Everybody's a Critic

Help make eXtension.org a big success

CHOOSE GREEN
In our chat Durham he told me his goal is to choose
articles that are unbiased.  Great!  And
how organic will the advice be?  Well, the articles will take a
"balanced approach."

Now if that means the traditional Extension Service practice of presenting synthetics and
organics as though they’re equal, isn’t it time to be more pro-active environmentally?  As a case in point, the site include this advice about lawn
that fails to recommend organic or even slow-release
fertilizers for lawns rather than synthetics, and no mention is made of
the pollution caused by overapplication of phosphorus on our lawns.  As
for watering, it recommends watering lawns one to three
times every week between June and August!  And there’s certainly no suggestion that cool-season
turfgrasses are supposed to go brown in the summer and maybe we should
get over our addiction to green-green-green.

Hey, Extension Services, it’s great that you’re pooling resources nationally and getting it all online,
but
sticking with the traditional practice of taking no position on
anything (as though there are no environmental problems in our
backyards) could instantly relegate
your website to throwback status, at least among people who know
better.  Unfortunately, most homeowners will just follow the advice and
the
long history of environmentally harmful gardening practices will
continue. 

And progressive Extension Services DO exist.  Here’s what Maryland
has to say about green grass in the summer: "Established
turf naturally becomes brown and dormant during mid-summer.  It will
resume growth and green-up with a return to cooler, wetter weather.  It
is wasteful and futile to attempt to keep lawns growing with sprinkler
irrigation.  Newly seeded or sodded areas, on the other hand, should be
watered daily to get them established if rainfall is lacking."  That’s
more like it.  Frank Rossi at Cornell is another outstanding source of
enlightened turf advice and his articles would enhance eXtension,
big-time.

PLANT PROFILES
About the Shrub Selecter provided by the University of Illinois:

  • When all plants, even the super-easy, pest-resistant ones, show
    LONG lists of possible problems, how’s a homeowner to know which ones
    to choose?  Spiriea,
    weigela, Rugosa rose and oakleaf hydrangeas all supposedly suffer from
    long lists of problems. 
  • Normal alphabetical order is always helpful, so how about listing weigela under W, not O for "old-fashioned weigela"? 
  • And "native to the United States" isn’t nearly as helpful as
    "native to wet regions in the Southeastern U.S." or wherever.  It’s
    actually not helpful at all.

Okay, maybe I’m picking nits after all but while I’m at it, in the
main site’s listing of plant groups we find "Flowers".  Come on, you
guys are the experts!

VIDEOS
Durham told me that compiling helpful videos is a top
priority and that’s exciting to hear.  So far, their pruning video is
so fuzzy as to be unwatchable but I’m sure the quality will improve,
and considering the sorry state of "expert" instructional videos on the
web, WE NEED YOU GUYS!

RESEARCH
Another really important service you can provide is
trialing plants nationally and reporting the results, like what you’re
doing with low-maintenance lawns.  More of that, please!

Well, Extension Services of America, welcome to the blogosphere,
offering feedback whether you want it or not.  But honestly, we’re all
on the same side here and in that spirit I encourage readers to browse
eXtension and weigh in.  Let’s help make this project a big success.

Posted by on June 17, 2008 at 3:22 am, in the category Everybody's a Critic.
Comments are off for this post

9 responses to “Help make eXtension.org a big success”

  1. Sandy says:

    Thanks for letting us know about this. I am a Master Gardener in Virgnia Beach and am leaving tomorrow for a Master Gardener State Conference. Hopefully I can give input through the Extension Service in Virgina. As a MG, I work at the Agricultural Research Station that VA Tech runs in VA Beach so that should give input possibilties as well.

  2. Layanee says:

    How is it a ‘balanced approach’ to lawn care if there is no mention of an organic approach? My organic approach to lawn care has been to just mow it! I did apply corn gluten this year and now I am just mowing more often! LOL It is a pretty green though.

  3. Craig Cramer says:

    Thank you for mentioning Frank Rossi, turf specialist in our Department of Horticulture here at Cornell. eXtension does link to his lawn care resources http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/lawn/lawncare. GardenRant readers in cool, humid areas of the U.S. might also be interested in his Lawn Care Without Pesticides http://ecommons.library.cornell.edu/bitstream/1813/3574/2/Lawn%20Care%20without%20Pesticides.pdf [12.3 MB .pdf]

  4. rainymountain says:

    My editor’s eye read the Extension logo and thought if “more mind reach” reflects the level of literacy and intelligence on the site, I won’t bother to go any further. Does anyone understand what “more mind reach” means?

  5. Lisa Albert says:

    Not a clue, rainymountain. I thought it was just my tired brain refusing to wrap around the concept (my garden’s in a tour Saturday, I’m working day and night to get it ready).

    I heard something today that strongly speaks to organic care for lawns that are upland from ponds. Even small amounts of nitrogen washed into ponds pose risks for frogs living in the pond. I’m too exhausted at the moment to remember who did the research but I do recall it was a reputable organization. It might even have been OSU Extension but don’t quote me until I double-check tomorrow with the person who told me of the research.

    I just checked the website but I can’t figure out how you know which extensions are involved. Where did you find the information about who’s behind this site, Susan?

  6. susan harris says:

    Lisa, the less progressive lawn advice I quoted was from OSU, actually. And I got Rick Durham’s name by emailing the site and asking who’s in charge of gardening.
    And the “more mind reach” gave me a big “Huh?” moment, too.

  7. “More mind reach”, I got it right away. Ten expert extension heads are better than one.

  8. Lisa Albert says:

    From OSU? That’s rather surprising, considering they have the expertise of Tom Cook, associate professor and turf grass specialist, who is a minimalist for his own lawn care. He mows with a mulching mower and doesn’t give it anything else, except a few weeks before the in-laws visit. 😉

    I feel a little better knowing that you had to ask to learn who’s behind the scenes at the site and that it wasn’t in some obvious place that I completely overlooked in my stunken drupor of exhaustion.

  9. greg draiss says:

    EXtension Is marching to a different drummer in NY. The advice they give is out dated. Do you know that Cornell has not updated the venrable “Cornell recommends” in years? Customers come in to my garden center asking for mancozeb……..”The master gardeners (lower case on purpose nothing masterful about what they are being taught) said you sell it. Mancozeb off the market for yyears but still being pushed by land grant colleges…..

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