News & Events – July 2017

Below are some of the upcoming events offered in our area through the Boardman River Nature Center, Plant It Wild, and The Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park. Check each of their websites for even more summer fun. Most, if not all, of these events earn either education or volunteer hours.

Aster novae-anglia, New England Asters on the green roof at the BRNC

 Boardman River Nature Center

Work bees at Boardman River Nature Center Native Gardens

Tuesday evenings from 5:00 -7:30 starting July 11th. Additional work bees may also be posted via the Grand Traverse Conservation District’s website or our Upcoming Events page. 

Invasive Species Work Bees… Baby’s Breath at Elberta Beach

July 6 & 15, August 3, 9am-12pm

Making Native Seed Bombs Event, Traverse City Wild Ones

July 15, 10:30 am-12pm


Photo courtesy of Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network (ISN)

Plant It Wild

Program: “Edible and Toxic Plants”

Peter Carrington, MSU Beal Botanical Gardens Wednesday, July 19, 7 pm, Frankfort

Field Trip: “Beal Botanical Gardens on MSU’s Campus

Monday, July 24, 1-3pm, East Lansing 

Program: “Common Fungi of Northern Michigan”

Linda Scribner, Wednesday, August 16, 7pm, Frankfort

Field Trip:  Foraging and Identification with Linda Scribner    

Saturday, August 19, 10am-12pm, Manistee


Pretty in pink, photo by Michele Worden

Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park

All events are located at the Visitors Center unless otherwise noted. 

Rose Exhibit in the Garden

July 13th, 10am-4pm

The Language of Lavender

July 19th, 7pm-9pm

Ikebana Flower Arranging

July 26th, 7pm-9pm

Register for free/fee classes on the BG website,,  through EventBrite.


Nourish – May 2017

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

On The Radar:May

Pets with Benefits

Spring Foraging in Northern Michigan

Meeting Notes- April 4, Wild Food Foraging

Photo by Morganic Farm

On The Radar:May

Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM, President Plant It Wild

BEGIN seed starting indoors 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.  Direct sow 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 MG Bethany Thies

Pets with Benefits

Bethany Thies, Master Gardener

I love my chickens!  I mean, I knew I would love the daily fresh eggs which, in my opinion, taste 1,000 times better than store-bought eggs.  But after keeping chickens for the past three years, I have come to discover so many other reasons to appreciate and love these funny little creatures…especially if one is a gardener.

  1. Chickens are composting machines!  First, they eat almost all of our fruit and vegetable scraps, as well as stale bread, leftover grains and pastas, and some meats (no cannibalism please).  Although they don’t live on these scraps, they do come running every evening when we bring out the day’s leftovers.  Chickens also love to dig and scratch, which is great for breaking down leaves and plant materials.  In fact, we don’t even bag our leaves in the fall.  Our spring and fall cleanups go directly into the chicken yard for the girls to tear up.  Every couple of days we rake it all back into a pile and the chickens rip through it, again and again, until all that’s left is rich dirt.
  2. Chicken poop.  Need I say more?  All kidding aside, we all know that chicken manure is a terrific fertilizer.  It is extremely high in nitrogen but also contains a good amount of potassium and phosphorus. But, because of its high nitrogen levels, it is considered a “hot” manure that will burn plants if spread directly onto beds.  It needs to be aged or composted first.  Depending on the composting method, most chicken manure needs to age between two and four months.   This not only brings the nitrogen down to safe levels but also allows for the natural death of any bacteria found in the manure.  For an in-depth description on how to compost chicken manure, see the University of Idaho Extension’s publication, “Composting and Using Backyard Poultry Waste in the Home Garden” (  For a quick primer on the subject, try the Dummies website (as in Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies) at 
  3. Chickens eat bugs.  All the digging and scratching that chickens do is for one purpose, to find insects, worms and other bugs to eat.  While they won’t rid a yard of all pests, they are especially good at taking care of insects that overwinter in the soil as larvae or eggs, as well as any slugs or snails.
  4. Chickens are fun to watch in the garden.  Like plants, chickens come in many wonderful colors and patterns.  I currently have two different varieties, Ameraucanas and Australorps.  The Ameraucanas have variegated feathers of shades of brown and gold, cream and rust.  The Australorps are the complete opposite, all black with a shiny iridescence of purple and green.   They are truly beautiful.  Add that to their constant activity and variety of vocalizations (my chickens are always talking, from chirps to honks, beeps to purrs) and you have a creature that provides constant entertainment in a garden.

Bonus:  The eggs are divine!  And I’m not talking about just the taste.  There is nothing like going out to your garden chicken coop on a cool spring morning and finding these wonderful little presents in the nesting box.  Mocha, olive and aqua eggs, hefty and still warm in your hand…it’s like Easter every day!

Clay Bowers of Northern MI Foraging

Spring Foraging in Northern Michigan

Clay Bowers, Wild Foods Instructor

After a long dark winter northern Michiganders don’t usually have to be convinced to get outdoors.  Many of us are eager to get outside to work in our gardens, and clean them up after they have been buried under the snow for so long.  I too desire to get outside, but my desire to get outside is usually fueled by other desires; the free and abundant wild food that surrounds us.

In the spring in northern Michigan many people are aware of wild leeks (Allium Tricoccum) and  morels (Morchella spp.), but there are many more delicious spring greens and roots available this time of year.  The choices are limited only by how much time we want to put into foraging. Following are some of the options:

Wild Watercress (Nasturtium officionale) is abundant in our area, to say the least.  We have the great fortune to be surrounded by water; creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes.  These places are typically suitable habitat for watercress. The best places to look for this nutritional powerhouse are in the slower moving creeks and streams that feed larger bodies of water.  Often times the plant is so dense that I have gathered no less than 2 pounds in five minutes.  Watercress is actually a non-native species so one should feel no concern about taking too much. 

A word of caution is in order, however. I strongly urge you to cook your watercress, because many waterborne bacteria that we do not want to ingest can be on your collected greens.  A simple steaming or a quick boil is all you need to rid the plants of anything harmful.  With all of this in mind, finding and collecting watercress for spring soups and stir fries should be an easy challenge.  It is a highly nutritious plant and one that I consider to be a spring staple of my diet.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a nuisance plant to say the least, and to some represents pure evil in plant form. However you view this plant, one thing is certain; it is edible, and dare I say, delicious!  With such an absurd amount of garlic mustard in the area, and the great desire to rid the woods of  this pesky plant, you could store away an ample supply and share wild nutrition with all of your interested friends.  Garlic mustard was brought to the U.S. from Europe as an edible garden plant, and yet its edibility is never mentioned as a means of control.  As a proponent of using our mouths to control the invaders, I say go to the woods this spring and turn your attention toward this wonderful and strong flavored spring green.  Over the years I have used it in pesto, stir-fries, soups, salads, and last year I even fermented a batch like sauerkraut.  The possibilities are endless, much like the supply.  If you are in need of a spot to harvest I suggest just asking around, someone will know a place that has been overrun.


The previous sources of food are from the “non-native, invasive” clan.  The next wild edible that I love to talk about in spring is the ever spreading and native Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).  This sunflower relative is a spreader, but this one does not usually spread by seed, it spreads by its edible tubers.  In the spring you can find a patch and dig up the tubers before they have had a chance to sprout into new plants.  An added benefit of loosening the soil and “thinning the herd” as it were, allows the next season’s tubers to be larger. Jerusalem artichoke, or Sunchoke, as some like to call it, is a plant that is capable of creating an enormous amount of edible food per year.  It is not uncommon to dig 10-15 pounds of tubers in a half an hour’s time. Sunchokes like to grow in a very particular niche in the wild.  Their preferred habitat is right above the water table near the water.  Not too far away, but not too close either.  They seem to adore soil that is very damp, but not soggy.

It is my experience that harvesting Sunchokes actually increases their spread, and not the other way around.  I have witnessed patches double in size over years of harvest, leading me to believe that they benefit from humans digging up some of their edible tubers.  Locating a patch of Sunchokes is easier done in the summer and fall when they have living stems and flowers for identification, but once you have found a patch, you can bet that you will have years of free food ahead.

A spring wild edibles list would not be complete without mentioning the amazing leaves of the Basswood tree (Tilia americana).  Basswood leaves taste amazing.  Some people even refer to the Basswood tree jokingly as the salad tree.  In the spring you can eat the leaves from the time they emerge until the time when the leaves are no longer translucent. Basswood produces some of the most superb greens available in the spring.  Such mild and delicious delicacies are normally only mentioned in the lore of fairy tales.  The Basswood tree is present throughout our area, it is a native plant, and it offers us rather large window of collection time in the spring.  With some wild plants, there requires a bit of “getting used to the flavor”, not so with Basswood.  This spring green is an instant hit with all that venture to try it.  Look for the emergence of its heart shaped leaves this spring and I promise you won’t regret it.

The foraging activities mentioned above should always be done with permission from the landowner and care taken to not harm the environment. Finding locations to pick your wild edibles is an easy task, but it is a task that should be done with the proper precautions and mindset to care for the place from which you are harvesting.  Even places that are harboring great quantities of invasive species should be carefully walked, so as to not stamp down the soil.  I highly suggest getting a few books on the identification of wild edibles and taking a class if you are indeed interested in learning more.

I recommend two books by Sam Thayer, ”The Foragers Harvest” and “Natures Garden”. I also offer classes multiple times a year for any and all interested in learning how to identify wild plants.  You can find out more information at

Incorporating wild foods into your diet is a great way to connect more deeply with nature!  Enjoy!

Wild Foraging meeting with Clay Bowers, 4/4/17

Meeting Notes- April 4, Wild Food Foraging

Nancy Denison, Advanced Master Gardener

Clay Bowers of NoMi Foraging was our guest speaker on April 4th at BRNC. The large gathering was very interested in Clay’s experiences and vast knowledge of local wild edibles. His first encounter with plants was meeting up with a stinging nettle. Apparently it was love at first bite(?) as it is still a favorite plant and he named his son Nettle!

Knowledge of wild edible plants; their identifying characteristics, nutritional value and growing habits are obviously the first steps in becoming a forager. Lambs Quarters, Wild Amaranth, Wild Rice, and Wild Parsnips are just some of the plants readily available in our area. Clay suggests using berries from the Autumn Olive, greens from Garlic Mustard and shoots form Japanese Knotweed as a way to diminish the invasiveness of these pesky plants. Participants had many questions about Wild Rice- where to find it, how to harvest, etc.

Clay offers monthly classes, foraging hikes and lots of information from his website; or email him at  Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm and knowledge with us Clay!

Steward – May 2017

On the Radar:  May

Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM, President Plant It Wild

Begin May with a soil test!  Test your lawn soil OR your vegetable soil OR your flower garden soil.  Know what your soil needs and treat to address those needs.  Locally, McGough’s accepts soil samples and has results available in 7-10 days for $20.  MSU also conducts soil tests.  Go on-line and check it out.

Vow to avoid synthetic fertilizers in your yard this year!  Go organic.  Feed the soil to support the plants.  Stay away from chemicals and drugs that degrade the soil and boosts plant growth.

Plant native.  Add one or more Michigan native plants to your yard.  Begin with a Serviceberry, Amalachier leavis, or a Butterfly Weed.  Each will increase the food sources for insects and critters available in your yard.  The more, the healthier!

Beautify – May 2017

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

On The Radar: May

Meeting Notes: March 7, Proven Winners

To Dahlia or Not to Dahlia

On The Radar: May

Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM, President Plant It Wild

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.

Photo from Proven Winners

Meeting Notes: March 7, Proven Winners

Nancy Denison, Advanced Master Gardener

MGANM met on March 7 at the Botanical Garden Visitor Center for a joint presentation on new plants for 2017. Our guest speaker was Heidi Grasman from Garden Crossings in Zeeland, MI. Heidi, and husband Rod, grow and sell many plant varieties in their greenhouses, provide products to area landscapers, and run a retail garden center as well.

Heidi and Rod brought along some plants to give-away as well as photos of some of the newest “Proven Winners” offerings for this year.  Several that caught my eye were the Rose of Sharon which grows in a 3-4 ft. mound with deep green foliage; the “Summerific  Ballet Slipper” hardy hibiscus which grows to just  4ft; and a compact hydrangea, “Invincible Limetta or Wee White”, with smooth leaf foliage and large flowers.

Heidi also invited us all to the Grand Garden Show on Mackinac Island, August 27-29 for tours of private gardens on the island, seminars and more. Opening day for Garden Crossings is April 17.  Thanks so much to the Grasmans for a fun, informative night.

7 month old Dahlia tubers, Coastal NC

To Dahlia or Not to Dahlia

Nancy Denison, Advanced Master Gardener

A late September trip to Seattle included the famous Pike’s Peak Market and a jaw dropping ogle at the vendor table of dahlias. The colors, the petal designs, the sizes made me drool every time we cruised through the market. I’ve since tried to grow various types with little success. Here’s what I’ve discovered that may help those of us who need it.

Dahlias are a “genus of bushy tuberous, herbaceous, perennial plants native to Mexico.” Spaniards reported finding the plants growing in 1525. (Wikipedia) The tubers were grown as a food crop by the Aztecs but this ended after the Spanish Conquest in the early 1500s. There are 42 species, 1000 cultivars, and 14 flower group types. These range from group 1, single flowered, to group 4, water lily, to group 8, cactus, to group 14, peony flowered. The dahlia was named after the botanist Anders Dahl born on March 17, 1751.

Dahlias grow best in zones 7-11. They need full sun, except in the Deep South where some shade is preferred. Of course for us in zones 4 and 5, dahlia growth requires a few modifications in planting.  Jerry Baker (“America’s Master Gardener”) recommends planting the bulbs after the last threat of frost has passed.  Or at least when the soil temperature is about 60F. The soil should be well draining, whether in a planter or the ground. One reference suggests digging a hole 12” in diameter and 12” deep, filling half the hole with compost mixed with bone meal. Another suggests digging a hole 4-5’ deep. Make sure tubers are not wrinkled or rotten, and a bit of green growth is a good sign. Do not break tubers, but plant the whole section with the “eye” or sprout pointing up and cover with composted soil.  Do not fertilize or water right away to decrease possibility of tubers rotting. If planting in a bed, space tubers between 12”and 36” apart depending on flower size.  Smaller flowering can be 24” apart while the larger flowering should be 36”. Do not cover with mulch or bark to avoid pests.

Dahlias begin blooming about eight weeks after planting, usually in mid-July, however some gardeners may want to start the tubers indoors to get a jump on the season.

Pinching the first buds will encourage strength and fullness. Fertilize with a low nitrogen product within a month of planting and then regularly during the season but don’t over fertilize, especially with nitrogen, as you may end up with no blooms and weak tubers. 

Dead head spent blooms for new growth.  Dahlias are attractive to snails, slugs, earwigs, spider mites, aphids and rabbits. For taller varieties, stake at the time of planting to avoid piercing the tubers.

Tubers must be dug up and safely stored for use the following year.  When foliage has been blackened by frost, cut tops down to within a few inches of the ground. Carefully lift out the tubers, separate, shake off soil, cut rotten sections off and leave upside down to dry naturally. Pack each tuber in loose fluffy material such as dry sand, peat, vermiculite, or packing peanuts. Store in a well-ventilated, frost-free spot where temps are at best 40-45F or at least between 35 and 50F. In the spring, if all has gone well, you can begin anew.  If not, just go buy some new ones and try again!


Jerry Baker, Great Garden Tips and Tonics. American Master Products Inc. 2003.

Farmer’s Almanac:

Fine Gardening Magazine, Taunton Press; p22-29 by Alastair Gunn.


Serve – May 2017

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

On The Radar

Master Gardener College Scholarships

On The Radar: May

Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM, President Plant It Wild

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! 

Keep in touch with volunteering opportunities through MSUE email updates and MGANM.

Keynote Speaker Paul Zammit at MG College 2016. Photo by Michele Worden

Master Gardener College Scholarships

Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM, President Plant It Wild

The purpose of the Master Gardener Volunteer Training Program is to advance the horticultural knowledge of the citizenry.  When MSU Extension educates ‘regular folks’ in current, scientifically-based practices, the intent is that the ‘trainees’ will, in-turn, volunteer in their communities and raise the knowledge base of all.  Well, that is the plan.  Many of us initially take the class for selfish reasons.  We want to know more and be better gardeners for our OWN purposes.  The Master Gardener Volunteer Training program I took was FANTASTIC.  I enjoyed each and every chapter and class.  I loved the learning…. and S L O W L Y came to understand the ‘volunteering’ part.  That is where the ‘association’ came in.  Thank heavens! for the Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan (MGANM).  Without them, learning about volunteering opportunities and having easy access to timely education would not be possible.

MGANM, in addition to being a clearinghouse for volunteering and education, raises funds annually to offer one or two scholarships to the Master Gardener Volunteer Training class (offered at the Hort Center in Leelanau County) AND to send current Master Gardeners to Master Gardener College offered at MSU in East Lansing each June.  The purpose of the scholarships is to encourage those, who otherwise might not be able, to attend.  The scholarships have strings attached.  Those who accept the scholarship money are expected to join MGANM and raise the knowledge of the community as a whole through sharing the knowledge and experiences earned! The ripple effect.

It is not complicated.  Get smart; share knowledge.

Currently, MGANM has TWO Master Gardener College Scholarships available for attendance June 23 and 24, 2017 in East Lansing.  One is funded through MGANM fundraising efforts; the second is funded by Brian Zimmerman, owner of Four Season Nursery, a landscape designer, and plant care servicer.  His desire in offering the scholarship is the same as the original purpose of MG Training.  Create a ripple effect that raises the horticultural IQ of our region.  A third 2017 Master Gardener Scholarship is offered through the Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park.  They are a partner with MGANM and benefit from the volunteering of many Master Gardeners.

Therefore, we encourage ALL Master Gardeners in our region interesting in sharing knowledge to apply for one of these three scholarships!  Contact the Botanic Gardens for their application procedures, if you volunteer there.  To apply for one of the two scholarships available through MGANM, answer the following questions and send them to Cheryl Gross, MGANM VP @ or mail to 4628 Westbrook Dr., Traverse City, MI, 49685. Deadline to apply is June 9, 2017.


Contact Information:

MG Training Class Year:

MG Volunteering Experience:

Why you wish to attend Master Gardener College:

How you Intend to Share your new Knowledge with your Community:

If awarded the scholarship, you will be expected to join MGANM and attend Board Meetings and Membership meetings during 2018 and submit an article to the Real Dirt on the Master Gardener College experience.

We hope to have many applicants from which to choose!  Contact Michele Worden or Whitney Miller about the Master Gardener College experience.


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