Celebrate Arbor Day

In Michigan, Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday of April. The dates differ in each of the fifty states based on the regions’ suitability of planting. You may be surprised to learn that the first Arbor Day was celebrated over 100 years ago. In fact, this year marks 145 years of Arbor Day celebrations. The first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska and over one million trees were planted on April 10, 1872!

Coincidentally, our Seedling Pick-up and Sale is the Saturday after Arbor Day. Those that ordered trees, you’re all set for an excellent tree celebration! For those that didn’t order trees, lucky for you, we still have some species available. You can plant a few or a hundred. Either way, the best way to commemorate Arbor Day and finish out Earth Month is planting trees!  Bring your family to our tree sale event and receive a free white pine seedling (the Michigan state tree) with this secret code: knock on the table three times, spin around, and say “pine tar.” 

Happy Arbor Day!

The Missaukee Conservation District Seedling Pick-up and Sale is being held at 4800 S. Morey Road, Lake City–Baker College Trucking School. Join us, 9 am to 4 pm for coffee, donuts, workshops, and TREES! 

We Love Trees!

…and fruit, and shrubs,too! The Seedling Sale pre-order window has closed, but all are welcome to join us at the seedling pick-up day whether you pre-ordered or just want to browse the leftovers. The American Basswood is just one of the species that we will have available for purchase during the event.

Deciduous tree native to North America

American Basswood, Tilia americana, is a low maintenance, shade tree. The yellow June flowers attract butterflies and bees. This native tree’s range reaches north to Manitoba, Canada, so you know it’s a hardy, winter fighter! It can tolerate clay soils and drought, however it prefers rich loam soils and full sun. The height and spread of the branches make it a lovely shade tree for the backyard. The common name of basswood is derived from bastwood, in reference to the tough inner bark (bast) which has been used to make rope and mats.

The trees are commercially harvested, particularly in the Great Lakes region, for their light wood; and honey made from the nectar of these flowers is a prized gourmet item. Talk to Jeff Fewless, CTAI, about American Basswood and whether it is right for you! Call 231.839.7193 or chat at the Seedling Pick-up event. 



Fragrant, pale yellow blooms

A great shade tree








Missaukee Conservation District Seedling Sale pick-up is April 29, 2017 from 9am to 4 pm at the Baker College Lake City Campus, 4800 S. Morey Road. Visit our tree sale page or Facebook page to learn about the workshops available. RSVP for workshops by Wednesday April 26. 

Help the Red Oak Family

Attention all ambitious yard and landscape cleaners: don’t touch your oak trees!

Oak wilt is serious disease that has been wreaking havoc on oaks within the Red Oak family throughout the county. Oak trees like to “hold hands” beneath the soil surface (i.e. their roots) which is really sweet and nice, but spreads the oak wilt disease much easier. The disease also spreads due to fungus spores that are then carried by beetles. The above ground spread of oak wilt is where you can help most.

Picnic beetles are very small, less than a 1/2 inch long, and feed on decaying fruits and sap from open oak wounds.

An oak tree that died last year from Oak Wilt will produce fungus spores this year. You won’t be able to see them or smell them the way the picnic beetle can. These little beetles will find oak wounds and carry fungus spores from a diseased wound to a fresh, un-diseased wound. Oak trees are “wounded” in many ways: strong winds break limbs, logging operations break branches and cut trees down, and homeowners prune branches. It doesn’t matter how the tree is wounded. If it is pruned/wounded between April 1 and July 15, it is at risk of becoming diseased from Oak Wilt. If dead oak trees were cut last year, they will still produce the fungus and the beetles will still be attracted. Covering the wood with heavy plastic and sealing it in at ground level will prevent the beetles from getting to or from the diseased wood.


Unfortunately, the Lake City area is a hot spot for Oak Wilt, especially the areas around the lakes. How do you know if you have oak trees in the Red Oak family or in the (seemingly) non-susceptible White Oak family?

You can use the graphic to help you identify your oaks. You can also contact the Forester who will not only help identify the trees, but can also identify if the trees have the disease or if they are at risk, and identify options for treatment.

  • Don’t prune oak trees between April 1 and July 15
  • If you buy firewood, ask questions. Is it oak, did it have oak wilt or come from a tree that died last year?
  • Don’t move firewood–when you go camping, buy firewood from a local vendor.
  • Talk to your neighbors. If they have oak trees that died, your oaks may be next if you don’t take steps to protect them.

Oak Wilt is a disease that can be slowed or even contained, but the trees need our help!

Larry Czelusta (pronounced sa-les-ta) is the Missaukee-Wexford Conservation District Forester with decades of forestry experience and a drive to help landowners manage their forests and problem solve their forest and landscape tree issues. Contact Larry at 231.839.7193 or email him at larry.czelusta@macd.org. No problem or concern is too small. Larry enjoys trekking around the woods; leave a message and he can plan to meet at your property.

Final Week to Pre-order

Have you been thinking about ordering trees and just haven’t gotten around to actually placing your order? For all of you procrastinators, the time has come. Thursday, April 13 is the last day to pre-order your seedlings and other planting products! Your beautiful seedlings (aka baby trees, not more than 2′ tall) will arrive just in time to celebrate Arbor Day and finish out Earth Month with a conservation project! Here is the timeline:

  • April, everyday: Earth Month
  • April 13, Thursday: Last day to pre-order seedlings. This is the only way to guarantee you will get the trees you want. If you order after that date (on the website), some items may be sold out and you would be very sad.
  • April 22, Saturday: Earth Day! Volunteer at an event, pick up trash, go for a hike or a float through our scenic state forests and rivers, and rest easy that you ordered your trees.
  • April 27, Thursday: RSVP for one, some, or all of the workshops being held at the Seedling Sale Pick-up–online or call the office.
  • April 28, Friday: Arbor Day. Prepare the sites where you are going to plant your trees. To ensure their health and success, try to eliminate as much competition from other plants (mainly grasses) as possible.
  • April 29, Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm: Missaukee Conservation District Seedling Sale Pick-up! New location is Baker College Lake City Campus–4800 S. Morey Road, Lake City. There will be workshops throughout the day, donuts and coffee, chit-chat with staff about your conservation ideas and questions, and painting with Sandy Wiltzer. For you procrastinators that waited until today–there will be a small selection of trees, shrubs, and fruit plants available on site.
  • April 29-May 1: Plant your baby trees! Now, they don’t require as much care as a human baby, but simply sticking them in the ground and expecting them to know how to crawl, walk, and ride the breeze without your care or attention is just silly.

Congratulations! You are now a conservation hero. Whatever reason you have to plant trees, we thank you greatly and hope you will consider more conservation projects in the future.

Call Missaukee Conservation District at 231.839.7193 to place your order over the phone. Visit the Tree Sales tab above to order your seedlings through our online store. Stop by our office to turn in your paper order at 6180 W. Sanborn Road, Lake City.

Bees Love Trees

First, a little background information. Bees are not wasps, yellow jackets, or hornets. It seems obvious enough, but there are several cases of mistaken identity especially when it comes to stinging. I understand some of the confusion: many bees and wasps have black and yellow stripes and they are in the same animal order (Hymenoptera). Incidentally, Ants are in the same order. Now, if you were mistaken for your hot-tempered cousin (9 times out of 10) you may be rather insulted.

So, maybe put yourself in the lovable bee’s shoes: some female wasps have a modified ovipositior (part for laying eggs) that is used as a defensive weapon equipped with venom–the so-called “stinger.” Wasps are a great asset to the ecological picture as well, so don’t go hating on all of them, either! Yes, female bees also have ovipositors that could be used as a “stinger,” BUT bees are much less likely to actually use their stinger. Why? They are the non-confrontational peacekeepers of the family! Plus, it may end their happy-go-lucky life.

Okay, that was maybe more than a little information, but the major take away:

Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you… Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting…Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.” –from The Secret Life of Bees

Bees love flowers, but bees also love TREES! Now that you know all the bees would like is a little respect, you can invite them to your backyard. There are many wonderful, native bees that enjoy pollinating. As habitat decreases, populations of native bees also decline. Every little bit we can do will help from more bees being placed on the Endangered Species List.

“Trees for Bees” Workshop will be held at the Missaukee Conservation District, Community Room (at the Health Dept. entrance) from 6-8pm on Thursday April 13. Please RSVP by Wednesday April 12! Call, visit our office, or RSVP at our online store under the “Tree Sale” tab. Workshop fee is $5 per Missaukee County resident household, or $10 per person for out-of-county attendees.

“Jam-pack” Your Fruit Trees

Did you know that fruit trees cannot be reproduced “true” to the original cultivar from seed. Meaning, if you plant an apple seed from a Honey Crisp apple, the tree that grows will not produce Honey Crisp apples. I suppose it makes sense, many apple varieties are a mash-up of different ‘parents’ who in turn could have come from another mash-up. I am not an apple scientist though, but what I do know is the way to produce an “offspring” from the tree you want is by grafting.

Grafting is used for more than producing another tree of the same variety (what I previously called an offspring). There are several different grafting techniques and they can be used to repair injured trees and add more than one fruit variety to a tree. In backyard farming, grafting two to three fruit types (an apricot, peach, plum tree) on one tree is becoming more popular. The practice of grafting several varieties on to one tree saves valuable space that a backyard farmer can use to grow a diverse selection of fruits and vegetables. If your space is unlimited, grafting can be useful for repairing damaged trees or producing an “offspring” on fresh rootstock. If your family farm has an apple tree that is 100 years old, grafting onto new rootstock can preserve that heirloom variety for your grandchildren.

Grafting is not an overly complicated business, but it does require specific steps and technique. Missaukee Conservation District is offering a two part workshop: Fruit tree care & grafting demonstration. Steve Fouch is a retired MSU Extension educator who will be leading this workshop on Saturday, April 8 from 10 am to 2 pm. The workshop is broken into two sessions: 10am to 12pm will be the fruit care presentation–learn how to care and improve your apple, pear, apricot, or plum trees; 12:30 to 2pm will be the grafting demonstration. The first session will be held at Missaukee Conservation District Community Room (at the health department entrance), the second session may require travel off site. Workshop fee is $5 per Missaukee County household; $10 per person for out-of-county attendees. Call, visit our office, or visit our online store under the “Tree Sale” tab to RSVP by April 7.

Are You the Perfect Host?


Well, are you? I don’t mean party host/hostess or game show host.

Your garden plants, shrubs, and trees support butterfly eggs and larvae (babies). So, are the plants in your garden good hosts? What makes a good host? Why are butterflies important? Too many questions?

  1. I can’t tell you if the plants around your yard and garden are good hosts. I don’t know what you have.
  2. Native plants make the best hosts because they support more than a handful of species.
  3. Butterflies are important for many reasons: they are food for birds and other animals, they pollinate plants to help them reproduce, and, of course, they are beautiful!
  4. You can never ask too many questions about your garden!

Laura Quist, garden, native bee, and beneficial insect enthusiast, can answer many of your butterfly-garden related questions. At the workshop Thursday April 6, meet our area’s most common butterflies, larval host plants, identify caterpillars, and learn how to create a wildlife habitat for butterflies. Who doesn’t want more butterflies in their garden?!

Alex Hayes, 2016 AmeriCorps Member, took this photo in Missaukee Conservation District’s native garden.

“Are You the Perfect Host?” Workshop will be held at the Missaukee Conservation District, Community Room (at the Health Dept. entrance) from 6-8pm on Thursday April 6. Please RSVP by Wednesday April 5! Call, visit our office, or RSVP at our online store under the “Tree Sale” tab. Workshop fee is $5 per Missaukee County resident household, or $10 per person for out-of-county attendees.

Need Nitrogen? Plant Legumes!

As landowners and farmers start to plan for the upcoming planting season, they may consider the benefits of using legume cover crops to provide nitrogen. Some of the most common types of legumes include clover, alfalfa, and soybeans.

Nitrogen Fixation: the process used to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form usable to the plant.

However, nitrogen fixation does not work unless a specific bacteria (rhizobium) is present to initiate the process. Once the legumes have the correct bacteria to fix nitrogen, they need to protect these nitrogen producing root nodules from exposure to oxygen. Exposure will destroy the enzyme in the plants that assists in fixing nitrogen. It would be like putting wax on your new car to protect it from the harmful winter salts that rust our cars from oxidation. Instead of wax, legumes make a protective substance called leghemoglobin to protect themselves from oxygen exposure.

Want to see the leghemoglobin? Try this:

  • Dig up a couple legume plants from your garden, lawn, or field.
  • Gently wash the roots in a bucket to remove all of the soil.
  • Identify the ball like nodules on the roots. (Nodules should be about the size of a Nerd candy)
  • Open/break the nodule to observe the leghemoglobin inside.
  • What color is it?

The relationship between the bacteria and the plant is called symbiosis, meaning both plant and bacteria benefit from the relationship. The bacteria use carbohydrates from the plant for energy to stay alive and the plant can grow and be productive without human-added nitrogen. How does the farmer/gardener benefit? Legumes provide at least 50 lbs. per acre of nitrogen for crops planted after the legumes are terminated. To release the nitrogen fixed by legumes for use by other forages, the stems and leaves must be recycled: the top growth is eaten by animals or the plants are tilled into the soil & decompose. Nitrogen fixation through the use of legumes can also reduce your carbon footprint as commercial nitrogen is produced using natural gas (a non-renewable resource).

Jeff Fewless is the Conservation Technical Assistance Initiative (CTAI) Technician for Missaukee Conservation District. Call 231.839.7193 to contact Jeff with questions about this article or related issues.

Unplug to Recharge

Technology is an amazing industry and it keeps moving the human race forward. Don’t you feel like it can be too much sometimes? Ask any of my family members and they will tell you that I am difficult to get in touch with–I rarely answer my phone, and I don’t check my email on the weekends. Most of the time, I’m not sure where my phone is…I would wager that this is not normal for most people let alone people my age. The article (linked below) that was recently published in Reader’s Digest can say more about the need to unplug than I can. All I can say is that I strongly believe that camping and hiking without your devices is wonderful. I only have my personal experience as evidence, this article chats with someone who is actually doing research on the effects of outdoor exposure.

Missaukee Conservation District is currently hosting a “100 Miles in 100 Days” wellness initiative. While the article talks about being out for more than a half-hour, it seems like a good idea to take a break during your work day to step away from your desk, computer, or whatever it is that fills your work time and get outside. Again, I can only speak from my own experience. When the ideas stop flowing, or the joints begin to stiffen, just stepping outside for a few minutes can feel wonderfully refreshing. It may be too late to join our little 100 mile challenge, but it’s not too late to challenge yourself. A walk can be especially rejuvenating when stress and frustration are high. Listen to the birds and squirrels call to each other, smell the pine, and breath deeply the fresh air that surrounds you.

Is Nature Your Brain’s Miracle Medicine?

Black Gold

How would you like to be rewarded for not throwing your fruits and vegetable waste into the garbage? Or even all those grass clippings and leaves that you collect when mowing or raking? It’s quite simple.  Just create a compost pile with those items, and many other things you normally throw away, and within a short time you will be rewarded with a nutrient-rich soil amendment that offers many benefits to your garden.  Don’t have time to turn your pile or just have a small amount of scraps? Vermicomposting is the way to go. It can increase plant growth, improve soils and suppress plant diseases and pests.

The Missaukee Conservation District is offering a workshop that will help you learn more about acceptable materials for composting, types of structures, preparing and maintaining your compost pile, temperatures, carbon to nitrogen ratios, water requirements, types of worms, bedding, proper food scraps, worm bins, harvesting your compost and worms, and troubleshooting tips. We will then make worm bins to take home and use for your composting needs.

Join us on Thursday, March 30, 2017 from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Missaukee Conservation District building. Workshop fee is $5 for Missaukee County taxpayers; $10 for non-residents. Register by calling 231.839.7193 or at www.missuakeecd.org on the events tab.