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President's Letter

During the time of pandemic, we live in two worlds.  Outside is sunny, hot and beautiful.  My garden is in bloom, the sky bright blue, and Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies dive bomb me on my daily walks.  As I walk, I hear the hum of happy bees thronging to the milkweed that line the sides of my road. 

I am only aware of the other world that is under siege when I don my mask early Monday mornings to go work on the Downtown Planters Project (pollinator gardeners and Citizen Science project) on Front Street in Traverse City.    In Downtown, I see the other people in masks, keeping their distance, with many storefronts closed or limiting the number of people inside.  This is the world of the virus.

We live in challenging times.  Our goal, then, is to rise to the challenge.  Two of the ways we at MGANM have tried to rise to the challenge is by connecting Master Gardeners  through our eNewsletter and through continuing our monthly educational meetings to the online Zoom platform. 

One of our biggest challenges, at the moment, is replacing our editor for The Real Dirt newsletter.  We owe a big thank you to our outgoing editor Lisa Hagerty.  She did a great job!  Unfortunately, due to personal circumstances she is not able to continue at this time.  We will miss her.  In the meantime, Cheryl Gross and Whitney Miller are helping to put out our July edition.  A big thank you to them!  We really need to have an editor in place for our next edition in September or we risk losing this resource, which you have all said you valued so much when we surveyed you last year.  If you can help with this vital Master Gardener connection point in the time of Covid – please contact Cheryl Gross at 231-651-9656 or at  To take on the publishing of the Real Dirt call Whitney Miller at 757) 287-9630 or at

Another challenge has been our member meetings.  We have successfully had three great speaker presentations;  April we heard Robin Smillie of Garden Goods talk about “Hot Plants for 2020!”  (I bought some!); in May Carolyn Thayer of Designs in Bloom gave an excellent presentation on “Gardening for Water Quality”; in June we enjoyed Angie Lucas from the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy speak on native ferns in “Ferntastic!”  We are currently hoping to have a Zoom program viticulture on Old Mission peninsula.  This was originally scheduled as tour of several wineries to see their cutting edge growing technology.  Stay tuned for updates on an August online meeting! 

One event that we will miss this year is the Friendly Garden Club Garden Walk in July.  MGANM has been a sponsor of this event the last couple of years, and it was always fun and educational to see many wonderful gardens.  We can’t make it happen this year, but we can still share our gardens with each other.  If you take pictures or short videos of your garden, you can share them to the MGANM Facebook page, or email them to The Real Dirt and we will share with them with the membership.    I can’t wait to take a virtual tour of Master Gardener gardens!  Take the MG Garden Challenge!

Last, our final challenge of this year is filling our board positions and the position of President.   Our organization can only carry on through fresh and strong leadership.  New leaders are needed periodically to bring an infusion of fresh ideas.  We are not sure yet what November will look like for our Volunteer Recognition Luncheon and election of new board members.  We hope to meet in person for our annual celebration, but life is not full of certainty at the moment. Think about rising to the challenge to help the association by serving on the board during this time of COVID as a way of giving back.  It has never been easier to serve using Zoom and other tools we have put in place.  I plan to assist with transitions and even remain on the board in another capacity, if we can tweak the bylaws to allow it.

Finally, wherever you are, get outside and immerse yourself in the joy of nature and plants.  Plants will sustain us and help us grow. 

Thank you for all you do. 

Photo by Cheryl Gross


Plant Communities Landscape Design
by Cheryl A. Gross, AEMG

Separating tress, shrubs, and grasses with mulch is an odd, unnatural, and labor intensive way to landscape.  Instead, look to mimic how plants grow naturally in layers and in communities.  This landscape design method reduces the need to weed and mulch landscaped beds and helps provide the absence and much needed habitat for wildlife, pollinators, birds, and more


Citizen Science Project

Master Gardeners are engaged with Traverse City and Nate Walton, our MSUE Master Gardener Coordinator, on a Citizen Science Project involving the downtown planter boxes, soils, plants, and pollinators.  Stay tuned to learn more about this interesting endeavor!


Get Ready for the 2021 Northwest Michigan Fair
by  Gayla Elsner

For some of us going to the Fair is a rite of summer.  See the 4H kids with their animals, see the handiwork, flowers, fruits, and vegetables on display.  COVID has changed a lot in our lives this summer, including cancelling the Fair.  That doesn’t mean we should forget the Fair.  It means we get an entire season, NOW, to be ready to enter and volunteer next year!

Photo by Michael O'Brien


Bale Raised Beds: My experiment and project for this year’s growing season
By, Michael O’Brien, AEMG

Gardening is an experiment every year.  What plants will do well?  Which might fail miserably?  How does a home gardener manage crop rotation in a vegetable bed?  Michael O’Brien, took a big leap this year and experimented with a new way to vegetable garden using hay bales to make a raised bed.  It’s a cliff hanger!

Photo by Michele Worden

MGANM Administration Opportunities

Change is in the air and afoot for our wonderful MGANM. 

Board elections are coming this fall and we need to replace our President.  Michele Worden has done an excellent job growing and energizing the organization.  It will be an exciting time to fill the Presidential role.

Additionally, our Real Dirt Editor is vacant.  Lisa Hagerty did a swell job and the new Editor can keep the Real Dirt on the same path or move it forward with a new vision.

Finally, to bring the Real Dirt to you each edition, Whitney Miller has been the “techie chick” behind the scenes for the past 7 years uploading all of the content and pictures and blasting the newsletter. Her position is vacant as well.  Anyone with technical savvy would enjoy working on the layout and behind the scenes life of the Real Dirt.

News & Events

MSU Extension
Zoom office hour with your MSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator. 
Thursdays from 4 - 5pm
This will be a weekly opportunity for info about volunteer projects, assistance with VMS/VSP processes, and/or just a fun time to chat about gardening! Here is the link to join.

Please check the website for updates on online meetings.  There is no meeting for July.

All events have been cancelled temporarily, however, The Garden and Labyrinth are still available to enjoy.

Podcasts for the new program Grand Traverse Outside are available.  Please consult the website and Facebook page.  Please see the website to check if any events are re-scheduled.

Please see the website  to see if any events are re-scheduled.

Please see  for information on downloading a great app to submit bumblebee sightings to help these amazing pollinators.

Gardening For Invertebrates:  A New Xerces Webinar Series.   Join Xerces staff for a summer of gardening. Learn how to provide for invertebrates and the important role they play in our world. These 1-hour programs are offered every first and third Thursday from June through September at 10:00 am PDT / 11:00am MDT / 12 noon CDT / 1:00pm EDT.

We are looking for help maintaining the planters that the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority is partnering with us on, to help beautify downtown, provide resources for pollinators, and educate the public. Let me know if you'd like to be involved. 

Master Gardener Volunteers will assist Grand Traverse County and Garfield Township in the development of an underutilized greenspace property that can increase physical activity for a much needed area of Grand Traverse County.  The area surrounding the Lafranier Loops project is made up of high density housing with children, adults and senior citizens of lower than average household income. The project offers a no-cost option for physical activity and nature education with multiple access points to the walking trails and will provide equity for those who live, work and recreate in the area.

Specifically, MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers will provide expertise in plant selection and establishment of a rain garden on the property. They will also assist with creating educational signage throughout the trail system to educate visitors about native plants and wildlife that can be found there.

GT County was awarded a grant in 2020 to support this project. If you would like your name to be added to a list of potential volunteers please email or call Nate Walton (, 231-256-9888 x323).

The Pavilions is owned by Grand Traverse County and operated by the Grand Traverse County Department of Health and Human Services Board, and committed to enhancing the quality of life for aging adults and caregivers. The Pavilions staff are looking for some assistance for their volunteers that maintain the courtyards. They would like Master Gardener volunteers to train their landscape staff and other employees, as well as community volunteers, to properly manage the plants in the courtyards.  Some hands-on work may be required, but the majority of the work will be educating others how to properly maintain the plants and making suggestions as to potential new plantings.  They would also like to have an EMG visit the courtyards to give presentations to the residents, teaching them about the plants, perhaps twice per summer. If interested in assisting with gardens at the Grand Traverse Pavilions, please contact: Tim Coggins, Environmental Services Director, Grand Traverse Pavilions, 231-932-3131

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