Innovative Projects Awards

1st Place Winner

Integrated Pest Management Team

Rutgers Master Gardener Program of Morris County


The Community Garden IPM project began in 2018 when a large community garden reached out to Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Morris County for help monitoring and diagnosing pest problems.
A team of Rutgers Master Gardeners began to scout plots in two Morris County, New Jersey community gardens and produce reports of their findings.  After four years, the audience for the reports has grown from 200 to over 8500 gardeners throughout New Jersey.
Issues found during the inspections are thoroughly researched, using science-based university sources, and reviewed by Extension faculty and staff.
The team prepares weekly reports featuring photos to help gardeners recognize the problems along with research-based management techniques, references, and appropriate cultural practices.
Additional report sections have been added including: general observations and gardening tips, a beneficial insect spotlight, and a weed spotlight.
The team tracks each year’s first observations of pests and problems.  This four- year database and summary chart help local gardeners anticipate pests during the growing season.
In a recent survey, well over 90% said the reports were easy to understand, helped them positively identify insects, diseases, and other plant problems, and made them better gardeners.
The number of community and home gardens has grown rapidly, creating a need for timely and reliable pest and cultural information.  The Community Garden IPM Team project is a great example of how Cooperative Extension and Master Gardener volunteers can help gardeners be more successful.

2nd Place Winner

Your Polk Yard: Landscaping & Gardening the Florida-Friendly Way – A 12-Month Guide and Journal

UF/IFAS Extension Polk County Master Gardeners Volunteer Program


          The goal of The Journal is to provide University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Services (UF/IFAS) research-based information on landscaping and gardening while also teaching the principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL). “Written for residents of Polk County” means that every piece of information that is compiled and presented within The Journal has been cross-checked and verified with UF/IFAS EDIS documents (EDIS: Electronic Data Information Source) and other relevant Extension publications. Information written specific to Polk County is a valuable resource, providing concise and practical knowledge for residents, who otherwise must sift through various publications for the precise information to our unique area. Their specific needs for relevant information span the gamut from selecting plants to maintenance topics including insect issues, irrigation, lawn care, pruning, soil solarization, and related environmental challenges that home landscapes present. Learning to track landscape issues and recording experiences can be a source of learning and better understanding for residents interested in managing their home landscapes.
The Journal is a resource of handy and practical site-relevant information, presenting monthly landscape and edibles pages featuring monthly “to-do” checklists as well as journal/sketch pages. The Journal is designed to meet the VISION and the MISSION of the Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program as well as the mission and EEO policy of UF/IFAS Extension.

3rd Place Winner

Necessity as the Mother of Innovation: Plant Clinics after COVID-19 shutdowns

Sumter County Master Gardeners


Sumter County, FL, has experienced rapid population growth since 2000 with expansion of The Villages, a retirement community of 130,000. Most are new to Florida, unfamiliar with its hydrology, soils, climate, and fragile environment. Sumter County Master Gardener Volunteers responded by creating satellite in-person “Ask the Master Gardener” plant clinics in county buildings near this population center.
This successful outreach program halted abruptly in March 2020, when Coronavirus shutdown in-person activities. Necessity became the mother of innovation: applying recent technology to an existing successful project.
In April, clinic co-chairs worked with the extension agent to set up four plant clinics weekly via Zoom, an app that allows groups to interact electronically. The host for the meeting (UF/IFAS) has a paid zoom account, but access to the clinics was “free” to volunteers and clients. The co-chairs urged regular volunteers and those less familiar with clinics to sign-up and join meetings. Clients used desktop computers, notebooks, or smart phones to join the clinics, often taking their electronic devices outside to show their landscape challenges. Clients could e-mail photos to the zoom host, who would screenshare them with volunteers. Volunteers typed links to relevant publications in Zoom’s “chat box” for clients. Participants could join from any place with internet access, eliminating transportation. Although created for clients, zoom sessions provided valuable interaction among Master Gardener Volunteers.
The Zoom virtual plant clinics worked well. Any organization with a Zoom account can replicate it. Virtual clinics offer a valuable alternative, if needed, to in-person clinics.