Nourish

Nourish – September 2018

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Getting Started with Food Preservation

August Meeting Notes: Edible Trails Tour

Getting Started with Food Preservation

Canning the harvest by MG Sonia Clem (photo by same)

by Kellie Parks, Extension Master Gardener

This time of year is so satisfying when we reap the harvest of our labors, however it can sometimes be overwhelming. What to do when you can’t possibly eat every cucumber, zucchini, or tomato, and the neighbors are crying ‘uncle’? Preserve it! Home food preservation need not be intimidating, and doesn’t require too much of a financial investment, as the equipment needed is minimal and can easily be obtained, sometimes at flea markets and yard sales. Yes, there are more specialized tools that can make the process easier, but one can do without those when getting started. Foods with low acidity require more careful processing to ensure their safety when canning, but can be frozen and dried as well.

The first thing that my mother made certain I had, even before I had my canning pot, was the ‘Blue Book’: Ball’s Blue Book of Preserving. Hers was well-loved, with dog eared and wrinkled pages, notes in the margins, total quantities of items ‘put up’ by year in the front and back covers, and slips of paper with with handwritten recipes tucked inside. There are multiple editions available, both new and used. This one book contains all the instruction one needs to get started, including the science behind food preservation, list of needed equipment, cautions and warnings, and many recipes.

There are several websites dedicated to food preservation, and just as many both virtual and print publications to be found. Here are a few to get you started:

Our own MSU Extension has published a comprehensive resource called Home Storage of Fruits and Vegetables. It is free and can be found here: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/resources/home_storage_of_fruits_and_vegetables_e1696

The National Center for Food Preservation is a wonderful resource for every method of preservation. From the website: “The National Center for Home Food Preservation” is your source for current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation. The Center was established with funding from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (CSREES-USDA) to address food safety concerns for those who practice and teach home food preservation and processing methods.” https://nchfp.uga.edu/

If you tend to learn better by watching something done, there are a number of YouTube videos available, also.

This is a sampling from MSU Extension’s library of videos:

Intro to Safe Preservation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=894EohXmvwE

Safe Pressure Canning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COjmM04i1ck

Water Bath Canning Basics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eVXHsWJDlg

I hope you will give home food preservation a try. Opening up a jar of home canned tomatoes or peaches in the dead of winter is like opening up a jar of summer. It will give your spirits a lift on the dreariest of days.

 

August Meeting Notes: Edible Trails Tour

 

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

On a Tuesday evening,  a nice sized group met at the DeYoung Nature area off E. Cherry Bend Rd to walk along with Levi Meeuwenberg (subbing for Jonathon Alyward), on the Edible Trail. The trail was a project started in 2014 to create an edible forest which would blend in with the community, TART Trail and other nature related organizations. The TART group gave permission to use a portion of land alongside the trail and the Land Conservancy pitched in as well. Money was raised and once the planting areas chosen, volunteers used the lasagna or sheet mulching method to install the selected native plants. Currants, Nanking Cherry, French Sorrel, rhubarb, and others have survived in this short but interesting path.  Some goals of this and other edible forests are to build soil, increase biodiversity, and improve insect and wildlife habitats. With our dry hot summer, the trail was looking a little needy and Levi suggested a visit, any time, to pull some weeds and trim here and there. MG trainee, Chris Heyman, volunteered to be the point person from MG’s and to help make this a Master Gardener project so that volunteers can earn volunteers hours woking on the Edible Trail project. Thanks for the walk on such a beautiful evening, Levi!


Nourish – July 2018

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May 1 Meeting Notes

It’s Summer…Get Out in the Garden!

May 1 Meeting Notes

by Nancy Denison- AEMG

On May 1 our guest speaker was Rebecca Krans, the Consumer Horticulturist from our  MSU Extension office in the Upper Peninsula. She offered a long list of procedures and ideas for Smart Vegetable Gardening.  Smart Gardening is MSU Extension’s campaign to equip gardeners with science based, earth friendly and best practices for good soil and good crop yields.

Rebecca shared ideas of why people don’t plant vegetable gardens and then some steps in setting up a garden including planning your site, size, lighting, location and what types of things you’d like to grow. Also helpful is knowing which crops are cool-weather growers and which do best during the mid or warm season.  This makes it possible to plan successive plantings for maximum yield. Rebecca also gave suggestions for making your own compost, types of fertilizer, and various types of gardens. We appreciate your veggie garden knowledge, Rebecca, and thank you for sharing it with us!

Castle Farms, Photo by Bradley Macdonald, mlive

It’s Summer…Get Out in the Garden!

by Kellie Parks, EMG

Some botanic gardens in Michigan are well known, such as Matthaei Botanic Garden at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, and Michigan State University Horticulture Gardens in East Lansing. But our state is home to some fantastic lesser-known gardens as well. Here are just a few you might consider adding to your summer travel plans.

With a 2002 renovation, Castle Farms in Charlevoix (www.castlefarms.com) now boasts a number of gardens to explore. Using native plants when possible, guests can stroll through the formal Butterfly Garden, East Garden with croquet and a small fountain, Alphabet Garden (a favorite with kids), Serenity Garden, and the King’s Grand Courtyard, a Renaissance garden based on the landscape at Chateau de Vaux-le-Comte in France. Both self-guided and guided tours are available-with a tram for transportation on a schedule.  Hours and admission fees vary throughout the season.

The seed (well, tuber actually) was planted for Dahlia Hill (www.dahliahill.org) of Midland in 1966 with a Mother’s Day gift. Now home to 3000 plants of over 300 varieties of dahlias maintained solely by volunteers, this garden is open dawn to dusk and admission is free. Comprised of eight stone terraces, each variety is labeled along gravel pathways. Four aluminum sculptures can be found; the work of local Midland artist Charles Breed, who planted those first tubers. His working studio and museum is located on the grounds as well. There are two raised planters at the top of the terraces, one a donor garden and the other a memorial garden, where loved ones’ ashes can contribute to the growth of a beautiful dahlia plant. Each of the 20 dahlia petal forms are represented.  Mark your calendar for the last two Saturdays in May next year – their extra tubers are offered for sale then. The garden has been the recipient of the Keep Michigan Beautiful President’s Plaque and a President’s Award from The American Dahlia Society.

Photo by Howard Meyerson, mlive

Not far from White Cloud, within the Huron-Manistee National Forest lies the Loda Lake National Wildflower Sanctuary (www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hmnf/recarea/?recid=18706). This is the only Wildflower Sanctuary located within a National Forest and has been funded financially and materially by the Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan for over 70 years. A variety of ecological systems are supported here, including wetlands, marsh, creek, spring-fed lake, pine plantation, oak forest, and an old farmstead site. Amenities available are a self-guided 1.2-mile wildflower trail, cultural trail, birder’s checklist, picnic area, small boat launch, and a pollinator garden. Docent-led walks and environmental curriculum for groups are available via the National Forest Service Baldwin District Office.

Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve (http://www.fernwoodbotanical.org/) began in 1941 when the first 12.5 acres were purchased by Kay and Walter Boydston as their country home. Kay’s passion for horticulture, crafts, and nature were attractive, drawing others to the property. There is a story told of Kay often planting into the darkness of the evening using her car headlights to illuminate her work. Local Niles area philanthropists facilitated the land becoming public and additional land purchases grew the property to 105 acres. Today, one can find a nature preserve, nature center, arboretum, conservatory, prairie, and gardens – which include a Railway and Nature Adventure Garden, Japanese Garden, Herb and Sensory Garden, and more. Ten trails of varying length and simplicity invite investigation and reveal an abundance of native wildlife. There is a garden shop and cafe, and numerous educational programs are available, including activity backpacks for the young and not-so-young to check out during a visit. There is a nominal admission fee, and groups are welcomed and offered a discount with advance purchase.

With all these blooms and plants waiting your arrival, plan your trip and get out into the garden.


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


Nourish – March 2018

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Sowing

Sprouts and Sprouting

Handmade seed containers, from Advanced Master Gardener Lillian Mahaney’s JRMG class (photo by AEMG Lillian Mahaney)

Sowing

by Kellie Parks, Extension Master Gardener

Seed catalogs start appearing in the mailbox before the Christmas tree comes down at my house.  I set them aside until the last of the needles are swept and the house is put back in order, at which time you will frequently find me nestled in a corner of the sofa with the dog curled up beside me, the catalogs stacked on the coffee table ready for dog-eared pages.

Seed starting is a bit more work than purchasing seedlings and larger plants, but what a reward to be reaped in seeing green growth in the bleakness of late winter and the satisfaction of planting out that unusual variety that would never be found in a local nursery.

-It is essential to begin with fresh media and clean containers, whatever form they may take.  Damping off is a common disease that can wipe out your entire crop of tiny seedlings and is often found in reused supplies.

-To prevent leggy plants, supplemental light in the form of a fluorescent fixture is essential.  Optimally, this fixture should be able to be raised and lowered to keep pace with the height of the plants, always just a couple of inches above them.  I have great success with inexpensive “shop light” type fixtures.

-Growing media ought to be pre-moistened and, once seeds are sown, watered carefully to prevent their displacement.  I prefer to bottom water both to keep the seeds in place and to keep the plants themselves dry to help prevent fungal problems.

-Cover the seeds with a dome, plastic wrap or plastic bag to create a miniature greenhouse and retain moisture.  For faster results, place a heat mat underneath the containers, especially for heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers.  Once your seeds have sprouted, remove the covers and keep an eye on them to prevent the media from drying out.

What joy is found in the moist aroma of warm earth at a time when the scents of the outdoors have been absent for months.

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems Michigan Organic Farming Exchange has a terrific list of seed starting resources to be found here:

www.canr.msu.edu/michigan_organic_farming_exchange/farming-practices/seed-resources

On the subject of seeds, I am fascinated by and grateful for the efforts of Bioversity International and the Crop Trust for the establishment of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.  Located on a remote island between Norway and the North Pole, the vault is built deep inside a mountain and ensures long-term seed storage to preserve crop diversity.  Currently housing 890,000 samples from nearly every country in the world and with a capacity to house 4.5 million varieties of crops, the vault protects the world’s food supply from natural or man-made disaster.  Read more about this project at: https://www.croptrust.org/our-work/svalbard-global-seed-vault/

Sprout soaking by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Sprouts and Sprouting

by Cheryl A. Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

As winter hangs on in northwest lower Michigan, our bodies and minds yearn for sun and green, fresh food.  Before desperation hits, grab a 1-quart mason jar and some sprouting seeds and get growing (sprouting) in your kitchen.

The benefits of eating sprouted seeds are well known.  There is a chemical change in the seed and additional nutrients become accessible to our bodies.  Follow this link for specific nutritional information on several seed sprouts:  http://www.isga-sprouts.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SproutNutritionFacts.pdf.  In general, organicfacts.net suggests that overall sprouts “contain a significant amount of protein and dietary fiber, as well as vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamin, vitamin C, vitamin A and riboflavin. In terms of minerals, they contain manganese, copper, zinc, magnesium, iron and calcium.”  Further, eating sprouts can improve digestion, increase metabolism, help in weight loss, lower cholesterol, boost skin health and more!  Check out the information here:  www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/seed-and-nut/sprouts.html.

Sprouts can sometimes be found in grocery stores.  However, their availability can be limited.  Worries of salmonella and E. coli are possible with sprouts.  Sprouting at home can alleviate these concerns if you follow some simple steps.  Purchase only seed intended for sprouting.  These seeds should be “clean” from the field and exposure to unwanted organisms.  Use sterilized jars, fresh water, and clean hands when working with seeds and sprouts.

Mid week sprouting, photo by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Getting started  

  1. A quart mason jar is ideal for sprouting.  Sterilize it first.  Various screened lids are available in kitchen stores and online.  A cheese cloth or other mesh, fine enough to keep the seeds in the jar when draining, is needed as well.  An online search will find seed sprouting trays and other equipment.  However, a jar and screened lids are enough.
  2. Purchase seeds for sprouting.  Alfalfa is delicious on sandwiches and salads.  It is a fine seed, so a fine mesh lid is needed.  Mung beans are often used in Asian dishes.  They are a medium-sized seed.  Radish sprouts give a bit of a spicy flavor.  Broccoli sprouts are a powerhouse. Which would taste best to you?
  3. Add clean cool water to seeds in the jar.  Begin with 2-3 teaspoons of small seeds while larger seeds may take a quarter cup per batch.  Allow ample space for the seeds to sprout in the jar.  Soak the seeds for 6-8 hours to “wake” them up.  
  4. Drain the water and allow the jars to lie propped up, open side down in a dark space.  This eliminates any puddle worries and allows for air circulation.  
  5. Daily, rinse the seeds 2 – 3 times.  This keeps the seeds evenly moist which is needed for growth.  Each time use cool, clean water and replace in the angled position.  Sprouting will begin in 2-3 days.

A quart of mung sprouts in 7 days by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Within a week, sprouts will be ready to eat.  To create more volume and to keep them fresh, continue rinsing 2 times per day.  Keep sprouts in a dark area in a cupboard or a dark corner of your kitchen.  To green them up, expose them to light a day or two before eating.  Should you put them in a sunny window, be aware that they might dry out more quickly and therefore, rinse them more often.  

Well rinsed sprouts may be kept in the refrigerator up to a week.  However, it is best to eat them fresh!

With a few simple tools, in a week you may be eating fresh, living food grown in your kitchen and feeding your body a cure for late winter blues.


Nourish – January 2018

TC Community Garden:  New Year, New Leadership, New Benefits

by Bethany Thies, Master Gardener

If you have any interest in growing your own food, you should look into renting a plot from TC Community Garden (TCCG).  Located in the Historic Barns Park at the southwest corner of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, TCCG is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide a place for people in the area to gather and share a common interest in organic gardening in an urban setting.  

It also offers educational opportunities to the community and provides fresh produce for numerous charities.  In fact, the TCCG Teaching and Donation Garden collected over 1300 pounds of food this past growing season, which is donated on the day it is picked to Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan and distributed to area food pantries.

These three pillars of its mission – gathering, education and growing – have been the focus of the organization since it first went into operation in 2012.  Explosive growth in the organization over the past few years, though, has TCCG looking at new ways of implementing this mission.

“We really took a look at the mission statement and operational model and made some adjustments to make sure we are giving members a high-quality experience at TC Community Garden,” said TCCG Board of Directors President Zach Millican.

 

Gathering and Growing

One such adjustment has to do with the organization’s garden plots.   In years past, a member  had to also manage a plot.  This year, managing a plot is an add-on to membership.  Any persons who support the mission may now join the garden.  “We wanted membership to be more inclusive,” Millican said.  

Membership fees for 2018 are $35 for an individual, $60 for a duo, $100 for a family and $175 for a business/sponsor.  Membership includes free admission to most of its 2018 programming, currently about 30 events focused on promoting the TCCG’s strong fellowship.  Plot rental will be extra — $65 for a 12’ by 30’ plot or $130 for a 24’ by 30’ plot — plus an active gardener fee.   Plot renters will enjoy on-demand water, on-site composting, free soil amendments and cover crops, discounted starter plants and seeds, access to community tools and new this year, personal gardening assistance.

Plot renters must agree to organic growing practices, actively manage the plot through weeding, watering and pest control, and be an ambassador for the garden and park.  In the past, gardeners were required to commit 12 hours to help manage the garden.  However, the organization believes this detracted from members having a good gardeing experience, so it has been eliminated for 2018.

 

Education

Changes have come to other areas of the organization as well.  In December, TCCG members voted to hire an executive director to help run what had been a solely volunteer-run group.   Kimberly Conaghan, who had been president and treasurer for two years, is stepping into the new position.  Acting as the liaison between the Board of Directors and the membership, she said she is extremely honored to be TCCG’s first Executive Director.  She will also be at the TCCG managing some of the new day-to-day operations.

“A big focus in 2018 is on educational programming, and more specifically, our children’s education and programming,” Conaghan said.  “There will be a weekly story time in the garden followed by a garden-themed arts and craft activity, and a monthly kids’ workshop, each with a different theme, and many family-friendly events at the September 30 Harvest Festival.”

In addition, each Friday beginning in June, TCCG will also have a Garden Market Stand offering organically grown produce to the public.  Members of TCCG will receive coupons and steep discounts.  All excess produce will continue to be donated to local charitable causes.

Also new for 2018 will be a Farm-to-Table Dinner series.  “We are still ironing out some dates and details, but they will incredible,” Conaghan said.  “We are hoping to also make them zero waste and locally sourced.”

The organization’s complete programming lineup will be released in February.

With all of the growth and changes coming to TCCG in 2018, you might be asking yourself, “where do I sign up?”  Membership for 2018 is happening now, and new plot renters may request a plot beginning January 1 by emailing contact@tccommunitygarden.org.  

Remember, you must be a member to rent a plot.  You can also reach the TCCG anytime by calling 231-715-1544.  


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