Steward – Sep ’13 Real Dirt


Impatiens capensis (jewelweed)
Keeping a Garden Journal

Impatiens capensis (jewelweed)

Matthew Bertrand

Impatiens capensis by wackybadge (Flickr)

In addition to its ethnobotanical value, as a native plant jewelweed also serves an important habitat role as a part of regional wetland communities. Jewelweed likes partial sun and moist, fertile soils. Its flowers feed a variety of pollinators, including ruby-throated hummingbirds, bumblebees, and syrphid flies. Whereas most people when considering a plant’s habitat value look primarily to its blooms, native plants like jewelweed shine in their capacity to sustain a variety of insect herbivores, insects that in turn feed birds and other wildlife. As many as 12 butterflies and moths have adapted to consume jewelweed’s foliage, which provide proteins that are critical to development of songbird nestlings. Click the links that follow to learn more about a few highlighted species: obtuse euchlaena, pink-legged tiger mothwhite-striped black, and toothed brown carpet. Jewelweeds seeds (the pods for which lend it another common name, “touch-me-not,” for their explosive tendencies) feed ground birds like grouse and quail. Easy to grow, jewelweed is a welcome presence in natural areas and in home gardens.


Lillian Mahaney

Living in northern Michigan we all come across poison ivy at one time or another.  I am having more problems with ivy cropping up over the past few years, and I’m sure it is the warm temperatures.  I try to be very careful when removing the ivy…I wear long sleeves, double disposable gloves over my gardening gloves, etc.  Since the ivy is in some areas with fragile plants, I remove the ivy by hand and do not use anything like Roundup which I try not to use period.

As careful as I tried to be this year the doggone stuff got me!  I felt the burning under my sleeve and knew my sleeve slipped and allowed it to touch my skin.  I immediately went inside, washed the area with mild soap and water, and dabbed on a bit of isopropyl alcohol.  I could actually watch the blisters pop up, along with lots of red bumps.  It was like something from a grade B horror movie!

Then I remembered, Jewelweed. I have a jewelweed salve I got from a friend in lower Michigan who has an herbal product business.  I opened the jar and applied a light layer.  Within 10 minutes, the blisters shrank, the red bumps began disappearing and the burning stopped.  I was pretty much doing the Snoopy Dance and shouting Hallelujah watching all this happen.  Within an hour there was almost no sign that I had been in contact with the ivy.

The jewelweed salve is definitely something I will never, ever be without!

Keeping a Garden Journal

Cheryl Gross

“Notebook Collection by Dvortygirl (Flickr)

Boy, do I wish I had started a journal when I began work on my garden!  I could look back to remember when I planted a certain shrub or when a certain plant flowered.  Is it too late?  I think not.  It is never too late to do the right thing.   Fall is certainly a good time to set up the journal.  It is the time when gardeners have thoughts of the past growing season fresh in their minds.  Garden journals can contain any information you wish to include. If you are ready to give it a try, the following are some things to consider.

Garden journals can be purchased — think of a Baby Book with blanks to fill,  or created  — think of a shoe box, like a large recipe box with room for information and seed packets.   Think of a scrap book, a three ring binder.  A binder is my personal choice.  A binder accepts graph paper for lay-out maps and designs; paper for notes including plant lists; plastic sleeves for holding plant tags, seed packets, photos, and the like.The information you keep in your journal is your choice.  Decide what matters to you.  Hint:  don’t overwhelm yourself with details if that is not your style.  Consider:

   -Garden layout: It would be great to know where things were planted to know what seed is emerging in the vegetable garden or whether the perennial made it through the winter.  Depending upon plant markers can be tricky.  I remember the year the ink disappeared from the rows of 10 seedlings of 6 trees and shrubs.  Oh, yea, which one is the Spice Bush when all ‘sticks’ look the same?

   -Dating major projects, i.e. water feature installation, major tree trimming, hardscaping, fencing.  Note the contractor as well.

   -Plant index.  Name of plant, note the Latin and common name of each plant, date planted, where obtained.

   -Plant characteristics:  Size, color, flower size, bloom time, seed, germination to maturity timing for vegetables, and the like.

   -Photos of the plant through the season.  Think ‘before and after’ pictures;  photos of shrubs before and after pruning and photos of plants in winter to capture winter interest in the garden.

   -Rainfall and temperature statistics, including last frost in spring and first frost in fall,  storm and high wind notes.  Any significant weather events that may affect the garden.

   -Notes on soil tests and soil amendments/fertilizers.

   -Notes on weeds, insects, and insecticide use.

Some folks will want to be more detailed; others more sketchy.  Make it your own.  Track the information most useful to you.  In a couple of years, you will have a wealth of information to assist you developing your garden and to use when advising others.