• Apr 13

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Rich in iron, calcium, vitamin C and B vitamins, asparagus is one of the first crops to be harvested in the spring and if given the proper planting and care, an asparagus bed can be productive for 15 years or more.

The asparagus bed should be located in a sunny area.  It can tolerate a little shade but the plants will not be as vigorous and full sun helps minimize the threat of disease.

The soil will need to have a pH of 6.5 to 7.5 and be well drained as soggy soil will cause root rot.

It is best to have the soil tested as asparagus will not grow well if the soil pH is less than 6.0 and  the levels of potassium and phosphorus are also important to the vigor of asparagus.

Bare root asparagus crowns can be planted mid-April thru late May after the soil has warmed up to about 50 degrees.  Dig a furrow about 10 to 12inches deep and wide enough to accommodate the spread of your asparagus root system.  Apply to the bottom of the furrow about 1 pound of 0-46-0 (triple superphosphate) or 0-20-0 (superphosphate) fertilizer for every 50 feet of row.  This will make phosphorus available right away to the newly planted crowns.  Planting 1 year old crowns will produce a quicker crop than sowing seeds.  Space the crowns about 1 ½ feet apart in the row.  The crowns need to be centered in an upright position in the furrow and the roots spread out.  If more than 1 row is planted, the rows should be spaced about 5 feet apart.  Wide spacing promotes the rapid drying of the fern tops to help prevent disease.  After the furrow is filled back in to its original soil level do not tamp it down as asparagus roots like loose soil.

Do not harvest the asparagus shoots during the year it was planted.  The ferns that emerge from the spears produce food for the plant and move it down to the crown for the next years spear production.

Asparagus is very drought tolerant and usually does not need any supplemental watering once the roots are established.   However, if rainfall is short, a little watering would be beneficial to the crowns.

Do not cut the fern growth at the end of the growing season.  Leaving it intact over the winter will catch snow for additional soil moisture and provides insulation for the crown.  Remove the old fern growth by cutting or mowing it off about the first week of April.

On a side note, a few of the first crops that can be sown in the ground once the soil dries out enough are radishes, spinach, swiss chard, carrots, lettuce and beets.  Plan to make successive sowings every few weeks so you can harvest over a prolonged period of time.

Also, this would be a good time to get your soil tested if you haven’t done so in a number of years.  Testing supplies with instructions can be obtained through your local Extension office.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener, Purdue Extension, LaGrange County

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  • Apr 6

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Crabgrass, a summer annual, appears in the lawn as a light green, weedy plant and can be eliminated with or without chemicals.  One of the best non-chemical lawn care practices to prevent the invasion of crabgrass or any other weed is to mow at the correct height. Setting your mower to a height of 2 ½ “to 3” can have a big impact as it helps to create a dense, thick lawn.  Closely mowed grass leaves an open invitation for weed seeds to germinate as it “opens up” the lawn.  A thick stand of grass will shade the soil and therefore discourage crabgrass germination.

Adequate and timely fertilization can further reduce weed competition by increasing turf-grass vigor.  Open and weak turf-grass areas promote crabgrass infestations because of higher soil temperatures which promote germination and decrease competition from cool season grasses.  It is recommended to apply 2 to 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 ft squared each year.  Apply 60-100% of the nitrogen in two applications in the fall, one in September and one in November after the last mowing. A summer application of nitrogen will just feed and strengthen the crabgrass you have.

Crabgrass seeds germinate when soil temperatures are approximately 60 degrees F for 3-5 days at the ¼” level.  You may like to refer to the Growing Degree Days chart at www.gddtracker.net/?model=7&offset=0&zip=46746 (insert your zip code of different than 46746).  It will help you determine the best time to apply herbicides.

The ideal growing conditions for crabgrass are light, frequent watering and areas of bare, warm soil.  When irrigating, do so deeply to wet the soil to the depth of the roots.  Do not water again until you notice drought stress.  Apply grass seed to bare areas.

Weed killers, also known as herbicides, are available to manage those annual weeds that may plague your lawn.  There are pre-emergence herbicides that prevent the emergence of annual weeds such as crabgrass.  This product should be applied before the crabgrass emerges from the soil.  For our area it is recommended that this type of herbicide be applied between late April and early May.  It just depends on the type of weather we are having.  Herbicides may differ so always read, understand and follow the label for suggestions on when to apply and the application rate of what you have chosen to use.  Keep in mind when applying that some pre-emergence herbicides will also damage emerging desirable grass seed.

There are post-emergence herbicides available and need to be applied when the crabgrass plants are very small.  Usually by the time you notice the crabgrass it is too mature for the post-emergence herbicide to work.  There is more difficulty in using these products than in using the pre-emergence ones.  It is extremely important to follow the label instructions.  Consider herbicidal control only if necessary.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.  The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Mar 30

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Watering seems like such a simple task, however if it is not done correctly the plant will suffer.  Wick watering reduces the number of times a pot will need to be attended to each week and it provides vacationers with ease of mind when gone for a period of time.

Wick watering is done by simply running a length of rope from the soil down through a drainage hole and into a reservoir of water.  As the soil in the pot dries, the wick draws water from the reservoir and rehydrates the plant.

The best time to insert a water wick is when you are potting your plant.  Make sure you are using the correct type of pot and potting mix, or you may end up with rotted plants that were too wet.  Plastic or ceramic pots are recommended as they will slow the rate of evaporation from the soil.  The potting mix needs to be very porous so that there is plenty of oxygen around the roots even when the mix is wet.  A recommended mix is 1 part sphagnum peat moss, 1 part perlite and 1 part vermiculite.   The mix should be pre-moistened before potting your plant or the wicking process may not function properly. The wick should also be pre-moistened before pulling it through the soil.

After the pot has been filled with damp potting soil, pull the wick up through a drain hole and into the soil with a section of coat hanger that has one end bent into a hook shape.  This coat hanger method would also work for an already established potted plant.  The wick should dangle out the bottom of the pot and rest in the reservoir of water below.

How many wicks your pot may need partly depends on how much moisture your soil mix will hold and how thirsty your plant is.  A small 3 inch pot will only need one wick, a 6 inch pot may need two.  The wick should be a man-made fiber such as acrylic, rayon or nylon yarn or cording.  African violet growers use small strings as wicks, larger plants and pots will require larger wicks.  You will need enough wick length to keep about 2 inches in the soil and enough left over to reach the bottom of the reservoir.

You will need a “riser” to keep the pot sitting above the water in the tray.  The rim of a discarded plastic container can work quite well for a diy riser.  They are easily cut with scissors, but be sure that the pot will sit an inch or two above the bottom of the tray and not above the rim of the tray.  When cutting the edge of your riser, check that there is enough variation in the edge so that water can easily flow through.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online at www.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can

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  • Mar 23

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

African violets are one of my favorite houseplants.  Their care takes little effort, they do not take up a lot of space and they bless me during the winter with beautiful blooms.

A pleasing temperature for these houseplants is 65 to 80 degrees.  Anything above or below this will reduce blooming.   They like strong, bright light, but keep them away from direct sunlight as this can cause scorching of the leaves.  I keep mine in an east and south facing window.

African violets are a bit picky when it comes to how they like their water.  Not too cold or too hot, room temperature is best.  They are not fond of chlorine either.  If your tap water is chlorinated, let it stand overnight to allow the chlorine gases to evaporate.  This will also allow the water to come to room temperature.  Let the soil dry out slightly before watering, then water them from the bottom by setting the pot into a tray or bowl of water.  I can tell by lifting my African violet when it needs to be watered.  It is much lighter when the soil is dry than when it is wet.

Slow release fertilizers are the best way to give your plant safe levels of the nutrients it needs.  Water from the top once a month to flush out salts in the soil.

A light, airy soil texture is important to a vigorous root system in African violets.  In their native habitat they grow with much air reaching their roots.  Equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite is ideal.  Violets do not like to be placed in a too large pot.  In most cases roots only grow one third the diameter of the leaves and they do not grow very deep.  For example, a 9 inch plant should be placed in a pot no more than three inches wide and 4 inches deep.

Thrips and mealybugs are their main pests to keep a watch for.  They are both very small, about the size of a printed dash.  If you spot any pests, a rinse with lukewarm, soapy water may help or dab them with a cotton swab soaked with alcohol.

There are so many different kinds of African violets to choose from with many different leaf shapes and flower colors and combinations.  I recently acquired 3 “minis”.  They will only grow up to 6 inches.  For more information about the classes and cultivars visit the African Violet Society of America’s website at www.avsa.org/home.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service

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  • Mar 16

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Most Hellebores, also known as Lenten Roses, are an easy care plant and are a must have in my garden.  They are very hardy plants, grown in zones 4 – 8 and will survive some of the worst weather Mother Nature can throw at them.  Hellebores are primarily European natives, growing in open meadows in Bosnia, Turkey and China.  I was introduced to them a few years ago at the LaGrange County Master Gardeners Symposium.

This perennial plant typically flowers in late winter to spring.  Their lantern-like flowers come in shades of white, green, dusky pink and purple and can last from 10 – 12 weeks.  They will grow well in most soils, even tolerating acid soils.  However, their preference is for a neutral to slightly limey soil – a pH of about 7 would be ideal.  Most prefer semi-shade and are sometimes sold as shade loving plants.  Plants in deep shade will survive, but will exhibit sparser growth and produce fewer blooms. As with Hostas, the shade tolerance of these plants make them suitable for developing a woodland garden or growing under trees and large shrubs. Mature plants form clumps about 18 to 24 inches tall and 24 to 30 inches wide.

Most parts of the Hellebores are toxic.  The name hellebore comes from the Greek “elein” meaning to injure and “bora” meaning food. A mild skin irritation has been known to occur in people that are especially susceptible after an extensive period of handling these plants without using gloves.  Touted to be a deer resistant plant, these may be a logical choice, possibly as a ground cover, for a deer infested landscape.

Here in the north, where we live, the leaves may still remain green for much of the winter, but they tend to look rather ratty by the time spring arrives.  Trim off the old leaves and soon the “reinforcements” (new leaves) will be well on their way.  Amending the soil with compost will improve the vigor of the Hellebores plants as will fertilizing with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring.   For the lazy gardener, do nothing at all and they will most likely survive rather well.

These plants are a bit slow to get established, but once they are it is not very likely they will need to be divided.  However, if you would want to do so or need to transplant some, it is best to do that in September or October.  Dig the entire plant up, wash the dirt off the roots and divide with a sharp knife between the growth buds.  Keep at least 3 buds to each division.

When planting new plants or divisions, keep the crowns at soil level to no more than 1 inch deep (the crown is where the stems meet the roots).  Prior to planting, dig a deep hole, as many of these plants have deep root systems.  To prevent rot, do not mulch excessively or keep wet.

As always, happy gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Mar 9

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

So you have selected the seeds, carefully planted them in their pots, watered them, kept them warm, watched them germinate and start their growing process and then, one by one, fall over, shrivel up and die.

This horticultural disease is called damping off.  It is caused by soilborne fungi and it can occur before or after the little seedlings sprout from the soil.

The first sign that damping off may have occurred is the failure of the plant to emerge from the soil.  If seeds are attacked before they germinate, they will become soft and then decay.  If seedlings are attacked after they emerge, the plants stem tissue at the soil line will begin to decay and weaken, then fall over and die.  Sometimes only the roots are affected.  The stunted plants may continue standing for a time, but will eventually wilt and die.

It is best not to use old seed which may be weak.  If you do use old seed, test a sample for its ability to germinate by sandwiching the seed between two warm, moist layers of paper towel.   Look for seeds that have been pre-treated with a fungicide.  If none is available, you can add an amount of fungicide, equal to two match heads, to the seed packet.  Close the packet, give it a shake, then plant.  Seeds and seedlings are more susceptible to damping off if the soil temperature is less than favorable or is kept too wet.  The optimal soil temperature is dependent upon the type of seed being grown but most germinate when the soil temperature is between 68 and 86 degrees.

Sanitation is important because spores of the organisms that cause damping off can survive in dust and planting medium that is left over in flats, pots and plug trays.  Seedling pots and trays should either be new or used ones should be disinfected with a bleach and water solution.  Tools and surfaces being worked on should also be disinfected before preparing pots/trays for seed planting.  Use an uncontaminated soilless growing mix.

I have a little diy project for you.  I like to use the black plastic trays measuring 2 ½”x10 ½”x21” for seed starting.  They are rather flimsy and tend to break or tear when being lifted while full with plant plugs.  Using some scrap lumber I had saved for who knows what, I made a wooden tray that makes transporting my seedlings a snap.  Inside dimensions are 1 ¾”x11”x21 ½”.  I just cut 2end pieces using ¾”thick lumber 12”x1 ¾”, 2side pieces 21 ½”x 1 ¾”and 3 bottom pieces 23”x1”.  Sandwich the side pieces between the end pieces to create a rectangle, then fasten the 3 bottom pieces to the bottom, spacing them evenly.  Easy peasy!

As always, Happy Gardening!!

More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online at www.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Jan 26
  • Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015
  • by rene_h in
  • Uncategorized

by Rene Hostetler

I know that many of you are trying desperately to achieve your annual New Year’s resolution of loosing a few pounds so you may not appreciate the pun I used in the title.  When could bulk possibly be a good thing?  Bear with me and read on…

The Amish have this thing they do, called “bulk food.”  It is not in any way similar to what you experience at Sam’s or Costco where you have to buy 50 of one thing in order to be the recipient of “huge” savings.   Sure!  I had not heard of this idea until I moved to Amish Country.  They don’t do “bulk food” in the Chicago suburbs!  But in just about every Amish community you will find a bulk food store where the proprietor packages food items in various sizes and the savings are quite real no matter how many you buy.

I’ve been to several stores like this (oh yes, the “English” are welcome), and my absolute favorite is E & S Sales in Shipshewana.  When I first started finding bargains at this store it was a small family business with a fairly small store, but they dreamed big and the summer time tourist season has enabled them grow into a much bigger facility.  Of course, with the new facility has come more culinary delights to enjoy such as a bakery, an ice cream counter and a deli with indoor seating.  Have lunch and then enjoy the great prices throughout the store!  What could be better?  Their growth has also included adding more check outs and staff to accommodate the crowds they’ve attracted.  I believe the word is out!

When I go there my must have list includes nuts, nut butters, oat meal, green tea, and quinoa.  The prices on brown sugar, flours, and other groceries are substantially lower than you may be used to, and they offer produce, some frozen items, and a wonderful cheese case where you can sample before you buy.  My grandkids love that!

And, yes, that is a buggy hanging over the cheese case.  The store also features a wonderful collection of kiddie cars and wagons on display in various locations throughout the store.

Another favorite for most shoppers is the candy aisle.  They have hard candies, mints, chocolates, caramels, candy bars, and candy supplies for those who want to make their own concoctions.  You’ll experience a sugar high just walking through this candy utopia!  You name it….they have it!

Excuse me while I pop a chocolate truffle in my mouth!

Did I mention ice cream?  I don’t know about you, but I eat ice cream all year long.  Why do some ice cream shops close in the winter time?  I have never been able to figure that one out.  But not at E & S.  They believe in the “ice cream all year long” philosophy!  My kind of people.  It’s yummy and again, you won’t believe the prices.
All.  Year.  Long.

E & S Sales is located right on State Road 5 on the east side of the road as you are heading north into Shipshewana.  You can’t miss the sign and the large parking lot (which welcomes buses too, by the way.)

So for those of you who are committed to eliminating bulk from your life, I certainly want to encourage you in that endeavor.  I leave you with some wonderful pictures of things you can buy in bulk, save some money, and achieve your worthy goal.

These things are yummy too!

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  • Jan 19

by Rene Hostetler

I have to confess.  I have a pet peeve about people who go out in public in their pajama pants….even sweatpants.  Yoga pants are good, but sweatpants?  Eeeekkk!  Especially men…in sweat pants…in public.
Oh my!

I apologize to any of you who in the past (or yesterday) may have needed to make a quick run to the store to pick up something.  I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand why people don’t take the two minutes it takes to slip on some jeans so you don’t look like you just got out of bed.

I admit, there are some people who do this really well.  I mean, it certainly must be okay to shop in your pajamas if you have a really great bag on your arm and a coat that matches your slippers, right?

There is one and only one time that I believe it’s entirely appropriate to shop in your pajamas.  In fact, it’s a lot of fun, and you can get some really good deals if you do show up in your pajamas.  And that is, of course, the annual Pajama Sale in Shipshewana.  My daughter and I started making this an annual “must do” many years ago and soon we included her daughter, my grand-daughter as well.  Part of the fun is always finding the perfect matching pajamas and then anticipating getting up in the dark to arrive just in time to capture the best deals.  Eventually we got smart and realized the best strategy was to stay in town at our favorite Shipshewana hotel making it an annual “Girl’s Night Out” event we all looked forward to.

The discounts are oh so worth the loss of sleep and cold temperatures (I don’t recommend slippers!) and appearing in public without makeup or perfect hair.  It’s really kind of liberating every once in a while to be accepted in public without all the “requirements.” And, yes, I do include shopping in pajamas!

This year the Annual Shipshewana Pajama Day Sale is February 7th and most of the stores open at 6am.  There are a few that open even earlier!  Look for great giveaways and drawings…and bargains.  Did I mention bargains?

So make a list, bring your friends and get some warm, fuzzy pjs to remind you later of a fun event you can enjoy every year on the first Saturday in February.

Embrace the cold. Chase away the winter blahs, but maybe don’t show up like this person….for so many reasons!

Are those some hairy legs…
or what?

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  • Jan 14

Shipshewana….Where Moments Turn Into Memories

Enter this gate to warm thoughts!

Remember the crossroad of beauty!

Hang out for a while and bloom in the sunshine!

Remember the world as a colorful place!

Take the path to simple beauty!

Don’t forget!

Appreciate the winter sunshine, but don’t forget that color and warmth will return soon!

Let these photos remind you of what is soon to be again, and encourage you to add a little color to your day!

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  • Jan 8
  • Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2015
  • by rene_h in
  • Uncategorized

Happy New Year to all of our Shipshewana friends!

The holidays zip by every year, and every year after the dust settles and the green and red is put away, we are left with the same question.

Now what?

For most, it’s more of the same.  We keep moving forward…or we just keep moving!

For some of us though it’s a time to shake things up a bit and make a new plan…kind of a mulligan or do-over.  (No, I am not a golfer!  I just like that word!)  The new year is an opportunity to fix some things and some people call that “making resolutions.”  And that’s all well and good, but the truth is that most people fail at their New Year’s resolutions and they usually fail within the first week.  So here we are with the first week of the new year under our belts.  How’s that going for you?  Did you set yourself up to be disappointed in yourself for the entire year!

Why do people fail at their resolutions?  I thought you’d never ask!

They fail because they don’t include in their plan the steps they need to achieve their resolutions.  Those steps are called goals.  Goals are achievable especially if you are realistic as you set them up.  For instance; I, like the majority of women reading this post, would like to loose some weight in 2015.  I have a specific number in mind, but I have given myself the achievable goal of loosing just 3 pounds, and I have a realistic way of doing that through a 7 minute work out and eliminating sugar from my diet.  Ok, so the 7 minute workout took me 30 minutes the first time I did it, but every day I do it I congratulate myself because I’m getting better every day.  And the ache in my muscles is a good ache reminding me that I am being proactive toward my goal.  And, yes, you can eliminate sugar from your diet as long as you are allowed one piece of chocolate every day.  Just one!

What “goals” might you have for the new year?

I am also wanting to find bargains this year.  Well, that would be every year because that is part of my DNA.  And the hunt keeps me moving so that can be part of my exercise plan, right?

How about  spending more time with friends.  Small goals, right?  So make a date.  Find some event to attend.  I have a few ideas for you.

Coming up on the first weekend in February is the annual Pajama Day Sale in Shipshewana.  This is something you and your friends will laugh about for years to come.  Buy matching PJs and book a hotel room.  Get up really early and tromp around in the snow to find some amazing bargains.  You could accomplish three goals all at the same time!  Check out the details here!  Believe me, it’s a lot of fun!

If you are not into shopping in your pajamas before the sun makes an appearance,  find a show to go to at the Blue Gate Theater.  They offer comedians, country singers, and everything in between.  Just click the link to find one that suits you and your friend.

Today the weather is keeping us all indoors, and that is a good and safe choice.  But don’t forget your goals for the new year.  It kind of boils down to two things:  make some achievable goals and then celebrate every single one you achieve…with a friend!

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