Valid, Vetted, and Very Interesting Professional Development Resources

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

With such a wide array of sources producing educational and professional development material available on the internet now, it seemed like a good time to provide you with a list assist in your search of webinars, videos, and presentations available online. Along with the pesticide credit modules available from UNHCE, and the kindness in the time of coronavirus they are extending NH residents through the waiver of registration fees for the courses, this article will offer you some ideas of where to look and what to look for, in your professional development.

If you are taking the pesticide credits modules offered by UNH Cooperative Extension, the certificate of completion you’ll need for your recertification will be provided through UNH, not through NHLA.

Besides our own University of New Hampshire offerings, which I hope you have already signed up to receive notices about, consider signing up for bulletins from the Oregon State University Extension Service, (extension.oregonstate.edu) and check out their website for their recorded and upcoming gardening, lawn, and landscape programming. From permaculture, to sustainable landscaping, Oregon State University has an array of online material you can view, free of charge, although registration is required, as is the case for most of the resources I am sharing in this article.

Perdue.edu, especially their Department of Rainscaping and Rain Gardens, will have sessions and fact sheets you might find helpful when designing those water-harvesting systems for clients. Sharing the information with your clients is also helpful for sharing your interest and expertise – while showing you are keeping up with the trends they may be asking you about. Most of the webinars from the various departments pertaining to the Green Industry through Perdue are archived, so you can access them truly when you want to or need to. From an evening you dedicate to your professional development, to having info readily available on your smartphone on a job site, once you find your “go to” convenient sites, you are ahead of problems that can come up due to communication with your crew members or questions on the spot, from your client.

As this article branches out from these three (Oregon, Perdue and UNH) sites, please be aware of how a site might seem to fit the description of what you are searching for, but know the difference between web addresses ending in dot org and dot com. A dot org site is likely not-for-profit, and while may get funding from various sources, including commercial sources, there is a higher degree of objectivity and in the case of horticultural topics, might be more research-based than a dot com website. Remember the com in dot com addresses is short for commercial, and might have a slant or bias toward the products or services they operate for business. The difference is something you should keep in mind, but don’t ignore great dot com addresses for professional development!

For our Education Committee to serve our membership, we’re trying to showcase sites helpful in a variety of topics, such as landscape lighting; irrigation; hardscapes; landscape design; landscape trends; OSHA; invasive plants and well-known speakers or presenters who we would have loved to see in person for an NHLA conference! This article will share a site for each of these categories, and in subsequent issues, there will be more to work with and check out!

Outdoor Lighting
The Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals – aolponline.org – offers many multi-session courses, as well as free access to a library of webinars related to outdoor lighting, including gardens and landscapes. Learn best practices, current trends and a lot about techniques, design considerations and how to help your clients enjoy your work for them, especially in NH where winter evenings can start in the mid-late afternoon!

Irrigation
Irrigation.org – offers certificates of participation in their webinars. While some of these may be more in-depth than some of our members are looking for, it’s interesting to think that some of the business models you are working from will include expanding in to niche markets, and growing your clientele through additional expertise and training could be helpful post-COVID-19. However, look at this site, at their drop down menu sorted out in to such topics as, “Waterwise Irrigation,” “Technology in Irrigation,” “Sustainable Irrigation Techniques” and “Drip Irrigation for Homeowners.” Each of these warrant your time in checking them out, either when researching a topic you need to know more about or when you may be looking for recertification credits as an NHCLP. There’s an opportunity for you to subscribe to their free professional publication, Irrigation & Green Industry Magazine which you can sign up to receive and keep up with trends in landscape irrigation (it also covers agriculture irrigation, in the Irrigation Today journal. Check out the IA Publications section of the website. Training modules are available under the “Irrigation Workforce” section of the site – if you are looking for training modules to offer to help you find and keep qualified employees. Learning about the weather-based controllers, soil moisture-based controllers and rain sensors will help you work effectively for your clients and at your job sites. Take a break from your research on irrigation, and visit their “Irrigation Museum” section of this site! It’s a unique approach to using a website for a professional organization and shares info from irrigation around the world!

Hardscape Topics
Start with the National Concrete Masonry Association (ncma.org) and you’ll have many levels of education opportunities available. This organization has done an outstanding job of organizing the website’s education section in to manageable sections, since it is so content-dense. The professional development they offer is tiered for being able to reach as many aspects of this field as possible, with considerations for newbies as well as for professional specific certifications. Webinars are a choice in the drop down menu, and include many free recordings of previous webinars, such as “Concrete Masonry and Resilience” for example. Check the “NCMA AEC Daily Courses” tab to see what’s available there. AEC is the organizer of the NCMA courses, and offers FREE online continuing education for architects, engineers, and construction professionals, too. You will need to create a user account, but it’s free and your info is not sold.

Another vetted and valuable resource for those looking for hardscape learning opportunities is the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute (icpi.org). The education offered through ICPI is directed toward members who want to be certified and be in a professional track with this industry. Check this site if you are involved in hardscapes and want the more elevated, specific training, certification, and continuing education possible. For NHLA members to understand what types of certification are indicative of the highest levels of professional standards, it’s great for us to have a sense of walking a mile in the other person’s shoes, so we can share that type of information when clients may be asking for referrals and looking for other contractors to work along with traditional landscapers on a property’s projects. Becoming familiar with as many aspects of the overall industry is helpful to everyone!

Landscape Design
This category in our quest for great professional development is so broad, it will be covered and sources suggested over several issues of our Newsletter, but for terrific starters, here are several sites which fall under the American Society of Landscape Architects umbrella (asla.org). Visit: theglobalgrid.org, which is recommended because it’s one of the Top 20 Landscape Architecture websites (dated 2018, most recent Top 20 List available) and includes articles gathered from many, many worldwide sources. This site will inspire you, as you consider things such as urban accessibility and sustainability and find material to share with your clients, or post on your own website or share in your own social media.

NHLA members are in a unique position to spread the latest info on how trends in gardening, urban development, landscaping in a changing climate and related topics, to the general public in our state who may not be otherwise exposed, and we can trigger being a part of these important trends with our professional knowledge base! Visit also: allassignmenthelp.com/blog, which also comes from the Landscape Architecture resources guide. Your professional reading and sharing new ideas is a benefit of membership – your membership indicates, already, that extra desire to be recognized as a Green Industry professional. Seeing how trends begin, spread, and filter to our New Hampshire gardens and landscapes is relatively easy and can translate to the level you interpret and what you find sparks your creativity.

Landscape Trends
Check out the site for the Ecological Landscape Alliance (ecolandscaping.org). It is a terrific place to scour for information specific for our New England region. This site is valuable for its searchable data base of articles such as living walls, vertical gardening, rock gardens, among others. While their webinars are offered for a registration fee, you might want to consider their presentations for relevant topics such as IPM or other topics they keep current on.

OSHA
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (www.osha.gov) has at this time, devoted a lot of time and effort in providing information augmenting their health and safety material to include COVID-19 information. To see what their recommendations are, and to help your crews understand the imperative nature of the recommendations, visit the site and see what you would like to learn and what you would like to share with your crew members. Downloads from this site will help you inform your clients on exactly what you are doing and what protocols you are following to protect everyone’s health in light of coronavirus. Fact sheets on topics such as How to Avoid Heat Stresses, or Hypothermia in Outdoor Professions, are both helpful. There are numerous online training videos and multi-modules to follow for health and safety training programs here, all offered free and many in Spanish also. Ensuring health and safety will be for everyone’s benefit, and having a vetted source such as this is the best way to reach teams of workers as well as groups of employees in supervisory capacities, so everyone stands for what you stand for as you approach your job sites. Certifications are available through OSHA, if you need them, for insurance purposes.

Invasive Plants and Pests
There are many, many sites offering workshops and information on invasive plants and pests, so start with the USDA (usda.gov) and review their tabs on this topic. Sign up with UNHCE (extension.unh.edu) to receive information as it comes out on the webinars offered by Emma Erler or Rachel Mancini on these topics.

Check firstdetector.org for their training modules about invasive pests we need to be familiar with in our part of New England. From the Spotted Lantern Fly to Asian Longhorn Beetle, the network of First Detectors is essential for reporting when these pests are possibly present. It’s important to remember that the first outbreak of Emerald Ash Borer was reported by a homeowner, who saw something suspicious in a tree on the hellstrip in front of her house! There are modules in the First Detector network offering training on specific pests, and you don’t need to follow the modules in a specific order. There are helpful instructions on how to report what you find suspicious in your fieldwork and on properties, also. Please remember to report this type of information to UNH Cooperative Extension, too! The info collected in this type of “citizen science” is super valuable to the professionals documenting, researching, and figuring out how to effectively work against the destruction these invasive pests can cause. As you complete any of the specific modules, you can print out a certificate for your use in recertification, if you need/want that type of documentation. These modules are free, and could be a way to help your employee knowledge base grow and evolve, too, reflecting the value you place on employee satisfaction through professional development.

Speakers and Presentations
We all value the camaraderie our Joint Winter Meeting and our Spring Landscape Conference offer! Missing the Spring Conference this year was a helpful way to protect each other and help stop the spread of COVID-19, but leaves a vacuum in the inspiration you can get from hearing a live presentation from an accomplished speaker. With this idea in mind of hearing experts present material on a topic for landscapers, check websites for well-known public gardens, arboretum sites, and Green Industry dot org sites for webinars and presentations they host and offer at a nominal charge or for free. Most are recorded and offered 24/7 online.

An interesting source for viewing presentations and watching speakers on topics for landscapers’ interest I’d like to share is Horticulture Magazine. It’s subtitle is “The Art and Science of Smart Gardening” and while a subscription may be what you are looking for to receive hard copy in the mail, I would like to recommend you sign up for their free newsletters and workshops. Upon registering, you will have access to five free Smart Gardening Online Workshops to watch at any time. Those workshops are presented by Kerry Ann Mendez, (author of The Right Sized Flower Garden); Dr. Allan Armitage, Miriam Goldberger, (founder of Wildflower Farm); Patricia Smyth, (Japanese Maple expert) and Nicholas Staddon (expert on selecting plants for fragrance). At about an hour each, they are accessible and informative for problem-solving on those topics.

Perhaps one of the best ways to let you know more about speakers and presentations will be via blast e-mails as these are sometimes announced outside the window of our newsletter publication dates being able to reach you. With this article, I would like to offer a big “Thank You” to Bill Gardocki, with his insights about hardscape information, and to William Hoffman, who also serves on our Education Committee, for his insights about Landscape Design suggestions.

This has been lengthy, and in future issues, I will spotlight a resource or two in a succinct manner, but wanted to start people off on a strong footing to help you realize what training, continuing education, and professional development is out there for the taking!
Good luck as you start your online work and have fun with it, share it, and grow with it!

Three Resources to Help Navigate the Profusion of Pollinator Information

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

The situation about pollinators is not just the stuff of a handful of observant farmers or shared through a network of academic researchers nowadays. The situation about pollinators is reaching every one of us, through social media, ordinary journalism, and professional spotlight and reference articles. How best to share that information with customers is another question.

For all of the information available, NHLA hopes members are considered a major “go to” for professional advice and for clarifying difficult topics. Pollinator-friendly neighborhoods are all the rage in many states and in many parts of our state. Agriculture depends on healthy environments for proper and prolific pollinator to take place. And, customer questions can be answered without any political bias or complicated answers. Your customers can research their interest in pollinator-friendly yards and gardens, and you can take it from there.

IMG 6443
While some customers may have a zero tolerance for dandelions in their yards, it’s a great time to have a discussion about how to go about getting rid of the dandelions – or not. Explaining to your customers about the benefits they bring and a bit about their life cycles, can help your work load as well as the pollinators’ populations. Learn what you can about pollinators from the sources available to us, listed in the article in this issue of our Newsletter. It’s not a simple discussion and there’s not one right or wrong answer. The key is in educating your clients and understanding the role pollinators play in our ecosystem, not just our yards.

We are fortunate to have garden centers, commercial and wholesale growers and colleagues in the green industry keeping informed – our task is to make sure authentic and helpful information is in the hands of our homeowners and land stewards. With these three resources, you might find the help you need to do that: First, the United States Department of Agriculture (usda.gov) is a solid place to start. It’s as simple as from the home page of the USDA, just use the search box, enter “pollinators” and take off! The listings there will include so many topics, you will benefit from taking the time to scroll the list and see what you are really looking for. Articles and entries from myriad organizations are listed, including some you may not have thought of such as “Bats as Pollinators,” “Moths are Pollinators, Too,” and “Know Your Native Pollinators,” just three of the many screen’s worth of information contained there.

Entering “Pollinators in New Hampshire” will yield you even more specific information (listing many projects from our own UNH) and one that is of strong interest, “Native Shrubs and Trees for Pollinator Conservation in New Hampshire.” Using sites such as these, under the umbrella of your USDA search, will mean you have vetted information from a variety of resources, and from there, you can become more involved with your questions for your plant source professionals.

The second of three sources to consider is the Xerces Society. In 2021, the Xerces Society, headquartered in Oregon, celebrates its 50th Anniversary as a well-respected environmental society “focusing on the conservation of invertebrates considered to be essential to biological diversity and ecosystem health.” The name of this organization was taken to honor the extinct California butterfly, the Xerces blue butterfly. From growing milkweed, to rethinking pesticide use, the Xerces Society is science-based and relies on research projects from many sources to keep informed and share that information with as many people, from as many perspectives as possible. Their website (xerces.org) is an easy-to-search site, which includes a lot of information you might like to share on your websites, or with your clients. One example that might be of particular interest is their download available to you about Firefly Habitat and Protection. Fireflies are a summer symbol of relaxing evenings for many of us, and offer a lot of intrigue and even entertainment for people to watch and feel their healthy garden environment come alive at night. From this, to very practical information on native plants, the Xerces Society is also offering a lengthy series of webinars (free, but registration is required). You may want to check out the Xerces website, and follow clicks to the various webinars listed. This organization is highly recommended because the webinars are not a means to collect your e-mail address and then pepper you with membership solicitations or offers to purchase related merchandise by supporting commercial venues.

The third source to consider is the North American Butterfly Association. NABA is on this list, to round out the perspective offered through the USDA, and the Xerces Society with this smaller organization. On naba.org, you can find a link to their information on how to certify a garden as “Certified Butterfly Habitat.” This is a straightforward, easy to assess flow chart where a property owner could be proud to show they have worked (worked with you!) to develop an area of their yard which is butterfly-friendly and worth sharing with the passes-by as such. There are quite a few resources available through the NABA, and you might find this to be a resource to share with clients, on your website, or in your social media, to have readership recognize you as a landscaper who understands the importance of caring for the natural environment, while enhancing it the ways a property owner would like to see for the uses they have in mind.

While there are many, many more resources to suggest, these three offer such depth and variety that starting with them will give you ways to enhance your professional approach to questions about pollinators and what your company is doing to help the situation we are reading so much about and seeing so much about in digital, print and video or television sources.