On November 13, 2012 the UConn Master Gardener Program was awarded the  Provost’s Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement at a ceremony and reception held at the in the Great Hall of the Alumni Center in Storrs.  The awards and congratulations were presented to the 2012 winners by Interim Provost Mun Choi and Dean and Vice Provost Robert McCarthy.

Master Gardener group receiving congratulations

The awards were created to recognize and emphasize the critical role of outreach and public engagement in the land grant mission, and to foster engagement across the entire University community.

The criteria the award committee consider include: sustained leadership in working with the public and/or with external organizations; innovative ways of working for the well being of citizens and communities; documented excellence in extending University knowledge; evidence of the impact on a target audience; demonstrated intellectual, professional, and/or career growth as a result of the experience.

The UConn Extension Master Gardener Program is entering its 35th year of educating Connecticut citizens, forming a network of trained “citizen horticulturists” whose outreach efforts instruct and promote research-based horticultural and environmental education to Connecticut communities.

As part of the program Master Gardeners volunteer in an extensive variety of community outreach projects, contributing over 35,000 volunteer hours annually working with municipalities, museums, schools, hospitals, environmental groups, community gardens and garden clubs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leslie Alexander

Photos-  Ellen Bender Master Gardener

 

From this past Thursday morning until last night, the UConn Home & Garden Education Center, the Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory and Master Gardener Coordinators and Volunteers staffed our booth at the CT Flower & Garden Show. We weren’t sure how big a turn out to expect as in the past we have found that the more severe the winter, the greater the show attendance – probably because folks really needed encouragement that spring was on the way. This year, however, despite the warm winter, the show was packed! We must have performed more than 250 free soil pH tests and answered hundreds of gardening questions. The large number of soil pH tests was obviously due to the fact that most soils were not frozen solid – in fact there are many areas that only have frost in the top inch of soil – and that’s only on colder days.

Answering questions at the Flower Show

There were a lot of vole and deer control questions and many folks wanted suggestions for dealing with some of the diseases their vegetables, especially tomatoes, had been plagued with last summer because of all the rain. Moss in lawns was also a frequent topic of discussion and many visitors have heard of the boxwood blight that is infecting these lovely evergreens and wanted to know more.

The CT Flower & Garden Show has a lot to offer, from incredible landscapes to a multitude of vendors of largely garden related items, to the creative arrangements by Federated Garden Club members. I think I counted over 200 exhibitors in this year’s flower show program! The work that goes into some of the landscape displays is awe-inspiring! Years ago a company I worked for had an exhibit in the Boston Flower Show and the amount of time, effort, gardening expertise, and physical labor that went into designing, growing and setting up a landscape display left a team of us exhausted but happy with the outcome.

The CT Flower Show also gives local plant societies a place to introduce themselves to potential new members and give folks advice. One could find out information on African violets, bonsai, rhododendrons, orchids, carnivorous plants and much more. Representatives from UConn’s EEB Greenhouse and Invasive Plant working group were there to share their resources.

The theme for the juried Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticuts floral arrangements was ‘The Fabulous Fifties’ and there were so many creative, fun and artful entries it was hard to pick favorites, never mind winners. I would have had a tough time deciding who the awards should go to as all the entries were wonderfully creative.

Here’s some that caught my eye!

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The above 3 pictures taken by Clinton Morse, UConn EEB

Till next time,

Happy Gardening!

Dawn

As the state coordinator for the UConn Master Gardener Program, I am frequently asked to describe the characteristics of a Master Gardener, who are they, what age group, what background, what makes a good candidate?  I smile as I consider the incredibly diverse, talented, population of hard-working dedicated Certified UConn Master Gardeners. The answer is Master Gardeners are wide-ranging in profession, background, education and age; one year we had a class where a nineteen year old sat with an eighty-nine year old.  The essential characteristics of a successful candidate include interests in horticulture, nature and the environment plus the desire to participate in community outreach to share knowledge, interests and skills.

We are fortunate to have hundreds of dedicated Certified Master Gardeners actively participating in community outreach in Connecticut. They all are a huge asset to their communities and Susan Pronovost is one of them.

Susan Pronovost

Fulton Farm, Waterbury CT

On a beautiful day in early July, I visited with Susan Pronovost a dedicated and extremely productive Certified UConn Master Gardener.  Susan is the Executive Director of Brass City Harvest an urban agriculture and sustainable food system in Waterbury Connecticut.  We met in Fulton Park, a seventy-acre park that is the largest of the city’s major parks.   Susan and her volunteers have created an expansive urban vegetable garden in the park called Fulton Farm.  Produce form the farm goes to local food kitchens.  On Saturdays is open as a market where produce is cut to order.

Raised Beds Fulton Farm

The program recently applied for and received a generous grant from the Connecticut Community Foundation for a unique homeless outreach and employment program that engages homeless-at-risk clients allowing them to work at Fulton farm and other city beautification projects. In return for their work, clients receive a small stipend that they use to meet their rental obligations.

Rick Povilaitis

I was also fortunate to meet Brass City Harvest’s Clinical Social Worker Rick Povilaitis who works closely with these clients.  His passion for this work was acknowledged in early June when he was awarded a 2010 Supportive Housing Services Award from the Reaching Home Campaign, which works to end long-term homeless in Connecticut. The Reaching Home Campaign is staffed by the Partnership for Strong Communities and funded by the Melville Charitable Trust.

A few blocks away form Fulton Park is another of Susan’s projects Crownbrook Greenhouse and Children’s Community Garden.  In early July, the greenhouse was just a frame and excavation of the site was still underway.  On July 14, the Crownbrook Garden complex was opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony. A multi-faceted vocational education youth program featuring horticultural and aquaponics is underway.  In addition, the garden will also serve as a learning center for the younger Crownbrook neighborhood children and their families.

Crownbrook Community Garden in construction

Crownbrook Community Garden Site

Congratulation to Susan, Rick and all of the dedicated volunteers of Brass City Harvest.

Susan is looking for Master Gardeners to assist with projects in the greenhouse and the aquaponics program.

For more information contact:

Brass City Harvest

P.O. Box 11115

65 Bank Street

Waterbury, CT 06703

Phone: 203-509-4058

Fax: 203-755-0768

E-mail: susan.pronovost@snet.net or resourcerick@yahoo.com

Leslie Alexander