Coming attractions

With the typical cold New Hampshire weather looming over us all, we all need to find productive fun ways to fight off the winter time blues. I am one of those lucky people, blessed enough to work year round in the horticultural field, in a greenhouse, always reminded of what’s to come.

The question is what does everyone else to do to keep the gardening spirit alive in the dead of winter? Over the next three weeks I will be diving into three great ways that some of my closest friends cure their winter blues.

Week One: Terrariums

Week Two: Cacti

Week Three: House plants

Submitted by:  Tanya S., MG since 2017

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Upcoming Master Gardener Class

 From:  Ruth Smith, NH Master Gardener Coordinator

Spring Master Gardener Training

The next Master Gardener Training will be held at NH Audubon’s McLane Center in Concord beginning February 28. It will run for 12 Thursdays and include classes in horticulture, entomology, soils, program planning, and more. If you enjoy being a Master Gardener and know others who would like to join the program, spread the word.

Application forms are available.

Interested but have questions? Contact Ruth at

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Fraser Fir vs Balsam

As the holiday season approaches, many of us are looking for the perfect real Christmas tree. In NH there are 2 types of trees that are most commonly found either at the tree farm or at the near by shop. These 2 types are Fraser Fir and Balsam.

I have over ten years experience dealing with Christmas trees from the retail standpoint and find the most common question to be “what is the difference?” So here is what I have learned.

Fraser Fir on the left, Balsam on the right

Lets start with the Fraser Fir. A Fraser Fir is the slower growing of the 2 varieties. Why does this matter? Simple, Frasers are known for their stronger branches. This is important for people with larger or heavier ornaments. Frasers also have “pointy” needles, meaning the needles point up and feel sharp when you put your hand around it. They are also known for holding their needles better once its been harvested and brought inside. The color of a Fraser can vary from a nice dark green to a blue green color.

The Balsam is a more traditional choice for a Christmas tree, since it naturally grows in this area. Balsams grow faster meaning their branch strength is less than a Fraser, however Balsams are often “fuller”, with more, closer growing branches. Unlike the Fraser, Balsams have “soft” needles. This means that the needles lay flat so when you grab a branch with your hand, it’s not sharp. The fuller, flat look of the Balsams branches and needles makes them ideal for wreaths and other Christmas decorations. Balsams are also deemed to have a stronger scent, than Fraser.

Balsam in front with Fraser Fir in background

Each type comes as big or narrow, tall or short. Some are the perfect shape, while others have a good side and a bad side. Regardless of which variety you deem the best the perfect tree is out there waiting, have fun finding yours.

Submitted by:  Tanya S., MG since 2017

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Farm to School

October may have been National Farm to School Month, but November in Somersworth was busier than ever.

Mr. Chris Asbell’s Garlic Project at Somersworth Middle School reached a milestone – every single clove planted for next year’s harvest was grown in the middle school’s own garlic beds, making this the first year that the Garlic Project is completely self-sustaining.

Despite the monsoon-style conditions on the day of planting, every middle school student got outside to plant garlic for another robust harvest next year.

Mr. Daryl Dunbar is the apple of Somersworth Middle School’s eye these days, and it shows.  The removal of a dead tree in front of SMS inspired him to start planting apple trees with his Wood Skills class.

Together they removed the stump with chains and the horsepower of his truck, and planted a healthy Honeycrisp apple tree in its place, plus one more for good measure.

It may take a couple of years, but those apples will taste amazing accompanied with the maple syrup that Mr. Dunbar produces at SMS with his students in the spring.

The November 7th Somersworth Farm to School Community Dinner was a great success. Over 150 people turned out for a delicious meal of chicken pot pie, steamed broccoli, and fresh biscuits with maple butter. The majority of the vegetables came from Somersworth’s school gardens, including the syrup for the maple butter, along with donations from NH Gleans.

Local apples were featured in the apple crisp dessert, and a creamy sweet potato pudding with local cream was another treat.

In addition to being a mostly locally sourced meal, all plates, cups and flatware were compostable. Toby from Mr. Fox donated the composting totes that are now on their way to becoming soil for our gardens.

Kale used as floral arrangement for community dinner.

Funds from our USDA Farm to School grant paid for most of the food. Donations of labor and products came from local businesses such as Ovington’s Produce, Smoke and Cream, 45 Market St Cafe, Cafe Services, and Mr. Fox Composting making the night a true community event.

Leftovers went home with families, and volunteers. School Board member Maggie Larson also brought hotel pans of food over to our fire and police department that night. They were pretty happy to see her come through the door!

Big thanks to all the families who turned out to volunteer. It takes a village, and wow what a village we have here in Somersworth.

Submitted by:  Wendy Berkeley, Somersworth Farm to School Coordinator

There are three Somersworth schools involved in gardening projects:  Somersworth Middle School, Idlehurst Elementary, and Maple Elementary. There is also an after-school gardening program open to K-8, and those gardens are located at the Somersworth Housing Authority, within walking distance from Maple Wood and Middle School. 

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Photo credit: A.A.Milne/Disney Productions

Piglet, did you do it?
Fill out the MG survey that was attached to a 11/27 email from Joan?
I’ve been busy reading seed catalogs.
Please take just a minute and fill out the survey so we can have some interesting meetings next year.
Okay, but then will you tell me more about your favorite flowers that attract pollinators?
Of course, Piglet, it’s never too soon to plan for next year’s garden.

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Poinsettia Open House

The Thompson School of Applied Science will host its Poinsettia Open House at the University of New Hampshire greenhouses on Thursday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 1. Visitors to the free event will enjoy 50 varieties of poinsettia and will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite.

A selection of poinsettia will be available for purchase on all three days. Fresh wreaths will also be available. Visitors can purchase a wreath designed by the Horticulture Club or design their own. Wreaths are $15, and all proceeds will benefit the Horticulture Club’s spring trip to Longwood Gardens.

The event is at the Macfarlane Greenhouses at 13 Botanical Lane from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Metered parking is available on all three days at the UNH Visitor Center across from the greenhouses.  Additional free parking is located in A Lot.  The greenhouses are also served by Wildcat Transit’s free shuttle service:

The UNH Woodsmen Team Christmas tree sale will take place Friday, Nov. 30 through Sunday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 8 through Sunday, Dec. 9, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Putnam Hall parking lot adjacent to the Thompson School greenhouses.

The Balsam and Fraser firs for sale are responsibly harvested from the UNH Tree Farm, which is managed by the Thompson School of Applied Science forest technology program. Prices range from $30-$70, depending on the height of the tree. Cash and checks will be accepted.

All proceeds will benefit the UNH Woodsmen Team events and competitions.

Both events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Thompson School of Applied Science main office at (603) 862-1025.

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Happy Holiday

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