Thursday, July 31, 2014

Six-Legged Scouts in the National Parks

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

At Hodgdon Pond (C.Kagan)
Today I was a "citizen scientist" and spent 4 hours this morning at Hodgdon Pond in Acadia National Park catching dragonfly larvae for a UMaine research project tracking mercury in the water.
Scooping water and sediment to capture larvae (NPS)
 Hip high waders, long-handled net and a small plastic spoon to scoop them from net to a holding tub (can't touch them) and me slogging through muck.
Dragonfly Team: Ranger Michael, me, Julie and James
And getting STUCK - suction that wouldn't release my boot -  my co-"scientists" - Julie and James worked very hard to get me unstuck as Ranger Michael was at the far end of the pond. We all ended up falling down in the muck.

We captured 60 larvae and identified at least three different families. We also scooped up a leech, a salt water clam (? fresh water pond?), caddis fly egg cases, a snail, back-swimmers and either a moss animal or an egg mass of some kind.
Aeshnidae, Libellulidae, and Gomphidae larvae (NPS)
(I don't remember which is which!)
 We chose the largest samples, measured them (Average size 16-22 mm) and put them into bags with an information tag in each bag. 
Plastic sample bags (NPS)
The samples will be frozen and sent to UMaine at Orono for analysis and to confirm the identity.

The toxic form of mercury, methylmercury, increases in concentration in the food chain. (NPS)

Excerpt from study

Why use dragonfly larvae?

Dragonfly larvae live in the water for 1-4 years or more before becoming adult dragonflies. Aquatic systems like lakes, ponds, and wetlands are often where methylmercury (the more toxic form that gets into living things) accumulates.

Dragonfly larvae also eat small fish, tadpoles, and bugs that in turn contain methylmercury. As the dragonfly larvae eat more, the amount of methylmercury in their bodies increase in a process called bioaccumulation. When other animals, such as larger fish, eat the dragonfly larvae these animals also accumulate methlymercury, but at higher concentrations due to biomagnification up the food chain. Dragonfly larvae are abundant and they are found across the country. They are in the middle of the food chain, so they are potentially useful for determining the health of an ecosystem.

Visit the UMaine FBook page Six-Legged Scouts in National Parks/About to find out more about this project. 

Information also available at
National Park Service: Citizen Scientists Study Mercury in Dragonfly Larvae
Integrated Resource Management Application/NPS: More information about data and National Parks participating

Monday, July 21, 2014

Late Summer Events and Workshops

Tomato Day

Master Gardeners will hold their 14th Annual Tomato Day on Saturday, August 23 from 10 am - 2 pm. Free. Come and taste over 20 varieties of tomatoes, enter the largest tomato contest and/or the salsa contest* (or be among the voters for the People's Choice award) and enjoy visiting with Master Gardeners and neighbors.

*Deadline to enter August 18. Call 717-263-9226 and register.

Check out the "Save the Date" list and note that there will be a Fall plant sale at our "Fall into Gardening" event on September 6. More later about this new event.

Avoid the disappointment of fully enrolled workshops by calling now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

National Moth Week is Coming!

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Polyphemus Moth - Antheraea polyphemus
National Moth Week is July 19 through 27, 2014.

Why celebrate moths? 

  • Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
  • Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.
  • Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand.
  • Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen – others fly like butterflies during the day.

Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) Picture Credit Jen Wetzel
Check out previous posts on moths.

Imperial Moth
What is THAT? Cercropia Moth Caterpillar
Waiting for GOoD mOTh
Polyphemus Moth
Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar
Clear Wing Hummingbird Moth
White Lined Sphinx Moth
Tobacco and Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar

Cercropia Moth Caterpillar (Carol Kagan)
Cercropia Moth - largest in N. America

Better yet, go outside after dusk and look for some.

Clearwing Hummingbird Moth
Not a night person? You can try to see a hummingbird moth during the day. Check out all the places hummingbirds and bees would go for nectar such as butterfly bush, phlox and bee balm.

Fun site for the hummingbird moth:

More information on moths

National Moth Week 2013
Extension Master Gardener: Almost Wordless Wednesday- National Moth Week 7/19-7/27

Thanks to Ray E. for several of the previous posts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tomato Day & Fall Into Gardening Events plus Succulent and Turfgrass Workshops

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Succulent Plant from Bob Hyatt's Greenhouse

Simply Succulents Workshop

 August 2, 2014 – 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. – Ag Heritage Building – 181 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg – Learn how to grow and propagate these beautiful and nearly indestructible plants.  This workshop will highlight hardy succulents that can be planted outside as well as those grown as houseplants.  Pre-registration is required by Monday, July 28, 2014.   Call the Extension Office at 263-9226 to register. (Cost is $10 per person.)

Turf Grass (Courtesy Univ. of Wisconsin)

Turf Grass Workshop

August 9, 2014 – 9 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. - Clubhouse at the Barn – Learn how to properly maintain a lawn.  This workshop will feature a demonstration of aeration equipment. Other topics to be covered include weed control, seeding and controlling thatch. Pre-registration is required by Monday, August 4, 2014.   Call the Extension Office at 263-9226 to register. (Cost is $10 per person.)
Blind Taste Testing (Photo: Laurie Collins)

Tomato Day - Now on a Saturday!

August 23, 2014 - 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. - Ag Heritage Grounds- Blind taste tests on over 20 varieties of tomatoes grown by Master Gardeners. Rate the tomatoes, taste salsa recipes for  the People's Choice award, see winners of the biggest tomato and ugliest tomato contest. Free.
Angela Weathers Salsa Verde

Fall Into Gardening - Tours and Plant Sale

Perennial Garden
A new Master Gardener event this year will be on Saturday, September 6, 2014 - 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. across from the Ag Heritage Center near the barn. Tours of the Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens, fall plant sale and more. Visit the drought-tolerant, perennial, herb and pollinator gardens. Stroll through the Woodland Meadow and Native Habitat area and check out the Victory Garden with a variety of vegetables and fruits as well as the new 4-H Achievement Garden. Free. Parking at the Ag Heritage Center lot.
Woodland Meadow and Native Habitat Area has paths to stroll through
The plant sale will include plants, shrubs and trees grown here in Franklin County.

Are you interested in becoming a Penn State Master Gardener?

A new class is forming soon. Contact the office at the number below.

To register for workshops or receive e-mail or regular mailings of our upcoming events, contact the Franklin County Extension Office at 717-263-9226.


Monday, July 7, 2014

"Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" - Rain Barrel Workshop

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Sat., July 12 from 9-11 join Master Gardeners to learn about the benefits of collecting roof runoff and how to make a rain barrel to catch it for use in your home and garden. Call 717-263-9226.

The workshop has two options:

Learn how to make a rain barrel and make one to take home! $40

You can't beat this price for all the material that has been purchased and labor that has been expended to prepare the pieces to assemble.

If you just want to sit in and listen, the fee is $10. But why spend your Saturday morning listening and not doing?!

Seriously. Master Gardeners have spent many hours taking the raw materials and transforming them into the pieces that can be assembled.  There are pipes, holes, and seals and more. These fit! - make and take a rain barrel.

This will be held at the barn area across from 181 Franklin Farm Road.

This is a bargain you can't pass up.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Snip Your Herbs: Use or Save for Winter

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

My Herb Garden July 2014
Another nice morning to work in the garden although at 7:30 am it was already a bit muggy.

Some C'munks in the Back Yard
Dale is alternating between munching on bird seed and raisins and chasing some other chipmunk around and out of the garden. I'm not quick enough with the camera to catch them running in and out of the petunias, daisies and herbs.
There seems to be a few new c'munks this year, hanging out in the back yard. Maybe they're scooting around front to munch on birdseed. We'll have to throw some out back, too.
The weather has been kind to the plants in my yard, providing just enough rain and warm weather. The herb bed, moved this year from the back raised bed due to black walnut contamination, is thriving.
Garden Sage
 The garden sage needed pruning so I took the opportunity to document what has become known as Maria's Drying Technique (after MG Maria G.). This is in preparation for the October 18 MG Workshop: Herbs 103: Harvesting, Preserving and Overwintering Herbs. *
Here's my first try at documenting this. The big picture is that the herbs, after washing and drying thoroughly, are wrapped in a paper towel and dried in the crisper or butter compartment of your refrigerator. This won't work with all that basil. Make pesto and freeze it.

After 2-3 weeks, the dried herbs can be removed and stored. The herbs dried with this method retain their color and do not turn that funky gray-brown like many of the air dried herbs.
Wash, dry thoroughly (Tip: Use a salad spinner to get most of the water off.), and carefully remove leaves from the stems. Place in a paper towel and fold up to a triangle. Fold the flaps in toward the center.

Fold the top triangle down past the bottom fold. Wrap the flap around to the back and tuck it in to form an envelope.
Close-up of the folded envelope
* Penn State Master Gardeners, Franklin County hold workshops all year. To register for a workshop, to get on the e-mailing or snail-mailing for information about workshops and events, call 717- 263-9226.
Here's a few of the upcoming workshops held at the Franklin County Ag Center, 181 Franklin Farm Rd. unless noted otherwise.

Sat, July 12:  Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head: 9-11 -Learn how to use rain barrels to store and use water in your garden. Make a rain barrel ($40) or just sit-in ($10) Deadline to register to make a rain barrel is July
Sat, August 2:  Succulents: 9-11 Learn how to grow and propagate these beautiful and nearly indestructible plants

Fun Events include
Sat, Aug 23: Tomato Tasting Day: 10-2pm Day change by popular demand!    Moved to Saturday- Open to the public. Free parking. Save the Date. Do blind taste tests of over 20 tomato varieties. Taste and vote in the Salsa Contest. See the winners of the ugliest tomato and the biggest tomato contest. Pick up some great tomato recipes. See and feed the ducks in the stream. Enjoy talking with Master Gardeners.
Sat, July 26 Summer Garden Experience: 9-1 pm -Tour the center, do tomato tasting which includes paste tomatoes this year, enjoy seminars; Speaker-Stephanie Cohen, Perennial Diva $10/carload– Located at 1446 Auction Rd Manheim, PA 17545