Solutions in Your Community
Fall 2020
Master Gardener Program Assistant Position Open

University of Maryland Extension in Charles County is hiring a new Master Gardener Coordinator to support educational activities related to gardening and horticulture, including field days, fairs, meetings, field tours, workshops and seminars. Primary responsibilities are to provide leadership and support for the Charles County Master Gardener Program.

For more information on the minimum qualifications, duties, salary, and to apply, click on this link

Closing date: November 23, 2020
Financial Day is Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Click HERE for the Agenda
Click HERE to Register

Where is the 4-H Program at This Time of Virtual Learning?
Bonnie Boyden
Program Management Specialist
2020 has been an unprecedented time in the 4-H world. While the stay-at-home orders have been frustrating for many, the 4-H programs are adapting to help families during this challenging period. What is new with delivering 4-H programs? Everything!

The early spring is usually filled with planning meetings and promotional releases for summer 4-H programming and getting ready for Fair. However, 2020 decided there would be a new routine for the 4-H program. 4-H professionals, volunteers and families were faced right away with figuring out how to continue 4-H amid COVID-19 with no face-to-face options. At the time, common questions were: How can our clubs meet? What will those meetings look like? How can we continue 4-H programs through a stay-at-home order?

Now in November, those questions are no longer relevant. 4-H professionals, volunteers, youth and families rose to the occasion to conquer those initial fears. The 4-H team began to brainstorm and ask what other county and state programs were doing to continue 4-H. Committees such as 4-H livestock, dog leaders and the 4-H club leaders have been meeting through zoom to discuss how to proceed with reaching the youth and their needs. But there were many challenges to 4-H team, volunteers, youth and families. Some pieces were and are missing. Not all 4-H families have the bandwidth to access everything that is being offered online. Both day camps and resident camps were cancelled for the year. Dog, horse and livestock shows were cancelled also. However, we will not allow the problem to define us. County video project lessons are being delivered across 4-H social media via Facebook and YouTube. Everyone continues to work together on how to continue 4-H programming.

Youth have participated in programs virtually such as food and nutrition, vet science, record keeping and 4-H club meetings. 4-H relies heavily on in-person club meetings in order to help kids gain leadership skills and improve public speaking, but we have been able to see those skills develop and grow via distant learning experiences for the youth.
As we have moved forward to begin to do some face-to-face events, such as drive-through camp and trunk or treat, our youth still experience the void in missing the summer programming.
Here are a few of our 4-H'ers' thoughts about not having camp this year:
I am so thankful for all of the leaders at camp! 4h Overnight Camp is one of my favorite memories of every summer, and I am heartbroken that we couldn't go this year. ~ Reece

4-H camp always has been and always will be one of the biggest parts of my life. They’re a second family to me and will be even when I age out. So, I want to say thank you to big foot for making this experience possible and giving me an outlet from this crazy world, without you guys I would not have all the friends and memories I have now. So thank you for being part of my 4-H family and for all you do because I promise it is never unnoticed. See you at camp in 2021! ~ Mya

The 4-H camping program has shaped my life more than you can imagine. Many years ago when I joined camp I was in a dark place. My life felt dim and dreadful, but luckily, not my whole summer. 4-H summer camp allowed me one week where I could escape from my troubles at home and truly enjoy my summer like every kid deserves to. I made friends, memories, and a whole summer's worth of fun packed into one week. Camp was exactly what I needed. And as we know, connections give purpose to our lives. In a world where I felt lonely and like a failure, camp made me feel purpose and belonging - two vital elements in our hierarchy of needs. Not only did camp provide light for me in a dark time, but it contributed immensely to my character. Without camp I might not have learned the extent of maturity, kindness, empathy, gratefulness, and appreciation for life that I have today. Thank you for making 4-H Summer Camp possible and I can't wait for 2021.
As you can see, 4-H in-person programming makes a difference in youths' lives. We will continue to have classes and meetings via technology to keep the 4-H programming 
safe for families until we can gather face-to-face again. We are dedicated to providing a venue for youth to learn and grow, all with a good measure of fun as possible. As we're moving forward in our virtual world, we will continue to come up with ways to deliver things young people want from 4-H.

Most importantly, despite missing out on some experiences, 4-H members, families, volunteers, and the 4-H Team are coming together while keeping physical distance and using technology to “Make the Best Better.”

Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions or suggestions about the 4-H program. Email me (Bonnie) at
4-H Trunk or Treat, Drive-Thru Style
Darby D'Ambrosio
Program Assistant, 4-H/EFNEP 

What fun! Families of 4-H visited the Charles County Fairgrounds on Friday, October 23, to receive a few tricks and lots of treats! The story of the Blue Dog was incorporated into the Drive-Thru style event. Everyone followed the State's directives (wearing masks and practicing social distance) to ensure a safe, in-person event. The 4-H participants received pumpkins, STEM crafts, school supplies, activity sheets, candies and more. 

4-H . . . More Important Than Ever!
Amy Lang
4-H Youth Development Educator
Over the past 8 months, the COVID pandemic has impacted each and every one of us. In May 2020, the 4-H National Council conducted a survey of 1300 teens between 14 and 18 years of age to better understand how the pandemic was impacting them. The findings revealed that youth across the nation are experiencing increased anxiety and stress in light of the COVID pandemic. Youth are concerned for both their own personal safety, as well as the safety of their family members. They reported an increased sense of loneliness and social isolation, and concern over economic challenges in many of their families stemming from COVID-related job loss and disruptions.

As we reflect on the concerns of our 4-H youth and families, we realize that our positive youth development efforts are needed, now more than ever. At 4-H, we work every day to create experiences where young people can grow and develop in a caring, supportive environment. The pandemic has definitely created some challenges in this arena. We are not able to meet in person for many of our traditional programs. Yet, as we listen to the voices of our children, we realize that they need us more than ever right now. Youth and families are experiencing stressors never before seen, and even more concerning, are having to manage this new environment without many of the traditional supports.

The good news is that 4-H has not gone anywhere during this challenging time. We are still here, working every day to support our young people and provide settings where they can put their pandemic concerns aside for a bit, and experience a sense of belonging with their 4-H friends and adults.

As you can see in the above photos and description of the October 23 trunk or treat event, the 4-H staff and volunteers created a night of socially distanced fun for all. It was great to see so many youth and families. In addition, we’ve been hosting a wide variety of virtual events. Staff recently completed a veterinary science program with youth across the state, and are wrapping up an 8-week environmental sustainability course with youth in Waldorf, while holding weekly livestock skillathon practices.

In the coming months, we plan to continue supporting the youth of Charles County. We hope you’ll join us for some of the exciting programs coming up:
  • Outdoor Discovery Club – We meet the first Saturday of each month, and are seeking two folks willing to work alongside Amy Lang to plan and coordinate monthly sessions.

  • Youth Council – We’d like to pull together a small group of youth willing to advise 4-H staff on program offerings. We believe our youth know best what they want and need; we want to hear your voices.

  • Forestry Club –This state-wide club will begin meeting in March 2021, working with forestry experts from across the state to investigate forestry careers and prepare for participation in the National 4-H Forestry Invitational to take place in West Virginia in July 2021.

In addition, plans continue to move forward for a new round of Veterinary Science classes and animal weigh-in/tagging events in early 2021.

Please send an email to Amy at, if you might be interested in any of these exciting opportunities. We would love to see you!
Pumpkin 5 Ways

Looking for a few ways to utilize your extra pumpkin? Try out some of the ideas below, and read more on the Eat Smart blog here.

  1. Pancakes: For breakfast, add canned pumpkin to your pancake mix to boost nutrition. Spice it up with some cinnamon. Top with low-fat yogurt, a drizzle of honey, or chopped nuts.
  2. Oatmeal: Prepare your oatmeal the way you usually would and just add some canned pumpkin and a sprinkle of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to it. You can top it with sliced bananas or a spoonful of applesauce .
  3. Soup: This warm hearty dish can be prepared using chicken or vegetable broth as its base. You can serve it with a sandwich or a salad. Try this Pumpkin and Bean Soup Recipe.
  4. Pasta sauce: Add canned pumpkin to your pasta sauce. Or remove the pasta sauce all together and try this Creamy Pumpkin Pasta.
  5. A main meal: You can turn your canned pumpkin into an easy one pot curry dish. Add drained canned chickpeas with garlic powder, cumin, and curry powder. Add to a large pot along with equal amounts of canned pumpkin, low-fat milk and vegetable or chicken broth. Serve your curry with cooked rice or pasta.

Read more about Canned Pumpkin 5 Ways, in English and en Español.
Stay Safe This Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving may look a little different this year, yet food safety is still important. If you plan on cooking up a turkey, follow these Food Safety Guidelines to keep you and your family safe.
A food thermometer is a great tool to have on hand for all occasions, and now is a great time to pick one up at the grocery store or online.
Jessica Conjour, MPH
Project Leader and Nutrition Educator
Maryland SNAP-Ed 
The 2020 harvest marks the close of the 2020 growing season and is an excellent time
to start making plans for the coming spring. Now is a good time to start gathering the information needed to update your nutrient management plans for 2021.

Below is an abbreviated list of important items that will need to be addressed in order to
update your plan for the next cropping season:

Soil tests (less than three years old)
  • Pastures must be sampled as well, even if no nutrients are applied.

Manure samples (less than 1 year old)
  • Required every year that manure is spread

Livestock information
  • Types of animals, average weight, confinement periods, and amount of bedding material.

Field histories and intended crop rotation
  • Multiple cropping scenarios can be planned

Yield goals
  • Should be developed based on prior yield records

Farm maps
  • Note any changes, bring maps of new farming properties

Please contact me by phone or email if you have any questions.

Francis Warring
Nutrient Management Advisor

Benefits of Flowers in Crop Fields
Dr. Alan Leslie
Extension Educator, Agriculture and Food Systems 

Planting native wildflowers has become more popular lately as pollinator health and diversity receive more public attention. These semi-natural plantings can attract native pollinators such as bumblebees and butterflies, and provide nectar and pollen resources for honeybees. However, current research has shown that incorporating wildflower plantings in farm landscapes can be beneficial to crops, even crops that do not require insect pollination, like corn and soybeans.

Many of the beneficial insects that provide natural control of pest species in cropping systems require floral resources in the form of pollen and nectar during at least part of their development. Sugars in the nectar provided by flowers in the landscape provide additional energy needed for these insects to live longer and pursue more prey. By increasing the amount of nectar and pollen available to these insects in the landscape, farmers can improve the effectiveness of the natural biological control of pests. These kinds of strategies that improve control of pest species by provisioning natural populations of beneficial insects are known as conservation biological controls.
Beneficial insects, also called “natural enemies,” can collectively be assigned to two feeding groups: predators and parasitoids. Predatory insects feed directly on other insects, mites, and other pests. Predators themselves are often divided into chewing predators and piercing-sucking predators. Chewing predators have large, sharp mouthparts, and typically subdue prey by overpowering it and biting the prey to kill it. As a result, chewing predators can typically only feed on prey species that are smaller than themselves, or prey that are soft-bodied, such as caterpillars. Piercing-sucking insects have mouthparts that work like a hypodermic syringe. They typically inject venom and digestive enzymes into their prey, and ingest the pre-digested contents as a liquid. As a result, piercing-sucking predators can often subdue prey species many times their size.

Many species of chewing and piercing-sucking predators will use flowers to supplement their diets, and prolong their lives. The parasitoids are a unique group because they do not directly feed on their prey. Instead, adult parasitoids lay eggs on or inside the bodies of other live insects. These eggs hatch, and the larvae feed on the host, completing their entire development on the host. This makes parasitoids very efficient hunters, since they spend very little time subduing and consuming prey, and instead pass on that task to their offspring.

The most common parasitoids are species of tiny wasps or flies, and they may attack any stage of other insects, including egg, larva, pupa, or adult (Fig. 1). During their adult stage, many parasitoids feed exclusively on nectar and pollen of flowers to provide them the energy needed to find hosts for their offspring.
Fig. 1 Parasitic wasp that attacks Mexican bean beetle larvae
Fig. 3 Parasitized Brown Stink Bug Eggs
Fig. 4 Parasitoid that specializes in parasitizing stink bug eggs
Various field experiments have shown that adding flowers to a cropping system can increase the number and diversity of natural enemies attracted to a field, and in some cases, this can result in increased biological control of pests. Two flowers in particular have been found to attract many insect species that are beneficial as natural enemies of pests of agricultural crops: marigold and partridge pea.

Two studies were conducted that incorporated French marigold (Tagetes patula) in vegetable cropping systems to determine if this flower could improve biological control of pests by predators and parasitoids. In lima beans, marigold was inter-planted between crop rows, and in edamame (vegetable soybean), marigold was planted in strips along the plot borders (Fig. 2 above). In lima beans, marigold attracted significantly more parasitoid wasps to the plot than the monoculture control (Fig. 1). In edamame, parasitism rates of stink bug eggs were significantly higher in plots with marigold borders than without, showing that populations of parasitoid wasps are enhanced with the addition of these flower resources (Fig. 3, 4).

In two other studies, partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) was planted along the margins of soybean and corn crops. In both experiments, the partridge pea attracted significantly more natural enemies than controls without flowering plants. However, beneficial insects were only found in greater abundance in the experiment with corn, and in soybeans, the flowering plants apparently attracted beneficial insects away from the crop. These, and several other studies have shown that the actual benefits of attracting additional predators and parasitoids may also depend on the pest populations. In essence, flowers can attract beneficial insects, but they may only move into the crop if there are prey insects there to attack.
There are many different applications for including flowering plants along the margins of crop fields. For example, partridge pea is often included in mixes for wildlife plots, since bobwhite quail feed on the seeds that this plant produces. In addition, flowering plants may also be incorporated into grass buffers enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Cost-share money may be available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Goals of these programs are to provide vegetated buffers between crop lands and waterbodies, while enhancing habitat quality, primarily for pollinators such as monarch butterflies. Contact your local NRCS office to determine how to qualify for these programs, and for assistance in determining the best application for your farm.

Prior work done on some of the flower species included in wildflower mixes that qualify for CRP and EQIP funding has tested whether these flowers can serve a dual purpose of enhancing pollinator resources while attracting insect species that are natural enemies of crop pests. This study also tested whether these wildflower species are able to persist when planted in a stand of perennial grass (orchardgrass) without any additional maintenance. This study tested 24 different wildflower species, and found significant differences in the length of period and timing of blooming, the relative attractiveness to predators and parasitoids, and the growth vigor and persistence over time. This suggests that some wildflowers may be inherently better resources for beneficial insects in crop fields.
Fig. 5 Relative insectary value (solid bars) and the weekly mean captures (open bars) of beneficials during full bloom of each wildflower. Numbers below the bar of each species indicate the number of weeks of full bloom. The insectary value was computed by multiplying the average weekly captures of parasitoids and predators by the number of weeks in bloom, after each weekly capture was adjusted by subtracting the average capture in the adjacent orchardgrass plot during the same week.

This study also found that incorporating flowering plants into grass buffers along the margins of cornfields attracted significantly more beneficial insects to the crop field. However, researchers were unable to measure a direct effect on pest species.
In summary, studies consistently show that including more flowering plants in agricultural landscapes improves the habitat quality for natural enemies such as insect predators and parasitoids. Whether this results in improved biological control of pests in the crop may depend on other factors, but so far there seems to be few risks associated with including more flowers around crop fields. Choosing the correct species or species mix may be the key to establishing flower strips that persist with low maintenance, and attract the most beneficial species to your field.
Bel Alton Demonstration Garden Update
Terry Thir
Charles County Master Gardener
In November 2019, the Bel Alton Historical Garden next to the front entrance of the Extension Office was originally designed to represent the historical significance of the building and of the county. Plants and flowers were selected to represent the colors of the Maryland state flag. Master Gardeners established a dry river bed to represent the Potomac River and planted some native shrubs, perennials, grasses, and bulbs that would bloom in colors to suggest the flag.

During the 2020 spring and early summer, the garden was beautiful! The inkberry bushes bordered the back edge, lined like sentries, defining the space near the railing. Red, yellow, and white tulips and daffodils nodded cheerfully in the full sun. The native grasses and black-eyed Susans had not quite established, but then July’s heat and drought did its worst on the newly planted vegetation, but not the weeds. Crab grass ran along the front edge of the garden. Dead leaves and stems from the tulips and daffodils draped limply over the mulch. The blue stone of the dry river bed settled and sank so that the visual effect of moving water was diminished. You get the idea. Something had to be done.

On October 14, Charles County Master Gardeners Harriet Beck, Kathy Jenkins, Terry Thir and Janet McGrane, armed with masks, gloves, garden tools, watering cans, trash bags, and one flat of Rudbeckia Fulgida, convened at the garden. They weeded the crabgrass, transplanted one of the grasses, planted the natives and tidied the mulch.
With the work in the MD Historical Garden completed, the Master Gardeners also discussed their next two gardens which will be Bay-Wise themed, featuring native plants and their “Pollinator” garden utilizing native flowers and herbs to attract butterflies, bees, insects and birds. Work here will begin when possible.

In spite of the Covid challenges, the team overcame the many hurdles during this pandemic, and rallied again and again to overcome all of them. Much paperwork and many approvals from various people were necessary to achieve the goal of overhauling the garden, and they are grateful and very pleased with the outcome.

Article and photos courtesy of CC MG Terry Thir
The Maryland Master Gardener Program is a volunteer educational organization of the University of Maryland Extension (UME). The program puts research-based knowledge and environmental power into the hands of people who want to create sustainable gardens and landscapes, and protect and improve natural resources. Master Gardeners are citizens from all walks of life who combine their love of plants, people, and the environment to help residents solve problems and make environmentally-sound decisions on public and private properties.
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