Steward–July/August 2013


Buckets of Rain
Defending our Plants!

Buckets of Rain

Nancy Denison

Buckets of Rain owners in Guatemala

Buckets of Rain owners in Guatemala

Give Chris Skellenger a five gallon bucket and some tubing and he will teach you how to grow your food in a most economical, environmentally conservative method. Give him (and his non-profit Buckets of Rain) a truck, some dirt, seeds and refashioned GM parts bins and he will show the needy how to take a bite out of poverty.

The former owners of North Coast Nursery, Chris and Sue Skellenger, found that winter left them with time on their hands. They decided to use their knowledge of gravity fed drip irrigation and planting to help others learn to grow gardens that would provide food for some of the poorest areas in the world. That’s how 11 Oaks, now Buckets of Rain (BOR), was born. Their first stops were in the dumps of Guatemala and Honduras, followed by Kenya and Lesotho and most recently, Flint and Detroit. Currently BOR is working with the Detroit Rescue Mission and a 30,000 sq. ft. garden, which will grow 75% of the food for the Mission and 25% for the surrounding neighborhood. Many of the residents of the Mission helped with the planting and weeding of the raised bed garden plots earlier this spring. Donations have come from many companies in the Detroit area. Just recently, Chris received a new truck, trailer, and tractor, which were greatly needed. Church volunteers are caring for the Flint garden, also planted this spring.

Buckets of Rain would like the members of the MGANM to know that help is always needed, like most non-profits, in the area of funding, but also help getting seedlings started, space in a greenhouse, and mentoring high school students who are planting seedlings in the spring. If you have connections in the Detroit area, pass the word along to other MG groups, churches, or clubs, to volunteer help with planting, weeding, and harvesting.

The philosophy of doing no harm, being self-sustaining and improving lives by improving diets is right on. Personally, I am so glad Chris and his BOR compadres have come home to aid our very needy neighbors of Michigan and I look forward to volunteering in the near future. Contact Chris at

Defending Our Plants!

Steve Fouch, L & S Tree Service

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer

Planting and caring for landscape plants can be both fun and challenging. There are many insects, diseases and plant disorders that can affect the health and vigor of plants in our gardens, lawns and fruit plantings. This can be frustrating, but following a few tips will improve your chance of success.

1.  Protecting from deer damage: Deer directly feed on plant stems, leaves and fruit; resulting in poor structure, vigor and reduced yield. Male deer (bucks) not only feed on plants but also rub their antlers on the stems of trees to remove the velvet covering. This often girdles and kills the tree. There are numerous materials that can be sprayed on plants to repel deer. Active ingredients include eggs, ammonia, blood meal and other products. They tend to be short lived and must be reapplied after heavy rainfall. The most effective, yet costly method of minimizing deer damage is exclusionary fencing.

2.  Girdling of fruit trees by mice: The easiest method to prevent damage by mice is to apply flexible plastic wraps around the main stem, especially during the first few years. Use white colored wraps. Bury the bottom couple of inches of wrap below the soil surface to prevent it from migrating upward and exposing the main stem to possible rodent damage. After a few years the wraps can be removed, and the trunks painted with white outdoor latex paint to minimize winter injury. Do not use any rigid or dark colored wraps as these can cause physical damage to the tree trunks or increase winter injury.

3.  Grub damage in lawns: Grubs are one of the most destructive pests of turf, feeding on the roots and killing large areas of grass. The life cycle of grubs can last several years in the soil. As the soil temperature increases in the spring, they move closer to the soil surface to feed on the plant roots. The best time to apply grub control pesticides will depend on the predominant species of grub each year. As the soil temperature decreases in the fall and winter, grubs move deeper in the soil profile. New research indicates that keeping your mowing height near 3 inches will minimize the damage caused by grubs. Keeping your lawn dense and vigorous will also reduce grub damage.

4.  Birch Borer: One of the most common tree pests in the landscape is the bronze birch borer, which attacks white birch. Only stressed birch trees can be attacked by this insect. Once the tree is stressed by drought or low fertility, leaf miners will attack the leaves in the upper regions of the tree. When the birch tree has been defoliated for several years, it will be a target of the birch borer. The top third of the tree will be killed first. The rest of the tree will often die soon thereafter. Keeping your trees well watered and fertilized will help to prevent borer damage. Infected trees can be treated with systemic insecticides as a last chance.

5.  Emerald Ash Borer: Damage by EAB in the Northwest Area of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula has reached a peak. Ash trees that have been attacked are easy to see as one drives on roads adjacent to wooded area. Once a tree is affected severely, it cannot be saved. “Tre-Age” is the highest rated material to protect your ash trees from EAB. It is injected into a number of sites at the base of the tree and moves upward through the vascular tissues throughout the canopy. This systemic insecticide kills any borers already in the tree and protects the tree from attack for up to two years.

For more information on EAB and other tree pests contact your local tree care business.