inmichigansoil

People, towns, businesses, farms and gardens all grow in Michigan soil.


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Planning Ahead for Next Spring

The Glory of the Snow blooms in March in most areas. The tiny blue blossoms are a sign that better days are coming. Image by Rudolf Schäfer at http://www.flickr.com/photos/schaefer-rudolf/6857252556/

Glory of the Snow blooms in March in most areas. The tiny blue blossoms are a sign that better days are coming. Image by Rudolf Schäfer at http://www.flickr.com/photos/schaefer-rudolf/6857252556/

Spring has yet to arrive here in Michigan. We’ve had a couple of warmer days, but then it snows again. It could go one like that till mid-April.

Pictures of fields of  snowdrops in England have made me wishful, hopeful, and envious. I have some early bulbs in my yard, but nothing like the extravagant display that decorates the gardens over there. I have a plan.

After researching what will grow here in my Zone 6 garden and remembering the minor bulb blooms I already have, I found Glory of the Snow. They are a very nice bright blue, almost like Christmas tree lights. They clump which means I could dig up the plant after a few years and separate the bulblets and have more flowers to plant. They are unsophisticated enough to look natural. They bloom before grass-moving season arrives, so I could also plant them out in the lawn and let the color drift out from the planting bed. They go well with the colors already in my garden. They are hardy in Zones 3 to 8, so an unusually warm or cold winter will not harm them (I hope).

Design articles say to plant odd numbers in clusters. They mention 3 and 5 plants. They talk about an “amoeba” shape rather than straight  lines or rows of straight lines. How do you do that with 3 or 5 bulbs? I want 33 or 45 bulbs. And I need to find space for them.

I’ve been walking through the yard with a camera taking pictures of the gardens currently covered with snow. Given the right conditions, Glory of the Snow would be up in another month–if I had planted last fall. I think I’ve found the perfect area for these blue beauties. And I have a photo to remind me of my decision.

I’ll order the bulbs for delivery this coming fall. I’ll add some “bulb food” when I plant, probably bone meal. I’ll remove plugs of grass and plant bulbs beneath the turf in a unplanned pattern. I’ve checked pricing and the bulbs are 20/$10, more or less, plus shipping. This is the wrong time of the year to place an order, but I have a photo with notes to remind to order a bit later in the season.

I can plan ahead. That’s what gardeners do.

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Michigan People Working to Protect Our Natural Areas

A view of the waters of Little Traverse Bay. Image by abarndweller at http://www.flickr.com/photos/barndweller/892553597/

A view of the waters of Little Traverse Bay. Image by abarndweller at http://www.flickr.com/photos/barndweller/892553597/

According to Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservancies, land conservancies are “community-based, nonprofit organizations dedicated to the permanent protection and stewardship of natural and working lands for the public good. Land conservancies are positioned to act swiftly and professionally to help landowners and communities protect the places important to us all—open spaces that define our sense of place, connect us to the natural world, and provide real services such as water quality protection, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, and sources of food and timber.”

Land conservancies stop open land from being developed. They help to create nature preserves and parkland. They raise money to buy land suited for conservation. Heart of the Lakes provides an umbrella structure that ties together the various conservancies throughout Michigan through work, educational, and information sharing.

There are approximately 24 local land conservancies and 6 state-wide (or national) groups here in Michigan. If you have an interest in conserving natural areas, consider contacting the conservancy near you to learn how to volunteer or donate.

Blue Water Land Conservancy
Cadillac Area Land Conservancy
Chikaming Open Lands
Chippewa Watershed Conservancy
Dahlem Conservancy
Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy
Great Lakes Bioregional Land Conservancy
Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy
Headwaters Land Conservancy
Keweenaw Land Trust
Land Conservancy of West Michigan
Leelanau Conservancy
Legacy Land Conservancy
Little Forks Conservancy
Little Traverse Conservancy
Livingston Land Conservancy
Mid-Michigan Land Conservancy
North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy
Raisin Valley Land Trust
Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy
Six Rivers Regional Land Conservancy
Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy
Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy
Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy

Land Trust Alliance-Midwest   (based in Washington, DC)
Michigan Karst Conservancy   (relates to caves, sinkholes, and crevasses in limestone)
Michigan Natural Areas Council   (advisory and educational body and does not own land)
Michigan Nature Association   (protection of special natural areas to protect the rare and endangered plants and animals)
The Conservation Fund   (based in Arlington, VA, balance environmental/economic goals through collaboration with local groups and governments)
The Nature Conservancy in Michigan    (has a focus on the Great Lakes ecosystem)


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Videos from Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

You can find gardening information on YouTube from Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. There are several clips available including:

  • Creating Centerpieces
  • Bulb Planting in the Fall
  • Making a Terrarium
  • Dividing Perennials
  • Edging a Garden Ben
  • plus events happening at the Gardens

Check out this great Michigan resource.


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Compost Secrets

There are clusters of small, pale pink flowers whose fragrance is picked up by even the slightest breeze. Image by Malcolm Manners. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mmmavocado/2346072379/

There are clusters of small, pale pink flowers whose fragrance is picked up by even the slightest breeze. Image by Malcolm Manners. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mmmavocado/2346072379/

We all garden in limited space. My garden was the first 6 feet just outside the condo. I clipped shrubs and pampered daylilies, iris, and forget-me-nots. I longed for things like a potting shed, a cutting garden, and a compost pile.

I lived in an “end unit” which meant I had more exterior wall. I found places to tuck in more plants. I read gardening books and magazine articles. I loved the idea of projects. If you clip a branch on a yew, it will form two branches and continue growing, adding strength and structure to the bush. After a few years, my row of yews hid the stepping stone path along the building leading to the spigot.

I became fascinated with the idea of turning garbage into compost. There were rules for condo owners and bad smells were high on the do-not-do list. So, rather than a secret garden, I had a secret compost pile. I buried the garbage.

I dug a pit about 3 feet deep and wide near a corner with no direct line of sight. The pile of dirt sat next to the hole. I saved raw food scraps, banana peels, and coffee grounds. Every couple of weeks I would add the “remains” and a bit of the saved soil to the hole. Before long, the hole was gone, so I dug another hole and filled it in, and then I dug another hole. I had randomly placed, buried compost piles. I began to feel rich.

Composting season ended with the first frost. The following spring I started planting. My first candidate was a ‘Blush Noisette’ rose found online at garden.com (now defunct). The description talked about a woodland home, reblooming, fragrance, and hardy to Zone 7. I lived in Zone 5 in an area now relabeled as Zone 6a. I placed an order.

A horticulturalist from garden.com phoned me to say she couldn’t ship the plant because it wouldn’t grow in my climate. I pleaded. The spot was on the east side of my condo, behind a rather tall viburnum. My nearest neighbor had an overgrown cedar that blocked the early morning sun. I confessed to my secret compost project. A barberry hedge ran at an angle out from the corner of the building and was a fine wind break. She relented.

The rose shrub thrived, excelled, drew rave reviews from my neighbors, and was gloriously sweet smelling. It was a combination of factors that created the microclimate home for the old fashioned rose. But I credit the secret compost, and I still bury the garbage.