Community Horticulture Program
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Digging In

The Healing Power of the Soil

As gardeners and composters, you know the “magic” of soil ecology, the importance of soil organic matter, ideal pH and maintaining good soil structure. (If you are looking for a refresher or want to dig into soils information, I highly recommend the newly revised Building Soils for Better Crops by Fred Magdoff and Harold van Es, available for free online as well as in print.)

You know that healthy soils mean healthy plants mean healthy harvests and healthy bodies. But did you know that soils may also positively contribute to our mental health? Research on the soil-borne Mycobacterium vaccae suggests that it increases serotonin in the brain, and scientists are actively studying M. vaccae for its ability to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

And that lovely earthy scent of soil? Scientists have found that the soil smell primarily comes from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) called geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol; recent research has suggested that inhaling these “earthy odorants are linked with the calmness and relaxation states of the brain” (Applied Sciences 7, no. 9 (2017): 876), particularly among women who seem more sensitive to these compounds.

As we patiently wait for spring when we can once again put our hands into the soil and deeply smell the earth, we can perhaps deepen our appreciation of the healing power of the soil for our plants and for our whole bodies.

Deb Heleba, State Coordinator




Cornell - Fruit Gardening Resources

UNH – Home Fruit

Spray Schedule



Updates from the Plant

Diagnostic Clinic

Ann Hazelrigg, Plant Pathologist,

UVM Extension

Ann discusses thoughts about buying seed varieties that are pest and disease resistant.

Read About it Here!

February is Black History Month

George Washington Carver crop

As we move into February, let’s take a moment to appreciate the accomplishments of Black horticulturalists and inventors who made profound changes to agriculture and gardening in the U.S. Cover cropping, CSAs, no-till systems, garden clubs, photomorphogenesis, and the advancement of hands-on education at Land Grants would not be what they are today without dedicated and talented Black scientists and educators like Henry Blair, George Washington Carver, Ethel Earley Clark, Marie Clark Taylor, Booker T. Washington, and Booker T. Whatley, to name a few.

Gardening and local food systems with racial equity in mind are being shaped by amazing Black leaders like Leah Penniman, author of Farming While Black; The Color of Food’s Natasha Bowens, Black Urban Gardeners co-founder Karen Washington and others. For a quick inspirational read about how Black growers have re-connected with the gardening, check out “Black Gardeners Find Refuge in the Soil” by New York Times reporter Ike Edeani:


Intern Joyce Amsden Shares Harvest Tips Statewide

One of the primary goals of the UVM Extension Master Gardener Program is educating the home gardener. As both an avid gardener and writer, EMG Intern Joyce Amsden found her niche volunteering to research and write press releases for the UVM Extension Community Horticulture website, which were in turn distributed around the state.

Joyce shared that it was a great experience because “ brought together a lifetime of gardening and home skills (growing, cooking and preserving food), the science-based master gardener program and the research needed to develop accurate, current, and engaging content.”

WCAX-TV became interested in creating a 12 part ‘Harvest Tips’ series on gardening and food preservation, and offered to tape the shows in Joyce’s home kitchen.

To view more of Joyce’s videos, visit “Educational Outreach Materials, Workshops & Videos” here on our website.

Congratulations to Joyce for helping the Master Gardener program advance our mission of providing science-based information for the home gardener.


Volunteer Spotlight

Judith Irven

Master Gardener Class of 1995 Northwest Chapter

1285 volunteer hours

Project Leader

Therapeutic Gardens at Helen Porter Health and Rehabilitation Center

Read More Here

UVM Extension Contributors

Deb Heleba - State Coordinator

Ann Hazelrigg - Plant Pathologist

Lisa Chouinard - Office & Program Support

Cindy Heath - Volunteer Coordinator

Debby Gillen - Outreach Assistant




Community Horticulture Program

Burlington, VT 05405

(802) 656-9562

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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. University of Vermont Extension, Burlington, Vermont. University of Vermont Extension, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status.  Any reference to commercial products, trade names, or brand names is for information only, and no endorsement or approval is intended.