Tag Archives: gardening

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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Welcome news

I’ve mentioned in Spotlight about how well our Michigan State University Extension website is spreading the news. We celebrated passing the million mark back in November 2012. At its one-year birthday April 18, 2013, the site hit 1.8 million pageviews.

We can get excited about the numbers, but the success of the site lies in the content. We bring reliable research-based information to the public, and they keep coming back for more.

I noticed an article posted yesterday (October 16) by Extension educator Gretchen Voyle, titled “Your Garden Party of Fall Cleanup Tasks.” I was feeling like a slacker since I hadn’t gotten started on her “party” list until this past weekend. On the other hand, we haven’t had a killing frost yet, so the continuing blossoms in my perennial beds have made it easy to keep putting off some of the yard work.

I’m always tempted to leave the leaves where they fall and trust the wind to move them to places where they can rest and decompose on their own schedule. I’ve only done that once or twice in my life and the neighbors have given me those disagreeable looks as I’ve pulled out of the driveway in the morning. Gretchen’s advice makes this seem less demanding – using the mower to chop and blow leaves as much as possible, though I still find myself with windrowed piles that I need to move elsewhere.

And any article that lists “things not to do” is a favorite of mine. In this case, it’s fall pruning that Gretchen advises to put off to late winter or spring. There are a few shrubs in my yard that need some trimming, but with Gretchen’s counsel, I’m not procrastinating, but actually doing the prudent thing for my landscape.

Of course there are dozens of other bits of information and advice posted on our website every day, and that is what attracts the millions of page views that we’re pleased to document. Thanks to Gretchen and ALL who contribute articles for our website. They represent the strength of our programs and the breadth of topics and communities that we serve.

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Take Extension educator’s advice on recycling your Christmas tree

Many of you chose a fresh Michigan pine or spruce to pose as the stately center of your festivities this holiday season. Now the celebrations have ceased, and what was once the focus of attention and symbol of good cheer heads for the compost pile.

Rebecca Finneran, Michigan State University Extension educator, offers up a fresh idea for your not-so-fresh tree. She suggests using boughs from the tree to protect your shrubs and perennials from hungry deer, especially now that we have an accumulation of snow over much of our landscape.

I will confess that I count on those hungry deer to help prune the rose bushes in my back yard, but there are some arborvitae I’d just as soon shape with my own pruning and not the browsing range of deer. So I’ll try protecting them as Rebecca has suggested. Still, if their mouths are tough enough to handle thorny roses, I’m wondering how pine and fir needles can deter them.

Find her helpful advice and accompanying photo on our MSU Extension website at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/recycle_your_fresh_christmas_tree_and_protect_against_deer_browse.

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Barry County 4-H’ers learn by doing through combination of programs

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development’s practice of teaching kids through experiential learning proved to be successful once again when 19 Barry County 4-H’ers took the lessons they’d “learned by doing” and put them all together Sept. 12 for a local “flavor fest.” The youth planned, prepared and served a four-course meal at the Seasonal Grille in Hastings with the help of Justin Straube, the restaurant’s owner and chef. The 4-H members, ranging from elementary through high school age, used food from gardens they had planted and cared for themselves. To prepare for the feast, the kids also learned about proper restaurant etiquette. The project combined three 4‑H areas: the F3 (Fundamentals of Food and Fitness) ENERGY! Club, the 4-H Entrepreneurship program and the cooking competition at the local fair. This is another outstanding example of how we can reach kids in a non-formal setting, building skills to use now and in future careers. Read all about the event here.

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MSUE Kent County Junior Master Gardener Program gets kids active, educated and outdoors

In an age when childhood obesity is a real concern and when children are pulled indoors by the attraction of video and computer games, gardening can be a welcome solution. Gardening can not only get kids active and outdoors, it can get them excited about eating healthy food that they’ve grown themselves. Growing a garden can become a lifelong activity that can lead to a healthy, active life.

 Michigan State University Extension Kent County coordinated the Junior Master Gardener (JMG) Program in Grand Rapids and Lowell during the summers of 2010 and 2011. The once-a-week 10- to 12-week program involved Kent County fourth through sixth graders with 11 to 22 children participating depending on the year and location.

Grand Rapids Junior Master Gardener students and parents plant an herb garden.

Grand Rapids Junior Master Gardener students and parents plant an herb garden at the MSU Extension Kent County Office at a May 21, 2011, planting party. Photo by Kendra Wills.

 Besides getting a lot of exercise by working in the garden, kids participated in a garden-related craft activity and learned about nutrition while making a healthy snack. The children went on field trips to various locations including a local greenhouse, a food pantry, an apiary and a daylily garden where they learned how to pollinate daylilies. Amy Irish-Brown, Extension educator, was their tour guide when they visited Clarksville Research Center, part of MSU’s AgBioResearch. They even operated a farm stand at a local farmers market and learned from two local chefs how to properly cut fruits, vegetables and herbs from their garden for cooking and eating.

 The kids did homework. Homework in the summer? That’s right. But I’m told this was homework that the kids got excited about. Kids read from their Junior Master Gardener workbooks (Texas A&M 4-H curricula) and cooked with produce from their JMG gardens. At the last class, a recipe book of all the students’ recipes was compiled and printed for everyone to take home.

 Extension educator Kendra Wills coordinated both the Grand Rapids and Lowell programs this summer. Extension educator Rebecca Finneran lent her help and expertise in Grand Rapids with the support of the MSU Extension Kent County Master Gardener Program. The Lowell Area Schools, Lowell Community Wellness and the Lowell Area Community Fund supported the Lowell program.

Grand Rapids Junior Master student shows off a flower at a Kent County Master Gardener's home daylily garden in July 2011.

Grand Rapids Junior Master student shows off a flower at a Kent County Master Gardener's home daylily garden in July 2011. The participants learned how to pollinate daylilies and create their own cross breeds. Photo by Kendra Wills.

 Although this effort technically falls under the MSU Extension Greening Michigan Institute, it really connects all the institutes because it provides education on agriculture to children and youth, promotes health and nutrition, and supports the creation of local food systems.

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Master Gardeners answering questions statewide

In the past, anyone calling a local Michigan State University Extension office with a gardening question might have to get an answer from someone in a field other than consumer horticulture. That all changed when Master Gardener volunteers from Genesee, Kalamazoo, Kent, Livingston, Oakland and Washtenaw counties stepped up and generously donated their time to answering questions that come through the existing toll-free number. Now statewide, people can get answers to questions from a consumer horticulture expert concerning vegetable and flower gardening; lawns, shrubs and trees; indoor plants; and garden and house pests.

Bob Bricault, MSU Extension horticulture educator and project leader on this program, is proud of the Master Gardeners. Bob knows that change is often challenging, yet the volunteers took on this task – even though it was different from what they were used to – and accepted the challenge.

 Bob explained. “That’s what’s great about Master Gardener volunteers. They’re taking their training to educate the public, helping them make decisions that affect their lives and the environment.”

 A team of horticulture educators developed the state garden hotline. The team included Bob, Rebecca Finneran, Terry McLean, Gretchen Voyle, Linda Whitlock and Mary Wilson. The team has provided educational materials for answering the calls from across the state and helped with the planning and development process for the hotline. The team will use webinars for future training sessions for Master Gardener volunteers that are staffing the hotlines.

 The project is part of the targeted program through the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute and just another example of how we use technology to provide Michigan gardeners and consumers with the information that they need to help them improve their lives.

 The MSUE Lawn and Garden Hotline uses the same toll-free number that people use to reach county offices: 1-888-MSUE-4MI (1-888-678-3464). It is answered weekdays between 9 a.m. and noon and 1 and 4 p.m. People who call during other times are directed to the “Ask an Expert” feature at http://www.migarden.msu.edu/.

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The Michigan WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project brings encouragement and hope to women

Sometimes knowing you have the power to improve your situation through hard work and determination can give you the courage to get you through financial hardship. There’s a program that’s empowering women to find that inner strength while learning about nutrition and gardening in the process.

 Since 2001, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has administered the WISEWOMAN (Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation) program to empower women living in low-income situations to make healthy lifestyle choices. In 2008, Michigan State University Extension in Ogemaw County piloted the WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project, which was coordinated by Helen DeFlorio, MSUE Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) program instructor. The project added a gardening component to the WISEWOMAN program. It was such a success that the MDCH contacted Diane Rellinger, Extension educator, to pursue options for expansion. In 2010, five other counties joined Ogemaw County in the program – Antrim, Charlevoix, Crawford, Missaukee and Otsego – and 24 women participated. Diane provides overall program and budgetary coordination for the six counties.

 The MDCH received a $52,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and partnering with MSUE, it used the grant to expand the project. The grant allowed the purchase of gardening supplies, plants and fencing. It provided for educational resources, farmers market registration fees, signage, gardening workshops, travel dollars for the participants to get to classes and the farmers markets, and vendor supplies, such as tents, tables and promotional items. MSUE SNAP-Ed, MSUE Master Gardeners, the MDCH, the Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency, District Health Department #2 and District Health Department #10 work together to make this project possible.

 Says Diane Rellinger, “This project was a great example of transformational education. It provided a network of support that created enthusiasm and positive behavior change. We saw women bond together and get excited about their health, their new gardening knowledge and the opportunity to increase their incomes through selling their own produce at local farm markets.”

Patti plans for gradn opening

Patti McGee makes plans for her farm market grand opening.

 Patti McGee developed a garden to sell produce at next year’s grand opening of her new McGee Family Farm Market. Patti’s goal is to live off the income generated from the market.

 Teresa Norwick grew vegetables at the Otsego County Alternative Landscaping Demonstration Garden. Through the grant, she was able to rent a plot and begin a garden.
Teresa Norwick poses with her new wagon.

Teresa Norwick was able to rent a plot and begin a garden through the grant.

 Both women learned a great deal about gardening and nutrition.

 MSUE Master Gardeners instructed the women in gardening procedures and encouraged them to keep a gardening journal. Teresa learned to use lasagna organic composting. The name comes from the layering method used in the process. Both Teresa and Patti helped build their own hoop houses to extend the gardening season. Jack Middleton, retired MSUE Otsego County Extension director, guided the hoop house building and also installed drip irrigation.

 The WISEWOMAN program emphasizes making healthier food choices, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and being more physically active. The SNAP-Ed nutrition education series provided eight lessons based on dietary guidelines and tailored the lessons to this age group (ages 40 to 64). The gardening efforts provided increased opportunities to be physically active. Women reported losing weight and feeling better due to their dietary changes and increased activity.

Teresa stockpiles organic lasagna ingredients.

Teresa Norwick stockpiles organic lasagna ingredients.

 According to Rebecca Fleis, MSUE Otsego County program associate, “The amazing thing about the project is the immense blessing a little seed funding can have in the lives of women. Often participants were in very difficult times in their lives financially; the opportunity to be part of the WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project brought encouragement and hope for their future.”

Teresa Norwick and RebeccaFleis

Teresa Norwick (left) and Rebecca Fleis, Extension program associate, stand in Teresa’s hoop house.

 Master Gardener coordinators, Cydney Steeb in Charlevoix County, Lora Freer in Ogemaw County, and Ed Doss in Otsego and Crawford counties, provided gardening education and ongoing support, and Master Gardener volunteers also lent their expertise to designing and growing healthy gardens. SNAP-Ed staff members Lori Eccles, program associate; Megan Rapelje, program instructor; Susan Warren, program associate; Rebecca Fleis and Helen DeFlorio provided nutrition education classes to encourage healthier food choices and provide instruction in using and preserving the garden vegetables grown by the WISEWOMAN participants. Steve Fouch, Extension educator, provided training on how to take produce from the garden to the farm market. 

 Key partners at the MDCH were Robin Roberts, WISEWOMAN program manager, and Viki Lorraine, WISEWOMAN program intervention specialist, along with the lifestyle counselors at the local health departments who identified program participants.

 These are some powerful testimonials. They will be even more powerful if we’re gathering evaluation data that can help us to quantify the effect this program is having on the health and financial well being of participants.

 To learn more, go to http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132–240962–,00.html.

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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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They’re growing more than vegetables in Kalamazoo County

As you know, Michigan State University Extension excels at developing partnerships that impact communities. There’s a plot of land in Kalamazoo County that is growing community as well as vegetables. Humphrey Products and Kendall Electric provide the land that is tended by Kalamazoo County Master Gardener volunteers led by Linda Whitlock, MSUE Kalamazoo County horticulture educator. Humphrey Products also provides city water and a place for volunteers to park; the city of Portage provides partially mulched leaves and Kalamazoo County loaned the use of a tractor. The partnerships do not stop there. The Food Bank of South Central Michigan will pick up the fresh produce grown in the garden and deliver it to Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes, which has seen a large increase in the need for food. More than 15,000 pounds of fresh vegetables were collected from the garden last year to feed people who are in need. For more on the story, click on http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2010/06/kendall_electric_continues_gar.html

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F3 ENERGY! gets kids excited about food, fitness, gardening and entrepreneurship

There are exciting things going on in Barry County. An innovative and interactive youth nutrition, gardening and entrepreneurship education program created and piloted last year through Barry County Michigan State University Extension by Laura Anderson, Extension educator, and Kathy Pennington, 4-H program associate, has legs going into the 2010 growing season. In 2009, F3 ENERGY! (Fundamental of Food and Fitness) provided 80 youth with nutrition and physical fitness education, a full-season gardening experience and entrepreneurial skills training. The youth had an opportunity to develop their own business and to sell produce to area restaurants or farm markets, to showcase their projects at the county fair and to offer outreach educational opportunities in areas such as food safety. Participants demonstrated an increase in knowledge and awareness of healthy food choices and an increase in knowledge of food safety and business skills. They even ate more healthy vegetables!

Funded by a 4-H Participation Fee Grant and by the Barry Community Foundation, Barry County United Way, Cargill Kitchen Solutions and other local funders, the program used research-based curricula such as “Be the E,” “JIFF” (Jump Into Food and Fitness), the 4-H Gardening series and “ERIB” (Eating Right is Basic). The program benefitted from the expertise of local partners such as restaurateurs and food scientists who widened the experience for the elementary school youth from the Nashville and Woodland areas who participated.

 The first garden site, Moo-ville Creamery, is to be expanded four-fold to three new sites for the 2010 growing season. Master Gardener volunteers Maribeth Secord and Peggy Higley have volunteered to step up to lead the project in Middleville and Delton, and elementary principal Judy Johnson will lead the Hastings project.

 F3 ENERGY! shows how creative programming can occur across disciplines and program areas in MSUE. Kudos to the Barry County MSU Extension team for working together on this successful program. View photos below and visit http://bit.ly/brqjg1 to learn more.

F3 ENERGY! youth enjoy working in their garden

Farmstand at Mooville Creamery set up and run by F3ENERGY! youth

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