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  • Author or Editor: Angela O’Callaghan x
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Gardening in the Mojave requires different skills from those needed elsewhere. Southern Nevada's population explosion greatly increased requests for appropriate horticultural information. This placed a large demand on Cooperative Extension. To meet the need, volunteers receive extensive training on topics of interest to residents. Those who complete training and meet other requirements are titled “Master Gardeners”. Two hundred volunteers staff a help-line 5 days per week and participate in 20 community projects designed and led by Master Gardeners under UNCE supervision. About 50 people annually attend a 70 hour session (daytime or evening). The evening session was added to give people with day jobs the chance to learn gardening information in order to contribute to the community. Extension faculty and other professionals teach the classes. Topics include horticulture and plant nutrition, soils, irrigation, pruning, plant diseases and insects, and desert ecology. Students evaluate each class. Attendees come to the program through mass media and word of mouth. Most Master Gardeners are white, but active recruitment has increased the number of participants of color. For certification, one must complete training, pass a comprehensive final exam, and give a minimum of 50 hours—15 hours at the help desk and another 35 hours either at the help desk or a project. Volunteers are recertified each year if they contribute at least 35 hours at projects or the help desk and spend 15 hours in continuing education. Those who cannot meet the requirements are placed on inactive status. Adding an orientation session introducing Cooperative Extension, the MG program and its volunteer requirement has improved the ratio of attendees to those who later become certified.

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Nitrogen is essential to development of bulbing crops such as garlic (Allium sativum L.). Little scientific research thus far has concentrated on the optimum timing and concentration of applied N fertilizer for garlic grown under conditions found in the northeastern United States. A trial in Freeville, N.Y., on a gravely loam soil used three levels of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, 0 kg·ha–1, 52 kg·ha–1 sidedressed in mid-Apr., and 52 kg·ha–1 applied in mid-Apr. and early June 1995. The samples included a nonbolting (softneck) garlic and a bolting (topset) clone `Spanish Roja', both grown under wheat (Triticum aestivum) straw mulch. A separate trial in East Ithaca studied the same clones plus another topset, Merrifield Rocambole, on a sandy loam soil, using two levels, 0 and 52 kg·ha–1, of ammonium nitrate applied in mid-April only. The East Ithaca trial also examined the efficacy of hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) as an alternate N source. Application of ammonium nitrate in April increased average bulb size of topset in Freeville >30%, and the average bulb size of softneck by 23%. Applying in April and June increased average bulb size of topset by 35% and of softneck by 26%. Earlier timing of the second application might enhance these increases. The East Ithaca trial found N fertilization increased average bulb size by 30% for `Spanish Roja', by 20% for Merrifield Rocambole, and 23% for softneck. Analysis of leaf tissue of garlic grown with vetch found that ammonium N increased by 22% to 28% in topset garlic and 14% to 26% in softneck. These results indicate that N fertilization, in the form of either chemical fertilizer or a legume, can benefit this crop in northeastern United States.

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Garlic (Allium sativum L.) has been cultivated in much of the world for millennia. Little scientific research, however, has focused on improving cultural conditions for production in the temperate regions of the northeastern United States, where garlic is gaining importance as a horticultural crop. To study the effectiveness of wheat straw (Triticum aestivum) mulch on garlic, experiments were conducted at the Cornell Univ. research facilities in East Ithaca, N.Y., during the 1993–94 (year 1) and 1994–95 (year 2) growing seasons and at the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm, Freeville, N.Y., during the 1994–95 growing season. Two clones, one bolting and one nonbolting, were studied in year 1, and four varieties, three bolting and one non bolting, in year 2. All were fall-planted (mid-October), and mulch treatments were covered with wheat straw early in the following December. Control plots were not covered. The mulch either remained on the crop throughout the growing season or was removed early in the spring to expedite soil warming. This is the common practice among growers who use mulch only for winter protection. The presence of mulch during the winter increased the survival rate. Soil temperatures under the wheat straw were significantly lower during the summer than soil temperatures in unmulched plots, which could have contributed to the increase found in the yield and average bulb size of several of the cultivars. Maintaining the mulch through the entire growing season reduced weed pressure >30%. We found no significant increase in the amount of basal fungal infection. The results indicate that using straw mulch can improve garlic produced in the northeastern United States.

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An important element of the social horticulture program at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has been the creation of school gardens to enhance educational efforts for children in Las Vegas. Since 2002, a variety of methods has been employed to train teachers and administrators in using gardens, and this has resulted in establishment of successful gardening programs. Southern Nevada has experienced a 400% population increase in 25 years. Results of surveys of area stakeholders between 2000 and 2002, Clark County elementary school staff in 2001, and Clark County school principals in 2004, indicate a desire to incorporate gardens in schools, but concerns about establishing and maintaining them persist. Furthermore, apprehension about trying to garden under challenging climatic conditions characteristic of the Mojave Desert is expressed frequently, as is hesitation about using gardens to enhance the school curriculum in at-risk schools. When offered training in use of gardens, however, a majority of principals surveyed responded positively. They also expressed interest in tracking the educational and social impacts of gardens on students and faculty. This article reports on results of community stakeholder meetings and surveys of Clark County schools, as well as the methods that are being used to create a school gardens program in the most rapidly growing metropolis in the United States.

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The Las Vegas Valley receives most of its water from the Colorado River due to a static federal water allocation the remainder from pumping groundwater. The increased water demand due to the population rise in the Las Vegas Valley is expected to overtake its current water allocation in the next few years. Over 60% of the potable water used in the Las Vegas valley is used to irrigate urban landscapes. Poorly designed desert landscapes can ultimately use more water than traditional landscapes and increase residential energy costs. Most of the desert landscaping currently installed by homeowners either ignores principles that conserve water or conserve energy. The program was designed to be used with homeowner associations and commercial landscapers. The residential homeowner proved to be the most responsive to this type of program. The overall goal of this program is to teach residents how to convert a high water use landscape to lower water use and reduce dependence on potable water for irrigation and still maintain high quality landscapes. In 1995, a 7-week, hands-on, landscape design curriculum was developed and used to teach homeowners how to create desert landscape designs that conserve water and energy and compared its water use to traditional, turfgrass landscapes. Participants leave the course with a finished design of their making with information on how to install the landscape themselves or how to hire a professional to do the installation. In 1996-97 a Master Gardener was taught and mentored how to teach the class in Las Vegas using the existing curriculum. Since 1995, over 500 residents have been trained and water use savings documented by the existing water purveyors. This program is self-funded through class fees.

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University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) faculty members have taught horticulture to inmates of correctional facilities for over 8 years. The training material used was the Master Gardener curriculum. Because inmates in Nevada have few opportunities to meet requirements for certification as Master Gardeners, this program was described simply as a horticulture class. Over the past 3 years, we have redirected it toward job readiness to assist inmates after release. The curriculum was first expanded to do intensive teaching on such topics as irrigation, landscape plant selection and maintenance, and problem solving. Even with these changes, horticulture jobs generally limited to low-paying, entry level ones. To improve employment opportunities, UNCE obtained the involvement of the Nevada Department of Agriculture. After inmates have passed the horticulture program, they may take the state pesticide applicator training and examination. This year, a mini course in “Developing a Business Model” will be added to the initial curriculum. To date, 36 inmates have received PAT certification. Conversations with potential employers indicate that this significantly enhances their likelihood of employment at a higher-than-entry level.

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This study used quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the impact of indoor gardening on elderly residents of a low-income assisted living facility over a 4-week period. Mastery, self-rated health, and self-rated happiness were pre-, post-, and post-post measured to evaluate whether a short-term introduction of indoor gardening that involved individual plant-care responsibility would improve these measures that are predictive of health and quality of life. Eighteen residents participated in four 2-hour interactive horticulture classes taught by a social horticulturist and a sociologist. Class members showed a significant increase in mastery, self-rated health, and self-rated happiness. The results of this study indicate that a basic horticultural activity, as simple as learning how to maintain a houseplant and taking individual responsibility for one, can have a short-term positive impact on the quality of life and on primary indicators of future health outcomes of older adults residing in assisted living facilities.

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Southern Nevada Master Gardeners (MGs) donate 50 hours annually to educational and service projects. These volunteers respond to community needs by developing and staffing horticultural projects under UNCE supervision. In Las Vegas, 20 such projects exist. Some are more energy and information intensive than others. Mojave Guides are docents at the Desert Demonstration Garden, a part of the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, not Extension. They commit to a shift at the garden, providing information to visitors. While they are directly supervised by garden staff, the hours they contribute are Master Gardener hours. These volunteers receive training in desert flora from gardens staff and participate in seminars on selected topics. The MG Orchard Team operates a teaching orchard at the Center for Urban Water Conservation in North Las Vegas. These volunteers maintain hundreds of fruit trees and grape vines. They receive training on topics related to fruit trees and orchard management. This project began in 1996. Since 2002, they have been formalizing their organization using the logic model and SWOT analysis. Many members work weekly at the orchard and take the produce to a local farmers market. This raises funds for the orchard and is an opportunity to teach the community about desert horticulture. Project PLANT volunteers work at the Red Rock National Recreation Area visitor center and grounds. They are docents who also learn about and maintain the native plants there, and prevent infestations of invasive weeds which threaten the area. Their monthly meetings include training on topics related to the project. These projects are successful because of the MGs themselves. They grew out of interest and continue because the volunteers have drawn commitment from others.

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Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers are central to expanding the outreach and engagement of extension staff. A workshop format was used at the Annual Conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science on 31 July 2012 in Miami, FL to identify successful management techniques and projects that expand EMG volunteer outreach, leading to increased extension effectiveness. One program leader described how EMGs manage a farmer’s market that has been thriving for more than 30 years, generating income for the EMG program as well as the county extension office. Another program leader described a beneficial partnership between EMGs and the university in which EMGs grow plants for demonstration gardens and classroom use, facilitating learning for university students, EMGs, and the public. EMGs in another program have assumed much of the management role of the university orchard, using it for teaching and demonstrations. The final discussion focused on extension programs that used volunteers to assist in conducting research to expand extension’s capabilities, and also increasing EMGs’ understanding of the research process. All projects emphasized the need for extension agents to empower volunteers to take on leadership and decision-making roles as well as the value of EMGs to extension.

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