Steward – July 2018

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June 5th MGANM Meeting Notes

Black Swallow-wort and Monarch Butterflies

Peponapis pruinosa, Squash bee, by Kathy Keatley Garvey

June 5th MGANM Meeting Notes

by Nancy Dennison, AEMG

Dr. Nate Walton, our MSU-E Consumer Horticulture Program Instructor, shared his knowledge of Smart Pest Management.  He explained how chemical pesticides were developed after WWII which worked for a while, then became ineffective and new pesticides were created. Thus new chemicals are constantly being developed.  These days we are on the lookout for organic and non-toxic (to humans, bees, animals) methods to help us control garden and yard pests. Nate talked about the Japanese Beetle, Squash Bug, Rose Chafer, and the Colorado Potato Beetle. He also discussed non- chemical ways of trying to control pest damage such as crop rotation, watering wisely, netting and modifying the plant environment.  Nate’s informative discussion was helpful and hopefully will lead us to better pest management in our gardens, small and large. Thanks so much Nate!

Black Swallow-wort and Monarch Butterflies

Identifying an Early Detection Invasive Species in Northwest Michigan

by Emily Cook, Outreach Specialist, Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network

There is certainly no shortage of invasive plants in northwest Michigan and most people are aware of the common species. Garlic mustard, invasive phragmites, Japanese knotweed, and autumn olive are just a few names that typically make one groan in frustration. These plants love to grow in disturbed areas, create dense stands, and out-compete many native plants which is detrimental to pollinators. However, at the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network (ISN), there is another category of plants known as “Early Detection” species. These are plants that have not yet been identified in the region but if they do appear, they immediately become a priority. The goal is to treat them as soon as possible, before they are given the chance to spread and become difficult to manage.

Early detection species in our region include amur cork-tree, black jetbead, butterbur, flowering rush, giant hogweed, and several others that are listed at Another plant on that list is black swallow-wort and unfortunately, it was recently identified throughout the village of Kingsley after it was brought to ISN’s attention by a concerned citizen. Thorough surveying in the days following have revealed that the plants are growing beyond a single population and it will require community partnership to successfully tackle management.

Black swallow-wort grows extensively in southern Michigan and is found in Emmett County and into the Upper Peninsula. This population in Kingsley is the first one that has been identified in our region. While it shares the same characteristics as the aforementioned species that classify it as an invasive species, it has an additional trait that makes it especially concerning. Swallow-wort is a member of the milkweed family and acts like a “sink” for monarch butterflies. Even when native milkweed species are present, female monarchs will often lay their eggs on the invasive variety. Once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars are unable to feed on the plant and die.

Swallow-wort can quickly spread over an area if not managed and ISN needs your help to get started! Most of the populations in Grand Traverse County have been identified on private property and we are seeking individuals who are willing to advocate for the plant’s removal and to share ISN’s messaging in relation to swallow-wort and its potential impact on monarch butterflies. If you are interested in helping, please contact ISN Communications Specialist Rebecca Koteskey,

Identifying additional populations is also key and often, just as with this case, ISN needs input from community members! If you think you are aware of a black swallow-wort population, please contact us at (231)941-0960. Often called black dog strangling vine, it tends to climb around adjacent plants. One is more likely to notice it’s oblong, narrow, dark leaves which are somewhat waxy, over its flowers which are purple and tiny. Additional photos can be found at

It is also important to note that there is a pale swallow-wort which looks and acts the same but has pale pink flowers – keep an eye out for this species as well!

Steward – May 2018

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On the Radar: May

Landscaping with Native Plants, March Meeting Note

What’s in Your Gardening Library?

On the Radar: May

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

Begin May with a soil test!  Test your lawn soil OR your vegetable soil OR your flower garden soil.  Know what your soil needs and treat to address those needs.  Locally, McGough’s accepts soil samples and has results available in 7-10 days for $20.  MSU also conducts soil tests. Go online and check it out:

Vow to avoid synthetic fertilizers in your yard this year!  Go organic. Feed the soil to support the plants. Stay away from “chemicals and drugs” that degrade the soil and boost plant growth.

Begin a compost pile.  In an out-of-the-way corner, hopefully in the sun, begin layering leaves and carbon-based materials with green, nitrogen-rich kitchen scraps and yard waste.  Water occasionally and stir. Depending upon your activity, usable compost can be available in 4-12 months (or more). Save organic matter from the landfill and yield nutritious compost for your yard!  See

Landscaping with Native Plants, March Meeting Note

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

Our meeting on March 6th featured Cheryl Gross (of MGANM/Real Dirt and Plant It Wild fame) sharing her knowledge of landscaping with native plants. Having experienced the reshaping of her sandy soiled home on Lake Michigan and most recently ridding much of her new home’s property of extensive sod, Cheryl spoke of choosing the right kinds of plants for the ecosystem; to help stabilize the soil, reduce water runoff and strengthen connections between plants, insects, birds and habitat.

Design is the key to provide structure and beauty with native plants. Define your edges, decide what you want to look at–what’s your focal point, and think about blooming plants, shrubs, low/border plantings and seasonal views.

Cheryl provided lots of before and after photos, plant suggestions and resources/readings for more information on creating native plant environments and sources for purchasing items.  Thanks so much, Cheryl, for your entertaining and informative walk through your gardens!

What’s in Your Gardening Library?

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

The first two books we put in our gardening library were Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan by Lynn M. Steiner and All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholmew.  Since then, we have collected various books based upon the topic at hand.  One year it was wildflower identification as we were learning new things in the woods and meadows.  Another year we built our insect book collection.  If you are interested in ecological gardening, some of the following books may be of interest to you.

Why gardening with native species matters:

Bringing Nature Home, Douglas Tallamy, c. 2007  Tallamy’s ground-breaking book on the relationships between plants, insects and birds.  Accessible for the reader. Provides the science of the ecological web. A must read.

A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future, Benjamin Vogt, c. 2017  Vogt expands the idea of gardening for the web of life to the importance of native landscapes to humans as well.  Humans desperately need a balance with nature which is only available through wildflower gardens. We urgently need wildness in our daily lives.

Flower identification and culture:

A Field Identification Guide to Invasive Plants in Michigan’s Natural Communities, Kim Borland, Suzan Campbell, Rebecca Schillo, Phylis Higman, MSU Extension, c. 2009  Just because the land ‘looks’ wild, does NOT mean it is natural. Our woods, fields, and even landscapes are filled with non-native, invasive plants.  To support natural habitats and natural ecosystems, we must first know all of these nasties by name and remove them.

Wildflowers of Michigan, Stan Tekiela, c. 2000.  The best way to learn to love Michigan native plants is to see them in a natural setting.  Tekiela’s Field Guide is a handy reference. Organized by blossom color, he includes information on plant native/non native status.

Wild Flowers of the Dunes, Diane K. Chaddock, c. 1998.  Visiting the exceptional Dunes communities along the Lake Michigan exposes us to rare plant communities.  These dunes plants, some are threatened and protected, all survive and thrive in harsh sand and winds.

Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie c. 2006.  A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States.  A good comprehensive guide with related plants grouped together and location maps.  Good photos and descriptions for identifying a plant. No information on native/invasive status.

Michigan Wildflowers in Color, Harry C. Lund, c. 1985.  A field guide with beautiful photos.  Good section on nomenclature. Indicates plant status as to protected or endangered.  Grouped by blossom color. No mention of native/non-native status

What’s Doin’ the Bloomin’?, Clayton R. Osland, 2011 A Guild to Wildflowers of the Upper Great Lakes Regions, Eastern Canada and Northeastern USA.  Organized by habitat and season makes this easy to use when in the field. Origin is specified when not native.

Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Lawrence Newcomb, c. 1977.  A true field guide using a key to identify the plants.  By answering 5 questions about the plant before you, and using a numbering system based upon the Flower, Plant, and Leaf, the reader is guided through an ever narrowing group of plants to the identification of the one.

Trees of Michigan and the Upper Great Lakes, Norman F. Smith, c. 1995. Two full pages of information on each tree species with photographs of leaves, bark, seeds, etc.  Focus is on the tree, habitat, and behavior.


Attracting Native Pollinators, The Xerces Society, c. 2011  A comprehensive guide to pollinators and their habitat needs.  Included are gardening and seeding guides, insect identification, habitat construction, and the like.  Helpful step-by-step instructions.

Pollinators of Native Plants, Heather Holm c. 2014  Heather Holm introduces us to the native pollinators (bees, wasps, butterflies, beetles, and flies) in our region and the plants they require for food and larval hosting.  Clearly identifies the insects and they way they interact with plants.

Garden Insects of North America, Whitney Crenshaw c. 2004  Entomologist recommended for identifying and understanding the insects in the garden.  Which are good and which are bad? Photography is especially helpful.

Michigan Butterflies and Skippers, Mogens C. Neilson, MSU Extension c. 1999 Helpful in identifying the butterfly stage but nothing on the larval host stage.  Good photos of the butterflies and information on location, habitat and larval host plants.

Caterpillars of Eastern North America, David Wagner, c. 2005.  FINALLY, a caterpillar book.  A go-to on our shelves. Helpful pictures of caterpillars AND pictures of their butterflies.  Full of useful information.

Spiders of the North Woods, Larry Webber c. 2003.  Who doesn’t need a spider ID book?  They are everywhere in our garden and landscape, if you haven’t poisoned them.  They are beneficial in every way as they are carnivores and feast on annoying insects.  Celebrate these unsung heroes.

Butterflies of Michigan, Jaret C. Daniels c. 2005.  There are over 150 butterflies in Michigan and this field guide will help you identify who you see in your yard and as you trek in natural areas throughout the state.

Bees of the Great Lakes Region and Wildflowers to Support Them, Jason Gibbs, Ashley Bennett, Rufus Isaacs, Joy Landis, MSU Extension  c. 2015 As we pay more attention to the bees in our flower gardens, our curiosity expands past the Bumble Bee or the Honey Bee.  Some bees are specialists, some generalists, all need nectar and pollen support across the season. Learn to recognize and understand these hard workers.  Garden to enhance and protect their habitat.

Growing a bird feeder:

How To Attract Birds, Ortho Books, c. 1983.  This one is an ‘oldie-but-a-goodie.  It was written well before the recognition of the importance of native plants in the landscape, so plant choices should be double checked.  However, it provides very good information on hosting birds.

Birdscaping in the Midwest, Mariette Nowak, c 2007.  Subtitled: A Guide to Gardening with Native Plants to Attract Birds, Nowak’s book does just that.  This guide is packed full of information on habitats for birds created by gardens including plant selection and design.

Landscaping with native plants:

Landscaping with Native Plant of Michigans, Lynn M. Steiner, c. 2006.  A very handy reference book on plants.  Steiner includes information on plant habitat, behavior, size, features, and companion plants.  The Book includes flowers and ground covers, grasses and sedges, ferns, conifers, shrubs, trees and vines.  She does include cultivars which are not native plants.

The Living Landscape, Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy, C. 2104.  Designing for biodiversity in the home garden.  Darke and Tallamy take observations of plant layers and communities in the wild and apply those principles to landscaping at home.  Using native plants, their specialized relationships, biodiversity, ecological benefits, and more they offer a guide to beautiful and beneficial landscape design.

Planting in a Post-Wild World, Thomas Ranier & Claudia West, c. 2015  Humans need nature and wild things. Our current landscaping principles remove us from nature.  Rainer and West studied the behavior of plants in nature and using masses of fewer plant species in layers and communities found in nature are designing landscapes that recreate the wild in beautiful, beneficial, and acceptable ways.

Rain Gardens, Lynn M. Steiner & Robert W. Domm, c. 2012.  Sustainable landscaping for a beautiful yard and healthy world.  Rain gardens are important if we are to process and clean rainfall and run off on-site.  When we do this, we protect surface water. Steiner and Domm offer a clear guide to rain garden placement, excavation, planting, and more.  While utilitarian, rain gardens can be beautiful and beneficial habitat for insects and critters as well.

Steward – March 2018

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It’s March, Time To Check For Spider Mites

Book Review: 10,000 Garden Questions Answered by 20 Experts

Spider Mites, UC Statewide IPM Project

It’s March, Time To Check For Spider Mites

by Michael O’Brien, Extension Master Gardener

Cold temperatures have been with us for a while.  This causes our furnaces to run more frequently and that makes our homes less humid.  That combination makes houseplants’ soil dry out quickly.  All these factors put together make a perfect environment for spider mites.  

These little mites are part of the arachnid family and a closely related species in the Tetranychus genus.  Spider mites live in colonies and are generally found on the underside of leaves.  They are less than 1/20 of an inch long which makes them very difficult to see with the naked eye.  Cloudy days make it even more difficult to notice them when inspecting plants.  

Spider mites cause damage by puncturing the plant’s cells and sucking out the contents.  Spider mites also create webs.  A generation of mites can complete a lifecycle in less than a week when food and temperatures are conducive.  Many times, when spider mites are discovered on plants it’s already become an epidemic.

There are some indicators to look for that help determine whether a plant has spider mites.  One of the first signs is stippling on leaves.  The term stippling means there are little white dots appearing on leaves.  Next, the plant begins to develop many bronze leaves that quickly turn yellow, followed by leaf drop. The third phase, webbing, is noticeable on the leaves and stems as seen in the picture above.  It is very important to wash your hands before touching any other plants.  As these mites are very small and can appear transparent, it’s a good idea to have a 10x magnifier loupe, or greater, to see these pests.  Click here to see an inexpensive loupe.

Spider mites 2, UC Statewide IPM Project

Spider mites can be very damaging to a plant and in extreme cases can kill the plant.  When it comes to treating the plant, there is a difference between outdoor plants versus an indoor plant.  There are many beneficial insects outdoors that will feed on the mites. Indoor plants don’t have these beneficial insects to keep the mite’s life cycle in check.  These mites can be passed on to another plant quickly and easily just by touching the plant, clothing rubbing against leaves or a pet coming into contact with your plants.  

Before treating an indoor plant it’s a good idea to use a loupe to gauge the extent of the outbreak.  This way it is easier to see if the treatment is effective.  To treat this problem, it’s recommended using insecticidal soap or insecticidal oil.  Both petroleum-based horticultural oils and plant-based oils such as neem, canola or cottonseed oils are also acceptable.  Be sure to read the manufacturer’s label first and use proper IPM principles.

Book: 10,000 Garden Questions Answered by 20 Experts (photo on Amazon)

Book Review: 10,000 Garden Questions Answered by 20 Experts

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

I acquired Volumes 1 & 2 of 10,000 Garden Questions Answered by 20 Experts, edited by Marjorie Dietz, from my mother-in-law.  She was cleaning out her four very large bookcases in preparation for moving west more than 10 years ago.  I look at them every once in a while, but then I close them up just as fast.  With each volume containing over 700 pages AND 10,000 questions, it was a bit mind boggling to even begin to search for an answer to anything.

So, with winter slowly moving along, I thought I’d dive in to see what I might find.  This set was first published in 1944 by Doubleday, with new editions in 1959 and 1974, and was an American Garden Guild Book.  There are 10 garden experts, such as Bebe Miles, Helen Van Pelt Wilson and Donald Wyman, listed as contributors, with many more listed as advisors, editors or artists.

In the Introduction to the third edition, Marjorie Dietz called it the “family bible” of garden information.  The questions are divided into 16 general areas from “Soils and Fertilizers” to “Roses and Houseplants” to “Regional Gardening Problems.”  In this edition, botanical names were updated to conform to the International Code for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants.  Under the first editor, F.F. Rockwell, these books were first begun in response to many requests from readers of The Home Garden Magazine.  It was hoped to give the home gardener practical information for personal gardening issues.

There is a small section on how the books are put together and how best to use them most effectively.  Each of the sections begins with basic information about that subject and then how to utilize the index for more specificity.  I find the sheer amount of questions a bit distracting.  For example, in the “Soils and Fertilizers” section there are questions about soil problems…eroded soil, depleted soil, neglected soil, poor soil… and on and on.  So, the questions and answers do cover just about everything on each particular topic.  Beneficial in some ways, annoying in others.

Topics covered in Vol. 1 include “Planning and Landscaping,” “Tree and Shrub Selection,” “Design Principles,” “Herb Gardens” and more.  Vol. 2 continues with the “Home Vegetable Garden,” “House Plants,” “Weeds,” and “Regional Garden Problems,” with “Sources for Further Information” concluding the book.

I had hoped, a little, that the books might be of value.  But alas, on Amazon they could be found for $6 and under, except for a couple of listings for much more. I guess I’ll just be happy with the sentimental value and the “historical” perspective of gardening they present.

Steward – January 2018

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My Friend, The Walking Stick

Seed Stratification

October MG Meeting — “Plants Deer Don’t Eat”

Walking stick, photo by MG Amy Tongue

My Friend, The Walking Stick

by Amy Tongue, Master Gardener

This friendly fellow was my pet for a few days thanks to the help of a fellow Master Gardener.  She knew I was taking an entomology class and I had to turn in a collection for points.  I was desperately asking friends for help, since frost was lurking just around the corner.

Did you know that walking sticks are herbivores?  Since I had it in captivity, I needed to know what to feed it.  They love oak leaves, and it vigorously ate a large chunk out of the leaf I gave it.  They can be destructive defoliators in parks and recreation sites when there are severe outbreaks.

They are also really good at playing hide and go seek because they resemble a stick and can remain very still. Some species cover themselves with material that resembles moss or lichens, and others change color to match their surroundings.  Since they are nocturnal, and feed and move at night, they also escape predators.

I was amazed at its acrobatics in my container.  It could hang upside down because it has sticky “toe pads” and non-stick “heel pads” which allowed it to grip when needed, yet be mobile without having to peel away at each step.

This insect, however, will not win the “Mother of the Year” award.  Some fling their eggs from the tree tops to the ground hoping for the best.  Some females are parthenogenic so do not need males to produce fertilized eggs.  These eggs resemble seeds which allows for a really interesting relationship with ants.  The ants collect the eggs and remove a cap to feed their larvae.  This doesn’t harm the walking stick egg, so they rest comfortably in the ant nest until they hatch and walk away as a nymph.  This nymph will enlarge in stages until it becomes an adult.  How cool is that!

I am learning that we are surrounded by insects more than I ever realized.  Some beneficial and some harmful.  It has been eye opening to study some in more depth, such as my friend the walking stick.

Handmade seed containers, done in Advanced Master Gardener Lillian Mahaney’s JRMG class (photo by Adv MG L. Mahaney)

Seed Stratification

by Michael O’Brien, Master Gardener

Winter is here, and that means it’s time to begin thinking about what to grow this coming summer!  

The first step is to find the seeds that were put aside from the past growing season.  Well,  maybe not all of them.  I’m referring to the ones that need to go through a process called, “Seed Stratification.”  This is a process that nature has created to insure plants don’t germinate at the wrong time of the year.  Many seed species have an embryonic dormancy phase and generally will not sprout until this dormancy is broken.  That means they will not germinate unless they go through a period of cold temperatures.  This includes many perennials and native plants, as well as certain evergreens and maples.

Personally, I am looking to attract more bees and monarch butterflies so I’m going to plant milkweed, Asclepias.   The process I am going to use will be cold and moist.  To begin, I will start by separating the silky hairs from the seed.  Once I have collected all of my seeds, I will then place them on a damp paper towel.  Another damp paper towel gets placed on top seeds.  The paper towels are put in a sealed plastic bag to keep the moisture from evaporating.  Label the bag and place it in a container.  The container can be stored in the refrigerator or a shed where it will be safe and undisturbed.  Four to six weeks before the last frost, the seeds come out of the bag and they get planted in potting soil.  These seeds will begin to sprout in about two weeks.  Sprouting time will vary depending on the plant.

There is also another way to stratify you’re seeds.  It’s a cold, dry method.  Rather than placing the seeds on a damp paper towel, they are instead planted directly in potting soil.  The seeds and soil are left dry and again in a cold area.  Come spring, germinate as you normally would.  

Good articles on seed stratification can be found on the internet at the Gardening Know How site ( and the Permaculture Research Institute (

Brian Zimmerman of Four Season Nursery (photo by MG W. Miller)

October MG Meeting — “Plants Deer Don’t Eat”

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Master Gardener

The October 3rd MGANM meeting featured Brian Zimmerman and Tom Ford from Four Season Nursery in Traverse City on favorite annual topic: deer resistant plants.  They shared  several deer feeding tidbits, some of which were a surprise to me.  

For example, deer like plants with protein — high in nitrogen, especially bucks.  They also like fresh growth leaves with high water content.  You could see this in the Glen Arbor area this past spring and summer, where deer were feeding on the expansive understory growth which was created by the huge storm in August 2015.

Other interesting deer facts – they do not like fuzzy leaves, gray leaves and scented foliage (lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage).  Deer also follow a route, prefer the edges of a forest and have two to three fawns a year.  

Suggested practices to limit deer browsing included: dogs, fencing, large crush stone mulch, motion detectors, sprinklers and fishing line double stretched between posts.  Cutting back on watering and fertilizing was also discussed.  In addition, you can use “Deer Stopper” and other such sprays every two weeks, but alternate between the brands so deer don’t get used to the same scent.

Several plant/shrub/tree lists were available for reference and reading pleasure, as the battle between deer and humans takes a bit of a rest over the winter months. Thanks so much to Brian and Tom for their expertise and time with us!

*To review the recommended plants lists from Brian and Tom, look at the Michigan Resources tab on our page HERE.

Steward – November 2017

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National Protecting Pollinators in Urban Landscapes Conference

May Farm Pasture Walk

It's a flurry of activity here at the Boardman River Nature Center today. Multiple species of bees are loving on the Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)!

Posted by Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan on Sunday, September 10, 2017

National Protecting Pollinators in Urban Landscapes Conference

Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM

The second conference on protecting pollinators in urban areas was held in Traverse City October 9-11, 2017.  The conference is a joint project hosted by Michigan State University and North Carolina State University.  In our current social climate, which demeans science and education, the conference was a breath of fresh air with a wealth of presenters explaining the latest research being conducted on pollinators and environmental health in urban areas.

Conference presentations included:

  • The importance of diversity in the pollinator population.  Most of us can recognize the non-native honey bee which works hard commercially for large scale pollination.  Many of also recognize the bumble bee.  However, there are hundreds of bee species, almost 500 in Michigan alone.  Some are specialist bees that are needed to pollinate specific plants; others are generalists.  Keeping every species population at a robust level is crucial for pollinator survival.
  • How humans have changed the landscape with no consideration of the pollinator.  Socially, culturally, and politically we have neglected all of these insects.  Habitat loss is believed to be the number one negative effect on pollinators.  What we think of insects and ‘bugs’ affect how we treat them and has a direct impact on their wellbeing.  Butterflies and moths participate in pollination to a much lesser degree than bees, but remain important to discussions on habitat and ecosystem restoration in the urban landscape.  Bees have been found to create creative and unusual nesting sites when a preferred area is lost.
  • Pesticides and IPM (integrated pest management) and their role in urban landscapes and pollinators.  While this topic seemed strange and out of place in a pollinator conference, researchers and chemical company representatives explained how they see the role of pesticides in the urban landscape.  Some attendees may have disagreed or been uncomfortable with the topic being presented and even the presenters may have recognized that they were speaking to a possibly hostile crowd.  However, the presentations reflected that our culture demands that certain plants look a certain way, bugs be damned.  If the line being walked is fine, the lesson is to read all labels very carefully and follow mixing and application instructions seriously.  In turn, a minimal amount of product can be applied for the desired result.  
  • Using vacant urban land to support pollinator diversity.  As our urban areas grow, decline, and are reborn, there is always vacant land.  Researchers are studying planting methods to support pollinators in all locations.  Given the short distances that most pollinators are able to travel, creating corridors wherever possible may be a solution for robust population support.  Habitat matters and having as much of it that can be imagined in urban areas can help.  Also considered, was the warming of urban areas.  Giving the change in the climate, urban areas warm faster than the countryside.  Studying the effects of this urban warming trend may be able to help us define better methods of pollinator care.
  • The role of citizen scientists in pollinator protection.  It was noted that there may be many things in our lives today: hurricanes, wildfires, political upheaval, and the like, over which we have no control.  Supporting pollinators is not one of those things.  Individually, we can have significant impact on protecting pollinators.  If habitat loss is the number one threat, each and every one of us can improve insect habitat where we live.  First, do no harm.  Second, plant pollen and nectar plants in containers on a balcony or throughout a yard.  Choose plants known to be beneficial, mostly those native to your area.  Include plants that bloom across the season from very early in spring to late in the fall.  Throughout the United States and Europe (a speaker from Paris), researchers are engaging young and old, school children and communities to observe the bees and wasps in their yards and on their plants.  Count them.  Learn to identify general species distinctions.

The conference was heavy on speakers and fast paced.  As an attendee, I came away refreshed and hopeful that so many young scientists were all working to solve a critical problem of our time.  Fully one-to-two thirds of the food we eat requires insect pollination and those pollinators are in serious decline.  Yet, help is easily provided in the way in which each and every one of us gardens.  Sure, the devil is in the details but in the end all we need are flowers.

May Farm of Benzie County, MI. Photo by same

May Farm Pasture Walk

Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM

October 14 dawned gray and breezy with rain threatening.  Yet, by 10am about 60 people had arrived at the May Farm Pasture at the corner of Lobb and Graves Roads in Frankfort to walk the pasture and hear from a half a dozen speakers.  It was the May Farm Pasture Walk required by a USDA/NRCS grant.  

Farmer Paul May practices rotational grazing with cattle, sheep and chickens on rented acreage.  After eight years on the land, the changes in the soil quality, plant quality, insect presence, drought resistance, animal health and growth patterns, and ecosystem support is measurable.  During the Walk, several speakers addressed the farming ecosystem.

Scott Hughey is the NRCS grant administrator.  It is his job to work with farmers to improve farming practices.  He spoke about the crisis in farming and the loss of small farms and farmers.  The May Farm is an example of a ‘start-up’ farm.  Further he talked about the soil and the value being built beneath our feet by May’s rotational grazing practices.  Plants, manure, insects, rain fall, time…. repeat is a formula for building healthy soil.

Plant It Wild presented the design and seeding plan for a 13,000 square foot pollinator and wildlife habitat garden to be installed in 2018, another grant requirement.

MSUE’s Nate Walton talked about the insects, especially dung beetles and their role in cow pie decomposition and soil building.

Saving Bird’s Thru Habitat’s Kay Charter shared the value of rotational grazing and no-mowing practices to bird habitat.  Each of us, especially farmers, can create swaths of habitat for migratory birds.  A plaque of recognition was presented to Farmer May.

The Citizen’s Climate Lobby’s Kelly Lively spoke about the importance of supporting the work of farmers and others who are working to sequester carbon and reduce the harm of ‘traditional’ farming practices.  She encouraged all of us to participate in supporting bi-lateral climate talks in our communities, our State and nationally.

Finally, Doug Carmichael, Farm Manager of the Savory Institute, MSU/Lake City Research Center, talked about farming practices that forgo the use of fertilizers to work with the plants and soil for best environmental practices to support clean water and environmental health.

The May Farm operates as a CSA.  As they say, ‘you buy the animal; we do the chores’.  Both Paul and Sharron May believe in living in ‘community’.  Paul’s pasture walk was a clear demonstration of that.  In addition to the diversity of speakers, chili lunch was served.  That chili was made with locally sourced ingredients by a volunteer chef in the Trinity Lutheran Church kitchen and served by church friends and the Benzie Conservation District.

The rain held off so these interesting group of speakers who share a similar message could have their say.  How we behave matters.  The decisions we make every day can have a positive or negative effect.  Our environment and the food we eat can work in concert for a healthier world.  

Other farms are also required to host such events as a condition of grant funding so if you hear of one, head on over.


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