Tag Archives: garden

Smart Gardening may be coming to a garden show near you

It may not feel like it with the months of freezing temperatures we’ve been experiencing in Michigan, but spring is coming soon! If you’re going to be starting a garden, you may be interested to hear about the Smart Gardening initiative, which started in 2013 and will continue to promote science-based gardening, environmental awareness and sustainability to home gardeners across the state.

The Smart Gardening initiative began when the consumer horticulture team realized that home gardeners were missing some simple but extremely helpful advice. The team worked with communicators Joy Landis and Mallory Fournier to develop resources for repetitive, consistent use of a small number of concise messages. They labeled messages they developed as Smart Lawns, Smart Plants and Smart Soils. The team includes Rebecca Finneran, Rebecca Krans, Mary Wilson, Gretchen Voyle, Mary Gerstenberger, Karen Burke, Carol Lenchek, Bob Bricault, Diane Brown-Rytlewski, Elise Carolan, Linda Whitlock and Hal Hudson.

The Smart Gardening concepts are used in multiple ways across the Gardening in Michigan website, as well as other media sources, but the key to launching these messages is promoting them at booths at gardening shows across the state. The consumer horticulture team recruits Master Gardeners to work in the exhibit displays. The Master Gardeners engage people strolling by, share the messages and collect demographics and topics of interest from anyone viewing the display. Other educational opportunities are also presented by experts. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension news articles regularly feature the smart messages as well.

This year, Smart Gardening will be featured at four shows during the pre-garden season. All of you are encouraged to attend and invite gardening enthusiasts to learn more about the Smart Gardening principles. The upcoming shows include:

Cottage & Lakefront Living Show – Detroit
Suburban Collection Showplace
46100 Grand River Ave.
Novi, MI 48347
Feb. 26 ‒ March 1

West Michigan Home and Garden Show
Devos PlaceSmart Gardening Show
303 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
March 5 ‒ 8

Lansing Home & Garden Show
MSU Pavilion
4301 Farm Lane and Mt. Hope
East Lansing, MI 48823
March 19 – 22

Garden Extravaganza Gardening Conference
Northern Michigan University UP Campus
1401 Presque Isle Ave
Marquette, MI 49855
April 11

Smart Gardening events have reached a diverse audience by interacting with rural and urban audiences through events across the state; these public events drew people from more than 50 of Michigan’s 83 counties and two surrounding states. In addition, we’ve seen increased use of MSU Extension resources such as the Gardening in Michigan website and MSU soil test kits since the implementation of this program. Great work from the consumer horticulture team!

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4-H club receives garden mini-grant

Michelle Dekuiper, Michigan State University Extension Mason County 4-H program associate, would like me to mention the accomplishments of the Color Me a Rainbow 4-H Club. Led by club leaders, Diane McCallum and Vicki Marie, the group received a garden mini-grant from the Mason 4-H Advisory Council from funds donated by the Mason County Garden Club. Money from the grant allowed the club members to attend the Environmental and Outdoor Education, Plant Science and Entomology Workshop at Kettunen Center this year. The hands-on opportunity to explore plant- and insect-related topics meant that club members came away excited as well as educated about gardening.

 During club meetings, each club member planted three different herbs in peat moss in a coconut-fiber hanging basket. By using the container-gardening method, members demonstrated that you do not need a large area to grow plants, and that drainage and make-up of the soil can offer different options for container gardening. With the new skills they learned, the 4-H’ers will now be able to cultivate plants that they can eat, use in cooking or use for craft projects.

 The club members displayed their gardens and recipes at a craft booth at the Western Michigan Fair.

Color Me a Rainbow Fair Booth

The Color Me a Rainbow 4-H Club booth at the Western Michigan Fair

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Extension Master Gardener national blog now available

Cooperative Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program coordinators launched the first national blog for EMG volunteers this past Monday. EMG volunteers now have a new communication tool to encourage interaction and sharing at the national, state and local level. EMG coordinators and guest contributors from various states will take turns sharing a weekly blog post on a topic geared toward the national EMG community. Master Gardeners are encouraged to discuss items appearing in blog posts by submitting comments using the blog’s commenting features. This is a fantastic national resource for connecting stakeholders with Master Gardener content and one that our Extension staff members can use to reach Michigan Master Gardener volunteers and others with horticultural interests in Michigan. It will be a great place for EMGs to communicate with each other about gardening project ideas, educational opportunities and events. It will be interesting to see the exchange of knowledge between regions and states. Blog posts can be found directly at http://blogs.extension.org/mastergardener or through the new national Extension Master Gardener website at http://extension.org/mastergardener.

 The blog is part of eXtension, an interactive learning environment. If anyone would like to serve as a Michigan State University Extension eXtension “expert” by answering questions from the public in your area of expertise, you can take advantage of the short Adobe Connect sessions being offered right now to help people get oriented to the system. Contact Lela Vandenberg (vanden34@msu.edu) or Liz Wells (wellselz@msu.edu) for more information.

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Filed under Gardening, master gardener, Uncategorized

Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden offers virtual gardening experience

Dr. Coon. Norm Lownds, kids at 4-H Indoor Children's Garden

Do you remember the old nursery rhyme that asks Mary (who is quite contrary) how her garden grows? I’m sure Mary never would have thought of answering, “On the computer,” but then again, she never had a chance to “walk” through a virtual garden, either. Teams of adults and youth from 20 Michigan schools will be the first to tiptoe through the virtual tomatoes, and last Friday, they got a peek at the online world that will house the virtual garden when it launches. I was lucky enough to explore this virtual planet alongside 40 youth – I even had my own avatar! However, I have to confess that the youth were much more facile in finding their way around the Web site than I was. I’m still a novice at figuring out how to use a Web site without a set of instructions and a “how-to” cheat sheet. The kids were running virtual circles around me as I struggled to keep my virtual cucumbers watered, well-lit and nourished with appropriate nutrients. The real killer was when I had to go to game sites to earn points that I could use to get those essential elements the plants need to survive. I’m still not sure what I was supposed to do on the game where I was battling threatening clouds – I’m just not an intuitive “gamer.” Needless to say, my cukes suffered from too many cloudy days.

These 20 schools were awarded Michigan Team Nutrition grants that will help them plant school gardens and harvest the produce for use in school kitchens. Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) associate program leader Becky Henne is heading up this partnership, which has MSUE contributing the MyGarden content for the virtual garden site being developed by Kidscom.com. The Indoor Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden hosted the all-day training on Friday, and Dr. Coon explores the virtual gardenNorm Lownds, curator of the gardens, was on hand to show how MyGarden schools will be able to participate in distance-learning programming with the 4-H Children’s Gardens. It was exciting to see how the latest technology will get youth engaged in the age-old practice of gardening even if I was overly dependent on Norm’s good-natured help. One thing I know is that we are very fortunate to have the support of the Michigan 4-H Foundation for the 4-H Children’s Garden. It was a treat to go through the teaching greenhouse and see some tropical papaya plants about ready to bloom in what was a gray and windy day in Michigan. Even better that kids from throughout Michigan can see the same thing through the Web cams stationed throughout the greenhouse.

shows interface of virtual garden Web siteGroup of participants enjoy the virtual garden Web site

kids at computer using virtual garden Web siteNorm Lownds, Dr. Coon

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Hundreds flock to learn about urban ag in Edible Flint tour

What is it that makes gardening seem so wholesome? Whether it’s to beautify an altered landscape or to put juicy slices of tomato on a sandwich, gardens appeal to many – even those who don’t have a clue about how to get started. A recent MSU Extension program in Flint showed that the interest in gardening is serious and growing.

On August 29, residents filled busses to tour five different urban agriculture projects in Flint. The organizers of the Edible Flint Food Garden Tour expected about 40 or 50 interested tour participants. Imagine their surprise when more than 220 people showed up!

Kudoes to Terry McLean, MSUE horticulture educator, and the rest of the Genesee County staff members and Master Gardener volunteers who worked not only on the tour, but putting the plans in place to make sure that the people in their community have access to fresh vegetables.

Read more about the celebration of goodwill, community and food gardening here.

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Filed under Agriculture, Farming, Food, Land use, master gardener, Nutrition

St. Clair County garden teaches and feeds the hungry

It’s a tough dilemma. People are convicted of crimes that would normally result in a fine and court costs. Unfortunately, they don’t have the money for either. One judge in St. Clair County wanted to solve the problem by instituting more community service opportunities. The result? A community garden that will teach gardening techniques and feed the hungry—all while allowing people to complete their community service.

The garden came to fruition thanks to Liane Allen, 4-H program assistant in St. Clair County. Liane worked with 4-Hers and Master Gardener volunteers to set up a 50 x 80-foot fenced garden in a lot that would otherwise lay barren. The fruits—and vegetables—of their labor will be used to feed people who visit an area soup kitchen.

Read more in the Port Huron Times Herald.

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Monroe’s Youth Farm Stand is a winner!

Good educational opportunities make everybody a winner. The Monroe Youth Farm Stand is evidence of that. The farm stand teams at-risk youth up with Master Gardener volunteers and a local community center to grow and sell fresh produce in an area that would otherwise be considered a food desert.

Youth win because they get an understanding of the food system from farm to table while improving their diets. The community wins because they get access to fresh, affordable food.

Monroe County youth show off the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

Monroe County youth show off the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

The other winners? Our MSU Extension team in Monroe County. They were a national finalist in the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Search for Excellence in 4-H and Youth. The award focuses on educational programming that reaches beyond the traditional programming and engages youth that don’t have good opportunities to learn and grow. Not only has this spurred a great farm stand, but the group also came together to form the Green Growers 4-H Club.

The Monroe County Youth Farm Stand Project was a team effort that included Brenda Reau, Monroe CED; Jennie Stanger, consumer horticulture educator; Joy Cousino, family and consumer sciences educator; Heather Hampel, family nutrition program instructor; and Denise Reaume, 4-H program associate. They received assistance from 4-H volunteer leader Allen Russell, and many Monroe County Master Gardener volunteers.

Congratulations to this great team, and to the youth who are living and learning in Monroe County!

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Filed under 4-H, Agriculture, Awards, Food, Nutrition, Youth development