Category Archives: Feature

Keep holiday plants merry, bright and fresh this season!

One of the most appreciated gifts exchanged during the holiday season are living plants. If you’ve been lucky enough to receive this wonderful living gift, you will want to keep the vibrant splashes of reds, fuschias, pinks, and classic whites bright and fresh through the holiday season and beyond! Here are some tips from our Extension experts on getting the most from your holiday plants!

Poinsettias come in many colors
Poinsettias come in many colors


Did you know that poinsettias do not like “wet feet?”

After receiving your poinsettia, remove or punch holes in the bottom of the foil on the pot. Poinsettias roots will not tolerate standing in water! Place the pot in a plate or shallow saucer to catch the water. When you water, add enough to saturate the soil. If the saucer still contains water after 3 or 4 hours, remove the plant and dump the excess. Allow the soil to go dry between watering. Watch the plant itself. When the soil feels dry to the touch or when the leaves begin to droop a little, then water thoroughly.  If the plant is allowed to wilt, it will drop its leaves prematurely.

Where to place your poinsettia?

Poinsettias are native to semi-tropical and tropical areas of Latin America, so they are grown in greenhouses at temperatures between 60-70 degrees F.   Place in your home near a bright sunny window with the same room temperatures. They thrive on natural, indirect light. If you are having company and want to use the poinsettia somewhere else this is no problem; just return it to its window location within a couple of days. Don’t place poinsettias so close to a window that the bracts touch a cold window.  Poinsettias do not like temperature below 50 degrees F.  In fact, temperatures below 50 degrees will cause damage to the plant.  Cold or cool temperatures with moist soils encourage root rots.  Night temperatures are ideally 60-62 degrees F.

Cyclamens come in rose, fuschia, light purple, red and white
Cyclamens come in rose, fuschia, light purple, red and white


This is a long-lasting blooming plant. It does, however, have very specific requirements for its care. Cyclamen will not tolerate temperatures above 65 degrees F and really prefers night temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees F. In the house, in the winter, keep your plant in the coolest spot you can, with as much sun as possible. Cyclamen do not need much fertilizer; once a month feedings with a liquid fertilizer is sufficient.

Try to keep the soil moist without overwatering. Do not allow your plant to sit in water trapped in a saucer or a decorative foil cover. As each bloom fades remove it and as much of the flower stem as you can. Cyclamen have very few insect problems other than mites.

You may find it difficult to rebloom a cyclamen. So, enjoy the flowers and nice foliage while they last and then discard it for a more suitable warm-weather plant in the spring.


Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus or Thanksgiving Cactus

These are actually two distinct species of Zygocactus. The old-fashioned Christmas cactus is more difficult to rebloom than the new hybrids. The new colorful hybrids actually bloom naturally around Thanksgiving. The old-fashioned form requires a period of 50 degree F nights in the fall, which causes the plants to bloom around Christmas.

Both species should be kept in a shady outdoor area or porch during the summer. In the fall, leave outside until freezing weather approaches. Keep the plant as dry as possible without having the plants wilt. Do not fertilize after the first of September.

The zygocactus enjoys being pot-bound so do not repot too often. These plants will live for many years and many have been passed on from one generation to another.

Please read our full fact sheet: How to Take Care for Your Holiday Plants. We welcome your questions! Don’t hesitate to Ask an Expert for any specific questions you may have!

What to do with your fresh Christmas Tree at the end of the holiday season?

How about use it as part of a wildlife habitat on your property?  Can you use it as cover for wildlife on your property?  Learn more about attracting wildlife to your backyard:   or visit:

Compost it?  Let Extension show you how! 

Discard at one of your local yard waste facilities?  View a list of drop-off sites.


The Botvin LifeSkills® Training Program

The Botvin LifeSkills® Training Program (LST) is a comprehensive, evidence-based program, which provides adolescents and young teens with the confidence and skills necessary to successfully handle challenging situations. It is currently provided free through the University of Delaware 4-H Program for Delaware students 8-14 years old. Developed by Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, a leading prevention expert, LST is backed by over 30 scientific studies and is recognized as a Model or Exemplary program by an array of government agencies including the U.S. Department of Education and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Botvin LifeSkills curriculum lessons include self-image, decision-making, smoking, alcohol, marijuana, advertising, violence and the media, coping with anxiety, coping with anger, communication skills, social skills, assertiveness, and resolving conflicts. The University of Delaware 4-H Program has been teaching the program for over 15 years through various grant-funded programs reaching over 5,000 youth.

The Division of Public Health (DPH) is launching a life-skills pilot program utilizing LST at eight middle schools across Delaware- to teach students the skills they need to prevent addiction, promote positive decision-making and reduce violence. DPH is partnering with the Department of Education to bring the Botvin LifeSkills® curriculum to the classroom.

The pilot program kicked off recently with a train-the-trainer session for 10 teachers who will be using the curriculum. This training was held at the University of Delaware Kent County Cooperative Extension office in Dover and led by University of Delaware 4-H Program staff member Lindsay Hughes who is a certified Botvin Train the Trainer. Both DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay and Representative Ruth Briggs-King visited the training and had the opportunity to welcome teachers and thank them for their participation in this pilot program. Teachers learned interventions to address the social and psychological factors that lead to experimentation with drugs and other undesirable behaviors.

“Adolescents tend to try substances due to peer pressure, family problems, or low self-esteem, and can easily become addicted,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “We wanted to provide teachers with the resources and supports this curriculum offers, to integrate life-skills building and substance use prevention in schools while also helping them to achieve their health education requirements.”

Representative Briggs-King stated “Our pre-teens need the confidence, social skills and self-esteem to reject peer pressure and lower their risk for addiction and violence. One way to help communities is to initiate prevention, and the school setting is ideal. Research suggests that universal lessons to all children – not only to those at higher risk – strengthen children’s self-esteem, decision-making and communication skills.”

Training will be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year, beginning with sixth-graders and reaching approximately 2,000 students. Students will complete pre- and post-tests, which Botvin will analyze and summarize for DPH.

DPH selected middle schools in the Capital, Indian River, Red Clay, and Seaford school districts because they are located in areas with high overdose numbers. The schools offering the Botvin LifeSkills® curriculum are:

• Red Clay School District: Brandywine Springs Middle School
• Capital School District: William Henry and Central middle schools
• Seaford School District: Seaford Middle School
• Indian River School District: Selbyville, Millsboro, and Georgetown middle schools and the Delaware School of the Arts

Visit for more information.

Delaware Christmas Trees

This season, many people are shopping for a perfect cut tree or live tree to Douglas fir treesdecorate their homes. Our local Christmas tree growers face many challenges to growing a perfect tree, an expensive and time-consuming process. A Christmas tree takes 8 to 10 years to grow to a good size, and there are many hurdles along the way. Trees must be planted properly in good soil, not too shallow or not too deep. It may take up to three years for a transplanted seedling to establish a good root system.

Insect pests and plant diseases can cause problems for Christmas tree growers. Phytophthora root rot is problematic on tree farms in many states. Phytophthora is a fungus-like organism, favored by wet, saturated soils with poor drainage. Roots in saturated soil may be stressed. The best management strategies for root rot are the purchase of clean healthy seedlings and proper site selection, because the best possible control is to avoid Phytophthora root rot to start.

There are other pests and diseases that attack Christmas tree species, such as needlecast fungi that cause spotting and discoloration of needles, and needle drop. Growers must scout their trees, apply fertilizer and pest control, trim to shape, and keep up with research on tree species and new varieties. Sales of trees, following the 10 years of nurturing, all occur yearly within a 4 to 6 week period! Our Christmas tree growers are dedicated agricultural professionals who love to see smiles on the faces of people who purchase and enjoy the trees that they grow!

Find a Delaware Christmas Tree Grower near you at:

NFG 12/5/2016

2017 New Castle County Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award

Marian Harvey has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 New Castle County Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award. Marian has been a 4-H volunteer for over 20 years in New Castle County. She has been active with the Porter Gang 4-H Club, and served as a 4-H project leader in several different project areas including Foods, Leadership and Citizenship. Marian has also been active in the New Castle County Leader’s Association, and is currently serving as Treasurer for this county group. She is an active member of the New Castle County 4-H Order of Links and has worked with this group to raise funds and provide support for the Delaware 4-H Program in New Castle County. In addition, Marian has served on the Delaware 4-H Foundation Board for the past 6 years. During this service, she has filled the role of President for the past 3 years, and has provided tremendous leadership to this group as they continue to provide strong support for the youth in the Delaware 4-H Program.

Marian has been a tremendous volunteer, leader and mentor for the Delaware 4-H program, and has always been that leader who does so many “big things” that mean so much, but also so many “little things” that are so very important to everyone. Her desire to see 4-H youth do well and succeed is infectious, and she always works tirelessly to provide support and to find others to provide support in an effort to see the Delaware 4-H program grow. Delaware 4-H is very fortunate to have an outstanding 4-H volunteer such as Marian Harvey as part of our program.

2017 Delaware 4-H Youth Adult Partnership Conference

Approximately one hundred 4-H members, volunteers, staff and guests from Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania gathered in Rehoboth Beach, DE on November 10-12, 2017 for a weekend of fun and learning. This Youth Adult Partnership event focused on Healthy Living topics and developing action plans to take back to clubs and communities. Featured keynote speakers were Haile Thomas and Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long.

Haile, a 16 yr. old entrepreneur and youth health activist from New York, shared her story that began as a 7 year old who liked spinach. It has blossomed into her own non-profit, The HAPPY organization (Healthy, Active, Positive, Purposeful, Youth). Our Lt. Governor brought greetings and spoke on her role as a nursing professor at the University of Delaware as well as efforts to promote health initiatives in the state.

Fifteen workshops were offered covering topics from Teamwork, Yoga, Mindfulness, Zumba, Next Top Chef, Nutrition Label reading, Couch to 5K and more. In addition, a Share Fair with interactive exhibits including a grocery shopping challenge, fitness tips, and disaster preparedness offered additional opportunities for healthy living information. Thank you to all the wonderful workshop presenters and share fair exhibitors, which included a 4-H’er, Master Food Educator, Health Professionals, and Extension Educators.

Throughout the weekend, teens and adults met as teams to work on a project they could take back to their club or community. Projects being developed include finding ways to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables to their towns, creating an Instagram account based on positivity and preparing healthy living displays for upcoming community events.

We thank the Delaware 4-H Foundation, Delaware 4-H Leader County Associations and County 4-H Links Organizations for their support of this event. In addition, we appreciate the support of our many community sponsors that sponsored this event. These sponsors include:  New Castle Conservation District, Beebe Healthcare, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, Delaware Department of Agriculture, The Bowers Group LLC, Horty & Horty PA, Simon Eye Associates, Representative Bobby Outten, Envirocorp Labs, Representative Ruth Briggs King, Walls Irrigation, Taylor & Messick, Chick Fil-A-Rehoboth, Delaware Health and Social Services, The Frozen Farmer, Hopkins Creamery, Mar-Del Watermelons, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Premier Nutrition, T. S. Smith and Sons and Wawa.

DINING with DIABETES offered from UD Cooperative Extension in 2018

Master Food EducatorsHave you ever experienced feeling trapped or caught, as in a spider’s web?

For some persons with diabetes, that feeling may be common – and it may be the reason why education about the disease and the important role that nutrition plays help significantly to detangle from the web.

The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences team offers a 5 session, 2 hour workshop series, Dining with Diabetes, at locations throughout Delaware.  We can help through our unique design of workshops that deliver information about diabetes presented in the first half of the class by a registered dietitian/nutritionist or a certified diabetes educator.  Ample opportunities for participants to ask questions, share their story and support each other as the group learns successful strategies to manage diabetes are provided throughout the series of workshops.  In every class, a camaraderie develops that engages each diverse group of men, women, caregivers, and supporters, whether newly diagnosed or having been dealing with diabetes for a number of years.  Truly unique to Dining with Diabetes, the second half of each workshop provides a recipe demonstration, tasting, and the recipes to take home. Whether it’s the holidays or other times during the year, who couldn’t use fresh, delicious, healthy new recipes to prepare meals that can help manage blood sugars and go easy on the wallet?

The total fee for the four classes is $50.00. Couples are welcome to attend for $50.00. Through generous funding from the Sussex County Health Coalition.

An added bonus for Dining with Diabetes participants is a session that is scheduled about 3 months later for the same group of participants to have a reunion and see how their goals and steps to managing their diabetes have progressed.

Curious and want to learn more?  To access more information and receive a registration brochure for our 2018 classes access our link

If you have questions contact:

Kathleen Splane, MS   

Kimi Moore, RD           

Cheryl Bush, MS,RDN,LDN

Workshops scheduled:

New Castle Cooperative Extension, 461 Wyoming Road, Newark, DE 19716: March 20, 27, April 3, 10 from 6-8pm- reunion July 10
Call: 302-831-2506

Kent County Cooperative Extension, 69 Transportation Circle, Dover, DE 19901: February 20, 22, 27, March 1 from 6-8 pm- reunion June 19
Call: 302-730-4000

Sussex County Cooperative Extension, 16483 County Seat Highway, Georgetown, DE 19947: May 16; 23, 30, June 6 from 10am-12- reunion August 2
Call: 302-856-7303

What is Policy, Systems and Environmental Change?

Policy, systems and environmental (PSE) changes are strategic and deliberate ways of addressing public health issues. Traditionally, health education programs focused on individual behavior change, assuming that if you teach people what will make them healthy, they will find a way to do it. Unfortunately, being healthy is not just about individual choices. Where you live affects how you live and you simply cannot make healthy decisions if healthy options are not accessible and easily available. By changing laws, rules and environments, PSE strategies ensure healthy choices are practical available and accessible.

This video, produced by our colleagues at the University of Minnesota explains PSE.

Policy Change

  • Policy Change: A formal written statement of position, decision or course of action such as laws, ordinances, resolutions, mandates, guidelines, regulations or rules. Policies are often intended to reach large groups of people and can sometimes have unintended consequences.
  • Examples:
    • A tax on unhealthy food (soda tax)
    • A law allowing residents to plant community gardens on vacant lots
    • The USDA Smart Snacks rule for all foods sold in schools
    • Delaware Public Health Person-in-Charge Food Safety rule
    • School wellness policies
    • Joint-use agreements with school districts to ensure playgrounds are open to the community on weekends and over school breaks
    • Purchasing cooperatives for corner store owners to make healthy foods more profitable

Systems Change

  • Systems Change : An organizational procedure such as a process or method, involving the infrastructure of an organization or community; can involve resource allocation, job duties, etc. Policy changes normally create systems changes
  • Examp les:
    • Healthy cooking training for church kitchen staff (baking versus frying)
    • Teaching locally grown produce procurement to institutional buyers
    • The development and implementation of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Plans (HACCP) or food safety plans
    • The adoption of guidelines for “healthy” meetings by worksites

Environmental Change

  • Environmental Change: Physical, observable changes in the built, economic and/or social
  • Examples:
    • School and community gardens
    • Farmers’ markets (intentionally placed for convenience and access)
    • Municipal planning projects to ensure better pedestrian and bicycle access to main roads and parks
    • The installation of water fountains in a hospital lobby to increase drinking water access for hydration
    • Mobile farmers ‘ markets that accept SNAP benefits to eliminate transportation barriers
    • A family member learned about healthy eating and as a result the family is now eating healthy

To learn how policies, systems and the environment influence one family’s health, please view this video from our friends at the University of Minnesota.

Delaware 4-H’ers Apply their Horsemanship Skills on State 4-H Trail Ride

The Delaware 4-H program held their annual State 4-H Trail Ride on Sunday, November 5, 2017 at Redden State Forest in Georgetown. Held annually and sponsored by the volunteer State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee, riders and drivers alike got to spend time in the colorful falls woods for the 4 mile ride. 4-H members were also able to utilize their horsemanship skills riding in a group outside of an arena.

Members and volunteers enjoyed a picnic in the pavilion at the Redden Headquarters upon their return. Special thanks to the Delmarva American Mustang and Burro Chapter for sharing their ride date with 4-H, the parents walkers who helped to maintain a safe environment and our mounted trail leaders.

4-H is a community of young people across Delaware learning leadership, citizenship and lifeskills. For more information on becoming a 4-H member or volunteer in Delaware please contact your county extension office:

New Castle County: (302)831-8965
Kent County: (302)730-4000
Sussex County: (302)856-7303

Cooperative Extension Education in Agriculture and Home Economics, University of Delaware, Delaware State University and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperating. Distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age, or national origin.

STG 11/07/2017

2017 Kent County Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award

Elaine Webb is the recipient of the 2017 Kent County Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award. Elaine has been involved in 4-H for as long as she has been eligible. She began her 4-H career as a member of the Harrington Sunshine 4-H Club where she was very active, participating in most events and activities when possible, and received numerous awards during her years of involvement. It is evident that her experience in 4-H made a huge impact in her life.

Kent County 4-H, as well as the Delaware 4-H Program, became the fortunate recipient of this impact when Elaine Webb decided to re-start the Peach Blossom 4-H Club in 2006 after it had been closed down for approximately 2 years. Peach Blossom was an extremely active club under its former Organizational Leaders who oversaw this club for 40 years, and it is truly a pleasure to note that the club presently is just as active if not more active under Elaine’s volunteer guidance as the current Organizational Leader. She has definitely made a difference in the lives of the youth in her club and in Kent County. In addition, Elaine has taken a very active role in the Delaware 4-H program.

Elaine is extremely organized, a great planner, and is definitely an encourager and motivator to her club members. She is a great believer and cheerleader for 4-H, always promoting 4-H to others. She is an excellent role model for our youth to look up to. As 4-H’ers interact with Elaine, she provides many hours of ongoing help and support with their 4-H program work. The youth know that Elaine is willing to help, and they look to her for guidance and assistance. Elaine is a great asset to the Kent County 4- H program, and is one of the reasons why the Kent County 4-H program is as strong as it is. We are pleased to honor Elaine Webb with the 2017 Kent County Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award.

Friends of Extension honored at 2017 conference

Individuals, partners, and organizations were honored as “Friends of Extension” on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, at Delaware Cooperative Extension’s First State Innovate and annual conference held at Delaware State University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Center in Dover.

Extension staff from Delaware’s two Land-Grant universities, the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, meet annually for a day of professional development, networking and use the opportunity to recognize valued support from the community.

The awardees were nominated by extension professionals across the agriculture, 4-H, FCS and horticulture departments and were presented by Donna Brown, interim director of extension for Delaware State University and Michelle Rodgers, associate dean, and director of University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

“The Friend of Extension Award is the highest recognition presented to a non-extension person, business or organization and is designed to recognize the truly outstanding support and personal involvement in extension efforts,” Rodgers said.

Honorees from the University of Delaware: 

Michelle Rodgers, Hetty Francke, Doug Crouse

Hetty Francke. A volunteer with extension for 30-plus years, Francke became a Master Gardener in 1987 and a Master Composter in 1989 and she served as volunteer compost education coordinator for Delaware 4-H.



Laurie Wolinski, Dan Severson, Ken Wicks (Lazy Boy Farms), Michelle Rodgers

Lazy Boy Farm. This family farm operation in Middletown has produced fresh cabbage, potatoes, soybean, corn, and wheat since 1956. Brothers Ken and Chris Wicks, and their respective children Anna Wicks, a UD Alumna, and Michael, comprise the three-generation farm.



Michelle Rodgers, Karen Sommers, Maria Pippidis

Karen Sommers. A Master Food Educator (MFE) since 2011 with the Family and Consumer Science program, Sommers is valued for her tireless wisdom and volunteer efforts, with 175 hours served in the first half of 2017 alone.



Tracy Wootten, Pat and Alex Bohinski, Michelle Rodgers

Pat and Alex Bohinski and their staff at Southern States provide advanced training to Delaware Master Gardeners by participating in numerous meetings covering a variety of topics to keep Master Gardeners informed with new lawn and garden products, trends and problems.




Delaware State University honorees:

Donna Brown, Natasha Lamadieu, Pastor William Grimes

Pastor William Grimes. Under his leadership at the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Dover, Grimes opened his 4,200 square foot outreach center and collaborates with Delaware Cooperative Extension, helping to promote a healthy lifestyle through community dinners and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).


Donna Brown, Keesha Braunskill, Megan Pleasanton

Kesha Braunskill works for the Delaware Forest Service and serves on the state’s Urban and Community Forest Council. Braunskill offers training on tree diseases and diagnosis, tree management, tree plantings and job site safety.



Harry Thayer, Kendal & Delores Tyre (New Hope Recreation & Development Center, Inc.) Donna Brown

New Hope Recreation and Development Center, Inc. This organization led by Kendal and Delores Tyre bring STEM education to the youth they serve during afterschool and summer camp programs. The Tyre’s center and volunteer staff provide a safe place for youth where students can learn and improve their academic and social skills.



Photos by Jackie Arpie and Monica Moriak

Additional photos may be viewed on our Flickr gallery.