Sussex County Master Gardeners develop accessible gardening program

July 10, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Tracy Wootten knows all about the physical and emotional benefits of gardening. A horticulture agent for University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Wootten maintains large vegetable and flower gardens at her Seaford home. It gives her a boost to be out in the garden, re-charging her batteries after a long day on the job.

But she also has seen how the pleasure of gardening can turn into frustration for those with physical limitations.

“My mother-in-law has arthritis and certain garden tasks can be challenging for her,” says Wootten. “And, as my own parents age, I’ve seen them face difficulties in the garden, too.”

Helping gardeners cultivate their green thumbs despite mobility issues or other limitations is the goal of Garden Smart; Garden Easy, an accessible gardening program developed by the Sussex County Master Gardeners.

“I would hate to have all the good things associated with gardening — physically, emotionally and socially — taken away from my mother-in-law or any other gardener,” says Wootten. “Garden Smart; Garden Easy helps to remove barriers through creative adaptations of tools, techniques and garden lay-out.”

For example, the Master Gardeners might suggest raised beds for a person who has trouble bending or kneeling. These beds can be made with wide ledges so that gardeners can sit comfortably while they work or high enough so that they can stand (great for people with back trouble). Table-top gardens and container gardening can be solutions for people in wheelchairs or those with other mobility issues.

Impediments to gardening aren’t always readily apparent, notes Wootten. A person might have trouble with eye-hand coordination or fine motor coordination; decreased strength, stamina or flexibility; poor balance; chronic pain; or increased sensitivity to heat, sun or cold.

Even gardeners without these kinds of barriers can find inspiration in Garden Smart; Garden Easy. For example, people who don’t have yards can turn to containers or table-top gardening. And the program is a source of ideas for gardeners like Wootten who are simply pressed for time.

“Garden Smart; Garden Easy suggests drip irrigation over hand-watering as a way to conserve your energy,” says Wootten. “I use soaker hoses to keep up with the garden when life gets extra busy. Otherwise, I’d be out there with a hose at 9 p.m., which is not the ideal time to water.”

Garden Smart; Garden Easy was launched in January 2011, says Bob Williams, chair of the Master Gardeners’ accessible gardening committee. The response from the public has been enthusiastic.

In the first six months of this year, the program reached more than 600 people through workshops at senior centers, garden clubs and therapy groups, as well as public events such as farmers markets and community fairs.

And any day of the week, visitors to the Demonstration Garden at the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown can learn more about accessible gardening. Free self-guided tours of the garden are available from dawn to dusk.

The accessible gardening area showcases several types of raised beds, including table gardens that can be moved to suit the needs of the gardener. It also features hanging baskets on pulleys that can be lowered for easy reach; containers filled with lightweight potting soil (sphagnum, moss and perlite reduce the weight); and benches placed in strategic spots for rest and enjoyment of the garden.

An open house will be held at the Demonstration Garden on July 14. Master Gardeners will explain how to use modify existing tools, such as using pipe insulation to increase the diameter of tool handles. Plus, there will be plenty of specially designed products and tools — like wheelbarrows with two wheels in front.

“It’s rewarding to hear how Garden Smart; Garden Easy is making a difference in the lives of area gardeners,” says Wootten. “One gentleman sought our advice on ways to get his mother back into gardening after her physical limitations brought on depression. The Master Gardeners helped him modify his mother’s garden and now she is back to doing what she loves.”

‘A Day in the Garden’ open house 

On Saturday, July 14, visitors can learn all about accessible gardening at this free open house.

Plus, there will be 20-minute workshops on shade gardening, saving money in the garden and how to make herbal vinegar and flavored honey.

A plant sale will feature perennials, shrubs and trees. For children, there will be presentations of Peter Rabbit’s Adventures in Farmer McGregor’s Vegetable Garden” as well as scavenger hunts and other activities.

The event will be held from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. at the Carvel Research and Education Center, 16483 County Seat Highway, Route 9, west of Georgetown. For more info, call 856-7303.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UD program teaches female entrepreneurs about ag business

January 13, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, in conjunction with the University of Maryland, is offering a series of classes focused on the business of agriculture, geared specifically to women.

The classes begin Jan. 26 and are part of a national program called Annie’s Project. The registration deadline is Friday, Jan. 14.

“Annie’s Project developed as a way to empower farm wives,” says Tracy Wootten, Cooperative Extension horticultural agent for Sussex County. “It was designed for women who work with their husbands on family farms to help take them to the next level of knowledge. But the program is equally appropriate for those who have never been a part of agriculture but would like to be.”

The eight-part series focuses on the myriad aspects of managing a farm or other agricultural operation. Topics covered include risk management, production, marketing, computer and other technological issues, financial affairs, and human resources.

Special guest lectures will be presented by Robin Talley, of the USDA Farm Service Agency, who will speak about updates to the agency’s programs, and by Buck Smith, who will discuss effective estate planning.

Annie’s Project encourages females in agriculture to build professional networks. The class format encourages such networking via a dinner and social networking period at the beginning of each three-hour class session.

The program runs from Wednesday, Jan. 26, to Wednesday, March 16. It will be offered at UD Extension’s Paradee Center, 69 Transportation Circle, Dover. The cost of the course, including meals and materials, is $75. Registration ends Friday, Jan. 14.

The class is limited to 25 participants but late registrants will be accepted if any space is still available.

For more information, call Tracy Wootten at 302-856-7303 or email her at [], or call Maria Pippidis at 302-831-2506 or email her at [].


Master Gardeners Offer Winter Workshops

January 3, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Where do Delaware gardeners go in winter?

A lucky few have second gardens in Florida or other subtropical climes, where they can put their hands in the soil all winter long. But most local gardeners simply go into planning mode, using the cold-weather months to prepare for the growing season ahead. For many, that means attending Master Gardener workshops.

“We never used to offer horticulture programs in the dead of winter; we took a break in between our fall and spring workshops,” says Carrie Murphy, New Castle County Cooperative Extension horticultural agent. “But three years ago, Master Gardeners offered a January series with an environmental theme. The response was overwhelming; gardeners came out in droves. It was very evident that this series filled a need for programming at this time of year.”

The “Keep it Green” series is on hiatus as Murphy and the Master Gardeners revise curriculum. But in its place this January and February is a winter series with an eclectic bent. These New Castle County programs include topics for experienced gardeners, such as espaliers, as well as topics for beginners, like an introductory vegetable gardening program.

The Kent-Sussex Master Gardeners also offer a winter series, by popular demand, says Tracy Wootten, Extension’s horticultural agent for Sussex County.

In northern Delaware, the “Vines and Espaliers” class on Feb. 10 will appeal to those jaded sorts who wonder “so what else is there?” Climb to new creative heights by trying espaliers — the pruning of trees and other woody plants so that they grow flat against a wall, fence or structure. Vines and other forms of vertical gardening also will be discussed.

“Tom Maddux, who is teaching this class, has created a great vertical garden at his garden in Old New Castle,” notes Murphy. “It’s fascinating to see what he has done with vines and espaliers.”

The format of virtually every Master Gardener program encourages interaction. But audience participation is a must at “Garden Line Live” on Jan. 13. This two-hour question-and-answer panel is an in-person version of the phone line that Master Gardeners operate.

Eight Master Gardener experts will field questions on anything garden related — lawn maintenance, insect management, vegetable gardening, composting, plant selection and landscape design. If the panelists get stumped, they’ve got a “life line” in Dick Pelly, a research whiz and longtime Master Gardener who will stand by with research books and Internet access.

Murphy isn’t sure what to expect but if it’s anything like the 1,100 phone calls the New Castle County garden line receives annually, there will be questions about stink bugs (a hot topic this year) and deer control (always the number one question on the phone line).

The winter series also features “Preparing Your Landscape for Spring” on Feb. 16 and “Starting Your Vegetable Garden” on Feb. 23.

In southern Delaware, the Kent-Sussex Master Gardeners will present four winter classes, including a class with a philosophical slant, “Planning/Journaling in the Garden” on Feb. 17. Instructor Jessica Clark was inspired by Fran Sorin’s Digging Deep, to present a planning workshop that’s about more than just obtaining soil samples and deciding when to add compost.

“In the words of Fran Sorin, ‘your garden should be a place where the feeling of your hands in the dirt offers a deep, primordial connection with the earth, where you can learn what can work for you in the physical garden and where it can work in your emotional garden,’” notes Clark.

A Jan. 13 house plant session details common mistakes made in caring for house plants and includes a re-potting how-to. Other offerings include vegetable gardening on March 10 and a garlic class on Feb. 10, featuring details on how to plant, grow and cure two popular cultivars of garlic.

Learn more

In New Castle County, to register or for more information, call 302-831-COOP or go to the website. In southern Delaware, call 302-856-7303.

Article by Margo McDonough

This article can also be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.


Sussex County Master Gardeners Announce “A Day in the Garden”

July 6, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Sussex County Master Gardeners, of Delaware Cooperative Extension for both Delaware State University and University of Delaware, invite you to their Open House on Saturday, July 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sussex County Extension Office in Georgetown. Admission is FREE. Visitors are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to the event and join Master Gardeners in supporting the Delaware Does More Program – growing food and funds for neighbors in need.

The Sussex County Extension Office is located at 16483 County Seat Highway, Route 9, west of Georgetown (west of Sussex Tech High School and on the same side of the road).  Look for the blue and gold tent in the Sussex County Demonstration Garden, immediately behind the office building. Ample parking is available.

A Day in the Garden Highlights – 2010

Accessible Gardening: Tour our gardens to get ideas for quick & easy ways to make gardening enjoyable for all. See tools and gardening aids, raised beds, containers and much more. Receive tips from a visiting physical therapist for staying fit and working in the garden at any age.

New for 2010! Plant Sale!

Children’s Garden: Enjoy story time in our Peter Rabbit’s Garden. New for 2010 – Meet Mr. McGregor and Peter at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Go on a scavenger hunt or enjoy our butterflies, frogs and goldfish. Bring your camera for great photo opportunities. Come enjoy all our children’s activities – from learning about insects, to potting your own plant and more.

New to Vegetable Gardening? Learn from years of Master Gardener experience and tour our vegetable garden. Learn about the Plant A Row Program to help those in need enjoy fresh produce.

Rain barrels are great ways to catch rainwater for use in the garden.  Learn how to make your own.

Love Trains? Love Gardening? Enjoy watching our train in the garden. Learn how to add interest and greater enjoyment with both hobbies.

Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer your gardening questions. Visit our native plant, herb, shade, bog, annual, perennial, pond, butterfly and children’s gardens. Get ideas for gardening with limited space using raised beds and containers. What varieties grow well in Sussex County? Tour our azalea, hydrangea and annual trial gardens to find out.

Have a plant problem? Bring it to our Plant Clinic for identification and recommendations.

Door Prizes will be awarded to visitors. No rain date is set for this event.

Bring a brown bag lunch and eat in our shaded picnic grove!

Just added! What’s wrong with my plants? – A garden walk focusing on pests will immediately follow the Open House event. This free workshop runs from 2 to 4 p.m. and does require pre-registration. Learn about the most common landscape pests in Sussex County. Learn how to use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) to spray less and save money. Learn how to identify beneficial insects that help keep the “bad” insects in check. What makes your garden attractive to beneficial insects. For more information, contact Karen Adams or visit the Master Gardener workshop page.

For More Information: Contact Tracy Wootten at 302-856-2585, ext. 538, or Karen Adams at ext. 540,  Please visit our website for detailed directions, photo gallery and more information: