New Editor, project spotlight, needle cast disease, and more
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President's Letter: May Flowers

By Michele Worden, AEMG

This morning I took a glorious, sun-filled walk in the woods and enjoyed the wildflowers popping up everywhere: hepatica, Dutchman’s breeches, squirrel corn…

One of the best places to see wildflowers in Northern Michigan is at Pete’s Woods, in Arcadia Dunes.  We hope you can join us for a guided walk with Paula Dreeszen on May 8. Paula will also be our speaker at the joint meeting with Plant It Wild on May 15 at 7 pm in Frankfort.  See details on our Facebook page.

Spring is a time of renewal and change and we are so happy that we have found a new editor for The Real Dirt.  We had a solid response to our survey about The Real Dirt last month. Ninety seven percent of respondents thought The Real Dirt was valuable and should continue.  Many thanks to all survey respondents. Lucky for us, Lisa Hagerty, a new trainee and this year’s training class scholarship recipient, has stepped up to lead. Welcome Lisa!

This year MGANM has another new beginning.  We have new online Wild Apricot membership management software which provides a convenient way for Master Gardeners and Community Gardeners to join the association or renew their membership online.  To date, we have had 75% of members renew their 2019 membership. We are aiming for 100% participation but to do so we need to clear up some confusion.

One question we hear from both trainees and veteran Master Gardeners is: “What is the difference between the MSUE $20 recertification fee each January and the MGANM $25 membership renewal in January?  

The answer:  MSUE certifies your volunteer and education hours in the MSU Volunteer Management System (VMS) and charges a fee of $20 to run the Master Gardener program.  The recertification fee pays for things such as maintaining the VMS database, offering the training class, and hosting Master Gardener College.   When you re-certify each year, you are “licensed” by MSUE.

The Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan is an independent nonprofit corporation, under the 501c3 umbrella of the state-wide Michigan Master Gardener Association.  We are a "professional" association and work closely with MSUE.  Our annual membership is $25 each calendar year.  We provide educational programming and coordinate volunteer activities and support projects. I like to think that we are the heart of the Master Gardener program.

You can join the Master Gardener Association through the link below.

At the ‘Join Us’ page you will choose your membership level, create a profile, and be prompted to pay using PayPal.  

If you are already a member of MGANM but need to renew for 2019 and have lapsed, please email  The renewal date was January 1, 2019 and memberships not paid after 3 months became “lapsed” automatically in the software.   But this can be easily fixed! We would love to have you back! Let me know how I can help you renew.

Thank you for all you do.


Master Gardener Spotlight – How I Serve
By Whitney Miller, AEMG

The Real Dirt publication is produced BY Master Gardeners FOR Master Gardeners. It recognizes our individual Master Gardener volunteers with a Master Gardener Spotlight. In this month’s issue, learn about how The Real Dirt’s publisher, Whitney Miller serves

Master Gardener Coordinator’s Corner: What is an Approved Master Gardener Project?
By Dr. Nate Walton, PhD (Entomology)

Before you commit to a volunteer project as a Master Gardener, be sure to go through the right channels to get the project approved. MSU Extension wants to make the process as easy for you as possible, but there are a number of important reasons why your project must be approved. Please read Nate Walton’s article that covers these details HERE.

Volunteering for The Real Dirt
By Lisa Hagerty, Editor and EMG Trainee

One of the easiest ways to earn your volunteer hours is by attending the monthly MGANM meeting. Did you know that if you write a short article, detailing the focus of the meeting, that you could earn additional volunteer hours? Click HERE for more details.

Leelanau Christian Neighbors Food Garden Volunteers


Growing Food Together: MGANM April Meeting Notes
By Nancy Denison, AEMG

Nancy Denison attended the April MGANM meeting and submitted an article on the topics covered. Special guests, Sarah Rautio with MSUE discussed the SNAP-ED program and Nancy Popa with Leelanau Christian Neighbors shared information about their community garden. Read more about the April meeting.

Project Spotlight – Leelanau Christian Neighbors Food Garden
By Michele Worden, AEMG

Often, volunteer work is highlighted in The Real Dirt, focusing on the many Master Gardener projects. For the April issue, Michele Worden discusses the opportunities and highlights the work we do at the Leelanau Christian Neighbors food garden.

Tender plant planting and degree days
By Lisa Hagerty, EMG Trainee and Editor

The development of plants and pests can be tracked by researchers and growers with the help of heat units or growing degree-days. According to the Michigan State University Extension, accumulated heat units are determined by identifying threshold temperature and accumulation for different crops.

For more information, please refer to these MSUE articles: Article 1, Article 2

News & Events

You can view the full list of 2019 MGANM events HERE.

There are more opportunities this spring than we have space! While we have special partnerships with the below groups, please click HERE for events from our other very important friends: Saving Birds Thru Habitat, Northwest MI Invasive Species Network, MissionPoint Lighthouse historic garden, and the Northwest MI Horticultural Research Center.


Location: Boardman River Nature Center, 1450 Cass Road, Traverse City UNLESS otherwise noted. All Extension Master Gardeners are invited to attend and they are open to the public.  A $5 donation from non-members is appreciated.

Spring Wildflowers of the Forest, Wednesday, May 15th, 7pm. Note:  This is a change of venue from our normal location. 955 James Street, Frankfort. Enjoy an educational talk with local wildflower expert, Paula Dreeszen, about spring ephemerals and their benefits of the spring landscape. Open to the public…bring your friends!

Native Plant Sale, Saturday, May 18th, 8am- 3pm. Did you know Master Gardeners maintain the gardens at the Boardman River Nature Center? Help support those gardens at the Boardman River Nature Center by volunteering. Those with general knowledge of native plants are needed, as well as volunteers to unpack plants. Contact Katie Grzeiak at: 231-941-0960.

Supporting our Pollinators, Tuesday June 4th, 6:30pm with a potluck at 6pm. Boardman River Nature Center. Learn about local Extension Master Gardener pollinator projects in this interactive workshop.

The Boardman River Nature Center

Location: 1450 Cass Rd, Traverse City
Native Plant Pollinator Beds Workbees, Monday(s) 5pm-7pm. Current list of dates: 5/6, 5/13, 5/20, 6/17, 6/24, 7/15, 7/22, 8/12, 8/26, 9/9, 9/16, 9/23, 9/30, and 10/10.  The final date of 10/10 will be seed collection. Some dates have NO workbees. Each session will begin with a garden tour.

Grow Your Own Bird Feeder, Thursday, May 9th, 6:30 pm.
Presentation by Kay Charter with Saving Birds Thru Habitat, in conjunction with Wild Ones in Traverse City. Please attend this informative workshop and learn how each of us can make a difference for our declining bird populations.

Native Plant Sale, Saturday May 18th, 8am-3pm. Update your home landscape with native plants that are beautiful, well-adapted to our climate, and support a variety of wildlife living in our region. Plant experts will be on hand to help you pick out the perfect native plants from our selection of over 50 species. Cash, checks, and credit cards will be accepted. Selection is limited - first come, first served.

Japanese Barberry Trade Up Day, Friday, June 7th, 2pm- 6pm. Trade in your landscaped Japanese barberry for a coupon to a local landscaper or nursery. Receive a $5.00 coupon for every plant you bring us (up to $50.00). We’ll properly dispose of your invasive species and you can go shopping for a non-invasive alternative. Registration required. Contact ISN Outreach Specialist, Emily Cook at or (231) 941-0960 x20.

The Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park

Location: 1490 Red Drive, Traverse City. Please see the BGS website for more information:  Some events may have a charge and most all need pre-registration.  Events usually sell out quickly.

May Day Basket Make-and Take with Terry Hooper, Wednesday, May 8th, 7pm–9pm. Terry Hooper, Master Gardener and owner of Hooper’s Farm Gardens, will share the history of May Day baskets and guide participants through creating their own. The fee for this class is $30 and includes your materials. Open to the public but class size will be limited – advance registration is requested.

Plant It Wild

All programs and field trips are open to the public at no charge.  Programs are held at Trinity Lutheran Church, 955 James Street, Frankfort.  Field Trip locations/directions can be found at and the Facebook page.  Please call Cheryl Gross at 231-651-9656 for additional information.

Wildflowers at Pete’s Woods Field Trip, Wednesday, May 8th, 10am - 12pm. Walk with Paula Dreeszen to see all of the eye-popping Michigan native wildflowers in Pete’s Woods. The location is GTRLC’s Arcadia Dunes Complex:  Pete’s Woods Trailhead on Swamp Road.

Spring Wildflowers of the Forest Program, Wednesday, May 15th, 7pm. Please see the information under the MGANM heading.

Native Plant Sale, Friday, June 14th, 12-3pm. The Manistee Conservation District and PIW will host a plant sale with Michigan native plants.  This is a MCD fundraiser and there will be great plants. The location is MCD Office, 8840 Chippewa Hwy, (U.S. 31), Bear Lake.

Dunes Wildflowers at Baldy Field Trip, Wednesday, June 19th 10am-12pm. Join Paula Dreeszen on a 1.5 mile hike to see dune wildflowers.  Yellow Lady Slippers? Location is GTRLC’s Arcadia Dunes Complex:  Mt. Baldy Trailhead off of M-22.

Identifying Invasive Species Program, Wednesday, June 9th 7pm. Emily Cook, Outreach Educator of the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network, shares how to identify invasive species, how to properly remove them, how to prevent new invasions and all about beneficial replacement plants.  Removing invasive plants is often a first step in habitat rehabilitation.
EMG Michael O'Brien's blue spruce was "sick". Read below to learn what to do if your spruce is experiencing the same "illness"


Rain Gardens: MGANM March Meeting Notes
By Cheryl Gross, AEMG

In March, the special guest at the MGANM meeting was Carolyn Thayer, a Certified Shoreline Professional (among other things). Cheryl Gross summarizes the key elements in Carolyn’s presentation in her article titled, Rain Gardens.

What’s happening to my Blue Spruce?    
By Michael O’Brien, EMG

Often times as gardeners, we feel discouraged when one of our plants become sick. Diagnosing the problem is the first step toward fixing it, which is exactly what Michael O’Brien did when he realized his Blue Spruce trees were under siege. Read this article to discover the problem Michael found and what he did to resolve it.

Seen under a microscope, the beginning stages of root development of a canna lily. Photo by EMG Michael O'Brien.


How to grow a Canna Lily from seed
By Michael O’Brien, EMG

Although they are not native to Michigan, Canna Lilies are amazing plants, with beautiful blooms. Native to South America, these plants must be brought indoors before first frost. EMG Michael O’Brien has written an informative article about starting canna lilies from seed and caring for them.

Meet our new Editor

New Editor

The Editor
By Lisa Hagerty

After several years of volunteering as the editor for The Real Dirt, Cheryl Gross has stepped down. She wants to focus more on her role as President of Plant it Wild. However, before leaving, Cheryl was able to fill the position so The Real Dirt can continue providing meaningful and relevant information to Master Gardeners and the community. Find out MORE about the new editor.

Copyright © 2019 Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan, All rights reserved.

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