Granite State Gardening

Nate and Emma discuss winter composting, the virtues of paper bark maple (Acer griseum), how COVID-19 impacted gardening, holiday gift plant care after the holidays and the fascinating history of Victory Gardens.

Show Notes

In the first and second World Wars, Americans were called to till, sow and start victory gardens in place of lawns and vacant lots to feed a hungry nation. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted people to stay home, the tradition was reborn to localize food production in the face of supply chain disruptions and uncertainty. Less time commuting meant more time at home, so many beginner gardeners rushed out to build raised beds, arrange containers and clear fallow corners of the yard to plant a spring garden for food, beauty and a bit of garden therapy.
In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz discuss the history of victory gardening, gardening trends and how New Hampshire and UNH Extension adapted to the pandemic. 
Featured question: winter composting
Featured plant: paper bark maple (Acer griseum)
Closing gardening tip: holiday gift plant care after the holidays
Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter.
Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at
Background Reading:


[Nate B] Greetings Granite State gardeners. Getting acquainted with the newest podcast from UNH Extension, how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted gardeners and gardening, the history of Victory Gardens from past to present, highlighting victory gardens and the Master Gardeners who cultivate them. We'll discuss all these topics and more on this edition, the first ever episode of Granite State Gardening.

Okay, our goal with the Granite State gardening podcast is to explore the world of gardening and help you achieve success in your garden. We're sticklers for research based information here at UNH Extension so you can count on us to share proven tips and solutions. We want to meet you where you're at as a gardener. So we're going to count on your feedback. What topics do you want us to explore with you? Is the information we're sharing to advance to basic or just right, email us at GSG.pod@ And let's get started and hear from my co host Emma.

[Emma E]   I'm [Emma E]rler and I am one of the horticulture experts for UNH Extension . My job is to help home gardeners and landscapers solve gardening issues, as well as teach workshops, write articles, and regularly appear on WMUR's Grow It  Green TV segment. I've been interested in gardening for as long as I can remember, I began helping my mom with her vegetable and flower gardens, starting seeds weeding, transplanting and eventually growing plants of my own. I still have a few house plants that I started in elementary school actually. Before I came to UNH Extension, I worked at a few different public gardens on the East Coast as a professional horticulturist. However, I found that my true passion is education, which brings me here. I'm really excited to be joining my friend and colleague Nate on this podcast.

[Nate B] And again I'm Nate Bernitz. I'm part of UNH Extension's home horticulture team and have the privilege to work with Emma and New Hampshire Master Gardeners. And also make sure everyone who has questions gets answers. I lead outreach efforts for Ask UNH Extension and Granite State Gardening and increasingly becoming an avid gardener myself. You'll mostly learn from Emma on this podcast, truth be told, but I hope to bring you some knowledge and laughs along the way as well. Before joining UNH Extension, I honestly had more experience gardening with oysters and clams than fruits and vegetables. But frankly, you can't work on this team and immerse yourself in the world of gardening without picking up a thing or two. I'm excited to co host this podcast and perhaps selfishly learn a lot myself right along with you. Okay, let's get into it.

[Emma E]   A segment of this podcast that I'm really excited about is the question of the week. Through our Infoline service, Nate and I get dozens of questions every week from home gardeners about various topics. And my goal is to focus on one of these questions each week really break it down and discuss the most important parts of it. So this week, I want to talk about winter composting. Basically, what it sounds like composting through the winter, getting started with composting for the first time in the winter. A lot of people just started composting for the first time this year. And something we've been asked a lot is whether it's possible to compost in the wintertime, or whether you have to stop for a while and begin again in the spring. So if you have already started, the answer is absolutely yes, you can totally start composting right now or you can keep composting. So the way composting works is that it's this decomposition process that happens with a variety of micro organisms and larger macro organisms that that decompose that organic matter. So in the wintertime, decomposition slows down, but it doesn't totally stop or at least not for long. When the compost pile is completely frozen, then nothing is breaking down. But as long as the core center of that pile is unfrozen or if we get any warm spells throughout the winter, then it's going to start right back up. So in terms of the organisms in the pile that are doing that work, I have bacteria, you have actinomycetes which are actually filamentous bacteria that resemble fungi and these are the critters that are responsible for giving compost that earthy smell. You also have fungi, so molds and yeast, as well as some larger decomposers I mentioned, like sow bugs, pill bugs, earthworms, all of these creatures can survive in compost piles year round, their populations might not be very high, they might not be doing all that much work. But bacteria can increase their populations rapidly as soon as conditions are right. So as soon as it warms up enough, and that's kind of true across the board. So you can absolutely keep composting, there are a few things that you're going to want to pay attention to, though. First, it might be a little late for this. But it is important to harvest your finished compost to make room for winter additions. Because decomposition slows down so much. The materials that you put onto the compost pile from your kitchen over the winter can really add up because they're not breaking down very quickly. So taking finished compost out is important. You'll know if your compost is finished, if you really don't see any signs of the original materials that went into the pile anymore. If it's very dark, crumbly if it has an earthy odor, that means it's done. So a lot of times in the fall, people will go through and turn their compost pile and actually separate out the stuff that's finished. And either use that in their garden right then and there. Maybe spread it as a top dressing, use it in their lawns or vegetable gardens or flower beds, or you can save it for use in the spring. So sometimes it's helpful to put it in a bin to cover it with a tarp so that it doesn't get too soggy over the winter months. But you'll have it available to us as a garden amendment come spring. So once you've done that, once you've cleared some space in the compost area, you're still going to have to pay attention in the wintertime to greens and browns. So if you're familiar with composting, you've probably heard this term before. But basically there are two types of materials you can put on a compost pile, you have brown materials, which we call our carbon rich materials, these are really going to provide a lot of aeration to the pile. So going to keep that airflow oxygen is important and part of this decomposition process. So browns are going to include things like leaves, pine needles, sawdust, newspaper, maybe some some fine sticks or branches that have been chopped up. For green material on the other side. Those are very soft organic materials. So think grass clippings, or anything that comes out of the kitchen. So vegetable scraps, fruit peelings, those are all greens. When you're composting, it's important to mix the two together. Number one, so your pile doesn't get too smelly. Number two, so that you are increasing the oxygenation of that pile, those green materials are going to break down a bit faster. But it's important to have some of both. So in the wintertime, you're probably not going to be having a whole lot of brown materials to add necessarily, you may just have a whole bunch of kitchen materials. So stockpiling brown materials to be able to layer over your greens is really key. So that could mean piling up leaves in the fall putting those near your compost piles specifically to use in composting. Or it could mean getting some other materials on hand. So shredded newspaper works really well for composting, straw, sawdust wood chips, if you can get any of those materials on hand, that's really helpful. common mistake I guess some sometimes people will make is adding only greens in the winter months, so only kitchen scraps, and what you end up with is basically a stinky wet mess in the spring once the pile thaws out. And that's, that's not necessarily a deal breaker or really a bad thing. But for most people, you don't necessarily want that that real smelly pile. So adding some browns throughout the winter is helpful. If you do forget or if you don't have brown materials, that's fine, you can keep adding those greens, so those kitchen scraps through the winter. But in the spring, once the pile is thawed, you probably will want to add some more browns. So turn the pile, add some of that newspaper, add some of those wood chips, the leaves, whatever, you have to increase the aeration. And then finally, really through the winter, an important thing to do too, is reduce the size of the greens and the browns you're putting on that pile. The smaller that you can make the particles that go in the pile, the faster they're going to break down because you're increasing the surface area where these decomposers can actually feed on these materials. And really, a couple more things I'd add here is that you should wait to turn your pile until the spring once it's thawed. Every time you turn the compost pile you actually end up releasing some Heat. So in the winter months, that's something that you want to avoid. So go ahead and wait until the spring. And if you have a wood stove or a fireplace, you really want to be careful how much wood ash you add to your compost pile. Wood ashes can quickly raise the pH and actually bump it past the optimum range for microbial activity in that compost pile. Most of the beneficial organisms that are decomposers do best when the pH is neutral to slightly acidic. So adding some wood ash once in a while might be okay. But definitely don't put all of it on the compost pile, it's not going to be a benefit. But in summary, Composting is absolutely possible in the winter. If you already have a compost pile, it's something you should keep up with. And if you haven't started composting before, there's no reason you can't get started in the wintertime.

[Nate B] Emma, we want to talk in this introductory episode about COVID. And how that has impacted the world of gardening. We really couldn't start this podcast any other way. You, as part of your work, do some education and outreach with professional growers and garden centers, as well as the home gardening public. I'm curious, what have you and your team noticed that's been maybe a little bit different about this year versus other years.

[Emma E]   Overall, pretty much universally in spring and summer of 2020. It was the best season in a long time for New Hampshire growers and garden centers. That wasn't entirely expected. Some growers were actually considering scaling back production, because they didn't know if the growing or green industry was going to be considered essential. But most growers continued with their pre COVID production plans. And at the peak of the retail season, getting plant material was actually a challenge for some gardeners due to very high sales volume. A lot of people are out shopping this year for plants. And one of the interesting things is that this applied to flowering plants, trees and shrubs, not only vegetables, because they think we think of a lot of people as growing vegetables this year. And presumably, this is because people were spending a lot more time at home instead of going on vacation. So they were happy to make their homes and their yards more pleasant places to be. Also from the consumer side, it got pretty hard to find seeds and certain garden supplies this spring because things sold out. So you had to wait a long time or certain plants were simply unavailable. So we don't know yet what next spring is going to look like. But you know, most people that are growers or retailers are hopeful that some of these COVID converts - these people that really got into gardening this year - will become lifelong plant enthusiasts.

[Nate B] I guess, safe to say these "COVID converts" are going to be ordering their seeds a little bit earlier than they did last year, we can remember that this pandemic really became what it was starting in March. And for experienced gardeners, their seed orders were already placed by that point. So by the time we got to March, which is really the start of when gardeners might be starting seeds. You know that that was really well into that period already. What have you heard in that regard? Or what would you anticipate in that regard, as far as you know how people are going to go about their gardening, maybe in a different way than they did this year?

[Emma E]   My hope anyways, and I think this is probably true that a lot of people are going to be trying to plan ahead a bit more this year. Thinking about ordering those seeds earlier having had the experience of not being able to get what they want not being able to find seeds. Same goes for seedling trees and shrubs. I think people are learning that a lot of these plants too. If you're hoping to grow, say fruit trees in your home garden, you really actually need to be ordering those as early as December, January, February. So if you wait till the spring, your only option is probably going to be to buy larger trees at the garden center, which is okay too. But they're definitely more expensive. So I think people probably learn from their mistakes, shall we say? And I think most people were still able to have the gardens they wanted despite some shortages earlier in the season. But I hope Anyways, that folks are planning ahead a bit more.

[Nate B] I think that there were shortages on more than seeds, right. I think throughout the growing season, we heard about shortages on so many different things. What else do you remember about what was perhaps in somewhat short supply at times?

[Emma E]   I think some of the other general gardening supplies could be hard to find at certain points. So some people might have had trouble getting the exact irrigation equipment that they wanted, perhaps landscape fabrics, trying to find mulches that were appropriate for their gardens, it was kind of across the board. So one nice thing is that a lot of people probably have been able to purchase a lot of the equipment that they need, at least for things that are reusable, and have maybe thought about some of these renewable materials and their own homes that they can have stockpiled for their garden next year. So people have started composting. So compost is great for the garden, a lot of people are thinking about using leaves a little bit more. So materials that are on their property that can be used as a mulch. So that's going to be really helpful. But this coming year, with gardening, it really does take a bit of experience to figure out what's gonna work and what isn't, and exactly what you need to have when. So for those that started for the first time, this past year, it was a big learning curve. But I think a lot of people, you know, even if they weren't super successful this year are still enthusiastic enough to try to do things a little bit better this year, now that they've learned so much.

[Nate B] compost is a really great example, right? If you go to the store, and they're out of compost, that's a really great incentive for you not to have to go buy compost and to make it yourself And fortunately, that's something that you can do. Just kind of shifting gears a little bit away from the home garden, is something that's really important are 1, school gardens and 2, community gardens and with school gardens, you know, many for obvious reasons were sidelined because of the pandemic. Right? If students and staff are not at school, and staying home to be safe, it's gonna be tough to keep the garden weeded and watered and well, sort of the the reason it's there changes, right? You know, one, one example, in the ConVal district of southwestern New Hampshire, the Cornucopia Project, assists teachers and students with garden projects and curriculum. So, you know, they're one organization that really pivoted. You know, we also saw community garden plots, unlike school gardens get really, really popular. I mean, that's  been a trend, I think for longer than just this year, maybe there not being as many community garden plots as there are interested hands, but especially this year, plots where people can grow their own food really filled up across the state very quickly. And it became very apparent that there weren't enough community gardens to meet demand. There's a reason for that. I think there are a lot of challenges associated with organizing community gardens, many of them don't last, for various reasons. And actually, that that's a good place to spend a minute, what are some challenges that that you see with community gardens and why they don't always last?

[Emma E]   Well, one of the biggest challenges I think, is that they're almost always volunteer organized. So a lot of times when a community garden starts, you might have a core group of people that are really passionate about the project, it can be exciting, easy to raise some funds to get a project like that started to do the actual construction of fencing and raised beds. But as time goes on, it can be challenging to keep things looking good, to keep people excited and involved to actually be the ones in charge of working with people to get their beds set up keeping things well maintained. And when you don't have that volunteer support, then it gets challenging to keep it going. But fortunately, there are a lot of examples of community gardens in New Hampshire, that that do have incredible volunteer support, or things have been able to keep going. Some of the other challenges too, with with community gardens, that I think are fairly universal is that it can be really difficult to deal with with certain pest issues, let's say weeds, and insects and diseases. And in order to have a really successful garden with a lot of different people involved so that everybody kind of has to be on the same page in terms of how they're managing these things. So if one plot or a couple plots are being ignored and the weeds are taking over, There is potential for some spread there. Same goes for insect and disease issues. If somebody's not scouting their plants regularly, handpicking disease leaves or insects because of course, if you're on a community garden, it's not allowable to be spraying any sort of pesticides using any sort of pesticides if it's not property you own. So you really have to be very, very diligent by doing most of this pest control by hand. So in order to for everybody to be successful, everybody has to be really invested in the community garden. And, you know, it's, it's hard sometimes to have the same buy in from every single member.

[Nate B] That reminds me a little bit of something we heard from Master Gardeners Suzanne McDonald, who reported that at the community garden at Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, nearby to the flagship UNH Durham campus, of course, there were over 100, or I'm sorry, over 55 gardeners participating this summer, and that the gardens were well cared for because people weren't traveling as much. They were at home, and they were more focused on growing healthy and nutritious food for their families. So some of those challenges weren't as significant for that community garden and presumably others because of people's mindsets and the fact that they were just able to be there more often. I will just add as an interesting aside at that garden, there is a food pantry plot managed by another Master Gardener, Lynn Howard. The plot produced 70 bushels of produce for two local food pantries in the area. And even other gardens, donated excess produce to the pantries as well some devoted a row or two to donate from their community garden plots. So they felt like the year ended up being a huge success, despite all the challenges, one being voles, and and many others that you mentioned. And, you know, UNH Extension, the Master Gardener program, we kind of pivoted towards supporting community gardens in some different ways. This year, we have something called a free seed project. You are involved with that Emma, that typically provide seeds to educators at schools, youth centers and other nonprofit organizations to use for education about plants and related topics. But during the covid 19 pandemic seeds Additionally, were shared with 4-H students, Nutrition Connection clients, which is another Extension program, community garden participants and others. And one kind of interesting example, through a connection from our colleague Jonathan Ebba, the agricultural supervisor at his mansion ministries, a faith based Addiction Rehab Center in Deering, New Hampshire, offered to sprout some of the seeds in their greenhouse and make seedlings available to those in need. So community gardeners in Manchester received over 30 trays of vegetable seedlings from this greenhouse that they planted and grew to then provide fresh vegetables throughout the summer and fall, including again to food pantries. You know, we also worked with the Nashua Housing Authority Grow Nashua community gardens, new Ipswich food pantry, Keene community gardens, Sullivan county food pantries donating you know, well over 1000 seed packets to just you know, some of these groups. So it's, it's been, it's been an amazing year, one with a lot of need. And just an amazing and inspiring response from Master Gardeners.

[Emma E]   Oh, absolutely. It's one thing that that has absolutely blown me away. A lot of the initiatives that Master Gardeners started or at least the dedication that they have to to feeding their communities, to making agriculture accessible to their communities on fresh food, most importantly, so really, really wonderful.

[Nate B] Another food pantry garden was the garden In Littleton at the mount Sacred Heart convent where nearly 5000 pounds of produce was produced. And because of the storage capacity and types of food raised fresh produce was then provided to those in need every month of the year from this garden. That project was led by master gardener, Evelyn Hagen in the Littleton New Hampshire area, which is in northwestern New Hampshire,

[Emma E]   which is fantastic. I always think the more we can connect people with their food, the better especially when it's younger kids so they have the opportunity to see what a tomato plant actually looks like. What a carrot looks like how it grows. 

COVID also had a big impact on the work of UNH Extension, particularly in our food and agriculture team, which you and I are both a part of Nate. we had to shift the way we delivered programming. One of our hallmarks is typically being able to offer in person programming, to be able to engage our audiences, whether it's farmers, whether it's home gardeners, but that really wasn't an option anymore, when COVID started up. So you know, when you think of that, Nate, what do you think one of the most significant changes was

[Nate B] translating quickly changing programs, information and regulations, to formats and language that was accessible and timely, in a few ways through daily FAQ update emails for growers and producers, online farmer forums that connected growers with service providers and each other, where they discussed obstacles and did some problem solving. These were happening, I think, on a weekly basis, kind of at the the peak of adaptation during the pandemic, you know, over the summer, and spring. You know, the issues ranged really widely from food safety, to protecting workers in a COVID pandemic environment, to new market opportunities and safe ways of conducting CSAs, farmers markets and pick your own operations. The other thing is over the course of the pandemic, there's really been a regular flow of new complex rules and regulations federally at and at the state level. So Extension has worked diligently to interpret those new laws and work with state and federal partners to ensure agricultural businesses have the information they need in a timely manner, including new funding and relief opportunities,

[Emma E]   critically important and stuff when you know, in the middle of the pandemic, that's that stuff that farmers didn't necessarily have the bandwidth to be working on. So being able to have Extension, figure out, you know, some of the go through some of the red tape to figure out what farmers needed was was really important.

[Nate B] Well, I was just gonna say another strain on farmers were their supply chains that they've come to rely on farmers that might normally be selling produce to restaurants, and, you know, other businesses that were also impacted by the pandemic, you know, maybe school systems being another right like, there were there was a real drop off in some supply chains, and then really an increase in demand from individual consumers. So, Extension teamed up with the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture to gather farm listings and actually build an interactive farm products map, which helps connect consumers to buy directly from New Hampshire growers and producers, that included local meats, produce, dairy, cut flowers, hay, compost, seedlings, soap, candles, and much more. In the map, which is still up and running on the UNH Extension website, by the way, farmers are able to share up to date information about pickup locations, delivery options, payment methods, product listings, even purchasing incentives and eligible food access programs. That sounds really complex. And that's because it was. it was really complex to figure out for farms that might not normally have done very much in direct retail sales, how to sell food to people who wanted it in a pandemic environment.

[Emma E]   we think back to, you know, at this point, are the shelves are pretty much fully stocked in the grocery store. But earlier in the pandemic, back the spring, early this summer, it was really hard to find certain things, whether it was meat, whether it was produce. And I think a lot of people were interested in buying locally, you know, just the fact that supply chains were interrupted. I mean, it's that's less of an issue when you're buying your food from just down the road.

[Nate B] And there was also just an unknown, you know what's going to happen next week, right, and people are also limiting their shopping trips and didn't necessarily want to be in crowded grocery stores more than they had to, spending a lot more time at home. So perhaps cooking more, and of course, gardening more. You know, the other thing about buying food is that we had significant economic impacts. So there was a real increase in need for access to food. Right. So food banks and pantries saw a lot more demand, there were a lot of people that hadn't normally relied on those sorts of programs. And all of a sudden they were and they didn't necessarily know where to find access to subsidized or, or free food and just sort of other food access programs. So that's another interactive map that our colleagues in the youth and family team at UNH Extension developed. So and that's still online as well, the food access map because those challenges persist, even now. You know, and I don't know about this one as much. But we also produced a local seafood finder online map to connect consumers with local fishermen. And aquaculture s for local items, like oysters grown in New Hampshire's Great Bay, from, you know, I think there's about 14-15 oyster farms, operating most of them very, very small. And again, most people are consuming things like oysters in restaurants, which, you know, even if you're doing takeout from a restaurant, you're not going to get raw oysters take out from a restaurant, right? Like maybe you'll get something else. So, you know, they had to figure out again, how to pivot to selling items like that to individuals. So just in many ways, Extension was doing a lot of work to connect consumers, to producers in new creative ways that really met the moment. And that kind of brings us to where we are right now because Emma and I teamed up from really March through November to produce the original iteration of Granite State gardening, which were facebook live videos. And now here we are starting the Granite State Gardening podcast.

Reading pesticide labels for breakfast and using chemicals as a last resort are just part of Rachel Maccini's daily routine as UNH Extension's pesticide safety education coordinator. Now, for Rachel's Integrated Pest Management (IPM for short) featured tip

Rachel Maccini   Hello, an integrated pest management program approach employs pesticides in a targeted way along with non chemical control methods and cultural practices such as choosing native plants, while pesticides can be used as part of an IPM program, it is a good idea to limit their use and thereby your exposure. pesticide should be used only as a last resort and carefully chosen carefully used carefully stored and carefully disposed of. If you do plan to use pesticides, you will want to make sure you are only applying products to land you either own or are leasing. You cannot apply any pesticides to public property without securing a pesticide license from the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture markets and food division of pesticide control. When chemicals are being considered, you'll want to look for the least toxic products and always read the label before applying.

[Emma E]   Changing gears a bit here with COVID-19 a term I started hearing a lot more was Victory Garden. So Victory Garden I think of as being more of a a historical thing. But perhaps I'm wrong on that. You know, I know that you've done a bit of research on this. So what can you tell us?

[Nate B] Well, the history of victory gardening is really interesting. Its origins really go back to addressing some very specific problems. So back in the day, we're talking World Wars now. You know, there were issues with access to tin for canning, and distribution of food was limited because of the war. There are also high food costs, low supply of produce, at times actual rationing at stores. And not to be understated was the fact that Victory Gardening gave people a sense of purpose that they were helping the war effort. At the time, The USDA developed actually significant volumes of pamphlets, recipes, posters and hand books to support and promote gardening. Agricultural companies started educating gardeners as well. You know, talking World War 2 here in Boston, the parks department and school teachers supervised what from what I understand 49 different community gardens in the city, including one very famous one on Boston Common. gardeners also at this time started to grow new vegetables that they hadn't really grown before finding that it was quite easy to grow vegetables like swiss chard and kohlrabi.

[Emma E]   I have always thought of victory gardening is being related to World War 2. But am I right in thinking that it actually started a bit earlier than that?

[Nate B] Yeah, its origins were really in World War 1, the victory Victory Garden movement expanded significantly for World War Two, but was very much a thing in World War 1as well. It's funny, something like meatless Mondays, was actually created in World War 1, as were wheatless Wednesdays and porkless Saturday is to encourage Americans to eat less of items that were in demand, like meat and wheat. There was debate over whether to increase food supplies by either 1) sending people off to work farms, or 2) encouraging people to grow food on vacant lands. Ultimately, they went more with the latter. So originally, actually in the late 1800s, Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree, who was originally from Maine, by the way, created something called the potato patch plan that allowed people to plant gardens on vacant land. And this inspired other cities to do the same. So come World War 1, the potato patch plan was revived and led to urban gardens being referred to as Victory Gardens as well as Liberty gardens. Charles Lathrop Pack also from Michigan, formed the US National War garden commission to inspire and educate Americans to plant victory gardens and again created pamphlets, posters, and even lesson plans on gardening. President Woodrow Wilson started the US garden army funded by the War Department and the national curriculum for gardening was developed by the Bureau of education. The effort envisioned "a garden for every child and every child in a garden", which I think is a nice sentiment we can still get behind.

[Emma E]   So this was really an organized effort. This wasn't just people taking this upon themselves to grow food, this this was really a true national movement.

[Nate B] Right. So in COVID, the Victory Garden movement was very much organic and grassroots. It wasn't driven by the top it was driven from the bottom. But in World War 1 and World War 2, they were both top down efforts largely to promote gardening because it was desperately needed. Just to bring us back to New Hampshire, efforts were made to reach every child in the state, and ultimately, an estimated 40,000 Granite State children were enlisted in the school garden army by 1919, in World War 1. And I was actually able to find the stated goals for New Hampshire at that time, "to make the Granite State a garden state to give to the young people of the new generations the sturdy qualities, which were developed in those early years when New Hampshire boys and girls were reared on farms and went southward and westward to become leaders in new communities to bring into the schools the vital interest found only in experience with realities." It was intended to reach every child in the state.

[Emma E]   Wow. It's That's incredible. And and interesting that even back in 1919, we're talking about bringing this sort of education experience to kids that are not raised on farms. So I think that that's something now we think of how few children have exposure to to agriculture, per se directly, but this is a conversation that we've been having for a long time, it seems.

[Nate B] Yeah. And to go back even further in the history. Now this is predating Victory Gardens but certainly not predating gardening. So in the 1600s and 1700s. And we're talking New England here, but farming was mostly aimed at household subsistence and exchange with neighbors. So farm wives typically kept kitchen gardens and flocks of backyard poultry, and processed food from the fields where farmers grow crops like corn, rye, beans and potatoes, and often managed large orchards to produce hard cider, which apparently was the everyday choice for beverages at the time, and no produce was imported. So you were eating what was grown locally. And then in the late 1800s, kind of getting back to where we were, with the origins of kind of gardening on vacant lots like we were talking about a minute ago. market gardens surrounding cities were also highly productive and helped recycle urban wastes like stable manure. So World War 1, there were an estimated 5 million Victory Gardens. World War 2 was the true high point of home gardening, even in urban areas, and came at a time where regional agriculture unfortunately was already starting the decline that has, you know, really continued. But it's estimated there were more than 18 million Victory Gardens nationwide, during World War 2. And just in New Hampshire, there were over 80,000 registered Victory Gardens, often on converted lawns, and vacant lots. So, you know, I was looking back as well at, again, some of the way that this was promoted and marketed, there were slogans, including, "Grow vitamins at your kitchen door", 

[Emma E]   Oh, my gosh 

[Nate B] and "you are what you eat", you know, kind of so going back to World War 2, you know, there, they were using slogans like that, to get people gardening. And at the very peak of Victory Gardens, in World War 2, close to 50% of the nation's food was grown in these gardens.

[Emma E]   That is so incredible. And clearly something we're not reaching right now. But during COVID, a lot of people were getting more interested in growing their own food. But perhaps we didn't have the same organization or push to get people to do that in the same way. But, gosh, still still incredibly interesting. So I mean, in terms of, you know, what's going on today, you know, in terms of our food, you know, I mentioned that we're not producing that much food on our own at our own homes. But, you know, like, how are our farms in New Hampshire meeting that demand more locally?

[Nate B] Well, I don't have updated figures from this year, I doubt it's changed too much in the aggregate. But in, you know, in modern times, about 5% of food consumed in New Hampshire is actually grown in New Hampshire, the percentage that's actually grown in New Hampshire Gardens is significantly less than that, of course. But you know, the trend that we saw, you know, in the last century, certainly continues with farms and farm land, both continuing to decline and be repurposed for other uses. You know, but CSAs and Market Garden operations have risen in recent years. And when I say recent years, I'm talking decades, not like the last few years, not exactly sure, what's happening right now, in that regard. It's, it's sometimes difficult to get that information, you know, in the current moment, but we can look at some more recent trends. And, you know, there's one organization that is associated with UNH called food solutions New England, and they have a vision that includes increasing the percentage of farmland in New England, from about 5% to 15%. By I think 2040. And that vision includes, you know, 5 to 15% of urban and suburban land, being reclaimed for things like private gardens, small scale community and, and community farms and permaculture. It's, it's really interesting, I'd actually encourage people to, to go to and, and look at their food vision. It's fascinating, it certainly kind of puts into context. We are what we're doing the connection between gardening and farming, and why I think Extension's role, along with the role of other organizations in promoting this and you know, what, you, you know, listeners at home, you know, why what you're doing is important too, because it's all part of a grander vision for the role of gardening and farming in, you know, in New England lives.

[Emma E]   Right. So even if we're not producing enough food, even with that, that, you know, 5 to 15% even if we're not producing all the food, we need in the England for our population, there's a lot of benefits to buying things locally, to having more exposure to farms, to gardens, you know, just just for people learning a bit more about what it takes to grow foods. I think I said earlier, you know, where foods even come from, I'm always amazed with adults that I speak to friends and family that don't know that a tomato plant is a vine, let's say, or, you know, all these examples where you don't even know how something actually grows. So having that connection to food, I do think is quite important.

[Nate B] I think there are a lot of benefits. I mean, so if you think about a community garden, that is, you know, one, you know, getting healthy, locally produced food, you know, it's going to increase people's consumption of produce, but it's also fostering community. It's, frankly, a form of exercise. It's, I think anyone can really attest to the sort of mental therapeutic benefits of gardening, it's, you know, it's a great land use, right, it's like, what would be there, if not, for that community garden, and that's been sort of an ongoing historical tension on the land side, you know, community gardens being, you know, removed in, especially in urban environments. And, you know, not typically replaced with something that's going to foster community in the same way, you know, and then at home, I mean, gardening means something a little bit different, I think, to everybody. And we do it for different reasons, certainly, some people garden to actually try and save money on food, that's a potentially tall order. But even if you're not saving money, there are still a lot of benefits, and, you know, kind of going back to, you know, to kids, and so many so many folks have sort of viewed gardening, I think in COVID, as a chance to kind of marry the, you know, sort of the benefits that come of gardening and also like having, having their kids at home, really integrating gardening into their education and seeing that the garden is an amazing classroom.

[Emma E]   So silver linings here, in terms of getting outside getting into the garden. In terms of, you know, New Hampshire, if if somebody wanted to see a more historically accurate Victory Garden in action, you know, is there any place you can go?

[Nate B] I know of a couple, and folks listening might know of others. One is at the Wright Museum of world war two in Wolfeboro New Hampshire in the Lakes region, which is maintained by Master Gardener volunteer Kristen Kaiser. So typically, they actually partner with Spider Web Farm to start seedlings in their greenhouse, they weren't able to do that this year, because of COVID. So the varieties, you know, that they were doing were, were limited this year. But that's a really cool partnership they have in general. And, you know, talking to Kristen, she said, you know, she kind of estimated 60% of the visitors she spoke with from behind their seven foot tall deer fencing, were new to gardening, but trying to grow something now. And you know, often combined again, with homeschooling in the time of the pandemic, as well as an increased interest in canning. And, you know, we heard, you know, stories of people, you know, not being able to find things like canning lids, and everything because when you start gardening, you realize, you know, if you kind of get it right, all of a sudden you have way more produce than you can eat or even give away, so it kind of naturally leads to an interest in food preservation and canning.

[Emma E]   Another ongoing segment that I am thrilled to be able to offer is our featured plant. So basically every every time every time we have an episode, I am going to be telling you all about a really cool plant that's either native to the New Hampshire landscape, that's something that could be grown indoors as a houseplant, or something you might put into your landscape in general, so your garden, your yard. Anybody who knows me knows that I'm a big plant buff. I love talking shop with plants. So this time, I'm going to tell you a little bit about one of my favorite trees, which is the paperbark Maple or Acer griseum If we want to get fancy with the Latin. Paperbark maple is a tree that's actually native to central and eastern China and mixed forests. So that means it grows alongside other deciduous trees that lose their leaves and trees that have needles. Its range is actually pretty small. So you'll just find it really in a few regions in China. This plant was brought to the United States in the late 19th century as an ornamental because it is incredibly beautiful. It's considered a small shade tree, because it grows about 15 to 30 feet tall and about the same width, so 15 to 30 feet wide. It grows pretty slowly. So it's not something that you put up that you where you want to have a whole bunch of shade right away, but it's something that you'll enjoy over the years. It's a tree that likes full sun to part shade, so it will do quite well in the sunniest part of your landscape. Or you can grow it and more of a woodland garden setting so where it's more of an understory plant beneath taller trees, it does prefer a moist soil, but also well drained. So it's not going to like the sandiest dry soils in New Hampshire, it's actually intolerant of drought. But if you have a good loam in your yard, this is a tree you could consider. What makes this tree such a nice ornamental plant is that its trunks and its limbs have a really really beautiful exfoliating cinnamon, reddish bark that peels off in these large curls that stay on the tree. So it's not messy, the bark does stay attached. But it's really interesting looking on this tree pretty much always makes the list of plants that provide, if you will, winter interest because it is beautiful all year round. And you really get to appreciate that beautiful bark in the wintertime once the leaves have fallen. Now the leaves on the tree are kind of interesting, too. So this is a maple. But it has a three parted trifoliate leaf, not unlike poison ivy or say raspberries or blackberries. The upper side of the leaves is kind of a greenish, dark greenish color. But the bottom is more of a blue gray green, which is actually where the species gets its name. The Latin word griseus. Remember the Latin name for this plant is Acer griseum means gray. So that refers to the leaf undersides. So fun fact for you there. It also has really good fall color. So this is one of the things I like about paperbark Maple is that you do tend to get a nice orange or red color that is pretty consistent, you know, some years that may not be quite as vibrant. But this tree has multiple seasons of interest. So it's also a good fall plant. Because this Maple is introduced from China really doesn't have any natural insects, or disease problems that affect that. So you can consider it to be a pretty problem free plant. And it should be hardy to at least zone five, I have seen it grow successfully in zone four. So more northern gardeners can push the limits a bit more, it's definitely going to be happy in Southern New Hampshire. And, you know, I mentioned early on this is a tree from China. So clearly it's it's not native. But one of the perks of this plant is that I don't see it as being much of an invasive threat, because approximately 95% of the seeds that it produces aren't viable. So that means the majority of the seeds that come from that tree, have no chance of germinating to begin with. So, you know, that's great. Some other invasive trees that have been introduced do seed quite well are quite prodigiously so even Japanese maple, you know, depending on where you are in the US Japanese maple, we'll see then quite readily throughout New England, and really down the east coast. The paperbark maples that I've had the pleasure of working with and around have, at most maybe produced one or two seedling trees a year. So this is not a plant that I'm overly concerned about becoming a pest in the garden. The only other downside maybe is that it can be a bit on the expensive side. But I do think it's well worth the investment if you have the room for it. So paperbark maple, really cool tree really cool specimen tree. Excellent for small properties, like I said for woodland gardens near a deck near a patio. Definitely one that I would recommend.

Well, I'd like to close things off today with a final gardening tip. A lot of people for the holidays end up either either through their own purchase or from a friend might end up with some sort of holiday plant. You know whether it's an amaryllis, Christmas cactus, maybe a Norfolk Island pine. And you might be curious how to keep that plant alive after the holidays can be a bit challenging, especially if you're if you're not real keen on keeping houseplants. First off, if you really want to keep this plant healthy, and everything I mentioned so far can can live for years and years, you need to pick the right location to keep it in your house. All the plants that are sold as holiday gift plants tend to like bright sunny spots. So if you have a south or a west facing window, it's best if you can put it close to that that light source. Next, you're going to want to make sure that you keep this plant away from drafts as much as possible. So keep it away from appliances, keep it away from doors that are going to be doors to the outside that are going to be opening and closing a lot. And heat registers too can be an issue. So some of us have our windows right next to our heat registers are. But if it's possible to have it located not directly above that source of hot air that can be really helpful to keeping the plant going a bit longer. Temperature is also important. These plants will like a bit warmer temperature. So as long as you keep your house about 60 degrees or so they should be fine. They're going to be happier if your house is 65 to say 80 which you know that that's excessive for for most of us in our homes in New Hampshire. But keeping it about 60 is going to be good and trying to make sure that overnight temperature is not going to dip below too much below 50 degrees definitely the the closer you get to freezing the unhappier most of these plants are going to be. watering to is going to be important to keeping things going. Proper watering means watering when the plant is almost completely dry. So you can see that the soil is dry, you can feel that the soil is dry with your fingers if you actually stick a finger down into the soil. One easy way to kill a houseplant, really any of these gift plants is to water them too much, which often happens or watering them too little. So keep eyes on them. There's no schedule you need to be on. Because it really depends on the conditions in your home, how quickly they're going to dry out and what they're potted in, the pot that there have been planted in. So just keep an eye on it may be necessary to water once a week, maybe twice, you know, maybe once every week and a half or so. One other thing to look at is that most of these plants come with some sort of decorative foil wrapper. And these don't have any drainage in them. So excess water that comes out of the pot when you do water ends up collecting inside that wrapper. And what can happen when the plant is just sitting in the water for a long time is that its roots aren't getting enough oxygen. And it is drowning essentially and root rot becomes more more likely. So either punch some holes in that foil wrapper, get rid of it entirely, or make sure to empty it out after you've watered. And finally I'll say there really shouldn't be any need to fertilize your plants in the winter months. They're not going to be putting on a whole lot of new growth when the when they're not getting a whole lot of light because our days are short when temperatures are cooler. But once we get into the spring so once we get into say April or May it's time to bring out the house plant fertilizer. But if you follow all those things, pay attention to location watering. And then later on in the season come spring giving it some fertilizer, your your holiday gift plants going to be really happy and hopefully you'll be able to hold on to it for year after year.

[Nate B] In the beginning of this episode, I asked you to email us with your ideas about what you'd like to hear us cover on the podcast. A couple upcoming episodes that we've already planned are growing herbs indoors and growing citrus trees indoors, perhaps outdoors in the summer. But again, email us at with your ideas and your feedback on this episode. Did you enjoy this podcast? if you're listening to this podcast on the UNH Extension website, make sure to subscribe to the Granite State Gardening podcast on the platform of your choice. as a brand new podcast we would greatly appreciate if you would share this podcast with fellow gardeners. And if you enjoyed this episode, consider giving us an effusive five star review, wherever you're listening. Until next time, keep on growing Granite State gardeners. 

Granite State gardening is a production of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension anequal opportunity educator and employer. the views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily those of the university's, its trustees, or its volunteers. inclusion or exclusion of commercial products in this podcast does not imply endorsement. The University of New Hampshire, US Department of Agriculture and New Hampshire counties cooperate to provide Extension programming in the Granite State. Learn more

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What is Granite State Gardening?

Granite State Gardening is a University of New Hampshire podcast for gardeners, landowners and homesteaders in New Hampshire and Northern New England. Hosts Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for your garden and landscape, giving inspiration and research-based knowhow to cultivate confidence and success wherever and whatever you’re growing. Biweekly episodes feature plant recommendations, pest control advice and answers to listener questions, which are encouraged at