Steward – January 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

My Friend, The Walking Stick

Seed Stratification

October MG Meeting — “Plants Deer Don’t Eat”

Walking stick, photo by MG Amy Tongue

My Friend, The Walking Stick

by Amy Tongue, Master Gardener

This friendly fellow was my pet for a few days thanks to the help of a fellow Master Gardener.  She knew I was taking an entomology class and I had to turn in a collection for points.  I was desperately asking friends for help, since frost was lurking just around the corner.

Did you know that walking sticks are herbivores?  Since I had it in captivity, I needed to know what to feed it.  They love oak leaves, and it vigorously ate a large chunk out of the leaf I gave it.  They can be destructive defoliators in parks and recreation sites when there are severe outbreaks.

They are also really good at playing hide and go seek because they resemble a stick and can remain very still. Some species cover themselves with material that resembles moss or lichens, and others change color to match their surroundings.  Since they are nocturnal, and feed and move at night, they also escape predators.

I was amazed at its acrobatics in my container.  It could hang upside down because it has sticky “toe pads” and non-stick “heel pads” which allowed it to grip when needed, yet be mobile without having to peel away at each step.

This insect, however, will not win the “Mother of the Year” award.  Some fling their eggs from the tree tops to the ground hoping for the best.  Some females are parthenogenic so do not need males to produce fertilized eggs.  These eggs resemble seeds which allows for a really interesting relationship with ants.  The ants collect the eggs and remove a cap to feed their larvae.  This doesn’t harm the walking stick egg, so they rest comfortably in the ant nest until they hatch and walk away as a nymph.  This nymph will enlarge in stages until it becomes an adult.  How cool is that!

I am learning that we are surrounded by insects more than I ever realized.  Some beneficial and some harmful.  It has been eye opening to study some in more depth, such as my friend the walking stick.

Handmade seed containers, done in Advanced Master Gardener Lillian Mahaney’s JRMG class (photo by Adv MG L. Mahaney)

Seed Stratification

by Michael O’Brien, Master Gardener

Winter is here, and that means it’s time to begin thinking about what to grow this coming summer!  

The first step is to find the seeds that were put aside from the past growing season.  Well,  maybe not all of them.  I’m referring to the ones that need to go through a process called, “Seed Stratification.”  This is a process that nature has created to insure plants don’t germinate at the wrong time of the year.  Many seed species have an embryonic dormancy phase and generally will not sprout until this dormancy is broken.  That means they will not germinate unless they go through a period of cold temperatures.  This includes many perennials and native plants, as well as certain evergreens and maples.

Personally, I am looking to attract more bees and monarch butterflies so I’m going to plant milkweed, Asclepias.   The process I am going to use will be cold and moist.  To begin, I will start by separating the silky hairs from the seed.  Once I have collected all of my seeds, I will then place them on a damp paper towel.  Another damp paper towel gets placed on top seeds.  The paper towels are put in a sealed plastic bag to keep the moisture from evaporating.  Label the bag and place it in a container.  The container can be stored in the refrigerator or a shed where it will be safe and undisturbed.  Four to six weeks before the last frost, the seeds come out of the bag and they get planted in potting soil.  These seeds will begin to sprout in about two weeks.  Sprouting time will vary depending on the plant.

There is also another way to stratify you’re seeds.  It’s a cold, dry method.  Rather than placing the seeds on a damp paper towel, they are instead planted directly in potting soil.  The seeds and soil are left dry and again in a cold area.  Come spring, germinate as you normally would.  

Good articles on seed stratification can be found on the internet at the Gardening Know How site ( and the Permaculture Research Institute (

Brian Zimmerman of Four Season Nursery (photo by MG W. Miller)

October MG Meeting — “Plants Deer Don’t Eat”

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Master Gardener

The October 3rd MGANM meeting featured Brian Zimmerman and Tom Ford from Four Season Nursery in Traverse City on favorite annual topic: deer resistant plants.  They shared  several deer feeding tidbits, some of which were a surprise to me.  

For example, deer like plants with protein — high in nitrogen, especially bucks.  They also like fresh growth leaves with high water content.  You could see this in the Glen Arbor area this past spring and summer, where deer were feeding on the expansive understory growth which was created by the huge storm in August 2015.

Other interesting deer facts – they do not like fuzzy leaves, gray leaves and scented foliage (lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage).  Deer also follow a route, prefer the edges of a forest and have two to three fawns a year.  

Suggested practices to limit deer browsing included: dogs, fencing, large crush stone mulch, motion detectors, sprinklers and fishing line double stretched between posts.  Cutting back on watering and fertilizing was also discussed.  In addition, you can use “Deer Stopper” and other such sprays every two weeks, but alternate between the brands so deer don’t get used to the same scent.

Several plant/shrub/tree lists were available for reference and reading pleasure, as the battle between deer and humans takes a bit of a rest over the winter months. Thanks so much to Brian and Tom for their expertise and time with us!

*To review the recommended plants lists from Brian and Tom, look at the Michigan Resources tab on our page HERE.

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