March 2012

First time with a yard? The City Gardener Program is for you

April 11, 2012
6:15 PMto8:15 PM
April 18, 2012
6:15 PMto8:15 PM
April 25, 2012
6:15 PMto8:15 PM
May 2, 2012
6:15 PMto8:15 PM
May 16, 2012
6:15 PMto8:15 PM
May 21, 2012
6:15 PMto8:15 PM

If you’ve just moved into your first house with a yard and you are unsure of what to do with the lawn, trees and, oh, you might like to have a vegetable or flower garden, then the City Gardener Program is for you.

Sponsored by Purdue University Marion County Extension, Steve Mayer, Ginny Roberts and Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp will help you gain the confidence you need to be successful with your lawn and gardens.

The Purdue Extension-Marion County City Gardener Program was developed in 2002 for new or inexperienced gardeners. It covers a variety of gardening topics and has a focus on gardening in urban areas. The 2012 program offers a series of classes. You can attend one session or the whole series.  A Purdue Extension City Gardener Program certificate is awarded to those who attend all six sessions.

Each class will be 6:15 to 8:15 p.m., Wednesdays, at the Marion County Extension office, Discovery Hall, Suite 201, Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1201 E. 38th Street. The fee is $5 per session OR $20 for the six classes. You do not have to pay to park to attend these classes.

Here’s the schedule and topics:

  • April 11, How Plants Grow — The Foundation of Gardening
  • April 18, Vegetable Gardening Basics
  • April 25, Pests and Pest Management
  • May 2, Growing Flowers
  • May 16, Grass Selection
  • May 23, Tree and Shrub Planting

For more information or to register, contact Debbie Schelske,, (317) 275-9286.

Early treatment for emerald ash borer advised

Emerald ash borer. Photo courtesy Purdue University

Warmer than normal temperatures have raised concerns about the early emergence and flight of the emerald ash borer, says Cliff Sadof, an entomology professor at Purdue University.

This green, metallic bugger is deadly to all ash (Fraxinus) trees, which make up roughly 6 percent of Indiana’s landscapes and forests.

The most difficult aspect, of course, is the certain death of ash trees, usually within five years once infested by the borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire). The only way a tree can survive is with treatment, which can be expensive because it has to be done every year or every other year. The bigger the ash tree, the more expensive it can be to treat, which is why homeowners, neighborhoods and others need to decide if the tree is valuable enough to treat. Treating is usually less expensive than removing a mature ash tree.

Clarification — These recommendations are for homeowners, who have access only to the insecticide (Imidacloprid) soil drench that kills the emerald ash borer. Certified arborists have other methods of applying insecticide for the emerald ash borer — trunk spray and trunk  injection. Their pesticides (Dinotefuran or Emamectin Benzoate)  have a greater window for application than a soil drench. Please visit the Purdue Website Emerald Ash Borer Information for Homeowners for details about insecticides, brands and other considerations.

Ash trees should be treated by April 15, which is about a month earlier than usually recommended because of the warm weather, Sadof said. Homeowners can treat trees up to 60-inch circumference at breast height. For larger specimens, Sadof recommends hiring a certified arborist, who has other methods of treating trees.

To help homeowners, public officials and community leaders, Sadof and his Purdue colleagues have updated information on dealing with the pest. Neighbors Against Bad Bugs, explains options for homeowners and neighborhood groups, including instructions on insecticide applications and timing.

There’s also a link to You Tube with how-to videos, and you can find announcements, links and other information at Neighbors Against Bad Bugs’ Facebook page.

Emerald ash borer damage.

For more information about the emerald ash borer:

6 things you should know about the emerald ash borer

Emerald ash borer hits Nora area — Hoosier Gardener on Fox59

Tree identification part of emerald ash borer control

Protecting plants when freeze or frost threatens

Most of the time when freezing or frosty temperatures are predicted after an extended warm period, you don’t have to do anything to protect plants.

Yes, there may be some damage, but if leaves are damaged on trees and shrubs, they will likely leaf out a second time. The flowers may be killed, but the shrubs and trees will survive.

Perennials and bulbs also will survive a sudden drop in temperature, but if they are blooming, the flowers could be damaged. It will mean the end of the season for most blooming bulbs, but perennials will likely send up new flowers and leaves once the temperatures rise again.

If you feel like you have to cover plants at night, avoid using plastic, unless it is tented so that it does not touch the plants. Condensation collects under the plastic, which can leave damage where it touches plants when the moisture freezes. Be sure to remove coverings the next morning.

Pansies, snapdragons, stock and wallflowers are cold tolerant and shouldn’t be bothered too much by frosty temps.

Trial gardens reveal best early blooming perennials

Native columbine blends with Caesar's Brotther Siberian iris, May Night Salvia and KnockOut Rose. Summer blooming lilies tower. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

If there’s anything that consumers want in their perennials, it’s low maintenance, says Pam Bennett, who runs the trial gardens for Ohio State University Extension.

She evaluates annual and perennial plants at the Gateway Learning Gardens, a five-acre plot in Springfield, Ohio, that is open to the public. The Master Gardener coordinator for Ohio, Bennett spoke recently about Top Performing, Low Maintenance Perennials for Midwest Gardens at a program of the Indianapolis Museum of Art Horticultural Society.

In the trial garden, plants are evaluated for their flower power, disease and insect resistance, maintenance demands and drought and rain tolerance. Here are three seasonal favorites from her list. Each of these is a good companion for spring bulbs, too.

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is the North America native species. Red-yellow bell-shaped flowers dangle about a foot above a nice mound of scalloped green leaves. It does best in full sun to part shade in moist, but well-drained soil. It blooms from mid-spring to early summer. This plant self-sows a bit, but is not invasive. It also does not seem to get leaf miners, a common insect on many other columbine, she said.

Pasque flower. Photo courtesy University of Illinois

Pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) has reddish-purple blooms in April and May in full sun to part shade. When blooming, it is about 12 inches tall. Plant in well-drained moist soil in the front of the border. The cuplike flowers age into silky seed heads, which are beautiful in their own right, she said.

Iron Butterfly Tiarella. Photo courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries.

Foam flower (Tiarella) is an under used native ground cover. One type spreads by rhizomes (T. cordifolia) and the other is a clump grower (T. wherryi). They do best in part shade to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. It will go dormant if it gets too hot and dry. The slightly fragrant flowers are white or pink and many varieties have spectacular foliage. ‘Iron Butterfly’ made the best list.

Concerted effort needed to control garlic mustard

Closeup of garlic mustard flower © Lynn Jenkins

Garlic mustard may sound tasty, but it’s poison for native plants and a nightmare for gardeners and naturalists.

Shortly after the Civil War, European immigrants brought garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) to the United States to use for food and medicinal purposes.

It escaped from their backyards, spread throughout the Eastern United States, taking root in natural areas, parks, along roadsides, and yes, in our backyards.

Garlic mustard is a biennial. The first year, a seed germinates and forms a cluster of low-growing leaves, called a rosette. The second year, it blooms.

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Clover mites, lamium announce early arrival of spring

Clover mites. Photo courtesy Purdue University

Because the winter has been incredibly mild, many people are asking if there will be more insects this year.

Purdue University Entomologist Tim Gibb says Indiana’s 11th warmest winter probably didn’t hurt insects or help them.

Bugs have behavioral and physiological ways of buffeting the cold and usually are unaffected by winter temperatures mild or fierce, says Gibbs in a posting at Purdue’s Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory Website.

However, when insects emerge from their winter doldrums is temperature related and people may see bugs earlier than normal when the season has been mild.

“In fact, we are already seeing the late winter emergence of many arthropods such as lady beetles, clover mites and crane flies that usually begin later in March,” Gibbs says.

Clover mite size. Photo courtesy Purdue University

Right now, clover mites are on the radar.

The mites congregate in newer lawns and migrate in fall and late winter. “Clover mites are small enough to squeeze through the tiniest of cracks and openings in buildings, making it nearly impossible to seal them out,” Gibbs says.

Although their presence can creep people out, clover mites are harmless to humans and pets. However, wiping them up often leaves brown-red smears that are difficult to clean.

Gibbs recommends applying a double-sided tape around windowsills to help stop mites from gaining access. Once indoors, the mites quickly dehydrate and can be swept up with a vacuum cleaner.

Hoosiers will probably see more garden weeds.

Mild temperatures prompt the germination of winter weeds, such as  lamium (Lamium purpureum) and Persian speedwell (Veronica persica), which seem particularly rampant this spring.

Lamium purpureum. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Black medic (Medicago lupulina), a summer annual weed, also has appeared already. Dandelions (Taraxcum), a perennial weed, never seemed to go away. They bloomed periodically all winter.

Pull, hoe out or treat weeds as soon as you see them. If using an herbicide, read and follow the label directions so desired plants will not be harmed.


Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day March 2012

(C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Probably by the time you read this, spring will have sprung and gone here in Central Indiana. A week of 70+ degree days (at least one 81-degree day) does that to spring bulbs, especially.

The early stuff, like snowdrops (Galanthus) irises (Iris) and crocus (Crocus) take the biggest hit. Soon to follow will be the early daffodils (Narcissus). Rushed into bloom and gone will be the hyacinths (Hyacinthus) and tulips (Tulipa) and later season daffs.

Hydrangeas and other spring and summer shrubs are leafing out and we can only hope that there will be no deep freezes between now and their time to bloom.

The exfoliating bark makes Heptacodium a great plant for the winter garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

On Tuesday, I spoke at the Chicago Flower & Patio Show where I saw some lovely plantings, including overalls with plant-stuffed pockets and attractive window boxes mixed with tropicals, annuals, conifers and perennials. One of the most eye-catching displays was an image of the White House as a backdrop to several raised beds planted with vegetables.

At my friend Tom Tyler’s house in a western suburb, the seven-son flower (Heptacodium) reveals why it’s a great four-season plant.

In my own yard, I’m relishing the what’s here and what’s to come. The Trevi Fountain Pulmonaria has survived two seasons of drought, heat dormancy and transplanting to bloom again.

Dutch hyacinths are on their way in along with a frilly daffodil whose name I don’t remember. Solar Eclipse Heucherella looks great in its new spot. And then there’s the first batch of daffodils that I planted when I moved here that have moved into my neighbor’s yard.

The curly leaf parsley (Petroselinum) has reviving from its winter doldrums and since this will be its second year in the herb bed, will probably bloom.

Chicago Flower & Garden Show. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp


The hellebores (Helleborus) are still going strong and will look great for months to come.

So, the message is enjoy the garden today because we don’t know what nature will bring us tomorrow.

Hoosier Gardener is keynote speaker at Indiana Garden School

March 24, 2012

Who: Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp will be the keynote speaker at the Indiana Garden School, Saturday, March 24, 2012, in Anderson, Ind. The keynote addresses 2012 The Year of the Herb by discussing them as ornamental as well as culinary plants. In two other sessions, she will speak about the best plants for the Indiana landscape, based on her the best-selling garden book, The Indiana Gardener’s Guide.

What: Indiana Garden School I, sponsored by the Madison County Master Gardener Association.

When: 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, March 24, 2012.

Where: Madison Park Church of God, 6607 Providence Drive, Anderson. That’s  just south off of the I-69 and SR 109 Exit (26), then 1 mile west of Menards). This is an excellent facility with plenty of room for our breakout sessions and is very accessible.

Why: Other topics include Vegetables — Produce Your Own? and the ABCs of Small Fruit with Jim Barbour; Cooking from the Garden with Karen Lackey; The Latest on Pesticides and Plant for Pollination with Roy Ballard; Let’s Plant Some Heirloom Tomato Seeds with Brad Willoughby; Wildflowers with Kevin Tungesvick; Wildlife Rehabilitation with Kathy Hershey; and Monarch Butterflies with Ann Richardson.

Registration: $30 per person, $40 for a family, lunch included. Deadline is March 16, 2012. Visit the Madison County Master Gardener Association Website or contact Steve Doty,


Hoosier Gardener offers programs at Sullivan Hardware & Garden

March 24, 2012
4:00 PMto5:00 PM
March 25, 2012
1:00 PMto2:00 PM
3:00 PMto4:00 PM

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp will teach classes March 24 and 25, 2012 at Sullivan Hardware & Garden at 71st and Keystone store. Here’s the schedule:

4 p.m. Saturday, March 24, Mix It Up — Tips for planting perennials and small shrubs along with annuals in pots for multiple seasons of color.

1 p.m. Sunday, March 25, Mix it Up — Tips for planting perennials and small shrubs along with annuals in pots for multiple seasons of color.

3 p.m. Sunday, March 25, No-Fail Plants for the Indiana Garden —  Annuals, perennials and shrubs that give turn your thumb green.

Attendance is free, but reservations are requested: (317) 255-9230.

Daylight Saving Time steals mornings



Here it is again, 2 a.m. and the arrival of Daylight Saving Time. This robber of morning daylight takes away spring mornings, or certainly delays daybreak until 8 a.m. Now, we have to wait several more weeks for morning spring to return. I hate Daylight Saving Time.

And, it may not even be good for us. Time’s Healthland offers an analysis that reveals higher suicide rates and other serious issues tied to Daylight Saving Time. If we have to have DST, could we get Indiana moved to the Central Time Zone? Then it would be daylight before 8 a.m. Morning light. What a concept.