Real Dirt

Steward – March 2019

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

MGANM February Meeting Notes:Chestnut Hypovirulence

The Battle Against Invasive Plants… and the Rewards

What’s in a name?

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben: A Review

MGANM February Meeting Notes: Chestnut Hypovirulence

by Nancy Denison, AEMG

It was another packed house at the BRNC February 5 for Dr. Carmen Medina Mora speaking on the American Chestnut and Hypo virulence. Dr. Mora is an MSU grad and continues to work in the MSU labs researching and studying Chestnut disease pathology.

The American Chestnut, Castana dentate,  a tall, large canopied tree with edible nuts was once widespread in the eastern US until wooden pallets from China introduced Chestnut blight which spread and began to devastate trees in the early 1900s. Research of European, Japanese and Chinese chestnut trees has offered hope and success in saving/creating a new strain which is much less susceptible to the virus.

MSU is now cloning rather than grafting these crossed trees and allowing the Forest Keeling Nursery in Missouri to grow the rootstock for planting in Michigan exclusively. Nearby Kewadin already has Japanese-European trees in production as does the NW Michigan Horticultural Station. It was interesting to hear that many cherry and apple growers have or are replacing their fruit trees with Chestnuts. Hypo virulence refers to the biological management of disease which researchers have found to be effective in controlling the virus from killing the chestnut tree and actually allowing the tree to heal itself.  

Dr. Mora’s presentation was enlightening and helped this very unaware backyard gardener (me) understand a promising trend for farmers, consumers and tree lovers. Thank you, Dr. Mora!

Garlic Mustard, Alliaria Petiolata
credit: S.Callahan/Photri Images
Photo by Dreamstime, permissions granted for the sole use of MGANM

The Battle Against Invasive Plants… and the Rewards

by Ruth Steele Walker, AEMG

It’s a never-ending story — the battle against invasive species! Each year Scott and I do battle against several plant invasive species on our property.  In spring there is garlic mustard to pull, at any time of the year there is Oriental bittersweet to keep track of (while planning its demise come warmer weather) and in summer there’s the frustration of fighting the Oriental Bittersweet, tree of heaven and autumn olive.   We’re also removing some things that were planted before we got here like periwinkle and lily of the valley, some things our neighbors planted that have spread on to our property and some things that we planted before we knew better.

Given that fighting invasive plants has become an annual ritual, I was excited to attend this month’s Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan meeting where Emily Cook of the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network (ISN) spoke.

The ISN covers our county, Leelanau, as well as Benzie, Grand Traverse and Manistee counties in Northwest Michigan.  They provide a host of services and work bees to help eradicate invasive plants from our area.  Their website really says it all: HabitatMatters.org.

Why bother with getting rid of invasive plants, especially pretty ones or ones that quickly grow and fill in a bare area?  It’s pretty simple.  Native plants feed wildlife, butterflies and the insects that are necessary for pollinating plants – including those plants that produce our food – and feeding the birds and butterflies.  Plants that grow quickly are likely to be aggressive enough to push out the native plants that are so important for keeping our world healthy and thriving.

Emily divided invasive species into four categories:  plants that were mistakes, like purple loosestrife and phragmites, plants that were prized for beauty before their invasive qualities were discovered such as buckthorn, Japanese barberry and baby’s breath;  plants that were a well-meaning oops, including autumn olive which was heavily promoted as a plant of choice in the 1970s and plants that provide food (and were  brought by our ancestors when they immigrated to this area) such as garlic mustard.

One of the great things I learned at Emily’s talk was that ISN keeps a Top 20 list of plants that qualify as invasive species.  This is important for me to know as a Master Gardener because if I’m giving out advice about planting, I need to know which species are problematic and have been identified as specific problems in our area of the country. 

What was disheartening to hear is that half of the plants on the ISN Top 20 list are still being sold for landscaping.  What was heartening to know is that ISN has a group of landscapers who have agreed not to include invasive species in their projects.  The group is called Go Beyond Beauty and identifies landscapers and nurseries that have committed not to use or sell high-threat invasive plants.  So far ISN has signed up eight nurseries on this list and there are 13 landscapers (two of which have nurseries on the list as well) that are committed to avoiding invasive plants. 

Currently ISN’s focus is on four invasive species: (pictured below)

  1. Japanese knotweed, also referred to as Michigan bamboo.  If you find this on your property, Emily says, call ISN.  Do not move it or mow it!!

    japanese knotweed close-up growing in the UK background and texture. Photo by Dreamstime, permissions granted for the sole use of MGANM

  2. Garlic mustard, the focus of annual pulls each spring.  The nice thing here is it makes a great pesto sauce and you can bag and dumpster any part you don’t eat.

    Garlic Mustard, Alliaria Petiolata
    credit: S.Callahan/Photri Images
    Photo by Dreamstime, permissions granted for the sole use of MGANM

  3. Phragmites, which is prevalent along our shorelines in Michigan.

    Phragmites australis flower close to the lake in autumn. Photo by Dreamstime, permissions granted for the sole use of MGANM

  4. Oriental bittersweet, known for its “kudzu effect” in covering trees and anything else in its path.

    Oriental Bittersweet. Photo by Dreamstime, permissions granted for the sole use of MGANM

If you’re on the fence about removing some of the invasive plants on your property check out some native gardens near you and see how beautiful native plants can be while providing a habitat for birds, butterflies and bees. 

Dicentra canadensis, Squirrel corn. Photo by Whitney Miller

What’s in a Name?

by Cheryl A. Gross, AEMG

It is time to begin making plant wish lists for spring!  Scour catalogues and books, think about adding new landscaped beds, refreshing existing landscaped beds, reducing lawn, benefiting pollinators and birds, oh my.  What plants will you choose? Knowing plant origins and names is very important if you want to be an ecological gardener superstar.

The very best plants for ecological support are native plants.  They developed here and have the intricate relationships between soil, climate, and insects that create the web of life.   Why do native plants matter? Insects create the biomass of food for baby birds. Adult birds prefer insects as well, but as adults can also feed on seeds and berries.  Insects are famously picky eaters. Some insects eat ONLY one plant, while a very few are generalists. Pollinators are required to help plants make seeds and fruit and our food.  The highest quality of nectar and pollen available to our pollinators are provided by native plants. For example, dandelions have only 40% of the nutrition of a native spring bloomer.  When visiting a nursery, buy “straight” native varieties. (To learn about which plants are native visit: michiganflora.org.)

So when visiting a nursery, it is best to buy “straight” native varieties.  The question becomes, though, how can you tell if a plant is “straight” and not a “cultivar” or a “nativar”  Well, ALL plants have Latin names. That name is their scientific descriptor. Many also have common names… or “nick names” and can have many of those. Let’s take Dicentra canadensis. It is also commonly called Squirrel Corn, Wild Bleeding Heart, or  Girls, (in relation to Dicentra cucullaria, also called Boys or Dutchman’s Breeches). Therefore, when shopping for plants, you really should know the Latin name.

Plant scientists LOVE messing with plants and creating “new” or altered plants. These are called “cultivars” because they have been “cultivated”. This includes, but is not limited to, different leaf color, different blossom color or size, or different berry size. When cultivating or “messing” with native plants, they sometimes call them “nativars”.  The problem is this: insects have a specific relationship with the native plant and we have no idea how any change will affect that relationship. The argument is that there is no science to prove that it is a problem. So until there is, cultivars of native plants should be considered OK. I don’t buy it. Science HAS gotten as far as to determine that changing a leaf from green to red changes the enzymes and the chewing insect that relies on that leaf is unable to digest it and that bees and other pollinators cannot access the nectar and pollen in double blossoms.

Here is the final tip. Look at the plant tag to learn whether the plant has been cultivated. Those plants generally have a third name in quotes. For example, if you want a Serviceberry, or Amelanchier laevis, it has many varieties, several second Latin names, and many, many common names. If you see a THIRD name in quotes, “Autumn Brilliance” you know it is a cultivar.  Don’t buy it.

Tree huggers, Birch and Maple. Photo by Kathryn Frerichs

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben: A Review

by Kathryn Frerichs, AEMG

Once in a great while I am astounded by some new, amazing findings in medicine, genetics, botany, etc.  The revelations in Peter Wohlleben’s book The Hidden Life of Trees create one of those times. The works of natural scientists in recent years have revealed the role of mycelium and bacteria in the soil now called the Wood Wide Web.

Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels was reviewed in the Real Dirt previously. In it, mycelium is described to extend plant roots and exchange minerals and water for sugars from those roots.  Miles of threads of mycelium exist in a teaspoon of soil. The mycelium belong to the fungi family and the largest living organism on earth is a fungus that covers 2,384 acres and is dated at 2,400 to possibly 8,650 years old.  Plenty to be gobsmacked about with these discoveries. Then comes Wohlleben’s book to take us to that place of wonder and amazement regarding trees.

Wohlleben reveals how to observe that trees can, in fact, detect smell. The thorned acacia trees in Africa have been observed to ward off giraffes by secreting a bad tasting substance in their leaves tanking them from tasty to nasty.  The long-necked herbivores then trot off to a neighboring acacia and depending upon the wind direction, the trees will have already begun secreting that nasty-tasting chemical into their leaves too. The giraffes have figured out that the downwind trees can smell chemicals from neighboring trees and just move upwind to chomp on other unsuspecting trees.  Trees do, by deduction from this example and others examples, have to be able to “smell” or detect the odor the other trees emit. Some critics claim that Wohlleben’s writing becomes anthropomorphic. Whatever you may want to call it, smell or detect, trees are communicating via odor/smell. Man can be very egocentric in thinking that only the human species can ‘smell’.  I think more of us will pay attention to his work with his imaginative approach.

Peter Wohlleben explains how trees communicate through the air and through the Wood Wide Web (WWW).  Saplings that are living on the shaded forest floor are fed by the mother trees through their roots. The saplings can wait in the dark, so to speak, because the mother trees feed them for decades before an opening in the forest canopy provides the light to fuel their growth. Trees feed one another in times of illness too.  They use the WWW, also known as mycelium, to accomplish this feat. After a number of these examples, you begin to realize that a forest is not made up of individual trees but is a type of super organism. The parts are all interconnected and protecting one another. Trees, also, have the ability to detect artificial light at night  Eventually the light stunts their growth. They need to stop photosynthesis at night in order to rest.

A forest of trees operates in concert with one another by regulating their climate.  The leaves, or their solar panels, provide a cooling effect and feed and water the roots every autumn when they are broken down and become soil.   The depth of the soil increases over time. They can withstand wind storms by buffering each other to prevent being toppled over. By fall the trees have made and stored as much sugar as they can so they shed the solar panels to rot and become new soil for the next season.  Also, Mr. Wohlleben tells us that when man comes along to harvest lumber from these magnificent giant-coordinated organisms called forests, they cut down the oldest, largest most mature trees. Our old growth trees are the biggest carbon sequesterers we have. The first trees to be cut down in a forest are the largest ones ‘who’ are the most capable of helping us fend off climate change.  

I highly recommend The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben to Master Gardeners.   Besides being a delightful read, it is informative, teaches us to respect those giants of the forest living in the slow lane, and recognizes that trees are interconnected in ways we have not anticipated.  Communication, sleep, nurturance, and functioning as one organism make for better survival just as Darwin hypothesized.

Enjoy this wonderful book!


Nourish – March 2019

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Coordinator’s Corner: Did it get cold enough to kill all the bugs?

Gardening Tip: Last Year’s Seeds

Coordinator’s Corner: Did it get cold enough to kill all the bugs?

Nate Walton, MSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

A winter crane fly (Diptera: Trichoceridae) active at 38°F on a day in December (2014).

It is common for people to wonder about the effects of very cold winter temperatures on all the little buggers that come out in summer to eat our precious plants or suck our precious blood. Unfortunately, despite the record cold temperatures that parts of the United States experienced a few weeks ago, most of our six and eight-legged friends were probably not adversely affected. Insects and other arthropods like spiders and ticks, have a variety of adaptations that allow them to survive winter. Some of these are behavioral, for example digging down into the subsoil to spend the winter where temperatures will stay above freezing all winter long. Others adaptations are chemical, they are able to produce compounds in their blood call Cryoprotectants or Ice Nucleating Proteins that prevent damage to their cells at sub-freezing temperatures.

Under certain conditions, these protections do fail, for example if the temperature drops very quickly in the fall or spring when they are not prepared. Another circumstance that can result in greater than normal insect mortality in the winter is if it gets very cold without an insulating layer of snow over the soil. This year we have been lucky (or unlucky) enough to have abundant snow cover in many places, so insects were protected from the extremely cold air temperatures that accompanied the polar vortex.

There are a couple of other ways that insects, ticks, and spiders can suffer mortality during the winter. For one, a very long winter can cause their fat reserves to become exhausted so that they starve to death before it warms enough in the spring for them to eat again. Finally, extremely cold and/or long winters drive warm blooded animals like mice and squirrels to eat more in order to stay warm. Insects are a great source of calories so their populations can suffer during cold winters, especially when rodent numbers are high.

If you didn’t already, I’m sure you’re now beginning to see why it can be very difficult to predict the effects of winter temperatures on pest insect populations. The bottom line is that fall and spring conditions are probably more important than winter cold temperatures in determining summer insect populations. Another thing that we can say for certain is that the effect of weather impacts the beneficial insects like our pollinators just as much as it does the pesky ones. The next time you are hoping that the polar vortex will kill all the mosquitoes, consider what it might be doing to the butterflies and bees as well!

 

Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) at the Boardman River Nature Center February 5th 2019.

 

Gardening Tip: Last Year’s Seeds

by Cheryl A. Gross, AEMG

On our house, we never use all of the seeds in a packet in one season.  Will they germinate in year two? A way to test the “old” seeds is to use 2 sheets of paper towels, a plate, and 10-15 seeds.  Moisten the paper towels and sprinkle the seeds between the sheets. Keep moist, but not wet, for up to two weeks. Check the seeds for signs of germination.  Depending on the number of live seeds you can make your decision for planting. Should you see 50% germination, you can use the seed and seed heavier. Less than 50% you just might want to purchase fresh seed.


Beautify – March 2019

heading

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

African Violets:  Little gems that will make you smile and bring beautiful color to your home

The Orchid Thief,   A Book review

African Violets:  Little gems that will make you smile and bring beautiful color to your home

by Lillian Mahaney, AEMG

African violets seem to be the flowering houseplant that scares many people.  In reality, they are probably one of the easiest of the flowering houseplants to grow.  They have pretty simple needs and once you understand the basics, they will give you beautiful color for a great many years.  When I lived in Florida I had over 20 African violets, and even with that many plants they were easy to care for and were gorgeous.  When we moved to Michigan it was very difficult to give them away, but they went to a dear friend that “knew” violets and I know they had a great home.

African violets (Saintpaulia) are a genus of plants within the Gesneriad family.  They were discovered in 1892 by Baron von St. Paul (hence the botanical name) and many species can still be found growing in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya.

The basics of African violet care:

  1. Environment:  The ideal temperature range for violets is between 65 and 75 degrees, however, they will tolerate temperatures outside this range.  They are not usually happy outdoors and will be healthier and more colorful indoors.
  2. Light:  African violets need indirect light and can burn in direct sunlight.  They do very well on a windowsill as long as there is plenty of indirect sunlight.  Windowsills that face east or west are the best locations. Violets do best with 10-14 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness for the maximum amount of blooms.
  3. Water:  Always use room temperature water and never cold water.  African violets do not like water on their leaves, so watering from the bottom is the best.  You can let the plant soak up water from a dish or saucer. Violets like to have their soil moist, but never soaked or sodden.  Some people wait to water until the soil is “dry to the touch”.
  4. Feeding:  I always fed my violets with an organic “balanced” formula (relatively equal amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and there are a number of formulas specifically for violets.  African violets don’t really require much fertilizer and they can suffer from over-fertilization. Please follow the directions on the fertilizer carefully.
  5. Soil:  Good drainage is essential in keeping your violet healthy.  Use a commercial mix with at least 30-50% coarse vermiculite and/or perlite.  Avoid soils that contain top soil or look excessively dark, thick and rich. Additives like compost or manure are not necessary and are too rich.
  6. African violets usually prefer “tight shoes” and actually prefer to be a little root bound.  I very seldom found it necessary to repot my violets. Most standard African violets only need a 4”-5” pot at maturity.  Minis and semi-minis need a pot no larger than 2 ½” at maturity.
  7. Humidity:  African violets like a bit of humidity.  The easiest way to keep them happy is to keep the plants on dishes or trays of pebbles that are kept moist.
  8. Container:  It is essential that the pot have drainage holes.  If you prefer a decorative hole-less ceramic pot just put the plant in a plastic container with drainage holes and place that container inside the ceramic pot.  Remove the plastic pot from the ceramic one to water and do not replace it until the excess water has drained off.

I found a couple of interesting videos on YouTube:  6 Tips for Caring for African Violets and Repotting African Violets.   

Also, there is an interesting online site to purchase unusual varieties:   www.violetbarn.com   Local nurseries and other outlets usually have beautiful violets and they are generally a very economical plant to purchase.  There are so many colors and even trailing violets. Please give these sweet little gems a try and you will be surprised at how easy they are to grow and provide such beauty for many years.

Photo by Nancy Denison

The Orchid Thief, A Book review

by Nancy Denison, AEMG

At the library recently, I looked for The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean (Random House,1998) in the fiction area but to my surprise, found it in Non-fiction. Still intrigued by the title and reviews, I dove in.

Orlean, a writer for magazines such as The New Yorker, Outside, and Vogue, tells the true tale of a unique character, John Laroche, charged with theft of rare, endangered orchids from the Fakahatchee Strand State Park in Florida. The book grew from Orlean’s story in the New Yorker which sprouted from a local Florida newspaper article. She weaves in orchid history and mystery, the family background of Laroche, the Seminole Tribe connection, and her own desire to see a Ghost orchid (Polyrrhiza lindenii).

Photo by Nancy Denison

I’ve always marveled at the beauty, shapes, and colors of the few orchids I have seen; but they never lived very long in my care and seemed to be a bit of a challenge to provide the right environment.  The infatuation, expense, and time involved of the orchid lovers in this book blew me away. I enjoyed the book as it drew me in, taught me a few things and had the right amount of personal touch from Orlean.  I’d love to visit the Fakahatchee sometime – like when there are no bugs; the sun is shining; I have a guide, waders, and a knife to take out any gators. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the photos of orchids I can find on the web and wait for Susan Orlean’s next book, The Library.


Serve – March 2019

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Real Dirt:  New Volunteer Opportunities!

Public Pollinator-Friendly Gardens

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben: A Review

Real Dirt:  New Volunteer Opportunities!

by Cheryl A. Gross AEMG

The Real Dirt has been a publication of the Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan for many years.  It began as as paper document copied and mailed to all members. In January of 2013 it evolved into an on-line, web-based format and expanded content.  It has been locally produced by an entire team of volunteers, many contributing writers, including Nancy Denison who has been writing since the beginning.  At the core, I have been the editor coordinating with all contributors and assembling the content. Whitney Miller has been the ‘Techie Chick’ logging countless hours on the design, format, redesign, and uploading of each issue.  For the past several years, Bethany Thies has been our go-to for final grammatical editing.

As these jobs go, the volunteers give it their best shot and then are ready to move on.  Changing hands is the best way to infuse new life into a project. Bethany and I are ready to move on.  I began thinking about letting it go it last year, but as I have enjoyed it very much, have let time pass.

We are looking for VOLUNTEERS to carry-on the Real Dirt or will cease production with the March 2019 issue.

As Editor, it is not a difficult job.  I would be more than happy to help someone transition to the role.  You would be able to design the job to suit you; I will explain all of the steps I have taken for each issue.  As for the grammatical part, we really do need to find a new Bethany. Her eagle eye and corrections kept us looking professional and I relied on her.  Master Gardeners can earn volunteer hours for all of the time spent researching, writing, and editing the Real Dirt. For those who find working on your knees too much, these are ‘easy’ hours.  You need to be able to work with computers, be a reasonably good writer, and want to share interesting gardening concepts with others.

Click HERE to read more details on the Editor/Chair duties.  Contact me at grossrichardson@mac.com to find out more and to refresh the Real Dirt!

Public Pollinator-Friendly Gardens

by Barbara Backus, EMG

In 2016, both the City of Traverse City and the MGANM gave me permission to start a garden project at Hull Park, a small sliver of a park on the shores of Boardman Lake to the southwest of the Main Branch of the Traverse City District Library on Woodmere, so I could acquire hours for certification.   Weeds were over waist high in the garden beds, but the beds had the bones of a good garden design with Serviceberry, fragrant sumac, purple echinacea, and the ubiquitous daylily. That year I worked on those beds by myself and got to know city personnel who hauled away the weed debris I’d stack to the side of the beds.

In June of 2017, at a MGANM meeting, I met two new MG’s, Sandy Coobac and Victor Dinsmoore, who were looking for a place to garden for their certification hours.  When they joined me it was a boon for Hull Park to have them help create a more beautiful Pollinator-Friendly Garden.

In the Summer of 2017, Sandy Coobac, Victor Dinsmoore and I worked on the Hull Park Gardens, to which we have added Walker’s Low nepeta, salvia, liatris, butterfly weed, rudbekia, plus other pollinator favorites.  While we worked in the beds, the passing runners, bikers, moms pushing strollers, and folks out for a stroll, thanked us for the beautiful beds.

Hull Park bed with heuchera, nepeta, liatris, echinacea, Golden Alexandra, nicotiana and hosta. Photo by Barbara Backus

At some point mid-summer 2017, someone explained to me that there was a new application that was needed to be completed by EMG volunteers for project approval, and that all MG projects needed to be educational.  Our submitted proposal for a “Smart Gardening for Pollinators in Public Parks – Traverse City” was approved, making us official.

Later in 2017, Sandy, Victor and I started thinking that we could begin another garden and provide another place for new MG’s to earn needed hours.  Since we were receiving such positive feedback from passerby’s of the Hull Park site, we asked the City of Traverse City if we could have some garden space at Clinch Park, where even more people pass by. We worked with City Staff, Cindy Anderson, to identify garden beds in Clinch Park that we could use, and we chose the beds on either side of the Cass Street tunnel that leads into Clinch Park for our new demonstration gardens.   Derek Melville, Director of Parks and Recreation, was most supportive of our offer to revive those beds and make them into pollinator-friendly demonstration gardens, offering to help fund the new native and pollinator attractive plants and educational signage.

Clinch Park Bed covered with Dairy Doo. Photo by Barbara Backus

In the spring of 2018, Sandy and I dug samples for soil analysis from the Clinch beds, discovering that they were one step above beach sand.  Then we dug out the cotoneaster that populated those beds and added required fertilizer and Dairy Doo to the soil. In May, Derek Melville assisted Sandy Coobac with buying many native plants at the Boardman Nature Center Native Plant Sale for the Clinch pollinator gardens, and loaded $500 of plants on a city truck to take to my garage.  In a number of weeks we had all the natives planted in the Clinch gardens.

When out and about this summer, please stop by the Hull Park Garden and the Clinch Parks beds to watch pollinator habitat in action.

Tree huggers (birch and maple), by Kathryn Frerichs

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben: A Review

by Kathryn Frerichs, AEMG

Once in a great while I am astounded by some new, amazing findings in medicine, genetics, botany, etc.  The revelations in Peter Wohlleben’s book The Hidden Life of Trees create one of those times. The works of natural scientists in recent years have revealed the role of mycelium and bacteria in the soil now called the Wood Wide Web.

Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels was reviewed in the Real Dirt previously. In it, mycelium is described to extend plant roots and exchange minerals and water for sugars from those roots.  Miles of threads of mycelium exist in a teaspoon of soil. The mycelium belong to the fungi family and the largest living organism on earth is a fungus that covers 2,384 acres and is dated at 2,400 to possibly 8,650 years old.  Plenty to be gobsmacked about with these discoveries. Then comes Wohlleben’s book to take us to that place of wonder and amazement regarding trees.

Wohlleben reveals how to observe that trees can, in fact, detect smell. The thorned acacia trees in Africa have been observed to ward off giraffes by secreting a bad tasting substance in their leaves tanking them from tasty to nasty.  The long-necked herbivores then trot off to a neighboring acacia and depending upon the wind direction, the trees will have already begun secreting that nasty-tasting chemical into their leaves too. The giraffes have figured out that the downwind trees can smell chemicals from neighboring trees and just move upwind to chomp on other unsuspecting trees.  Trees do, by deduction from this example and others examples, have to be able to “smell” or detect the odor the other trees emit. Some critics claim that Wohlleben’s writing becomes anthropomorphic. Whatever you may want to call it, smell or detect, trees are communicating via odor/smell. Man can be very egocentric in thinking that only the human species can ‘smell’.  I think more of us will pay attention to his work with his imaginative approach.

Peter Wohlleben explains how trees communicate through the air and through the Wood Wide Web (WWW).  Saplings that are living on the shaded forest floor are fed by the mother trees through their roots. The saplings can wait in the dark, so to speak, because the mother trees feed them for decades before an opening in the forest canopy provides the light to fuel their growth. Trees feed one another in times of illness too.  They use the WWW, also known as mycelium, to accomplish this feat. After a number of these examples, you begin to realize that a forest is not made up of individual trees but is a type of super organism. The parts are all interconnected and protecting one another. Trees, also, have the ability to detect artificial light at night  Eventually the light stunts their growth. They need to stop photosynthesis at night in order to rest.

A forest of trees operates in concert with one another by regulating their climate.  The leaves, or their solar panels, provide a cooling effect and feed and water the roots every autumn when they are broken down and become soil.   The depth of the soil increases over time. They can withstand wind storms by buffering each other to prevent being toppled over. By fall the trees have made and stored as much sugar as they can so they shed the solar panels to rot and become new soil for the next season.  Also, Mr. Wohlleben tells us that when man comes along to harvest lumber from these magnificent giant-coordinated organisms called forests, they cut down the oldest, largest most mature trees. Our old growth trees are the biggest carbon sequesterers we have. The first trees to be cut down in a forest are the largest ones ‘who’ are the most capable of helping us fend off climate change.  

I highly recommend The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben to Master Gardeners.   Besides being a delightful read, it is informative, teaches us to respect those giants of the forest living in the slow lane, and recognizes that trees are interconnected in ways we have not anticipated.  Communication, sleep, nurturance, and functioning as one organism make for better survival just as Darwin hypothesized.

Enjoy this wonderful book!


Real Dirt Editor Road Map

The Real Dirt Editor Road Map

by Cheryl Gross, AEMG

Volunteers:  Keep a list of volunteers who have expressed an interest in contributing to the Real Dirt.  Solicit volunteers in the MG Trainee Class and at MGANM Monthly meetings.

The Process:  The Real Dirt is published 6 times per year, January, March, May, July, September, and November.

Draft an email on the first of the month before the next edition to solicit contributors.  I often brainstormed topics that might be of interest in the upcoming 2 months. For Example, On December 1 I might suggest:  indoor plant care, growing herbs on the window sill, house plant dividing or fertilizing, Poinsettia or Christmas cactus care, good books to read on gardening, and the like.  Contributors could grab a topic of interest to them or suggest what they might want to learn about… such as growing sprouts or plant lights. Decide whether to invite outsiders to contribute.  Occasionally, we have had contributions from Brian Zimmerman, Duke Elsner, Emily Cook, and the like.

The first draft due date is on the 15th of the month.  Nudges and reminders begin then. Second call for content, if needed.  Share all articles for editing by others. Remind President of the letter to be included and the Coordinator of an article.

Begin reading contributed articles and suggesting wording changes.  Discuss with the writer via email or phone call. Send to Bethany for grammatical review.

By the 20th, begin cutting and pasting articles into the Real Dirt format.  

Write article intros.  Final content assembly.  Often pictures are sent separately to Whitney.  Send content to all committee members for a final edit to catch any glaring errors.  Sent Final, FINAL to Whitney. Ideally allowing 5-7 days for her to load.

Whitney will test the email.  I check every link to ensure that each one goes where it is intended.  We discuss final issues on spacing, color, pictures, etc.

Whitney schedules the finished product email blast for 12:01 am on the 1st.

I have been very proud of the quality of the information made available through the Real Dirt.  As we are all volunteers, there are never any problems. If we can’t blast on the 1st, we get to it as soon as possible.  If a regular contributor needs a break, they take it. If we are short on content (really only happened once), I write more.  We do not judge or rate contributors writing, we only work together to improve the readability and accuracy. Accuracy of the content is very important as it is with all we do as Master Gardeners.  We have not published the recipe for weed killing with vinegar because it has not been verified through research. That may be the most important job of the editor. Knowing enough about the content to know when it is accurate…. or being willing to look into topics before approving the content.

It has been lovely working with all of the contributors and I have enjoyed it very much.


Search

Michigan Garden Hotline
1-888-678-3464

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

 

Log Your Hours