Beautify – July 2019

Tomato plants growing in garbage cans June 2013, Summit NJ by Tom W Sulcer

Planting in Pots

By Val Stone, MG and Coordinator for Northwest Food Coalition

If you are a Master Gardener or possess a green thumb and had to downsize to an apartment or condo without gardens, you know the frustration of giving up your beloved full length beds of flowers and veggies that grew bigger every year.  But never fear, you can be a successful gardener by growing in pots or containers right outside your door on a patio, deck or balcony.  

For variety, mix the sizes and shapes of your pots.  We started with 3 large pots (about 48”) and then added 4 or 5 smaller ones to make 3 pot groupings.  With the larger pots, fill the bottom with crushed gallon milk jugs so you aren’t filling them with soil and making it harder to move them.  I recommend a mixture of peat, compost and topsoil. Your soil mixture is the key to steady growth through the growing season with occasional fertilizer feedings. 

With the larger pots, I used a broccoli plant in the middle for height and planted 3 colors of sweet potato vine, verbena and miniature petunias around it.  Vary the vegetables you put in the pots and include plenty of trailing vines and flowers for color. Look for plants that require the same light and watering and all will be happy.   We have planted ours with peppers, tomatoes, chard, chives, and even Brussel sprouts as the center plant and enjoyed the flowers while the veggies developed during the season. We tried yellow pear tomatoes with flowers and could pick a snack every time we were on the deck.   Once the veggies were harvested, we still had the beautiful flowers to enjoy until frost. The smaller pots could hold herbs and flowers to place near your larger containers. Our decks were filled with color for the season and looked like an ad from a magazine when we grouped the pots together. Add an outdoor fountain to your area and enjoy the quiet of your flower veggie garden room.

Happy Gardening!    

Serve – July 2019

Munson Hospice House Rose and Perennial Gardens

By Gayla Elsner, MG

The second annual work bee for this Master Gardener project happened on May 18th, with six hearty volunteers participating on a cool, rainy day.  Three MG volunteers; Amy Leiva, and Duke and Gayla Elsner, led Hospice House volunteers Sandy, Taryn and Chris as we did spring clean-up, including weeding and fertilizing the Knockout roses, pruning shrubs and small trees, and weeding and raking the perennial beds.  We answered questions and demonstrated pruning and gardening techniques for the Hospice House volunteers, who can share this information with other volunteers.

Hospice House work bee by Gayla Elsner

We also did a cleanup of a forested area directly behind the Hospice House where residents enjoy feeding and watching deer, birds, and other wildlife.  Many of the rooms at Hospice House have doors that open up onto a beautiful deck, where the bed can be rolled right out so the patient can enjoy being in the forest, with a canopy of trees overhead. This area had become overgrown with vines and shrubs so that deer were not coming up to the deck as they once did. We cleaned up the shrubs and vines, picked up trash, and hauled away logs.  Some pretty ground space cover plants are now visible, too.

Hospice House work bee by Gayla Elsner

We didn’t get everything done. In particular it was too wet to cut back the nice ornamental grasses using our new battery-powered shears.  But that’s fine.  Now we move on to the maintenance phase in the garden. Last year was the first year for this project and we focused on raising awareness that the garden existed but had fallen into disarray. We brought together Master Gardeners, Cherry Capital Rose Society, and Hospice House volunteers: we came up with a plan to restore the garden and teach garden care to Hospice House volunteers. This year’s focus is scheduling regular maintenance at the garden. 

Hospice House work bee by Gayla Elsner

Now that we have several volunteers who know what needs to be done to maintain the garden and how to care for each type of plant, we can focus on the schedule.  We are trying a calendar app as a way for people to see when other folks are doing maintenance and schedule themselves either at times when no one is scheduled and the garden really needs it, or at times when they can learn, say, rose care or tree care, from other volunteers.  On our second year with this project, we have a good list of potential volunteers and are also working on a relationship with a group of high school students interested in helping us out for their volunteer hours.   If this project is something you’d like to spend some hours on, email Gayla Elsner

Hospice House work bee by Gayla Elsner

We are amazed at the dedication and caring of Hospice Volunteers.  Gardening is just a tiny part of what they do. It was a good feeling working alongside them. They encourage us and let us know that we are a part of helping hospice patients and their families have a nurturing environment during a very difficult time.  With positive experiences like looking at flowers, feeding the wildlife, or listening to the breeze in the trees their time in hospice can be good.

Hospice House Work bee by Gayla Elsner

News & Events – May 2019

There are multiple opportunities for Continuing Education credits (and general fun) throughout our community. We strive to provide as many of those that are upcoming below. Please make sure to check directly with the organization’s website for any changes as well as for other events that they offer.



Programs take place at their SBTH Discovery Center, 5020 N. Putnam Road (2 miles due west of Omena) unless otherwise noted.  Please call 231-271-3738 for more details.

Conservation Workshop. JUNE 1ST, SATURDAY 10:30 am – 2:00 pm

This collaborative program with the Leelanau Conservancy features Eric Ellis.  There is a PowerPoint program about improving the habitat on your property with native plants.  Included is a light lunch and guided field trips to Leelanau Conservation easement properties, including Charter Sanctuary.  Please register by calling the Conservancy at 231-256-9665 or email Yarrow at



Garlic Mustard Paper Making. MAY 15th, WEDNESDAY 5:30-7:00 pm  

Boardman River Nature Center, 1450 Cass Road, Traverse City. There is no cost, but $5 donation suggestion per family. Registration required. Please contact ISN Outreach Specialist, Emily Cook, for more information – or (231)941-0960 x20 Make paper with garlic mustard! This family-friendly activity with the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network (ISN) begins with a short presentation on invasive species and a paper-making demonstration. Then, make your own green paper – everyone gets to bring some home! All materials are provided. 

Japanese Barberry Trade Up Day, Benzie in conjunction with Grow Benzie. JUNE 22nd, SATURDAY 2:00-8:00 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 is required: Contact ISN Outreach Specialist, Emily Cook at or (231)941-0960 x20.


Lighthouse website:

Digging out perennials, MAY 4TH, SATURDAY 10:00 am

The location is Old Mission Flowers, Ladd and Center Road, Traverse City. Please bring digging tools, gloves, water bottle (no drinking water there), containers, etc.  These perennials will be used for replanting at the Mission Point Lighthouse Historic Garden. Help is also needed transporting the plants to the lighthouse. For further information please contact Ginger Schultz, Old Mission Lighthouse Manager at or 231-645-0759

Planting day for Mission Point Lighthouse Historic Garden.   JUNE 7TH, FRIDAY 9:00 am

The location is the Old Mission Lighthouse, 20500 Center Road, Traverse City.  Please bring planting tools, watering cans, wheelbarrow, etc. if you can. Refreshments and lunch will be provided.

Alternate Date. JUNE 8TH, SATURDAY

Please contact Ginger Schultz, Old Mission Lighthouse Manager, at  or 231-645-0759



Pruning Workshop with Rebecca Finneran. MAY 3RD, FRIDAY 9:00 am – 12:30 pm

MSU Extension Sr. Educator, Rebecca Finneran will lead the workshop at the NW Michigan Horticultural Research Center (just north of Traverse City, near Bingham in Leelanau County). This workshop is geared towards homeowners and gardeners, and will help you master the science (and a bit of art) of pruning. Participants will spend time in the classroom learning best pruning practices and the best equipment for each job, and then move outdoors to apply the learning with hands-on pruning. Participants should bring their own hand-held pruning shears if available, and wear weather-appropriate clothing to be both indoors and outdoors; rain or shine. The cost is $35 per person, and includes education, instruction and light refreshments. Spaces are limited and preregistration is required.   The event is open to the public so please feel free to share this with your friends and family.

Register online at:   

Steward – May 2019

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Rain Gardens: MGANM March Meeting Notes

What’s happening to my Blue Spruce?

The WHY of Native Plants

Photo by Superior Watershed in the U.P.

Rain Gardens: MGANM March Meeting Notes

By Cheryl Gross, AEMG

MGANM hosted another full house at their March monthly meeting.  Carolyn Thayer, with a BLA (Landscape Architecture) from MSU, owner of Designs in Bloom in Frankfort, a Certified Shoreline Professional, and founder of Plant It Wild was the presenter.  Carolyn Thayer discussed the key elements of rain gardens, shoreline buffer strips, and permeable surfaces. The key takeaway: Keep all stormwater from roofs and hard surfaces ON SITE.

Slow it down, Spread it out, Soak it in… is the slogan of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.  Slow it down by using rocks around downspouts and gullies, spread it out by creating depressions and spaces for the water to collect, and soak it in by using native plants with deep roots to move the water through the soil.

Carolyn Thayer showed how even small depressions lined with rocks and planted with moisture loving native plants can manage the run off from a foot washing station at a home near the beach.  She detailed a project at Gateway Village in Frankfort where all the stormwater from the roofs and parking lots are directed into rain gardens that offer beautiful year-round interest and keep all stormwater on site and out of Betsie Bay.  Her most recent project is at a Frankfort Beach parking area on Crystal Lake which involved significant excavation and land shaping to accommodate the runoff and the plants. Finally, Carolyn introduced permeable hard surface products that can capture some storm water on the surface for drive ways and walk ways and limiting the runoff from traditionally impenetrable hard surfaces.

It was a very educational presentation.  Carolyn offered handouts and resources as well.

Read:  Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy

Download a resource from Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, “Plant a Rain Garden” a how-to guide for homeowners:


What’s happening to my Blue Spruce?

By Michael O’Brien, EMG

It was a really sad day when I realized my forty foot Blue Spruce trees, that are now thirty years old were under attack.  For the past two years I’ve been wondering why my trees were developing brown patches. This past summer I was involved in an advanced diagnostic workshop.  That’s when I became aware of Needle Cast disease.

The Colorado Blue Spruce is not native to Michigan.  There are many trees that aren’t native to this state, unfortunately they are succumbing to disease and insects.  This may be happening as our climate is changing.

Needle Cast disease is a fungus with spores.  It requires the right temperature and humidity to disperse spores.  These spores can travel about a mile with ease especially if the winds are correct.  The fungus that effects Colorado Blue Spruce is called Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii Bubak.  There is also another fungus called Stigmina needle cast. Many times Stigmina needle cast is misdiagnosed for Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii Bubak.

The spores attach to the needles, they drain the nutrients out of the needle, and eventually the needle dies.  In May just when the tree is about to open its new buds the fungus is also getting ready to disperse. Some of these new spores will attach to the new growth, while others travel in the wind.  This fungus can do serious harm to the tree and eventually the tree can die.

To diagnose this disease you need an eye loupe, a microscope or an arborist.  The disease shows up as little tiny black dots that can be too small to see by eye.

The good news is the trees can recover.  It may be necessary to apply around three treatments in early spring to keep the fungus from spreading into new areas of the tree.  It may take a couple of years for the tree to produce new growth to replace what has been lost. Most importantly do not cut out the diseased branches.  April and May is the best time to call a tree specialists to begin treatment.

Trillium grandiflorum and Dicentra canadensis. Photo by Whitney Miller

The WHY of Native Plants

By Cheryl A. Gross, AEMG, Plant it Wild President

There exists a connectivity between the soil, plants, and insects which are the first links in the web of life.  Insects are the creatures who turn the energy from the sun, processed by plants into biomass. This insect biomass is what begins to feed the world.

Soil, plants and insects evolve together in ecosystems all over the world.  In plant communities, they create habitats. Insects feed on plants, predator insects feed on insects on plants as do birds, amphibians, and mammals.  Everything is fed and kept in check. Control of plants is provided by the soil, moisture and the critters that feed on them.

Once you begin replacing native plants with alien plants moved within continents and from one continent to another, the ecosystem is disrupted.  The alien plants just don’t fit. Some require extensive and continuous soil amendments and water to succeed (think turf grass). Others, without their own ecosystem controls, escape and become invasive (Bradford Pear, Japanese barberry, and myrtle to name three). The insects who need to be supported cannot live on alien plants. Insects are picky eaters and almost all eat only those plants with whom they have co-evolved. Replace their natural plant communities with non-native plants and there is no insect food. Consider the well-known Monarch butterfly whose larval form lives only on plants in the milkweed family.  We hear about Monarchs everywhere. However, they are but one. All other butterflies and moths have the same habits. When we landscape with non-native plants a food desert is created.

Food deserts are places that lack access to foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.  Our food desert can be best seen in the decline of our migratory bird population. Some of our birds are in danger of extinction because of the food deserts we have created.  To begin, 98% of all baby birds are fed insects by their parents. (The other 2% are fed fish.) The best food for these baby birds are soft, squishy caterpillars. Caterpillars contain valuable nutrients that baby birds need to grow and fledge.  Research estimates that chickadee parents need to feed 6,000 to 9,000 insects, mostly caterpillars, to their clutch each year. That is ONE family. When enough caterpillars/insects are not available, the nest will fail.

It is because of this beautiful and complicated food web that we must focus on landscaping with native plants.  Recent research has determined that to create a healthy food-web ecosystem, the plants on any site must be at least 70% native.  This number includes ALL plants…including your turf lawn. To answer the question then, Why Native Plants? To support life.

Nourish – May 2019

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Growing Food Together: MGANM April Meeting Notes

Project Spotlight – Leelanau Christian Neighbors Food Garden

Tender plant planting and degree days

Growing Food Together: MGANM April Meeting Notes

By Nancy Denison, AEMG

It was another packed house for this meeting about Growing Food Together. Sarah Rautio, MSUE Horticultural educator from the NE Lower Michigan District introduced us to the SNAP-ED program which began in Iowa and has been adopted by many states. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and works with the USDA and many Master Gardener volunteers. This program teaches people how to establish healthy eating habits and increase their physical activity while staying within a limited budget.

Nancy Popa from Leelanau Christian Neighbors also spoke about their community garden which serves the food pantry. They are looking for volunteers so Contact Nancy at 994-2271 or if you can help.

Kate Thornhill with Leo Creek Preserve was also in the house. Leo Creek, located on the Leelanau Trail, began its food gardens just a few years ago but has a mission of growing food for local pantries and hosting educational programs for children and adults. It is accessible from the trail about 200 yards south of the 4th street trailhead. Contact Kate at for volunteer opportunities.


Project Spotlight – Leelanau Christian Neighbors Food Garden

By Michele Worden, AEMG

In April I was so inspired by all the great work going on at Leelanau Christian Neighbors food garden.  Nancy Popa presented at the Master Gardener meeting and told us about the amazing work going on there.

The garden has thirty-two 4×8 raised beds, producing over 500 pounds of food each year from seventeen different vegetables. The group planted, tended, and harvested- beans, broccoli, carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions, potatoes, radish, spinach, sweet peppers, squash, tomatillo, tomatoes and too many zucchini.  In short, this is a good project to volunteer for if you want to learn about vegetable gardening. Master Gardeners can learn about soil amendments, crop rotations, composting, and organic growing techniques.

There are also opportunities to develop teaching materials. A great benefit of this garden is that the food raised goes to the food pantry at Leelanau Christian Neighbors, and the pantry clients are students that are eager to learn to garden, which is a win-win.  Hunger in northern Michigan is wide spread but a hidden problem. Leelanau County in particular is considered a high need food area in Michigan by Feeding America. This great project allows so many ways to have fun gardening, learning and giving back to our community at the same time. Consider spending a few hours there this summer.  If you can help, contact Nancy Popa at or 231-944-9509.


Tender plant planting and degree days

By Lisa Hagerty, EMG in Training

The development of plants and pests can be tracked by researchers and growers with the help of heat units or growing degree-days. According to the Michigan State University Extension, accumulated heat units are determined by identifying threshold temperature and accumulation for different crops. “No significant crop development is expected at the threshold, or base temperature.” Growing Degree Day (GDD) information is useful for decision making regarding managing your crop, as it provides a better “understanding of {both} plant and pest development.” For more information, please refer to the MSUE articles:


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