As the weather cools off soon the leaves will start to fall. Those leaves contain an amazing amount of nutrients that can be composted for the garden! It is such a shame to see all those piles of leaves along the streets in towns waiting to head to the landfill. Many people have seen the dead spots in the lawn where leaves sit over winter, and may have tried to pile them somewhere in hopes they would break down to no avail. Leaves are actually very easy to break down and compost but there is one rule that can not be broken. The leaves must be shredded, if left whole they layer up and don’t break down. Most all leaf blowers have a vacuum that will shred them up perfectly though. If you would be interested in this, there is a great TED talk about it which you can watch here.

 

-Chris K.

As we approach the end of August it is time for the end of summer and labor day sales! This is a great time to start looking for deals on items for building new raised beds or finding cheap containers for next year. You can use most anything for a growing container outside so long as you have a good soil mix in it, you have proper drainage, and you watch it closely for needing to be watered as they dry out quicker than the garden.
The Purdue Extension Office in Allen County Indiana has some great examples of raised beds in the display gardens. The gardens are worth a visit on their own as well. Purdue extension also has great information online, you can find a great paper about raised bed and container gardening here. https://ag.purdue.edu/hla/pubs/HO/HO-200.pdf

Have you ever thought about adding herbs into your landscaping? Some herbs can make very interesting, and edible additions. Many herbs are also perennial and very fragrant. They can be added in above ground planters or planted directly into the ground. If planted in the ground be sure to check how much they spread on their own. The mint family is especially prone to slowly taking over all the ground around it. You can prevent this by keeping it in a pot, either above ground, or digging a hole and placing the pot down in the soil with the bottom removed from the container. A large container like a round plastic tub 2 to 3 feet in diameter placed in the ground, with the bottom removed can be a good choice. If planted with several plants like sage to fill the entire area can give the look of a small bush with the benefit of being an aromatic and edible landscape choice and the plastic tub containing any spreading, and keeping a uniform shape..

-Chris K.

Did you know every county in Indiana has an extension office? An extension office is an extension of the states land-grant university, which in Indiana is Purdue University. Purdue extension is a network of Purdue University experts who have been providing unbiased, research-based information for over 100 years. Most states have a land grant institution. Some others include Cornell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ohio State, Michigan State, and the list goes on.
They are there to answer questions about agriculture, horticulture, your community, environment, issues relating to families and children as well as questions about the food you eat and grow.
-Chris K.
Watering tips for these hot days of summer.
Even though we seem to be getting some rain in northeastern Indiana we haven’t had a good soaking rain in a while. The ground seems hard as a rock, and you may have noticed the corn leaves starting to curl up to retain moisture. Gardens are starting to suffer as well so I thought we would discuss watering tips.
When to water. You do not want to water in the late afternoon or evenings as this promotes diseases. The best time is early morning, though early afternoon is still acceptable.
How to water. Using drip irrigation or soaker hoses are best, though your plants will love the water however they get it.
How much to water. Over watering your plants is even worse than not giving them enough. If you dig into the soil near the plant and it is moist 2-3 inches down your plant should be fine. If it is dry at the depth then you will need to water. If you are not using drip irrigation then a good soaking every few days is better than a little water daily. The roots need to breath and you want them to have time to not be soaking wet.
Where to get your water. The water spigot on the house is fine, but if you can conserve water with rain barrels that is even better. Even a small roof can collect a lot of rain.  There is 144 square inches in one square foot, multiplied by a 1,000 square foot roof equals 144,000 square inches, turned to cubic inches with 1 inch of rain, divided by 231 cubic inches of water in a gallon equals 623 gallons  of water off of a 1,000 square foot roof with just 1 inch of rain. If you were using 55 gallon barrels for storage this would take over 11 barrels.
-Chris K.
Here in Indiana, it is suspected that we may have only identified one third of all fungus that grows in the state. If you would like to do some citizen science and assist with adding to the data available there are 2 ways you can help. The first applies to anywhere in the world, and the second is specific to Indiana.
For anywhere in the world, there is a website and app where you can record any findings and create a list of observations through pictures uploaded from the app to https://www.inaturalist.org/. You can also search by your location and see what other people have found in your area. It’s a rather fun website to explore.
Specific to Indiana, The Hoosier Mushroom Society does online mushroom forays where you can help add data by using the Inaturalist app in addition to taking samples around your home area and sending them in for analysis. You need to order ID slips in advance for this, and can find all the information you need at their website. http://hoosiermushrooms.org/index.php?/activities/hms-online-forays-2018
-Chris K.
It is not too late to still plant things this year. As we hit mid June summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, beans, cucumbers, possibly corn for a late harvest will still be alright. July is usually just to hot for plants to start. But towards the end of July, beginning of August here in northern Indiana is a great time to plant your fall garden. Any of your quick to mature items you planted in the spring can be replanted for a fall harvest. These would include things like beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, peas, and spinach.
-Chris K.

Have you ever heard the saying, Despite all our achievements we owe our existence to sunshine, a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains? Former department head of soil science for the University of Missouri, Professor John Ikerd put it this way “We are no less dependent of the living and non-living things of the earth today than when we were hunters and gathers; our connections are just less direct and more complex.”

In farming, the beginning of everything you eat, everything comes down to the soil. A plant can only contain what it can get from the soil it was grown in. In nature, there is a natural cycle. Plants grow and are eaten by animals, the manure of those animals replenish the soil, and eventually, the animal dies and is returned to the soil.

 

Think about the quantity of food grown across the country. Then think about where most sewer systems lead to, we have broken that natural cycle of replenishing the soil. After those nutrients are mined from the farm fields, the best we can do is replace them with the application of chemical fertilizers. But can everything taken out of the field be replaced by these fertilizers? Here is a short read that delves into that question. “The Failure of Industrial Agriculture; The Path to a Sustainable Food Future.” by former University of Missouri professor John Ikerd.

http://web.missouri.edu/ikerdj/papers/Omaha%20%20-%20Failure%20of%20Industrial%20Agriculture.htm

-Chris K.

New things happening around the farm.
With warmer weather arriving, the Fort Wayne Farmers Market has relocated from the indoor winter market to the outdoor market on Barr Street. The indoor market has vendor tables already set up and we just bring in our products, plug in our soup kettles and we are ready to go. As this is our first season selling outdoors this has changed our setup completely. We now have to pack and set up our own tables as well as a pop-up canopy just to have a booth. Starting this week we will be doing a second outdoor farmers market at Georgetown Square. This will be both our first time at that market as well as our first time doing two markets per week.
With having more room outdoors we have also begun making our own display items to add to our booth. Last week we made our own custom wooden crates to display our mushrooms in. We made them look like the classic, rustic apple-crate boxes often seen at the farmers markets. They actually have an insulated liner and then a plastic tub within that to hold the mushrooms. This week we built a sandwich board using chalkboard paint on wood, and using fluorescent chalkboard markers to advertise what we have in the booth. For both our crates and our sandwich boards all the wood came from reclaimed lumber that we processed ourselves!
-Chris K.

The Mycorrhizal fungus we spoke of last week is also the internet or information highway of the field, forest, yard or garden. They not only just help move nutrients to plants but also, researchers have shown that plants with relationships with Mycorrhiza can alert neighboring plants to dangers such as insect attacks.

In a laboratory test setting plants were exposed to attack by insects. Plants that were attacked by the insects started producing chemicals in an attempt to ward off the insects. Plants with no mycorrhizal network only produced chemicals when they themselves were attacked. Plants with a mycorrizal network all started producing the chemicals at the same time to ward off the attack when only a single plant in the network was attacked. Though we don’t yet know exactly how the information is transmitted, we can observe that it does happen.

-Chris K.