Friends in the Garden

SIGNS OF SPRING:  Log jams are out of Big Creek. Thank you Boy Scout Troup 2022.


In front of the John and Helen Collins Learning Center, there is a special little garden. We created it using the gifts made to Crossroads in memory  of John Collins. Helen frequently visited this garden seeking peace. She now has found her peace. Helen died Monday, March 16.

Our Heritage Garden  also is a memorial. Members of the Sturgeon Bay Home and Garden Club started the Heritage Garden in memory of June Mackie, and over the years, they have tended the plants, now with the help of volunteers from Master Gardeners of Door County. The garden is used for teaching gardening techniques to families, for historical interpretation, and it provides organic heirloom vegetables for Feed My People.

Often, as the volunteers work in John’s Garden or June’s Garden—and it is work!–they comment that just being among the plants gives them a sense of peace and serenity.  And they are not alone. A researchers have a growing body of evidence that being in and working in gardens indeed can be calming.

“It’s good for physical health, and it’s good for mental, emotional and spiritual health,” according to  therapist Teresa Hazen, “When you go out in the garden, there’s this physiological response — decreased blood pressure and improved mood. You begin to be restored without even trying.”

It’s ironic that we think of gardens as peaceful. In reality, gardens are war zones, complete with allies and enemies, chemical warfare, pillaging and plundering, ambushes, captivity and death…….just like most of nature.

It’s natural for some insect species to eat certain plants and they do so if their lives depended on it. But it also is natural for some plants to develop toxins to poison their natural enemies.  And lurking in many flowers and leaves are spiders or insects just waiting to lurch on some unsuspecting chewing or sucking insect.  And as soon as a plant is invaded by a large army of insect pests, battalions of their predators show up for a counter attack.

“Friendly fire” and “collateral damage” are among  the most tragic aspects of warfare.

“Friendly fire” is defined as “the discharge of a weapon that injures or kills a member of one’s own  forces or an ally.” In some gardens, this is a common occurance. In trying to protect his or her plants from damage, a gardener might spray an insecticide which kills not only the offending insects, but their predators as well. Pesticides kill the bad guys and also the good  guys and the pollinators we need. And pesticides never solve the problem, because without predators, the few  pests that survive  will multiply exponentially.

“Collateral damage”  is a military term which refers to accidental harm or death caused to non- combatants. This is rarely observed, but far too common. Suppose a pair of bird build their nest       near a garden where insects are plentiful….which they must do, because almost all baby birds are fed with insects. If parent birds carry poisoned insects to their offspring, their nestlings are killed.  OR, if the supply of insects is killed off or even reduced, the nestlings may starve to death or be too malnourished to survive to adulthood.

So if , as the old saying goes, “the enemies of your enemies are your friends”, gardeners would benefit by learning about the beneficial creatures in the garden.  On Tuesday, March 31, at 7:00, Back by popular demand!!, the Master Gardens will bring Dr. Mike Draney to Crossroads to present the program: “The Natural Enemies of Garden Pests.” This free program will be popular; arrive early for a good seat.

Ice is going out on the Bay, so that could mean the Northern Pike will be spawning in Big Creek, or not (or maybe they’ve already come and gone.)  Some years we see them; some years, either they don’t swim up into Crossroads or else, we just aren’t looking. Looking carefully. Pike are huge, but they are sneaky. They move at night, hide in aquatic grasses and their camouflage is simply amazing.

We will celebrate the beginning of spring break with several  hikes  down to Big Creek.  Pike Watchers of all ages will search for these large tube‐shaped fish with “duckbill” snouts. If it’s warm enough, we may try pulling some of the debris from the remarkably low Big Creek so spawn will go better for the suckers….whenever they start running.

Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor-supported preserve offering programs for learners of all ages in science, history and the environment. The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan, is open daily 2:00-4:30 and during scheduled events.  Unless we receive significant snow, all trails are open for hiking and biking.



Tuesday, March 24

6:30 Heroin Summit

Learn the Four Pillar Approach to the Heroin Problem and hear from the experts about this drug epidemic that is sweeping the nation and how to prevent it from reaching our community.

Sponsored by the Door County Alcohol and Other Drug Coalition.


Tuesday, March 31

7:00 Master Gardener Lecture: The Natural Enemies of Garden Pests”

The Door County Master Gardeners are pleased to present Associate Professor Mike Draney, UW Green Bay, who returns to Door County to discuss the truth in the old saying “the enemies of your enemies are your friends.”  All gardeners struggle with the challenges of combating the hoards of garden pests, which insist on eating away the flowers, shrubs, and vegetables we work so hard to nurture.  Modern gardeners are well aware that simply attacking these pests with gallons of pesticides is not the answer.  It’s not healthy and a chemical attack on pests can cause more damage than it prevents.


Today’s gardener wants to be smart and responsible. These are the natural enemies of garden pests, and they are a gardener’s friends.  Gardeners don’t want to “knock off” their friends while dealing with their foes.  The truth is, we want to help them get the job done and leave a healthier and more productive garden behind.  That’s where Professor Draney’s visit to Door County can help.  His presentation will provide the information you need to be a smart and responsible home gardener.  This program is free and open to the public.


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