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President's Letter

MGANM Events and Volunteer Opportunities
By Michele Worden, President and AEMG

It is bitter cold and snowing steadily as I write.  A fire is crackling in my cast iron stove and I am contemplating spring in Northern Michigan.  

In April we will be hosting Jeanine Rubert from Pinehill Village Nursery who will be speaking about “Hot Plants” for 2020.

Spring is usually the beginning of our concerted volunteer efforts.  As you contemplate where to share your talents this year, please keep in mind that MGANM needs to volunteer 80 hours each calendar year for the Grand Traverse Conservation District (GTCD).  In exchange for our volunteer hours, we are able to hold our monthly meeting in the Community Room of the Boardman River Nature Center.  We have a Memorandum of Understanding which details this requirement.

The GTCD does wonderful work in our community and we are grateful for all they do for Environmental Stewardship.  Likewise, GTCD is very appreciative of all the Master Gardener volunteer efforts in the Native Plant Demonstration Gardens.  This year we need new Master Garden project co-leaders for this established project because of some retirements.   The demonstration gardens wrap around the Nature Center and are much admired by visitors and serve as an endless source of education on native plants.  There are weekly workbees in the summer. If you can help, please contact Nate Walton at  

The GTCD is seeking docents at the Boardman River Nature Center to help them accomplish their public education mission.  The job description of the docent volunteer position can be found here.  Koffi Kpachavi, the new Executive Director of GTCD, reports that docents field questions about the Native Plant Demonstration Garden and believes Master Gardeners docents will really help educate the public.  GTCD would like part of MGANM’s 80 hours of volunteering to be through work as a docent. They are seeking docents from all their non-profit partners this year. In our January survey, there were several people who indicated they would be willing to help both the GTCD and MGANM through serving as docents.  This can help both organizations succeed, so it is really an impactful volunteer activity.  Please contact the GTCD directly if you can help in this area.

Finally, if you can volunteer a few hours at GTCD, and we hope you can, there is a new way to report your hours.   When you volunteer at an activity like the Seedling Sale, docent, or other “workbees” organized by the GTCD staff, please sign their volunteer sign in and indicate that you are volunteering for MGANM.  If you are working on a project as a solitary volunteer, please use the GTCD Google Form here to record your hours.  This helps the conservation district track their volunteers and the hours they work for grants and such.  To maintain your Master Gardener certification, you will still need to enter your hours in the MSUE Volunteer Management System.

With your help, we can continue to support and grow in our partnership with GTCD.  As their partner, we are able to leverage not only the horticultural impact of MSUE in our community, but also the expertise and environmental stewardship of the GTCD.  This is significant positive impact on our community makes me feel good. I hope it makes you feel good too. 

Thank you for all you do.


What is a plant runner, stolon and a rhizome?
By Michael O’Brien, AEMG

In his article, Michael is very helpful in educating us on the differences between a runner, stolon and rhizome. He gives us some real examples of these plants and how they might harm or benefit your gardening efforts. 

Create New Plants from runners, stolons, and rhizomes

By Michael O’Brien, AEMG

If you read Michael’s article about plant runners, you might want to know more about what to do with them. In the next article, Michael provides different growing techniques that focus on runners, stolons, and rhizomes. 

Master Gardener Coordinator's Corner

Coordinator’s Corner: Spring Cleanup That Protects Pollinators
By Nate Walton, Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

Everybody is ready for springtime! Complementing Cheryl’s article on spring cleaning, Nate goes into greater detail with specific regard to clean-up as it is related to pollinators. In his article we learn about different bees, our most important native plant pollinator.

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:
Botanical Gardens at Historic Barns Park, 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.


The educational meetings are held at The Boardman River Nature Center, 1450 Cass Road, Traverse City unless otherwise noted. They are open to the public but a $5 donation from non-members is appreciated.   

Volunteers are always needed to help with setup/cleanup before and after the meetings. This can earn you extra hours in addition to the 1.5 volunteer and 1.5 CE hours that you earn just by attending the meeting. Interested volunteers can sign up in the General Event Calendar on the VMS page or by contacting Michele Worden ( or Nate Walton at 231-256-9888 or (

Tuesday, April 7th, 6:30 p.m. (potluck at 6:00 p.m.)  “Hot Plants for 2020” with Jeanine Rubert


Please see the website for complete information on these upcoming events:

Brian Zimmerman of Four Season Nursery presents “The Importance of Trees in the Landscape” and “Gardens of Cornwall and Devon presentation by Kurt and Karen Schmidt”.

3 native wild bees enjoying the resources provided by this early spring flower (N. Walton, MSU Extension)


Nicotine doesn’t affect my seeds, does it?
By Michael O’Brien, AEMG

Many people do not know that nicotine is used today as an insecticide. Although it works well for killing pesky, harmful insects, it does have its drawbacks. Read further as Michael shares more detail regarding what researchers know today about how nicotine works with plants.

Take a load off
By Cheryl Gross, AEMG

Spring is drawing near so we thought it might be a good idea to share spring clean-up tips for your garden. The following article provides informative narrative on spring clean-up and taking steps to protect beneficial insects. 

Dan and Gustie (Rohde) Graber with children, L-R: Hattie, Theresa, Henry, Adolph, and Dan Gra(e)ber. Eden Springs (House of David), Benton Harbor, Michigan 1919. Photo provided by Dr. Duke Elsner, PhD


The Bug Man’s Mother 
By Duke Elsner, Ph.D. and AEMG

Most often, we focus on the science of plants, but from time to time we like to share heartwarming stories about plant based traditions, like the canning article we published last fall. In this next story, ‘The Bug Man’ (as he is so endearingly called) will not disappoint. Duke’s story invokes real emotion in many of us, as he recalls fond memories of his mother.

By Nancy Larson, EMG 

If you are reading The Real Dirt, then you are probably interested in plants. Many of our friends and relatives know this tiny detail about us and they give us a plant for a holiday gift. Obviously, it is not likely you will be putting your new plant outside in the winter, if at all. To help increase the survival rate of your new gift, or any of your houseplants, you might want to read the next article where Nancy shares ‘care’ tips she has learned along the way.

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