BEGIN seed starting the first week! In northern Michigan, delicate vegetable plants should be ready for the garden by Memorial Day. Get a jump on the season with seed starting NOW.
Some vegetables are best started by seed and like the cool spring temperatures. Seed peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach and such outdoors before warm-weather sensitive plants.
Later in the month, purchase your bedding vegetable plants that are easily added to the garden as started plants. Tomatoes, eggplants and the like do best when the season is extended, and they are planted with a head start.
Photo by N. Walton, MSUE
Insects of Early Spring: They’re For the Birds!
by Nate Walton, MSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator
Robins may be the official first sign of spring, but let’s not forget that they and other songbirds are busy stuffing themselves with bugs! Insects and other invertebrates provide these birds with the protein and fat they need to complete their migratory flights and lay eggs so that they can produce more songbirds. The first insects to become active in the spring are those that spent the winter as adults. Some of these you can even see in late winter, like this winter crane fly walking on the snow on a warm day.
Photo by N. Walton, MSUE
Many flies (Order: Diptera) are among this group that appear in the spring as soon as the temperature is high enough for their wing muscles to function.
Photo by N. Walton, MSUE
Lawn and garden pests that are a nuisance early in the spring are usually those that are not adults, but larvae still living in the soilstill. European chafer grubs are one of the earliest scarab beetle larvae that migrate from the lower layers of soil to feed on the roots of your lawn turf in the spring. Cutworms, too, can be a problem for early spring gardening as they will snip off your starts just an inch above the soil’s surface. Flocks of songbirds feeding on these scrumptious snacks may be your first sign of a lawn or garden infestation.
One of the biggest problems for early spring gardeners to watch out for are the bud chewing insects. Many of these are small members of the group of insects that includes butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera). The adults of these species lay eggs on twigs in early spring and the larvae feed on buds and leaves as they begin to emerge from dormancy. Some will even bore into the terminal end of a shoot, leaving a hollowed–out twig at the end of a branch. These insects often leave signs of their presence such as strands of silk and frass (insect feces).
Photo by N. Walton, MSUE
As they grow, some of these tiny Lepidoptera larvae will grow larger and tie the plant’s earliest leaves together into a bundle or roll, which is why they are known by the common name: leafrollers. Keep an eye on your favorite trees and shrubs this spring for these bud chewers so that you can decide if you need to take action to protect them. Of course, it’s always a good option to just leave them for the birds!
By the end of the month, flower gardens will be set for the season. May is when annuals shine. Rules of thumb for annuals in the garden and in containers begin with the color wheel! Make things pop with opposites… blues and oranges, yellow and reds…or go for a classy monochromatic look by layering the same color in different flowers and leaf textures.
Keep in mind the “filler, spiller, thriller” rhyme in your pots and hanging baskets.
Use annuals to fill beds as you await the spread of perennials and shrubs.
Creating a Monarch Butterfly Waystation
by Barbara Platts, Extension Master Gardener in Training
Michigan to Mexico migration
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are one of the most well-known butterfly species in North America. They are easily recognized due to their orange and black wings. The eastern monarch butterfly population has declined by 90 percent over the last 20 years due mainly to habitat loss in Michigan and Mexico, where they migrate during the colder months. After overwintering in Mexico, monarchs travel north to seek out larval food sources where plants are plentiful. To view recent winter and summer migration patterns click here.
Monarchs need a variety of habitats to both overwinter and refuel along the way as they travel to and from Michigan. They require access to a wide variety of flowering plantsto survive the annual flight. Monarchs are pollinating insects that travel to flowering plants, drinking nectar and transporting pollen.
You can easily integrate monarch food sources into your garden. Find a location that receives at least six hours of sun a day. Light or low clay provides the best soil type and drainage, however areas with poor run off can support more tolerant plants. Plants should be spaced relatively close together to attract the highest number of monarchs and provide shelter from both predators and the elements.
Must have food sources for monarchs include milkweed and nectar plants. A minimum of ten milkweed plants consisting of two or more species is ideal. Having more than one species provides a constant food source as plants mature and flower at different rates during the season. Milkweeds contain cardiac glycoside, a chemical monarchs absorb that is toxic to predators.
Monarchs also need a consistent nectar source. This can be accomplished by planting a combination of at least four biennial or perennial native plants in your garden space to promote continuous blooms throughout the season.
Plants that attract monarch butterflies to gardens:
Spider Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) – An early milkweed variety. Shorter species. Good for garden borders.
Additional plants that attract monarch butterflies include perennials such as blazing star, bee balm, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, primrose, yarrow, aster, stiff goldenrod, Ohio spiderwort, Maximillian sunflower, blanket flower, prairie phlox, spotted Joe-pye weed, common boneset and dandelion. Annuals include cosmos, zinnias, marigold and sweet alyssum.
Designing your garden
For dry condition planting (well-drained soil) you will need:
Minimum 100 square feet
Minimum 10 milkweed plants, 5 each of two different milkweed species
Minimum 4 biennial or perennial native species for nectar, total 19 plants in this design
Number of plants – 29, spaced 18″ apart
For wet condition planting (poorly drained soil) you will need:
Minimum 100 square feet, total 250 square feet
Minimum 10 plants if using one species of milkweed, 15 milkweed plants in this design
Minimum 4 biennial or perennial native species for nectar, total 49 plants
Number of plants – 64, 24 spaced 24″ apart, 40 spaced 16″ apart
Sustaining your garden
Maintain the monarch habitat by mulching. Mulching should decrease by the third year after you have established your garden. Some native plants may need thinning. Fertilize as needed and remove dead leaves and stalks in late spring if necessary. Water, eliminate insecticide use and remove invasive species.
Certifying your monarch waystation
You can register and certify your monarch waystation by completing an online application. Click here.
by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener
On our recent trip to Southern California I was able to visit the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas, just a few miles from our former home in Cardiff by the Sea. It began as a farm and then private residence of Ruth Larabee, who was an avid plant collector and naturalist. In 1957, she donated the land to the county of San Diego as a wildlife sanctuary and park. It became Quail Botanic Gardens in 1970 and while I do remember the name, I never had the opportunity to visit while living in the area. The county stopped the funding of the gardens in 1993 and the non-profit Quail Gardens Foundation, Inc. took over the operation of the garden. In 2009 the name was changed to the current SD Botanic Garden.
There are four miles of trails on 37 acres of gentle hills, with over 4,000 species and varieties of plants from all over the world. There are gardens with plants from Mexico, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa, in addition to succulent, herb, fire safety and children’s areas as well to explore. It was a perfect spot to walk on a misty Saturday morning and the reciprocal (with our own botanical garden) free admission gave a feeling of being home again for this gardener.
Giant Golden Barrel Cacti, photo by AEMG Nancy Denison
Leaving San Diego, we drove up to Palm Springs for a few days seeking warmth and sun, which eluded us for the most part, but provided a chance to visit the Moorten Botanical Garden on S. Palm Canyon Dr.
This unique garden and “cactarium” was established in 1938 by Patricia and Chester “Slim” Moorten. Slim was an original Keystone Cop and Patricia, a biologist specializing in botany. Together, their love of the desert inspired them to begin collecting samples of plants from the surrounding areas and later Guatemala and into Mexico.
The gardens now contain about 3,000 examples of cacti and other desert plants from California and Arizona to as far away as Africa and Madagascar. The paths wander around part of the grounds of the Moorten home, the “Cactus Castle” and Palm Grove Oasis area. There are crystals, rocks and fossils in various spots as well as a few items for sale on your way out. It was a quick walk through for me with a few items I had not previously seen; the organ pipe cactus, desert willow and creosote bush were highlights. The gardens are available for weddings, meetings and concerts; and certainly an interesting spot to visit in the Palm Springs area.
In May, there are many opportunities to establish your volunteering for the season. Libraries, schools, community gardens and community beautification projects are each in need of Master Gardener leadership in May. Community gardens that donate produce to food banks are especially in need of layout, planning and planting expertise. Share the wealth of knowledge you have with your community!
Below are some projects that are looking for Extension Master Gardener assistance. You may also check out our events page.
PEACE Ranch: email@example.com, speak with Jackie K. They are looking for a Master Gardener to guide them through the process of taking care of an existing perennial bed and a vegetable garden.
Leelanau Christian Neighbors (LCN) is in need of a program coordinator. Please contact Nancy Popa at 231-944-9509 for more information. LCN is a 501c(3) organization that provides a variety of services to the residents of Leelanau County. Staffed by volunteers, their food pantry averages over 6,000 visits per year and serves over 18,000 individuals. Their garden, which was first planted in 2017, produces fresh vegetables to help stock the food pantry. LCN needs Extension Master Gardeners to help teach their volunteers about all aspects of growing fresh vegetables, from diagnostics to pest management and practices that protect water quality. This EMG project can be found in the VMS (Master Gardener Volunteer Management System https://michigan.volunteersystem.org) under Projects: Leelanau Christian Neighbors Food Pantry Garden. LCN is located at 7322 E. Duck Lake Road (M-204), Lake Leelanau, MI They can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LCNserves/
LEO CREEK PRESERVE: Master Gardener volunteers are needed to help create educational materials for a new permaculture garden and interpretive trail. Volunteers could help with even one topic or piece of the garden. It could be one day or multiple days and any help is welcome. The garden will educate the community on sustainable, organic gardening. The new permaculture garden is located on The Leelanau Trail between 4th Street and Eckerle Road in Suttons Bay. It will be used for food production and education programs for the community. Please contact Kate Thornhill directly with any questions or to volunteer…231-313-1980 firstname.lastname@example.org
Munson Hospice House, 450 Brook St. TC 49684. Contact Gayla Elsner at email@example.com
Keep in touch with volunteering opportunities through MSUE email updates and MGANM.
Really – I am ready for spring. Any minute now! While I write this there is 2 ft of snow on the ground starting to melt in the sunshine. It is disconcerting to walk in the woods full of snow, and hear so much bird song, when there is nothing for the birds to eat. Remember to put out high protein food to get our birds through any cold snap.
The extended winter has really been crazy. We had to cancel our April member meeting and the talk on herbs with Julie Krist due to Winter Storm Wilbur. We also had to cancel our April board meeting for the same reason. At the moment it is uncertain whether the herbs talk can be rescheduled this year. We will keep the topic on the list for next year though!
Our May 1 meeting will need to be relocated also due to April weather. The Grand Traverse Conservation District Seedling Sale takes precedence in our meeting room at the Boardman River Nature Center. Due to the cold weather the Seedling Sale has been delayed a few weeks. The growers cannot harvest the seedlings from the frozen ground. This means there will be seedlings in the BRNC meeting room on May 1st and the room will be unavailable. We will be meeting at the Leelanau Government Center.
Meanwhile, some recent organization highlights include:
We visited the first night of the MG Training class on March 8 and signed up some new members.
MGANM participated in the Earth Day celebration on April 22nd at Twin Lakes park and had a terrific turnout for our “living necklace” project.
We are looking forward to the MMGA leadership conference on May 5th in Mt. Pleasant.
The board voted to become a Trillium level sponsor of MG College and will fund another scholarship to the conference this year for leadership development. Please consider applying!
MGANM will also be a sponsor of the Friendly Garden Club Walk this year.
We have increased our marketing efforts over the last two years and this has helped to attract new members and to strengthen community relations. Every dollar invested in marketing has been a good investment. But we also need to plan well. On the horizon, please be on the lookout for a planning survey from MGANM. Your prompt response will be essential to help us plan and grow stronger. The more responses we get, the better the data for planning.
Don’t forget to 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/.
Now is your chance to bring a friend and join GTCD and the Invasive Species Network to help steward our natural areas! First, choose a location to meet us: Hickory Meadows or the BRNC. Then, dress for the weather and work with us to remove invasive garlic mustard (or plant, groom trails, or pick up.
Annual Native Plant Sale
Saturday, May 19, 8:00 am – 3:00 pm
Update your home landscape with native plants that are beautiful, well-adapted to our climate, and support a variety of animals living in our region. Plant experts will be on hand to help you pick out the perfect native plants from our selection of over 50 species. Cash, check, and credit cards will be accepted.
Baby’s Breath Work Bee
Thursday, May 31, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Thursday, June 7, 10:00am-12:00pm
Saturday, June 16, 10:00am-12:00pm
Join the Invasive Species Network (ISN) and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy as we work to remove invasive baby’s breath from Elberta Beach in Benzie County! Spreading easily over northwest Michigan’s beaches and dunes, baby’s breath crowds out native plants and degrades important habitat. We need your help to restore Elberta Beach back to a diverse, healthy landscape! With a deep taproot, removal is hard work but extremely rewarding. Shovels and other tools will be provided but please bring your own work gloves to protect your hands while using shovels. Long pants are recommended as there is some poison ivy on the beach. We will meet at Elberta Beach parking lot. Water and other refreshments will be provided. Feel free to join us at one or all of the dates!
Japanese Barberry Trade-Up Day
June 16, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Trade in your landscaped Japanese barberry for a coupon to a local landscaper or nursery! Receive a $5.00 coupon for every plant you bring us (up to $50.00). We’ll properly dispose of your invasive species and you can go shopping for a non-invasive alternative!
Registration: RSVPs are required – please contact ISN Outreach Specialist Emily Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org or 231.941.0960 x 20.
With floral designer Terry Hooper of Hooper’s Farm Gardens guiding us through the process of creating gorgeous spring and summer porch pots! The $35 fee for this make-and-take class covers all materials needed. This class is open to the public. Advance registration is required and limited to 15 participants.
Volunteer Garden Caretaker Training
Thursday, May 3, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Are you looking for an engaging and interactive volunteer opportunity? Garden caretakers dig in the dirt! Tasks include weeding, watering and monitoring the health of our plants across multiple Garden spaces and containers. Meet on the upper level of The Botanic Garden Visitor Center. We are currently in need of volunteer caretakers for the Maple Allee and the FireWise garden areas.
Growing a Cutting Garden
Wednesday, June 6 7:00pm-9:00pm
Discover how to grow a cutting garden. Michelle Shackelford will discuss growing and tending a wide array of cut flowers, her overall process, and she’ll also demonstrate how to make a beautiful bouquet straight from the garden.
Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan members make our world more beautiful by participating in gardening projects, educational programs, activities and CONNECTING A COMMUNITY OF GARDENERS THROUGH LEARNING!
8527 East Government Center Drive (Suite 107) – Suttons Bay, MI 49682 Phone: 231-256-9888 :: Email: email@example.com