Dear Community Gardeners,

In early August, I attended the virtual conference for the American Community Gardening Association. I wanted to share a few resources and ideas that I learned about through the conference. 

Virtual Community Garden Tours

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference was originally planned to be hosted in Los Angeles, California, and tours of community gardens are an essential part of the American Community Gardening Association conferences. Quickly, the LA Community Garden Council put together a YouTube playlist, with video tours of 12 community gardens. I invite you to take a look! Most virtual tours are between 3-5 minutes long, and it’s interesting to see the similarities and differences between the community gardens in Guilford County and Los Angeles. Virtual tours are a great way to invite other gardeners into your space, while remaining socially distant!

Do you want to create a video tour of your community garden?
I would love to share short videos of gardens in Guilford County in future Community Garden newsletters. 
  1. Think through what you want to say or show in your video -- it helps to write or draw your ideas. 3-5 minutes goes by quickly! 
  2. Video the virtual tour of your community garden -- many smartphones are capable of recording quality short videos! 
  3. Or, contact me -- I would love to come to your community garden in late September or October and help record a short tour. N.C. Cooperative Extension Guilford County has a video kit that includes tripods and microphones that I can bring with me.

Research Supporting the Benefits of Community Gardening
One session was about Community Activation for Prevention, a multi-year research study about community gardens. The study aims to determine whether participating in a community garden promotes health behaviors that prevent cancer, and if so, how and why behavior change occurs. For the study, we measured participants’ diet, physical activity, and emotional and cognitive health. The CAPS study began in January 2017 at the University of Colorado in partnership with Michigan State University, the University of South Carolina, Colorado State University, and Denver Urban Gardens. It concluded it’s final round of data collection in May 2020. The researchers are still compiling their results from the study, but you can read more about their process: Amplifying Health Through Community Gardens

Wishing you all health and wellness,
Quina Weber-Shirk
Community & School Garden Agent
NC Cooperative Extension Guilford County
Webinar from the Extension Master Gardener℠ program of Guilford County: Backyard Composting - Recycling with Nature

Thursday, October 8, 6 PM

Composting is a great natural way to recycle organic material – an estimated 25% of a household’s waste is food scraps and yard trimmings that can be composted. We’ll address the most frequently asked questions about this simple process to help you produce a free soil amendment that improves texture and fertility, which helps all your plants to grow better. Fall leaves provide an excellent seasonal source of raw material so now is a perfect time to get started! Discussion will include the easiest ways to begin in your own backyard, and review the basics like what should or shouldn’t be composted. We’ll also briefly share a little info about having a successful “worm bin” at home. Participants will receive handouts and links to lots of additional research-based information and resources.

Register for the program online - If you encounter problems registering or if you have questions, call Lauren at (336)641-2400.

Webinar Series: Climate Change in North Carolina

The series will begin with an overview of the most up to-date scientific information about climate change from the North Carolina Climate Science Report (NCCSR), as well as a review of activities happening at the state level. Subsequent webinars will take a deeper dive into individual topics to explore the science and actions taking place across the state. This series is hosted by NC State University's State Climate Office of North Carolina (SCONC) and the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies (NCICS). Future webinar topics include Warming Temperatures, Hurricanes and Extreme Precipitation, Fourth and Wildfires, Sea Level Rise, and Talking about Climate Change. 

Fall Community Gardening Learning Series [webinar], Every Other Thursday, 12-1 pm

Join Alyssa McKim from NC A&T University Extension and Quina Weber-Shirk from N.C. Cooperative Extension Guilford County for a virtual community garden learning series that will provide community gardeners with timely training and resources. Each session will include information sharing and time for discussion. Dates and topics are below -- Zoom registration information is coming soon!
  • September 24th - Community garden COVID best practices
  • October 8th - Gardening through the Year
  • October 22nd - Mapping Reciprocal Partnerships
  • November 5th - Evaluation and Recordkeeping
  • November 19th - Defining your Garden


Why Test the Soil?
From A Gardener's Guide to Soil Testing from NC State Extension
Fertilizing plants without knowing the soil pH and fertility is like planning a trip without knowing the starting point. You have to know where you are to know what steps to take to get to your destination. You must know the existing pH and fertility to decide how much (if any) lime and fertilizer to apply for optimum plant growth.

Soil testing is a quick and accurate method to determine the relative acidity of the soil (pH) and the level of several essential nutrients (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, manganese, copper, and zinc) needed. The test results will aid you in plant selection, soil preparation, and fertilization. They will help you avoid overfertilization, which can stimulate excessive plant growth and increase the likelihood of some diseases. It can also help reduce pollution of our water supplies. Excess nutrients applied, but not used by plants, may run off into surface waters during storms or leach into groundwater. By applying the correct grade and amount of fertilizer, you will avoid unnecessary pruning of excessive new growth and have healthier, more productive plants. 

Plants require different pH levels for optimum growth and productivity. A slightly acidic soil (pH 6.0 to 6.5) generally is considered ideal for most plants in North Carolina. However, blueberries, rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and centipedegrass grow best in soils with a pH between 5.0 and 5.5. If the soil pH is above the preferred range for a plant, growth will be slowed or the plant may develop stress problems, such as diseases, insects, nutrient deficiency symptoms, and dieback.

Steps to Completing a Soil Test:
  1. Pick up a soil test box at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Guilford County office. Soil test boxes are available for free in our lobby, Monday - Friday, 8am - 5 pm. 
  2. Collect proper soil samples (there are directions in the resources below).
  3. Fill out the appropriate soil sample form, and label the soil sample box. 
  4. Ship the soil sample(s) and form(s) to the NCDA&CS Soil Testing Lab in Raleigh.
  5. Visit and select Find Your Report (PALS) to view your soil test results.

Soil Testing Resources:

  • Does your community garden need seeds? Contact Quina Weber-Shirk, Community & School Garden Agent,