Beautify – November 2018

Include rating. They included:.

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Landscaping with Native Plants for Fall Color

State of the Green Roof

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

Landscaping with Native Plants for Fall Color

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

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

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

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


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

State of the Green Roof

by Whitney Miller, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

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

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

But did it work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nourish – November 2018

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Smart Gardening with Soils, September MGANM Meeting Notes

Food Preservation in the Off Season

Dr. Bird speaking to MGANM and the public

Smart Gardening with Soils, September MGANM Meeting Notes

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

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

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

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

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


Food Preservation, photo by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Food Preservation in the Off Season

by Cheryl A. Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

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

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

I prefer to jam in the off-season.  

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

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

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

Nourish – September 2018

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Getting Started with Food Preservation

August Meeting Notes: Edible Trails Tour

Getting Started with Food Preservation

Canning the harvest by MG Sonia Clem (photo by same)

by Kellie Parks, Extension Master Gardener

This time of year is so satisfying when we reap the harvest of our labors, however it can sometimes be overwhelming. What to do when you can’t possibly eat every cucumber, zucchini, or tomato, and the neighbors are crying ‘uncle’? Preserve it! Home food preservation need not be intimidating, and doesn’t require too much of a financial investment, as the equipment needed is minimal and can easily be obtained, sometimes at flea markets and yard sales. Yes, there are more specialized tools that can make the process easier, but one can do without those when getting started. Foods with low acidity require more careful processing to ensure their safety when canning, but can be frozen and dried as well.

The first thing that my mother made certain I had, even before I had my canning pot, was the ‘Blue Book’: Ball’s Blue Book of Preserving. Hers was well-loved, with dog eared and wrinkled pages, notes in the margins, total quantities of items ‘put up’ by year in the front and back covers, and slips of paper with with handwritten recipes tucked inside. There are multiple editions available, both new and used. This one book contains all the instruction one needs to get started, including the science behind food preservation, list of needed equipment, cautions and warnings, and many recipes.

There are several websites dedicated to food preservation, and just as many both virtual and print publications to be found. Here are a few to get you started:

Our own MSU Extension has published a comprehensive resource called Home Storage of Fruits and Vegetables. It is free and can be found here:

The National Center for Food Preservation is a wonderful resource for every method of preservation. From the website: “The National Center for Home Food Preservation” is your source for current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation. The Center was established with funding from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (CSREES-USDA) to address food safety concerns for those who practice and teach home food preservation and processing methods.”

If you tend to learn better by watching something done, there are a number of YouTube videos available, also.

This is a sampling from MSU Extension’s library of videos:

Intro to Safe Preservation:

Safe Pressure Canning:

Water Bath Canning Basics:

I hope you will give home food preservation a try. Opening up a jar of home canned tomatoes or peaches in the dead of winter is like opening up a jar of summer. It will give your spirits a lift on the dreariest of days.


August Meeting Notes: Edible Trails Tour


by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

On a Tuesday evening,  a nice sized group met at the DeYoung Nature area off E. Cherry Bend Rd to walk along with Levi Meeuwenberg (subbing for Jonathon Alyward), on the Edible Trail. The trail was a project started in 2014 to create an edible forest which would blend in with the community, TART Trail and other nature related organizations. The TART group gave permission to use a portion of land alongside the trail and the Land Conservancy pitched in as well. Money was raised and once the planting areas chosen, volunteers used the lasagna or sheet mulching method to install the selected native plants. Currants, Nanking Cherry, French Sorrel, rhubarb, and others have survived in this short but interesting path.  Some goals of this and other edible forests are to build soil, increase biodiversity, and improve insect and wildlife habitats. With our dry hot summer, the trail was looking a little needy and Levi suggested a visit, any time, to pull some weeds and trim here and there. MG trainee, Chris Heyman, volunteered to be the point person from MG’s and to help make this a Master Gardener project so that volunteers can earn volunteers hours woking on the Edible Trail project. Thanks for the walk on such a beautiful evening, Levi!

Nourish – July 2018

Según lo permitido en el formulario, se han omitido las observaciones no publicadas cialis farmacia tadalafil generico de varias compras en línea de Lasix. Los piragüistas mononucleares se contaminan en la médula ósea de los tipos de cepas pluripotentes que se diferencian en una célula progenitora principal debido a la presencia y otras líneas de macrófagos.

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May 1 Meeting Notes

It’s Summer…Get Out in the Garden!

May 1 Meeting Notes

by Nancy Denison- AEMG

On May 1 our guest speaker was Rebecca Krans, the Consumer Horticulturist from our  MSU Extension office in the Upper Peninsula. She offered a long list of procedures and ideas for Smart Vegetable Gardening.  Smart Gardening is MSU Extension’s campaign to equip gardeners with science based, earth friendly and best practices for good soil and good crop yields.

Rebecca shared ideas of why people don’t plant vegetable gardens and then some steps in setting up a garden including planning your site, size, lighting, location and what types of things you’d like to grow. Also helpful is knowing which crops are cool-weather growers and which do best during the mid or warm season.  This makes it possible to plan successive plantings for maximum yield. Rebecca also gave suggestions for making your own compost, types of fertilizer, and various types of gardens. We appreciate your veggie garden knowledge, Rebecca, and thank you for sharing it with us!

Castle Farms, Photo by Bradley Macdonald, mlive

It’s Summer…Get Out in the Garden!

by Kellie Parks, EMG

Some botanic gardens in Michigan are well known, such as Matthaei Botanic Garden at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, and Michigan State University Horticulture Gardens in East Lansing. But our state is home to some fantastic lesser-known gardens as well. Here are just a few you might consider adding to your summer travel plans.

With a 2002 renovation, Castle Farms in Charlevoix ( now boasts a number of gardens to explore. Using native plants when possible, guests can stroll through the formal Butterfly Garden, East Garden with croquet and a small fountain, Alphabet Garden (a favorite with kids), Serenity Garden, and the King’s Grand Courtyard, a Renaissance garden based on the landscape at Chateau de Vaux-le-Comte in France. Both self-guided and guided tours are available-with a tram for transportation on a schedule.  Hours and admission fees vary throughout the season.

The seed (well, tuber actually) was planted for Dahlia Hill ( of Midland in 1966 with a Mother’s Day gift. Now home to 3000 plants of over 300 varieties of dahlias maintained solely by volunteers, this garden is open dawn to dusk and admission is free. Comprised of eight stone terraces, each variety is labeled along gravel pathways. Four aluminum sculptures can be found; the work of local Midland artist Charles Breed, who planted those first tubers. His working studio and museum is located on the grounds as well. There are two raised planters at the top of the terraces, one a donor garden and the other a memorial garden, where loved ones’ ashes can contribute to the growth of a beautiful dahlia plant. Each of the 20 dahlia petal forms are represented.  Mark your calendar for the last two Saturdays in May next year – their extra tubers are offered for sale then. The garden has been the recipient of the Keep Michigan Beautiful President’s Plaque and a President’s Award from The American Dahlia Society.

Photo by Howard Meyerson, mlive

Not far from White Cloud, within the Huron-Manistee National Forest lies the Loda Lake National Wildflower Sanctuary ( This is the only Wildflower Sanctuary located within a National Forest and has been funded financially and materially by the Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan for over 70 years. A variety of ecological systems are supported here, including wetlands, marsh, creek, spring-fed lake, pine plantation, oak forest, and an old farmstead site. Amenities available are a self-guided 1.2-mile wildflower trail, cultural trail, birder’s checklist, picnic area, small boat launch, and a pollinator garden. Docent-led walks and environmental curriculum for groups are available via the National Forest Service Baldwin District Office.

Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve ( began in 1941 when the first 12.5 acres were purchased by Kay and Walter Boydston as their country home. Kay’s passion for horticulture, crafts, and nature were attractive, drawing others to the property. There is a story told of Kay often planting into the darkness of the evening using her car headlights to illuminate her work. Local Niles area philanthropists facilitated the land becoming public and additional land purchases grew the property to 105 acres. Today, one can find a nature preserve, nature center, arboretum, conservatory, prairie, and gardens – which include a Railway and Nature Adventure Garden, Japanese Garden, Herb and Sensory Garden, and more. Ten trails of varying length and simplicity invite investigation and reveal an abundance of native wildlife. There is a garden shop and cafe, and numerous educational programs are available, including activity backpacks for the young and not-so-young to check out during a visit. There is a nominal admission fee, and groups are welcomed and offered a discount with advance purchase.

With all these blooms and plants waiting your arrival, plan your trip and get out into the garden.

Nourish – May 2018

On the Radar: May

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener

BEGIN seed starting the first week!  In northern Michigan, delicate vegetable plants should be ready for the garden by Memorial Day.  Get a jump on the season with seed starting NOW.

Some vegetables are best started by seed and like the cool spring temperatures.  Seed peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach and such outdoors before warm-weather sensitive plants.

Later in the month, purchase your bedding vegetable plants that are easily added to the garden as started plants.  Tomatoes, eggplants and the like do best when the season is extended, and they are planted with a head start.

Photo by N. Walton, MSUE

Insects of Early Spring: They’re For the Birds!

by Nate Walton, MSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

Robins may be the official first sign of spring, but let’s not forget that they and other songbirds are busy stuffing themselves with bugs! Insects and other invertebrates provide these birds with the protein and fat they need to complete their migratory flights and lay eggs so that they can produce more songbirds. The first insects to become active in the spring are those that spent the winter as adults. Some of these you can even see in late winter, like this winter crane fly walking on the snow on a warm day.

Photo by N. Walton, MSUE

Many flies (Order: Diptera) are among this group that appear in the spring as soon as the temperature is high enough for their wing muscles to function.

Photo by N. Walton, MSUE

Lawn and garden pests that are a nuisance early in the spring are usually those that are not adults, but larvae still living in the soil still. European chafer grubs are one of the earliest scarab beetle larvae that migrate from the lower layers of soil to feed on the roots of your lawn turf in the spring. Cutworms, too, can be a problem for early spring gardening as they will snip off your starts just an inch above the soil’s surface. Flocks of songbirds feeding on these scrumptious snacks may be your first sign of a lawn or garden infestation.

One of the biggest problems for early spring gardeners to watch out for are the bud chewing insects. Many of these are small members of the group of insects that includes butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera). The adults of these species lay eggs on twigs in early spring and the larvae feed on buds and leaves as they begin to emerge from dormancy. Some will even bore into the terminal end of a shoot, leaving a hollowedout twig at the end of a branch. These insects often leave signs of their presence such as strands of silk and frass (insect feces).

Photo by N. Walton, MSUE

As they grow, some of these tiny Lepidoptera larvae will grow larger and tie the plant’s earliest leaves together into a bundle or roll, which is why they are known by the common name: leafrollers. Keep an eye on your favorite trees and shrubs this spring for these bud chewers so that you can decide if you need to take action to protect them. Of course, it’s always a good option to just leave them for the birds!

Note:  All photos by N. Walton, MSUE

Nourish – March 2018

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Sprouts and Sprouting

Handmade seed containers, from Advanced Master Gardener Lillian Mahaney’s JRMG class (photo by AEMG Lillian Mahaney)


by Kellie Parks, Extension Master Gardener

Seed catalogs start appearing in the mailbox before the Christmas tree comes down at my house.  I set them aside until the last of the needles are swept and the house is put back in order, at which time you will frequently find me nestled in a corner of the sofa with the dog curled up beside me, the catalogs stacked on the coffee table ready for dog-eared pages.

Seed starting is a bit more work than purchasing seedlings and larger plants, but what a reward to be reaped in seeing green growth in the bleakness of late winter and the satisfaction of planting out that unusual variety that would never be found in a local nursery.

-It is essential to begin with fresh media and clean containers, whatever form they may take.  Damping off is a common disease that can wipe out your entire crop of tiny seedlings and is often found in reused supplies.

-To prevent leggy plants, supplemental light in the form of a fluorescent fixture is essential.  Optimally, this fixture should be able to be raised and lowered to keep pace with the height of the plants, always just a couple of inches above them.  I have great success with inexpensive “shop light” type fixtures.

-Growing media ought to be pre-moistened and, once seeds are sown, watered carefully to prevent their displacement.  I prefer to bottom water both to keep the seeds in place and to keep the plants themselves dry to help prevent fungal problems.

-Cover the seeds with a dome, plastic wrap or plastic bag to create a miniature greenhouse and retain moisture.  For faster results, place a heat mat underneath the containers, especially for heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers.  Once your seeds have sprouted, remove the covers and keep an eye on them to prevent the media from drying out.

What joy is found in the moist aroma of warm earth at a time when the scents of the outdoors have been absent for months.

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems Michigan Organic Farming Exchange has a terrific list of seed starting resources to be found here:

On the subject of seeds, I am fascinated by and grateful for the efforts of Bioversity International and the Crop Trust for the establishment of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.  Located on a remote island between Norway and the North Pole, the vault is built deep inside a mountain and ensures long-term seed storage to preserve crop diversity.  Currently housing 890,000 samples from nearly every country in the world and with a capacity to house 4.5 million varieties of crops, the vault protects the world’s food supply from natural or man-made disaster.  Read more about this project at:

Sprout soaking by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Sprouts and Sprouting

by Cheryl A. Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

As winter hangs on in northwest lower Michigan, our bodies and minds yearn for sun and green, fresh food.  Before desperation hits, grab a 1-quart mason jar and some sprouting seeds and get growing (sprouting) in your kitchen.

The benefits of eating sprouted seeds are well known.  There is a chemical change in the seed and additional nutrients become accessible to our bodies.  Follow this link for specific nutritional information on several seed sprouts:  In general, suggests that overall sprouts “contain a significant amount of protein and dietary fiber, as well as vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamin, vitamin C, vitamin A and riboflavin. In terms of minerals, they contain manganese, copper, zinc, magnesium, iron and calcium.”  Further, eating sprouts can improve digestion, increase metabolism, help in weight loss, lower cholesterol, boost skin health and more!  Check out the information here:

Sprouts can sometimes be found in grocery stores.  However, their availability can be limited.  Worries of salmonella and E. coli are possible with sprouts.  Sprouting at home can alleviate these concerns if you follow some simple steps.  Purchase only seed intended for sprouting.  These seeds should be “clean” from the field and exposure to unwanted organisms.  Use sterilized jars, fresh water, and clean hands when working with seeds and sprouts.

Mid week sprouting, photo by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Getting started  

  1. A quart mason jar is ideal for sprouting.  Sterilize it first.  Various screened lids are available in kitchen stores and online.  A cheese cloth or other mesh, fine enough to keep the seeds in the jar when draining, is needed as well.  An online search will find seed sprouting trays and other equipment.  However, a jar and screened lids are enough.
  2. Purchase seeds for sprouting.  Alfalfa is delicious on sandwiches and salads.  It is a fine seed, so a fine mesh lid is needed.  Mung beans are often used in Asian dishes.  They are a medium-sized seed.  Radish sprouts give a bit of a spicy flavor.  Broccoli sprouts are a powerhouse. Which would taste best to you?
  3. Add clean cool water to seeds in the jar.  Begin with 2-3 teaspoons of small seeds while larger seeds may take a quarter cup per batch.  Allow ample space for the seeds to sprout in the jar.  Soak the seeds for 6-8 hours to “wake” them up.  
  4. Drain the water and allow the jars to lie propped up, open side down in a dark space.  This eliminates any puddle worries and allows for air circulation.  
  5. Daily, rinse the seeds 2 – 3 times.  This keeps the seeds evenly moist which is needed for growth.  Each time use cool, clean water and replace in the angled position.  Sprouting will begin in 2-3 days.

A quart of mung sprouts in 7 days by AEMG Cheryl Gross

Within a week, sprouts will be ready to eat.  To create more volume and to keep them fresh, continue rinsing 2 times per day.  Keep sprouts in a dark area in a cupboard or a dark corner of your kitchen.  To green them up, expose them to light a day or two before eating.  Should you put them in a sunny window, be aware that they might dry out more quickly and therefore, rinse them more often.  

Well rinsed sprouts may be kept in the refrigerator up to a week.  However, it is best to eat them fresh!

With a few simple tools, in a week you may be eating fresh, living food grown in your kitchen and feeding your body a cure for late winter blues.

Nourish – January 2018

TC Community Garden:  New Year, New Leadership, New Benefits

by Bethany Thies, Master Gardener

If you have any interest in growing your own food, you should look into renting a plot from TC Community Garden (TCCG).  Located in the Historic Barns Park at the southwest corner of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, TCCG is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide a place for people in the area to gather and share a common interest in organic gardening in an urban setting.  

It also offers educational opportunities to the community and provides fresh produce for numerous charities.  In fact, the TCCG Teaching and Donation Garden collected over 1300 pounds of food this past growing season, which is donated on the day it is picked to Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan and distributed to area food pantries.

These three pillars of its mission – gathering, education and growing – have been the focus of the organization since it first went into operation in 2012.  Explosive growth in the organization over the past few years, though, has TCCG looking at new ways of implementing this mission.

“We really took a look at the mission statement and operational model and made some adjustments to make sure we are giving members a high-quality experience at TC Community Garden,” said TCCG Board of Directors President Zach Millican.


Gathering and Growing

One such adjustment has to do with the organization’s garden plots.   In years past, a member  had to also manage a plot.  This year, managing a plot is an add-on to membership.  Any persons who support the mission may now join the garden.  “We wanted membership to be more inclusive,” Millican said.  

Membership fees for 2018 are $35 for an individual, $60 for a duo, $100 for a family and $175 for a business/sponsor.  Membership includes free admission to most of its 2018 programming, currently about 30 events focused on promoting the TCCG’s strong fellowship.  Plot rental will be extra — $65 for a 12’ by 30’ plot or $130 for a 24’ by 30’ plot — plus an active gardener fee.   Plot renters will enjoy on-demand water, on-site composting, free soil amendments and cover crops, discounted starter plants and seeds, access to community tools and new this year, personal gardening assistance.

Plot renters must agree to organic growing practices, actively manage the plot through weeding, watering and pest control, and be an ambassador for the garden and park.  In the past, gardeners were required to commit 12 hours to help manage the garden.  However, the organization believes this detracted from members having a good gardeing experience, so it has been eliminated for 2018.



Changes have come to other areas of the organization as well.  In December, TCCG members voted to hire an executive director to help run what had been a solely volunteer-run group.   Kimberly Conaghan, who had been president and treasurer for two years, is stepping into the new position.  Acting as the liaison between the Board of Directors and the membership, she said she is extremely honored to be TCCG’s first Executive Director.  She will also be at the TCCG managing some of the new day-to-day operations.

“A big focus in 2018 is on educational programming, and more specifically, our children’s education and programming,” Conaghan said.  “There will be a weekly story time in the garden followed by a garden-themed arts and craft activity, and a monthly kids’ workshop, each with a different theme, and many family-friendly events at the September 30 Harvest Festival.”

In addition, each Friday beginning in June, TCCG will also have a Garden Market Stand offering organically grown produce to the public.  Members of TCCG will receive coupons and steep discounts.  All excess produce will continue to be donated to local charitable causes.

Also new for 2018 will be a Farm-to-Table Dinner series.  “We are still ironing out some dates and details, but they will incredible,” Conaghan said.  “We are hoping to also make them zero waste and locally sourced.”

The organization’s complete programming lineup will be released in February.

With all of the growth and changes coming to TCCG in 2018, you might be asking yourself, “where do I sign up?”  Membership for 2018 is happening now, and new plot renters may request a plot beginning January 1 by emailing  

Remember, you must be a member to rent a plot.  You can also reach the TCCG anytime by calling 231-715-1544.  

Nourish – November 2017

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Green Tomato Recipes

Alice Waters — A Revolutionary in Chef’s Clothing

Hudōr Ponos

Root Vegetable Storage


Green Tomato Recipes

Green Tomato Pie

Recipe courtesy of Diana Rattray at The Spruce submitted by Kellie Parkes, Extension Master Gardener Trainee



6 to 8 medium green tomatoes

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon butter

Pastry for a 9-inch 2-crust pie


Mash the green tomatoes well; peel and slice.

In a saucepan, combine tomatoes with lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and cinnamon. Cook the spiced tomato mixture over low heat, stirring frequently.

Combine sugar and cornstarch; stir into tomato mixture. Cook mixture until clear, stirring constantly. Add butter, remove from heat, and let stand until slightly cooled.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry; pour in tomato mixture. Cover with top pastry, seal edges, crimp, and cut several small slits in crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake at 425 F for 35 to 45 minutes or until nicely browned.  Serve warm or cooled


Green Tomato Soup

From the September 2004 issue of Gourmet magazine, submitted by Kellie Parks, Extension Master Gardener Trainee


Yield: Makes 4-6 servings

Active time: 25 min

Total Time: 45 min



2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 oz thinly sliced Black Forest ham, chopped (1/2 cup)

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions (from 1 bunch)

1 tablespoon chopped garlic (2 cloves)

1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

2 lb green unripe tomatoes, chopped

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Garnish: sour cream (optional)


Heat oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking.    Cook ham in oil, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add scallions, garlic, and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until scallions are tender and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add tomatoes, broth, water, salt, and pepper and simmer, partially covered, until tomatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf and season soup with salt and pepper.

Alice Waters on stage with local chefs Jen & Eric

Alice Waters — A Revolutionary in Chef’s Clothing

Michele Worden, Advanced Master Gardener, MGANM President

I was very excited when I learned that Alice Waters, one of my heroes, was coming to town.  She had a memoir out Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook and was going to be interviewed at the National Writer Series at the Opera House on September 24th.  

Alice Waters has influenced us all, even if we might be unaware of it.  Alice Waters work is closely tied with what Master Gardeners do and the mission of MSU Extension – educating the public about food, horticulture and sustainable agriculture.  Alice is also personally tied to our region, even though she lives in California, because her sister lives in Leelanau county.  Alice started a restaurant called Chef Panisse in Berkeley, CA in 1971.  That was just the beginning….

When I heard she was coming I also thought ‘what a great way to spread the word about MGANM and the Master Gardener program’ by connecting with this event.  Judy Reich, Nate Walton and myself manned an information table in the lobby of the Alice Waters event.  (A big thanks to Ann Stanton who made this possible!) We were a small sponsor alongside larger sponsors Groundworks and Cherry Capital Foods.  Pictures of the event can be found on our Facebook page.

I was lucky to have some time to chat with Alice.  Waters has received numerous accolades, including Harvard Medical School’s Global Environmental Citizen Award. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and inductee of the French Legion of Honor. In 2015, President Obama awarded her the National Humanities Medal.  Michelle Obama created a garden at the White House influenced by her.  And the Dalai Lama eats at her restaurant…

My favorite quote of the evening was “Eating is a political act”.  What we choose to eat means we are buying into the values that created that food.  Food for thought.

MGANM secretary (2016-2017) Judy Reich at the Alice Waters event

Edible Schoolyard

I first became aware of Alice Waters when I agreed to take over my children’s Montessori elementary school garden and greenhouse.  They handed me a set of books called “Edible Schoolyard”, and said they were trying to implement that program.   I was fascinated.

It turns out Alice had first trained as a Montessori guide, which is a philosophy and worldview that seems pervasive in all her work.  The Edible Schoolyard connects the cycle of food (growing, preparing food) with ethnobotany (cultural origin and uses of plants), and academic subjects such as math and science.  It has become a national movement.  Alice started a garden and a cooking program at a nearby underserved middle school in Berkley  California over 20 years ago.  She created something new and wonderful.  This work continues through the Chef Panisse foundation and the

A direct off-shoot of Edible Schoolyard is the Farm to School movement  and FoodCorps.  Many, many children today have been positively impacted by her work.   Alice was the keynote speaker at the American Horticultural Society Children and Youth Gardening Symposium in California a few years ago.

Nate Walton of MSUExtension and Judy Reich of MGANM

Slow Food Movement and Seasonal Eating

Alice is also very famous for her world renowned restaurant, Chef Panisse.   Alice and Chef Panisse started so many trends with huge economic and health implications that I will mention just a few.  Alice never trained as a chef but after living in France, she wanted to bring to her small restaurant what she remembered from France.  In France, only the freshest ingredients were used.  There was a wondrous variety of greens for salads, and produce fresh from the farmer, each season.  Chez Panisse is famous for cooking local food seasonally.  The menu changes daily based upon what is available.  The cooking is simple, letting the quality of the ingredients speak.  The Cooks House in Traverse City is modeled on Chez Panisse.  This is why the owners of The Cooks House, Jennifer Blakeslee and Eric Patterson, were Waters’ interviewees at the Opera house.

Alice started her restaurant in the era of iceberg lettuce.  She made salad greens sexy.  She made the variety of greens for salads we see today possible.  Unhappy with iceberg lettuce, Alice ordered greens seeds from France and asked her local farmers to grow things like arugula and other unheard of greens for her restaurant.  Soon other restaurants in the San Francisco bay area copied her.  Gourmet greens became a huge food fashion trend and thus the organic greens industry was born.  Local Farmer Nic Welty says he makes more money selling gourmet greens than his heirloom tomatoes.  They are a high value crop.

Alice’s desire to have the freshest ingredients led her to buy directly from farmers and list them in her restaurant.  Does this sound familiar?  Alice has written several books, one being “Slow Food” and “Simple Foods”.  She is the architect of the Slow Food Movement, eating seasonally, and knowing where your food comes from – knowing your farmers.  She is a big advocate for Sustainable Agriculture and the inspiration for the Foodie movement which is so much a part of Traverse Area.  Think of her next time you eat a farm to table meal in an area restaurant.  She is one of the sparks that ignited the Farm Markets trends.

Local Roots and Connections

Some fun facts.  Groundworks has been bringing Farm to School to northern Michigan through a series of several programs since 2001.  Retired MSUE person and farmer Jim Bardenhagen has been active in this.

Children in Benzie, Leelanau and Grand Traverse have had FoodCorp service members and Master Gardeners teaching students gardening and nutrition off and on since 2009.  Currently they are working in Traverse Heights and Boyne Falls.  Staff from Boyne Falls were trained at Edible Schoolyard in California this past summer.  TBAISD has a Farm to School curriculum developed by FoodCorps and Master Gardeners on their website as a resource for teachers.

Groundworks started Taste the Local Difference to promote access to local farmers produce at the farmers market, in schools and institutions, restaurants and grocery stores.  Look for their signs in groceries stores to indicate local produce for sale.  It’s hard to remember that not that long ago, local food was not in our grocery stores.  The only apples we could get came from Washington State.  All local food was sold to large industrial distributors.

Alice Waters encouraged and mentored her brother-in-law to make only organic bread from the best quality ingredients.  Artisan bread.  She told him people would buy it if he put in the quality.  It was a new concept at the time.  Thus was born Stone House bread in Traverse City.

This is just a short list of some of Alice’s influence.  The ripple of effect of her work continues to still expand and grow.  Alice is not attention-seeking, but the next time you enjoy Butternut Squash soup and a spring greens salad, think about where it came from.  Alice will be proud.

Hydroponics, photo by Michael O’Brien

Hudōr Ponos

Michael O’Brien, Extension Master Gardener Trainee

Ever put a plant cutting in a glass of water to root?  Congratulations!  That’s the first step towards creating a hydroponic garden.  Hudōr ponos, in its Greek origin, means water-labor or working with water.  Here in the U.S., Hudōr ponos was translated in 1937 to hydroponics.  Although somewhat new to our country, the practice has been around for centuries.  

In fact, legend has it hydroponics started as a labor of love.  According to legend, in 600 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar II built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for his wife Queen Amytis because he knew how much she missed the valleys and green hills of her homeland in Media.

Throughout history, there have been many attempts to grow plants year round in an environment that protects them from the elements.  For example, it is believed that the ancient Romans grew off-season cucumbers under transparent stones.  Around the first century A.D. the Romans were building their form of a greenhouse to grow fresh vegetables and salads year round for the emperors.  In the 1600s, urban farmers built fruit walls as one technique to grow Mediterranean fruits and vegetables as far north as England and the Netherlands.  These massive walls would collect heat from the sun during the day and radiate the heat at night.  In Europe during the 17th century, John Woodward was working with spearmint.  The focus of his experiment was to grow the plant without soil.  He discovered that the plants grew bigger and stronger without soil than conventionally.   By the 1700’s the first “glass house” was built.  These early greenhouses only had glass on one side of a sloping roof.  Later in that same century glass was used on both sides.  The glass house was used for fruit crops such as melons, grapes, peaches, strawberries; rarely for vegetable production.

In the United States, it was the government that became one of the early proponents of hydroponics. During WWII, the Pentagon was faced with the challenge of supplying food to the servicemen stationed in the Pacific.  It was difficult to send food and many of the Islands were too rocky to grow food.  They solved this problem by using hydroponic systems to produce the food needed to feed these soldiers and sailors.  

The first time polyethylene was used to cover a greenhouse was in 1948 by Professor Emery Myers Emmert at the University of Kentucky.  This was a big leap for hydroponics because plastic is less expensive than glass.  The next hurdle that needed to be accomplished was creating a good growing medium and a quality nutrient solution for growing plants in water.

In many respects growing plants in a hydroponic system is similar to putting a plant cutting in a glass of water, and it can be that simple.  It’s exciting to see seedlings growing into large robust plants.  I enjoy hydroponics because I can make a system simple or as complicated as I want.  An example of a simple system would be using a disposable aluminum roasting pan, plastic containers for the plants to sit in or net pots and a growing medium.  An air-stone and an aquarium air pump can be used, though it’s optional.  That would cost about fifteen dollars and last for a year or more.

Raft style system. Photo by Michael O’Brien

One-month old Bok Choy Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis. Photo by Michael O’Brien

Hydroponics at home

The three types of hydroponic systems that I am familiar with are the raft, ebb & flow, and aeroponic systems.  The raft system, shown above, allows the plants to float in a container with just enough nutrient solution to wet the roots.  This allows a nice balance between air and liquid.  

In the ebb & flow system the plants are placed in a tube and the tube is on a slight angle.  This allows the nutrients to flow past the roots and drain out of the lower end of the tube.  Generally this cycling is set on a timer which creates the balance between the air and the solution.  A similar system called flood & drain works on the same principles but is designed so an entire tank, rather than just a tube, fills with nutrient solution to a set level, and once the level has been achieved the entire tank empties.  

What’s interesting about this system is that the drain tube is triggered by using physics.  There is an automatic air bubble that is created in the drain tube when the tank is filling.  That air bubble will continue to rise in the drain tube until it reaches what is called the “breaking point.”  When the breaking point is reached gravity takes over and the drain tube creates a siphon which will drain all the water out of the tank.   The solution is continuously drained out of the tank and by doing so it insures that the roots don’t drown.  

It is important to keep in mind that even though the plants are in water, the water must have air added to it in some way to keep the water fresh and alive.  Using a splashing effect when the solution returns to the reservoir will add air into the solution.  An air bubbler is another way.  

Another method that can be used would be the aeroponic system.  This is an amazing system that I really enjoy working with.  It is also used at the Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center in Florida.  This technique uses the principle of spraying nutrient solution on the roots for a short period of time.  The roots of the plants dangle in the air which creates the balance of air and solution water.

Through the advancement of technology there are many options available to use as a growing medium.  There are special clay balls, peat moss cubes, coconut coir cubes, and all them will work quite well.  People have even worked with old towels.  It really boils down to a person’s preference and what works best.  For more information on growing mediums click here.

A tomato seedling growing in a peat moss cube. Photo by Michael O’Brien

The food or nutrient that is added to your water is much more specific.  Yes, plant food that is used for plants planted in soil will work for a very short time, but it is inappropriate and the plants will die off quickly.  The nutrients used in hydroponics must mimic the qualities found in perfect soil.  It includes micro-organisms and macro-organisms which are needed to keep the organic matter balanced.  

The nutrient solution can also affect the pH of the water, so it is important to have a pH meter.   For a good inexpensive pH meter, click here.  The most common pH range is 5.8 to 6.8.  This will allow the roots to absorb all of the nutrients needed to keep the plants healthy and strong.  For more information on the relationship between pH and nutrients, click here.  

When there’s a good balance between air and nutrient solution, plants will have lots of white roots, which means they’re healthy and strong.  Plants grown in water have a different type of root than plants grown in soil.  Plants grown in soil have very fine roots like hairs, whereas plants grown in water have thicker, more brittle roots.  Also plants grown in a nutrient solution generally grow faster and bigger.

An example of healthy white roots from a plant growing in an aeroponic system. Photo by Michael O’Brien

Most hydroponic systems are indoors so it is also important to understand lighting and the effects it has on plants.  There are many different types of lights available.  Again, simple lighting will work or more specific requirements may be needed.  The spectrum of light is a key factor to understand.   Each spectrum triggers different responses from the plants—blue light induces vegetative growth, red light induces flowering.  

In addition, light intensity – measured in degrees Kelvin — must also be considered.  An example of this is the light intensity outdoors in June. The light is much different than in November.  Growing plants in lighting that mimics June’s sunlight would create a lot of plant growth.  The opposite is also true.  If I wanted to get Poinsettias, Euphorbia pulcherrima, to bloom for December I would greatly reduce the time the plants receive light and the spectrum would be in the red range. I would choose a light spectrum in the range of 2500k to 3500k (k=kelvin), and I would lower the temperature in the room.  

With improvements in fluorescent lighting, these systems can be economical and effective.  Another positive point for fluorescent lighting is that they only give off a small amount of heat, so the lights can be placed closer to the plants.  I use fluorescent lights, one blue and one red spectrum bulb, with good results.

In this article I am only touching on some of the important elements when working with hydroponics.  If this sounds interesting to you, one book I would recommend is How-To Hydroponics by Keith Roberto. The internet is also a good source for information.  

Below are links to an aeroponic system at the Epcot Center in Florida and one located in New Orleans.  The other video is a demonstration on a raft style system.

Aeroponic System

Raft Style System

Photo by Einarspetz via Wikimedia Commons

Root Vegetable Storage

Bethany Thies, Master Gardener

Fall is harvest time and that is especially true for our cool-weather loving root vegetables.  Although many root vegetables can be harvested throughout the growing season, autumn is the peak time for pulling such mealtime staples as carrots, rutabagas, turnips, potatoes, beets and onions.   And while it can be very rewarding to harvest basket after basket of potatoes and onions, the question does arise this time of year:  What am I going to do with all this produce?

Luckily for us, root vegetables can have a long shelf life if stored properly.  In fact, fall’s cooler temperatures actually encourage root vegetables like beets, carrots and parsnips to store more sugars and less water, which in turn not only make them sweeter but also better keepers.  

Of course, root vegetables can be preserved through traditional techniques such as canning, pickling, freezing, and dehydrating.  The Michigan State University Extension website has numerous articles on the subject as well as a great online Home Food Preservation course (  This self-paced program covers such topics as “Preservation—The Basics,” “Jams and Jellies,” “Pickling,” “Preserving High-Acid Foods,” “Preserving Low-Acid Foods,” “Blanching and Freezing” and “Dehydrating.”  Cost of the course is $10 and you can print a certificate upon completion.

The beauty of root vegetables, though, is that with the right preparation they can be stored for months without any additional processing.  Here are some tips from the National Gardening Association ( and Mother Earth News (

Storage basics

  • It’s best to dig up root vegetables after two or three days of dry weather.  While this might be a little difficult for us in Northern Michigan as of late, waiting until sunny skies has several benefits.  First, the root crops will be dry and less likely to develop mold during storage.  Also, by leaving them in the sun for a few hours after pulling, you’ll kill the root hairs, making the plant both dormant and allowing the soil on the roots to fall off more easily.
  • Never wash roots before you store them.  Simply shake or brush off what dirt you can and cut any tops to about an inch.  Wash the roots just before using them.
  • Only store the best roots.  Those that are damaged by insects or harvesting should be eaten fresh.  In addition, don’t ever clip off the bottom end of the root before you put it in storage.  Any breaches in the root’s protective outer layer, either from injuries or clipping, will open the plant up to rot.


  • Certain root vegetables must be cured in order to keep well.  For example, garlic and onions should be spread out in a dry, protected area and exposed to the sun for a week.  Freshly harvested sweet potatoes should be cured in a warm, damp place—aim for 80–85°F and 90% humidity—to toughen their skins and encourage healing of small scratches.  Curing white potatoes isn’t as essential as it is with sweet potatoes, but it’s a good idea to spread the spuds out in a shady, sheltered spot for a two-week skin-toughening period before storing.  Remember sunlight will turn potatoes green and toxic.  

Root cellar know-how

  • To stay crisp and fresh, root crops just need cool, moist, dark surroundings. Temperatures slightly above freezing are optimal.  Traditionally, this has been accomplished with a root cellar.  And as the name implies, the technique focused on storing root crops in an underground storage room or cellar.  Many times these rooms were simply holes, with dirt walls and floors, dug under a building.  
  • Today, most gardeners can approximate such conditions in an unheated corner of a basement or garage.  The most important element is keeping an even, cold temperature.  Variations up or down of even five degrees can cause new growth to sprout or rotting. So a bit of insulation can be key.  Ventilation is also important to help keep mold from forming.  The goal is cold and moist, not freezing and wet.
  • If you have an unheated basement and some building skills, you can make a root cellar by partitioning off one corner, installing some insulation and a good, sound door.  This space should be adjacent to an outside wall so that it can be ventilated with fresh, cold air (you are basically creating a walk-in refrigerator).  For plans and how-to tips for building a full-size root cellar, see and
  • For those of us not willing or able to take on a construction project, there are other ways to create root cellar-like storage.  For example, cured potatoes and other root vegetables can be placed in a burlap bag and tucked into a plastic storage bin left slightly open and stored in an unheated basement.  Other suggestions include using an old dresser with the drawers partially open for ventilation for root veggie storage in a cool room, basement or unheated garage.  Similarly, plastic laundry baskets lined with newspapers and the roots arranged in layers between more newspapers and then covered can also be used.   Another technique often suggested is the insulated box method, where you start with a large box lined on the bottom, sides and top with several inches of sawdust or peat moss. Pack the roots in the sawdust and store the box in a cold place–your garage, back porch or an unheated spare room.  Whenever you need some vegetables, just take them out and repack the sawdust around the rest.
  • When you do go to get your vegetables from storage be sure to check for any roots that may not be keeping as well others and cull them.  Don’t worry if a few start to deteriorate; it happens.  As long as you remove them, the rest will be all right.
  • And finally, if your vegetables freeze in storage, don’t panic, you can still use them.  Once they’ve thawed, though, they won’t keep for more than a day or so.

Nourish – Sep 2017

Zucchini con Patate Recipe

by Kellie Parks, MG Trainee

This is the time of year when it seems we are all looking for new things to do with zucchini. Here is a super simple recipe I unearthed from the old 1975 Better Home and Gardens Heritage Cookbook. It comes from the Italian chapter, which highlights the delicious contributions that Italian immigrants have added to the American table. Some of you veggie growing readers might be able to pick nearly all the ingredients right out of your garden!

Zucchini con Patate

1 medium onion, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups sliced zucchini

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

1 medium tomato, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

½ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

In skillet, cook onion in oil until tender but not brown.  Stir in vegetables, oregano, salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Cook, covered, till potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

Nourish – July 2017

On the Radar July & August  Water, weed, harvest, repeat.  Our peas are coming in fast now at the end of June.  Pick one day… and more are ready the very next.  Summer squash is notorious for doubling in size over night to become baseball bat-like.  Lettuce will be bolting soon, so harvest, eat and share all that you can.  It is the curse of the vegetable gardener who plants energetically in spring and to be overwhelmed with produce in August!

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Food Security and Volunteering

Grow Your Own Nutritious and Healthy Wild Rice

More Rhubarb Fun

Photo from

Food Security and Volunteering

by Annette Kleinschmidt, Leelanau County MSU Extension Office Manager

The Leelanau Christian Neighbor’s (LCN) with the help of numerous Master Gardeners has constructed and planted 23 raised vegetable garden beds at their new location near Lake Leelanau.  These gardens were planted by dedicated volunteers to grow food for their food pantry patrons, which they call “Neighbors.”  The gardens look FANTASTIC!  They are looking for a committed volunteer to oversee its growing and harvesting season. We have a great committee of folks and other MG volunteers to help weed and harvest (still need more!) but need someone to organize everyone.  The only ‘criteria’ is that they have a knowledge, or at least passion, for vegetable gardening and can be organized.  This isn’t a difficult role, just need a go-to person. 

Are you the kind of person that likes to get your hands in rich soil – grow healthy produce – meet people with your interests – then join in the fun! They definitely need YOU!

If you are able to take the lead, please email me at or Mary Stanton at LCN at

On a related note, the LCN Garden will have TWO weekly work bees on Monday mornings from 9am – noon, and on Thursday evenings from 4pm – 7pm from now until the end of harvest in fall.  They could always use more MG volunteers!  This is a great opportunity to educate LCN volunteers on proper vegetable garden maintenance.  If you can help during those times, you can just show up, or let myself (, or Nate know, ( – until we get a lead person, we’ll try to help in the interim!  Even if you can only come for an hour, that helps!  There are some gardening tools in the garage there, but bring your own gloves and hand tools if you can.  The LCN garden is located at 7322 E Duck Lake Rd, Lake Leelanau, MI 49653. 

Photo by

Grow Your Own Nutritious and Healthy Wild Rice

by Sally Perkins, contributor

When did you last try wild rice? If the answer is either “never” or “not sure,” then it is high time you gave it a go. Not only does it have a far more interesting flavor than conventional white or brown rice, it is also vastly superior in terms of nutritional content. And what’s more, you could even try growing it yourself, right here in Michigan.

Looks and even names can be deceptive – wild rice is actually a type of grass, and is a completely different crop to ordinary rice, although it can be used and cooked in more or less the same way. Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional gains of eating wild rice, and why it is the ideal ingredient to include in family meals and snacks.

Boosts your immune system

One of the reasons that health experts get so enthusiastic about wild rice is that it is one of the best sources of antioxidants around, containing as much in one spoonful as you would get from an entire portion of white rice. This means it is great for keeping your heart, skin and general immune system in tip top condition.

Furthermore, it is high in phytonutrients, which have even been shown to guard against certain forms of cancer!

A great source of protein

Wild rice also has a higher protein content than other types of rice. And as it is suitable for people on grain free as well as gluten free diets, that can be great news for those who can find it hard to come up with foodstuffs that tick the boxes for both taste and nutrition.

Grow your own

You do not need acres of paddy fields to have a go at growing your own wild rice, but you do need a pond or some wetland space. The seed has to go through a cold dormancy period before it can germinate, so the best time to plant is in the fall.

The growing season is April to August, and your crop needs to be in mildly acidic water throughout. Wild rice will grow in a depth of anything between four inches and five feet, but around 18 inches is ideal. Distribute your seeds at a rate of around an ounce of seed for every five square yards.

If the seeds germinate, you will start to see leaves on the surface of the water, during which time all the real action is taking place beneath the surface while the root system develops. Once it has done so, the plant will start shooting up to a mature height of six to nine feet, and you are ready to harvest your crop.

Once sown, wild rice will reseed itself for the following year, leaving you nothing more to do but sit back and enjoy. Good luck!

Photo by

More Rhubarb Fun

by Nancy Denison, Advanced  EMG

My remodeled garden has fewer rhubarb plants but they are producing well, so I am always on the outlook for unique rhubarb recipes. I found this one last year from Taste of Home where the recipe is also available online under rhubarb scones. It is easy, freezable and tasty. Enjoy!

1 ¼ C whole wheat flour

1 ¼ C all-purpose flour

½ C sugar

1 TBSP baking powder

1 tsp cardamom (I have not used this)

½ tsp salt

½ C cold, unsalted butter, cubed

1 ½ C finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb (if using frozen, drain in colander but do not express liquid)

½ C heavy whipping cream

¼ C fat free milk

1 tsp vanilla

Coarse sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 400. In large bowl, whisk the first six ingredients. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add rhubarb, toss to coat.
  1. In another bowl, whisk cream, milk and vanilla; stir into crumb mixture just until moistened.
  1. Turn mixture onto a floured surface; knead gently 4-5 times. Divide dough in half; pat into two round circles. Cut each into eight wedges. Place wedges on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 18-20 minutes until golden brown.  Makes 16 scones.


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