Treasure in plain sight

The University of Vermont Extension and its Master Gardener Program are Vermont treasures. As we look out at the bleak weather, even before the wonderful onslaught of garden catalogues, we start to imagine garden time. There is no better time to explore what’s offered by the Extension and Master Gardeners. Their website is definitely worth a visit.

UVM Extension Master Gardener program
This is a multi-course program that has been improved dramatically over the last several years. You can take the courses online and at your own pace and participate in online live Q and As. The courses range from Growing Berries to Plant Pathology. It is a veritable candy box of subjects taught by UVM faculty and gardening professionals.

There is also a master composter program to be held again in the September-November time frame in 2019. It covers all aspects of composting, including Act 148, the new law that bans disposal of garden waste and in 2020, food waste.

UVM Extension Master Gardener help line
We have all stared gloomily or crankily at a plant or plants that are just not behaving. Unlike with children a “time out” probably will not work. So … call the helpline. The helpline is staffed by experienced master gardener volunteers with access to university-level research and information. Frequently they can email you links to great articles. They are also just great to chat with.

Currently they are closed for the season, scheduled to reopen March 7, 2019. In the meantime, you can submit a question by email. There is a form on the website. You can also call (802) 656-9562.

Very importantly you can bring a specimen of a plant or a pest to them (or a photo), and they will have it analyzed. The analysis is most often done by Ann Hazelrigg, a UVM plant pathologist…now there is a genius! This service is free. This is a fantastic resource.

Soil tests
Knowing the chemical composition of your soil may seem nerdy, but it is critical. Plants have different chemical needs (think hydrangeas, asparagus, etc). The Extension offers soil tests for $14. You can get the kit from the helpline or by ordering it on line or by contacting UVM’s Agricultural and Environmental Testing Lab. Also, you can print the form from online and put the sample in a clean plastic bag and send it in. For more information, send an email. The soil test will give you information on composition of the soil and what is needed. You may want to take them from different locations in your garden. Highly recommended.

Yeah, beats guessing.

This only scratches the surface of all the services provided by UVM Extension. It is a great place to bookmark and visit on a dismal day.

Vera Maroney has lived in Charlotte for 45 years and in the same house in West Charlotte for 40 years—plenty of time to make every gardening mistake multiple times. She cherishes the local nurseries, the UVM Extension Master Gardener Program and the uncertainty of gardening. And she’s an avid reader of The Charlotte News.