MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, MGANM, and the Downtown Development
Authority are collaborating on a citizen science project based around the flower planters
running down E Front St. between Park, Cass, and Union Streets. To participate all you have to
do is count pollinators for 3 minute intervals. You can enter the counts via an online survey that
you can reach by scanning a QR code that will be located on a sign in each planter. An example
of the sign is below
Thank you for participating in our citizen science project! Your responses will help us learn about how these planters are helping pollinators and how we can be better at helping them in the future.
What is the number on the sign in this planter?
Please use a timer set to 3 minutes, stand in one place near the center of the planter and use the sliders below to record how many of the 2 main categories of pollinators you see in 3 minutes of observation time. Use the “Other” category for insects that don’t fit into either the “Bees/Wasps/Flies” category or the “Butterflies” Category.
Bale Raised Beds: My experiment and project for this year’s growing season
By, Michael O’Brien, AEMG
Twenty, Twenty was the year to rotate my crops. I had been growing tomatoes in the same garden for the past two years. Tomatoes are one of those plants that are prone to root rot disease when they are grown in the same spot for three years or more. Root rot disease is better known as Fusarium wilt which will kill the plant.
Back in May I watched a webinar on Season Extension Techniques for Growing Food by Dr. John. In his discussion he mentioned that rotating crops is different for a home owner than a farmer. A farmer can move that crop to the other side of his field which is far away from where the plant was previously grown. For a homeowner that can be difficult being the available growing garden area in the yard is either limited or the yard is small. Another method that was recommended was making a raised bed with straw or hay. Hay will put nutrients back into the soil which straw doesn’t. Yes there is the issue of seeds in the bales of both.
My experiment and project for this year is a raised bed created with hay bales. It would be quicker for me than preparing the soil for my veggie plants. My raised bed is about fifty feet long by three feet wide. First, I lined the bottom of the raised bed with cardboard. By doing that all of the weeds will suffocate and become compost. Next, the raised bed was filled with roughly six tons of top soil and one ton of mulch. I also had a few bales left over so I created a cold frame bed. Thanks to my neighbor’s remodeling project, I will be using a shower door for the cover.
I started my plants indoors back in March so I was running a bit behind schedule and my plants were starting to show signs of stress before transplanting. Currently I have planted tomatoes, squash, leeks, sweet potatoes and few more vegetables will be added as time permits.
As for my cold frame I will be planting seeds or plants around the end of July. Those plants should be ready around October.
I will continue with this article through the growing season for you to see what worked for me and what may be a mistake too.
Typical landscaping practice separates trees, shrubs, perennials, and the like, from each other. Mulch is used to define each plant. There are extremely few places in nature where plant spacing occurs. Desert and dying forest is just about the only places I can imagine. The more water available, the denser plants grow. Think of the rainforest jungle. Next time you walk through a natural area, look around you. What do you see? How are the plants growing?
The plant-separation aesthetic is artificial and very high maintenance. Spring and fall the mulch needs to be weeded. Every year or two additional mulch is added to “keep up appearances”. Plants in nature do not “keep their distance”. It makes me wonder who conceived of this silliness. Plants WANT to cover the ground. Bare ground is not a natural “thing”. We “clear” a patch of land and invasive species move in. “Disturbed soil” attracts a whole hosts of undesirable opportunists.
Thomas Rainer and Claudia West in their book, “Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes” address a new vision… a vision of layered landscaping and plant communities. Since plants want to cover the ground, and a plant covered ground is evident in nature, it is up to us to take the cue and begin to design our landscapes with this ethic in mind.
Plants do grow in community with each other. They cluster with plants which share the same soil, moisture, and light needs. There are plant communities in dry sand, forest shade, wetlands, prairies, and the like. We would be startled to see a cattail on a sand dune, or a sunflower in a woods. The plants would be out of place. It is the sense of place that should drive our landscape designs and plant choices. After learning about this approach to landscaping I experimented Fox Sedge, Copper Shoulder Oval Sedge, Little Blue Stem, Pussy Toes, and Potentilla Simplex. The results have been remarkable and I am not finished. Where I used to plant 3-5 of certain plants, I am thinking more in flats. Plant in drifts so plants can crisscross in the garden bed. Place shorter plants to the outside edges and taller plants toward the middle. Plant flopping plants surrounded by sturdier stemmed pants.
Consider never mulching again and reducing your weeding time. In your designs, begin to think in edges and layers. We have many Michigan native plants that are underused that can make perfect companions. Consider planting under and in-between shade trees, small trees and shrubs.
Are there places you could add Pennsylvania Sedge or Foam Flower? Both can take shade to partial sun. Both will spread to fill in as ground cover should.
Native grasses are also excellent guests at the party. Prairie Dropseed is our most formal-looking grass and there are many others to choose from depending upon the backdrop you are trying to create.
Potentilla Simplex was addled to a heavily mulched bed of trees and shrubs in full sun. It has performed beautifully and that bed will never need to be mulched again.
Consider planting suckering or spreading shrubs en masse. Bush Honeysuckle is a perfect medium-height shrub with a suckering form. Plant spaced apart to allow for spread and much the first year. Soon no separate plants will be visible. Low-Grow Sumac is another shrub that will spread and grow together. In a few years they will mass and grow together…covering a lot of ground. When a beneficial plant takes up real estate, there is not much room left for weeds.
Reference:Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for ResilientLandscapes, Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, c 2015, Timber Press
If you like to write and have moderate to good writing skills, editing the MGANM Real Dirt is a TERRIFIC volunteering opportunity. I did it for over 5 years and enjoyed it very much. You get to work with a team of gardeners and writers who provide support and feedback.
The Real Dirt (RD) is the bi-monthly electronic newsletter of MGANM. The Editor/Team Chair sets the tone for the RD Committee and contributors. All articles are to be researched, scientifically-based and represent the most recent best-practices in horticulture. The Editor/Chair begins the issue development process, brainstorms possible topics, receives suggestions from contributors, and sets deadlines.
By the first of the month, prior to the bi-monthly issue, the Editor sends out emails to the team of contributors. The email contains ideas for brainstorming relevant topics based upon the season and current events.
Selects topics to research and write for each issue; encourages others to write. The Real Dirt is divided into six categories: News and Events, Administration, Serve, Beautify, Nourish, and Steward. The four latter categories roughly include the chapters in the MG Volunteer Training Manual. These topic areas are important to keep readers up-to-date on changes in the content.
Receives, reads and comments upon articles submitted by others. Shares all writing with the established team members for inputs and edits. Relies on those most skilled at editing. Uses the 15th of the month as an editorial deadline. Gathers photos to accompany articles when possible.
Roughly, by the 20th of the month, begins entering the submitted articles into a content format. The format follows how articles will appear in the electronic version. Writes a brief introduction or ‘teaser’ for each article. The intro should be one to three sentences long and direct the reader as to what will be found in the article content. Submits the Real Dirt content to the Technology Chair for uploading into the on-line format by the 25th of the month.
Receives a draft of the electronic format for final editing. Re-reads all content and introductions. Checks each link to ensure that it takes the reader to the proper article. Sends any changes/concerns to the Technology Chair for final blast on or about 1:00 am on the first of the month.
Represents the Real Dirt Team to the Board, MSUE, and MG Training classes. Recruits contributors.
MGANM Technology Chair
The MGANM Technology Chair manages technology-related areas: Website, membership management software, social media, and Mail Chimp for the Real Dirt on-line newsletter and email. The use of Facebook and social media is an extension of the website as well as a way to network with people and organizations. Mail Chimp is a program that is used to publish the Real Dirt and to email MGANM information to members or the public.
Maintains log-ins and passwords for all online accounts including MGANM website, Wild apricot, social media, and MailChimp.
Works with an outside consultant, currently ProWeb Marketing, who hosts and maintains the functionality of the website to manage aspects of the website such as title fonts, and colors. ProWeb can assist with all major changes or updates.
Ensures that the website is kept up-to-date.
Creates social media posts and re-shares posts (from external sources), photos, and events that adhere to the Master Gardener Code of Conduct as laid out in the Master Gardener Manual.
Creates and maintains a template inside MailChimp to use for all Real Dirt publications. If any changes to this template are to be made, ensure that the Real Dirt team supports the changes. While the publisher has vast control of creativity with the online format, it is important to value the input of all team members and ensure that they are proud of the final product.
I was saving some terrific salsa from last year to enter in the Northwestern Michigan Fair, but with the fair cancelled this year I popped it open to enjoy. I’ll make an even better version this year, for 2021. While your garden is peaking a why don’t you make some plans to be an exhibitor at next year’s Northwestern Michigan Fair? Now is the time to decide what vegetables, fruits, flowers, and field crops to plant, to enter in the Fair. I’m sure you are keeping track of what is working well and what you’ll do differently next year, even while you are picking, freezing and canning your harvest.
Master Gardener Volunteer and teacher Duke Elsner has gotten involved with the Fair, and yours truly is his assistant. Duke has revised the Horticulture, Agriculture, and Floriculture categories in the premium book to update them for the varieties we grow in our home gardens now. Another change he’s working on is allowing an additional day/time to drop off exhibits, as requested by some of the farmers, who are out in the field working on those grain entries on Saturday and would like to bring them to the Fair on Sunday. While Duke and I are not Fair Board members, we are Supervisors of the Tanner Building, so we attend meetings. I am flabbergasted by the amount of work and planning it takes to run this excellent Fair, and how early they have to start!
Take a peek at the 2020 Fair Premium Book for some ideas. You can find it online at northwesternmichiganfair.net. It is a PDF file. Before the pandemic, the premium book could also be picked up at various locations around town, like the County Extension Offices. That’s not happening this year, as the premium book didn’t go to press. The book is organized by building; look for the Tanner Building, which houses Agriculture, Horticulture, and Floriculture. Also check out the Evelyn Heim Building. This is where the jams, jellies, and preserves are entered. I bet you can be competitive in Culinary Arts like Food Preservation and Baked Goods. Duke comes home from teaching Master Gardener with many tales of goodies you have made to share with your classes so I know you are wonderful bakers! There are also categories for yard art and photography that you might be interested in entering. Note that there are Youth and Differently Abled categories in both buildings that might be of interest to your family and friends. Over and above those categories, there is a whole world of 4H for kids.
Dates to know:
Now! The 2020 Fair Premium Book is on-line. The 2021 premium book will be published in April next year.
Registration Deadline: This year’s would have been July 20. You have to have your registration form completed and at the Fair office by this day. The form is on page 73 -75 of the Fair Premium Book. You also have to have your entries paid for by this date. Yes, you do have to pay to enter things in the fair, but don’t worry it’s cheap. The fee is $5 for every ten items you enter. However, you win a $3 premium for every class in which you take first place, so you could easily win your money back! Do everyone a favor and get your registration form in early. The real reward is satisfaction and maybe a little bit of bragging rights. You mail the form in to the Fair office or you drive it over there. The address is right on the form. The Fair Board is working on an online system, but for now it’s still mail-in or drop-off.
Dates of the Fair: August 8-14, 2021. There will be certain days and times to bring in exhibits and certain days and times to remove them. Read the rules on page 45 (Tanner Building) of this year’s premium book to get an idea, and page 33 (Heim Building). Don’t worry if the exhibits looked a little wilted by the time you saw them last summer, they are judged at their peak.
How to win:
Entries are divided into animal exhibits and non-animal exhibits, then further divided into departments and classes. Read the rules for the department in which you are entering, on pages 33 and 45 of the Premium Book, as above. Then read the description of the class(es) you are entering.
There are rules for how to display your entries. For example, vegetables are to be on a plain paper plate and preserved foods are to be in a clear glass jar. Make sure you enter your item in the right class. A common mistake in the horticulture section is to misidentify an herb!
I don’t think growing a wonderful specimen is going to be a problem for you Master Gardeners. Note that many entries ask for a certain number of veggies like three carrots or five radishes. Judges are looking for produce that is representative of the variety, not necessarily the biggest or anything unusual. Health of the product is very important. Judges may use the descriptions in nursery catalogs to figure out what the representative characteristics are of the variety. Remember if it’s a bad year for tomatoes, it’s a bad year for everybody. Enter anyway; your small specimens may still be the best. Or maybe you have figured out a better way to grow that fruit and would like to show it off.
This may be the best part of the fair. You get to participate. Take a shift in the Tanner Building keeping the displays tidy and answering questions about the Master Gardener program. There will be program literature for you to distribute. The Tanner building is cool and shady, people will stop and chat, you get to meet other Master Gardener Volunteers and network with them about your projects. The building is also conveniently located near the restrooms and the food court. Last year my favorite, Norma’s Tamales, was just outside the door. Contact Nate Walton or Duke Elsner to sign up next year.
Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan members make our world more beautiful by participating in gardening projects, educational programs, activities and CONNECTING A COMMUNITY OF GARDENERS THROUGH LEARNING!