• May 8

Composting

By Karen Weiland, Master Gardener

Believe it or not, there’s treasure to be had in your yard trash and kitchen scraps.  Composting is a convenient and practical way to use waste such as leaves, grass clippings, thatch, plant trimmings, fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells and coffee grounds.  Finished compost will improve the quality of almost any soil, and for this reason it is often considered a soil conditioner.

The break down of organic matter in your compost pile is facilitated by numerous bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes.  These “chemical decomposers” change the chemistry of organic wastes.  The macroorganisms  or “larger decomposers”  are ants, nematodes, spiders, slugs, earthworms and flies to name just a few.  Because they grind, suck, bite and chew materials into smaller pieces they are considered the “physical decomposers” of a compost pile.

Your compost pile can be placed in some type of structure such as a woven wire bin, a concrete 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 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 carbon-rich materials such as leaves, straw and wood chips with nitrogen-rich materials such as fresh grass clippings and food waste.  The right carbon to nitrogen ratio affects the rate of decomposition and water and oxygen are important ingredients too.  A tip to remember is to use from one fourth to one half high-nitrogen materials in your compost pile. Too much nitrogen in a pile will likely give off an ammonia smell.  If you have too much carbon in a pile it will not produce the heat needed for decomposition. Nitrogen is needed by the microbes in order to break down and make use of the carbon that is found in organic matter.

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.  The center should reach a temperature of 130* to 140* when it is working properly.  Check the pile occasionally for watering needs.

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.

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 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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  • Apr 29

New Lawn Grass Choices

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

An attractive, well-kept lawn can be an important aspect of a homes’ landscape.  It adds value to a homes’ appearance, aids in soil erosion, reduces mud and dust and it produces oxygen.  Planting a new lawn or even doing some over-seeding requires some knowledge of selecting the best seed for the area.

Cool season turf grasses grow best when the soil temperatures are between 50 and 65 degrees F and air temperatures are between 60 and 75 degrees F.  Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine and turf-type tall fescues are all considered cool season grasses.  Types of grasses used in the lawn will determine the level of care they will require to look good.

Turf-type tall fescue and fine fescue grasses will require less fertilization than Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.  Most lawns are pretty much made up of a blend of bluegrass varieties.  Kentucky blue grass will give you a velvety, carpet-like appearance but will require about 2 to 4 pounds of nitrogen, applied 2 to 5 times annually, to keep it that way.  Fine and turf-type tall fescues require about one third to one half of the nitrogen needed by the bluegrasses.

Mixing Kentucky bluegrass with creeping red fescue provides a good turf for lawns that have both sunny and shaded conditions.  There are some fine fescue grasses called hard and sheep (blue) that will prove to be low maintenance.  They grow in clumps of bluish-green and are usually mixed with Kentucky bluegrass that will fill in between the clumps. They tolerate drought conditions, need less fertilizer and are slow growing.

When it comes to handling drought, the turf-type tall fescue may be just what you need.  It has a larger root mass than other lawn grasses and can handle grub damage along with summer heat stress and has good tolerance to wear from foot traffic.  It is not a huge nitrogen hog as it only needs one to three applications per year.

Speaking of nitrogen, returning grass clippings and leaves to the lawn will provide about one third of the nitrogen needed by a lawn during the season.  A thick layer of grass clippings is not a good thing.  Keep it light.  If you are applying three applications of nitrogen a year on your lawn, returning the clippings with each mowing could account for one of those applications.  Also, when you mow the grass at a height of about three inches it aids in water loss to evaporation and helps it to withstand drought in that the plant develops a larger root mass.

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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  • Apr 25

by Rene Hostetler

We make a big deal of making memories around here.  We do that because we believe that when you take the time to come to Shipshewana, it’s all about the experience you have while you are here.  We believe that because everyone creates their own Shipshewana story.   Everyone makes memories.

Mine began back in 1987 when I bought an Amish made quilt from Shipshewana, Indiana.  I was living in the suburbs of Chicago then and loved shopping in Long Grove, Illinois.  Because of my husband’s ancestral connections to the Amish (yeah…Hostetler), I was curious and intrigued by all things Amish.   This particular shop specialized in Amish made quilts from Shipshewana.  It was then and there that I decided that Shipshewana must be a special place based on the beauty and intricate needlework of that quilt.

The next year my family moved to Indiana, and I was now close enough to experience this special place personally.  I thought nothing of driving an hour just to peruse the shops, find one little treasure, and always, always making time to visit JoJo’s Pretzels because there just wasn’t anything like it anywhere else!  Of course, that was when JoJo’s was the size of a closet with a counter and an oven and JoJo herself behind the glass rolling out the pretzels!  Everything about JoJos has changed since those early days except for the taste of those buttery pretzels hot from the oven.  They are still worth an hour drive!

Since that time my memories of Shipshewana fill my home represented by several large pieces of furniture, plants in my yard, dried flowers in my daughter’s wedding bouquet, spices in my pantry…and yes, I still have my lovely quilt.  Like my memories it has kept me warm, filled my heart with gratitude and even though it is worn and shows signs of age, I still treasure it for all it represents.  It is the beginning of my Shipshewana story.

Do you have a Shipshewana story?  I’d love to hear it!  What memories have you made?

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  • Apr 21

Preventing Crabgrass

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Crabgrass is an annual weed that can become a rather pesky problem in a lawn.  I think it is impossible to not have a little crabgrass in a lawn, but there are both cultural and chemical steps that can be taken that can reduce the growth of crabgrass patches in lawns.

The best and environmentally friendly way to control it is to create a dense, healthy crop of turf-grass.    Mowing at the correct height for the turf specie will help.  This height is normally 2 ½ to 3 inches.  Mowing any lower than this will thin blade presence which can allow sunlight to reach the crabgrass seed.  When needed, irrigate deeply.  Light watering promotes shallow rooting of turf-grass which will not tolerate drought conditions well.  Hand-pull any crabgrass plants.  It is a fast growing weed that can take over an area quickly.  Lastly, follow the recommended fertilization schedule which is to apply nitrogen in two applications in the fall: one in September and one in October or November after the final mowing.  I use Labor Day and Halloween as my reminders.

There may be conditions in which a pre-emergence herbicide will need to be applied to help control the spread of crabgrass.  This annual weed germinates when the soil temperature reaches 55 to 60 degrees F for 3 to 5 days at the ¼ inch level.  Most likely this will not happen until sometime in April or May, depending on the weather. Pre-emergence herbicides need to be applied at least two weeks prior to germination for them to be effective.  Very often you will find these herbicides combined with fertilizers.  It is recommended that fertilization in the spring be kept minimal, so look for a product that contains a slow release nitrogen in the form of methylene urea, sulfur or polymer-coated urea.  Avoid the quick release products.  To get the most bang for your buck these products will need to be watered in after application.  Do not use these herbicides on newly seeded areas.

It is very important when working with any chemical to read, understand fully and follow all label directions.  In trying to be environmentally friendly, use 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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  • Apr 18

by Rene Hostetler

The winter of 2013/2014 will certainly be one for the weather history books, and even though we experienced its last gasp (we hope!) earlier this week with that dusting of snow we woke up to on Monday, it’s finally over!  And this winter, like every other, has somehow mesmerized us into believing it will never be warm again.  We will never see green grass, a tree bursting with leaves, or flowers opening up to the sun again.  Somehow the black and white of winter causes us to temporarily forget how colorful our world can be.

Thankfully we have good memories for once nature wakes up again, we do too.  We open up the windows and welcome it back with enthusiasm.  We smile more.  We are all in a good mood.  We play our music a little louder in our cars.  Take walks.  Invite people over.  Come back to life!  We remember!

We all know that Shipshewana has been open all winter long for those diehards who love to shop In their pajamas in February and can’t get through the cold days without a shopping fix.  Totally understandable, and we want you to know we are here for you!  But, let’s be honest, this is when Shipshewana comes back to life as well!  The preparations are in motion all winter long and like squirrels who have stored away their winter provisions, these preparations have gotten us through the grey of winter and now we are ready to bring out the color!

The shops are bursting with new merchandise, the flea market is making its paths smooth, the Visitor’s Guides are fresh off the printing press and the celebrations are ready to begin!  We call these celebrations festivals and everything is in order for you to bring all the relatives and come join the party!

Starting the celebrations just as soon as we possibly can next Saturday, April 26th, we begin our season with Kite Kommotion!  Kites dance in the sky, kids make their own, and competitors come from all over the country to show us some serious kite flying.  Look to the skies from 11am to 3pm.
Pure.  Colorful.  Fun.

Here in Shipshewana, it’s a tradition to celebrate the origins of our town the first weekend of May and this year’s theme, “Paint The Town,” gives us a hint of things to come as well as the fun activities planned for May 2nd and 3rd.  Bring the family to enjoy music, magic shows, buggy races and, of course, the eagerly anticipated Mayfest Parade!  The candy will be flying promptly at 10am and the streets will be lined with happy kids of all ages!

We are all about making memories here in Shipshewana!  Plan your day the Shipshewana way.
Come make a few of your own and remember spring!

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  • Apr 14

Starting Seeds Indoors

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener  

Starting garden plants from seeds indoors has a rather large number of pluses and among them are: greater access to many cultivars, gives you better control over germination, lessens pest and weather risk, getting earlier harvests by starting with transplants instead of seeds and it will, in the long run, save you money.  There may be first year set up costs if you do not already have the necessary items on hand.

One of those items is a lighting system.  It is best to grow seedlings under a fluorescent light.  My setup consists of a basic shop light with one cool (“blue” light) bulb and one warm (“red” light) bulb.  I have checked into the special “grow lights” and have found them to be quite pricey.  The light fixture hangs from chains and therefore makes it easy to adjust the height of the lights as the seedlings grow.  Keep lights no more than 4 inches above the seedlings, 2 inches is ideal.   Plants will need 12 to 16 hours of light daily.   Some plants need a period of darkness to develop properly so use a timer with your light setup.

A constant heat source from below the pots can be very beneficial, especially if your seed starting setup is in a cool room or basement.  Electric heat mats designed especially for seed starting are available from many garden centers and mail order suppliers.   Seeds of most plants started indoors germinate sooner and have healthier root systems when the potting medium is warm.

Seed packets will contain the planting and care information you will need.  Do not buy more seed than you will use.  Keep in mind that each seed contains a plant embryo that must stay alive until it can germinate.  The fresher the seed, the better chance it has at a successful germination.  If you do have more seed than you can use, store them in an air tight container and place them in a cool place like the refrigerator.  The humidity can be kept low by adding a packet of silica gel or wrap a teaspoon of powdered milk in a tissue or paper towel and place it in the container.

I like to use plastic containers called “cell flats” that fit into plastic trays to sow my seeds into.  I do not like the tedious job of transplanting small seedlings started in larger containers and I feel it delays their growth because the root system goes through some damage during transplantation. I also like to sterilize my pots with a solution of bleach and water to kill any plant pathogens that may be lurking about.  Just about anything that will hold soil can be used to start seedlings.  Some use peat pots or pellets and some gardeners make their own pots from newspaper or toilet paper roll cardboard (tried that one year…the rolls fell apart before it was time to plant them in the garden…not good!)  Whatever you use, make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom.

Commercially made seed-starting mixes are recommended for starting seeds.  They do not contain any true “soil”, it’s usually a mix of vermiculite and peat.  This stuff is sterile, lightweight, does not contain any weed seeds and has a porous texture that is well suited to tiny developing roots.

Good luck with your seedlings 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.

The potting medium will need to be kept moist while the seeds are germinating.  Using a spray bottle will water the surface gently without washing the medium and possibly the seed out of the container.

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  • Apr 8

Growing Asparagus

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.

Asparagus can be planted mid-April thru late May after the soil has warmed up to about 50 degrees.  Dig a furrow about 6 to 10 inches deep and 12 to 18 inches wide.  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.  Asparagus likes 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.  However, if rainfall is short after planting, 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.

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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  • Mar 26

Repairing a Girdled Tree            
by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

It’s a nice spring day, the snow has all melted, temps are nearing 50 degrees, the sun is out, the birds are singing and you decide to take a walk around the yard to see if any spring bulbs are poking through the soil.  You are in a happy mood with a little “spring” in your step and then you spot it….stopping you dead in your tracks….some little vermin has girdled your prized Japanese Maple tree.  The beautiful little tree you have babied for years now is in jeopardy of dying.  Well, there is a chance that such damage to a tree can be repaired through a process called bridge-grafting.

First, girdling is a term used when a ring or partial ring of bark has been removed from a tree.  The severity of injury or eventual death depends upon how much of the bark was removed.  The phloem layer of tissue that lies just below the bark is responsible for carrying food produced in the leaves to the roots.  Without this food the roots will eventually die and cease sending water and minerals to the leaves.  There is some stored food in the roots which will allow the roots to function for a while but repair should be done as soon as possible.

Bridge-grafting provides a “bridge” across the damaged area so that the transport of nutrients can be partially restored.  If all goes well, the leaves will manufacture enough food that will allow the tree to grow new tissue that will grow over the wound and thus restore the tree to its normal processes.

The wound will need to be prepared for the grafting process by removing any sharp edges or loose bark with a clean, sterile knife.  Next you will need to remove some pencil to thumb-sized (in diameter, depending on the size of the tree) healthy branches from the same tree and one to three inches longer than the width of the wound. These graft pieces are called scions. It is important to place the flow of the graft in the right direction over the wound therefore when cutting the branch into pieces place a mark denoting the top of each piece.  Trim one side of each end to flatten it so that it will lay flat against the trunk of the tree.  Cut the other side of each end so that you form a wedge shape.

Next, starting from the wound edge, you will make two parallel cuts, the width of the scion, into the bark forming a flap, one at the top of the wound and one at the bottom of the wound, that the scions will fit under.  When lifting the flap of bark, do it gently so that it will not break off.  Fasten the scion in place with a brad if needed. Place scions about 1 ½ inches apart.  It is recommended to cover the grafted area with grafting wax to prevent them from drying out.  Check scions throughout the growing season and remove any buds that may sprout.   The edges of the scion and the area under the flap of bark contain thin layers of phloem and cambium and if they fuse successfully the flow of food to the roots will be reestablished and hopefully save the tree.

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.

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

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  • Mar 20

Garden Tools
by Karen Weiland, Purdue University Master Gardener,
Purdue ExtensionLaGrange County

No matter how large or small your garden, there are certain things you should know about garden tools.  First, do not skimp on quality.  Generally, the more pricey tools will last longer unless you accidentally throw them out with the weeds.  Believe me, at that point you will dig through that pile of weeds longer than you might if you had purchased an inexpensive tool.  Another thing you should do when making a purchase is to try the tool on for size.  Scope the tool isle out and then when no one else is around take that shovel you have had your eye on and pretend you are digging a hole to plant that new hydrangea.  Mimic the actions you may perform in the garden.  Is it too heavy?  Is the handle too long or too big for your hand?  Make sure the tool is comfortable for you.  To make work easier on the wrists, look for D shaped handles on short-shafted tools like digging forks or shovels.  Ash and hickory are durable woods used for handles.  Steer clear of painted handles.  Paint may be used to disguise inferior wood. Some tools have fiberglass handles which will have a bit of flexibility. Here are some quality terms to look for when making a purchase; single forged, solid socket, carbon steel, stainless steel, tempered and epoxy coated.  Ergonomic tools usually have a curve in the shaft of the handle which makes you use a different muscle group that you might not normally use.

Hand tools – there are many other job specific tools on the market, but these are the basics.   Shears are used for cutting back plants such as clumps of perennials.  Spring action scissors are good for deadheading, pruning delicate plants and cutting twine.  Hand pruners are used for cutting branches less than ¾ inch thick and cutting thicker, larger flowers.  A gardeners’ knife has a saw blade that cuts roots and scores and cuts through root balls of perennials when dividing.  A hand trowel or spade comes in handy when weeding, planting bulbs, and planting small plants.

Long handled tools –  you will need a bow rake ( I call this a stone rake) for leveling soil for planting, spreading materials such as mulch, gravel or compost and gathering up heavy debris. A leaf rake is used of course for raking leaves and gathering light debris.  A slender transplant spade works great for digging holes in the confined areas of a bed.  For digging those larger holes to plant trees and shrubs or to move loose materials, like soil or compost, you will need a round headed shovel.  A digging fork helps in mixing amendments into the soil and lifts bulbs and perennials for dividing and transplanting.  A long handled pruner (with a telescoping handle is even better) cuts branches larger than ¾ inch.  You may want to consider purchasing tools with a ratcheting mechanism, which multiplies your strength and makes cutting much easier.

Gloves are just as important as a shovel or a rake when it comes to gardening.    Depending on the job, I like to use everything from sheer latex to medium weight cotton to heavy leather gloves.  Your cuticles will thank you.  Something else I would like to mention is arm protectors.  These are elasticized sleeves, made from a heavy, durable canvas or duck that you wear when you prune brambly shrubs. Last, but not least, is a good, sturdy apron to protect your body and hold small items in its’ pockets and a good pair of waterproof footwear.

Take the time to take care of your tools.  Oil metal blades, shovels and rakes with some linseed oil to prevent rust.  Linseed oil can also be used on wood handles and shafts.

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 University Master Gardener, Purdue Extension LaGrange County

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  • Mar 12

The Dirt On Dirt by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener      

A good potting soil is the basis for a great container garden.  In order to know what soil mix is best for the type of plants you are growing, you should know the basics of what soil does.

Soil needs to hold moisture and nutrients around the roots of the plant and provide enough air so those roots will be able to breathe and not rot.  Soil also acts as an anchor for the root system.

Soilless or artificial media is made up of various ingredients such as peat, vermiculite, ground coconut hulls and bark.  Each manufacturing company has its own recipe depending upon what type of plant is being grown.  For instance succulents and perennials prefer a mix that is well draining where a tropical plant will prefer a mix that holds moisture.

Never use straight garden soil no matter how good it may look or how well plants grow in your garden.  You can however make your own potting mix by using one part garden soil, one part peat moss and one part perlite.  Keep in mind that by using your own mix it may contain insects, weed seeds and disease organisms.  Store bought soilless media are usually free of these things.     A soil based mix is going to be heavier than a soilless mix which may factor into what to use in a hanging basket.   On the other hand a soil based mix will not dry out as fast and will hold onto nutrients longer than its counterpart.   To make a soilless mix go farther you can mix 25 percent soil with the soilless mix.  When using a soilless mix, moisten it first by placing the mix in a tub, fluff the mix and add water to dampen it.

It is possible to reuse a soilless mix from year to year as long as there were no major disease issues with the plants that were growing in it.  As time passes, the organic materials that the mix is made up from will break down and decompose thus losing its drainage and aeration properties.   It then can be dumped into the compost pile or garden.

Filling very large containers can become quite costly.   Here’s my Frugal Fanny tip- fill the bottom of the container with non-biodegradable packing peanuts, empty water bottles, milk jugs, or aluminum cans.  Place a sheet of landscape fabric over the filler material, then fill the container with your growing medium of choice to within 1 inch or so of the top of the container.   Leaving an inch or better at the top will enable the water to pool in the pot and not run off when watering.  Using a filler will also decrease the weight of your container.

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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