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Using Your Extension Service for Home Gardeners

Jessica Kohler is a Web Developer with University of Missouri’s Plant Protection Programs. She is currently working toward her Master’s Degree in Curriculum Development, and hopes to utilize it in curriculum for the areas of art and environmental sciences.

Jessica and her husband Neil are newlyweds who maintain Kohler Created, an eclectic blog detailing their many hobbies and interests. Kohler Created is also a creative, accepting commissions in graphic design and web development. They are in their second year gardening together, having both come from multi-generational gardening families.

Using your Extension Service
by Jessica


Every day, universities around the country engage in ground breaking research and teach the next generation. The nation’s more than 100 land-grand universities also have a third mission: to reach out and “extend” their resources to the public through informal, non-credit programming. What started as an agricultural mission to improve farm productivity and crop yield has grown to include urban gardening subjects relevant to homeowners. Topics include everything from how to build a raised bed garden to how to organize and manage a community garden. Through extension specialists and programs like Master Gardener, you can not only learn to garden more effectively, but solve any hiccups along the way. As any gardener will tell you, even the most experienced gardeners encounter hiccups along the way.

So how do you go about finding all this wonderful information?

Two great places to begin your search for resources are here and here.The first link is a USDA interactive map of all the states and extension locations around the country. The second is eXtension, a relatively new resource that compiles national articles, news, and alerts collected from participating universities and extension offices. The best way to find information and assistance about your particular area of interest is to find your closest major University with an extension program.

Extension Publications and Articles:

The second resource I regularly use to find answers are extension websites and publications. Often, if you don’t have a knowledge base or an answer to a particular problem, you can learn a great deal by reading the academic publications and articles written by professors and specialists. This might sound intimidating, but remember that the purpose of extension is to serve the public. Many, if not most, of the publications have helpful photos and diagrams. For example, last week I came home to find my cabbage being ravaged by 20 or more mystery caterpillars. A simple search on my university extension website led me to this great publication that not only helped me to identify the type of caterpillar, but treat the pests without compromising my desire for an organic garden.

Extension Specialists and Professors:

What if I wouldn’t have found the answer to my caterpillar conundrum waiting for me in an extension publication? My next step would be to contact the publication authors and my local extension specialist. You can find this information and the location of your local extension office listed on the website.

To increase your chances of a quick, concise diagnosis, it’s best to collect as much information as possible before contacting them. When did the problem start? What is it affecting? What does the damage look like? It is helpful to take samples and pictures of the site and problem area. Many university extension programs also have diagnostic clinics available for more comprehensive testing and diagnosis, as well as soil testing and personalized nutritive recommendations.

Master Gardeners and Extension Programming

There is a wealth of programming available to those wanting to learn more about gardening, whether you’re planning your first garden or are interested in taking your education to the next level. Extension programming is taught by professors and specialists and can be found through extension websites or your local office. You can attend a variety of informational sessions, tutorials, or even conferences.

photo credit: here

There are also opportunities for citizens to get involved. The Master Gardener program provides comprehensive training to individuals who volunteer their time to help others in their communities learn about gardening. Through activities such as answer services, workshops, speaker’s bureaus, booths at gardening shows and demonstration projects, Master Gardeners provide information and programming to thousands of people every year. More information on how to join Master Gardeners is available through your university extension website

More links on gardening:

Have you always wanted to try growing heirloom variety vegetables? Then you won’t want to miss next week’s guest post, because it’s all about Heirloom Tomatoes. And I might just have a little something to giveaway for the tomato lovers out there.

Want to link up your GrowCookEat post?:

  1. Write a post about gardening on your own blog, don’t forget to mention www.goodlifeeats and GrowCookEat so that your readers know where they can learn more about GrowCookEat and gardening. Then, come back here to add the link to your post to the SimplyLinked form below.
  2. Don’t have a blog? Tell us about your garden in comments section of each post so we can all see what you’re up to.
  3. Let’s stay on topic, this isn’t an invitation to spam everyone with your blog. If your post doesn’t somehow relate to gardening, it will be deleted. Thanks for understanding.

I’ve set up a GrowCookEat flickr group for those of you who want to upload and share all the photos of your gardens with each other. You can join the group here.