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Landscaping Tips from a Pro

Education, News May 20, 2019 No Response

We asked landscaping professional, Laurel Voran, left, to share her insight to help make your spring planting choices carefree and fruitful. Voran, who has enjoyed gardening her entire life, has worked in the field professionally for 21 years. She worked at two public gardens near Philadelphia including Longwood Gardens, where she studied and graduated from their two-year professional gardener training program, and Chanticleer gardens as a section horticulturist for 13 years. She has seven years running her own local business after relocating to northern Michigan. Her business includes work in garden maintenance and design, and invasive species monitoring and control. Voran also especially enjoys working with and “saving” our endangered species, like the Michigan Monkey Flower. Although working primarily with private clients, Voran also does work at the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park. She loves the artistic and creative nature of her environmentally-focused job that keeps her active outside. 

Here’s her advice for spring planting:

To develop a natural, northern feel to your property, start by working with what plants are already present. Edit out the non-native competitors, encouraging already present natives to multiply. If you can’t wait for them to multiply on their own, plant more of whatever is already naturally occurring. If there are non-native plants you feel you can’t live without, choose ones that are adaptable to our soils and conditions and that are “well behaved.” Remember, plants spread not just by roots or by flowers going to seed, but also by berries or other fruits eaten by birds, digested and then the seed eliminated elsewhere- perhaps quite far from the original plant. Also, seed pods hitch-hike to new places in animal fur – and on human feet!

Reconsider the urge to clean up every leaf. Look for areas where you can mulch-mow leaves in place before the perennials emerge. Or lightly rake only the largest wads off. Perhaps there are areas you can allow to return to woods – first step: just let the leaves accumulate. It’s free organic matter that feeds the soil, and ultimately the plants, and helps keep roots cool, retains moisture in the soil, and helps keep weeds down.

Keep the water clean! Plant species that will thrive without fertilizer. Choose plants with extensive roots that will help stabilize soil along the water’s edge. Create a “no mow” zone directly next to the water rather than mulched beds or mowed lawn to the water’s edge. This will help slow and filter run-off prior to entering the open water, as mulch in beds close to open water could wash in during storms.

Educate yourself on what plants are considered non-native invasives. Search your property for any existing populations and remove them, as they out-compete our native species critical for supporting our native critters. Be aware that non-native invasive plants are, unfortunately, still for sale. Educate yourself so as to not accidentally introduce invasives to your property by purchasing them at nurseries.

As for plants, here are some of Laurel’s top choices for varying sun/shade locations and moisture conditions.

Dry Sun: Coreopsis lanceolata (sand coreopsis); Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa); Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium);  Spotted beebalm ( Monarda punctata). These will attract many pollinators!

Wet sun: Brown Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoides); Marsh marigold, at right, (Caltha palustris); Sandbar willow (Salix exigua) and Pussy willow (Salix discolor), which have good roots for stabilizing soil. Can keep low by cutting to ground. Also, Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum).

Dry shade: Spring ephemerals: Trillium, (Trillium grandiflorum); Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria); Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica; Bluestem goldenrod (Solidago caesia); Big leaf aster (Eurybia macrophylla); Ivory sedge (Carex eburnea).

Wet shade: Purple Joe Pye Weed (Eupartorium purpureum); Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica); Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii); Winterberry (Ilex verticillata).

Swimmer’s Itch – We Need Your Help!

Education, News May 20, 2019 No Response

The Swimmer’s Itch season will soon be here and you can help the GLA during the weeks of mid-May to mid-July.  

In the next two months, an unknown number of individual female mergansers will be bringing newly hatched chicks from their tree cavity nests near the shoreline to our lake to form a “merganser brood.”

Last year, we had nearly a dozen broods of mergansers and thankfully, they were all live trapped and relocated in an effort to reduce Swimmer’s Itch lakewide. This activity is regulated by the DNR and special permits are needed to live trap.  

Please DO NOT HARASS the broods and help us educate any neighbors who may decide to harass. This makes live trapping them extremely difficult, increases the cost of trapping, and only increases the chances that Swimmer’s Itch will increase – not decrease.

You can help by keeping watch along the shoreline and reporting any sightings of merganser broods. The best way to communicate your findings is to report how may chicks are with the hen and the location you observed them. The broods come on the lake over a period of a month or so and typically vary in brood size. The reports of brood size helps us know how many broods are on the lake at a given time.

You can report a sighting of a brood by emailing the association or call in the sighting to 231.883.2776.  

Please DO NOT call and report non-brooding mergansers (single adults). We have no permit to live trap them and they are impossible to trap anyway.

Our highly skilled GLA Swimmer’s Itch crew will be in their third year of live trapping all the broods on Glen Lake. If you see them setting up nets near your dock or boat hoist, please DO NOT interfere with their operations by going out on your dock to investigate. Please stay inside. Whenever possible, they will try to let you know what is going on and to stay away from the traps until they are done. The total time for trapping one brood takes about two to three hours.

With your help, we can have another successful live trapping season. Remember that because of the biology of this parasite, the live trapping we do this summer helps reduce Swimmer’s Itch next summer. Likewise, last year’s live trapping program is what will have reduced this summer’s Swimmer’s Itch.

Finally, if you swim in Glen Lake during the swim season and get Swimmer’s Itch, please go the GLA website to report your case. These reports are tabulated each year and help us to better understand Swimmer’s Itch and evaluate the success of our program.

If you have any questions, please contact the GLA.

Crystal River Gets a Health Check

Education, News May 2, 2019 No Response

This summer, GLA intends to have the Crystal River undergo a “checkup” to understand how it measures up as a healthy river ecosystem. During the summer of 2017 the lower reaches of the river were studied and found to be in good shape.  In the coming summer, the same rubric for determining the health of the river will be conducted on the middle and upper reaches of the river.

To determine the “health index” of the river, the aquatic insects that live there will be sampled and studied. The presence (or absence) of certain aquatic insects can be used to interpret how the river is doing.  Typically, the more fragile insect species that are intolerant of environmental stress and pollution will show up in the sampling if the river is healthy.  Another indicator of river health is species diversity.  Healthy river ecosystems have high species diversity while unhealthy rivers are absent of fragile species and have low species diversity.

Why study the Crystal River? The GLA is all about the water and the river is part of our watershed.  In fact, the official name of our watershed is the “Glen Lake/ Crystal River Watershed.” We care about the quality of water whether it is underground, at the surface, or even flowing downhill ever so slowly into the pristine Sleeping Bear Bay in Lake Michigan. We like to think that the water from our watershed is actually improving the water quality in Sleeping Bear Bay – and that is really setting the bar high on what we so passionately care about!!

For more information on healthy rivers, click here.