• Aug 29

Harvesting and Drying Gourds By Karen Weiland,  Purdue Master Gardener

Fall is definitely my favorite season.  I love to sprinkle areas outside my house with combinations of mums, pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks.  It is also a good time to move some  plants around the landscape.  I seem to do this a lot, trying to find just the right place this time for that certain flower or bush.  I have had some people ask me about preserving gourds.  Here is some information that I hope will be useful.

There are three basic types of gourds, Luffa, which are used as sponges, Cucurbita, also known as Ornamental and are for decoration only and Lagenaria, which are handcrafted into birdhouses, dippers and containers.

Gourds should be harvested when fully mature.  Look for a hardened shell and a withered vine. Harvesting before frost reduces the possibility of spoilage during storage.  Bottle gourds can take a light frost or two before harvest without damage.  The gourd will be ripe when the stem turns brown and dries.  Use sharp shears or a knife to cut the stem.  To avoid bruising the fruit, leave a few inches of the stem attached to it.  Do not handle the gourd by the stem.

The surface of the gourd will be very tender, so handle it gently to avoid bruises and scratches.  A cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol will sufficiently clean a slightly dirty gourd.  However, if it is very dirty, wash it in warm, soapy water and rinse it in clean water to which a household disinfectant has been added.  The disinfectant will remove any soil-borne bacteria.

The gourds should next be surface-dried.  Spread them out so they do not touch on several layers of newspaper or on open shelves in a warm, dry place such as a garage, porch or shed.  Do not allow dew to fall on them at night if placing outside.  Turn the gourds every day and replace newspapers that have become moist.  Allowing the air to circulate freely speeds up the surface drying time, which should take about 1 week.  Throw away all fruits that begin to shrink or develop soft spots.  This keeps mold and bacteria from spreading to the healthy gourds.  If molds begin to appear on the surface of ornamental type gourds , wipe clean and continue with the drying process. The surface will be dry when the shell hardens and the color brightens.

Depending on the cultivar it can take up to 6 months for a gourd to fully dry.  Wipe the gourds with a cloth soaked in household disinfectant.  Spread them in shallow trays or on newspapers in a warm, dry, dark area.  An attic, closet or under a bed would be good.  The warmth encourages fast drying, the darkness prevents color fading and dryness discourages mold. Storing gourds in a damp basement, a closed, heated room or in tight, closed containers encourages the development of rot and mold.

Luffa gourds should be handled a bit differently from the other two.  Harvest them when the gourd is lightweight and the seeds rattle inside.  After it is dry, cut off the end with the stem and shake out the seeds.  The skin should come off rather easily, but if it needs a little coaxing, soak it in warm water until the skin softens and comes off.  The sponge will need to be soaked in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.  This will turn the color to a creamy white.  Rinse it well and let it thoroughly dry before using.

Gourds may be displayed in their natural state and applying a protective coating will increase their usefulness a bit longer.  Apply a paste wax to the gourd then buff it with a soft cloth to achieve a shiny appearance with some highlights or spray it with a clear shellac or varnish to give it a glossy finish.

As always, happy gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html 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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  • Aug 25

Harvesting and Drying Herbs by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Drying herbs is a wonderful way to save your fresh harvest and extend the use of your garden into the winter months.

Less oil is produced on really wet days and most herbs will have their most oil content just before the flower opens.  The best day to harvest is a rather dry, sunny one and should be done in the morning after the dew has dried from the plant.  Herbs grown for their foliage should be harvested before they flower.  Herb flowers have their most intense oil concentration and flavor when harvested after flower buds appear but before they are fully open, so collect herb flowers just before full flower.  Harvest herb roots in the fall after the foliage fades.

Annual herbs can be harvested until frost.  Perennial herbs can be clipped until late August, early September.  Stop harvesting about one month before the first frost date.  Pruning late into fall could encourage new growth that will not have time to harden off before winter.

The plant will need enough foliage to re-grow after harvesting, so for a mid-season harvest do not take more than one third of the plant foliage.  Check the picked foliage for insects, eggs or leaf damage and rinse in tepid water if needed.  Pat dry with a paper towel.

To prepare for drying, remove any foliage near the base of the stem and tie twine around 6 to 7 stems to form a bundle.  A rubber band works well too as it contracts as the stems dry.  Hang in a cool spot that has good air circulation and is not in direct sunlight.  You can dry individual leaves on a screen, turning them frequently.  Dry until leaves and stems are crisp.  You can then store them “as is” on the dried stem or remove the leaves and place them in a jar.  Store dried herbs in a dark, dry location away from any heat source.  Airtight storage will preserve aroma and flavors the best.  If needed, an old sock can be placed over the jar to prevent light infiltration.

Freezing is another method of herb preservation.  Place the herbs on a baking sheet that has been lined with waxed paper then place it in the freezer.  Young stems with the leaves can be frozen as a unit and herbs such as chives will need to be snipped into ¼ inch pieces.  After they are frozen, place them into plastic freezer bags and use as needed.

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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  • Aug 18

Begonia Propagation by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

I have had many guests at my B&B who have shared some of their gardening success stories.  One of my favorites is the use of Dragon Wing Begonias in a window box.  I must tell you these flowers are fabulous!

Dragon wing plants fill in fast to create a lush container garden that will last up to the first frost.  These plants have dark green, glossy leaves and bloom profusely from early spring to frost.  They will reach a height of 18 to 24 inches and will thrive in sun, partial shade and light shade.

I will definitely be taking some cuttings of this plant to propagate and fill my containers next spring.  Propagation involves taking a portion of a plant and rooting it to grow into a new plant.  I will use the stem cutting method.

To do this, cut off a piece of stem, 4 to 6 inches long.  You will need to have at least 3 sets of leaves on your cutting.  Make a bottom cut just below a node (a node is where the leaf joins the stem).  Starting from the bottom of the cutting, cut off one half to two thirds of the leaves and cut large leaves in half.  Remove all flowers and flower buds.

Prepare a small pot of damp rooting mix, using a pencil to make a hole for the cutting.  Plants contain a hormone, auxin, that stimulates root formation.  Some plants will root readily because of the naturally occurring auxin without using a synthetic form of a rooting hormone.  I will use a synthetic rooting hormone just to improve my chances of success.  Dip the lower inch of the cutting in rooting hormone, then place the stem, 1 to 2 inches deep, in the prepared hole and fill the rooting mix around it.  Do not allow the leaves to touch the surface of the mix.  If they do, trim them back.  Place a clear, plastic bag over the pot making sure it does not touch the leaves.

Place the pot in a warm, bright spot, keeping it out of direct sunlight.  Water as necessary.  After two or three weeks, work your hand under the cutting and lift to see if roots have formed.  If roots are small or have not formed yet, place it back into the pot, tamp the mix around the stem and enclose it in the bag.  Check again in several weeks.

When you have roots, open the plastic bag a small amount each day to decrease the humidity.  Once it is growing well, pot it into a good quality potting mix.

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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  • Aug 13

The Fall Garden by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Planting a garden in the fall will extend your gardening season so you can continue to harvest fresh produce after earlier crops are finished.  Harvesting fall produce can be extended even further by planting in cold frames and hotbeds.

Many spring planted, cool season crops can be planted again in the fall, such as lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, cabbage and onions.  Refer to the seed packet for the amount of the average days to harvest.  The average date for the first killing frost in our area is October 6 thru the 15.  Count backwards from the first frost date, using the number of days to maturity for the seed you are growing, to determine the last date you should plant.

When purchasing your spring garden seeds, keep in mind that many garden centers do not carry seedlings for a fall garden planting and you may not be able to find seed packets in the cultivars you want, in the stores when you need them.   Stock up on seeds in the spring as you may need to grow your own transplants for the fall.

Begin by pulling those plants that are finished producing and remove them from the garden.  Work the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.  If your spring garden was heavily fertilized, then you may not need to add any additional fertilizer.   If not, then thoroughly mix with the soil, 1 to 2 pounds of a balanced fertilizer, such as 12-12-12, applied per 100 square feet of garden bed.

As the air temperature will be higher when sowing a fall garden than in the spring, a light application of compost, vermiculite or potting soil over the seeded row can prevent a crust from forming over the seeds and will help keep the soil temperature more suitable for germination.  You can also sow the seeds a bit deeper to take advantage of the cooler soil.  If rainfall is not sufficient, apply 1 inch of water per week, in a single application, to keep the soil moist enough for germination.

Vegetables have differing frost tolerances.  Tender vegetables damaged by a light frost include beans, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and squash.  Vegetables that will tolerate a light frost are termed semi-hardy and include beets, carrots, lettuce, endive and cauliflower.   Hardy vegetables, or those that can tolerate a hard frost include broccoli, onion, peas, radish, spinach and turnip.

It is recommended to have available a variety of garden blankets, throw cloths and plastic gallon milk jugs to cover and protect plants if a frost should occur.  A few weeks of good growing weather can occur after a cold spell.

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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  • Jul 31

by Rene Hostetler

This blog has never been used to express any political opinions or views and today is no different.

However, I would like to help you speculate a little.  We’ve all been reading and hearing about the chaos that seems to be prevalent in Washington D.C. Which leaves those of us who live in the “bread belt,” and the “Bible belt” Midwest part of the USA wondering what belt is holding up the pants of this country and are our children and grandchildren going to enjoy the same freedoms we have.  Yes?

Now stay with me here…I am going somewhere with all this!

Since we do live in the Midwest, most of us have been exposed to the lifestyle of the Amish community in one way or another.  I’m not talking about those so-called reality TV shows which I hate to break it to you….they do not represent these people very well.  Like most “reality” TV.  I digress.  Those of us who have had the opportunity to get to know real Amish know that they place great value on faith, family and community.   Can you imagine if those Amish values were applied to how our country is governed?  It’s a stretch, I know, but an interesting concept.

Author, Martha Bolton thought it was an interesting concept and wrote a novel called, Josiah for President. She has also been involved in making her book into a musical (of the same name) which is performed on the stage of the Blue Gate Theater in Shipshewana now through December 13th.   Imagine that!

How Josiah meets a burned out Congressman who recognizes in Josiah just what our country needs in a leader… and all of the twists and turns that form this compelling story will entertain and inspire.  Can good old-fashioned farming values be applied to politics?

Imagine no longer!  Get more information and purchase tickets at http://www.riegsecker.com/shipshewana/bluegatetheater/josiah-for-president-musical/

The Blue Gate Bakery, Restaurant and Theater are well known for quality in every aspect of the services they provide.  Enjoy an evening at The Blue Gate and see how simple values, love and faith could change everything in our country…one person at a time.

Imagine that!

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  • Jul 25

Japanese Beetles by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener  

Japanese beetles are one of the most aggressively damaging insect pests of landscape plants and turf grass.  Japanese beetle(Popillia japonica) larvae are a type of white grub that feeds on the roots of grass and the adult Japanese beetles eat the leaves and flowers on more than 300  plant species.  The adults are about 3/8” in length and have metallic green heads and metallic copper- tan backs.  The larvae are a “c” shaped white grub.

The Japanese beetle has a one year life cycle.  After emerging as adults, they basically feed, mate and lay eggs.  In late afternoon, the mated females will seek suitably moist turf grass soil in which to lay her cluster of eggs among the plant roots.  A female can lay 40-60 eggs during her 4 to 8 week life span.  After the larvae have hatched, they start feeding on turf grass roots.  In the fall after the soil temperature drops to about 60 degrees F the larvae move deeper into the soil where they remain throughout the winter.  As the soil warms in the spring the larvae become active again to form an earthen cell and pupate.  A few weeks later they emerge as adults.

Just because you have a large amount of adults feeding on your plants does not mean you have a grub infestation in your grass.  Adults will fly a long way to find food.  But if you do find patches of dead grass in your yard that can be rolled back like a carpet, chances are you have a grub issue.  Grubs will chew off the roots of the grass therefore causing the grass to be unable to take up water during the hot, dry weather of summer.  Starlings, crows, moles, shrews and skunks damaging the lawn may be another indication you have a grub issue.

The adults emerge from the soil in July and their activity is at its peak for a 6 to 8 week time period.  The timing of pesticide application is important in the control of Japanese Beetle grubs.  Because of their egg-laying, the best time to apply grub control insecticide is mid-July through early September using a granular insecticide applied with a spreader.  Always be sure to read and follow thoroughly, all directions on the product label.

There are numerous insecticides available to either kill and/or repel Japanese beetles.  Pyrethroid insecticides offer a 2 to 3 week protection after a single application.  Carbaryle (Sevin) is another good choice but its effectiveness will not last as long as the pyrethroid.  These are just a few of the choices available.  When making your choice, read all label warnings and cautions.  Some products are highly toxic to bees and other pollinating insects and plants grown for food.  Keep in mind, no pollinators=no food!

Another effective but time consuming control method is to simply pick the Japanese beetle from the plant in the early morning and drop it into a container of soapy water.  This would not exactly be my idea of how I would like to spend my morning, but it does work.  Japanese beetle traps are not recommended as they tend to increase the damage done by the beetles by drawing them into an area in larger numbers than can be trapped.

Good luck and 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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  • Jul 21

by Rene Hostetler

Even though most of the retailers are now forcing us to think about “back to school” merchandise, I have my feet firmly planted right smack dab in the middle of summer!

It’s July, people!  I’m still going to the beach, spending time on boats, and pulling weeds out of my garden!  It can’t possibly be time to send the kids back to school! I’m sure the kids all feel the same way!

Eventually we will all have to reluctantly move on to the next season, and hopefully you are making some wonderful memories as you enjoy your summer.  And, hopefully, you are recording all of those wonderful memories.  It’s a lot easier these days to do that with cell phones that do just about everything for us including taking half way decent pictures.
It’s easy.  It’s fun.  And you can send your photos to your friends and family in an instant.

You can also Instagram them and categorize them with a hashtag.  To give you some practice at this, we’ve come up with a contest to go along with the whole Shipshewana Story idea.  The next time you are in Shipshewana, take some pictures that represent your experience or your favorite experience.  It could be the scenery, an item you purchased or even some yummy food you enjoyed.  Choose one picture and post it on your Facebook account or Instagram account and label it with the hashtag – #myshipshewanastory.   Leave a comment too to let us know why this was a favorite of yours.

And guess what?  You could win a prize!  The contest goes through the end of August so you still have time to plan a trip and submit your entry. The 1st place winner will receive an overnight and dinner/theater package in Shipshewana!   Pretty cool!

Memories are so important especially when they are of summer.  You might need some warm looking pictures to cozy up to once it’s cold and the snow is flying once again.

Ok….I need to head to the beach!

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  • Jul 11

Using Native Plants in the Garden and Landscape

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Plants that have lived naturally in our area for hundreds of years are adapted to our climate and landscape.  These plants are called natives and have existed for such a long time because of a complex set of checks and balances in our ecosystem.

Some of the plants we see in our landscapes are brought in from other areas where there are natural controls to keep them inbounds.  When they are transplanted in our area, with no natural controls, they have the tendency to romp through our woodlands, shading and thus choking out our native plants.  By planting natives in our gardens and landscapes we can help to protect and restore the habitats that are lost to human development.

Gardening with native plants is easier because they are not finicky about growing here.  They do not need excessive watering or fertilization and they add to the resources that support our wildlife, such as no milkweed=no monarch butterflies.  Using natives to plant a rain garden enables s rain water to percolate safely into the soil rather than running into rivers and streams and taking with it whatever pollutants in comes across on its way.

There are lists of well behaved, reliable native plants that can be used to attract wildlife, restore the balance of nature and to decorate the landscape and garden on the internet.  The Indiana Native Plants and Wildflowers Society-  www.inpaws.org is a website I like to refer to which has tons of information.   This website also lists what NOT to plant (invasives).  The Interpretive Naturalists at Pokagon State Park are also a great resource for information.  Their email address is pokagoninterp@dnr.in.gov and phone number is 260-833-2012.

A few of the sun-loving native flowers are Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata) and Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana).   Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis), Black Chokeberry (Photinia melanocarpa) and  Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) are a few native bushes that can be used for bird habitats.  They offer dense cover for shelter and berries to feed our feathered friends.

If you are in need of some fall color in your garden plant some Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Winged sumac (Rhus copallinum) or Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum).  To bring some winter interest to the landscape Sideoats gramma (Bouteloua curtipendula),  Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) and Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) are a few natives that can be used.

By the way I just saw some Monarch butterflies flitting about the milkweed in my garden last week…love it!  Go ahead and tuck some natives into your landscape and garden and make a bug happy.

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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  • Jul 7

Growing and Using Sunflowers By Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

In my opinion, the happy-face of the plant world is a big, beautiful, yellow sunflower.   They can be grown as a cash crop for their edible seed and oil or for the sunshine they add to a floral arrangement.

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) grow rather rapidly producing large, rough leaves and seed laden heads.   The yellow petals that you see around the outside of the head are ray petals, attracting pollinators to the disk and the face of the head actually contains hundreds of disk flowers, each of which will form a seed.  Sunflower heads turn with or track the sun during the early stages of their development .  This aids in light exposure and photosynthesis.  After pollination the disk will remain east-facing and eventually turn downward to protect the seeds from solar radiation.

Seeds may be planted about 1-2 inches deep after the soil has reached a temperature of 50-60 degrees and all danger of frost has passed, through mid-July.  Sunflowers prefer well-drained, sandy loam soil and 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight.  Depending on the variety, sunflowers mature and develop seeds in 80 to 120 days.  Sow a new row every few weeks to provide continuous blooms until the first frost.

While the shorter varieties will not require staking, it is helpful to provide support for those that grow more than 3 feet tall or are multi-branched.  Plants that are shallow rooted and weighed down with heavy flower heads are vulnerable to summer storms with wind and rain.

I have not had much of a problem with diseases or insects.  Grasshoppers and caterpillars like to feed on the leaves but not so much that it has been detrimental to the plant or yield.  As with everything else in the garden, good crop rotation will prevent problems with sunflowers.

If you are not going to use the seeds, it is fun to watch wildlife enjoy the bounty.  But if you do want to save them, protect the seed from birds by covering the head with burlap or netting.  Sunflower seeds are considered mature when the back of the seed head is yellow.  Remove the entire head and place it in a bag or wrap it in cheesecloth and hang it in a cool, dry, dark area to finish drying.  After about 2 weeks the seed should be ready for eating.   The birds like them raw but I like them roasted with a little salt.  Arrange the dried seeds in a shallow pan and roast them at 300 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

There are so many different varieties and colors of sunflowers to choose from.  Start planting today and bring a little sunshine to your life!

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects can be found 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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  • Jul 1

by Rene Hostetler

There’s no time like summertime!  In the summertime you have so many more options for staying active, interacting with nature, and entertaining.  It’s when the relatives come to visit and the family reunions all happen.  The kids are home from school.  You take a vacation and hopefully get some much deserved R & R.  It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

But what do you do when you have a house full of people and they need something to do?  And what do you do when the kids start repeating every mother’s nightmare of a phrase…I’m bored! What do you do when you find yourself overtired from too much activity and too many menus to plan and prepare and too much summer?!

Is there such a thing?

For me the solution is always getting back to nature.   I am always refreshed after a walk in the woods, a visit to a garden, a float on a lake, or just sitting on a park bench breathing the fresh air.  One of the amazing things about Indiana is the number of lakes it has.  LaGrange County alone has 72 lakes to enjoy!  Not to mention the Pigeon River where the scenery inspires memories and you find yourself thinking, “Why don’t I do this more often?”   If water isn’t your thing consider a picnic at one of the six county parks where there are playgrounds, hiking trails, picnic tables, and plenty of grassy areas to toss the Frisbee.

Summertime is when you forget the nasty winter we had and you celebrate the joy of getting off the couch and getting outside!  I remember when I was a kid and my neighborhood friend, Margaret would knock on our screen door and ask if I could come outside to play.

Can you come out to play?

Ride bikes! Fish!  Eat food outside (it’s called a picnic)!  Take a hike!  Visit a garden!  Float a boat!  All these things can be done just down the street in LaGrange County!

Or….if that therapy doesn’t work….there’s another really effective therapy…it’s called shopping! And LaGrange County has this other really cool place that’s outside where you can shop.  It’s called Shipshewana!  Yeah…I can get into that too!

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