish

The arrival of fall brings the end of warm weather crops in the vegetable garden and some yearly chores to accomplish. The list below gives some guidelines and reminders of items happen before the snow falls!

1.     Soil Test – Fall is the best time to soil test. Labs are slower, receive results faster. Amendments applied now have all fall and winter to work. Lime takes 6 to 9 months to fully react, causing a change in pH.  UConn Soil Test Lab, www.soiltest.uconn.edu $8.00 fee provides levels pH, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, micronutrients, organic matter level and soil texture plus recommendations for plants growing in that soil.

2.     Clean up – Remove all brown plant material; leaves, stems, fallen fruit. Exceptions are seed heads that provide wildlife seeds as food. Removing last year’s top growth removes disease and insect hiding places. Many insects overwinter on plants where they fed. Bury diseased plants in compost pile or discard in the garbage.

3.     Cultivate Soil – Turn over the soil or scratch soil up with a hand fork or hoe to expose pest insects to birds and cold weather. Try to disrupt the top inch or so of soil to wreck overwintering insect’s cozy homes.

4.     Use a Mulch – After Thanksgiving, pile chopped leaves or other natural mulch around plants. By now the ground is frozen and rodents have found other winter homes. If mulch is put on earlier, chipmunks and mice think you put it there for them! Placing mulch on frozen ground insults the soil keeping it from freeze and thaw cycles. The goal is stop the plants from heaving out of the ground not to keep the plants warm.

5.     Sow cover crops in empty vegetable and annual beds to prevent soil erosion. Cut back and till in the soil in early spring. Winter wheat, oats and rye are good choices.

6.     Clean Tools – Oil wood handles, clean and oil metal parts with vegetable oil. Drain hoses and nozzles, freezing temperatures will crack them. Service mowers and blowers. Store all for winter.

7.     Grow Garlic! – Hard necked garlic can be planted in October, mulched with straw, harvested next June. Plant single cloves one inch deep and three apart.

8.     Cut back iris and discard leaves even if green to eliminate iris borer eggs laid during the fall. September is also the month to divide peonies if needed.

Enjoy the slower time of autumn in the garden now that the work is done.

photo from UConn Brand plant database

_Carol Quish

Vegetables at Strawberry Banke, NH

Vegetables at Strawberry Banke, NH

Growing Groceries




Probably several factors are responsible for the renewed interest in backyard vegetable gardening. Financial insecurity has many looking for ways to stretch hard earned dollars. Growing one’s own food can certainly provide nutritional as well as economic benefits. Two or three dollars spent on a package of seeds or on a cell pack of pepper or broccoli transplants will certainly more than pay for itself if plants are well grown. Perhaps the recent food scares are also encouraging food growing efforts as gardeners know how and where their plants are grown and they can reduce the risk of food borne illness by adhering to good gardening practices.


I have been growing vegetables for quite some time and really never gave much thought as to why I do it other than I love eating them. I do appreciate those feelings of self-sufficiency and satisfaction that comes with piling baskets high with fresh picked beans, crispy cucumbers and sun warmed tomatoes. And, I enjoy sharing the harvest with family and friends and co-workers and whoever else will take a zucchini or two or three off my hands. Another great reason, at least for me, for filling the garden beds with vegetables and herbs is to grow varieties that you just can’t find at the local grocery store. Much of January is spent pouring over seed catalogs eagerly devouring savory descriptions of both heirloom and hybrid offerings. It is always difficult to whittle down that expansive wish list into a more realistic seed order and I’d be lying if I claimed to always be successful at doing so!


Over the years I have found a handful of tried and true vegetable varieties that I plant each year. These include selections like Sungold tomatoes, Super Sugar Snap peas, Pimento peppers, Honey and Cream sweet corn, Lutz Winter Keeper beets and also, a large-leaved Italian basil because the leaves are really huge so picking is quicker when harvesting for pesto. Then, of course, there are new finds. Some have just been introduced like 2009 All America Selections winner ‘Lambkin’ melon while others have been around for a while but something about them caught my attention. 


I have found that a most common mistake beginning vegetable gardeners make is to try and cultivate too large of a garden. It is better to start small the first year, find out what plants do well, see how much time and effort your garden involves, and then expand (or not) from there. Weeding, watering, planting, pest control and harvesting are much less overwhelming when relegated to an initially small and manageable garden plot. Try your hand at a hundred square foot garden bed, or less, if this is your first attempt at growing vegetables.  


Even if you don’t have that little plot of earth in your own yard to cultivate, other opportunities to grow food plants include container gardening or community garden plots. Maybe you can barter some gardening work for extra vegetables in a friend’s or neighbor’s garden. Then there are local farmer’s markets and stands, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs for those desiring just picked, homegrown goodness with out plant nurturing responsibilities.


Beginning gardeners will find that there are a lot of vegetable gardening books and vegetable gardening websites one can check out for basic growing information. Neighborhood garden centers and nurseries may also offer advice. Then of course, there are your local Cooperative Extension Centers. For those unfamiliar with Cooperative Extension, it is the educational arm of a land-grant university. The mission of Cooperative Extension is to take university based research and put it into a form that is understandable and useful to the general public. In Connecticut, there are Cooperative Extension Centers in each of the eight counties and also the UConn Home & Garden Education Center at the Storrs campus. You can visit our website, www.ladybug.uconn.edu for contact information. Many common gardening questions are already covered in fact sheet formats.


A more recent development is the E-Extension national website which has thousands of FAQ’s on a variety of topics including home horticulture. Check out www.extension.org for information on numerous topics and if you can’t find an answer to your question you can use their ‘Ask the Expert’ feature.


You are also welcome to join me for our Knowledge to Grow On seminar entitled ‘The A, B, C’s of Vegetable Gardening’ at the Middlesex County Extension Center on March 28th. Our website has full information. Part of the seminar will be spent outside, weather permitting, where proper soil preparation, seed sowing and transplanting techniques will be demonstrated in the model community garden plot managed by Master Gardener volunteers.


Whatever your reason for growing your own groceries, it is both an addicting and rewarding experience. Both your soil conditions and your gardening abilities will improve with each growing season. We’re here to inspire, advise, educate and grow right along beside you.