Posts Tagged ‘Indiana’

My break from blogging was quite refreshing, and I’m glad to say I’m back with a vengeance, ready to fill your summer days with all the garden photos and random nonsense I can offer.

I recently took a day trip to Shoals, Indiana, to do some hiking and to be mercilessly attacked by the ravenous insect population. When I wasn’t pulling ticks out of my clothing, I was concentrating on getting some shots of the interesting flora and fauna that thrives in the humid Hoosier backwoods. One of my favorite discoveries was this old bottle of water that had seemingly burst from the inside out, teeming with life. If you ever wanted spring in a bottle to save for those cold and dark winter evenings, this is probably the closest you will get.

Spring in a Bottle

Stay tuned for more exciting summer discoveries…

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If you live in Indiana and haven’t already started your indoor seedlings, now is the perfect time to start! We are about 6 or 7 weeks out from our last expected frost date, so it’s time to give your tomatoes a head start.

I headed out for some seed starting supplies this afternoon. With sunny skies and temps nearing the 50s, I had to get some gardening done before winter storms come again. Since the stores no longer sell my preferred Jiffy peat pellets (and my online order was never delivered) I had to settle for the newfangled Burpee seed starting kits that seem to be popular now. I can’t say that I am a fan at all. For one, they are not self-contained like the convenient Jiffy pellets. For another, you have to have the Burpee pellets oriented correctly in their pots (flat side down), but as soon as you add water to them they start to float and, of course, roll into the completely wrong position and end up expanding into an awkward sideways lump that threatens to punch through the sides of the peat pot.

Anyway. That’s my rant for the day. I don’t know why Burpee suddenly has a monopoly on seed starting supplies, but if you have a week to spare I would recommend ordering the Jiffy pellets online.


I also seized the opportunity to begin my early spring crops out in the makeshift cold frame. The old windows seem to be doing the trick, as the soil inside the frame was quite warm at least two inches down. This will be perfect for germinating my first vegetables of the season.

DSCN2378Two rows each of radishes, carrots, and spinach are now nestled in their moist little bed, just waiting for the right moment to make their appearance. As you can see, the windows are doing a great job of locking all that humidity and sunlight energy inside where the seeds can use it. I can’t wait to see how things progress!


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Sometimes, in the dead of winter, you just need to get away from the day to day drudgery of a warm and cozy home, and get out and enjoy a little local scenery in the exhilarating January air.

To commemorate our first frigid walk together two years ago, we headed out to Turkey Run State Park for some winter hiking. This is one of the best times of year to get out and see the natural world, so long as you are properly dressed. The snow and ice have a tendency to accentuate gorgeous geographical features that might otherwise go unnoticed in the summertime.

Winter hiking is inherently peaceful. Not only are there fewer hikers (we met only one other group on the trail in our two days at Turkey Run), but the entire landscape is blanketed in a relaxing quietness. The only sounds to be heard are the occasional woodpecker, a squirrel gnawing away at a walnut, and the gurgling of the stream as it is passing under a sheet of semi-solid ice.

Yes, the Indiana winter landscape is a sight to behold. At least, it’s enough to get us out of the house and trudging around in the snow and ice for a change of scene.

Of course, a little coffee and donuts on the way home doesn’t hurt either.

Happy Two Year to US!

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Nearly 2000 years ago, Pliny observed that walnut trees have a poisonous effect on all plants.

Guess what these two backyard beauties are…

(The former owners’ long-abandoned attempt at a garden bed is slightly off frame to the left.)

All parts of a walnut tree produce a substance called juglone, which is leached into the soil through the roots and any debris that falls from the tree, such as leaves, fruits, and twigs. The juglone will allow plants to grow, then it essentially causes a massive asthma attack in the plant, causing respiratory distress and eventual (or sudden) death.

Well, shit.

Game over for Farmer Bee, right?

Not quite. If anything else, I see my new garden site as a challenge, warts and septic leach field and juglone and all.

We considered chopping the trees down, but they are quite pretty and extremely healthy. Besides, dead walnut tree roots will continue to leach juglone into the soil for several years after the tree is gone, so I’m not sure it would be worth the expense. The jury is still out on this one.

Assuming that the walnuts stay, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that (I think) will get us through this debacle just fine.

1. Fortunately, Pliny was a little bit wrong. Walnuts are not toxic to all plants, only certain ones. As far as edible plants are concerned, the most susceptible to walnut wilt, as they call it, happen to be the most popular plants to grow in a vegetable garden: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. That may seem like a bad thing, but it’s actually a great thing. The farmers’ markets are overflowing with these exact edibles every summer, and their presence in my backyard would not necessarily be missed. I can still grow corn, beans, carrots, beets, squash, melon, and raspberries without a worry—they are juglone resistant! With a little patience and experimentation, I’m certain I will find a few more delectibles that will thrive within the grasp of those dreaded toxins.

2. There are ways to get around growing veggies in contaminated soil. Containers are an obvious solution, as long as there is some sort of mulch over the soil surface, and debris from the trees is swept away promptly. Same goes for raised beds, though it may be significantly more difficult to keep those debris-free, and there is the possibility of roots creeping up into the beds from below (sounds like a horror movie).

3. The trees are big and beautiful, but relatively compact. The rule of thumb is that a tree’s roots extend out as far as the tree is tall…
Our yard is large enough that I may be able to place my beds beyond that point, while still avoiding the septic field, of course.

4. An arborist may be in our future, after all. Trimming up the far-reaching branches could be a great thing for our new yard. The “drip-line” will recede, there will be fewer horrendous walnuts to rake up every fall, and the tree will get a tidier, well-groomed look to it. Most importantly, this will free up more space for gardening.

The fate of the walnut trees is held in sway for the time being. I hate to think of killing anything that has survived for so many decades (and is an Indiana native), even if it does increase the chance of a few twisted ankles and some wilted veggies here and there. If worse comes to worst, we’ll have a whole lot of really high quality firewood to enjoy for a long time to come…

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