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.
Taylor Wilson, Urban Conservation Technician
The Hamilton County Invasives Partnership (HIP) is launching the strike team this spring. A strike team is a group of volunteers educated about invasive species management and identification that goes out in the field and manages invasive species in the county. The strike team is a great opportunity for people who want to make a concrete impact on invasives, who would enjoy being in a group of like-minded people, or those who may not have property to work on but would like to spend time managing invasive species.
The Strike Team is restricted to individuals 18 years and older, but all identities and backgrounds are welcome! You don't need to have any knowledge on invasive species. We will teach you about them during the event. Our first event is March 20th, 2021 at Riverside Intermediate and Junior High School. There will be two shifts from 9 am – noon, and noon - 4 pm. If you’re interested in joining the Strike Team mailing list to hear more about this event and future event, sign up here. We look forward to having you on our team!
Taylor Wilson, Urban Conservation Technician
Tired of Invasives? Winter is a great time to manage invasive plants or get a head start on spring management. Several invasive species are easier to identify in the winter and early spring because they’re evergreen or they produce leaves before native plants do. Often the green you see in a native landscape in early March is composed of invasive species. Many people take advantage of this by marking the easily identifiable plants, and then treating them when it's warmer and more comfortable to work. Below are several species that are easily identified during the winter months as well as species you can treat now.
If you have any questions about identification, you can send clear photos of the leaves, bark, fruit, or buds to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on what can be chemically treated and what herbicide to use, check SICIM’s Management and Control Calendar. For more questions or information on treatment options, reach out to our office.
With all this in mind, remember that the first step in the fight against invasives is preventing them from spreading. Hiking is a wonderful winter activity, just remember there are still invasive seeds on the ground. Use a boot brush or clean your hiking boots in other ways before moving between parks and other natural areas. For more information, check out the PlayCleanGo article here.
Good luck managing!
Taylor Wilson, Urban Conservation Technician
After being established in 2019, the Hamilton County Invasives Partnership (HIP) has spent 2020 accomplishing projects including a survey of the top ten most invasive plants, several invasive species surveys, educational presentations, and strategic planning. In the last few months, The Education and Technical Committees have put the finishing touches on the goals for 2021 and you can now view them here.
The education and technical committees have worked very hard to set up impactful and achievable goals for 2021 but we can't do it alone. We need hands, feet, voices, and minds to lead and assist with various projects. If you've been following along on the sidelines, it is time to jump in!
Please join us for our second meeting of 2021 on Zoom on Wednesday February 3rd at 6pm by registering here. We plan to hit the ground running and will have specific projects and tasks you can volunteer for. There are hands on, in the field opportunities but also many ways to be involved that can be done at home or over the phone. If you're not quite ready to take on a task, that is fine! Join us to learn and network--you can also virtually bring a friend!
Ginger Davis, Conservation Administrator
Sourcewater can be a complex system, but in essence it is all the water that contributes to drinking water. Drinking water comes directly from under the ground, in a lake, or within a stream depending on where you live, but what feeds water to the stream or groundwater can come from a variety of locations. Water that rains on places like buildings and parking lots, back yards, gas stations, and golf courses can all end up in our drinking water and is the source of the water we drink. The everyday choices we make will influence the quality of drinking water in a positive or negative way. This is why it is very important to understand that what you do and put on the ground, parking lot, yard, or building can influence and travel into the water you drink.
Sourcewater protection is the act of understanding and limiting the negative impact from choices and management of the land and structures within our community to decrease the impact to our drinking water. It is important for every single person to make it a priority and take steps to help protect our drinking water. For most of us there are simple things that can be done to protect the sourcewater, for others that manage large tracks of land or complexes this may take a bit more work. However, the work is worth it to protect our drinking water for your family, friends, community and future generations.
In central Indiana, we may not think too often about not having access to clean drinking water, but the threat is real. With our ample amount of water in the rain and groundwater, we do not recognize that our water is constantly at risk. Risks can surface when groundwater is pumped and not allowed to return, or recharge the aquifer, or contamination from pollutants threatens either our streams or water under the ground that make up our water supplies.
Everything is connected through the water cycle and it is important to remember everyone lives downstream. What you do today can affect local water quality and quantity. In fact, since the quantity of water in any given source can greatly affect the quality of that water, it is important to protect both quality and quantity. In order to ensure a healthy of supply of water now and into the future, there are many actions landowners can take.
These are some of the things you can do to protect your water:
Conserve water. Take steps to conserve water at your business, around your home, and in your yard. This will save you money and help the environment.
Other Practical Ideas for conserving water for at the home, on the farm, or at work:
Water Conservation in the House:
If you run an Agricultural Operation:
If you own Land Along or Around Water:
At the workplace
Article provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Indianapolis, IN, January 5, 2020 – The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Indiana continued its conservation work across the state despite a tough 2020 marked with a pandemic and several natural disasters. The agency helped farmers and forest landowners implement conservation practices on their working lands, which help conserve natural resource such as soil, water and wildlife as well as boost producers’ bottom lines. Additionally, NRCS launched new online tools that increased the efficiency, effectiveness and delivery of crucial programs.
“Despite facing a myriad of challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Indiana NRCS was able to have a lasting impact on the working lands throughout the state,” said Jerry Raynor, NRCS State Conservationist in Indiana. “Our entire Indiana NRCS staff worked tirelessly to find creative ways to work with producers in the state and continue implementing conservation practices alongside our farmers and forest landowners. This year showed that no matter the obstacles, NRCS will continue helping people to help the land.”
Key highlights from 2020 include:
Conservation Delivery Amid Pandemic: NRCS continued to deliver services during the COVID-19 pandemic using social distance guidelines, phone and online tools. This year, NRCS worked with producers and communities to:
Soil Health: NRCS continued to prioritize adoption of soil health management systems. In fiscal year 2020, NRCS provided financial assistance to help producers plant cover crops on 18 million acres and to no-till 7.3 million acres. This includes 270,623 acres of cover crops and 119,682 acres of no-till in Indiana. Additionally, NRCS rolled out a new Soil Health Toolbox, which offered useful tools to demonstrate how soil functions and to help guide management decisions that will improve soil health with NRCS conservation practices.
Water Quality: NRCS continued its investments in targeted water quality initiatives, which increase the return on investment in terms of improving water quality in priority waterways. Indiana NRCS continued its work through the National Water Quality Initiative, Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, Western Lake Erie Basin and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which combined to impact 13,039 acres in Indiana in 2020.
Wildlife Habitat: Farmers and forestland owners across state have continued their work on managing for habitat on working lands. From the early successional forest regeneration in southwest Indiana to the statewide monarch butterfly habitat development program, Indiana producers are making a difference for wildlife. Indiana NRCS has also teamed up with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to continue to expand grassland bird conservation throughout the state with the Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s (RCPP) Grasslands for Gamebirds and Songbirds project. In fiscal year 2020, Indiana NRCS invested nearly $2 million dollars on 2,877 acres for wildlife habitat.
Online Tools and Resources: NRCS and the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Business Center rolled out a new decision tool this year for producers on farmers.gov. The Conservation Concerns Tool enables landowners to learn about conservation concerns that might impact their agricultural operations, then search for solutions targeted to fit their business needs. Producers can also find a new video series called Conservation at Work that spotlights how producers are using key conservation practices. In addition to finding information, producers can also log into farmers.gov to manage their conservation business online. During the past year, key functions from NRCS’s Conservation Client Gateway were moved to the farmers.gov portal to provide one place where producers can manage all their USDA business online.
Partnerships and Innovation: The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) Program continued to rally partners to help increase the reach of conservation and support the development of new tools, approaches, practices and technologies to further natural resource conservation on private lands. Indiana NRCS invested more than $600,000 in conservation practices throughout the state in 2020 through RCPP, which impacted 5,530 acres. These included initiatives in the Big Pine watershed, soil health projects on reclaimed mine land, Grasslands for Game/Songbirds, phosphorus reduction in Western Lake Erie and work in the Southern Indiana Young Forest.
2018 Farm Bill Implementation: NRCS made tremendous strides in implementing the 2018 Farm Bill in the past year. NRCS published final rules for EQIP and CSP this fall and is preparing to publish final rules for ACEP and RCPP. Additionally, NRCS completed and published updates to its set of National Conservation Practice Standards, which includes 58 standards. The 2018 Farm Bill required review all 169 of its national conservation practices to seek opportunities to increase flexibility and incorporate new technologies.
NRCS is a part of the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area at USDA. Other 2020 highlights can be found here.
All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including those that restrict in-person visits or require appointments. All visitors wishing to conduct business with NRCS or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors are also required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Our program delivery staff will continue to work with our producers by phone, email and using online tools. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.
Jerry Raynor, State Conservationist, 317-295-5801 (email@example.com)
Kris Vance, State Public Affairs Specialist, 317-295-5822 (firstname.lastname@example.org)