This year, I got lucky. Helped by the fact that the day I heard about the Albemarle County Master Gardener Seminar, I sent in my check. It's an amazing deal for $20. Five lectures plus lunch, hard to beat!
First up was Dr. Mike Goatley, a turfgrass specialist from Virginia Tech. For an hour and a half, he talked turf and we hung onto every word. I can't resist mentioning that we were in the heart of UVa country and Dr. Goatley came attired in a brown jacket with a maroon sweater over a (bright) orange shirt. Normal clothing in and around Blacksburg, of course. But, back to our topic...we learned that 62% of Virginia's acreage is in turfgrasses. The two biggest uses are ornamental and recreational but it also has many functional benefits. One of the most interesting was for heat dissipation-temperature moderation. Dr. Goatley told us about artificial turf that actually is much hotter in summer than even asphalt...so hot, it constitutes a danger to athletes.
He reminded us that fall is the best time to fertilize lawns. We're still a long ways from converting the public, but we volunteers can help to educate and set the example. It's important to keep that fertilizer on the grass and not on driveways, sidewalks and other surfaces. The nitrogen in the grass does not leach into our waterways, but on those other surfaces, guess where it goes.
I've just teased you with a tiny bit of Dr. Goatley's lecture; however, you can go to www.weblogs.cals.vt.edu/law_garden/ and get turf and garden tips podcasts.
Next up was Jessie Deelo who is an Extension Specialist in Organic Horticulture Cropping Systems. We're talking farming here. We got a nice overview of the trends in organics, a bit about organic certification (at your local grocery, if they carry organic produce....and the trend is that they probably do...the identifying code on the fruit/vegetable begins with a 9), and some idea of the principles and practices. She then discussed in more detail the Prevent, Plan and React system for soil management, weed management, insect pest management and disease management.
More information is available at www.ext.vt.edu. Specifically for Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic Region, check out www.vdacs.virginia.gov www.vopca.org and www.vabf.org. Nationally, check out www.attra.org(/sorg) www.theorganicpages.com and http://sarep.ucdavis.edu. All of these resources were provided by Ms. Deelo.
Lunch was served (barbeque pork/chicken with baked beans and other sides) and was quite nice. We were a hungry bunch!
The seminar marched on with Dr. Holly Scoggins who gave a presentation on Hellebores. I had had the privilege of hearing Dr. Scoggins several years ago at a master gardener seminar at Lewis Ginter, so I knew that she, too, would entertain us. She's very funny and had what were, I'm sure, wonderful slides. Unfortunately, the lighting was such (couldn't be turned off) that it really washed the slides out and made them difficult to see. Well, if you're read here before, then you know I like hellebores! I've heard the Tylers of Pine Knot Farms speak as well as Barry Glick of Sunshine Gardens. Dr. Scoggins has visited both of these Hellebore growers (as well as others...she is serious about her plant expeditions!) and it was interesting to follow along on her journeys. Dr. Scoggins is the director of the Hahn Horticulture Garden which I enjoy visiting very much when I'm at Virginia Tech.
One thing I learned was that I should probably move my hellebore seedlings. I already knew it could take quite a while for them to bloom. Her presentation showed us just how difficult it is to select for color (although progress is being made) and how tissue culture has made wonderful hellebores available to the public.
Dr. Scoggins did a second presentation on Hot New Plants. Since I've already mentioned the slide viewing woes, I'll just say that it was great to have a plant list provided. I'm sure it was difficult to narrow it down to just those on our list (time constraints), as Dr. Scoggins goes to all kinds of plant shows, trials, conventions, you name it. There were even a few slides from events in Europe. She gave us a very useful tip (hehe) on how to get ourselves into for-the-trade shows so we can see some of the up-and-coming plants for ourselves.
Both of her lectures were enjoyable and informative even though poor Dr. Scoggins was battling a cold or virus. We should all be so tough!
The final speaker was Mike Likins, the Extension Agent from Chesterfield County. He gave a very easy to understand lecture on a very difficult topic, i.e., Plant Disease Diagnosis. I just wish he had included a handout (next time, Mr. Likins!) as he gave all kinds of useful information, but it was difficult to write it all down. One of his tips was that powdery mildew is found on the top of the leaf while downy mildew is found down or on the bottom of the leaf.
The seminar concluded with some door prizes of useful books. Hats off to the Albemarle County Extension Office and their master gardeners for an excellent seminar! I'll definitely be looking for it next year.