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NC State Extension

Learning to Create Climate-Ready Landscapes

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Volunteers attending the conference interact with panel members.

Volunteers interact with panel members following a discussion on the role of native plants in climate-ready landscapes.

Continual learning is an integral part of the NC State Extension Master Gardener℠ program that keeps our volunteers and staff in touch with the latest sustainable gardening practices, issues, and research. Master Gardener℠ volunteers participate in at least 10 hours of continuing education each year. They apply and share what they learn in their community through their volunteer work with N.C. Cooperative Extension. 

Opportunities for Master Gardener volunteers to gain continuing education credits include the Plants, Pests, and Pathogens webinar series and Extension Master Gardener (EMG) College, an in-person conference held every other year.

EMG College offers the chance for volunteers and Extension educators from across North Carolina to connect with each other, NC State faculty, and Extension experts and to learn the latest research-based information so they are better prepared to lead educational outreach programs in their communities. 

EMG College 2022 was held October 27 – 29, at the James B. Hunt Library on NC State University’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh, with the theme of “Gardening in a Changing Climate.” Educational sessions, tours, and workshops were planned to increase participants’ understanding of climate impacts on plants as well as their knowledge of climate-ready gardening and landscaping practices. Volunteers and Extension educators also learned about tools and resources they can use for Extension outreach and education in their communities. 

Headshots of faculty members for the NC State Departement of Horticulture Science who presented at EMG College 2022.

Presenters from the NC State Department of Horticultural Science included (top, left to right): Anne Spafford, Barb Fair, Lucy Bradley, Bryce Lane, and (bottom, left to right): Rhonda Sherman, Danesha Seth Carley, Kathleen Moore, and Laura Barth.

The program featured Extension specialists and University faculty from seven departments across NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, as well as N.C. Cooperative Extension agents, and representatives from the NC Forest Service and NC Botanical Gardens. Topics covered included plant selection for challenging landscape and climate conditions, climate-ready landscape design practices, preserving and protecting pollinators, and managing stormwater in home landscapes. 

Rebecca Ward, Assistant State Climatologist, set the stage with an opening keynote that discussed climate changes anticipated in NC over the next five to 20 years. As outlined in the North Carolina Climate Science Report, these changes include warmer temperatures, with more days over 95 degrees and more nights where temperatures stay above 75, as well as a longer freeze-free season.

Additional changes may include more extreme precipitation events, such as heavy downpours and intense hurricanes, along with droughts, sea level rise, and increased wildfire risk. All of these changes will increase stress on plants, people, wildlife and ecosystems. 

Climate change impacts anticipated across North Carolina in the coming years.

Additional sessions presented gardening strategies for adapting to these climate challenges. A sustainable design workshop led by Anne Spafford, Professor and Associate Department Head for NC State Horticultural Science, explored the intersection between the principles of ecological design, such as high plant diversity and vertical layers, and the principles of good landscape design, which include providing seasonal interest and structure.

Spafford says when these two come together, “the result is high performing landscapes that provide beauty, pollinator habitat, stormwater mitigation, and other environmental and social benefits for people, wildlife, and communities.” 

Those who attended were able to choose from a variety of concurrent sessions, tours, and workshops. Concurrent sessions offered volunteers opportunities to learn about

Tours and workshops provided the opportunity to visit the

EMG College 2022 wrapped-up with a closing keynote delivered by Dr. Danesha Seth Carley, Associate Professor and Director of the National Science Foundation Center for Integrated Pest Management (CIPM), the event’s platinum sponsor. Dr. Carley’s presentation helped us understand the challenges facing pollinators, concepts of IPM, and how applying IPM can generate economic, environmental, and human health benefits.

Master Gardener volunteers from Brunswick County were among the 122 participants of EMG College 2022.

Twelve Extension agents and 110 Master Gardener volunteers from 28 counties attended EMG College 2022. When asked what they thought of the conference, one volunteer shared, “Incredible! Fantastic talks from the people doing the research. Engaging and active speakers, all did a fabulous job delivering useful, actionable information that I have been craving. Really loved the workshop. I feel like I have new tools in my belt! This was a wonderful experience and I am totally charged up by it.”

Benefits of participating in this continuing education conference reported by volunteers included increased knowledge of climate impacts on plants, learning new gardening and landscaping strategies for adapting to climate change, and increased awareness of NC State Extension resources that will help them be more effective in their role as Extension volunteers. 

Many thanks to our sponsors and the EMG College 2022 Planning Team members, Matt Jones, chair, Minda Daughtry, Debbie Dillion, Julie Flowers, Gene Fox, Selena McKoy, Katy Shook, Ashley Troth, and Floy Hamilton. This event would not have been possible without you!

About the NC State Extension Master Gardener Program

The Extension Master Gardener program is a statewide network of volunteers and Extension educators working in N.C. Cooperative Extension county centers and on NC State campus. Through education and outreach, we connect people with the benefits of gardening and empower North Carolinians to cultivate healthy plants, landscapes, ecosystems, and communities. 

But, what does it take to become an EMG volunteer? The program is open to anyone interested in learning about sustainable, research-based gardening practices and giving back to their community through volunteer service with their local N.C. Cooperative Extension center.

After applying and being accepted into the program, volunteers complete the initial training course and a 40-hour volunteer internship to gain certification. To keep their EMG certification, which is renewed annually, volunteers complete at least 20 service hours and 10 continuing education hours.

Explore stories from our 2022 Annual Report, which celebrates our work to help North Carolinians learn and grow.

Join, support, or connect with Extension Master Gardener volunteers in your community.

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