Blog

Serve – Sep 2017

May Farm of Benzie County, MI. Photo by same

The May Farm Pollinator Project

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

The May Farm in Benzie County raises cattle, sheep and chickens on a rather small plot of rented land near the corners of Lobb and Graves roads in Frankfort, MI.  Farmer Paul May rents the pasture and installed electric fencing eight years ago.  The land was fallow and degraded.  Beginning slowly, animals were put on the land and moved section by section following a rotational grazing pattern.  Cattle and sheep graze the pasture and are moved daily to ‘fresh’ ground.  Broiler chickens follow helping to process the ruminant leavings and add their own.

Visiting Paul on the pasture requires a bit of time, especially if you catch him and he begins talking about the ‘result’ of rotational grazing. He is passionate about the web of life created between the soil, the plants, and the animals.  He is observing dramatic changes in the plants in the pasture.  The soil is improving, the plants are improving, the animals are growing better with the better nutrition, and the pasture is becoming more resilient.  As a result, the pasture can support more animals in smaller spaces.  The more compact the daily space, the greater impact on the plants and soil and the longer plant recovery time.

“Today’s “cute puppy” photo. Just after the daily afternoon move, everyone joyfully noshing on the “ice cream”. The forage is at it’s best in the afternoon, unless it’s nasty hot, and I try to size the paddocks so that they’re ready to eat, but not lacking. It’s not weight-loss camp, after all. And, with the beautiful timely rains we’ve had, there is plenty of feed. So, seriously, if you’re within reach, catch me for the afternoon move. It really is cool!”

-Paul May of May Farm via Facebook. Photo by same

I recently visited the pasture at the end of the day when it was time to move the animals.  The 20 cattle and 28 sheep begin to get in line when Paul shows up. They watch him carefully as he moves fencing, refills water barrels, and opens the ‘door’ to fresh clean pasture into which the animals rush.  Behind, they leave cow pies that are already being broken down by dung beetles and grazed plants ready to be nourished and regrow. 

The May Farm receives some funding from the USDA / NRCS for Paul’s farming practices.  A recent grant includes a requirement for establishing a pollinator garden outside of the pasture.  For the size of his pasture, the garden must be .3 of an acre or 13,068 square feet.  Because Paul’s head is into ruminate feed and soil building and animal raising, he asked Plant It Wild to help with the May Farm Pasture Pollinator Project.

A committee of three, two Master Gardeners and a third Plant It Wild member volunteered.  To date, we have researched and accumulated the information summarized below:

  • site evaluation for invasive plant species
  • site measurements for garden location between the pasture fence and road easement to capture 13,000 square feet
  • list of canopy, understory, shrub, forb, and grass plants best suited to dry, upland conditions
  • information on plant value to pollinators, larval hosts, birds, and the like
  • plant/seed sourcing possibilities and estimated costs
  • planting and seeding design
  • seeding method
  • pollinator shelter suggestions

We are aided in our work through the following sources:

  • Attracting Native Pollinators, The Xerces Society Guide, c 2011
  • Pollinators of Native Plants, Heather Holm, c 2014
  • Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan, Lynn M. Steiner, c 2006
  • NRCS Lists of plants suitable for pollinator habitat (link)
  • Bringing Nature Home, Douglas Tallamy, c 2007

Paul May will have received a completed report from us by the end of August which will outline selected plants, a planting plan, optional plant sourcing, and more.  On October 14, the May Farm will host a Pasture Walk from 10am – 2pm.  All are welcome.  Paul will be educating the public on his farming practices and engaging his customers in his rotational grazing and environmentally beneficial farming practices.  Locally sourced food and May Farm meats will be served.   Plant It Wild and Master Gardeners will have an opportunity to present information on the pollinator project planned for the pasture edge to meet USDA and NRCS requirements.   

While our role is informational and advisory, gardeners cannot help but want to get dirty.  I suspect that Phyllis Robinson, MG, Joy Kennedy, and I will be on hand for at least part of the garden installation in September of 2018. 

Reversing the trend in pollinator and migratory bird decline is something everyone can do.  There are tremendous, timely resources available through bookstores, MSU, USDA and other on-line sources.  The most recent data shows that using straight native plant species is the MOST beneficial to the insects and birds we are trying to feed.  Plants from other continents and cultivars are not recommended for pollinator gardens.  Click here to see the May Farm Pollinator Report including the dry-upland plant list.


News & Events – Sep 2017

Below are some of the upcoming events offered in our area through our Association, 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.

MGANM

mganm.org

MGANM Board Meeting

Thursday, September 7, 6:30pm. Horizon Books, lower level, 243 East Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49684. Participation earns volunteer hours.

Boardman River Nature Center Native Display Gardens work bees

Tuesdays throughout September, 5:00pm-7:30pm. Boardman River Nature Center, 1450 Cass Road, Traverse City, MI 49685. All levels of gardeners are invited to work on the educational gardens. This is an official Master Gardener volunteer project-participation earns volunteer hours. Bonus: learn to identify native plants!

“Plants Deer Don’t Eat”

Tuesday, October 3, 6:30pm with a potluck at 6:00pm. Brian Zimmerman of Four Season Nursery presents at the Boardman River Nature Center, 1450 Cass Road, Traverse City, MI 49685. Educational meetings are open to the public, and a $5 donation from non-members is appreciated.

Annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon

Sunday, November 5th, 1-3pm. Gilbert Lodge at Twin Lakes Camp; 6800 N Long Lake Road Traverse City, MI 49684. Join MSU Extension and MGANM as we celebrate another year of gardening. This event will encompass an educational speaker, silent auction, light lunch, awards, and camaraderie.  There will be a small fee associated with this event to cover costs. Look for an invitation soon!

Boardman River Nature Center

natureiscalling.org

Forestry Field Day at Interlochen Center for the Arts

September 9 @ 9:00am – 3:00pm      $5.00

Native Tree Hike with District Forester Kama Ross

September 14 @ 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Ties to the Land – A Family Forest Ownership Succession Workshop Event

September 16 @ 9:00am – 4:00pm

Fall Garden Clean-Up for the Native Beds Event

October 12 @ 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Plant It Wild

plantitwild.com

“Life Below Our Feet”

Wednesday, September 20, 6:30pm – 9:00pm. Trinity Lutheran Church, 955 James St., Frankfort, MI (on James Street between 9th and 10th Streets). Come for a delicious potluck dinner at 6:30pm.  Bring your appetite, a dish to pass, your table service, and your friends.  After dinner at 7:15 Brian Zimmerman, owner of Four Season Nursery (www.fourseasonnursery.biz), will present a fascinating program on the life below our feet and the ecosystems in the soil that are necessary for our survival.  He will also explain the differences between plant food and synthetic fertilizers.

The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park

thebotanicgarden.org

Cooking with Herbs

Wednesday, September 20, th from 7:00pm – 9:00pm. Join us for an evening learning how to harvest and cook with herbs with Dixie Stephen. This is the fourth class in our five-class Herb Series that is being offered all season long. 1490 Red Dr, Traverse City, MI 49684. Register for free/fee classes on the BG website, thebotanicgarden.org,  through EventBrite.


Steward – July 2017

On The Radar – July & August  How is your compost pile doing?  Have you turned or watered it lately?  Adding water and aerating the pile will speed decomposition.  Be sure it gets good and hot (add more carbon-based browns if the green nitrogen-based plants slow the process).  You do have leaves saved from last fall, don’t you? 

Keep an eye on bugs in your garden.  Appreciate the work they do.  Do not run for a pesticide just because of a few bugs.  Take the patient route and work slowly to encourage the insect food web to develop.  Remember, birds need caterpillars.  Let a healthy crop of parasitic and predatory bugs develop in your yard.

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Nate Walton Introduction, Squash Bee Intro AND Volunteer Opportunity!

Why Plants and Pets Need Equal Care

Nate Walton Introduction, Squash Bee Intro AND Volunteer Opportunity!

by Nate Walton, Leelanau/Grand Traverse/Benzie EMG Coordinator

Greetings gardeners! As the new Master Gardener Coordinator for Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Benzie County, I would like to take a few minutes to introduce myself to the MGANM. I am an entomologist (AKA bug nerd) by training, with an MS and PhD in Entomology from MSU. However, I have also had a great deal of interest in plants and gardening. Growing up in Suttons Bay, I often helped out in the garden at home and started learning the art of gardening at a very early age. More recently I have taught plant pathology at Northwestern Michigan College for the MSU institute of Agricultural Technology. I have also been very active in pollinator conservation, performing research and education activities centered around growing native plants to provide food and shelter for native bees and other beneficial insects.

Often, when people find out that I am an entomologist the first thing they say to me is, “Ok, so what’s your favorite bug?” Well, the answer to that question is not as simple as it may seem. There are millions of species of “bugs,” which makes it really hard to pick just one. I get around the question by telling people that I don’t have a favorite bug all the time, but I do have one this week. For example, this week my “favorite bug” is the squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa. Squash bees are solitary bees, which means they don’t make big communal nest in the ground or in trees like most of the bees and wasps that you are familiar with. Instead, squash bees nest in the soil near the vines of the cucurbits such as squash, cucumber, or pumpkin that you may have growing in your garden. These little black and yellow striped bees are essential for pollination of cucurbit flowers and without them we wouldn’t be able to eat zucchini, summer squash, watermelon, pickles, or pumpkin pie to name a few.

The reason that squash bees are my favorite bug this week is Michigan State University researchers are looking for Master Gardener volunteers to participate in a statewide squash bee survey. All you have to do to participate in the survey is learn a little bit about squash bees, count them on the cucurbits in your garden, and upload the data. There’s even an app for it! If you’d like more information or to participate in this exciting and educational citizen science project you can contact your local Master Gardener Coordinator or visit MSU’s Vegetable Entomology website (http://vegetable.ent.msu.edu/squash-bee-project/).

 

Why Plants and Pets Need Equal Care

by Brian Zimmerman, Brian Zimmerman Associates

Buying a plant is much like buying a pet. For those who are pet lovers, not gardeners, this statement may seem a little over the top. But for those of us who love to garden, the parallel seems reasonable. Plants and pets are living, breathing entities and most likely when purchased they are infants, requiring considerable care and nurturing.

In our pet example, if you are shopping at a reputable source you assume the staff have treated the pet well to ensure its good health. Most likely the staff are pet lovers themselves. You in turn take time choosing your pet and great care getting the new pet home safely. If you are a new pet owner you are given sound advice in the care and feeding of your new pet. You would never consider putting your pet in the trunk of your car or the back of your truck, taking it home and leaving it there a few days until you are ready to play with it. This would constitute possible death or at least great harm to your pet.

Our plant example isn’t much different. If shopping at a reputable nursery the staff make every effort to ensure the nursery plants are well cared for. The nursery also has a responsibility to ensure the plant makes it to its new home in good condition and depending on the plant size and type this ‘packaging’ can take time. You are given sound advice on the care and feeding of your new plant. As with the pet example, the nursery staff are plant lovers themselves, taking their job seriously and are most concerned with the well-being of the plant.

Far too often new plants are not afforded the same treatment as pets. They are left in the trunk of the car or back of the truck. Often the plant has a guarantee and nurseries have an obligation to honor that guarantee even though they have no control over how that plant is treated once it leaves the nursery.

Plants require the same love and care as your pet. Treat your new plant purchase with love and it will reward you with its beauty for many years.


Nourish – July 2017

On the Radar July & August  Water, weed, harvest, repeat.  Our peas are coming in fast now at the end of June.  Pick one day… and more are ready the very next.  Summer squash is notorious for doubling in size over night to become baseball bat-like.  Lettuce will be bolting soon, so harvest, eat and share all that you can.  It is the curse of the vegetable gardener who plants energetically in spring and to be overwhelmed with produce in August!

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Food Security and Volunteering

Grow Your Own Nutritious and Healthy Wild Rice

More Rhubarb Fun

Photo from LCN.org

Food Security and Volunteering

by Annette Kleinschmidt, Leelanau County MSU Extension Office Manager

The Leelanau Christian Neighbor’s (LCN) with the help of numerous Master Gardeners has constructed and planted 23 raised vegetable garden beds at their new location near Lake Leelanau.  These gardens were planted by dedicated volunteers to grow food for their food pantry patrons, which they call “Neighbors.”  The gardens look FANTASTIC!  They are looking for a committed volunteer to oversee its growing and harvesting season. We have a great committee of folks and other MG volunteers to help weed and harvest (still need more!) but need someone to organize everyone.  The only ‘criteria’ is that they have a knowledge, or at least passion, for vegetable gardening and can be organized.  This isn’t a difficult role, just need a go-to person. 

Are you the kind of person that likes to get your hands in rich soil – grow healthy produce – meet people with your interests – then join in the fun! They definitely need YOU!

If you are able to take the lead, please email me at kleinsc7@msu.edu or Mary Stanton at LCN at maryhstanton@gmail.com

On a related note, the LCN Garden will have TWO weekly work bees on Monday mornings from 9am – noon, and on Thursday evenings from 4pm – 7pm from now until the end of harvest in fall.  They could always use more MG volunteers!  This is a great opportunity to educate LCN volunteers on proper vegetable garden maintenance.  If you can help during those times, you can just show up, or let myself (kleinsc7@msu.edu), or Nate know, (waltonn2@msu.edu) – until we get a lead person, we’ll try to help in the interim!  Even if you can only come for an hour, that helps!  There are some gardening tools in the garage there, but bring your own gloves and hand tools if you can.  The LCN garden is located at 7322 E Duck Lake Rd, Lake Leelanau, MI 49653. 

Photo by Vegkitchen.com

Grow Your Own Nutritious and Healthy Wild Rice

by Sally Perkins, contributor

When did you last try wild rice? If the answer is either “never” or “not sure,” then it is high time you gave it a go. Not only does it have a far more interesting flavor than conventional white or brown rice, it is also vastly superior in terms of nutritional content. And what’s more, you could even try growing it yourself, right here in Michigan.

Looks and even names can be deceptive – wild rice is actually a type of grass, and is a completely different crop to ordinary rice, although it can be used and cooked in more or less the same way. Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional gains of eating wild rice, and why it is the ideal ingredient to include in family meals and snacks.

Boosts your immune system

One of the reasons that health experts get so enthusiastic about wild rice is that it is one of the best sources of antioxidants around, containing as much in one spoonful as you would get from an entire portion of white rice. This means it is great for keeping your heart, skin and general immune system in tip top condition.

Furthermore, it is high in phytonutrients, which have even been shown to guard against certain forms of cancer!

A great source of protein

Wild rice also has a higher protein content than other types of rice. And as it is suitable for people on grain free as well as gluten free diets, that can be great news for those who can find it hard to come up with foodstuffs that tick the boxes for both taste and nutrition.

Grow your own

You do not need acres of paddy fields to have a go at growing your own wild rice, but you do need a pond or some wetland space. The seed has to go through a cold dormancy period before it can germinate, so the best time to plant is in the fall.

The growing season is April to August, and your crop needs to be in mildly acidic water throughout. Wild rice will grow in a depth of anything between four inches and five feet, but around 18 inches is ideal. Distribute your seeds at a rate of around an ounce of seed for every five square yards.

If the seeds germinate, you will start to see leaves on the surface of the water, during which time all the real action is taking place beneath the surface while the root system develops. Once it has done so, the plant will start shooting up to a mature height of six to nine feet, and you are ready to harvest your crop.

Once sown, wild rice will reseed itself for the following year, leaving you nothing more to do but sit back and enjoy. Good luck!

Photo by mnn.com

More Rhubarb Fun

by Nancy Denison, Advanced  EMG

My remodeled garden has fewer rhubarb plants but they are producing well, so I am always on the outlook for unique rhubarb recipes. I found this one last year from Taste of Home where the recipe is also available online under rhubarb scones. It is easy, freezable and tasty. Enjoy!

1 ¼ C whole wheat flour

1 ¼ C all-purpose flour

½ C sugar

1 TBSP baking powder

1 tsp cardamom (I have not used this)

½ tsp salt

½ C cold, unsalted butter, cubed

1 ½ C finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb (if using frozen, drain in colander but do not express liquid)

½ C heavy whipping cream

¼ C fat free milk

1 tsp vanilla

Coarse sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. In large bowl, whisk the first six ingredients. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add rhubarb, toss to coat.
  1. In another bowl, whisk cream, milk and vanilla; stir into crumb mixture just until moistened.
  1. Turn mixture onto a floured surface; knead gently 4-5 times. Divide dough in half; pat into two round circles. Cut each into eight wedges. Place wedges on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 18-20 minutes until golden brown.  Makes 16 scones.

 


Beautify – July 2017

 

On the Radar July & August  In July and August our flower gardens are coming into their own!  Blossoms should abound!  Be sure to keep pots watered during our typical hot, dry spells.  Pots can dry out so much faster than plants in the ground.  Deadhead as often as you are able.  It keeps the remaining blooms looking fresh, and in some cases, encourages additional blooming.  As some perennials begin to die back, cut them back to allow later bloomers more space (good garden design).  Watch for insect pests and treat as minimally as possible to save the plant while doing no harm to pollinators!  Sometimes a squirt of water or insecticidal soap is all you need.  Be sure to deadhead any seed heads that are likely to reseed outside of your desired range. Otherwise, think about leaving some for winter interest…

Succulent wreath created during an MGANM event at Breeze Hill Greenhouse, 2017. Photo and wreath by AMG Cheryl Gross

The Art of the Succulent

by Nancy Denison, Advanced  EMG

Tuesday night, June 6th, MGANM hosted a planting lesson given by Carol Morris, owner of Breeze Hill Nursery.  Pre-ordered topiary forms filled with wet moss were waiting for us while we learned the basics of succulent planting.  There were large and small turtle shapes, heart, round and square wreaths, and spheres with a hook for hanging. Trays of sedum, various echeveria, and hens and chicks awaited their new homes.  We learned how to use a screwdriver to make a hole in the form, widen it with our finger and transfer the plant deeply into the hole so the root system would be able to connect and be secured. The focus and concentration was intense as we designed and planted our way around our selected form. Pretty soon we were able to stand back, inspect and finish up our creation. I’m happy to report the plants in my sphere are growing rapidly and due to its weight, it is hanging on my bird feeder pole for all who visit my garden to enjoy. For those who weren’t able to attend but would like to try this at home, the topiary forms are available on-line and the succulents are everywhere. Thanks so much to the staff at Breeze Hill for guiding us through this fun project!


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