Blog

Steward – March 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

It’s March, Time To Check For Spider Mites

Book Review: 10,000 Garden Questions Answered by 20 Experts

Spider Mites, UC Statewide IPM Project

It’s March, Time To Check For Spider Mites

by Michael O’Brien, Extension Master Gardener

Cold temperatures have been with us for a while.  This causes our furnaces to run more frequently and that makes our homes less humid.  That combination makes houseplants’ soil dry out quickly.  All these factors put together make a perfect environment for spider mites.  

These little mites are part of the arachnid family and a closely related species in the Tetranychus genus.  Spider mites live in colonies and are generally found on the underside of leaves.  They are less than 1/20 of an inch long which makes them very difficult to see with the naked eye.  Cloudy days make it even more difficult to notice them when inspecting plants.  

Spider mites cause damage by puncturing the plant’s cells and sucking out the contents.  Spider mites also create webs.  A generation of mites can complete a lifecycle in less than a week when food and temperatures are conducive.  Many times, when spider mites are discovered on plants it’s already become an epidemic.

There are some indicators to look for that help determine whether a plant has spider mites.  One of the first signs is stippling on leaves.  The term stippling means there are little white dots appearing on leaves.  Next, the plant begins to develop many bronze leaves that quickly turn yellow, followed by leaf drop. The third phase, webbing, is noticeable on the leaves and stems as seen in the picture above.  It is very important to wash your hands before touching any other plants.  As these mites are very small and can appear transparent, it’s a good idea to have a 10x magnifier loupe, or greater, to see these pests.  Click here to see an inexpensive loupe.

Spider mites 2, UC Statewide IPM Project

Spider mites can be very damaging to a plant and in extreme cases can kill the plant.  When it comes to treating the plant, there is a difference between outdoor plants versus an indoor plant.  There are many beneficial insects outdoors that will feed on the mites. Indoor plants don’t have these beneficial insects to keep the mite’s life cycle in check.  These mites can be passed on to another plant quickly and easily just by touching the plant, clothing rubbing against leaves or a pet coming into contact with your plants.  

Before treating an indoor plant it’s a good idea to use a loupe to gauge the extent of the outbreak.  This way it is easier to see if the treatment is effective.  To treat this problem, it’s recommended using insecticidal soap or insecticidal oil.  Both petroleum-based horticultural oils and plant-based oils such as neem, canola or cottonseed oils are also acceptable.  Be sure to read the manufacturer’s label first and use proper IPM principles.

Book: 10,000 Garden Questions Answered by 20 Experts (photo on Amazon)

Book Review: 10,000 Garden Questions Answered by 20 Experts

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

I acquired Volumes 1 & 2 of 10,000 Garden Questions Answered by 20 Experts, edited by Marjorie Dietz, from my mother-in-law.  She was cleaning out her four very large bookcases in preparation for moving west more than 10 years ago.  I look at them every once in a while, but then I close them up just as fast.  With each volume containing over 700 pages AND 10,000 questions, it was a bit mind boggling to even begin to search for an answer to anything.

So, with winter slowly moving along, I thought I’d dive in to see what I might find.  This set was first published in 1944 by Doubleday, with new editions in 1959 and 1974, and was an American Garden Guild Book.  There are 10 garden experts, such as Bebe Miles, Helen Van Pelt Wilson and Donald Wyman, listed as contributors, with many more listed as advisors, editors or artists.

In the Introduction to the third edition, Marjorie Dietz called it the “family bible” of garden information.  The questions are divided into 16 general areas from “Soils and Fertilizers” to “Roses and Houseplants” to “Regional Gardening Problems.”  In this edition, botanical names were updated to conform to the International Code for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants.  Under the first editor, F.F. Rockwell, these books were first begun in response to many requests from readers of The Home Garden Magazine.  It was hoped to give the home gardener practical information for personal gardening issues.

There is a small section on how the books are put together and how best to use them most effectively.  Each of the sections begins with basic information about that subject and then how to utilize the index for more specificity.  I find the sheer amount of questions a bit distracting.  For example, in the “Soils and Fertilizers” section there are questions about soil problems…eroded soil, depleted soil, neglected soil, poor soil… and on and on.  So, the questions and answers do cover just about everything on each particular topic.  Beneficial in some ways, annoying in others.

Topics covered in Vol. 1 include “Planning and Landscaping,” “Tree and Shrub Selection,” “Design Principles,” “Herb Gardens” and more.  Vol. 2 continues with the “Home Vegetable Garden,” “House Plants,” “Weeds,” and “Regional Garden Problems,” with “Sources for Further Information” concluding the book.

I had hoped, a little, that the books might be of value.  But alas, on Amazon they could be found for $6 and under, except for a couple of listings for much more. I guess I’ll just be happy with the sentimental value and the “historical” perspective of gardening they present.


Nourish – March 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Sowing

Sprouts and Sprouting

Handmade seed containers, from Advanced Master Gardener Lillian Mahaney’s JRMG class (photo by AEMG Lillian Mahaney)

Sowing

by Kellie Parks, Extension Master Gardener

Seed catalogs start appearing in the mailbox before the Christmas tree comes down at my house.  I set them aside until the last of the needles are swept and the house is put back in order, at which time you will frequently find me nestled in a corner of the sofa with the dog curled up beside me, the catalogs stacked on the coffee table ready for dog-eared pages.

Seed starting is a bit more work than purchasing seedlings and larger plants, but what a reward to be reaped in seeing green growth in the bleakness of late winter and the satisfaction of planting out that unusual variety that would never be found in a local nursery.

-It is essential to begin with fresh media and clean containers, whatever form they may take.  Damping off is a common disease that can wipe out your entire crop of tiny seedlings and is often found in reused supplies.

-To prevent leggy plants, supplemental light in the form of a fluorescent fixture is essential.  Optimally, this fixture should be able to be raised and lowered to keep pace with the height of the plants, always just a couple of inches above them.  I have great success with inexpensive “shop light” type fixtures.

-Growing media ought to be pre-moistened and, once seeds are sown, watered carefully to prevent their displacement.  I prefer to bottom water both to keep the seeds in place and to keep the plants themselves dry to help prevent fungal problems.

-Cover the seeds with a dome, plastic wrap or plastic bag to create a miniature greenhouse and retain moisture.  For faster results, place a heat mat underneath the containers, especially for heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers.  Once your seeds have sprouted, remove the covers and keep an eye on them to prevent the media from drying out.

What joy is found in the moist aroma of warm earth at a time when the scents of the outdoors have been absent for months.

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems Michigan Organic Farming Exchange has a terrific list of seed starting resources to be found here:

www.canr.msu.edu/michigan_organic_farming_exchange/farming-practices/seed-resources

On the subject of seeds, I am fascinated by and grateful for the efforts of Bioversity International and the Crop Trust for the establishment of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.  Located on a remote island between Norway and the North Pole, the vault is built deep inside a mountain and ensures long-term seed storage to preserve crop diversity.  Currently housing 890,000 samples from nearly every country in the world and with a capacity to house 4.5 million varieties of crops, the vault protects the world’s food supply from natural or man-made disaster.  Read more about this project at: https://www.croptrust.org/our-work/svalbard-global-seed-vault/

Sprout soaking by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Sprouts and Sprouting

by Cheryl A. Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

As winter hangs on in northwest lower Michigan, our bodies and minds yearn for sun and green, fresh food.  Before desperation hits, grab a 1-quart mason jar and some sprouting seeds and get growing (sprouting) in your kitchen.

The benefits of eating sprouted seeds are well known.  There is a chemical change in the seed and additional nutrients become accessible to our bodies.  Follow this link for specific nutritional information on several seed sprouts:  http://www.isga-sprouts.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SproutNutritionFacts.pdf.  In general, organicfacts.net suggests that overall sprouts “contain a significant amount of protein and dietary fiber, as well as vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamin, vitamin C, vitamin A and riboflavin. In terms of minerals, they contain manganese, copper, zinc, magnesium, iron and calcium.”  Further, eating sprouts can improve digestion, increase metabolism, help in weight loss, lower cholesterol, boost skin health and more!  Check out the information here:  www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/seed-and-nut/sprouts.html.

Sprouts can sometimes be found in grocery stores.  However, their availability can be limited.  Worries of salmonella and E. coli are possible with sprouts.  Sprouting at home can alleviate these concerns if you follow some simple steps.  Purchase only seed intended for sprouting.  These seeds should be “clean” from the field and exposure to unwanted organisms.  Use sterilized jars, fresh water, and clean hands when working with seeds and sprouts.

Mid week sprouting, photo by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Getting started  

  1. A quart mason jar is ideal for sprouting.  Sterilize it first.  Various screened lids are available in kitchen stores and online.  A cheese cloth or other mesh, fine enough to keep the seeds in the jar when draining, is needed as well.  An online search will find seed sprouting trays and other equipment.  However, a jar and screened lids are enough.
  2. Purchase seeds for sprouting.  Alfalfa is delicious on sandwiches and salads.  It is a fine seed, so a fine mesh lid is needed.  Mung beans are often used in Asian dishes.  They are a medium-sized seed.  Radish sprouts give a bit of a spicy flavor.  Broccoli sprouts are a powerhouse. Which would taste best to you?
  3. Add clean cool water to seeds in the jar.  Begin with 2-3 teaspoons of small seeds while larger seeds may take a quarter cup per batch.  Allow ample space for the seeds to sprout in the jar.  Soak the seeds for 6-8 hours to “wake” them up.  
  4. Drain the water and allow the jars to lie propped up, open side down in a dark space.  This eliminates any puddle worries and allows for air circulation.  
  5. Daily, rinse the seeds 2 – 3 times.  This keeps the seeds evenly moist which is needed for growth.  Each time use cool, clean water and replace in the angled position.  Sprouting will begin in 2-3 days.

A quart of mung sprouts in 7 days by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Within a week, sprouts will be ready to eat.  To create more volume and to keep them fresh, continue rinsing 2 times per day.  Keep sprouts in a dark area in a cupboard or a dark corner of your kitchen.  To green them up, expose them to light a day or two before eating.  Should you put them in a sunny window, be aware that they might dry out more quickly and therefore, rinse them more often.  

Well rinsed sprouts may be kept in the refrigerator up to a week.  However, it is best to eat them fresh!

With a few simple tools, in a week you may be eating fresh, living food grown in your kitchen and feeding your body a cure for late winter blues.


Beautify – March 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Botanic Garden Update

MGANM Meeting, February 6, 2018

December in the Garden by Steve Tavener

Botanic Garden Update

by Terry Harding, Community Gardener

The gardens may be sleeping this time of year, but that doesn’t mean everything else is at a standstill!  In 2018, the Botanic Garden will be moving forward with the actual planting of the Secret Garden.  Plant selections have been made by Laurel Voran and Maria Tucker and are on order for spring delivery.  Last fall, our work crew, affectionately called Possum Lodgers, worked to dump, spread and level soil to be ready for plants.  The theme is Asian and will feature a new tree that replaces the Chinese chestnut that had to be removed due to poor health.

Work on the Fire Wise Garden will continue with plantings.  Most of the hardscape has been completed including a walkway from the Rain Gardens area to the top of the hill, where a beautiful view of the Historic Barns Park awaits anyone who makes the walk.

Even more exciting, plans for the Healing Gardens will soon be executed, with Tom Hogge, Nelson, Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, coming to view the site and gather info to incorporate into the design.  In addition, the labyrinth will be moved in line with the sugar maple allee and other gardens will be designed including a Native American medicine wheel garden.

The Botanic Garden officially opens April 1st and that’s no joke!  There will be new items available for purchase once Mike McNulty gets back to work.  Docent training will take place and of course our Garden Angels will be busy doing cleanup planting—both great volunteer opportunities for Master Gardeners to get volunteer hours.        

Stay tuned for what is to come at the Garden.

MGANM Meeting, February 6, 2018

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

A packed house was eagerly attentive to Angie Lucas from GT Regional Land Conservancy as she introduced the method of wildflower identification using the Newcomb Key.  I do like to know my flower names but had never heard of this method of identifying plants.  So, I appreciated learning about another tool that can be carried around in your back pocket.  Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb uses a key system to identify wildflowers, flowering shrubs and vines in the northeast and north central part of North America.  By using observations of a plant’s type, leaf and flower, one can use the key numerals to determine the name of the plant.

Angie offered several additional resources for plant identification: Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy website (gtrlc.org), Michiganflora.net, an app called INaturalist and the book Fern Finder by Barbara Hallowell.  

Thanks to Angie for an enlightening evening!


Serve – March 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Getting in Shape for Gardening

Master Gardener Coordinator’s Corner

Hospice House Rose Garden Update

 

Getting in Shape for Gardening

by Jill Greenfield, Physical Therapist at Munson Home Health Care

With the growing season in Michigan right around the corner, now is a good time to stretch and strengthen the muscles that you will be using to create your masterpiece gardens.  Too often, we wait for that beautiful spring day to turn over the soil, pull weeds and remove debris without having prepared our bodies for these activities. Then when the next day is also a lovely spring day, we are either too sore from the chores of the day before to garden again that day, or we push ourselves to garden anyway and risk further long-lasting injuries. 

Whether you have a small container garden or several beds in your yard, using proper body mechanics is not always easy with gardening.  You cannot always “lift with your knees with your back straight” like the literature tells us to when moving a 3-cubic foot bag of soil or mulch.  How many times have you gardened on your hands and knees until your feet and hands are practically numb from the restriction of circulation?  I know that I am guilty of this!

So how does one begin to even think about getting in shape for gardening?  If you have been somewhat inactive over the winter, it begins simply with walking.  Find a place with no snow or ice and begin a walking program, under the guidance of your physician if you have health issues, and get your arms swinging in unison with your legs.  This gets weight-bearing through the legs for strengthening and improves your balance and coordination.

The shoulder muscles especially need some TLC with gardening.  The incidence of rotator cuff injuries increases as we age and there is a slightly higher incidence of this type of injury for women than men.  Imagine the motion of pulling a heavy trash bag out of a trash can and lifting the bag with your hands holding the bag about shoulder width apart in an up and out motion.  This is a common mechanism for a rotator cuff injury.  The solution is to tip the trash can on its side and slide the bag out.  Then you have the option of grabbing onto the bag from the bottom and lifting it.

Some easy shoulder exercises to loosen the muscles are shoulder rolls forward and back, standing in a doorway with your forearms on the door frame and leaning forward just until you feel a slight stretch in the front of your shoulder and clasping your hands together in front of your body and bringing both arms up above your head.  Please do not subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” attitude.  You may feel some muscle tightness, but it should not be painful. 

Shoulders are not typically weight bearing joints, so it takes some time to get them ready if you are a hands and knees gardener.  Practice getting on your hands and knees in the privacy of your own living room.  While in this position, try the cat and cow exercise.  For the yoga aficionados out there, you will know exactly what I mean.  While on your hands and knees, arch your back (cat), and then stick out your bum and let your belly sink toward the floor (cow).  If you are unable to be on your hands and knees on the floor, you can also do this exercise sitting in a chair.  This is a great exercise to stretch and strengthen your back muscles. 

Another good hands and knees exercise is the child’s pose.  This will stretch your back, hips and knees.  Start in the hands and knees position with your knees spread apart as wide as your hips.  Rock backward and bring your stomach to the floor while leaving your arms outstretched.  You can leave your arms outstretched in front of you or you can walk them to the side to get a rotational stretch.  A way to modify this exercise to not be on your hands and knees is to stand at the side of the bed leaning forward with your hands on the bed and lean backward feeling the stretch through your spine and shoulders.

One of the most important things to remember while gardening is to take frequent breaks.  If you start to have discomfort in your back or a joint, reposition yourself or take a walk.  Try to vary your tasks so that you do not spend too much time in one position.

Master Gardener Coordinator’s Corner: Finding Master Gardener Projects in your area this spring

by Nate Walton, MSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator for Leelanau, Benzie and GT County

Spring is a busy time for everyone, especially gardeners.  At the MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program, we want to make it easy for you to find volunteer opportunities.

  • The best way for a certified Extension Master Gardener to find information about local master gardener projects is through the MSU EMG Volunteer Management System (VMS).  The VMS homepage will often contain info about new projects or those that are currently seeking more volunteers.  You can even use the Event Calendar on the left side of the VMS homepage to find and sign up for upcoming MG events!  The full list of area projects can be found by clicking on the Projects link under General Information.  This will take you to a list of educational opportunities and projects.  Click on the project name for a description and contact info of the project’s leader(s).  The project information found on the VMS is maintained by your local MG coordinator or VMS ambassador, and it will contain the most up to date project information for your area.
  • A list of area Master Gardener projects can also typically be found on your local Master Gardener Association web page.  In Northwest Michigan, for example, the MGANM maintains a list of MG projects by county with links to partner websites where available.

When in doubt, contact your local MG coordinator or VMS ambassador for additional project information. 

Thanks for reading, and thanks for helping to make a difference in your community!

 

Munson Hospice House, photo by same

Hospice House Rose Garden Update

by Gayla Elsner

The Munson Hospice House, 450 Brook Street, Traverse City, is having a work bee for its rose garden from 9am to mid-afternoon on Sunday, April 29.  The work bee is a collaboration between MGANM and the Cherry Capital Rose Society (CCRS).  

Hospice House Volunteer Coordinator and Bereavement Counsellor Kjirsten Boeve already has a group of hospice volunteers ready to help that day who will need rose care knowledge and direction from Master Gardeners and rose experts.  There are approximately 100 Knockout roses and various other gardens around Hospice House that will need tending to in preparation for the spring and summer growing season.

Judy Guith from CCRS has been instrumental in organizing the event and the group plans to donate 50 lbs. of a special rose fertilizer it makes.  Other CCRS members, including Nancy Larson and Peggi Tucker, also plan to be at the work bee.

Hospice House garden, photo by Gayla Elsner

Work bee volunteers need not stay for the whole day but may drop in as their schedule permits.  However, MGs should plan to bring their own tools to the event, especially good pruners, and be prepared to show novices how to sharpen them right.  Weeding tools, shovels, buckets and tarps will probably be needed as well.  In addition, it is advised that you bring water and sunscreen/hat and wear your MG apron if you have one.  

After the big day on April 29th, the group will meet again at the end of August for another work bee, the purpose of which will be to guide garden clean-up and maintenance for the end of the season.  

This is a great project that all those involved with can be very proud of.  Your work will give those experiencing hospice care a beautiful place to relax and remember and, hopefully, to find peace.  That is something special.

For more information, contact Gayla Elsner at gelsner9@gmail.com or at (231) 883-8839.


Administration – March 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

President’s Letter: Impatient for Spring

Master Gardener Coordinator’s Corner: Finding Master Gardener Projects in your area this spring

Benzie Lighthouse

President’s Letter: Impatient for Spring

by Michele Worden, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

The days get longer, and the extra light is intoxicating.  Every time there is a thaw it feels like spring is right around the corner.  Then it gets cold and snows again; winter descends.  But spring will not be denied.   Are you ready for some plant talk?

Upcoming programs.  We have two programs coming in March that talk about types of plants for your garden.  These programs encompass two ends of a spectrum in garden design.  

On March 6th, our own Cheryl Gross will talk about how to design your garden with native plants.  Native plants have so many benefits.  They promote wildlife, support pollinators and, when established, need less water and human support to thrive.  They also provide a harmonious connection to the fields and forests that surround them.  They are the best choice for a sustainable garden that supports out ecosystem.

On March 14th, we will again host Heidi Grasman from Garden Crossings, a Proven Winners™ grower.  This is a joint event with the Botanic Garden at their Visitor Center.  Heidi will present the latest cultivars of our favorite garden plants that she has been helping to develop.  These will be plants with showy flowers, new leaf colors, better drought hardiness or new forms (e.g. compact or tall).  Getting the next best version of a plant is a time-tested garden obsession.  Proven Winners™ plants have been bred for Michigan climates.  They are bred to be more resilient, need less water and to be more disease resistant.  In short, to be both beautiful and novel and to take fewer inputs than other plants – less water, pesticides and fungicides.  If you just must have the latest and greatest, these are plants that have a smaller footprint on the environment.  

We will also have a fabulous program on April 3rd about herbs by member Julie Krist.  I don’t know anyone who knows more about growing herbs, or cooks with them so well, as Julie.  She is the founder of our local herb group as well as past officer of Michigan Herb Associates – which has a fabulous conference each year.  Enjoy!

Planning survey on the horizon.  Finally, MGANM has grown much in the past two years.  We want to make sure we continue to grow in the right ways in the future – and meet our members’ needs.  Please be on the lookout for a survey from the board in the coming months as part of our strategic planning process.  We appreciate your time in completing it – and helping us meet your needs in the future.   MMGA is undergoing a similar process so you may see a survey from them also.  Be thinking also about what programs you would like to see next year.  It is not too early to be thinking about 2019!  Send program ideas to info@mganm.org.

Wear your logowear!  Help spread the word about the impact Master Gardeners have in the community by wearing your logowear.  Logowear can be purchased at the Oakland county website https://www.mgsocstore.com/.

Thanks for all you do!

 

Master Gardener Coordinator’s Corner: Finding Master Gardener Projects in your area this spring

by Nate Walton, MSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator for Leelanau, Benzie and GT County

Spring is a busy time for everyone, especially gardeners.  At the MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program, we want to make it easy for you to find volunteer opportunities.

  • The best way for a certified Extension Master Gardener to find information about local master gardener projects is through the MSU EMG Volunteer Management System (VMS).  The VMS homepage will often contain info about new projects or those that are currently seeking more volunteers.  You can even use the Event Calendar on the left side of the VMS homepage to find and sign up for upcoming MG events!  The full list of area projects can be found by clicking on the Projects link under General Information.  This will take you to a list of educational opportunities and projects.  Click on the project name for a description and contact info of the project’s leader(s).  The project information found on the VMS is maintained by your local MG coordinator or VMS ambassador, and it will contain the most up to date project information for your area.
  • A list of area Master Gardener projects can also typically be found on your local Master Gardener Association web page.  In Northwest Michigan, for example, the MGANM maintains a list of MG projects by county with links to partner websites where available.

When in doubt, contact your local MG coordinator or VMS ambassador for additional project information. 

Thanks for reading, and thanks for helping to make a difference in your community!


Search

Join Our Newsletter

Sign Up Today!

Michigan Garden Hotline
1-888-678-3464

9am to Noon, M-F Year round
Also 1pm-4pm in Spring/Summer

 

Log Your Hours