Serve

Serve – May 2019

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Master Gardener Spotlight

What is an Approved Master Gardener Project?

Volunteering for The Real Dirt

 

All native green roof located at the Boardman River Nature Center, Traverse City, MI

Master Gardener Spotlight

Master Gardener Spotlight – How I Serve
By Whitney Miller, AEMG

I began my journey as a Master Gardener in 2011 in North Carolina. Then in 2012 my husband and I moved here to Traverse City. Some local projects and The Real Dirt grabbed me right away. However, due to the drastic differences in climate, Michigan State Extension required me to take the class again. Thanks to MGANM offering a scholarship, I was able to afford to take the class again and am incredibly glad I did. Our class is much more thorough than my initial class, and I was able to begin building my network of gardener friends.

I have three main projects that take my focus. First, I serve as the publisher for “The Real Dirt”. The editor compiles all of our articles and information and sends them to me. I then upload the full articles into our website, put the blurbs in the email format, insert pictures and links, and send it out. Each edition is unique and can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.

My second project admittedly has been pushed aside lately. I maintain the content for our website using the WordPress platform. Our website is hosted by Pro Web Marketing, so they assist with the layout, and I fill in the blanks. I’m currently working on updating some of the Projects as well as offering new links for membership, etc.

My final project is my “baby”-the Green Roof at the Boardman River Nature Center on Cass Street. It serves as a research and demonstration garden and tool shed for all of the tools used to maintain the gardens around the building. This year I’m planning to purchase Ruellia humilis ‘Wild Petunia’ as well as more Geum triflorum ‘Prairie Smoke’ to fill in some bare spots. The garden has been a fascinating way to test native plants for that type of environment-hot, dry, and shallow rooting area. So far I would recommend the Geum triflorum and Penstemon hirsutus ‘Hairy Beardtongue’ if you ever wanted to do a roof like this at your home.

If you haven’t seen me at any meetings, it’s not because I’ve given up! I’m still working on all of my projects. I work mostly in the evenings throughout the year at the Y, so I struggle to get to the meetings before things are wrapping up. I’m hoping to snag some friends and head to Master Gardener College this fall to get my continuing education hours. Let me know if you’re interested!

Photo courtesy of Grand Traverse Conservation District

Master Gardener Coordinator’s Corner

What is an Approved Master Gardener Project?
By Dr. Nate Walton, PhD (Entomology)

If you’ve been an MSU Extension Master Gardener for a few years, you will probably have noticed some changes to the program over the years. For example, we have gone from a requirement of 5 continuing education hours and 10 volunteer hours to 10 CE and 20 volunteer hours. We have also added a requirement that all reported Master Gardener Volunteer hours be classified under an MSU Extension Approved Master Gardener Project. Many of you are already working under approved projects and may not have even realized there was a change. However, a brief review of last year’s VMS report tells me that some of you may be unaware of this requirement. The good news is that 77% of the 5,271 volunteer hours that were reported by the Leelanau/Benzie/Grand Traverse Master Gardener roster last year were reported under approved projects. However, that leaves 23% or 1,192 hours that were not reported under approved local projects.

Now, believe it or not, we at MSU Extension want to make it easy for you to volunteer. We also want to make the program safe and sustainable for everyone involved. There are several reasons why it is important to report your hours under an approved project. For one, it provides detailed information to your local coordinator and other Master Gardeners about the great work that you are doing in the community. If you are currently reporting your hours under a statewide project, such as “Community: Beautification – Public Areas”, your local coordinator cannot provide you the support or recognition that you would be afforded under a locally approved project. Creating your own locally approved project is easy, and it allows your local coordinator to provide more detailed information to funding agencies and partner organizations about the great work that you are doing as a Master Gardener Volunteer. It also, makes it easier for you or your coordinator to recruit more volunteers for those major garden cleanup or planting days that you may want to carry out in support of your project.

And finally, MSU Extension liability coverage is extended to certified Master Gardeners and trainees only while they are engaged in MSU Extension approved projects. In other words, you are protected from liability by MSU Extension only during work performed under approved projects.  What does this mean in practical terms? Well, if you are helping your neighbor prune her Maple tree and you drop a limb on her Tesla, you would not be protected from liability by MSU Extension’s coverage, even if you were wearing your EMG badge. Now, if you are working at the Traverse Area District Library in the Children’s Garden and you step on Jeremy Treadwell’s toe and break it, you would be covered because the TADL Children’s Garden is an MSU Extension approved project. You would still probably want to buy Jeremy flowers and visit him in the hospital. I hope that makes sense. I am an entomologist, not a lawyer, so please if you have any questions about general liability coverage for EMGs please refer to your MG Manual or contact Mary Wilson, the State MG Coordinator.

Fortunately, it is very easy to create your own locally approved project. Just go to the VMS webpage (http://michigan.volunteersystem.org/) and login with your MG credentials. Then, look for the link on the right hand side of the page under “Links”. There is a link for “Volunteer Project Application for Volunteers”, click on that and it should download or open in your browser. You may need a pdf reader such as Adobe Acrobat® to open the file. You can also contact your MG coordinator directly and they can email it to you. It is easiest to fill out the form in its electronic version because it has built in menus that allow you to select responses that fit into some of the fields in the form, but you can also print it and mail it in to your coordinator. In most cases the project will be approved by your local coordinator and you will be able to get to work right away!  Good luck and thank you for volunteering!

Volunteering for The Real Dirt

By Lisa Hagerty, Editor and EMG Trainee

We are looking for more volunteers! Specifically, we need folks who attend the MGANM monthly meetings. We are hoping a few people might consider taking notes in the meetings and submit a short article for The Real Dirt that summarizes each meeting topic. Not everyone can attend every meeting, so finding a few people to alternate would work well. You don’t have to worry that your writing is not good enough because we will help with that. What we need is heart, with real content to share the topic(s) with all the Master Gardeners and the community members that don’t make it to the meetings. Not only do you earn volunteer hours for going to the meetings, but the time you spend on writing a summary of the meeting you attended is also considered volunteer time. Please consider joining The Real Dirt team with this volunteer opportunity and let us know if you can help! I can be contacted directly at hagerty22512@yahoo.com.


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!


Serve – November 2018

What to Give a Gardener

Gifts for Gardeners!

Dramm compact pruners

What to Give a Gardener

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

Welcome to the HallowThanksMas season…time to start shopping and eating and being grateful…. but not necessarily in that order. I did a bit of research to see what’s out there for those who like to play in the dirt. Here are some fun ideas for holiday gift giving, now or anytime in the near future.

We always like a good pair of gardening gloves and I go back and forth about spending a lot of money for ones that might last a whole season or just a bag of cheap ones. The Holiday Gift Guide from Fine Gardening Magazine recommends “Foxgloves” which claim to be comfortable and durable and $21-36.00 per pair at Foxglovesinc.com. Then there are the claw finger garden gloves from Amazon by several different companies.  These are usable for digging without tools…(” a set of tools in each hand”), are breathable and only $7.00 a pair.

When it’s really mucky or chilly out, I wear my Bogs but I have been thinking of a pair of slip on boots such as “Sloggers” recommended by Julie and Melissa at Garden Goods. These are colorful and look like they would do the trick for around $45. Unfortunately, they were out of my size. Other brands I found online were Ariat, Ugg, Asgard, Dksuko, The Muck Boot Company and WTW.

Succulents are still very popular, whether in a wreath, topiary or vase. Fine Gardening Gift Guide shows a ceramic succulent planter with multiple openings for various small plants. It’s distributed by exaco.com.

Melissa from Garden Goods suggested Dramm compact pruners and shears; good for deadheading and fine trimming. I like that idea of smaller tools since I sliced my finger open this summer in my deadheading frenzy. To go along with pruning is a collapsible garden bag to collect the cuttings. Other ideas from Garden Goods include wind chimes, window bird feeders, SPF hats, seed packs for stocking stuffers, and bulbs for winter color (amaryllis, paper whites).

From the HGTV web site were gifts of a seed savers exchange membership (seedsavers.com), Fiskars garden bucket caddy, with room for tools and trimmings, the beautiful book, The Encyclopedia of Flowers by Makoto Azuma (amazon.com), and ready-made raised garden beds.

These websites also have a wealth of ideas; Gardeners.com; uncommongoods.com; plowhearth.com; and hayneedle.com.

Happy dreaming, happy shopping!

Goatskin gloves

Gifts for Gardeners!

by Kellie Parks, Extension Master Gardener

Here are my suggestions to get you started on holiday shopping for the gardener in your life.

  1. Stihl pruners https://www.stihlusa.com/products/hand-tools/hand-pruners/pp30/ I don’t think Stihl is a common brand choice for the average gardener’s pruners, but I’ve had mine for 15 years, and they still get the job done easily. I confess that I am not great at taking care of my garden tools (Oil? What’s oil?), but these babies have taken my neglect in stride.

 

  1. Goatskin gloves https://www.gardeners.com/buy/womens-bellingham-goatskin-work-gardening-gloves/8596120.html#start=81 I am definitely NOT a glove wearer. My hands get sweaty and I can’t feel the soil. But when I have a LOT of earth work to do, this is my go-to glove. I’ve had cloth, cow leather, rubber, hybrid, you name it, and these are by far my favorite. They are soft and thin enough to fit close to my hands without being clingy, allow me to feel what I’m doing, and seem to manage my bizarre hand perspiration well.

 

  1. Teaming with Microbes, by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis http://www.timberpress.com/books/teaming_microbes/lowenfels/9781604691139 I can’t remember now where I first heard about this book, but if I had to guess I would say it was from Craig Shaaf of Golden Rule Farm in Kaleva. I haven’t yet purchased it, but it is on my list this year (Hint, hint. Husband, are you reading this…?) It is definitely anti-chemical soil additive, which isn’t for everyone.  But I think any gardener can benefit from more information about how “to garden in a way that strengthens, rather than destroys, the soil food web—the complex world of soil-dwelling organisms whose interactions create a nurturing environment for plants”.

 

  1. Home made bee hotel https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/building_and_managing_bee_hotels_for_wild_bees_e3337 For those with better crafting skills than I, this would be a great DIY gift. We all know that our beloved pollinators can use all the support they can get these days, and this project gives them a head start on setting up housekeeping.

 

  1. Garden apron https://www.etsy.com/search?q=garden%20apron I can NEVER remember to bring a harvesting/weeding container with me to the garden.  But maybe I can remember to put on a cute, lightweight apron and save on wear and tear and disfigurement of my clothes (upturned t-shirt hem basket, anyone??)

 

  1. Baker Creek Catalog https://www.rareseeds.com/2019-whole-seed-catalog-pre-order-usa-canada-and-mexico-/ I will forever be an advocate of Baker Creek and their tireless work to preserve the historic foodstuffs of the world. Not only are their catalogs bursting with interesting, unusual, hard-to-find varieties of everything under the sun, they are beautiful to look at as well. This is the catalog that I get most excited about upon its arrival in my mailbox.

 

  1. Hori Hori knife https://www.barebonesliving.com/store/products/garden-tools/the-ultimate-tool I usually use my trusty trowel for transplanting, hacking at roots, and digging weeds, but I drool over these hori hori knives every time I see one. They just seem so useful, and this one in particular is so beautiful. A gardener can’t have too many tools, can she?

 

  1. Gorilla Tub/Tub Trug http://www.johnnyseeds.com/tools-supplies/gorilla-tubs/ I LOVE my Tub Trugs! They’ve had a name change apparently, but are still the same multicolored, flexible, lightweight, tough multitasker. Mine gets used for so much more than just carrying weeds and harvesting: outdoor toy bin, soccer goal, impromptu dog water bowl, ice bucket for chilling beverages…

 

  1. Floret flower seed collection https://shop.floretflowers.com/collections/gift-collections A dear friend from high school introduced me to Floret a couple of years ago. I have always been more of a vegetable/herb gardener than ornamental/flower type of gal, but the Floret website and books have lured me to bumping up my flower growing game. Truly eye candy for any gardener.

Serve – September 2018

2018 Gold Badge Profiles

by Bethany Thies, EMG

One of the highest levels of service an Extension Master Gardener (EMGs) can receive is the Gold Badge, which is bestowed on those EMGs who have reached 1000 hours of volunteer service.  This year, the MSU Extension is awarding this honor to three area EMGs: Marina Deering, Cheryl Gross and Michele Worden.

Recently, the Real Dirt asked these three hard-working EMGs to talk a little bit about their time as Master Gardeners.  Here are their comments:

The Real Dirt:  When and where did you get your Master Gardener training?

Marina Deering:  Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Station in 2004.

Cheryl Gross:  MSU Extension in Leelanau County in 2011.

Michele Worden:  I took the class in 2002 when I was taking a temporary leave of absence from work due to my pregnancy.  I could not travel.

RD:  What prompted you to apply for Master Gardener training?  

MD:  Two reasons: To serve the community and learn how to garden in four seasons. I moved here from Southern California, which has a year-round growing season, and had no clue how to garden with four seasons.

CG:  Like many, I was interested in the comprehensiveness of the training.  I wanted to know more for personal reasons. I did not have a clue about the volunteering aspects.  I thought about taking the training when I lived in Wayne County, MI, and again when I lived in Allegheny County, PA.  FINALLY, 20 years later I managed to fit it in to my schedule in Benzie County!

MW:  I had wanted to take the course since I first learned about it as a newlywed home owner in Ferndale, MI, in 1993.  I was eagerly landscaping my house and planting a vegetable garden and read every garden magazine I could get my hands on.  When I first read about it in Nancy Szerlag’s column in the Detroit Free Press, I wanted to take the class.

RD:  What have been some of your more memorable volunteering assignments?  

MD:  Assisting the residents at Grand Traverse Pavilions with their planter boxes on their porches; helping install and maintain the rain gardens at the Boardman River Nature Center; working at the Leelanau Community Garden in Suttons Bay; and the MGANM bus trips to visit nurseries, gardens and horticultural distributors to expand our gardening knowledge.

CG:  Oh, my.  That is a hard one.  Most of my hours have been earned as the editor of the Real Dirt.  Working with Whitney Miller, aka Techie Chick, and the original volunteer group… Sonia Clem and Nancy Denison as we felt our way through a redesign and change from a mailed paper document to an on-line format is certainly memorable.  I have really enjoyed meeting and working with ALL of the contributors.

Also, working with Habitat for Humanity recently required a lot of listening, flexibility and adapting to juggle a landscape design to suit the site as well as the homeowner’s vision and the limited number of donated plants available.  I guess the most memorable projects are the ones that make me work outside of my “bubble” or comfort zone.

MW:  I was certified and became the mother of twins in the same year.  I started volunteering in the Traverse Area Children’s Garden, first as a garden mentor then leader, when the twins were toddlers.  That was a magical time. Arts and crafts in the garden.

When the kids went to a local Montessori school I helped a bit in their gardens and was eventually tasked with taking over the school garden and greenhouse as the director of the Della Terra Program.  I loved starting seedlings with the kids in the greenhouse each spring for a spring plant sale to parents and planting a pollinator garden in 2009 to pollinate the squash and tomatoes, way before it was a “thing”.  I remember digging potatoes with the toddler classes and their parents for the Harvest Dinner I organized at the school in the fall. I also started a Food of the Month program to teach students about the cycle of food – planting, tending, harvesting and cooking in the school’s kitchen classroom.  Monthly presentations with the plants and different foods made with the plants was an amazing show and tell.

RD:  What volunteer projects are you working on now?  

MD:  The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park in Traverse City where I am Board secretary, docent, gardener.  I also work with the Smart Gardening program, sharing information with the community.

CG:  The September Real Dirt!  And arranging speaking dates for 2019.  Garden Clubs plan their calendars well ahead of time so in August and September they are looking for programs for the entire year ahead.  Keeping track of who called and what topic we settled on can be hard, I am learning to keep better notes!

MW:  I have been the president of the MGANM since 2015.  We have done a lot of administrative work modernizing the association – incorporating, joining the Michigan Master Gardener Association.  Recently we upgraded our financials to Quickbooks Online. I do most of the programming and PR. It has been a lot of work. Fun, but does not leave a lot of room for other volunteer activities at the moment.  I look forward to passing the mantle to the next president and getting my hands dirty again.

RD:  How has becoming a Master Gardener and volunteering with the Master Gardener program every year changed your life?  

MD:  The Master Gardener program has improved my life a great deal. I continue to learn, use and share new science-based information related to responsible horticulture practices. And, I have established wonderful friendships with some of my fellow Master Gardeners.

CG:  I was already a native plant devotee before I took the class, and since taking the class I have had to broaden my knowledge of (a lot) and use of non-native plants (but only a little).  Understanding plant care, soils and pruning techniques PLUS insects has been very beneficial when I manage my own gardens and talk to others. I spend quite a bit of time studying, researching and learning more about Master Gardener topics.  Further, I appreciate the other Master Gardeners I have met through the Real Dirt and MGANM meetings. Gardeners are a lovely group of people who appreciate beauty and do not mind getting in the dirt to create it!

MW:   I have made so many lifelong friends that I cannot imagine being without it.  Before I took the class I worked as a consultant and traveled to clients every week.  That stopped when I had the twins and was certified. Being a Master Gardener made that an easy transition.  

RD:  What advice would you give new Master Gardeners just starting the volunteering process?  

MD:  Congratulations on your commitment to improving quality of life in the community!  The initial 40-hour volunteer requirement for certification may seem daunting at first.  It is worth the effort!

CG:  FIND YOUR NICHE!  The Master Gardener program is extensive.  While comprehensive in one aspect, the class offers only the tip of the iceberg.  If bugs are your thing, focus on IPM. If food gardening is your thing, go be great at that.  Native plants are my focus. I know the most about that topic. If you are unsure? Try several areas of volunteering in your first couple of years… one or more will call you in.  When that happens, follow your passion.

MW:   I think trainees should find an existing project they are passionate about and volunteer most of the hours there as a kind of apprenticeship.  It is the best way to learn through doing, and Master Gardeners are great teachers. I would also say to make the most out of their experience they should become active in the local MGANM association.  The meetings have excellent educational opportunities and it is easy to earn hours by helping.

RD:  Thank you ladies.  And congratulations on reaching 1000 hours of volunteer service!


Serve – July 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Munson Hospice House Work Bee

Habitat for Humanity: Fife Lake

Photo by Gayla Elsner

Munson Hospice House Work Bee

by Gayla Elsner

On April 29th, 21 volunteers participated in a work bee at Munson Hospice House.  Our group included rosarians from Cherry Capital Rose Society (CCRS), Hospice House Volunteers, and Master Gardener volunteers.  

We started with an excellent demonstration of how to prune and maintain Knock Out roses. The CCRS members guided each person as we pruned 100 rose bushes!  We fertilized with a special rose amendment made and donated by CCRS.

After the roses, sick ornamental trees were addressed.  Master Gardeners pointed out the symptoms of black knot fungus and showed how to prune the trees in the garden.  

Photo by Gayla Elsner

A delicious lunch was enjoyed as we shared our stories of how we got involved with the Hospice House garden.  Then we finished the day by weeding, cutting down grasses, and doing general garden clean up. The Hospice House volunteers were eager to learn about these tasks and discuss a schedule for regular maintenance of the garden.  

This garden had been tended sporadically over the last few years and needed rescuing.  This hardworking day was a great start toward the goal of getting the garden back to the peaceful place of natural beauty that the hospice patients and their families deserve.

Photo by Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity: Fife Lake

by Cheryl Gross, AEMG

Last fall I heard about an opportunity to work on installing landscaping at a Habitat for Humanity home in the Depot Neighborhood in Traverse City.  At the end of the day, the timing did not work for me. I did, however, ask to be kept on their radar for another home. The Fife Lake landscaping project finished June 20th.  

The project began on a site visit with the prospective homeowner, her mentor, and the construction manager.  Together we examined the site and the existing plants, which included a lot of Michigan yellow sand and a few invasive species. The prospective homeowner had done her homework and gave me a list of plants she liked.  She explained very clearly that she liked things symmetrical, wanted an abundance of blossoms and her favorite plants were day lilies and bushy roses. I talked about the soil, sun, and the benefits of including native plants.  

Next step was a nine-page summary report of the site and possible plants including pictures and characteristics.  The report included information on lawn seeding and container planting as well. An investigation and summary of the prospective homeowner plant lists revealed that many of them were not hardy to Zone 5 and explanation of each plant was provided.

Habitat for Humanity and the prospective homeowner then began to acquire plant material.  Pine Hill Nursery generously donated some native perennials and lavender. The Habitat for Humanity’s partner nursery offered none of the plants on our desired plant list but donated five other shrubs and lavender.

Once the plants were acquired, the prospective homeowner described how she wanted them planted.  This was a difficult stage in the process for me. The plants available did not necessarily ‘fit’ in her desired location.  For example, she wished to have a shrub between the porch and entry walk in a space no more than 18-24 inches deep. Also the drip lines of the roof needed to be considered to protect the shrubs from snow damage. Again, researching each plant donated, information describing the growing habit of the plant was presented.  

This brought us to install day.  Nine women from Century 21 Realty volunteered for a day of service.  The day dawned sunny and seasonably warm and the soil retained some moisture from the heavy weekend rain.  It was perfect. I laid plants in place and waited for the prospective homeowner to arrive and rearrange things to her vision.  The realtors got to work digging invasive honey suckle, pulling garlic mustard, removing myrtle and rescuing sedum. They were amazing; hard working and very efficient.  The prospective homeowner arrived and made her tweaks to the plant arrangement. In no time at all, plants were in the ground, a bit of compost added to the shrub holes, the sedum was used as filler between shrubs as we wait the plants to grow, and a top dressing of mulch was added.  Landscaping added an incredible visual to the house.

Wrapping up the project, it made me sad that the prospective homeowner did not have the two plants she most wanted, day lilies and bush roses.  So, I got my hands on a smaller form day lily, the gold one that is so common and purchased a Drift rose. It was all worth it.

My role in this project was educational only.  With the number of volunteers taking a day from their jobs to support Habitat for Humanity, it was important that they keep busy with hands-on work.  I am confident that each individual involved in landscaping this Habitat Home gained more than they gave. I certainly did.


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