Steward – May 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

On the Radar: May

Landscaping with Native Plants, March Meeting Note

What’s in Your Gardening Library?

On the Radar: May

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

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 online 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 boost plant growth.

Begin a compost pile.  In an out-of-the-way corner, hopefully in the sun, begin layering leaves and carbon-based materials with green, nitrogen-rich kitchen scraps and yard waste.  Water occasionally and stir. Depending upon your activity, usable compost can be available in 4-12 months (or more). Save organic matter from the landfill and yield nutritious compost for your yard!  See

Landscaping with Native Plants, March Meeting Note

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

Our meeting on March 6th featured Cheryl Gross (of MGANM/Real Dirt and Plant It Wild fame) sharing her knowledge of landscaping with native plants. Having experienced the reshaping of her sandy soiled home on Lake Michigan and most recently ridding much of her new home’s property of extensive sod, Cheryl spoke of choosing the right kinds of plants for the ecosystem; to help stabilize the soil, reduce water runoff and strengthen connections between plants, insects, birds and habitat.

Design is the key to provide structure and beauty with native plants. Define your edges, decide what you want to look at–what’s your focal point, and think about blooming plants, shrubs, low/border plantings and seasonal views.

Cheryl provided lots of before and after photos, plant suggestions and resources/readings for more information on creating native plant environments and sources for purchasing items.  Thanks so much, Cheryl, for your entertaining and informative walk through your gardens!

What’s in Your Gardening Library?

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

The first two books we put in our gardening library were Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan by Lynn M. Steiner and All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholmew.  Since then, we have collected various books based upon the topic at hand.  One year it was wildflower identification as we were learning new things in the woods and meadows.  Another year we built our insect book collection.  If you are interested in ecological gardening, some of the following books may be of interest to you.

Why gardening with native species matters:

Bringing Nature Home, Douglas Tallamy, c. 2007  Tallamy’s ground-breaking book on the relationships between plants, insects and birds.  Accessible for the reader. Provides the science of the ecological web. A must read.

A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future, Benjamin Vogt, c. 2017  Vogt expands the idea of gardening for the web of life to the importance of native landscapes to humans as well.  Humans desperately need a balance with nature which is only available through wildflower gardens. We urgently need wildness in our daily lives.

Flower identification and culture:

A Field Identification Guide to Invasive Plants in Michigan’s Natural Communities, Kim Borland, Suzan Campbell, Rebecca Schillo, Phylis Higman, MSU Extension, c. 2009  Just because the land ‘looks’ wild, does NOT mean it is natural. Our woods, fields, and even landscapes are filled with non-native, invasive plants.  To support natural habitats and natural ecosystems, we must first know all of these nasties by name and remove them.

Wildflowers of Michigan, Stan Tekiela, c. 2000.  The best way to learn to love Michigan native plants is to see them in a natural setting.  Tekiela’s Field Guide is a handy reference. Organized by blossom color, he includes information on plant native/non native status.

Wild Flowers of the Dunes, Diane K. Chaddock, c. 1998.  Visiting the exceptional Dunes communities along the Lake Michigan exposes us to rare plant communities.  These dunes plants, some are threatened and protected, all survive and thrive in harsh sand and winds.

Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie c. 2006.  A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States.  A good comprehensive guide with related plants grouped together and location maps.  Good photos and descriptions for identifying a plant. No information on native/invasive status.

Michigan Wildflowers in Color, Harry C. Lund, c. 1985.  A field guide with beautiful photos.  Good section on nomenclature. Indicates plant status as to protected or endangered.  Grouped by blossom color. No mention of native/non-native status

What’s Doin’ the Bloomin’?, Clayton R. Osland, 2011 A Guild to Wildflowers of the Upper Great Lakes Regions, Eastern Canada and Northeastern USA.  Organized by habitat and season makes this easy to use when in the field. Origin is specified when not native.

Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Lawrence Newcomb, c. 1977.  A true field guide using a key to identify the plants.  By answering 5 questions about the plant before you, and using a numbering system based upon the Flower, Plant, and Leaf, the reader is guided through an ever narrowing group of plants to the identification of the one.

Trees of Michigan and the Upper Great Lakes, Norman F. Smith, c. 1995. Two full pages of information on each tree species with photographs of leaves, bark, seeds, etc.  Focus is on the tree, habitat, and behavior.


Attracting Native Pollinators, The Xerces Society, c. 2011  A comprehensive guide to pollinators and their habitat needs.  Included are gardening and seeding guides, insect identification, habitat construction, and the like.  Helpful step-by-step instructions.

Pollinators of Native Plants, Heather Holm c. 2014  Heather Holm introduces us to the native pollinators (bees, wasps, butterflies, beetles, and flies) in our region and the plants they require for food and larval hosting.  Clearly identifies the insects and they way they interact with plants.

Garden Insects of North America, Whitney Crenshaw c. 2004  Entomologist recommended for identifying and understanding the insects in the garden.  Which are good and which are bad? Photography is especially helpful.

Michigan Butterflies and Skippers, Mogens C. Neilson, MSU Extension c. 1999 Helpful in identifying the butterfly stage but nothing on the larval host stage.  Good photos of the butterflies and information on location, habitat and larval host plants.

Caterpillars of Eastern North America, David Wagner, c. 2005.  FINALLY, a caterpillar book.  A go-to on our shelves. Helpful pictures of caterpillars AND pictures of their butterflies.  Full of useful information.

Spiders of the North Woods, Larry Webber c. 2003.  Who doesn’t need a spider ID book?  They are everywhere in our garden and landscape, if you haven’t poisoned them.  They are beneficial in every way as they are carnivores and feast on annoying insects.  Celebrate these unsung heroes.

Butterflies of Michigan, Jaret C. Daniels c. 2005.  There are over 150 butterflies in Michigan and this field guide will help you identify who you see in your yard and as you trek in natural areas throughout the state.

Bees of the Great Lakes Region and Wildflowers to Support Them, Jason Gibbs, Ashley Bennett, Rufus Isaacs, Joy Landis, MSU Extension  c. 2015 As we pay more attention to the bees in our flower gardens, our curiosity expands past the Bumble Bee or the Honey Bee.  Some bees are specialists, some generalists, all need nectar and pollen support across the season. Learn to recognize and understand these hard workers.  Garden to enhance and protect their habitat.

Growing a bird feeder:

How To Attract Birds, Ortho Books, c. 1983.  This one is an ‘oldie-but-a-goodie.  It was written well before the recognition of the importance of native plants in the landscape, so plant choices should be double checked.  However, it provides very good information on hosting birds.

Birdscaping in the Midwest, Mariette Nowak, c 2007.  Subtitled: A Guide to Gardening with Native Plants to Attract Birds, Nowak’s book does just that.  This guide is packed full of information on habitats for birds created by gardens including plant selection and design.

Landscaping with native plants:

Landscaping with Native Plant of Michigans, Lynn M. Steiner, c. 2006.  A very handy reference book on plants.  Steiner includes information on plant habitat, behavior, size, features, and companion plants.  The Book includes flowers and ground covers, grasses and sedges, ferns, conifers, shrubs, trees and vines.  She does include cultivars which are not native plants.

The Living Landscape, Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy, C. 2104.  Designing for biodiversity in the home garden.  Darke and Tallamy take observations of plant layers and communities in the wild and apply those principles to landscaping at home.  Using native plants, their specialized relationships, biodiversity, ecological benefits, and more they offer a guide to beautiful and beneficial landscape design.

Planting in a Post-Wild World, Thomas Ranier & Claudia West, c. 2015  Humans need nature and wild things. Our current landscaping principles remove us from nature.  Rainer and West studied the behavior of plants in nature and using masses of fewer plant species in layers and communities found in nature are designing landscapes that recreate the wild in beautiful, beneficial, and acceptable ways.

Rain Gardens, Lynn M. Steiner & Robert W. Domm, c. 2012.  Sustainable landscaping for a beautiful yard and healthy world.  Rain gardens are important if we are to process and clean rainfall and run off on-site.  When we do this, we protect surface water. Steiner and Domm offer a clear guide to rain garden placement, excavation, planting, and more.  While utilitarian, rain gardens can be beautiful and beneficial habitat for insects and critters as well.

Nourish – May 2018

On the Radar: May

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener

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 soil still. 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 hollowedout 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!

Note:  All photos by N. Walton, MSUE

Beautify – May 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

On The Radar:  May

Creating a Monarch Butterfly Waystation

A Walk Through Two Gardens

Blooming annuals

On The Radar:  May

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener

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.

Monarch habitat

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 plants to 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.

Native plants

Plants that attract monarch butterflies to gardens:

Spider Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) – An early milkweed variety.  Shorter species.  Good for garden borders.

Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9

Height 1 to 2.5 feet

Bloom time May-July

Purple and green blooms also attract other pollinators

Plant in full sun, drought tolerant

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – Low maintenance plant with fragrant purple flowers. Has subtle onion flavor.  Can be used in cooking.

Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9

Height 1 to 2 feet

Bloom time April-June

Showy purple blooms on green stalks

Plant in full sun

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) – Thrives in moist soils and ponds    

Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-4

Height 3 to 4 feet

Bloom time June-October

Fragrant pink flowers

Plant in full sun

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) – Long lasting clusters of orange flowers. Grows well in poor, dry soil.

Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9

Height 2 to 3 feet

Bloom time June-August

Bright orange flowers

Plant in full sun, drought resistant

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.

Once certified, your habitat will be added to the Monarch Watch Registry found at

You can also purchase an official Monarch Waystation sign to install in your garden by clicking here.  


Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.

Missouri Department of Conservation, Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.

Monarch Butterfly Garden, Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.

Monarch Butterfly Migration, Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.

Monarch Waystation Program, Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.

photo by AEMG Nancy Denison

A Walk Through Two Gardens

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.

Serve – May 2018

On The Radar:  May

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener

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:, 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 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

 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

Munson Hospice House, 450 Brook St. TC 49684. Contact Gayla Elsner at

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

Administration – May 2018

President’s Letter: Ready for Spring

by Michele Worden

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

Thanks for all you do!


Join Our Newsletter

Sign Up Today!

Michigan Garden Hotline

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


Log Your Hours