Nourish

Beautify – November 2018

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Landscaping with Native Plants for Fall Color

State of the Green Roof

Brian has a captive audience during our pruning workshop at Four Seasons Nursery, 9/2/14. (photo by MG W. Miller)

Landscaping with Native Plants for Fall Color

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

October 2 brought the energetic Brian Zimmerman from Four Season Nursery back for a run through colorful, native (mostly) plantings. He shared photos of trees, grasses, shrubs and some perennials and ferns that will add interest and color throughout the year. Larch, sugar maple, tulip tree, and black gum are a few of the trees mentioned. Shrubs included witch hazel, bearberry, ‘Gro-Low’ sumac (my personal favorite) and snowberry. Little and big bluestem grass, which I just saw at the Botanic Garden, looks awesome near the Gift Shop and I sure wish I could find a place for some in my own gardens!

I love how Brian reminds us of landscape design fundamentals such as function, pathways, water drainage, symmetry (or not), size and shape. Remember you are the artist, the landscape is always in flux and “nature is semi-controlled chaos”!

I think I can say we all love whenever and wherever Brian does a presentation- – we know we are going to get an ear full!

 

All native green roof located at the Boardman River Nature Center. Photo by Bob Grzesiak

State of the Green Roof

by Whitney Miller, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

This summer was a rough one for gardeners. Drought plagued us in June and July along with soaring temperatures. It was during this time that the MGANM green roof at the Boardman River Nature Center in Traverse City was put to the test.

Knowing that the roof had an average of 4” of growing media, and was fully exposed to the sun, we had selected for it native plants with shallow roots and drought tolerance. All  were Michigan native plants that are quite drought tolerant.

But did it work?

Even in the best of circumstances, all gardens, even native ones, occasionally need a human to give them a drink when experiencing extreme drought.  This summer I stretched that to the limit. There was a period of four weeks in the midst of this summer’s drought that I was not able to visit the roof and provide supplemental water. Yikes! When I visited in July, I had to apologize to the plants. Everything looked dead. The hairy beardtongue turned into dust when I looked at it. The coreopsis, which usually is blooming at that time, had turned brown and retreated into itself. There was no wild lupine to be seen, whereas there were at least 30 of them last year (I still can’t wrap my head around that one).

The only plant that was bright and happy was bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). And I’ll be darned if that wasn’t the one plant that we struggled to get to take root last year. Oh, how the garden can give you surprises!

Fast forward to August. I waited another three weeks before watering the roof again (yikes again!). Things were looking roughly the same. The bearberry was holding strong, though I noted that the size of the plant has not grown since last year.

Finally, at the end of the summer, we got rain consistent enough that I didn’t have to worry about the roof. I visited in early September and noticed that the prairie smoke was looking a little more perky. Everything else looked like it was holding on.

The last week in September I visited again and this time had plans to spread a light, organic fertilizer as well as a light layer of mulch. I gave most of the plants a gentle tug to see if the roots were still holding. All but one was holding on tight! Much to my happiness, when I got on top of the roof I noticed that some of the coreopsis had sprouted new greenery. The New England asters also had new growth.  And the prairie dropseed looked quite nice and fluffy. It seems native plants truly can handle some tough situations!

My plans for spring include removing the Pennsylvania sedge from the roof. Its performance on our roof has been lackluster and tends to look patchy- – almost like the scalp of a man’s head who just can’t let go of those last three hairs. I also intend to incorporate some wild petunia (Ruellia humilis), which looked quite happy in other gardens during the drought. If anyone has any extras, I’ll gladly accept!


Nourish – November 2018

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Smart Gardening with Soils, September MGANM Meeting Notes

Food Preservation in the Off Season

Dr. Bird speaking to MGANM and the public

Smart Gardening with Soils, September MGANM Meeting Notes

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

Our September meeting was hosted by Dr. George Bird; MSU professor, research scientist, prolific writer and speaker. I’m sure he barely scratched the surface with his discussion of smart soils that night, but he certainly added to our knowledge of this fairly new domain of healthy land/garden use of soil.

Soil is organic matter consisting of dead/decomposing plant and animal matter and living organisms such as bacteria, nematodes, fungi, and arthropods creating a living system that takes in, regenerates and transforms to respond to the environment

Healthy soil provides a place for a plant’s roots, provides needed nutrients and water, allows oxygen movement, resistance to disease or poor growth, and allows organic matter to break down and release needed nutrients. Good management of healthy soil includes maintaining an appropriate level of organic matter, a stable water aggregate level, and minimizing biological or chemical disturbances.

Dr. Bird brought us to his “classroom” for an hour to continue our education in the creation of great growing environments. Thanks so much!

 

Food Preservation, photo by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Food Preservation in the Off Season

by Cheryl A. Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

Canning most often takes place when fruits and vegetables are at their peak, preserving the best nutrition of the season.  In case you haven’t noticed, that peak is the HOTTEST time of the of the year as well. Call me a wimp. I have processed canned peaches and tomatoes and made countless jars of jam, including raspberry, blueberry and peach, whilst sweating and dripping in my kitchen.  Summer canned peaches are the best taste of sunshine in winter. Canned tomatoes, so high in acid, not so much. I now keep cool and use alternative practices.

My tomatoes are roasted, not canned.  Sure, the oven’s heat is a nuisance in summer, but reducing tomatoes to their flavorful essence instead of canning is an excellent alternative.  To 9 x 13 glass pans I add a glug of olive oil, a thick layer of chopped tomatoes, cored but with skin on. (If you prefer to remove the skin, feel free to blanch.)  Salt and pepper or not. Onions or garlic or not. Herbs or not. Roast in a 375 degree oven until most of the moisture is evaporated. Then, I scoop a cup of these roasted, intensely flavorful tomatoes into freezer bags or containers.  The volume reduction is a real saver of freezer space. Add a cup of these rich tomatoes to pasta sauces, chilis and stews throughout the winter season for a wonderful rich and deeply tomato-y flavor.

I prefer to jam in the off-season.  

In July when raspberries are at their peak and you-pick farms welcome us in the morning, my husband and I pick quarts and quarts and quarts of fresh, ripe, juicy raspberries.  Upon returning home with our fragrantly sweet haul, I pick-over, rinse, and mash bowlfuls of berries. Carefully, I measure 5 cups of mashed berries into freezer containers to be frozen within hours of picking.

In October or November once the furnace is on and it is nearing time to get out the humidifier, my husband and I set out to make three or four batches of raspberry jam using the pre-measured, mashed berries.  On the stove sit the bubbling pots of water for jar sterilization, lid and band sterilization, canning, and the jam pot. The heat and moisture from the pots is welcome on a chilly day!

While I have not figured out how to procrastinate canning with peaches and beets, I keep cool by roasting our tomatoes and canning our jam in the off-season.  Next up? Apple sauce.


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


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