Diane Turner - Conservation Technician & Outreach Assistant
Are you curious to see how your soil test results stack up against others within Hamilton County, or even other residents across Indiana? We are excited to share our year-end-report from all submitted tests from 2020. Look below to learn more about averages found in the completed tests for the last year.
Summaries provided by A&L Great Lakes Laboratories.
Mark McCauley - Resource Conservationist
It’s that time of year again, when many landowners begin to think about their lawns, vegetable and flower gardens, trees, and even things like wildlife forage plots and livestock pasture. But there is one thing that is common to all of these, and that is the Soil! The condition of your soil can affect the quality and feasibility of all the above, and there is a way you can check on certain aspects of your soil, such as fertility levels, organic matter content, pH level, etc.
Our Soil and Water office provides a soil testing service to assist landowners in taking a closer look at their soil. Along with your test results will come a report, indicating the current levels of various elements, pH, organic matter, but also recommendations of what soil amendments to apply, how much, and when! We will also follow up with personal questions specific to your site, if you have them.
We have two levels of testing you can request: Basic or Complete, and the majority of our customers select the basic.
Basic Test - $35
Analysis includes organic matter, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, CEC, pH, and buffer pH.
Complete Test- $45
Analysis includes Basic Test plus conductivity, boron, copper, iron, manganese, sulfur and zinc.
Onsite Service - $50
If you would like the SWCD to take the samples onsite for you (up to a max. of 5), an additional $70 service fee will apply.
For more detailed information on how to take a test, options, etc. see our web site. You may also fill out the online form through our website and make sample drop-off a breeze.
Wintercreeper: This species usually only produces seeds once it grows up something about 5 feet. Usually this is a tree, but it can also be a fence or other structure. The first thing you should do--even if you don't manage anything else--is cut any climbing vines at the base of trees and structures. This will kill the part of the vine you cut, and stop it from producing seeds.
English Ivy: This species usually only produces seeds once it is fully mature. Prioritize the largest vines the first year. Often times vines growing up trees will be larger than the ones growing across your garden or lawn. If you can't fully remove large vines, consider cutting them at the base to stop them from producing seeds this year.
If you haven’t removed the vines already, there are a few methods for removal.
Groundcover: When the vine is growing across the ground and is still small, mechanical treatment is a viable option. To do this, you would systematically remove all vines and root pieces from the area. Any root pieces left behind may resprout vines. This can be a somewhat tedious task--but rewarding!
Tree Climbing: If the vines are climbing and taking over a tree, you may not be able to remove all, or any, of the vine. Removal of vines in trees may damage the bark and hurt the tree. The best course of action is to cut the vine at the base and wait. Make sure the two cut parts of the vine are not in contact. You may try cutting a 1 inch section out of the vine to make sure the cut ends can't reach each other. This article has some great photos of what that might look like.
If the vines on your property area taking up a large area, or starts resprouting after you cut it on a tree, it may need to be treated with herbicide. Not only will you be saving yourself some hard work, but you'll be protecting your soil. When you remove large sections of vines, you can cause a lot of soil disturbance. Not only can this cause erosion and soil quality issues, but it also can stimulate seed growth of any seeds in the seedbank--including invasives. Specific herbicides should be used for these vines as the leaves have a waxy outer coating. This information, as well as when to use herbicide can be found on the SICIM Calendar of Control.
Diversity of plants is key when you want to have healthier soil, provide habitat and food for native wildlife and pollinators, and have a more colorful natural area. You can buy a kit with a variety of different plants for sun, shade, and more at our spring Native Plant Sale going on right now.
Other options are included below. For information on where to purchase these plants, check our webpage Where to Buy Native Plants
Taylor Wilson, Urban Conservation Technician
"With the coming of spring comes warmer temperatures and the opportunity to begin yard work and land management. For many, this is an exciting time of year where people can finally begin all the gardening, beatification, and invasive species management plans they’ve been sitting on all winter.
With that in mind, spring can be one of the most overwhelming seasons when it comes to land management. There are so many things that could be done, and most of them are time sensitive. If you're feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. Below are some things that can help you get started.
The key to good invasive management is having a good strategic plan. Why? For a few reasons. 1. It’s easier to take a large issue and cut it down into steps. Starting to manage invasives without a plan can quickly become frustrating and feel like you’re not accomplishing anything. 2. You can save yourself time and resources by having a good plan in place. You can think of your strategy in two parts: Short term and long term.
A short term plan is a plan that focuses on just this year. What species will you work on in each season? This largely depends on when that species can be controlled and when it produces seeds. Some species are controlled best during certain seasons. This is especially the case if you are using herbicides. For information on this, check out the SICIM Calendar of Control.
In addition to seasonality, it is best if you can treat invasives before they produce seeds. When you remove a plant before it goes to seed, you’re preventing fresh seed from being distributed on your property or elsewhere via wind, pollinators etc. For example, just one garlic mustard plant can produce as many as 7,900 seeds! For more information on this, read What to Treat below.
When creating a long-term plan, there are a few things to consider. Will you focus on a specific area? A specific species? That depends. If you have a particularly aggressive species that spreads quickly, or requires a few years of management to eradicate, you’ll want to start there. If you’re considering focusing on a specific area, you may want to select a place that has very few invasives present and clear that area first to stop it from spreading. These are the basics, and for more information check out the two links below.
If you need help prioritizing, please reach out to our office with questions.
What to ID
Gardening and landscaping require a lot of focus in spring. If you don’t have time to treat your invasives during this time, it’s a great time to identify and mark the invasives you’re going to treat in the summer and fall. Spring can be a great time to ID some of the most common species.
Additionally, in early spring you can still identify some evergreen species as listed in our Winter Invasive Management article.
There are many more invasive species than the ones listed here. If you aren’t sure what plants you have, consider conferring with neighbors or downloading a plant identification app to get you started.
What to Treat
Luckily, there are few very time sensitive species to manage in spring. See them below
Garlic Mustard: This species goes to seed as early as May. This species is very easy to remove by hand. Once seed heads appear it’s suggested to not manage it, as you run the risk of spreading it to other areas. Do NOT mow once it has gone to seed. If you don’t have this on your property, consider participating in a weed wrangle where this is the target species.
Canada thistle: This species is an aggressive weed that starts to produce seed around mid July. Manually pulling this species can worsen the problem and spread more thistles. More information about control here.
Summer and Beyond:
Other species can be treated later into summer, or even over the winter. If you have an invasive not listed here, search for the month that it starts to produce seed and treat it before then. If you can’t find that information, consider searching for the time it blooms and using that month as a deadline.
The key to widespread invasive management is education and awareness. As you strategize and manage your property, I encourage you to reach out to your family, friends, and neighbors and explain what you’re doing. It only takes one person in a family, group, or neighborhood to start making an impact. We do best when we learn and work together.
If you have questions, please reach out to us for more information. Hamilton County SWCD is now offering invasive plant surveys where a member of our staff can visit your property and help you identify species and start to making a management plan. Large properties (acreage) and woodlands are prioritized for this service. A good way to learn more about invasive species is to join the Hamilton County Invasives Partnership (HIP). The HIP website has a variety of resources related to management and native plants.
Diane Turner - Conservation Technician & Outreach Assistant
Outstanding Partner of Urban Conservation - Zach Sprunger
Zach started working with the urban conservation program in 2015 as he worked to increase wildlife and pollinator habitat, reduce runoff, and improve the small woodland area in his sub-division back yard. In 2019, Zach utilized our Heartland cost share program to add more native plantings and habitat to his property. While Zach’s work on his own property has been great, he hasn’t stopped there. He has worked to spread a conservation ethic within his workplace, HOA and broader community. Zach promotes the SWCD and its programs and sales to neighbors and friends and even runs an Instagram account with over 250 followers where he posts beautiful photos of his backyard habitat and the pollinators and wildlife that visit it.
Partner in Conservation Award - Hamilton County Travel & Tourism
The White River Vision plan is a joint effort between the city of Indianapolis and Hamilton county tourism, Inc. Their objective was to develop a comprehensive and coordinated regional, community-driven plan to enhance 58 miles of the white river in Marion and Hamilton counties. The goal of the vision plan is to create an accessible, recreational and cultural environment that encourages a unique sense of place for the community as a whole. Brenda Meyers and the rest of the tourism board should be proud of the work completed on the White River Vision plan and we are proud to call them partners in conservation.
Outstanding Service to HCSWCD - Andrew Justus Fritz
Andrew is a jack of all trades and brought with him experience in landscape design, soils, agriculture and gardening, graphic design, strategic planning, community building, and much more. Andrew built the Hamilton County Garden Network, a variety of technical resources, and a program to deliver hundreds of tomato plants to food pantries. Andrew’s diverse skillset and willingness to help his coworkers led to his involvement in many SWCD programs and initiatives. After four years of exemplary service, Andrew moved to California in July and I’m happy to share that he is still putting his conservation expertise to good use at another conservation district.
River Friendly Farmer Award - Katy Rogers
In 2020 the Soil and Water Conservation District nominated Teter Retreat and Organic Farm, and manager Katy Rogers, for this recognition. Teter Farm is located within the White River Watershed near Riverwood, just north of Noblesville. Teter Farm is a mission of Noblesville First United Methodist church. It was donated by Ruth Teter in 1981 as a memorial to the AW Teter Family, and its mission is to feed mind, body, and spirit by doing good and eating well. The farm produces USDA certified organic, nutrient dense vegetables through cover cropping and reduced tillage. This produce is available for purchase through a Community Supported Agriculture plan, local farmer’s market, and through regular donations to the area’s food programs. The farm uses a sustainable, regenerative cropping system that integrates the ecological sense of nature, helping to build better soil health while protecting the natural environment and sensitive habitat surrounding the farm.