Serve – May 2019

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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 ( 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

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