• 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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  • Feb 23

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Any gardener worth his or her salt knows the many benefits of a good compost.  But what about this stuff called compost tea?  Compost tea is not something you will want to be sipping from your tea cup on a relaxing afternoon.  It is something you can use on your plants as a foliar application or as a soil drench.   It’s a way to give your plants a healthy boost and is a wonderful soil tonic.

Compost tea is defined as a liquid extract of compost that contains plant growth compounds and beneficial microorganisms.  It is basically made by soaking, steeping or brewing finished compost in a container of water.

While there are a variety of processing methods to be had, the most simplified method is to soak a burlap bag of finished compost in a 5-gallon bucket of water for a designated length of time.  It is best to use de-chlorinated water to maintain microbial life.  To de-chlorinate water simply store it in an open container for several hours, the chlorine will naturally dissipate.

The most recent concept of aerated compost tea is made by incorporating aeration technology to create optimum levels of oxygen for growth and reproduction of those wonderful beneficial microorganisms.   A simple way to introduce air would be to use several 12’ lengths of aquarium hose attached to a multi-stemmed gang valve hung on the rim of a 5-gallon bucket.  Make sure the hoses reach the bottom of the bucket.  Add finished compost making sure the ends of the hoses are covered.  Add water to within 6” of the top of the bucket.  Add 1 oz. of unsulfured molasses to provide a food source for the beneficial microorganisms.  Turn on the aquarium pump and let this mixture brew for a couple of days, giving it a few stirs now and then.  When finished brewing, strain the mixture using cheesecloth. The tea should smell sweet and earthly.  If it doesn’t, do not use it on your plants.  Pour it onto your compost pile.  Use it right away, as the oxygen will be used up and the tea will turn anaerobic, thus killing the beneficial bacteria.

The issue of food safety needs to be taken in to account when using compost tea.  Gardeners should follow the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board’s compost tea task force (on the web at www.ams.usda.gov/nosb/meetings/ComostTeaTaskForceFinalReport.pdf).  More information about compost teas can be found at www.extension.oregonstate.edu

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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  • Feb 7

Winter Pruning Chores

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Like most people, I have had enough of this winter weather and am itching to get outdoors and get my hands in some dirt or on some tools. Late winter or early spring, before new growth appears, are considered the best times to prune most plants.  During this time a plants wounds will heal quickly without threat of disease or insect infestation.

Landscape plants can be pruned to reduce or maintain their size, to remove undesirable growth, to remove dead or damaged branches and to rejuvenate older plants to produce more vigorous foliage, flowers and fruits.  In some cases it is necessary to prune to prevent damage to property.

There are proper techniques to follow when pruning.  Plants that bloom in early spring such as forsythia, pussy willow and crabapple will need to be pruned later in the spring after their blooms fade.  Such early bloomers produce their buds on last year’s wood, so pruning before blossoming will remove many potential blooms.

While it is recommended that a tree or shrub be allowed to develop its natural shape as much as possible, there are times that weak branches or branches that have formed at a poor angle to the trunk need to be cut back.  Thin this type of growth by removing the branch at its point of origin, leaving a small stub of about ½ to 1 inch.  Pruning too close to the trunk opens the plant up to extensive decay.  Look for crossed branches that rub or interfere with each other and those that form narrow crotches.   Pruning such branches will prevent future issues.

Heading back is a technique used to reduce size.  Shorten branches by cutting back to a healthy side bud or branch that is growing in the direction you want growth to develop.  Make cuts about ½ inch from the bud or branch.

Evergreen trees are not pruned by the same methods as most other plants.  You can encourage denser trees by pinching the “candles” of new growth that emerge in late spring.  Pinch off half of a candle when it reaches a length of about 2 inches.  Using a sharp knife or your fingers will not damage the surrounding needles.

To encourage fast healing of wounds, use sharp equipment that will give you a clean, smooth cut.  Avoid tearing the bark, especially on larger lings.  Make a slant cut as this will prevent water from collecting in the cut and will promote quicker healing.  Clean blades with alcohol between each cut when working with a diseased plant.  Finish up with another dose of alcohol and then oil the blade to prevent rusting.

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, Master Gardener, Purdue Extension, LaGrange County

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  • Feb 4

Using Manure in the Garden
by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Gardeners have long used manure from various farm animals to fertilize and enrich their soil.  However, precautions with manure applications need to be followed as it could be more detrimental than beneficial.

There are a number of pathogens such as E coli and salmonella that can be transferred to humans from animal manure.   Some animal manure can also contain parasites like roundworms and tapeworms.  If fresh manure is applied to a garden there may be a high risk of causing illness to anyone consuming fresh produce from that garden.

Non-composted manure can be harmful to growing plants by being too high in available nitrogen and thus burning the roots.  Poultry manure is particularly high in ammonia and readily burns if it is over-applied.  Laying hen manure can also raise soil pH due to the calcium supplements in their diet.  Feedlot manure can be high in salts if a salt additive is used in their diet.  Fresh manure may be applied to the garden in the fall after harvest giving it a chance to decompose as much as possible before the garden will be planted the following spring.

It is much safer to only apply well composted manure to an active garden bed.  Manure should be composed for a minimum of 6 months to reduce the risk of contamination.   The composting process may kill weed seeds and pathogens if the pile heats to above 155 degrees F and the pile was turned to heat-process all of it.  Composted manure is easier to haul because of the reduction in the weight of water and it has fewer odors.  Now that would be a big plus!

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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