Gardening Basics: Planting Perennials in Fall
Why should spring get all the glory? Learn the gardening basics of fall planting and find out why this is a prime season for gardening. 

By Sally Roth[The Gardening Basics to Late Bloomers]

Why should spring get all the glory? While you might not think of fall as a time to get outside and plant new perennials, it actually presents a golden opportunity to do just that. Not only is it bargain time for many perennials at the garden store, the growing conditions are perfect for establishing roots.

Start Planning
In autumn the garden’s peak is fresh in your mind, so it’s easy to remember where you need to add some pizzazz. Remember that dead spot you noticed in midsummer? How about the garden bed that needs a splash of yellow or blue? Now is the time to address those areas.

Time It Right
In Zones 6 and 7, the cool-down period starts around the end of September, about six weeks before the first fall frost. This is the ideal time to start your fall plants. In Zones 3 to 5, you’ll want to plant earlier if you can. And of course, Zones 8 to 11 can pretty much plant year-round without a problem. (Lucky!) Still, you want to get an early start to give roots time to get established.

Gardening Basics to Picking Up a Bargain
At the end of the season, you can find big discounts on plants that have passed their peak. Most sellers knock down prices fast when their perennials go out of bloom, and lower them even more when the plants start looking down and out. Expect to find perennials at 50 percent or even 75 percent off. Keep in mind that the longer you wait for deals, the smaller the selection and the less time you have to get plants established.

Save It from Death Row
You know that section in the bargain area that’s super cheap, and it’s not hard to tell why? I call it death row, and it’s actually where I head first in hopes of finding a steal. The plants often look pitiful or even near death, but some are still worth a shot. If it’s wilted, generally sad looking or has yellowing or dying foliage, but the right price, grab it—as long as there’s still some green and it’s not diseased.

Don’t Fret about Frost
Frost might seem like your biggest fall planting challenge, but it’s actually not a huge problem. Yes, frost will kill the tops of your new plants, but it won’t affect the root growth. The roots will grow until the soil freezes solid, which is often weeks or even months after the first frost hits. In temperate regions—everywhere but the far North and the high mountains—soil usually doesn’t freeze until after Thanksgiving.

Grow the Roots
In spring the soil is cold, so the roots of newly planted perennials grow slowly. In fall the soil is warm, so roots grow faster. Since the plants don’t produce flowers, they have more energy for sending vigorous roots into the soil of their new home. Do your part by planting new perennials in good soil and watering thoroughly. By the time the growing season rolls around again, they’ll be happily settled.

Give ’Em a Fighting Chance
Once you get your bargain plants home, the first order of business is to give them a thorough drink. Set them in a tray or saucer to catch the water that pours through the potting mix, and let them take their time soaking it up. Then proceed as if they were the healthiest plants in the world. Lower temperatures and shorter days mean plants need less water, but if rain is scarce, water them weekly until the soil freezes. Remember that, under the ground, those roots are still growing.

Put Them to Bed
Wait until the soil freezes hard, then spread a few inches of mulch around your perennials—not to prevent soil from freezing, but to keep it from thawing. Roots that aren’t solidly anchored can “frost heave” out of the soil when the ground freezes and thaws, putting the plant in danger of getting killed by cold. Once mulch is on, you’re all set. Even if a few of your new perennials don’t make it, you’re probably still coming out ahead. Fall planting gives you a big jump on spring gardening, so you have more time in the busy season.

8 Best Poison Ivy Remedies...

​It starts innocently enough. You chop down a scraggly shrub while trimming your lawn. Then, your arms and legs start tingling and turn red. Before you know it they're covered with an itchy rash. Much too late you realize that shrub was actually poison ivy.

Finding poison ivy is easy in the United States, where it grows virtually everywhere except for Alaska, Hawaii, and some desert areas of the southwest. It also grows in parts of Canada, Mexico, and Asia.

In the northern and western parts of the United States and Canada, poison ivy usually grows as a shrub. In the East, Midwest, and South, it usually appears as a vine. It's generally found on the edges of woods, fields, beaches, and streams, but can turn up almost anywhere — even in a park or your flowerbeds.

Look, But Don’t Touch

"Leaflets three, let it be" is catchy and sound advice — poison ivy is easy to identify by its clusters of three pointed leaves. Usually the middle leaf is on a longer stalk than the two side leaves. Leaves can range from about a third of an inch to more than three inches long, and can have smooth edges or be serrated like a knife.

In the spring poison ivy leaves can have a reddish tint. The leaves turn green in summer and various shades of red, yellow, or orange in the fall.

A Real People-Plant

You have good reason to be jealous of your pets — not only are they spoiled, but they’ll never get a poison ivy rash. Only humans are susceptible to it. Poison ivy produces an oil called urushiol that causes a rash in about 85 percent of people who come in contact with it, according to theAmerican Academy of Dermatology.

Urushiol is tenacious. It'll stick to almost everything — your clothes and shoes, camping and gardening equipment, even your pets' or horses' coats. And it's in virtually every part of the plant; leaves, stems, even the roots. Brushing against a winter-bared vine can still cause a nasty rash.

Remedies for the Rash

1. Dress for Success

If you know you're heading into a poison ivy stronghold, prepare by covering as much of your skin as possible. Long-sleeved shirts, pants (tucked into socks if needed), hats, heavy rubber gloves, socks, and closed-toe shoes make good frontline defenses.

2. Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Rinsing your skin with cool, soapy water or rubbing alcohol within about an hour of touching poison ivy may remove the urushiol and help you avoid a rash — or at least make it less severe.

You'll also need to wash anything else that's come in contact with the plant. Urushiol can remain potent for years, so skipping the cleanup could net you a rash at a later point.

Some swear that dishwashing liquids can help wash the oil from your skin. Other specialty washes are produced by brands like Burt's Bees, Ivarest, and Tecnu.

3. Block the Oil

If a preventative measure is what you’re after, several over-the-counter creams can delay urushiol from penetrating the skin, like Ivy Block, Stokoguard Outdoor Cream, Hollister Moisture Barrier, and Hydropel Moisture Barrier. The cream needs to be thickly applied all over your skin less than an hour before you expect to be exposed to a poison ivy plant. If you are exposed, you must wash all the cream off within four hours of the exposure to keep your skin from absorbing the urushiol.

4. Water is Your Friend

If you do develop a poison ivy rash, expect it to take one to three weeks to clear up. Water can help ease the itching and burning. Soaking in cool-water baths containing an oatmeal-based product such as Aveeno should provide relief. Also, placing a cool, wet compresses on the rash for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day should help.

5. The Double Cs

Over-the-counter cortisone creams and calamine lotion can help ease some of the itchiness of a poison ivy rash. Follow the label directions when applying. Make sure to wash and dry the area before reapplying.

Other products that may help with itching are aloe vera gel, a three-to-one baking soda/water paste applied to the skin, or cucumber slices placed on the rash. You can also mash up cucumber into a paste and apply to the rash.

6. Hit the (Pill) Bottle

Over-the-counter antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can help ease your itching and inflammation too. Benadryl has the added benefit of making some people sleepy, which could help boost your comfort at bedtime.

Do not apply an antihistamine cream to your rash, though. It can actually make the itching worse.

7. Call in the Professionals

If your rash is widespread, on your face or genitals, or has caused lots of blisters, you may want to contact your doctor. They’ll be able to prescribe a steroid, such as prednisone, to help ease the itching and inflammation.

Depending on your condition and your doctor's preference, you may be given steroid pills, a shot, or topical preparations like gels, ointments, or creams.

Sometimes if you scratch your skin or your blisters break open, you can develop a bacterial infection. Your doctor can give you a prescription antibiotic if that happens.

8. Head for Help

If you have any of the following symptoms head to the emergency room or urgent care center:

Trouble breathing or swallowing    Swelling, especially an eye swelling shut    

Rash near or in your mouth

Identify Those Pesty Weeds...
 If your weeds grow to the point of flowering, be sure you pull or cut them before the flowers turn to seed. Lambsquarter, one of the most common annual weeds, produces up to 72,000 seeds per plant. Pigweed produces 117,000 seeds, while black nightshade produces a whopping 178,000 seeds per plant. - See more at:

...and put up with them during drought...​

  • When soil is healthy and well fed, weed seeds sense that they are out of a job and are less likely to appear.

Put drought on your side by depriving weeds of water. Placing drip or soaker hoses
beneath mulch efficiently irrigates plants while leaving nearby weeds thirsty. In most
climates, depriving weeds of water reduces weed-seed germination by 50 to 70
percent. Watch out, though, for the appearance of deeply rooted perennial weeds, such
as bindweed and nutsedge, in areas that are kept moist. They can take off in a flash
when given the benefits of drip irrigation. Beyond these strategies, enriching your soil
with organic matter every chance you get can move your garden along down the weed-
free path. Soil scientists aren’t sure how it works, but fewer weed seeds germinate in
soil that contains fresh infusions of good compost or organic matter. One theory makes elegantly simple sense:

How to Grow Bare Root Trees​

1. Unpack your trees, remove all packing materials, carefully untangle the roots and soak the roots in water 3 to 6 hours. Do not allow the roots to dry out.

2. Dig a hole, wider than seems necessary, so the roots can grow outward without crowding. Remove any grass within a 3-foot circular area. To aid root growth, turn soil in an area up to 3 feet in diameter.

3. Plant the tree at the same depth it stood in the nursery, with plenty of room for the roots. Partially fill the hole, firming the soil around the lower roots. Do not add soil amendments such as peat or bark. Do not use fertilizer, potting soil, or chemicals on your new trees.

4. Shovel in the remaining soil. It should be firmly but not tightly packed. Construct a water-holding basin around the tree. Give the tree plenty of water.

5. After the water has soaked in, spread protective mulch two inches deep in a 3-foot diameter area around the base of the tree, but not touching the trunk.

6. The soil and mulch around your trees should be kept moist but not soggy. During dry weather, generously water the tree every 7 to 10 days during the first year. Water slowly at the dripline.

Planting Location: To give your trees the best start, we recommend planting in a protected area with worked-up soil such as a garden. After 1 to 2 years, simply transplant to the permanent location when the trees are dormant.

Signs of Dormancy: Plant or transplant your trees when they are dormant. In fall: after the leaves have dropped or, on evergreen trees, when light-brown clusters form on the top. In early spring: before leaves or new growth appear.

Carefully Separate Your Trees: There will be more than one tree in your package. Remove the plastic bag around the roots and the twist tie holding your trees together. Separate your trees, carefully untangling the roots. Please note that the roots have been covered with a hydrating gel which keeps them moist during shipment.

Depth and Distance of Holes: Measure the roots of each tree. Dig one hole for each tree 1 foot wide and 1 inch deeper than the roots. Holes should be 2-1/2 feet apart.

Fertilizer? Do not use fertilizer, potting soil, or chemicals on your baby trees. Such products will kill your young trees.

Watering: Keeping your baby trees watered is important during their first year. Keep the soil and mulch moist but not soggy. In dry weather, you should water generously every 7 to 10 days. The water should soak into the soil and mulch. Avoid watering so much that you see standing water.

Protection: We recommend putting a fence (such as chicken wire) around your trees if your site is a feeding ground for rabbits, deer, or other wildlife.

OL D E R   T H AN   D I R T  !!

When we think of this planet's oldest plants,  we usually think of the ancient sequoias and bristlecone pines of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which have been reliably dated by their wood rings to be 3000 to 5000 years old.  However that doesn't hold a candle to the humble box huckleberry (Gaylussacia brachycera) of the Mid-Atlantic states and Appalachia.

A curator of the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants at Duke University has discovered a famous patch of this native huckleberry at Losh Run in a remote forest in Perry County, Pennsylvania.  Several botonists have estimated that patch's age at 13,000 YEARS , meaning it is the  oldest continuously living organism on earth !!
(condensed from the story in HORTICULTURE magazine by Jeff Cox)

  • Consider a Drive to North Carolina to Sarah P. Duke Gardens this year. View roadside wildflowers never seen before during a road trip.

The following link refers to scenic highlights at Sarah P. Duke Blomquist Gardens...

Flowers by Month
Learn about spring flowers.

  • By Debbie Vasen
  • Link at:

         Uncovering the perfect arrangement of flowers by month ensures a glorious garden year-round. Although the exact timing of blooms does vary slightly by zone and micro-climate, this article will outline general guidelines for color in your garden all year long. Each variety of plant, shrub, or tree listed here will have a different bloom time dependent on your home's weather patterns. Once you have developed a basis in your yard, contact your local nursery or our zone guide listing for which specific species will thrive in your area.

Some Months Offer More Blooms, Some Less

The easiest time of year for flowers by month is through mid-spring and early summer. This is a time of abundant blooms in all climate zones. For many areas the toughest time to find color in your yard is the colder months. Some of the coldest areas may need to look to indoor plants for their wintertime color. Houseplants in the coldest seasons and annuals in the hottest are great transition plants to help maintain the consistency of your flowers by month.

In summary, look for the following plants to fill your yard with year-round blooms and follow the links to specific articles on each plant type.

List of Flowers by the Month

In most zones, January is a barren month in the garden. If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse or even a sunny window, this month is an excellent time to savor indoor garden blooms. Another way to add color to a January garden is through ornamental plants known for their bare beauty such as the red and yellow-stemmed dogwoods or through the depth of evergreen shrubs.

In addition, the following plants are known for a wintertime show of flowers:

Winter Jasmine
Algerian Iris
Winter Aconite
Witch Hazel
Cornelian Cherry
Amaryllis - indoors
Additional Forced Bulbs Indoors

Galanthus Snowdrop


Even though it is a time when most of us are ready for spring, February is a reminder of the hardships of winter. Often a month of turmoil in the skies, many plants are content to stay hidden until February storms have past.

A few options for February blooms:

Galanthus Snowdrop
Iris Danfordiate
Iris Reticulata
Oregon Grape Holly

Days finally seem longer and the official equinox is upon us, but still the garden has yet to completely awaken.



April is often a torturous month for the dedicated gardener. When the sun shines, it can be glorious and flowery, but then the rain will hit and pour down on all the new spring glory.



Winter Hazel
Cherry Trees
Selected Magnolias


The height of the year for flowers is certainly the month of May.



Mock Orange

Summer is coming and you can hear it in the trees and flowers abound.

Smoke Shrub
Chaste Tree

Although the glory days of spring have passed, the garden still has many blooms to offer.

Sun Rose
Busy Lizzie
St John's Wort

In many areas the true heat of summer hits and often enjoying the outdoors becomes sweaty and uncomfortable. Instead, spend your evenings in the yard or do your garden chores early as the sun rises.

Southern Magnolia
Chinese Abelia Bush
Butterfly Bush
Franklin Tree


Bush Clover

The colors of September are the beginnings of golds, yellows, and reds. First the flowers and then the trees will quickly follow suit.

Crape Myrtle



For many outdoorsy individuals, October is a true month of joy - cooler nights and bright sunny days, while still the glory of fall blooms.

Japanese Anemone
Chinese Lantern

The beginning of death in the garden, November is often the toughest month to find flowers in bloom. Consider adding the following to your home and yard to help color the drab of this month:

Pampas Grass
African Violets - indoors

A festive, busy time indoors, often the garden gets over looked in December. Although, in many zones there are still some plants to offer up a flower or two.

Poinsettia - indoors


Creating a Pallet Garden – Step by Step Instructions
Youtube Information about setting up your own Palette Garden at:
By Joe Lamp'l from Grow a Greener World 
Posted February 2, 2016

Building and planting

your own pallet vegetable garden!

What you’ll need: 

shipping pallet,

4 mounting brackets* (one for each corner of the pallet – we used L brackets),

weather resistant screws,

roofing nails or staple gun,

drill, level,

weed cloth (aka landscape fabric),

thin plywood cut to size to cover back of pallet,

potting soil,

plants (*when it comes to how and where you choose to mount your pallet, make sure to consider the weight of a fully-planted pallet after watering and choose the appropriate hardware and location that can support it.)

*Pallets are easy to come by, so select one that's not broken, and not made of pressure-treated lumber.

Pallets are everywhere, so take the time to find one in good condition and that is not made from pressure-treated wood (due to the leaching from potentially harmful chemicals). They come in different shapes and sizes so don’t assume all pallets are the same. Make sure it’s cleaned off and you’ve inspected it for any stray nails or splintered wood. It’s a good idea at this point to wear a sturdy pair of gloves while inspecting and cleaning the pallet.

Once the pallet is cleaned up and before you add any additional weight to it, go ahead and position it against the wall where you’ll want it mounted. Use the level to ensure proper alignment. Make your marks and install the L brackets to the wall. (Once the pallet is planted out, you’ll then simply slide it into place between the mounted brackets.)

*Mark placement for hanging brackets while the pallet is empty
Return the pallet to a flat surface. Although you could plant out your pallet with it resting on the ground, placing it on a tabletop or sawhorses makes it easier to work with from a standing position. Place the pallet so that the side with the widest openings is facing up. This will be the backside, which you’ll mount against the wall. Lay out the landscape fabric or cloth to cover the back and bottom and cut to size. Pull tautly and secure with nails or staples.  Some pallets have wood covering the bottom of the pallet, which will help prevent soil from falling out the bottom. If not, you may choose to add another piece of wood, like a 2×4. But in either case, make sure the fabric covers the bottom as well as the back to catch any soil that may otherwise fall out. This would also be the time to add a thick layer of plastic or other waterproof barrier. This step wasn’t included in the DIY segment on the episode but this is an important part of protecting the exterior of the house from the moisture and grime of the pallet garden.

*Attach landscape fabric and thin plywood to the back
Secure landscape fabric,  plastic and thin plywood to back secure.
Next add the thin plywood over the cloth and/or plastic and secure.
Now turn the pallet over and fill with good quality potting soil or container mix. Don’t use ordinary garden soil or soil that is designed for planting beds, as it’s too heavy and won’t drain as well. Be sure to add most of your soil before adding the plants. Now, go ahead and tilt the pallet up nearly vertical to allow soil to settle without it spilling out between the cracks. Then continue to add soil until the pallet is full.

*Next add the plants. Don’t be afraid to pack them in. Position the plants so their root balls are securely placed between the slats and tuck them in firmly. Once you have all your plants in position, add additional soil if needed but be sure to reserve some to add once the pallet is mounted. Don’t water yet due to the added weight.

*Now it’s time to mount the pallet.

Get two helpers and position the pallet between the brackets already secured to the house. It’s helpful to have something to rest the pallet on while it is being secured to the wall. With helpers holding the pallet in place, the third person can attach the brackets to the pallet.

Finally, make sure all the plants are positioned firmly in place and that the roots are in good contact with the surrounding soil. This is also the time to add the reserve soil to fill those voids. Thoroughly water the plants and soil. Again, you’ll have more settling and some soil loss here so have some extra soil on hand and add as necessary.

*Stuff the pallet with greens, herbs and edibles

*Get some help securing the final product, and water it well!
Over the next few days, continue to monitor the garden and add soil and water as needed as the plants establish and soil continues to settle. Once the roots fill out in a couple weeks, then just make sure to keep it watered. Because this garden is above ground, it will dry out more quickly. Like other containers, daily watering is likely.

Enjoy the harvest!

New Year’s resolutions for the gardener 
Mike Klahr, Community Recorder Contributor for horticulture. 9:38 p.m. EST December 26, 2015

Question: When should I top my trees? Why do I still have moles even after applying grub preventer? These are just some of the questions we received at the extension office this past year.
Answer: Here are some suggested New Year’s resolutions for gardeners that should help answer these and several other common questions.

• I will never top my trees, and certainly won’t pay someone else to top my trees.

Topping is also known as “dehorning,” “hat-racking” or “butchering,” cutting back all the branches to the same height.
Topping disfigures trees and makes them grow back weaker than they were before, and it makes them more susceptible to sunscald, frost cracks, and attack from insects and disease. For proper pruning techniques, consult your local county extension office, or ask for our list of ISA-trained Certified Arborists.

• I will not try to control moles in my yard by simply applying grub-control chemicals.
Moles eat earthworms, snails, spiders, insect larvae and various other insects in addition to white grubs, so you will need to use another control method such as trapping, mole repellents, or poison baits like Talpirid or Tom Cat Mole Killer. Consult the extension office for details.

• I will never let the mulch touch the trunks of my trees.
When mulch is piled up against the trunks of trees, it keeps the base of the tree trunk too wet during rainy seasons, leading to bark decay. Roots grow up into the mulch and result in “girdling roots” which strangle the tree. Voles (resembling field mice) live in the mulch pile around the tree, chewing the bark off the tree trunk during the winter, leading to an early death.

• I will always consider the planting site (sun, shade, soil/drainage, slopes, wet or dry conditions) before selecting plants for my landscape. 
Many trees, shrubs and flowers will grow quite well in places other than where you may want to plant them. Don’t plant Canadian hemlock or white pine in a heavy, poorly drained clay soil, or near where de-icing salts are used. Don’t plant flowering dogwoods in full sun in a heavy clay soil. Don’t plant azaleas and rhododendrons in an alkaline (high pH), poorly drained clay soil. 


Choose From a Variety of Plants

There are many plants that will make a beautiful addition to your winter garden or lawn. Here are some suggestions for a more beautiful Michigan landscape.

Posted on February 16, 2012 by Dixie Sandborn, Michigan State University Extension

Frost glistening from the branches to a dusting of snow on the tips of evergreens, the beauty of plants in the winter is endless. Take note of winter landscapes and what characteristics you most enjoy. Note branching habits, color, unusual bark, persisting seeds and berries, or swaying seed heads of ornamental grasses. These features keep our landscapes alive and interesting throughout the winter months.

[Red Osier Dogwood, otherwise known as the Red Twig Dogwood] Winter is a great time to appreciate landscape plants for more than their flowers and foliage. Many landscape plants have beauty we only can enjoy during the winter. It may be the exfoliating bark of the River Birch, the bright red stems of Red Twig Dogwood or the red berries against the rigid leaves of holly. There are thousands of plants for landscape winter interest. Don’t forget the grasses and other small rock garden plants. Other winter-loving plants show their beauty in the early spring, with colorful flowers bursting out against the starkness of the season. Winter landscapes have much to offer. Not only is there beauty in the plants, they offer habitat and food for wildlife.

The next time you are selecting plants for your landscape, be sure to consider the winter beauty. There are many great plants to choose from for a Michigan winter. Most of Michigan is in zone 5 according to the USDA Hardiness Zone map.

Here are some excellent plants for winter interest in your landscape:

Paperbark Maple (Acer grisium)
Threadleaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum)
Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica “Glauca”)
Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana “Contorta”)
Winter Daphne (Daphne odora) Fragrant
Common Snow Drops (Galanthus nivalis)
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
Christmas Rose (Helleboris niger)
Chinese witch-hazel (Hamamelis mollis)
Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) Need female and male plant
Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

Michigan winters are long, but having the beauty of plants reminds us spring will be here soon. For now, get out and enjoy what the Michigan landscape has to offer.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit


You can move them about until you find the perfect place,

or you can give them away if you find you don't like or need them anymore.                              -Anne Campodonico (Submittal: Gloria Schuler)

Monday, November 21, 2016


Posted by Kim Ellson - Gardening; New Blog Post at

"It is hard to think of the Holidays and not conjure up images of red Poinsettias and a snowy landscape", said Kim Ellson, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. Poinsettias truly have become a symbol of Christmas and it would be very difficult to think them away.

"Although reds are certainly the most iconic" said Ellson, "variations of pinks, whites, burgundies and salmons are also very attractive." Most plants come predominantly in bush form yet there are also some in tree form.

Why is it then that despite their abundance and familiarity, their care still oftentimes a mystery to many? Are Poinsettias really that difficult to keep healthy and looking their best for any length of time? "There is no need people should be experiencing difficulties with their Poinsettia plants" commented Ellson. "Here are some tips to ensure your Poinsettia looks its very best this season and well into the New Year."

  • Purchase a healthy, high quality plant.
  • Make sure the cyathia remain tight and have not opened. The cyathia are the green buds in the centers, surrounded the colorful red leaves; which open up to tiny yellow flowers. 
  • White and healthy roots are a great indicator of good plant health.
  • Wrap plants before transporting these home.
  • Avoid cold drafts; Poinsettias are highly sensitive to direct drafts and suffer damage easily. 
  • Always water thoroughly.
  • Let plants go completely dry between waterings without stressing plants. Poinsettias are prone to suffer from overwatering as they have sensitive root systems that easily rot out.
  • If possible select a cool area in your home; avoid heating ducts or bring plant into warm area during Holiday season. This will ensure vibrant colorful bracts.
  • There is no need to fertilize your Poinsettia during the Holidays; save the fertilizer for March.
  • Monitor plant for pests such as whitefly by checking the undersides of the leaves to allow for early detection and treatment. 

"These basic guidelines should help ensure you get the very most out of your Poinsettia this Holiday and enjoy a colorful season" said Ellson.


Coleus is still my favorite of all annuals, and so many new selections every year to choose from; many now doing well in full sun.  But guess what?  Coleus can actually do very well indoors over the winter, grown as a houseplant!  Try potting a few in containers, or take cuttings and place them in water.  They root easily and can be grown in the water or in soil.  When it’s time to clean out my annual pots and planted areas at the end of the season, I will cut stems from the different coleus and make indoor arrangements with them in a vase.  They last a long time, and many will actually root!  Several of your annuals are good for doing that, including ornamental sweet potato vines.  By the way, when you dig those up at the end of the season and find the sweet potato tubers in the soil, yes, they are very edible!

Yes, if you’ve had issues with those pesky winter annuals growing in the beds!  By applying a pre-emergent now, you’ll help control annual weeds like hairy bittercress, purple deadnettle, henbit and chickweed, which germinate in the fall and begin to grow over the winter, and then take over our landscape beds and gardens early next spring.  As a matter of fact, keep after any weeds that pop up in the beds this fall, to keep your beds weed free now, and off to a cleaner start next spring.  Use your Roundup where you can, or hand pull if needed.  But don’t let the weeds grow this fall.

As soon as you can lightly rake the straw without pulling up the grass.  It takes a while, so just experiment to see.  Once you can, lightly rake off what you can (get as much as you can), may take a couple times of raking, and then when you mow, simply chop up what’s left and throw it back into the turf.

Unless you see the culprit – nothing!  But best guess is that if you looked closely on the undersides of the leaves and towards the base of the plant, you’ll see green caterpillars – cabbage worms.  Just pick them off and smash them.  If you need to spray, use Bt or Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew.

Looks like you may have some skunks and raccoons helping you get rid of grubs in the soil.  They’ll find a pocket of grubs, dig them out, and have a feast.  Problem is; they tear up your turf in the meantime!  You can apply a grub killer to the area, but that takes time to work, the grubs are still there (dead or alive) and the critters keep digging. (Only apply grub killers if there is a problem with grubs killing the lawn – not as a means of control for grubs and digging critters.)  So try applying Milorganite to the area; gives the lawn a natural fertilizing which helps in the recovery, and acts as a critter repellent (works for deer as well).  In extreme cases, it may take Milorganite plus laying bird netting on the lawn to keep the critters from digging.  And, just when you get them to stop digging, the moles tunnel in and begin their fall feasting of soil insects and earthworms!  

If indeed you’re sure its rose rosette, dig and remove those roses, bag them and throw them away.  Yes, you can replant roses there next year, but this means they, too, could be susceptible to the mite infestation that vectors the rose rosette virus.  (No, you cannot spread the mites on your clothes or tools, and no you cannot spread the virus from your garden tools.)

First of all, we applaud you for getting rid of the invasive honeysuckle.  And to be honest, not sure anything can grow as well as that invasive honeysuckle does given those conditions.  But, some plants to consider depending on shade density would include: oakleaf hydrangea, climbing hydrangea, hemlock, taxus, spicebush, some viburnums, bottlebrush buckeye, serviceberry, witchhazel, dogwood, buttonbush, alpine currant, beautyberry, deciduous holly, bayberry, plus many shade tolerant perennials.

Good question!  Aphids and black spot on roses, maybe an extreme case of turf diseases, scale on magnolias (dormant spraying later this fall, too), slugs, pesky hornet and wasp nests, spraying soaps or horticultural oils on tropical plants before bringing them indoors for the winter, timely apps of systemics for borer, scale, psyllid and leafminer controls, maybe a quick kill (dylox) for high populations of grubs in the turf, etc.  I’m sure there may be a few more, but the point is in many cases, most situations rarely warrant sprays this time of the year.

As for new needles coming back, only time will tell.  You’ll know by mid next spring.  Sometimes they do – many times they do not and the area stays bare.  As for the existing bagworms, when you have time, pick them off and destroy them.  Squash each one between your fingers as you pick them off.  If there are too many to pick, you don’t want to take the time, or they’re too high on the evergreen to get to, then mark your calendar to start watching the plants around June 1st.  That’s when they hatch and begin feeding.  Give them a couple weeks from when you first see them (they’ll be small), and then spray the plant with Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew.  Soak it.  Then just watch for future activity and spray if needed.  But one spray can really do the trick!

The Best Way to Overseed a Lawn
The weather, kids, and pets can be tough on lawns. Lack of water, too much heat, wear & tear, and other problems can make it look worn and thin. You can help reinvigorate your lawn by overseeding. In the north, spring and fall give you the ideal conditions for cool-season grass seed: cooler temperatures and more moisture. In the south, late-spring through mid-summer provide ideal conditions for warm-season grass seed. The following are simple steps to overseed your lawn.

Project Steps:

Choose the Best Seed for Your Area 
Choose a highest quality grass seed that works for your location. If you live in the north, a cool-season grass mix, like Scotts® Turf Builder® Sun & Shade Mix® is a versatile mix. There are also cool season mixes available for shade, high traffic, and sunny areas. Scotts® Turf Builder® Heat-Tolerant Blue® Mix is great if you live in the northern transition zone. It's a blend of tall fescue and Scotts® patented Thermal Blue® Kentucky bluegrass that has been bred to withstand heat and drought. If you live in the south, choose a warm-season grass type that works best for your area, like Scotts® Turf Builder® Zoysiagrass or Scotts® Turf Builder® Bermudagrass.

Prepare the Area 

Before overseeding your lawn, you should mow your lawn short and bag the clippings. This will allow the seed to come into contact with the soil when you spread it. 

Use a Scotts® spreader to spread your seed. Be sure to set your spreader to the setting listed on the bag of grass seed. When you're done, it's essential to give the seeds a good soaking to get them growing.

When you're done spreading the seed, it's essential to water your lawn to get your seeds growing. Mist your lawn frequently, once or twice per day, until the new seedlings have reached the height of your existing lawn.

You can continue to mow your lawn as needed, but try to limit the activity on your lawn until your new seedlings have reached a mowing height.

Outlawed plants? City of Midland deems weeds a public nuisance
Jessica Haynes,

Poisonous, noxious, invasive: Just some of the words used to describe a list of weeds that are now prohibited in Midland.

The list of outlawed plants had not been updated since Feb. 2, 1982. Three plants are being removed from the list: Goldenrod, devil’s pitchfork and dodder plant, because of their importance to pollination or lack of invasive qualities.

“We want to keep a focus on those plants that really do pose a risk or a threat to the area,” said Karen Murphy, Midland public services director.

Those declared a public nuisance include: Garlic mustard, phragmites, crown vetch, purple loosestrife, giant hogweed, wild parsnip, spotted knapweed, Japanese knotweed, giant knotweed, autumn olive, glossy buckthorn, and common buckthorn.

The plants join Canada thistle, mustards, wild carrot, bindweed, hoary alyssum, ragweed, poison ivy, poison sumac, sow thistle and a plant known as climbing nightshade or European bittersweet.

Parks staff worked with Mid-Mitten Wild Ones Chapter and The Little Forks Conservancy to go over the list and propose edits and changes based on what plants have been located and identified as a threat to Midland County, Murphy said.

Revamping the ordinance allows city staff to respond on a complaint basis, Murphy said, and move forward with the violations process for any residents found to have the destructive plants on their property.

She recommended residents contact The Little Forks Conservancy for help with identifying and removing the plants.

“They have guidance they will give to homeowners,” Murphy said. 

The ordinance amendment changes Section 26.1 of Article I of the City’s Code of Ordinances, which can be found at

The Midland City Council recently approved the ordinance amendment by a vote of 5-0; the changes took effect upon adoption of the amendment.


8 TOMATO MYTHS . . . . . . . . .

(by Scott Daigre-owner of Tomatomania:the world's largest tomato-seedling sale; 'Edible Garden')

It's no secret that the tomato is a favorite summertime staple.  Yes, the tomato does perform differently than other vegetable crops.  And yes, your growing region or zone may have something to do with how successful you will be.  But becoming aware of the following common misconceptions will help set you on the right path to getting the great harvest you're after. 

1. Tomato seedlings are fragile.  They are small, perhaps, but they're not fragile.  Centuries ago, tomatoes were just sturdy weeds on a South American hillside before someone decided to eat one of the plant's fruits and though it could be food.  These plants are far hardier than they are given credit for.  So choose a seedling, select a sunny spot, and bury it deep. There's no need to coddle it.

2. Growing tomatoes in pots is the same as growing them in the ground.  No, it's different.  In some ways, it's more challenging to grow tomatoes in pots, but in other ways, it's far better.  Soil in containers warms up quicker than ground soil, so the same variety can ripen up to two weeks earlier in a pot than it would in the ground.  If you live in a cool zone with a short summer season, container growing a a great way for you to finally get a decent harvest.  Container growing, however, does require more work.  You'll have to fertilize more (at least every 10 days because of sharper drainage.)  Mulch the top of the pot or cover the outside of the pot to protect the root system from high heat.  I also generally plant short-season tomatoes and small fruiting varieties in containers because huge beefsteaks need optimal conditions for the entire summer season to produce well in a pot.

3. The more sun, the better.

Commercial tomato plants growing infields that receive sunlight from sunrise to sunset are hybrids specially bred to thrive under those conditions.  But not all tomatoes are built to withstand those conditions.  Most tomatoes only need six to eight hours a day or full sun.  I recommend planting inroads that run north-south, especially if your garden plot gets more than eight hours of sun per day.  Doing this ensures that one side of the pant gets early sun and the other gets later sun.  This orientation also means that each side of your plant is spared blazing hot sun all day long.  Sun scald can be a problem if ripening fruit is exposed to all-day sun.

4.  Use only paste tomatoes for sauce. 

Large commercial companies use paste tomatoes, like Roma, to make sauce because those tomatoes produce heavily, ripen at the same time, and are easy to process. But great tomato flavor is generally not paramount among those tomatoes' qualifications.  Great-tasting tomatoes - regardless of type - make great sauce.  These varieties may be more watery, so it can take longer to get the sauce consistency you want.  And if you decide to remove the skins, it may be hard to process them (especially cherry tomatoes). But in the end, when you use amazing tasting tomatoes, you'll get an amazing tasting sauce.  

5.  Tomatoes need lots and lots of water.

While waters doesn't cause problems directly, consistently soggy soil can encourage diseases.  As the season progresses, your plants will look less vigorous (or look awful), and you'll feet sorry for them.  Resist the temptation to hate more.  At the end of the season, excess water is channeled into the developing fruit, and that water dilutes flavor.  You should water your tomatoes deeply but infrequently.  "Deeply: means soaking the root-ball each time you water.  New plantings don't require much time with the hose, but as the season progresses - and the roots expand - you'll need to water longer.  "Infrequently" means every four or five days. Your soil, site, and even your zone may require an adjustment to these guidelines.

6. When the leaves turn yellow, fertilize.

You should fertilize on a schedule, following the directions for the product you're using.  Tomatoes in the ground, in decent soil, shouldn't need aggressive fertilizing to perform well. Some leaves on your plant will turn yellow as the season progresses, especially lower ones.  The leaves that no longer get sun are not useful in producing food for the plant, so they're sloughed off.  That's just how it goes.  Early on, your plants will be gorgeous, fat, and green. As the season progresses, the temperatures rise; the plant gets larger; and, most important, the plant's focus shifts from producing leaves and stems to fruiting.  This new stress causes the plant to drop leaves and to look bad.  More water and more fertilizer won't fix this problem.  

7.  Pruning is essential for great tomatoes.  No, it's not.  You have a choice to make: Do you want (a) large, wide plants that may become a bit unruly and produce a lot of small fruit or (b) more manicured plants that have fewer but larger fruit?  Your garden site or zone can help you with this decision.  Are you growing where it's hot?  You may need the heavier leaf cover to protect developing fruit from the scalding sun.  Are you growing at a cooler area? Pinch at least a little so that more sun gets into the center of the plant and warms it up.  Remember -- you shouldn't need to prune most determinate plants.  Pinching is a big job, and as the season progresses, it's often hard to tell what you should pinch and what you shouldn't .  Relax, and rest assured that you won't have a doomed season if you go to the park with the kids instead of pinching all weekend.

8.  The fruit is ripe when it's red. 

If this were true, how could you tell when a yellow tomato was ready to be eaten?  The fruit is ripe when it has reached its true color (depending on the type) and its is softening.  A hard fruit at the grocery store isn't ready to eat, right?  The same is true in the garden.  The acids and sugars in tomatoes are, in fact, perfectly balanced and fully flavored just before the fruit goes bad.  If critters are a problem in your garden, pick the fruit as it breaks (when the true color begins to show), and let it read in a cool part of your kitchen or pantry.  It will flavor up just fine.  

Do you have any nagging gardening questions?
​You can possibly solve them with a simple click on this website:


PROBLEM:What's your suggestion about removing suckers which appear here and there in your yard or garden bed?

In May of 2016 several trees near my property have been cut down and the stumps ground to grade level. These suckers are appearing around many of the stumps and in all directions away from the stumps.They are also appearing in numerous places throughout my yard.

  • Are these a very aggressive and invasive root that is hard to control and if the suckers are allowed to grow will they generate their own root system? 

       Yes, they may.

  • Is there something I can spray on each sucker that will kill the entire root system and stump? Roundup applied with a small paint brush, Q-tip, or eyedropper right after mowing or hand pruning should work. Be careful to not get the roundup on the grass or that will die also.

  • Will the overspray effect any other type of landscape growth? YES

  • Can the roots be exposed near each sucker and treated to kill the entire root system and stump? Yes, use something to cut into the bark below the surface of the soil and then apply roundup to the wounded area.

  • Can the entire yard be excavated to expose these roots and treat each one to kill the entire root system and stump? Sure, but that should not be necessary

  • Can each and every stump be located, excavated, make fresh cuts and apply treatment to kill the stump and it's entire root system? Sure, see other answers.

  • Would any of the above methods prevent the present and future invasion of these roots on my property? If any sprouts within the area are not removed, the root system could continue growing.  From what I could see on the photos, the leaf appeared to be one of the Aspens, which are trees that will generate lots of suckers.

  • Are there any professionals in the Tri City area that could permanently destroy these stumps and there entire root system? Yes, any of the Tree service companies could do this for a fee

  • Any information you can supply me with the above issue would be helpful.You can also just continue mowing the lawn and suckers this year, and they should not reappear next summer. The suckers will not be able to produce enough food for the root system to survive through the winter.

You can plant some of your favorite flowers 
and vegetables now. A menu popup appears with a garden directory on a myriad of topics!​

  Submittal 4/28/16

Beans, Snap seed             MAY 10 - JUNE 30

Beet seed                        APRIL 1 - JUNE 15

Broccoli plants                 APRIL 1 - MAY 1
Cabbage plants                MARCH 15 - APRIL 10

Carrot                             APRIL 10 - JUNE 1
Celery seed                     APRIL 15 - MAY 1

Corn seed                       MAY 5 - JUNE 15
Cucumber seed               MAY 15 - JUNE 15

Eggplant plants               MAY 15 - JUNE 10

Escarole                         APRIL 1 - MAY 1
Garlic                             MARCH 15 - APRIL 15; OCTOBER

Kale                               APRIL 1 - APRIL 20
Leek                              APRIL 1 - MAY 1

Lettuce head seed          APRIL 1 - MAY 1
Lettuce leaf seed           APRIL 1 - JUNE 1

Melon seed                    MAY 15 - JUNE 15
Onion seed                    MARCH 15 - APRIL 15

Onion plants                  APRIL 1 - MAY 1

Onion sets                     MARCH 10 - APRIL 10

Parsley seed                  APRIL 1 - MAY 1

Pea seed                       MARCH 20 - MAY 1

Pepper plants                MAY 15 - JUNE 10

Potato plants                 APRIL 1 - MAY 1

Radish seed                   MARCH 20 - MAY 10

Rutabaga seed               MAY 1 - JUNE 1

Spinach seed                 MARCH 20 - APRIL 20

Squash seed                  MAY 15 - JUNE 15

Swiss chard seed           APRIL 15 - JUNE 15

Tomato plants               MAY 10 - JUNE 15

Turnip seed                   MARCH 20 - MAY           

Fertilizing Basics                                                                Submittal: 3/29/16
It pays to know why, what, how, and when to feed your plants

by Sandra C. Gorry, Fine Gardening issue 96 3

        No matter how hard one tries, it’s tough to transform the topic of fertilizers into lively con­ver­­sation. But for all gardeners, knowledge of fertilizers and how to apply them effectively is as crucial to vigorous plant growth as knowing a plant’s har­diness zones. So in the interest of growing healthy plants, what follows is a brief discussion of the why, what, how, and when of applying these multi­vitamins.

Three prime chemical elements are found in all mixed fertilizers:

N = Nitrogen promotes healthy leaf growth by stimulating the production of chlorophyll (the main chemical involved in photosynthesis—how plants convert sunlight to food).

P = Phosphorus supports the vigorous development of roots, stems, blossoms, and fruits.

K = Potassium plays a key role in helping plants digest and manufacture their foods.


All of the nutrients essential to plant growth are present in the soil or are floating in the air, so what’s the point of fertilizing? The point is that not all plants can access the key nutrients found in the soil or in the air. Each soil type has its own mix of nutritional ingredients, so before considering what fer­tilizers a plant may require, we need to con­sider the soil in which a plant is growing. Activities like intensive farming, construction, and traffic can alter soil chemistry and structure, limiting the nutrients that plants can use. In some cases, the nutrients aren’t naturally there to begin with or have been leached out over time. For these reasons, we, the diggers of the dirt and keepers of the garden, must replenish, replace, or help release those elements that are beyond the reach of our plants.

When it comes to fertilizing, more does not mean better. It is possible to overfeed your plants. Too much fertilizer can damage and maybe even kill your plants. Before applying any fertilizer, it’s a good idea to have your soil tested so you can select the type and formula that suits your plants’ needs. In return, our plants will reward us with bigger flowers, bigger leaves, and bigger fruits and vegetables.

  • Water-soluble fertilizers are faster acting but must be applied more frequently.

Base application

This method gives plants food while you water. Used with water-soluble fertilizers, follow the mixing instructions and water the soil at the plant’s base with a watering can or hose attachment. This is good for feeding container plants and vegetables.

Foliar application

This approach is similar to base application, but the water is applied to the leaves rather than to the soil. It is useful when plants need to quickly absorb trace elements, like iron.


          The three essential elements that all plants need are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—or N-P-K, the proportions of which are stated as numbers on the package. For instance, a general-purpose fertilizer labeled 20-20-20 means that each chemical element—N, P, and K—contributes 20 percent by weight to the total formula (the remaining 40 percent is composed of inert materials and trace elements). The element percentages are offered in varying proportions to suit different fertil­izer needs. If you are looking to boost flower production, you want a mix like 15-30-15, which is high in flower-developing phosphorus. If you want to green up your lawn, choose a mix like 25-6-4, which is high in nitrogen. Many fertilizers are formulated for specific plants like roses, bulbs, or vegetables. Be sure to check the label for the N-P-K ratio, as you may be able to use a general fertilizer with close to the same nutrient percentages but at a lower price.

In addition to N-P-K, most fertilizers contain traces of other elements important to plant health. Some trace elements are more important than others, but each nourishes a plant in its own way. The main trace elements in fertilizers are calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, boron, and sulfur (you can usually purchase these items individually as well). If any of these elements are lacking, a plant may show characteristic deficiency symptoms. An iron deficiency, for instance, causes chlorosis (yellow leaves with green veins), which is easily corrected with a dose of chelated iron.

There are quite a number of fertilizers available today, both organic (plant and animal derived) and inorganic (chemically derived). While the majority are commercially produced inorganic fertilizers, there are a few options for the organic gardener. Many rely on the old standbys—animal manure and compost—which, although organic and good for soil building, actually contain few nutrients. For flower and fruit development, bonemeal with a high phosphorus count is the organic of choice, while blood meal is a good source of nitrogen.



           There are two types of fertilizers available to the home gardener: granular and water soluble. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. Granular fertilizers deliver food to a plant slowly but have the advantage of longevity. Since they must be broken down by water before a plant can use them, granular fertilizers do not leach out of the soil as rapidly as water-soluble types. Water-soluble fertilizers are faster acting but more transient, which means they must be applied more frequently than the granular type.

Both types of fertilizers are effective, so the one you choose depends on whether you want to give your plants a quick but frequent fix or a sluggish but extended feeding. And for those of us gardeners who are oh so very busy (or oh so very lazy), nothing beats time-release granular fertilizers, some of which require only one application every six to nine months.

There are several ways to apply granular and water-soluble fertilizers, but there are a few general guidelines that one should follow when applying them. Avoid applying a fertilizer on windy or rainy days. This can cause it to be misplaced and ineffective. When using a granular fertilizer, always be sure to knock the fertilizer off plant leaves to avoid burn. Never apply a granular fertilizer when the soil is extremely dry, and water it in thoroughly after applying to prevent plant burn.


Broadcast application

This method, which covers large areas well, is used to apply granular fer­tilizers to lawns or to new beds before they are planted. The broadcast method can be done with a hand-rotary or drop spreader.

Top-dress application

This technique, which provides nutrients to individual plants such as shrubs and perennials, is done by hand with granular fertilizers. Simply apply the fertilizer around the base of the plant, extending to the drip line. For vegetables, place the fertilizer in a strip parallel to the plant­ing row.

       Knowing when to fertilize is as important as using the right fertilizer. If you don’t apply the fertilizer at a time when the plant can use it, there’s no point in fertilizing. Most perennials, annuals, vegetables, and lawns will reward you handsomely if fed with a balanced granular fertil­izer in early spring. Avoid fertilizing before the spring showers, however, or you will be throwing your money away, since the nutrients will simply leach out of the soil. Annuals like to be fed an additional three to four times during the growing season with a high-phosphorus, water-soluble fertilizer, while lawns benefit from a second granular application in early fall.

Trees and shrubs, especially those that flower, also like a dose of a balanced granular fertilizer in the spring and another in the fall. But remember to heed the phrase “late and light” when fertilizing trees and shrubs in autumn. Late fall is also a good time to fertilize bulbs, especially if you are planting them for the first time; a teaspoon of bonemeal added to each bulb hole will generally be sufficient.

Roses have insatiable appetites. To keep them fat and happy, feed them with a soluble fertilizer every seven days during their blooming season. “Weekly, weakly” is the feeding mantra for all roses. One final thought: Feed only well-established plants; fertilizing seeds or tiny seedlings will cause fertilizer burn.

Just remember, these guidelines on feeding are just that—guidelines. Read the package directions before scattering both food and caution to the wind.
Read more:

Cabbage: Star of recent Google searches
Looking for some mid-winter local food or St. Patrick’s Day staples? Consider cabbage as a healthy winter vegetable option.
Posted on March 2, 2016 by Kaitlin Koch Wojciak, Michigan State University Extension

  • According to Google trends, cabbage was one of the top ten United States recipe related searches in 2015. The search data shows that cabbage recipes are popular year round, but have increased interest in December and March. 

  • Cabbage, prepared in various ways, is a traditional dish for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. This might explain the increased search frequency in the month of March. While cabbage is a staple in Irish cuisine, it is also a key ingredient in cultural dishes from around the world. In fact, cabbage is used in recipes from every continent. Nutritionally, it is a source of potassium and is high in vitamin C. 

Fortunately for Michigan residents, cabbage is in season for the majority of the winter. The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems has developed a Michigan Produce Availability Chart , detailing when various fruits and vegetables grown in Michigan are available. If eating local food in the winter is new to you – cabbage is currently in season because producers are able to store it after it has been harvested. 

Cabbage is harvested in two batches from the field, an early crop from July through mid-August and a late crop from mid-October through November. These ranges may vary depending on where you live in the large state of Michigan. After the end of the harvest in November, when producers store cabbage in appropriate conditions, this vegetable can be purchased locally through the month of March! Including season extension and storage time, local cabbage is available for more than half of the year. That gives plenty of opportunities to experiment with preparing and cooking cabbage with recipes from around the world! 

Another way of storing cabbage is by fermenting it. Lacto-fermentation is becoming more popular, and is a fun and fairly easy process to do at home. An MSU Extension initiative, Michigan Fresh, has a free fact sheet on cabbage which includes a sauerkraut recipe. If the finished product is more appealing, look for some thriving new companies that are selling lacto-fermented sauerkraut locally, including The Brinery and Cultured Love. 

Look for cabbage at your year round farmers market, grocer stocking local produce, or for value-added products that source from Michigan producers. 

Michigan State University Extension supports the growth and consumption of local produce year round.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit


All Things Plants: Daily articles and and a weekly podcast are posted to the site, and a weekly email newsletter containing all the ideas from the previous week, along with the best photos posted to the database, and much more, is sent out to the members every weekend. The site also features gardening blogs, a useful gardening planting calendar, reviews of gardening companies, and dozens of highly active forums are available for countless hours of entertainment, gardening inspirations, and conversation.

Emerald Ash Borer Information Network: Emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, is an exotic beetle that was discovered in southeastern Michigan near Detroit in the summer of 2002. The adult beetles nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage. The larvae (the immature stage) feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients. Emerald ash borer probably arrived in the United States on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes originating in its native Asia.   This bulletin is designed to answer frequently asked questions and provide the most current information on insecticide options for controlling EAB.

I Love Gardens:Browse through a list of public and private gardens in America and Ireland. Select your favorites, and have a pleasurable ramble.

Invasive and Exotic Species of North America: Learn about any species, including its seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that ecosystem; and whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.

​Invasive Plant Atlas of the U.S.: The Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States is a collaborative project between the National Park Service, the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The purpose of the Atlas is to assist users with identification, early detection, prevention, and management of invasive plants. The focus is on non-native invasive plant species impacting natural areas, excluding agricultural and other heavily developed and managed lands. Four main components are species information, images, distribution maps, and early detection reporting procedures. The Invasive Plant Atlas is one step in the effort to combat invasive species, preserve our natural landscapes and the native plants, animals, and other creatures that inhabit them.

​Landscape Plants Rated by Deer-Resistance: Realizing that no plant is deer proof, plants in the Rarely Damaged, and Seldom Severely Damaged categories would be best for landscapes prone to deer damage. Plants Occasionally Severely Damaged and Frequently Severely Damaged are often preferred by deer and should only be planted with additional protection such as the use of fencing, repellents, etc. Success of any of these plants in the landscape will depend on local deer populations and weather conditions.

Michigan Natural Features Inventory: "To actively contribute to decisions that impact the conservation of biological and ecological diversity by collecting, analyzing, and communicating information about rare and declining plants and animals, and the array of natural communities and ecosystems native to Michigan."

Midwest Invasive Plant Network:  Check out MIPN's compilation of Midwestern state invasive plant lists for our region. Find links to appropriate DNR websites, state laws, and state-level invasive species councils' lists of invasive plants. If you're interested in exploring this information more, a downloadable excel file of this compilation is also available on the page.

Monarch Watch:Collecting Milkweed Seeds for Monarch Watch in support of our Bring Back the Monarchs conservation campaign? Find out how to send them to us or click on the graphic below to learn more about Monarch Watch's Bring Back the Monarchs conservation campaign. Thank you for your interest and support!

MSUext Fact Sheets:Michigan Fresh helps people explore the state’s bounty of fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamentals. You can find tips on growing, handling and preserving as well as healthful recipes to take advantage of the delicious Michigan-grown bounty from your back yard or your local farmer's market.

MSUext Lawn and Garden Hotline: MSU Extension’s Consumer Horticulture team and trained Master Gardener Volunteers are dedicated in helping answer any home lawn and garden questions. The Lawn and Garden Hotline is 1-888-MSUE4MI (1-888-678-3464). MSU Extension staff and volunteers are available weekdays 9:00 am—12:00 pm and 1:00 pm—5:00 pm during the growing season (April-September). During the off season (October-March) the Hotline is available weekdays 9:00 am—12:00 pm. Residents can also receive valuable information and sign up for MSU Extension Home Gardening news 

  • CLICK ON LINK for following presentations & handouts below:

  • OTHER MSU available powerpoint presentations - PDF versions:

How is our Floral Peacock constructed? The Building of Wilbir!  - photos by Renata Reibitz
Hardy ornamental grasses - Dr Art Cameron
Bamboo trellis ideas in photos - Art and Marlene Cameron
Sources and descriptions of zip ties and bamboo used in trellises - Art Cameron
Creating Artful Pieces for your Garden - Art and Marlene Cameron
Alternatives to impatiens walleriana - Katie McCarver

  • Useful handouts and photos from past conferences:

Ornamental Grasses Suitable for Michigan Gardens
Building a bamboo trellis - Art and Marlene Cameron
Making Compost - Dr John Bierbaum
Garden Season Extension - Dr John Biernbaum
The Basics of Pruning - Marcus Duck
Clematis Care and Culture - Cheryl English
Floral Arranging with Native Plants - Tim Latimer
Protected Native Plants in Michigan - Tim Latimer
Gardening with Native Plants - Leah Knapp D.V.M.
Gardening with Kids - Discover the Magic - Norm Lowness

Plants Database:  The PLANTS Database provides standardized information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens of the U.S. and its territories.  ​

​​Forcing Forsythia Posted January 27, 2016

February and March can be dreary and cold.  One way to bring a spot of bright, cheery color into the house is to bring forsythia into the house and force it to bloom. By February, forsythia has usually experienced enough chilling hours (exposure to a certain duration of cold temperatures) to be ready to break dormancy.  The ideal time to trek out in the cold and gather the branches is a day when temperatures get above freezing.  If that’s not possible, try putting the branches in a cool spot for a day or so when you first bring them in.  When you’re out cutting the branches carry a bucket of water with you and place the cuttings in the water immediately as you cut.

It takes about two weeks for the buds to swell and flowers to emerge. Ready your vases or containers with warm water, nutrient solution. Cut off from their food and water supply, the cut forsythia will appreciate a little help in the nutrient department. You can use cut flower food packets from the florist. Or you can make your own solution using one part lemon-lime soda to three parts water. Add one-quarter teaspoon of common household bleach to each quart of the solution. The lemon–lime provides some acidity and the sugar in the soda is a nutrient. The bleach retards any algae or bacteria growth that can clog the stems.  If the stems clog, the buds dry up and fall off. Have another container of plain, clean water handy.

Take the cut forsythia out of the bucket and place the cut end of the branch underwater in the clean water container.  Cut a fresh end on the branch underwater to the desired length and immediately place it in your vase.  Cutting underwater is important. It keeps air from entering the stems and stopping all water uptake.  Place your vases or containers away from direct heat and direct sunlight.  Change the water if it gets cloudy or in about 7 to 10 days as the buds start to swell.  In two weeks you should enjoy the bright yellow forsythia flowers.

​​Preventing Winter Damage

 Gardening Essentials: National Home Gardening Club by Barbara Pleasant

Root and Crown Rot- Perennials

Gardeners lose many hardy perennial plants every winter due to root or crown rot caused by excess soil moisture.  Clay soil and low areas are especially prone to holding too much water. To avoid this, incorporate plenty of organic matter at planting time to improve drainage, or grow your hardy perennials in raised beds. It is also important to avoid smothering the crowns of perennials with too much winter mulch.  Plants that hold onto a small tuft of green leaves through winter usually benefit from exposure to winter sun. They may become subject to disease if smothered beneath a damp mulch.

Sun-scald Trees

Young, smooth skinned trees, such as fruit trees and Japanese maples sometimes develop sun scald, which appears as ragged cracks in the trunk.  Sun scald is the result of rapid temperature changes during the winter and usually develops on the west or south side of the tree.  

On sunny days, a tree trunk may be warmed 18 degrees Fahrenheit above air temperature.  When the sun goes down, the temperature plummets and the trunk suddenly freezes, splitting wood and tearing bark.  In spring, pests and diseases are able to enter the trunk through these openings in the bark. 

  • Avoid Sunscald:

Wrap young trees with at least 2 feet of stretchy waterproof paper (sold as tree wrap) when temperatures get near freezing.  This moderates daily temperature extremes.  Do not wrap trees too early because it inhibits the photosynthesis process and can rob plants of needed nutrients.  Remove tree wrap in early to mid-spring.

  • Minimize Sunscald:

Plant smooth-skinned trees where they receive minimal afternoon sun in winter - such as the northeast corner of the building.  Position a new plant so that the side with the most branches faces southwest so the trunk has some added protection.

Lightening Snow Load

A blanket of snow is a wonderful insulator, but too much snow or heavy ice can cause exactly the kind of natural pruning you do not want.  Avoid planting brittle shrubs under the eaves of your house or other places where ice and snow tend to accumulate.  When heavy ice bends a plant, DO NOT attempt to help it until after the ice melts.  Frozen braces splinter and break very easily.  

To give the crowns of peonies and other shallow perennials a bit of breathing room under snow or ice, mulch the lightly with a loose pile of evergreen branches.  Covering the ground with evergreen  branches may also benefit spring flowering bulbs after they are planted in the fall.

Bundt Pan-Bird Wreath:

Fresh treats for the birds during winter
Posted on December 11, 2015 by Dixie Sandborn, Michigan State University Extension

Bird watching comes second only to America’s favorite hobby of gardening. It makes sense that most gardeners love bird watching and go to great lengths to plant habitats and flowers that provide seedheads for their feathered garden friends. Although planting habitats and seed barring plants are great ways to attract birds to your garden, during the cold, winter months the seedheads get depleted and birds need an additional food source. Birds need an incredible amount of energy just to keep from freezing to death. Feeding birds in the winter is a great way to help them survive the harsh winter months.

Almost 40 percent of Americans have a bird feeder and enjoy this hobby. A bird feeder can supply hours of entertainment for you and your family. One way to get kids involved is having them make some bird treats for the cold, winter days. Bird seed wreaths are an easy one kids love to make.

For a Bundt pan-sized bird seed wreath, you’ll need:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 package unflavored gelatin
4 cups bird food, such as seeds, peanuts, berries, dried fruits
Bundt pan or other mold
Nonstick cooking spray

If you don’t have a mold, shape the mixture by hand onto a piece of waxed paper or a cookie sheet.
Let the wreath harden by putting it in a cool place or even the freezer for 24 hours. Remove from the mold. Add ribbon for hanging and hang for the birds to enjoy. My family likes to add cranberries for a festive touch. Don’t forget to make a hole in the seed mixture to loop a string through for hanging. Smaller ornaments can also be made from the mixture using cookie cutters.
Helpful hints: Coat the inside of your cookie cutters for easier removal. Cool until hardened before removing from cookie cutter.

These wreaths and ornaments make great gifts for teachers, neighbors and others on your kid’s gift list. It is especially meaningful to those receiving the bird seed ornament knowing they are made by kids, and the kids are learning about nature in the process.

For more ideas for kid-created bird feeders, check out DIY Bird Feeders.

There are many reasons to feed birds during the winter, helping to enhance their survival rate. Michigan State University Extension suggests the following extra things kids can do for birds this winter:

Feed a variety of foods to attract a variety of birds.
Make bird feeders.
Keep your bird feeding areas clean.
Learn more about birds.

There are many resources available about feeding birds in the winter. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has many interesting fact sheets on feeding birds. MSU Extension also has tips on winter bird feeding and how to get kids involved in learning more about feeding birds and nature in the following articles: “Winter is bird feeder time!” and “Engaging youth in bird feeding.”

For even more information for the very curious kid, visit the following Audubon Society articles: “To Feed, or Not to Feed” and “Bird-Feeding Tips.”

Have fun, it’s not just for the birds!

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit


Identifying trees just got easier with Leafsnap, an app developed by Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution.

This free app combines electronic field guides with image-recognition software to identify common tree species from photos taken of their leaves.

It is available on iPhone and iPad, but not yet available on Android.


10 things to think about before establishing pollinator habitat.

Reduce the confusion about pollinator habitat options with this guide.( Ben Phillips, Michigan State University Extension, and Meghan Milbrath, MSU Department of Entomology )

Looking to establish habitat for pollinators? There are many state, county, city and private programs available to help you do so. While these programs are designed to help, it is easy to be overwhelmed by all the options or get bogged down by all the acronyms, restrictions and paperwork they require. At Michigan State University Extension, our aim is to help Michigan homeowners, farmers and land managers take advantage of resources and programs so that you can smoothly turn your good intentions into pollinator-friendly landscapes.

To help interested people visualize how different native flowering plant species may look and perform in a pollinator planting, MSUis hosting a Supporting Beneficial Insects with Flowering Plantsworkshop Aug. 2, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Clarksville Research Center, 9302 Portland Rd, Clarksville, MI 48815. More than 55 species will be on display that have undergone testing for their attractiveness to beneficial insects, including pollinators. A line-up of speakers will inform participants on the establishment and maintenance of plantings. For more information, an agenda and to register, go to: Supporting Beneficial Insects with Flowering Plants.

The following 10 tips will help serve you when considering the many options available for establishing pollinator habitat.

1. You don’t have to keep bees to help bees

Honey bees, which are from Europe, get a lot of (deserved!) attention, and many people think that bee keeping is the best way to help pollinators. However, in Michigan, we have over 400 species of native bees, plus moths, butterflies, ants, flies, etc., who aid in pollination. One of the biggest problems facing all pollinators is habitat loss, and restoring habitat helps honey bees as well as our native pollinators. Acquiring the skillset required for successful beekeeping requires a long-term commitment. However, anyone can put in and maintain a pollinator habitat. Why focus on the needs of just one, when you can help them all equally with flowering plants?

2. Determine your goals

Do you want your lawn to support pollinators, a ditch bank or an entire field? Is this for you personally as a beekeeper (i.e., nectar forage), farmer (e.g., organic matter accumulation, compaction alleviation, filtration or erosion control), business’ public image (e.g., parking lots and corporate lawns), or for the greater good (e.g., school, library or other public area)? Each of these approaches will open and close different doors for attaining financial support for establishment.


Programs supported by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), county Conservation District and U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service (USFWS) offer incentives for farmers and owners of leased farms to take on conservation efforts. These include well-known programs, like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), but also lesser-known ones with smaller, county-specific or temporary financial support. In some cases, lands are required to have a recorded cropping history, and some programs operate through a bid-process or point system. Meeting with a person from one of these federal, state or county organizations is essential, as these programs can change depending on the Farm Bill and other conservation priorities. A good first step is to speak with field staff from Farm Service Agencyand NRCS at your county USDA office, and work with your Conservation District biologist.


As an employee of a private business, you may be able to find Green Initiatives internally. Some organizations may be looking for ways to enhance their public perception through habitat restoration projects, and be willing to sink the cost of doing so, but are looking for someone to champion the project. In these cases, the resources that are most sought after are the tools and technical advice for completing the job. Often, businesses are more likely to fund a project if it is well thought out and supported. Consider asking local Master Gardeners and native plant chapters for help in installation and maintenance.


Dedicated educators and those looking to do something for the public good can access a number of donation and grant opportunities. Multiple organizations offer Environmental Education grants for small amounts of money to purchase seeds and tools for establishing native grasses and flowers on school and community property. Private or public nature and land conservancies, Master Gardeners and garden clubs often collect seed to establish and expand their own plantings and for use in educational outreach. Cementing a relationship with employees from county Conservation Districts and seed companies can lead to donations of flowering trees and shrubs and seeds. When soliciting for donations, it is important to assure donors of the educational nature of your intentions, so make sure you include a plan for outreach/education.

Public land manager (state game areas, conservancies, city managers, etc.).

There are separate pots of money set aside for organizations that manage public land. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) established funds for habitat development, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Habitat Grant Programscontinually provide funding to land managers of publicly accessed hunting lands. Some of these habitat initiatives are also beneficial to pollinators. USFWS Wildlife Grants and Habitat Conservation Plans are also an option for agency partnerships.

Private landowner. 

There are a few opportunities for funding if the acreage is large enough, even if the land has not been in agricultural production recently. The MDNR Private Lands Program (PLP) or the USFWS Partners for Wildlife Program (PWP) may fit your goals. Some NRCS programs may apply. Contact your local conservation district biologist and USDA office to start, and look at other projects in your area.

3. Think outside the box

Think about your ideas for where you might plant habitat – maybe you dreamed of turning an old field into a prairie – but also make a list of other areas you could use. Are there smaller plots, ditches, sections of lawn or drainways that could be improved? Maybe you can’t put in five acres of prairie, but you could add pollinator-friendly trees along your drive. Don’t limit your search to pollinator-specific projects. Some programs are designed for one thing, but can still benefit pollinators. For example, riparian restoration or wind break projects can be made into a pollinator project simply by adding the right flowering plants and trees. Restoration for other wildlife like birds or deer can also benefit pollinators. Don’t forget about partners like Pheasants Foreveror the Audubon Society.

4. Examine your opportunities for funding

Here is a brief list of the programs where funding for habitat can be subsidized.

General information:
Using Farm Bill Programs for Pollinator Conservation
Financial Assistance for Developing Wildlife Habitat in Southern Michigan

NRCS programs:
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

FSA programs:
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
General and Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE)

MDNR programs:
Private Lands Program (PLP)
Wildlife Habitat Grant Program (WHGP)

USFWS programs:
Partners for Wildlife Program (PWP)
State Wildlife Grants (SWG)
North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Small grants program
North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Standard grants program

Educational grant programs
Wild Ones - Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education (SFE) grant

5. Don’t count on the internet for updated program information

The web is a good place to get ideas and see other successful projects, but don’t count on federal program websites to have the latest, up-to-date information. Program details and requirements change quickly, and websites generally update at a slower pace. The best resources are people – call organizations directly and make an appointment at your USDA office. Chances are, many more programs and resources are available than what are listed online. We may be used to an online world, but for getting information on pollinator resources in Michigan, a phone call or meeting with your USDA office and conservation district is often the best way to start.

6. Be prepared for paperwork

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Many programs that provide funding or resources have to report back how their money is spent. That means they need to document where their money is going. This is especially true of programs based on taxpayer dollars. Record everything you are doing, and be patient if you are asked to fill out documentation.

7. Think about the long term

Many projects have long-term commitments and also require scheduled maintenance. Make sure you are ready if you need to burn a prairie in five years or brush hog the ditches. There is a lot more to establishing habitat than just planting seeds. You may have to prepare the soil for a year or two in advance, replant or mow. While many habitats are hardy and self-sustaining, there is no such thing as labor-free restoration, so make sure you have a plan and can manage the long-term care. It is better to have a smaller project that is well-managed than a large planting that no longer functions.

8. Don’t be afraid to work with others

Maybe you don’t own property, or your property is already in prime pollinator habitat. Many organizations, neighbors and companies would be interested in having their land put into a pollinator habitat, but don’t have the time or resources to complete the process. Find a club, school, business, neighbor, library, nature center or park and see if you can work together with staff to create a pollinator habitat. Sometimes it just takes someone with the initiative and time to pull the project together.

9. Don’t be afraid of going alone

You don’t need to have an official pollinator habitat program to plant for pollinators. If you can’t find a good fit or are waiting to hear about funding, don’t let that stop you. Conservation Districts have tree sales every spring, offering many pollinator-friendly trees at reasonable prices. Many garden centers, botanical gardens and gardening groups have seed swaps and native plant sales, and pollinator-friendly seed mixes are becoming cheaper and more widely available.

10. Locate reputable seed, transplant and technical advice

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all pollinator planting. The best planting for you will depend on your soil type, drainage, sun, growing zone, size, budget, etc. Make sure you are well-informed and have the information to ensure your plants will thrive. More often than not, the same people who produce plants and collect seed for sale also know a lot about how to establish and grow them well. Don’t be afraid to ask seed and plant companies for advice and recommendations. Some Conservation Districts have rental tools for establishing grassland plants from seed, and all can direct you to someone to ask for advice. Below are a few links to resources.

Sources for seed/plants:

Michigan Native Plant Producers Association
Michigan Pheasants Forever seed sale list
Alpha Nurseries
Cardno Native Plant Nursery
Earth Source Native Plant Nursery
Spence Nursery

Sources for information:

Protecting and enhancing pollinators in urban landscapes for the US North Central Region
County Conservation Districts
Xerces Society plant lists
MSU Native Plants and Ecosystem Services
Pollinator Biology and Habitat Michigan Technical Note No. 20

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

In the last week, dandelions have been lighting up the landscape with their brilliant yellow flowers. In most areas, the first flush of dandelion flowers has come and gone and now the puff-ball stage is in full effect. According to Michigan State University Extension, applying a herbicide at the puff-ball stage can be very effective, as this is the time the dandelion is at its weakest because it has just spent all that energy pushing out flowers. Applications prior to puff-ball stage can be effective at burning down the rosette and preventing puff-balls, but keep in mind that if you really want to get ‘em, schedule a fall application.

In addition to dandelions, many other broadleaf weeds are flowering in turf right now. Common chickweed, henbit, shepherd’s purse, yellow rocket, corn speedwell, wild violet and ground ivy are all flowering. All but wild violet and ground ivy are winter annuals. The life cycle of a winter annual is they germinate in fall, overwinter and then flower and produce seed in spring. After flowering in spring, winter annuals are usually only two to three weeks from dying.

If you apply herbicides now, they will be dead and gone in two to three weeks. If you do nothing, they will be dead and gone in two to three weeks. Get it?

Similar to the strategy of controlling dandelions, there are some very tough-to-control weeds that are also flowering right now. Ground ivy (also known as Creeping Charlie), wild violet and several speedwells (Germander and Creeping) are actively flowering. The flowering period is the best opportunity to kill them until fall arrives. The typical broadleaf combination herbicide containing 2,4-D provides fair control at flowering, but if you can find combination herbicides with the active ingredients quinclorac, triclopyr, fluroxypyr or carfentrazone, you should achieve better than fair control.