Steward – November 2019

Native Grasses and General Update: MGANM September Meeting Notes

By, Nancy Larson, Extension Master Gardener   

We had a friendly educational meeting September 3rd with five public guests and over thirty Master Gardeners present.  Michele Worden, MGANM President, welcomed everyone and answered the question, “What do master gardeners do?” for our public guests.  We educate; we beautify and improve our community; we work with youth in schools and fields; we assist MSU in their diagnostic clinic; we promote food security with assisting in food gardens, and we do volunteer management of various projects. Find out more about MG’s on-line at MGANM.org.  

Michele introduced Lisa Hagerty our new newsletter editor.  Lisa encouraged the MG’s to write articles to share with others about their science-based growing experiences. Michele also appealed to the group for nominations for the upcoming board election. In addition, Michelle told us there is a survey coming out soon that will help the board determine events and guests to schedule in the upcoming year. The survey will be asking members what they would like to see/hear about so our monthly meetings can be interesting and engaging. Michele indicated our record breaking event attendance in 2019 is because we asked for members interests.

Nate Walton, MSU Entomologist, announced that there are still plenty of volunteer project hours available. He advised us to check the VMS page daily for updates

Cheryl Gross, Plant It Wild President, introduced our guest speaker, Vern Stephens, owner of Designs By Nature in Laingsburg, MI, to talk about native grasses. Vern said he has a 30 year working history with native plants and specializes in MI eco-types.  He has developed outreach programs to the north, south, east and west areas of the state; has created an on-line site for purchases of perennial garden starters; is looking forward to expanding his searching for native plants into the Detroit area; and has encouraged “NO USE” of neonic pesticides, as it stays in the plants for 2 years. Recommended Books: 1) “Bringing Nature Home” by Douglas Tallamy, 2) “Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide” by Lawrence Newcomb, 3) “The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook” by Stephen Packard & Cornelia Matee.

So, why use native grasses?  Because of their roots. They have a deep root system, don’t need irrigation, once established, or fertilizer, attract insects & birds, make good nesting areas, and are good for grazing fields.  Native grasses are wind pollinated so if you don’t want them to spread, remove their seed heads.  Normal grass lawns have to be watered and fertilized, have short root systems, and have to be cut. Vern discussed ten different types of native grasses and provided live examples of them: Dunes grass, Prairie Drop Seed, Little Blue Stem, Big Blue Stem, Indian Grass, Bottle Brush grass, Side Oats, Grama Grass, Purple Love Grass, and Canada Rye Grass.  He then talked about sedges.  What’s the difference between grasses and sedges?  Grass stems are round or flat while sedge stems are triangular.  Sedges are solid, while grasses are hollow. Sedges are usually 3-ranked where they lie in three vertical planes along the stem.  They both reproduce by seeds, can form clumps, and have a bloom season. Vern discussed and shared examples of five types of Sedges: Wood Sedge, Fox Sedge, Brown Sedge, Pennsylvania Sedge, and Plantain Leaved Sedge.

The program ended with Vern answering many questions.  He also brought a large variety of native plants for us to “happily” purchase because we all know how we love to get into the dirt. 

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