Dawn Pettinelli
Extension Educator
University of Connecticut
6 Sherman Place, Unit 5102
Depot Campus - Union Cottage 
Department of Plant Science 
Storrs, Connecticut 06269

Telephone: (860) 486-4274
Fax: (860) 486-4562
Email: dawn.pettinelli@uconn.edu

Bio Summary

Manages/coordinates activities of the UConn Home & Garden Education Center and the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory.

The UConn Home and Garden Education Center addresses the needs of Connecticut residents on a wide variety of topics including horticulture, soil testing, home pest control, environmental/pesticide issues and food safety. Clients are educated in best management practices for pest control, soil and water quality, and plant cultural techniques. The goal of the Center is to be a highly respected and visible education outreach program by providing accurate, thorough and timely information to the citizens of Connecticut. The Center supports the Master Gardener Coordinators in the 8 counties and at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford by supplying program instructors and diagnostic assistance. The Center also administrates the UConn Master Composter Program.  In 2006, the Center opened the UConn Plant Diagnostic Laboratory, currently managed by Joan Allen, and which currently participates in National Plant Diagnostic Network. The toll-free (in CT) number for the Center is (877) 486-6271 or visit www.ladybug.uconn.edu.

The UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory functions dually, as an educational center that focuses on soil, soil fertility and soil contamination issues and as a service laboratory that offers soil fertility testing to commercial agriculture producers, the green industry, homeowners and researchers. Starting in 2007, the laboratory began testing soils for lead. Our goal is to increase the public’s awareness of the benefits of soil testing and the necessity of environmentally sound soil fertility management programs. The lab also functions as a teaching resource where CANR graduate students learn to run their samples on sophisticated equipment and as a base for numerous outreach activities. www.soiltest.uconn.edu    

Activities to implement the goals of both facilities include educational presentations, press releases, fact sheets, displays, laboratory upgrades and protocol development, UConn Master Composter Program, UConn Master Gardener and Advanced Master Gardener Programs, television and radio, weekly newspaper columns, websites, free plant and soil pH clinics at events like the CT Flower & Garden Show, quarterly printed newsletter, weekly blog, monthly e-updates and development and participation in activities such as the UConn Garden Conference and the College’s Fall Cornucopia celebration.  

Professional Positions & Education


2010                      CNLA Accreditation Program, Citation for service, 2010

2005 - present      Assistant Cooperative Extension Educator, Department of Plant Science, University of                                                Connecticut. 

1998-2005            Manager, Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory, Department of Plant Science,                                                                      University of Connecticut. 

1989-2003            Newspaper columnist, Southbridge Evening News, Southbridge, MA. 

1999                     National Future Farmers of America. Citation for service.

1989-1998            Extension Technician, Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory, University of Mass, Amherst, MA 

1988-1989            Horticulturist/Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Worcester County Cooperative Extension,                                  Worcester, MA. 

1986-1988            Horticulturist, Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA.

1988                     Exotic Cage Bird Society of New England. Citation for service.


Master Gardener, Class of 1986, University of Massachusetts 
M.S. 1985     Forest Science. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
B.S. 1977     Agricultural Production. Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
1973-1977    Natural Resources Major. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

Committees, Professional Services, & Societies

UConn Ornamental Plant Extension Team

UConn Sustainable Living Team

UConn Home & Garden Education Center Flower Show Committee

UConn Extension Agriculture Team

Soil Science Society of Southern New England, Professional Member

Connecticut Community Garden Association, Secretary

New Haven Urban Ag Working Group, Lead & Arsenic in Soils Subcommittee, Member

CNLA Green Industry Education Committee, Member

Women in Soil Science, Member

Gamma Sigma Delta

CT Northeast Organic Farming Association, Member

Charlton Garden Club, Secretary, Public Relations Committee

Blessed John Paul II Parish, Choir


National Future Farmers of America. 1999. Citation for service.

Exotic Cage Bird Society of New England. 1988. Citation for service. 

Professional/Service Societies:

CNLA Green Industry Trade School Committee, Chairman

Soil Science Society of Southern New England, Professional Member

Gamma Sigma Delta

CPTV Family Science Expo Advisory Board Member

Women in Soil Science

Connecticut Community Garden Association, 2 Year Board Member at Large

Charlton Garden Club, Secretary, Public Relations Committee

St. Mary’s Parish, Bazaar Committee

CT Northeast Organic Farming Association

Research Interests

Lead in Soils – Presently involved with CT Community Gardening Association and New Haven Urban Ag Working Group to assess lead and other heavy metal contents in community garden and other sites in CT and develop strategies to limit contamination. Previously, co-PI on grant to assess bioremediation of lead on a heavily contaminated site in CT.

Continuing to develop laboratory methodology to expand the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory’s analytical capabilities resulting in an expansion of our abilities to educate the public about sustainable nutrient management practices.


Lead in Community Gardens Project – Assisting the CT Community Gardening Association and the CT Agricultural Experiment Station with assessing lead and other heavy metals in community gardens throughout CT.

Lead Bioremediation Project - Currently co-PI on grant to assess the potential of bioremediation of lead on a heavily lead contaminated site in CT.

Developing Laboratory Methodology to expand the Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory’s offerings and, therefore, our ability to educate the public about sustainable nutrient management.        


Teaching - Extension:

UConn Master Composter Program – Developed, coordinate and teach some sections the UConn Master Composter Program to approximately 20 – 25 adult education students each year since 2009. Master Composter interns/volunteers learn about composting methods and techniques and are required to engage in outreach activities that educate the general public about composting.  

UConn Master Gardener Program – Teach an all-day session on ‘Soils, Plant Nutrition and Soil Fertility’ given at 5 CT locations annually, 1999 to present.

UConn Advanced Master Gardener Program – intermittently requested to present 2 hour classes on a variety of topics such as the Soil Food Web, Soil Test Interpretation, Composting and Fertilizers, 2001 to present.

Massachusetts Horticultural Society Master Gardener Program – Teach an all-day session on ‘Soils and Fertilizers’ 2000 to present. Elm Bank, Dover, MA

CT Landscape and Nurserymen’s Association accredited education program – Teach sessions on ‘Introduction to Soil Science’ and ‘Plant Nutrition and Fertilizers’  Southington, CT. 2003 to present.

CT Envirothon – Participant in national program coordinated by the USDA, NRCS  that involves annual training of participating high school students/teachers/advisors about the properties and types of soils in Connecticut. 2003 to present. UConn hosted the 2008 Soils and Forestry training workshop. Also assist with State Envirothon Competition each spring.

UMass Green School. Presented an ‘Introduction to Soils’ to participants in Milford, MA from 2004 to 2010.


UConn Home & garden News – Managing editor/author of fee-based, bimonthly, printed subscription newsletter with home and horticulture articles written by College personnel.

UConn Ladybug Blog – Initiator of a weekly horticulture blog at www.uconnladybug.wordpress.com and part of weekly posting rotation along with other UConn Home & Garden Education Center staff.

UConn Home & Garden Education Center Monthly e-update – Author of monthly horticultural updates that are electronically sent to more than 1000 (as of 12/13) readers. Link to it on: www.ladybug.uconn.edu.

UConn Knowledge to Grow On weekly newspaper column – Author of 2 gardening-related articles per month for the Center’s weekly newspaper column published in 4 CT newspapers with a circulation of about 300,000.

Appearances on TV shows as requested including Martha Stewart Living, The Fox Report, NBC-30, Channel 8 News and the History Channel.


P. Pettinelli. 2013. The Scoop on Soil Testing. Connecticut Gardener.  19:4 pp 9-10.

D. Pettinelli.2013. What’s the Deal With Grafted Tomatoes? Home & Garden News, Jul/Sept. pp 8-9

D. Pettinelli. 2013. Get Swept Away – Grow Your Own Broom! Home & Garden News. Apr/Jun. pp 8-9

D. Pettinelli. 2013. Soil Test Phosphorus in Connecticut Soils. Home & Garden News. Jan/Mar. pp 8-9

D. Pettinelli. 2012. Phosphorus – We Can’t Live Without It! Home & Garden News. Nov/Dec. pp3-5.

D. Pettinelli. 2011. Should CT Residents Be Concerned About Lead in their Soils? Home & Garden News. Sept/Oct. pp 14-15

D. Pettinelli 2010. Biochar – Fad or Phenomenon? Home & Garden News. Jul/Aug pp.2-3.

D. Pettinelli. 2009. Add Annuals for Color & Design. Radius Magazine. Summer pp.32-33. www.theradmag.com

D. Pettinelli. 2008. Beautiful But Toxic. Radius Magazine. Winter pp.64-65. www.theradmag.com

Olena Zhivotovsky, J. Kuzovkina, C. Schulthess, T. Morris, D. Pettinelli and M. Ge. 2011. Lead uptake and translocation by willows in pot and field experiments. International Journal of Phytoremediation. 13. pp. 731-749.

Olena Zhivotovsky, J. Kuzovkina, C. Schulthess, T. Morris and D. Pettinelli. 2011. Hydroponic screening of willows (Salix L.) for lead tolerance and accumulation. International Journal of Phytoremediation. 13. pp. 75-94.

Thomas Morris, J. Ping, R. Durgy and D. Pettinelli. 2008. Managing organic amendments by testing soils for phosphorus. Northeast Regional In-Service Training for Ag Service Providers. New Castle, NH. Jan. 30-31, 2008

Pettinelli, D. 2007. Lead in Garden Soils. The Connecticut Gardener. Sept./Oct. 2007

Morris, Thomas and D. Pettinelli. 2007. Don’t eat your vegetables. NY Times Op-Ed Contributors. Nov. 18, 2007

Pettinelli, D. 2007. Preventing lead poisoning from contaminated soil in community gardens. CESE fact sheet. 1 p. www.cese.uconn.edu.

Pettinelli, D. 2007. Lead in Garden Soils. UConn SNAL Fact Sheet. 4 pp.

Thomas Morris, H. Tao, J. Ping, D. Pettinelli, and R. Meinert. 2007. Nitrogen fertilizer recommendations Based on a feedback loop. ASA-CSSA-SSSA 2007 International Annual Meetings. New Orleans, LA Nov. 4-8, 2007


Making Sense of Soil Tests. MNLA Summer Field Day. Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, MA. 7/25/13

Subterranean Society. 2013 Native Plant Conference sponsored by the Rhode Island Native Plant Society and the NE Wildflower Society. N. Kingston, RI. 4/13/2013

So You Want to Have a Vegetable Garden. Old Sturbridge Village Garden Symposium, Sturbridge, MA 3/23/2013

Soils & Soil Fertility. K-8 School Grounds Ornamental Plant Mgt Workshop. Hartford, CT 3/2/12

Lead in Garden Soils. CT NOFA 30th Annual Winter Conference, Manchester, CT 3/3/12

Soil Sense & Sustainability. At the Root: Understanding & Managing Healthy Soils sponsored by the Ecological Landscape Association & NE Wildflower Society. Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA 9/29/12

Why Should We Care About Soil? USDA NRCS Healthy Soils Workshop. Windsor, CT 11/16/11

D. Pettinelli, D. Stilwell, T. Rathier and T. Bott. 2007. Getting the Lead Out: A Joint Program to Identify and Remediate Lead and Other Heavy Metals in Connecticut Community Gardens. American Community Gardening Assoc. 28th Annual Conference. Boston, MA. Aug. 9-12, 2007.