Northern Neck Master Gardener Pam Brown works with one of the Boys & Girls Club students at the “pizza garden.”
Northern Neck Master Gardener Pam Brown works with one of the Boys & Girls Club students at the “pizza garden.”

The Northern Neck Master Gardeners (NNMG) have undertaken a vegetable growing program at the new Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Neck (BGC) facility in Burgess. The program, “Growing Healthy Lifestyles,” is funded through a grant for community and school gardens from the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program at Virginia Tech.

The NNMG Youth Education Committee co-chairs, Carmela Crawford and Bethany Bosold, have worked with Imani Robinson, Northumberland Boys and Girls Club Program Director, to coordinate the project.

“The NNMGs will meet weekly throughout the summer with the BGC’s Garden Club – a popular offering for the students,” said Bethany Bosold. “We will teach them about gardening by growing vegetables and herbs.”

“The first step was the creation of four raised-bed gardens with the hands-on involvement of the boys and girls,” continued Bosold. “The first lesson was planting a pizza garden with herbs, tomatoes, and peppers donated by Tammy Wilkins, who runs the greenhouse program at Northumberland High School.”

According to Bosold, “The project has been a wonderful community partnership, and the students have enjoyed the hands-on learning and gardening. They are very enthusiastic and many have even tasted new vegetables!”

NNMGs donated seeds and tomato plants. Support came from the Northumberland Lancaster Farm Bureau Women’s Committee.

Other summer themes include soils and worms, leaves, the parts of plants we eat, good and bad insects in the garden, herbs, and butterflies and pollinators. The Northumberland Boys and Girls Club and the Northern Neck Master Gardeners look forward to maintaining their growing partnership into the future.

: Extension Master Gardeners Sue Kosinski and Karen Williams research a gardening question.
Extension Master Gardeners Sue Kosinski and Karen Williams research a gardening question.

Northern Neck gardeners can get free, reliable answers to their yard, landscaping, and gardening questions by contacting one of the Northern Neck Master Gardeners’ (NNMG) Help Desks. Trained volunteers staff the Help Desks at Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) offices three days each week. They take phone calls, respond to emails, and inspect samples brought in by local gardeners and homeowners.


“Our skilled and knowledgeable Extension Master Gardeners are available to answer questions and provide researched-based advice,” said NNMG President Marge Gibson. “This valuable service provides home gardeners with reliable information based on scientific research from our land grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. You can ask anything garden-related, and they will guide you in the right direction.”


“Help Desk volunteers can advise on what needs to be done in gardens and yards during each part of the growing season. This includes pruning, dividing, soil sampling, disease control and prevention, project planning, and much more,” said Henry Riely, NNMG Help Desk Program chair.


“Help Desk volunteers research questions and provide specific information from VCE publications and fact sheets. If they cannot answer a question, they research the topic or refer the problem to subject matter specialists at Virginia Tech,” Riely continued. 


Residents can bring in plants, insects, and weeds for identification and diagnosis. Plant specimens should include a sample 12 to 18 inches in length and include the junction of the plant’s healthy and affected tissue. Photos are also helpful.


The Westmoreland Help Desk is open Monday mornings, the Northumberland Help Desk is open Tuesday mornings, and the Lancaster Help Desk is open Thursday mornings. Hours are from 9:00 a.m. until noon, and the Help Desks are closed on holidays. NNMG also serves residents of Essex and Richmond counties. Questions can be submitted at any time by email to

The Northern Neck Master Gardeners maintain several different Demonstration Gardens located throughout the Northern Neck. These gardens illustrate ideas, plant varieties, and gardening techniques for various applications. 


One of these gardens is the Farm Museum Garden located at the Northern Neck Farm Museum located at 12705 Northumberland Highway, east of Heathsville. The Farm Museum Garden produces a variety of vegetables and fruits. During the growing season, the vegetables and fruits are delivered weekly to the Healthy Harvest Food Bank in Warsaw. 


“So far this year, we’ve delivered 435 pounds of food to the Food Bank,” said Susan Losapio, co-chair of the NNMG Farm Museum garden project. “Among the many vegetables and fruits harvested are beets, blackberries, bok choy, carrots, collards, cucumbers, herbs, mixed lettuce, okra, radishes, sashito peppers, spinach, squash, Swiss chard, and turnips.”


Master Gardeners recently planted sweet potatoes, and other vegetables still to be harvested include more cabbage, a variety of herbs, lima beans, and tomatoes. 

“The Northern Neck Master Gardeners work at the garden every Tuesday morning from spring through the fall,” said Bonnie Schaschek, co-chair of the NNMG Farm Museum garden project. “Visitors are welcome and the Master Gardeners will gladly answer gardening questions.”







Bryce Lane will be a featured speaker at the 28th Gardening in the Northern Neck (GNN) Seminar hosted by the Northern Neck Master Gardeners (NNMG).

The seminar will be held at the White Stone Church of the Nazarene, 57 Whisk Drive, White Stone. The theme will be “Landscape, Viewscape, Escape!”

“Lane’s topic will be ‘Landscapes That Save the World: The Importance of Biodiversity in the Garden’,” announced GNN Chairperson and NNMG vice president Lynne Osborne.

“Bryce will explain how gardeners can use the principles of biodiversity to help solve the gardening challenges of today – climate change, stormwater runoff, invasive plants, pest control, and more,” continued Osborne.

Lane is a sought-after speaker and author. He was a national award winning instructor in the Department of Horticultural Science at N.C. State University and the host and producer of UNC-TV’s three-time Emmy winning television show “In the Garden.” Although Bryce retired in 2014, he continues to teach part-time at N.C. State and the JC Raulston Arboretum.

The 28th Gardening in the Northern Neck Seminar has been structured with safety in mind. There will still be three excellent speakers, vendors, and book sales. Pre-packaged snacks and coffee will be available in the morning. Doors open at 8:00 a.m. for vendor and book sales. The program begins at 9:00 a.m., and there will be half-hour breaks between speakers so attendees can browse the vendor displays and book sale. Masks are required indoors and space is limited.

Registration is currently open. Registration forms can be obtained online at or by calling the Northumberland County Extension Office at 804-580-5694. The registration fee is $50.

C. Colston (Cole) Burrell will be a featured speaker at the 28th Gardening in the Northern Neck Seminar hosted by the Northern Neck Master Gardeners (NNMG).The seminar will be held at the White Stone Church of the Nazarene, 57 Whisk Drive, White Stone. The theme will be “Landscape, Viewscape, Escape!”

Cole Burrell, a native Virginian, has been a self-described chlorophyll addict and birding enthusiast since childhood. He is a garden designer, lecturer, photographer, and naturalist. He has spent a lifetime studying native plants in the wild and in gardens. He uses this knowledge to blend nature and culture through artistic design. Burrell’s topic will be “Finishing Touches: The Power of Details in Garden Design.”

Almost all gardens have well defined spaces and good plantings; however, great gardens stand out because of details. From paving patterns to stonework, fencing, containers and sculpture, the details in both functional and artistic elements make a garden personal and magical. Burrell’s presentation celebrates spaces of various sizes that combine form, color, and texture in hard scrapes and plants to fashion memorable places.

NNMG Vice President Lynn Osborne said, “With his knowledge of both plants and landscape design, I know that Cole will teach us a great deal about the steps we rarely get to in the making of our own gardens – the finishing touches.”

Burrell has degrees in botany, horticulture, and landscape architecture. Burrell is a lecturer with the UVA School of Architecture’s Master of Landscape Architecture program.

In 2008, Burrell received an Award of Distinction from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers for his work promoting sustainable gardening practices. More recently, Burrell has embarked on a new venture, Garden and Nature Tours with C. Colston Burrell.

Two of Burrell’s books won awards from the American Horticultural Society, “A Gardener’s Encyclopedia of Wildflowers” in 1997 and “Hellebores,” co-written with Judith Knott in 2007. “Perennial Combinations,” revised in 2008, is a best-selling title on Amazon.

The seminar fee is $50. Registration forms are available at

Joseph Tychonievich will be one of the featured speakers at this year’s Gardening in the Northern Neck seminar hosted by the Northern Neck Master Gardeners. The seminar is scheduled for Saturday, March 26, at the White Stone Church of the Nazarene, 57 Whisk Drive in White Stone. This will be the 28th Gardening in the Northern Neck Seminar, and the theme of the seminar is “Landscape, Viewscape, Escafpe!”

Joseph’s topic will be “Rock Gardening: Reimaging a Classic Style for Today’s Garden.” He will show how rock gardens can be created in a space that would otherwise be wasted and bring additional beauty to the garden. Rock gardens are also a way to create sustainable, drought-tolerant plantings in a water-wise garden, often offering great color and texture.

A noted garden writer, plant breeder, and self-confessed passionate lover of plants, Joseph is well known on the horticultural speakers’ circuit for his engaging presentations which, as he states, combine rigorous science-based information with lots of silly jokes. He states that his goal for each presentation is for everyone to laugh and learn something new and useful.

Organic Gardening magazine named Joseph “one of six young horticulturists who are shaping the American garden.” The senior curator at the Denver Botanic Garden has described him as “being in the forefront of public speaking in horticulture today.”

After studying horticulture, plant breeding, and genetics at Ohio State University, Joseph went on to work as nursery manager at Arrowhead Alpines, a premier rock garden nursery in Fowlersville, Michigan. He is currently the editor of Rock Garden Quarterly. These low-maintenance gardens remain just one of his many enthusiasms: his personal gardening activities not merely fill his own South Bend, Indiana, garden but spill over into his friend’s garden and even down the stairs into a basement set-up of grow lights and containers. In addition to gardening, experimenting, writing and photography, he also produces a regular series of podcasts on a wide range of topics.

Come and join the Northern Neck Master Gardeners and be educated – and entertained – as Joseph explores the potentials of this often overlooked field. The fee for the seminar is $50. Additional information is available at Registration forms are available here.


The demonstration vegetable garden at the Northern Neck Farm Museum near Burgess, one of several demonstration gardens maintained by NNMG, produces a variety of vegetables and fruits. Each week during the growing season, the harvest is delivered to the Healthy Harvest Food Bank in Warsaw. Susan Losapio and Bonnie Schaschek head up the Farm Museum garden project.

In 2020, the garden yielded 1,500 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for the Food Bank. This year, as of the end of November, the garden has produced more than 1,100 pounds of produce. The garden continues to produce kale, Chinese cabbage, and cabbage. The Swiss chard, which had not been doing well, is finally making a rebound.

Sweet potatoes rank at the top of the list of best crops. They are easy. We planted them and essentially forgot them until harvest time. They required virtually no maintenance and produced more than 100 pounds of ready-for-Thanksgiving sweet potatoes for the Food Bank.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash were also at the top of the 2021 best crops list. We had one planting of carrots, and that crop also performed well. 

The Master Gardeners planted okra for the first time and it did well. The variety selected for planting was relatively pest free and produced a high yield. The blackberries overall did not fare as well this year. The Master Gardeners plan to rejuvenate them next year by cutting them down further than has been done in the past and replenishing the soil around them.

Insects are almost always a problem. We always seem to be battling hornworms. This year harlequin bugs attacked the turnips early in the season. Armyworms on the tomatoes were a complete surprise; however, an application of BT insecticidal soap (Bacillus thuringiensis) seemed to help on the young worms and we handpicked and dispatched the larger armyworms.


In other garden news Tom Osborne, Pete Kauneckas, Trent Jones, and Bill Bell helped Ian Cheyne and project manager Jim Myers build an 8’ x 12’ shed to store equipment and other garden tools. Foundation work for the shed was completed by Ian Cheyne, Jim Myers, and Lynn Osborne. Lynn also made sure the construction crew had lunch each day.

Earlier in the year, Tom Osborne designed and fabricated a new 4-bin composter to replace a much smaller 10-year-old compost bin. Jim Myers helped with the construction of the new composter bin.

Catch the King Mappers
Mappers Page Evans (standing) and Bonita Russell enjoy a ‘fruit punch’ after mapping high tide on tropical Colonial Beach.

As sea-level rise accelerates, predicting flooding is becoming more important.

During November, volunteers organized by the Northern Neck Master Gardeners’ Shoreline Evaluation Program (SEP) were out in the weather collecting tidal data around the Northern Neck to help predict flooding events. They were trying to Catch the King.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) developed a mathematical model to predict flooding around Chesapeake Bay based on location and the key factors that influence tidal movement. The model is designed to provide local authorities with advance warning of potential flooding events so they may take appropriate action.

To refine their models, the VIMS scientists need on the ground data to confirm their predictions. The Northern Neck tidal mapping volunteers jumped into action during the fall season’s exceptionally high king tides.

Using their cell phone’s GPS and a free downloadable app, volunteers walked along the edge of high tide and transmitted tidal location information to a data gathering system. The VIMS scientists then use the on-the-ground data gathered by the volunteers to compare their predictions and refine their models. This data is critical to refining the validity of the models.

Catch the King Mappers
Chilly Rappahannock River mappers near White Stone from left to right, Jim Dullea, Cindy Dullea, Virginia Ramadan, and Walid Ramadan.

The Catch the King mapping program was launched in 2017 in the Hampton Roads area and has taken off around Virginia’s tidal estuary. Data gathering events on the Northern Neck were first organized by SEP in 2019. The first event was at Hughlett Point beach and now involves mapping events in all Northern Neck counties from Windmill Point to Colonial Beach.

Catch the King is a fun educational activity, and anyone with a cell phone and the app is invited to participate. This fall and in 2020, mapping was constrained by Covid-19 considerations. Organizers are looking forward to fall 2022 when (we hope) Covid-19 will be in our rear-view mirror, and many more volunteers can participate.

Those interested in becoming a mapper next year can express their interest by sending their name and e-mail contact information to



For shorefront homeowners, the area between land and water offers a planting zone with specific demands and requirements. According to Northern Neck Master Gardener and Shoreline Evaluation Program Chair Mary Turville, it is easy to create and encourage a healthy and beautiful shoreline.

“Only one plant, smooth cordgrass, grows along the water’s edge,” said Turville. “Smooth cordgrass provides the basis of our marshes and is uniquely adapted to shoreline conditions.”

Smooth cordgrass needs to be inundated by brackish water twice a day; however, its roots cannot survive if permanently underwater. Smooth cordgrass needs six hours of sunlight each day and prefers a sandy bottom.

“If you have these conditions, you have a marsh,” Turville continued. “The extent of this grassy fringe depends on the depth of the water. The plant’s roots will extend outwards as far as the favorable conditions exist. Once the water is too deep, the growth stops.”

Behind the smooth cordgrass, there are a few more options including salt marsh hay and a variety of rushes. A little farther back, taller grasses and some salt-resistant shrubs start to appear.

“Groundsel bush, wax myrtle, and clumps of switchgrass, all native plants, are perfectly adapted to this environment,” continued Turville. “These plants experience few insect or disease threats and need no fertilizer. They all have sturdy, thirsty roots which will hold the soil on the bank, absorb stormwater run-off, and stabilize the edge of your property.”

Switchgrass, which has roots that can reach six or seven feet into the ground, is the ideal plant to grow on a bank and at the edge of the upland. If it gets too tall, just cut it back. Its open, airy seed heads, waving in the breeze and catching the sunlight, add to the beauty of the shoreline landscape.

A little higher above the water line, flowering plants add variety and color. Marsh hibiscus, marsh mallow, and seaside goldenrod are all native plants that thrive in this zone. “There’s no need to purchase or plant them. The birds and the wind will carry and drop the seeds,” said Turville. “Once established they will easily reproduce and spread.”

If you want additional shapes and colors, try planting flag irises, which can survive in wet conditions. Farther up the bank, where the soil is often moist but only occasional inundations occur, a wide range of commercially available plants can find a home. Experiment with selections from any list of plants for moist conditions.

“The most important guideline for shoreline planting is to have a variety of plants growing in this area and as densely as possible,” Turville stated. “Lawn and turfgrass should not be grown in this area. It does little to protect the shoreline and prevent damage from stormwater runoff. This is the zone for native plants with deep, thirsty roots to provide shoreline stability and erosion control. The shoreline is a place for working plants – and for natural beauty.”

Visit the Northern Neck Master Gardeners’ Shoreline Garden at the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum. For more information on the Northern Neck Master Gardeners’ Shoreline Evaluation Program, visit or call your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office.


NNMG Training Team members (l to r): Carol Martin, Janice Mahoney,

Mary Beane, Michelle Kramer, Bonnie Schaschek, and Fran Westbrook


The Northern Neck Master Gardeners (NNMG) Association and Virginia Cooperative Extension will conduct Extension Master Gardener training from February 15 to April 14, 2022.

“The NNMG Training Program, typically offered once every two years, is the gateway to becoming an Extension Master Gardener,” said spokesperson Michelle Kramer.

“The Northern Neck, with its unpredictable weather and proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, presents a unique set of gardening challenges,” said training team member Carol Martin. “We focus on issues facing local residents. Our education programs strike a balance between responsible gardening and conserving our land and waters.”

Training team members have a wide range of gardening experiences from beginner to expert. “We share a passion for learning about current and sustainable gardening techniques and, most importantly, we want to share our knowledge and experience with our trainees,” said Kramer. “We began meeting in June and are working to design a fun and informative program.” 

“A great plus of participating in the Extension Master Gardener Program has been the great friends I have made and the new information I have been able to gather through the many educational opportunities,” said Kramer.

“You don’t need to be an expert gardener to apply. Trainees just need to have an enthusiasm for the fundamental aspects of gardening, a willingness to learn more, and a commitment to volunteerism,” said Kramer.

The training program will take place from February 15 to April 14, 2022, with sessions typically held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Enrollment is open to anyone in Essex, Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland counties.