The Real Dirt is back and better than ever!               January 2021
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Molly Bacon has offered to take on the Editor/Chairperson position. Read her autobiographical article further into the newsletter.

President's Letter

by Michele Worden, AEMG, MGANM PresidentHappy New Year

I am writing this letter to you during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve.  The snow is falling heavily outside my window and it will be a white Christmas.  

It is an opportune time to look back over the past year at the challenges we faced and the accomplishments we achieved.  It is also an ideal vantage point to look forward to things to come in 2021.  

In 2020, we started the year in-person, and we had some interesting and informative programs on herbs and plant diagnostics.  When the pandemic struck, we moved our events to Zoom and continued our Schedule.  (A review of 2020 can be found in the event video for the November 8th Volunteer Recognition Event (see meeting minutes article and video) We found that online, our attendance at events actually increased.  I believe that is because, like our tagline, we actually are “Connecting gardeners through Learning”.  During the pandemic, it is even more important to connect Master Gardeners with each other. 

 Furthering both the Association’s mission of both sharing MSUE scientifically based horticultural knowledge, AS WELL AS connecting Master Gardeners together through learning, we have a quality line-up of speakers for 2021.  We do need your help to make it happen though.

As the Association’s portfolio of responsibilities has grown over the years, we find that we need additional help outside of the board.  For example, we need members to step forward and join our programming committee.  Please get in touch with me. 

Many thanks to Molly Bacon who is our new Real Dirt Editor!  She is shepherding an enthusiastic group of talented gardeners, cum writers, to produce this e-Newsletter that features local content. 

Another activity I am excited about is our new Master Gardener Book Club.  What a great way to connect through the winter months and during the pandemic!  I am excited to start reading the first book, Uprooted: A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again by Page Dickey, over break.  You can join by logging into the membership portal (Wild Apricot) from our website, going to your profile settings, and selecting the Committee “Garden Book Club”.  This will allow you to get emails about the book club. 

Fun fact – if you want to connect to your fellow MGANM members, you can find a directory of members in the portal.  You can even download the Wild apricot membership app to your phone and have the events and directory at your fingertips.  What could be more convenient? 

We have projects that the Association would like to pursue in 2021 and we need volunteers to make them happen.  For example, we would like to do an update of our website content and a committee to review the website and propose updates would be most welcome. Remember, volunteering for the Association qualifies for Volunteer Hours. 

As we close upon 2020, I look back and feel very grateful for all of you, and what you contribute to the community. Your spirit of giving back through service, sharing your knowledge, and contributing through horticulture makes the world a better place.  Thank you. 

I look forward to serving with you in 2021, on Zoom, in the garden, fields, and streams of Northwest lower Michigan.

Carpe Diem! And Happy New Year

Coordinator’s Corner
Nate Walton, MSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator/Consumer Horticulture Program Instructor
MSU Extension hires new staff to support consumer horticulture programming in Northwest Lower Michigan!  MSU Extension Master Gardeners and residents of Michigan’s Northwest Lower Peninsula can look forward to additional support from MSU Extension next year, in the form of recently hired Consumer Horticulture Program Assistant, Wendy Bell. Wendy will be working part time to support the efforts of the local MSU Extension consumer horticulture program, which includes administration of the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program®.
A resident of Traverse City, Wendy was hired late in 2020, to assist with the Volunteer Selection Process (VSP) for certified MSU Extension Master Gardeners. Going forward, in 2021, her responsibilities will be expanded to include administrative support for the entire Leelanau/Benzie/Grand Traverse MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer roster. In addition, Wendy will be developing new educational program offerings from MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture, featuring MSU Extension Specialists, Extension Educators, as well as local educators. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for announcements from Wendy regarding these unique educational opportunities via your Volunteer Management System (VMS), program emails, and social media postings, in 2021.
At MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture, we are always open to suggestions, so if you have a topic that you would like to hear more about from MSU Extension, please let us know by email to Similarly, if you have a topic that you would like to develop into an educational program as part of your MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer service, please reach out to Wendy.
As we enter the New Year, many of you will have the opportunity to greet Wendy as she helps you navigate your annual re-certification for MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers beginning this month! When that opportunity arises, please join me in offering Wendy a warm welcome to MSU Extension!  Thank you as always for volunteering with MSU Extension, and I look forward to working with all of you in 2021 and for many years to come.


Hello From Your New The Real Dirt Editor

by Molly Bacon, EMG Trainee

MGANM is pleased to announce the new editor for The Real Dirt, which had been on hiatus for several months.  Molly has accepted the challenge of being editor and brings a great deal of experience and knowledge.  She is looking for more contributors plus another “techie” comrade to work in collaboration for the newsletter and website.   Read about Molly in the following article.

News & Events

There are so many wonderful events and workshops happening in our community that we simply cannot list them all. Please be sure to check directly with the websites and Facebook pages for these organizations and the events that they offer:

Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park, Boardman River Nature Center, Grand Traverse Conservation District, Plant it Wild, Wild Ones, NW Michigan Invasive Species Network, NW Michigan Horticulture Research Center, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Saving Birds Thru Habitat, Benzie Conservation District, Leelanau Conservation District, and Leelanau Conservancy.


Presently all meetings are being held via Zoom format.  For more information, please see the website
Jan. 5th (Tue.)  “Composting and Biochar” 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Feb. 2nd (Tue.)  “Seed Starting” 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Mar. 2nd (Tue.)  “Plants Used By Native Americans” 6:30-8:00 p.m.



Please check the website for Zoom presentations. The GardenBotanic Garden and Labyrinth are still available to enjoy.  The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park is always open to the public.  Please check the website for current information on the gift shop. The Garden looks forward to welcoming visitors and is working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy while providing guests with the best possible experience. 

TOUR THE GARDEN FROM YOUR ARMCHAIR   There is an exciting new feature on The Botanic Garden’s website – an audio tour of The Garden. Click on ‘Visit’ at the top of the home page, and then select ‘Self-Guided Audio Tour’.  You can access this feature on your cell phones as well. Whether you are actually walking The Garden or curled up at home, you can hear all about each garden and special feature, including an introductory historic background.   Self-guided tour brochures are available at both the upper and lower-level entrances of the visitor center and are aligned with the audio tour.



Finding happiness one bloom at a time
Reprinted with permission from Dixie SandbornMichigan State University Extension – originally published, December 8, 2020

This year has been so difficult for so many.  Bringing the beauty of flowers into the home is one way to help brighten the day during the winter.  In this article you will find many ways to accomplish this.

Keep your amaryllis growing for years
By:  Dawn Chalker, AEMG

Amaryllis are gorgeous flowers you often see at this time of the year for sale, but did you know you can keep them growing year after year?
Learn how.

10 Things Nobody Tells You About Poinsettias
Written By Michelle Slatalla  Published: December 21, 2020 on the Gardenista website
Shared by Molly Bacon, EMG Trainee


There are so many facts about this beautiful flower that most people (myself included) did not know. Read to find out and be sure to check the second website link for more information.

Botanic Garden Update
By:  Karen Schmidt, Botanic Garden Coordinator

The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park is a magical place and so many incredible projects have been completed in the past few years.  There is a wonderful audio tour available on the website to give you an overview on the various parts of the gardens.  It is thoroughly enjoyable and just the thing to help during the wintertime.



Food of the Month

Butternut Squash (Cucurbita moschata)
By:  Jane Denay, EMG Trainee

Squash vineSquash BlossomSquash is such a wonderful plant that is beautiful in the garden and the fruit has so many culinary uses.  This article on butternut squash gives wonderful background information on this amazing plant and advice on growing it in your garden.  The recipe below, using this squash, is one that will probably become one of your favorites.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Onion and Apple Pizza
By:  Jane Denay, EMG Trainee
What’s for dinner?
Pizza!!  Try this wonderful pizza.  It will surely become a favorite.

Will you be ready for seed starting?
By:  Molly Bacon, MG Trainee
Even though it is still too early to actually start seeds it is important to plan ahead so you will be ready when the appropriate time comes to start your seeds. 
These topics will help guide you.

Book Review
The Well-Gardened MIND: The Restorative Power of NatWell-Gardened Mindure
Author: Sue Stuart-Smith, Copyright: 2020, Published by: Scribner
Reviewed by Jane Denay, EMG Trainee

Winter is the perfect time to read and the book “The Well-Gardened MIND:  The Restorative Power of Nature” and is one that should be at the top of your list.  Sue Stuart-Smith has an amazing background, and her book is sure to be interesting and informative.

MGAMN Garden Book Club 
January is the beginning of a garden book club and with our weather the timing is perfect.  Please see the article for all the details and consider joining.


Help Needed – MGANM Programming Chairperson

MGANM has always had informative and fun programs and 2021 is no different.  Even though the format has been a bit different this year than previous years and may remain for some time next year the programs are sure to be ones that you will enjoy.  Help is needed for a programming chairperson.  Please see the following article for more information.

Traverse City Has a Botanic Garden?
By Pamela Filkins, AEMG

The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park is a real gem in our area and is in the heart of Traverse City.  The Botanic Garden is a year-round sanctuary of environmental preservation, recreation, and education. Its 25 acres nurtures the soul, enlivens our history, and promotes Michigan’s natural beauty. With an emphasis on plant species native to northwest Michigan, it creates and enhances habitats for various forms of wildlife.  
Read how Pamela volunteers her time.

MGANM Annual Meeting Minutes and Recognition Event Summary
By:  Erin Paxson, EMG Trainee

 Recognition Event
The annual MGAMN meeting was held via Zoom this year on November 8th, 2020.  Even though it was a bit different than being together and enjoying delicious food and conversation it was a
wonderful event.



Pruning Matters… Or the Matter of Pruning
By:  Cheryl A. Gross, AEMG
Tree pruning

One of the most daunting subjects for gardeners of all skill levels is pruning.  It seems that there are so many things to consider, especially the timing of when to prune.  The following article will give you the confidence to tackle pruning, especially with the amazing illustrations.  Many people think pruning is one of the most enjoyable parts of gardening and after reading the article I think you will also.

The Importance of Garden Journals
By: Nancy Popa, AEMG
Journals are a wonderful way to put thoughts onto paper, record details and observations and plan for the future.  Along with keeping track of information, sometimes just putting things down on paper (or electronically) makes things much easier.  The
following article will help those new to journaling and those who have already made journaling part of their lives.


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