• Nov 18

by Rene Hostetler

I put up my outside Christmas lights on November 11!  That is the earliest I have ever decorated for Christmas, but today when the wind chill is below zero and there’s this white stuff all over my yard, I’m feeling a tiny bit smug about the whole thing.

My rule has always, always been that I wait until after Thanksgiving because Thanksgiving is deserving of its own recognition.  It is a good thing to set aside one day (at least) to give thanks!  So right now it’s Thanksgiving inside my house and Christmas outside. But please take note…I have not turned those Christmas lights on yet except to check to make sure they are all working.  That will happen on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and I can’t wait!

I get really excited about these things.  I think it’s the kid in me.  The part that refuses to grow up and be too serious… or too busy… or too preoccupied to have some fun and enjoy this wonderful life I’ve been given.  That’s why having grandkids is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.  I get to play!

Kids Day - Ms. Merry Christmas

Kids Day - Ms. Merry Christmas

If I were a kid again I would so want my parents or grandparents to take me to Kids Day in Shipshewana.  This is just one of the events in Shipshewana that is planned with kids in mind. Kids Day gives kids an adventure with stories, games, treats, a puppet show and prizes all along the way.  This year it’s like a treasure hunt with a map to follow.  How fun is that?!!!  There will be beautiful sights all through town and a chance to sit down and chat with Santa himself.  The date is December 6 and the fun begins at 10am.   You can always go to www.Shipshewana.com to find out more!

What a great way to spend a day together as a family!  And who knows, you just might find that kid inside you who just wants to come out and play!

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  • Nov 10

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Mixed feelings abound this time of year for many of us gardeners as we look forward to a break from the work of pruning, watering and weeding, but are also sad to see the end of our beautiful flowers and fresh produce.  While cleaning up my garden yesterday some other fall “things to do” came to mind. Here are a few that may be on your “to do” list or may have slipped your mind.


When putting a tool away for the season, give it a good scrubbing with water then wipe on a light coating or spray on vegetable oil.

Sharpen hoes and cutting tools such as pruners.


Disconnect and drain garden hoses before they freeze solid during winter weather.  The same goes for sprayers.  If you don’t do this you will likely have more openings than what you want come spring.  Bring into a heated area any chemicals, especially liquids, that are being stored in an unheated building.


Clean out the underside of your lawn mower.  Dead, moist grass contributes to rusty metal.  Once the deck is cleaned, give it a light coating of oil as you would your metal tools.


Tulips and daffodils need to be planted soon if you have any.  After planting, mulch with an inch of two of organic material such as straw or bark chips to help retain ground warmth longer.  Bulbs can also be planted in pots and stored in a cool area for forcing in February.


You may like to stock up now on birdseed before the slick weather of winter sets in.  Avoid the inexpensive mixes that contain mostly filler with little nutrient value.  Woodpeckers love wire mesh tubes filled with raw, shelled peanuts, Blue Jays like corn, Goldfinches prefer niger seed  and most other birds get adequate nutrition from black-oil sunflower seeds.  Set out a heated bird bath, cleaning and replenishing the water regularly.


Protect tree trunks from vermin by wrapping them with hardware cloth or a split length of plastic drainage pipe.  Anchor with a ground staple to prevent access.  The above ground parts of evergreens are particularly susceptible to drying out over the winter through a process called transpiration.  After the ground freezes the plants roots are no longer able to take up water to replace that which is lost through the tops.  As a result the, needles, buds and twigs can dry out.  Give them an extra drink before freezing weather sets in.

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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  • Nov 4

by Rene Hostetler

I’m no expert, but I have been around the parenting block a few times and now I’m in that elite group of extremely blessed people known as grandparents.  So, I feel pretty confident that I can speak on the subject of what kids really want with some authority.  And, after all, I used to be a kid!

I’m not going to lecture on the negative effects of social media, technology, video games and questionable tv watching.  We’ve all heard the stats.

My big revelation on what kids really want is something we all already know.

Kids want our time!  Our attention!  And our affection!

No big secret, and I must confess, I am a very typical grandparent.  I’m desperately  trying to figure out how I can manage my budget through the next couple of months with nine grandchildren, Christmas, and four of them have birthdays between now and the end of January.  Yeah…bad timing, right?!

But I’m also trying to figure out how to spend time with these precious kids.  Six of them live in Colorado so that’s a whole other challenge, but for the three that live here, how can my husband and I invest ourselves into them? We do have some really great memories of stringing lights all over their dad’s pickup truck to enter into the Light Parade in Shipshewana.  They loved throwing the candy to the kids along the route.  Afterward we drove home with the lights blazing and went through a fast food drive-through for some night time snacking.  We still laugh about that!  You can still attend this great event with your kids!  It happens this Saturday at 6pm in Shipshewana, of course!

And there are a whole lot of other great events in Shipshewana to do with your kids too. Kid’s Day takes place on December 6th from 9am to 4pm.  Santa will be visiting that day and there are all kinds of fun activities planned.  It all starts at the Davis Mercantile. Check it all out at Shipshewana.com and plan a few outings.

If you’re out-doorsy like we are, you can always bundle up and take a hike in the local park, go sledding (yes, they are predicting it), or go ice skating.  There are things to do that make the colder months not only bearable but down right fun!

Or build a snow creature!  We called him Snow Bob Blob and with the cold, cold temperatures we had last year he was around for a long time.  He made me smile every time I saw him.  Not because he was so cute, but because of the memories we made together as a family.

What do kids really want this holiday season and all year round?  They want you!
Go make some memories!

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  • Oct 28

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Roses are one of the oldest and most popular garden flowers grown.  Even though there is a plethora of information available on growing roses, my experience has been through trial and error.  When winterizing, your main concern is protecting your roses from extended periods of weather below 20 degrees, fluctuating temperatures and winter winds.  Sometimes our winters are not too severe and merely piling protective material around the base of the plant will be enough, but one never knows what old man winter will throw at us.  The following information will hopefully give you some important basics to helping your roses make it through the winter.

Very cold temperatures and winds can cause the rose canes to dry out so water them thoroughly in late autumn before the ground freezes.  Pay close attention to plants under the eaves of buildings.  They may not receive the rainfall that other plants get and will need supplemental water.

Remove debris such as old leaves and dead stems from around the base of the rose.  These materials are inviting places for disease organisms to over-winter.   Well cared for roses are more likely to survive the winter than diseased plants or those that lack nutrients.

Climbing roses have long canes that require support.  The canes may reach 5’ to 20’ in length depending on their type and how they are maintained.  To protect climbing roses, remove the canes from their support, lay them on the ground and secure with what I call a large wire staple. Cover the canes with 3 to 4 inches of soil with some mulch on top of that.  The base should be covered with about 10” of soil.  This should be done after the roses go dormant and have been exposed to two or three hard frosts.

The bush rose is self-supporting and will flower mainly at the top of its growth.  To protect it, bring the canes together and loosely spirally bind them with twine.  Using soil, create a mound at the base of the plant to about 12” high.  Use soil from a different part of the garden so you do not injure the roots of the rose by using nearby soil.  Mulch such as straw or leaves can be placed on top to further protect the plant.  To hold the insulation in place you may want to try a bushel basket with the bottom removed or a wire mesh cylinder.  I have seen many people use white rose cones to protect their roses.  This should not take the place of mounding though.  When using the cone, a mound of soil 6” to 8” should also be in place.  The canes may need to be cut back to fit into the cone.  Even though it may seem like we do not have much sun during the winter it does occasionally happen, so cut a few holes in the top of the cone so heat can escape.  Finally, secure the cone by putting a heavy object (stone) on the top and mound some soil around the base.

Remove soil from the base of the rose plant before the buds break open, usually in late March or early April after the threat of frost has passed and leave a 2” layer of mulch.

As always, Happy Gardening!

My research information about gardening and related subjects is available online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html http://www.ohioline.osu.edu/lines/hyg-list.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.

Karen Weiland, Master Gardener

Purdue Extension LaGrange County

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  • Oct 17

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

If you place your houseplants outdoors for the summer, it’s time to be bringing them indoors.  A gradual reintroduction to the indoors is best as conditions differ widely between indoors and out.  The sudden changes that take place with humidity, temperature and light can have detrimental effects on plants.

First, if any of your plants need repotting, this is the time to do it.  Scrub clean the larger pot you will be using, then add some potting soil, not garden soil (which may havediseases).  If the plant has gotten leggy over the summer, remove it from the pot and prune the top and the roots in equal proportions, then replant.  I like to give mine a little boost by adding a root stimulator to my water.

Expose plants gradually to reduced lighting to prevent shock.  Expect some of the leaves to fall off, this is normal and most plants will adapt in time to their new home.

Inspect plants for insects and diseases.  Give them a bath with insecticidal soap if necessary.  If you are concerned about insects in the soil, soak the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for 15 minutes.  This will force those nasty critters out.  Some folks like to quarantine their plants for a few weeks just to make sure they are free of pests.

To keep humidity at a pleasing plant level, add a layer of small stones to a waterproof tray, add water to the stones and place the pots on top of the stones.

This would be a good time to take cuttings of some of your annual plants, like coleus, begonias and geraniums.  I like to root mine in moist sand or a rooting compound, then after roots are about one half inch long I transplant them into small pots and overwinter them on shelves equipped with plant lights in my basement.  Come spring, my cuttings are ready to be placed in window boxes, pots or in the landscape.

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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  • Oct 13

by Karen Weiland,  Purdue Master Gardener

Believe it or not, there’s treasure to be had in your trash.  Composting is a naturally occurring process that breaks down organic matter into a material that resembles soil.  Finished compost is an excellent use for soil amendment that improves the structure and adds some essential nutrients.  It is an efficient and frugal way to use yard waste such as leaves, grass, thatch, plant trimmings and the remains of garden plants.  Kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells and coffee grounds that would normally be thrown in to the garbage can also be used.

Decaying matter, which includes fallen leaves, one type of organic mulch, is what nature uses to replenish the soil.  Instead of raking and bagging those leaves to be sent away, consider using them in your garden.  Layers of whole leaves can smother the growth underneath them and it will take longer for them to break down, but by chopping them up with your lawn mower you can speed up the disintegration process.  If you don’t have a bagger for your lawn mower, consider placing the leaves in a large garbage can and chop them up with a weed whacker.  Do not use diseased leaves.  Those should be bagged and sent away.

Nitrogen is needed by the microbes in a compost pile in order to break down and make use of the carbon that is found in organic matter.  The carbon to nitrogen ratio affects the rate of decomposition.  The right amount of water and oxygen are also very important.  Due to article space limitations, I suggest you check out the in-depth information about the elements needed for efficient decomposition in the websites that I refer to at the end of this article.

Your compost pile can be placed in some type of structure such as a woven wire bin, aconcrete block bin or a bin made from wooden pallets.  It can also be left in an open pile.  It’s best to place your composting site in a semi-shady spot with protection from the wind so it will not get excessively hot and dry.  A good sized compost pile is about 4-5 feet in diameter and about 4-5 feet deep.

It is important to have a good balance of materials in your compost pile.   This is done by using layers, alternating yard wastes, a nitrogen source, if needed, and soil.  The bottom layer should consist of 6-10 inches of organic matter, with the coarser material on the very bottom.  This will allow air circulation around the base of the pile.  If needed, use 1-2 inches of a nitrogen source such as animal manure for the next layer.  Then apply about 1 inch of soil or finished compost.  Check the pile occasionally for watering needs.  The center should reach a temperature of 130 to 160 degrees when it is working properly.  Use a pitchfork or shovel to turn the pile once or twice a month to keep the materials supplied with oxygen and to bring the outer contents to the center for heating.

Compost has so many uses.  Adding it to your garden increases the water-holding capacity, aeration and nutrient exchange sites in the soil. It can be added as an organic media in potting soil or for starting seeds of garden plants.  It’s also useful as a garden mulch to conserve soil moisture, keep the soil cool and helps to keep the weeds from growing.

Recycling is very important to me as it is to many other people. This is one way of reducing the waste that goes to our landfills.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information is available on line at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html. http://ohioline.osu.edu/lines/hyg-list.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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  • Oct 6

by Rene Hostetler

For some people, planning ahead for the holidays begins immediately after the holidays.  So, like in January?  And, yes, I have bought Christmas wrapping paper on sale at Target in January, so I guess I could fit into that illustrious category.  But that’s so not normal for me!  I’m somewhat of a last minute kind of a person.  I like to think that it has more to do with my need for things to be relevant than that I put things off, but that’s a little too analytical and way too deep for this Monday morning.

I do, however, like to have a plan!  And since the months of November and December can become just a little hectic I have begun to think about the right blend of entertainment, shopping and indulgence.   And indulgence always means good food, right?

When it’s time to take the relatives somewhere or keep the grandkids busy, my plan usually includes something in Shipshewana.  I can’t believe there are people who live in my community who have never been there, but it’s true.  It is my best resource and whoever I take there always has the best time.  It helps that November and December are some of the busiest months in Shipshewana.  They know how to do the holidays, and I’m sure it brings people in to do some shopping.  It’s all good!

It also helps that the holiday schedule stays pretty much the same each year.  I can depend on the Light Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony to always be on the same weekend in November every year.  This year it happens on November 8th, and  it’s called “The Colors of Christmas.”  I’m sure it will live up to its name.  It’s a magical event and kids line the streets to catch candy and get the best view of the lit floats and wagons as they go by.

For me, the holiday season in Shipshewana begins with the Light Parade in November and ends with the Ice Festival after Christmas.   Those two are definitely on my calendar, but there are a whole lot of other choices in between like Chocolate Day, Gingerbread Houses, Christmas concerts at the Blue Gate Theater, Kids Day (Santa too!) and shopping! Shipshewana truly is the place to find that one of a kind gift, not to mention the great food to be had when you need to rest.

To plan your own special time for you and your family in Shipshewana during the holidays, please check out all the details at www.Shipshewana.com.  There’s a handy dandy calendar to help you fill up your calendar!

Now all this talk of the holidays is putting me in the mood!  I’ll have to dig out some Christmas CDs and make some fudge. Shopping?  Oh, I’ll get around to it….probably around mid-December or so!

Hey, it’s not relevant until then, right?!

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  • Oct 3

Preparing Garden Soil for Spring
by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

As I have been cleaning up my garden this fall the thought came to me that I need to plant a cover crop before cold weather sets in.  It is important for a healthy garden to take good care of the soil that works so hard to grow all the great produce that has been planted in it.

Fall is an excellent time to prepare garden soils for spring, for several reasons. There is a chance that in the spring soils remain too wet to “work” for long periods.  Amendments added in fall have time to incorporate before spring.  Removing diseased plants in the fall keeps those diseases from overwintering in the soil, only to reemerge the following growing season.  Of course if you are planting crops such as spinach or garlic in the fall for the following season you’ll need to prepare the soil first.

When removing old vegetation, whether vegetables or weeds, don’t put them in the compost if they are diseased, if the weeds have seeds, or thick stalks that are difficult to decompose.  If weeds have gotten away from you and gone to seed, try to carefully cut off the seeds first and remove them so that they won’t disperse around the garden as you pull up plants.

For perennial weeds, make sure to remove any roots, or they will sprout and grow again next year.  Tilling them in will only break up the roots into many more pieces, making your weed problem even worse next season.  For weeds with wide-spreading root systems, such as some grasses, you may need to use an herbicide to kill them off.

If you can get the garden cleaned up by early fall, you can plant a cover crop.  This is simply a crop such as oats or clover that will protect the soil from erosion, and add important organic matter when tilled in later.  If later, winter rye is about the only choice.  If frosts have begun, it is probably too late to establish a cover crop before winter.

Fall is a very good time to have the soil tested.  This is especially true if your soil needs lime added to it.  Most forms take some time to work, so adding it in the fall gives the soil time to be at the right pH by spring.

One of the most important amendments you can add to your garden is compost.  Add about a one inch layer to your garden and work it into the top several inches of soil using a garden fork, rake or claw.  Add a bit more if you have poor soil or if it’s a new site.  Other sources of organic matter include shredded leaves and dehydrated cow manure.  Do not use fresh wood products like sawdust as it can rob the soil of nitrogen as it breaks down.  Organic matter loosens heavy clay soils, helps sandy soils hold more water and nutrients and by attracting all those soil microorganisms makes soils healthier.

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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  • Sep 29

By Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Mixed feelings abound this time of year for many of us gardeners.  We are relieved to get a break from the work of pruning, watering, weeding and more weeding but we are also sad to see the end of our beautiful flowers and fresh produce.  As I was in the garden yesterday working on clearing the last of my  tomato plants, many other fall “things to get done” came into mind.  Here are a few.

Evergreens are particularly susceptible to drying out over the winter.  The above-ground parts, like twigs and leaves, are very much alive and are constantly losing water through a process called transpiration.  When the ground is frozen the plants’ roots are not able to take up water to replace that which is lost through the tops.  As a result the leaves, buds and twigs dry out.  Fighting the winter battle will be made easier by making sure the plants have a sufficient supply of moisture before the ground freezes.  Give your evergreens an extra drink.

Now is the time to purchase spring flowering bulbs for forcing.  Forcing, which is the process of coaxing bulbs into thinking they have overwintered and are ready for spring, allows you to produce beautiful blossoms when you need them the most – during the drab days of winter.  Hardy bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, crocuses and hyacinths are good choices for forcing.  Mix together equal parts of peat moss, sand and garden soil.  To ensure adequate drainage I like to cover the bottom of the pot with broken clay pot pieces.  Add some of your soil mixture and place the bulbs into the pot according to the depth measurement on the package.  Cover with soil mixture and water generously.  The potted containers must be kept in a cool location, 40 to 50 degrees.  A refrigerator will work.  I keep mine in a cardboard box at the bottom of an outdoor basement entrance.  When you see the roots peeking out of the bottom of the pot or growth at the top of the bulb, move them to a warm, sunny spot and enjoy!

This is also the time of year to put flower bulbs in the ground.  Planting bulbs in September and October will allow time for the bulb to become rooted before freezing weather arrives.

Winter mulch is not critical for all garden plants, but it can mean survival for some of the less hardy ones.  Winter mulch protects against wide temperature fluctuations in the soil and prevents extreme cold temperatures from harming plants.  The soil has a tendency to heave when subjected to wide temperature changes, pushing the plant roots out of the ground.  Shallow-rooted plants, such as strawberries and newly planted stock that have not had a chance to develop a solid root system, are most subjected to the heaving process.  Using mulch such as bark chips, hay, pine needles or straw will give your plants protection.  2 to 4 inches should do the job.  More protection is needed for some plants such as roses (see HO-128 Roses).

The sunny days of winter are a welcome sight to us humans, but they can cause trouble for some landscape plants such as young thin-barked trees.  The bark tends to split vertically on the sunny side of the tree because as the temperatures quickly drop at sundown the outer bark cools down and contracts faster than the inner bark.  Therefore the outer bark must split to accommodate what’s happening underneath it.  You can protect the tree be wrapping the trunk with a commercial tree wrap.  I like to use the black plastic, flexible drain pipe.  Purchase the size that will fit around your tree plus an inch or two and the length you want to cover.  Cut a slit in the length of the drain pipe and fit it around your tree.  In the spring I take it off and save it for the next winter.

Apply fertilizer to the lawn.  Fall fertilization helps to produce the healthiest turf with benefits lasting throughout the year.

Lastly, mulch those leaves.  Layers of leaves can smother and kill the grass beneath it this fall and winter and contribute to disease.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information 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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  • Sep 12

Organic Pest Control in the Garden by Karen Weiland,  Purdue Master Gardener

I have come into contact with gardeners who are seeking information on organic pest control for their gardens.  Their reasons range from wanting healthier options for their own consumption to environmental concerns.

There are chemical free control methods that can be used to keep chemical use as a last resort. Perfect vegetables are not realistic.  You may have to tolerate a bit of insect damage on your produce come harvest time.

Learning about a pests life cycle and when it is most susceptible to whatever control method you choose to use is of much help.  For example, a squash bug can be controlled better with a chemical in its younger stages than it can in its adult stage.

Know the difference between good and bad bugs. Plants such as marigolds, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, cilantro and dill can attract beneficial insects that will help control pests.  Attracting insect eating toads and birds to the garden is also beneficial.

Crop rotation…it is one of the oldest and most effective control methods known to gardeners.  This involves planting a crop in an area where it or a relative crop has not been grown for one year.  Insects and disease organisms can become established in the soil when a crop is planted there year after year.

The use of floating row covers screens out the pest until bloom time for certain crops.  However, if crop rotation is not practiced, a row cover will trap emerging insects from the soil.

Choose insect resistant varieties.  Hand- pick larger pests.  Yes, it is labor intensive, but it works very well.

Keep your garden clean.  Eliminate weeds and clean up crop residues as soon as you are finished with a harvest.  Don’t leave anything lying around that can be a hiding place for pests.  Remove over-ripe produce.  This will prevent the appearance of scavenger-type insects such as picnic beetles and yellowjackets.

There are a number of naturally derived organic pesticides that can be used.  Some may need to be applied frequently.   Refer to the product label for that kind of information. Organic insecticides include Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensus), pyrethrums, rotenone, insecticidal soap, diatomaceous earth, neem and horticultural oils.

As always, Happy Gardening!

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