Steward – July 2017

On The Radar – July & August  How is your compost pile doing?  Have you turned or watered it lately?  Adding water and aerating the pile will speed decomposition.  Be sure it gets good and hot (add more carbon-based browns if the green nitrogen-based plants slow the process).  You do have leaves saved from last fall, don’t you? 

Keep an eye on bugs in your garden.  Appreciate the work they do.  Do not run for a pesticide just because of a few bugs.  Take the patient route and work slowly to encourage the insect food web to develop.  Remember, birds need caterpillars.  Let a healthy crop of parasitic and predatory bugs develop in your yard.

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Nate Walton Introduction, Squash Bee Intro AND Volunteer Opportunity!

Why Plants and Pets Need Equal Care

Nate Walton Introduction, Squash Bee Intro AND Volunteer Opportunity!

by Nate Walton, Leelanau/Grand Traverse/Benzie EMG Coordinator

Greetings gardeners! As the new Master Gardener Coordinator for Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Benzie County, I would like to take a few minutes to introduce myself to the MGANM. I am an entomologist (AKA bug nerd) by training, with an MS and PhD in Entomology from MSU. However, I have also had a great deal of interest in plants and gardening. Growing up in Suttons Bay, I often helped out in the garden at home and started learning the art of gardening at a very early age. More recently I have taught plant pathology at Northwestern Michigan College for the MSU institute of Agricultural Technology. I have also been very active in pollinator conservation, performing research and education activities centered around growing native plants to provide food and shelter for native bees and other beneficial insects.

Often, when people find out that I am an entomologist the first thing they say to me is, “Ok, so what’s your favorite bug?” Well, the answer to that question is not as simple as it may seem. There are millions of species of “bugs,” which makes it really hard to pick just one. I get around the question by telling people that I don’t have a favorite bug all the time, but I do have one this week. For example, this week my “favorite bug” is the squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa. Squash bees are solitary bees, which means they don’t make big communal nest in the ground or in trees like most of the bees and wasps that you are familiar with. Instead, squash bees nest in the soil near the vines of the cucurbits such as squash, cucumber, or pumpkin that you may have growing in your garden. These little black and yellow striped bees are essential for pollination of cucurbit flowers and without them we wouldn’t be able to eat zucchini, summer squash, watermelon, pickles, or pumpkin pie to name a few.

The reason that squash bees are my favorite bug this week is Michigan State University researchers are looking for Master Gardener volunteers to participate in a statewide squash bee survey. All you have to do to participate in the survey is learn a little bit about squash bees, count them on the cucurbits in your garden, and upload the data. There’s even an app for it! If you’d like more information or to participate in this exciting and educational citizen science project you can contact your local Master Gardener Coordinator or visit MSU’s Vegetable Entomology website (


Why Plants and Pets Need Equal Care

by Brian Zimmerman, Brian Zimmerman Associates

Buying a plant is much like buying a pet. For those who are pet lovers, not gardeners, this statement may seem a little over the top. But for those of us who love to garden, the parallel seems reasonable. Plants and pets are living, breathing entities and most likely when purchased they are infants, requiring considerable care and nurturing.

In our pet example, if you are shopping at a reputable source you assume the staff have treated the pet well to ensure its good health. Most likely the staff are pet lovers themselves. You in turn take time choosing your pet and great care getting the new pet home safely. If you are a new pet owner you are given sound advice in the care and feeding of your new pet. You would never consider putting your pet in the trunk of your car or the back of your truck, taking it home and leaving it there a few days until you are ready to play with it. This would constitute possible death or at least great harm to your pet.

Our plant example isn’t much different. If shopping at a reputable nursery the staff make every effort to ensure the nursery plants are well cared for. The nursery also has a responsibility to ensure the plant makes it to its new home in good condition and depending on the plant size and type this ‘packaging’ can take time. You are given sound advice on the care and feeding of your new plant. As with the pet example, the nursery staff are plant lovers themselves, taking their job seriously and are most concerned with the well-being of the plant.

Far too often new plants are not afforded the same treatment as pets. They are left in the trunk of the car or back of the truck. Often the plant has a guarantee and nurseries have an obligation to honor that guarantee even though they have no control over how that plant is treated once it leaves the nursery.

Plants require the same love and care as your pet. Treat your new plant purchase with love and it will reward you with its beauty for many years.

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