UD Extension Specialist Shares Favorite Spots for Outdoor Fun

May 31, 2013 under CANR News

Crystal and Quinn Phillips pick strawberriesDot Abbott has fond memories of picking strawberries with her dad as a child. They would head out on early summer weekends, with buckets that her grandfather had made, and not return home until they had 12 quarts – enough for homemade jam, shortcakes, and eating out of hand. She recalls spotting lady beetles on the plants, hearing birdsong in nearby woods, and noticing that the berries hidden under leaves weren’t fat, red and juicy the way that berries exposed to the sun were.

Today, on summer weekends, Abbott has a hunch that many kids are inside, in front of TV or computer screens, rather than outside enjoying activities with their families.

“Staying inside is the default mode; it’s the new norm for most kids. A child is three times more likely to play video games regularly than to ride a bike,” says Abbott, a renewable resources agent with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. “But studies show that regular, unstructured playtime in nature makes kids smarter, calmer, more self-disciplined and cooperative.”

Plus, getting outside is just plain fun – especially during the long, sunny days of summer. If you’re short on ideas of where to go and what to do, Abbott is happy to help. Here’s what she suggests for outdoor fun this summer:

Eerie Evenings at Trap Pond

It looks like a lake [but] a short paddle away, it begins to turn into a swamp and there are loads of lily pads and bald cypress trees and the water starts looking really murky and it feels like you might run into an alligator or something. You definitely don’t want the canoe to tip over in here.

–Review of Trap Pond State Park on TripAdvisor.com

“Boating amid the bald cypress trees at Trap Pond is kind of eerie, especially at night or on foggy mornings,” says Abbott. “As they get older, it can be harder to get kids excited about family outings but even middle schoolers and teens should love a night boat ride at Trap.”

Families can learn about “the eerie sounds and spooky creatures” of Trap’s cypress swamp during special evening pontoon tours June 12, July 10 and Aug. 14.  The state park, near Laurel, is home to the northernmost natural stand of bald cypress trees in the U.S.

The park also offers daytime pontoon tours on weekends, as well as guided kayak and canoe eco-tours. Plus, you can rent rowboats, pedal boats, canoes and kayaks and go out on your own. Boat rides and rentals are available through Labor Day weekend.

For more info, call the park at 875-5153.

Who Knew? Fishing at State Forests

Delaware’s state forests are one of the best-kept secrets for family fun. They’re managed primarily for forest management, so don’t expect to see a concert stage or water park, like at some of the state parks. But you will find trails for walking, running, biking or horseback riding at Blackbird and Redden state forests, plus ponds for catch-and-release fishing. Taber, the smallest of the three state forests, is used most often for hunting. Abbott likes the fact that Blackbird, located on the border of New Castle and Kent counties, has a paved nature trail designed for wheelchair accessibility. To learn more about the state forests, go to http://dda.delaware.gov/forestry/forest.shtml/.

Forget Route 66 – Route 9 is Where It’s At 

If you’re bored some Sunday afternoon, hop in the car and head to Route 9. This 52-mile stretch of meandering country road parallels the western shore of the Delaware River and Bay and offers views of the largest area of preserved coastal marshland on the East Coast.

There are several great spots to stop and view wildlife on the route, says Abbott, including the Port Penn Interpretative Center, where she enjoys taking a short hike into the marsh. At the other end of Route 9, close to the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover, is the new Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) Education Center at St. Jones Reserve. Like Port Penn, it features a boardwalk into the marsh. And don’t miss Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge, near Smyrna, says Abbott. There are several trails through this 16,000 acre refuge, including the Black Swamp Trail, which is handicapped accessible. Plus, kids will love the fact that three of the trails have observation towers.

Overnight Camping at State Parks

Tell ghost stories around a campfire on the beach. Gaze at the stars with a telescope (plus, with a naturalist who can tell exactly what you’re looking at). Snuggle into sleeping bags as your kids enjoy their first campout of the summer – or perhaps their first campout ever.

You can do all this with “Delaware Outdoor Family,” a new overnight camping program offered at Bellevue, Brandywine Creek and Delaware Seashore state parks this summer. It’s offered in conjunction with the Children in Nature/No Child Left Inside initiative, a state effort to get kids outside more.

Family camping on your own is available throughout the summer at Lums Pond, Killens Pond, Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Trap Pond state parks. But “Delaware Outdoor Family” is a guided experience, led by park staff, giving campers access to astronomy programs and other special experiences. For more info, go to www.destateparks.com.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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‘Earth Perfect?’ symposium to take place at UD, area gardens June 6-9

May 28, 2013 under CANR News

ApplecrossAnnette Giesecke is a professor of classics and chair of the ancient Greek and Roman studies department at the University of Delaware She also is the mastermind behind “Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden,” a June 6-9 symposium taking place at UD and several local horticulture venues.

It may seem unusual for a professor of classics to organize a horticulture symposium. But this isn’t a garden-variety garden conference. If you’re only looking for tips on pruning or growing the perfect tomato, you’ve come to the wrong place.

“’Earth Perfect?’ will showcase the garden as an emblem of the ideal human relation with nature,” says Giesecke. “Anybody who is interested in the importance and meaning of gardens, and the politics of gardens, will want to attend. It’s not just an event for academics and garden professionals.”

Frankly, even those of us who never stopped to think about the meaning of gardens – we just know we like them — may find the symposium worthwhile. The eclectic program includes a lecture by UD professor McKay Jenkins on the environmental and health risks of lawn chemicals. There’s a workshop on creating “night spaces” and another on designing with edible plants. You can learn about slave gardens in the antebellum South or contemporary urban vertical farms.

Keynote speakers include Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, and UD’s Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. Mixed in with the lectures and workshops are special tours of Winterthur, Longwood Gardens, Chanticleer and the Mt. Cuba Center.

Giesecke, who has written widely about the gardens of ancient Greek and Rome, was inspired to create the symposium after co-editing a publication also called Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia and the Garden.

Sue Barton, an ornamental horticulture specialist with UD Cooperative Extension, is excited to be speaking at the symposium because she wants to get more people thinking and talking about her lecture topic — livable ecosystems as a model for suburbia.

What’s a livable ecosystem?

The easiest way to explain it is to say what it’s not – a livable ecosystem isn’t a chemically treated monoculture of turfgrass with a few non-native, invasive trees plunked down in the front yard, too far from the house to shade it in summer or serve as a windbreak in winter.

In other words, a livable ecosystem is a far cry from what many suburban yards look like today.

“The traditional home landscape contains a limited palette of plants, has large areas of regularly mowed lawn, and provides relatively few ecosystem services,” says Barton. “Forests and meadows, on the other hand, provide many ecosystem services.”

Rest assured, you don’t need to remove every blade of grass and turn your yard into a jungle to create a livable ecosystem.

Take, for example, the attractive new landscape at a home in the Applecross neighborhood off Route 100 in Greenville. It does look a bit different than the neighbors’ yards – for one thing, there’s a 6,000-square-foot meadow of native grasses. It also features a newly reforested area, adjoining an existing wooded tract.  Invasive plants have been removed and replaced by white oaks, blueberry bushes, ornamental grasses and other native species.

Grass plays a role, too, but it’s been bumped from star of the show to a member of the supporting cast.

“Turf on the property is used purposefully, for recreation areas, circulation, or as the green carpet that sets off other plantings,” says Barton.

The yard is part of a UD research project on livable ecosystems. “We want to see if replacing the typical suburban yard of mostly grass with one containing diverse vegetation can help protect the environment and make landscapes more sustainable,” she says.

The Applecross property is one aspect of a multidisciplinary project involving five UD faculty members and dozens of undergraduate and grad students. Another research site is located at Winterthur, where the UD team is collecting water quality data in three streams that drain from three different landscapes – mowed lawn, meadow, and forest. They’re also collecting data on the diversity of plants, insects and birds in each of these settings.

If you won’t have a chance to hear Barton at the Earth Perfect symposium, you’ll have a second chance on June 14, at a Sustainable Landscape Tour. Sponsored by UD Cooperative Extension, the program includes a visit to the Applecross property, as well as a tour of a bio-swale and wetlands on the UD farm. Barton also will be hosting a shorter tour of the Applecross property later this season. To find out more about these Extension events, email Barton at sbarton@udel.edu.

To register for Earth Perfect or learn more at this symposium, call 831-2793 or go to this website.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Kleczewski joins UD Cooperative Extension as plant pathology specialist

May 15, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

Nathan Kleczewski has joined the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Service as the plant pathology specialist. He replaces Bob Mulrooney, who retired after 38 years with UD Cooperative Extension.

Kleczewski received his bachelor of science degree in biology from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and his doctorate in plant pathology from Ohio State University. He did postdoctoral research at Indiana and Purdue universities. Most recently, he worked as a plant pathologist with FMC Agricultural Products.

At UD, Kleczewski’s work will concentrate on plant pathology in field crops. Although he has only been in his new job since May 1, Kleczewski has hit the ground running. He already has set up meetings with local growers to better understand their needs.

“My work is grower-driven,” notes Kleczewski. “All of my applied research projects will focus on the concerns of Delaware’s farmers.”

KleczewskiNathanRecognizing the ever-increasing role that technology plays in daily life, Kleczewski will create a Facebook page where he will post up-to-the-minute information on plant diseases in Delaware and surrounding states. A farmer in the field need only glance at his or her smartphone to find out the latest issues and learn how to prevent or mitigate crop loss.

“We are very pleased to have Nathan join our Extension team. Each growing season brings its own disease challenges and having plant pathology expertise on our team in Delaware is a critical aspect of successful crop production and sustaining Delaware agriculture,” says Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD Cooperative Extension and Outreach.

Kleczewski grew up in rural Wisconsin. Both his maternal and paternal grandparents owned dairy farms and his uncles currently work as dairy farmers. He always enjoyed studying the sciences but when the time came to enter graduate school he told a college professor, “I want to work in the sciences but I want to do work that my uncles will understand and appreciate. I want to make a difference in the lives of people I know.”

His professor suggested plant pathology and Kleczewski quickly discovered that it was the perfect discipline for his interests. Kleczewski’s wife, Victoria, also works in the agricultural field; she is employed in field development for DuPont.

Kleczewski is enjoying a busy spring. He and his wife settled on a new house in Middletown in late April, and are looking forward to the birth of their first child later this month.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Native Delaware: UD expert releases list of top five bad bugs of summer

May 7, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Summer is right around the corner and along with the good (long days, holiday weekends and lush, green landscapes) comes the bad (humidity, beach traffic and bugs).

Admittedly, there are plenty of beneficial insects that pollinate flowers or gobble pests, and plenty of insects that just hang around, doing neither bad nor good.

In fact, beneficial insects far outnumber pests, according to Brian Kunkel, an entomologist with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. “More than 97 percent of arthropods typically seen in the home landscape are either beneficial or innocuous,” he says.

But it’s the other three percent that can drive us crazy, wreaking havoc with our prized rose bushes, tomato plants or elm trees. Or, in the case of biting insects, leaving itchy welts all over us.

Kunkel has pulled together a list of the worst pests – what he’s dubbed the “top five bad bugs of summer.”

“Another entomologist might come up with a very different ranking – pest conditions change from year to year and from location to location. I’ve had people call me about a stink bug outbreak in one neighborhood and the next neighborhood only had mild issues,” notes Kunkel. “But these ‘top five bad bugs’ are the ones that Extension gets the most calls about; the ones that inflict the most damage in area gardens, nurseries, and neighborhoods.”

Here’s Kunkel’s list of the top five bad bugs of summer 2013:

1. Scale pests

2. Wasps

3. Bagworms

4. Japanese beetles

5. Stink bugs

You might be wondering why cicadas didn’t top this list – after all, it’s been all over the news about the millions of cicadas ready to emerge in the Mid-Atlantic after a 17-year slumber.

While plenty of cicadas will be flying around southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Maryland this summer, Delaware will see only the occasional cicada crossing the state line. That’s because Delaware’s brood – called Brood X – is still burrowed under ground and isn’t due to emerge until 2021.

Bagworms are a pest in DelawareFar more worrisome than big, fat cicadas are teeny tiny scale pests, notes Kunkel. In fact, scale pest are the single biggest threat to Delaware home landscapes virtually every growing season, he says.

These insidious pests are easy to overlook because of their diminutive size and inconspicuous color. Oystershell scales are about one-eighth of an inch long and dark brown, blending right into the tree branches that they latch onto. It usually isn’t until the branch is dying that the homeowner realizes that these bumps are actually insects sucking sap from the tree.

While oystershell scales prefer certain trees – willows, lilacs, dogwoods and poplars here, as well as aspens and cotoneasters out West – they aren’t picky. They’ve been found on 130 different species of plants. And oystershell is just one of 8,000-plus different scale insects; almost every plant is vulnerable to some type of scale insect.

Kunkel rates wasps as the number two bad guy, not because of damage they do to the landscape but because of the damage they can do to people.

Only the female wasp stings but when she does, you’re going to know it. Even a normal, non-allergic reaction usually results in pain, swelling and redness around the sting site. A localized reaction can bring swelling to an entire limb. Allergic reactions, of course, require immediate medical attention.

Next up on the bad bug list are bagworms. Kunkel says there is variability from year to year in the size of Delaware’s bagworm population. “Some years are a lot worse than others,” he says.

Like scale pests, bagworms start out very small and aren’t likely to be noticed by the homeowner. They are generalists in their eating habits – they are known to eat about 100 different species of plants, including cherries, pines, junipers, arborvitae and birch.

Japanese beetles makes Kunkel’s list primarily because of Sussex County outbreaks in recent years “The population of Japanese beetles in Sussex is much higher than in Kent and New Castle counties,” says Kunkel. “Georgetown has some decent-sized populations but throughout Sussex they can be an issue.”

The last pest to make it onto the bad guy list – the stink bug – is the one everyone loves to hate. The brown marmorated stink bug made serious inroads into Delaware in 2011, particularly in New Castle County. Last summer, the population was considerably lower.

Farmers and homeowners in other states have seen considerable damage to their plants. Fruit orchards have been particularly hard hit.

“Thus far, brown marmorated stink bug has been more of a nuisance than a pest in the home landscape in Delaware,” says Kunkel. “However, some of our farmers have experienced issues. We have a number of UD research projects underway so we can work to control this pest.” 

Help for what’s bugging you

Got a pest problem in your yard or garden? Call Cooperative Extension’s free garden help line. In New Castle, call 831-8862; in Kent call 730-4000; in Sussex call 856-2585, ext. 535.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Brian Kunkel

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Kent and Sussex Master Gardener taking applications for Class of 2013

May 1, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

The application period is open for Master Gardener training in Kent and Sussex counties. Master Gardeners enjoy gardening, have gardening experience, want to learn more about gardening and have a desire to help others in their community. Following an intensive twelve-week training program with day-time classes alternating between the two county Extension offices, the trainees volunteer a minimum of 45 hours during their first year before becoming official Master Gardeners. Training is held every other year in the fall. Sessions for the Class of 2013 will begin in September (right after Labor Day and will be completed before Thanksgiving).

Master Gardeners are working volunteers and are supported by Delaware Cooperative Extension through the University of Delaware and Delaware State University Extension offices. Master Gardeners are part of a vibrant community of individuals dedicated to growing a greener Delaware, with a more bio-diverse and sustainable environment. They extend the home garden outreach of Delaware Cooperative Extension, staffing garden “hotlines” for much of the year, offering information at events such as community fairs, festivals and farmers’ markets, talking to local civic groups and working with youth groups and schools. Many provide workshops on favorite garden topics and are available through a speakers’ bureau to make presentations for community groups upon request. A dedicated group of puppeteers in Sussex County perform an educational version of “Peter Rabbit” to the delight of children of all age

Tracy Wootten, horticultural agent for Sussex County, said, “Without these wonderful volunteers, Cooperative Extension would not be able to provide the impressive amount of outreach that is being offered to local Delaware communities.”

The training program includes formal lectures, discussion sessions, tours, workshops, and problem-solving sessions. Advanced training opportunities include state, regional and national workshops, lectures at monthly business meetings, special training sessions, and the shared experiences of a group of skilled, experienced gardeners.

The application can be found online at http://extension.udel.edu/lawngarden/master-gardener-volunteer-educators/become-a-master-gardener/

Send completed applications to: Kent County Extension Office, 69 Transportation Circle, Dover, 19901.

All applications must be received by June 1, 2013. Class size is limited. All applicants must attend a reception on June 20, 2013, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Kent County Extension office. If accepted, you will be notified by letter and will receive further information about classes. It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin. The Delaware Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program is provided in coordination with the University of Delaware and Delaware State University.

For more information, contact Tracy Wootten or Tammy Schirmer in Sussex County, (302) 856-2585, ext. 544 or Maggie Moor-Orth in Kent County, (302) 857-6426, or the University of Delaware Paradee Center Kent County Extension office at (302) 730-4000.

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Extension to host Retail Farm Market School

April 23, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

On Wednesday, May 29, Delaware Cooperative Extension will conduct a day-long Retail Farm Market School for anyone who handles, processes or merchandises fresh market produce, such as local farm market vendors. The school is sponsored by the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Penn State University, Delaware Department of Agriculture and Delaware Agritourism Association. The course runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and will be held at the Elbert N. & Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown. Instructors will be Gordon Johnson from UD and John Berry from Penn State. The tuition is $45.

Topics will include produce handling and merchandising, customer service, sanitation and fresh cut produce. The course will be comprised of several delivery modes including professionally produced video segments, take-home text, post-harvest handling references, hands-on activities and a “certification quiz.”

Each school participant will receive a full-day of retail farm marketing education and networking, a 40-page text that follows the school curriculum, a professional produce knife, a digital produce thermometer, sign blanks and the opportunity to receive a Retail Produce Professional certificate.

The school material is appropriate for new employee training and as a refresher for existing employees who work with fresh produce.

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension welcomes and encourages public participation of their programs, events, and workshops scheduled for the public. All reasonable efforts will be used to meet the accessibility requests. Please contact the office two weeks prior to event to request assistance with any special needs you may have.

Registration deadline is Friday, May 17. Please contact Karen Adams at adams@udel.edu or call (302) 856-2585 ext. 540 to register, obtain additional information and directions. Class is limited to the 35 seats.

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Rose Rosette Disease Summit

April 18, 2013 under CANR News
Pictured from left to right: Steve Hutton, Michael Dobres  Kathleen Case, and Thomas Bewick

Summit participants pictured from left to right: Steve Hutton, Michael Dobres
Kathleen Case, and Thomas Bewick

A two-day national Rose Rosette Disease Summit was held April 15-16 in Newark with researchers from across the country meeting to discuss the disease and plans for future research.

Rose rosette disease (RRD) is caused by the rose rosette virus, carried by a tiny eriophyid mite.

The summit was organized by Tom Evans, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware, and Michael Dobres of the Conard-Pyle Company, and sponsored by the All-America Rose Selections and the Garden Rose Council, Inc.

The conference included a talk given by Nancy Gregory, of UD’s Cooperative Extension, on occurrence and mapping of the disease. RRD has been seen in Mid-Atlantic States since approximately 2001, originally observed on multiflora rose in the landscape. In recent years, RRD has been identified on cultivated roses, including Knockout rose, and has also been identified in public gardens.

University scientists, plant breeders, Cooperative Extension personnel, USDA representatives, private consultants, and rose growers discussed the need for good diagnostic tools, accurate mapping, cultural controls, as well as breeding for resistance. Current control strategies include keeping roses in good vigor, pruning, mite control, and cultural controls such as reducing water on leaves.

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Bloom season kicks into high gear for garden enthusiasts

April 11, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

In April, bloom season kicks into high gear in Delaware. In fact, it might be the single best month to get outside and enjoy the views at the area’s world-class gardens.

At Winterthur, the Winterhazel Walk will soon be the star of the show, reports Linda Eirhart, assistant director of horticulture for the museum, which features a 60-acre naturalistic garden in the midst of nearly 1,000 acres of land.

Delaware bloom season kicks off“The cold weather has held things back but before long the Winterhazel Walk will dazzle with its combination of soft yellow winter hazel and the warm lavender of Korean rhododendron. This is under planted with hellebores, which are still going strong,” she says.

These species are non-native but many of Winterthur’s native plants will soon be in bloom, too. Bloodroot is a sweet little perennial with pure white, cup-shaped flowers. You can find it in Azalea Woods and other wooded areas and thickets throughout the property.

Spring beauty is another little charmer, sporting white petals with stripes that vary from pale pink to bright pink. Like bloodroot, it grows in woodlands. Pay attention to weather conditions during your visit to Winterthur. If it’s warm and sunny, spring beauty will open its petals but on a cloudy day or at night the petals close up and nod downward.

Winterthur’s bluebells aren’t in bloom quite yet but the buds have appeared and will soon burst into bloom. Eirhart says that bluebell is her favorite native wildflower.

“I love the bluebell’s shades of blues and the touch of pink and purple you can get in the blossoms,” she says. “Between the color of the flower buds and the last fading flowers, there is a good length of time of color interest.”

Sue Barton also is a fan of Virginia bluebells, which grow in clusters near the creek on her property. “It’s fun to come upon a mass of bluebells while walking in the woods,” says Barton, who is ornamental horticulture specialist for University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

But it’s flowering redbuds, not bluebells, that signal that spring has sprung to Barton.

“The redbud has an extremely colorful, dark purple or pink flower and an unusual habit of flowers borne directly on the stem,” she says. “I like the ‘Forest Pansy’ cultivar because of its attractive bronze foliage.”

This small native tree grows wild in many of Delaware woodlands. As you buzz down I-95, check out the large stand of redbuds by the roadside, just south of Wilmington. For a more leisurely setting to enjoy redbud blooms, head to the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens. You can find flowering redbuds there, and a whole lot more.

“In bloom, or soon to bloom, are a number of natives, including silverbells, fothergilla, serviceberry, redbud, dogwood and pawpaw,” says Claudia Bradley, nursery coordinator for the UD Botanic Gardens.

She is particularly fond of fothergilla and tends to it not only in UD’s gardens but also in her own home garden. “I always look forward to seeing the fothergilla in flower,” says Bradley. “I like its bottlebrush white flowers now and, then, in fall, its awesome red color.”

Mt. Cuba Center is another great place to check out spring blooms, especially since it’s expanding its public hours. Starting April 19, you won’t need a reservation to visit on Fridays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (From May 3 to July 26, the gardens will stay open until 7 p.m. on Fridays.)  Guided tours will still be available by reservation on other days and times.

Chilly weather delayed some of the blooms at Mt. Cuba, just as it as at Winterthur and other area gardens. But now that it has warmed up, native spring ephemerals will soon emerge in Mt. Cuba’s woodlands, reports Jeanne Frett, a research horticulturist at the center. Look for flowering liverleaf, trout lily, bloodroot, rue-anemone, cut-leaf toothwort and Dutchman’s breeches.

Trees and shrubs also are starting to bloom at Mt. Cuba. If you’d like some April flowering shrubs in your own yard, Frett suggests American bladdernut and spicebush.

“Both of these are found locally in the woodlands and at Mt. Cuba Center,” says Frett. “They’re very appropriate choices for creating your own naturalistic gardens using locally native species.”

Spicebush is one of Delaware’s most common native shrubs. On the female plants, small clusters of yellow flowers appear now, and later develop into red fruit. American bladdernut isn’t the most beautiful April bloomer but it could be the most interesting.

“More of a curiosity than a specimen shrub, the American bladdernut has bell-shaped flowers that develop into three-lobed, inflated, brown papery capsules later in the season,” says Frett.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Spring means lush blooms and wide variety of beneficial bugs

March 20, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

assassin bugSpring officially gets underway March 20, bringing blooms, birds and bugs. Lots of people get excited about the first redbud flower or returning tree swallow. Fewer get enthused about the first Eastern tent caterpillar or green lacewing that emerges in spring.

But a wide variety of flowering plants and songbirds wouldn’t exist without insects. “A number of different insects pollinate plants and many are an important protein source for birds,” notes Brian Kunkel, an entomologist with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

Bugs get a bad rap, says Kunkel. Some bugs – stink bugs, Japanese beetles and yes, Eastern tent caterpillars — deserve the nasty reputation because they damage or destroy ornamental plants, turf grass or agricultural crops.

But many insect species are innocuous – they do no harm. And plenty more, like immature green lacewings, are good guys.

While the adult form of this insect eats pollen and nectar, the young green lacewing gobbles up a slew of pests, including white flies, aphids, adult mealy bugs, and mealy bug eggs and larvae.

“Beneficial insects far outnumber the pests,” says Kunkel. “In fact, more than 97 percent of arthropods typically seen in the home landscape are either beneficial or innocuous.”

(Arthropods, as you may recall from your school days, include not only insects but also spiders, predatory mites and other creepy crawlies.)

Gardeners often grab a can of pesticide at the first sight of a bug, without even bothering to figure out whether the species is a pest.  Retired Hercules technologist and current Master Gardener Frank Ebright used to do that, too.

“I spent my career working with chemicals. I have nothing against them; chemicals have helped to save lives. But I don’t see a need for them in my garden,” says Ebright.

He tends to a two-acre yard in Cecil County, Md. Once he became a Master Gardener 19 years ago, Ebright’s use of chemical pesticides declined but he still spot-treated roses and other plants with pest problems. About five years ago he abandoned lawn chemicals for good and reports that his landscape has never looked better.

“Once I got rid of the chemicals, the beneficial insects starting coming to my yard and taking care of my pest problems,” he says.

Ebright will be leading a Master Gardener workshop about beneficial insects and integrated pest management on May 16. “I want gardeners to use chemical control as a last resort, not the first defense, and learn who their friends are.”

Sometimes it’s easy to identify your friends. Even though there are some 150 species of lady beetles in the U.S., these beneficials are a cinch to recognize. Their size and color may vary but all sport characteristic spots on their abdomens.

Other times, it’s tough to tell friend from foe. For example, the hover fly looks like a stinging hornet but the adult form is a first-rate pollinator that has been ranked just after the honeybee in its effectiveness. Plus, the larvae of many species of hover flies gorge on aphids, a pest that can wreak havoc on everything from roses to maple trees.

Ebright’s go-to book for identifying insects is Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw. If he sees an unknown bug, he snaps a photo of it then compares it to images in Cranshaw’s book.

One of the first steps in integrated pest management is “making sure your plants are happy,” says Kunkel. Essentially, that comes down to “planting the right plant in the right place,” he notes.

If a plant requires moist soil, don’t put it in a dry spot. If it needs full sun, don’t think you can get away with partial shade. A stressed plant won’t be happy and can be more vulnerable to pest infestations, says Kunkel.

Companion plants are another element of integrated pest management. Nasturtium is commonly used as a companion plant, especially in vegetable gardens. Plant nasturtium near cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, collards and kale. The aroma of this colorful annual will repel aphids, squash bugs and striped pumpkin beetles.

Presentations

• May 16, 6-8 p.m.: Find out how to use integrated pest management for an attractive yard and productive vegetable garden. New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, Newark. $25. To request a registration form, call 302-831-COOP or download the form online.

• June 11, 6-8 p.m.: Join Brian Kunkel and other experts for a plant, pest and beneficial insect walk. New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, Newark. Free. Register by email to cjmurphy@udel.edu.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo courtesy of Brian Kunkel

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD’s Carroll returns to animal care roots at Delaware Humane Association

March 18, 2013 under CANR News

For Patrick Carroll, serving as the executive director of the Delaware Humane Association (DHA) is akin to coming full circle since his days as an undergraduate student majoring in animal science in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

UD Alum Patrick Carroll serves as executive director of Delaware Humane AssociationCarroll started out as a pre-veterinary student before deciding that it just wasn’t for him and transitioned into a career more focused on 4-H and youth development. “I got a work study job with New Castle County 4-H and I kind of fell in love with 4-H and youth development and education, so I wanted to be a 4-H agent,” he said.

Carroll worked with Mark Manno, a Cooperative Extension specialist who he said “really helped me a lot — just gave me great experiences and mentored me, and I really owe my love for 4-H to him.” 

Carroll noted how ironic it is that even though he spent a lot of time working with non-profit organizations and youth development, he still ended up doing what he initially went to college for — working with animals.

Of CANR in general, Carroll said that even though he didn’t end up becoming a vet, he felt that the college helped prepare him by giving him a combination of hands-on experience — working with animals ranging from cows to chickens — and a great classroom atmosphere.

“The thing I love most about CANR is that UD is a big university, so you have the big university feel, but then on the other hand, being in CANR was a more tight-knit and closer community. So I really do think that it’s the best of both worlds. I really enjoyed the faculty and the other students. I had a great experience.”

After UD

After graduating from UD, Carroll went to Penn State where he received a master’s degree in extension education. After a four-year stint in Ohio working with 4-H, Carroll decided to move back East and after working at a few different jobs he was informed about an opening for a development director at the Delaware Humane Association.

“I came here as the development director first in 2006 and I was the development director for four years,” said Carroll. “Then our executive director left and I became the acting director and applied to be the executive director, and so I’ve been the executive director for three years.”

As the executive director, Carroll said that his biggest duties include strategy and fundraising, especially now as DHA prepares to build a new facility. After looking for a new home, DHA decided that the best thing to do was stay where they were and upgrade.

Having raised enough money to do so, the organization plans to break ground on the new facility in the spring, which according to Carroll will be the first new animal shelter built in northern Delaware in a long time.

delhumane6859There are other aspects to Carroll’s job, as well. “We have about 30 employees so there’s a lot of facets — there’s a veterinary facet, there’s a facility, there’s fundraising, there’s animal care,” said Carroll.

As a no kill shelter, something that Carroll said is becoming more common in Delaware, a state which has a strong no-kill movement, DHA can house up to 40 dogs and 100 cats.

Carroll said that they do not like to exceed this number for health reasons. “We’re not huge — some of the other shelters are much bigger than us or they have more animals than they can really house — but we try to be very responsible about housing a number that we can manage for health reasons. If we had more animals than we really should, sickness tends to increase.”

By being a no-kill organization, however, Carroll said that medical costs are high. “That’s a big cost of ours. We’re all about adoption, moving animals forward; we’re not a sanctuary, we don’t want anyone to stay here for a long period of time and the first goal of our mission is to be a temporary shelter.”

As for his favorite part about the job, Carroll said there are many, but he especially loves getting to see all of the new dogs when they first arrive.

“We get dogs in two main ways. We have owner surrenders, which is when someone has to give up a dog for various reasons and we take them in. And the other way is we transfer them from other shelters, mainly from the Kent County SPCA,” explained Carroll.

“We usually bring about 7-8 dogs at a time, and so one of my favorite things is when they get back and we open the van doors and you see all these faces of new dogs. It’s just nice to see them get into our doors and we take good care of them and find them a good home.”

Carroll also said that he enjoys connecting people with a pet and creating a life-long connection that way.

“It isn’t even really in my ‘official’ job description but my favorite part is really linking people to pets. I spend a lot of time with people who are looking for a cat or a dog or they’re referred to me or are my friends or family or people I went to high school with or college or whatever. It has major dividends because it connects people to the organization, and if they have a great experience and they love this dog or this cat they adopted they end up being a supporter and coming to our events and they get it because they’ve experienced it firsthand,” said Carroll.

For more information on DHA, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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