Written by Claire Lane
A group of concerned citizens has united to promote the preservation of the tree canopy in Carmel and beyond.
In summer of 2022 a group of 10 individuals came together to discuss how to save a mature wooded area in our neighborhood. We felt leaving mature trees was an important way to fight warming of the planet and to avoid unwanted environmental effects in our neighborhood, e.g., increases in noise, air pollution and traffic congestion. Other people (in and outside our neighborhood) joined our effort to help defeat the developer’s proposal.
The proposal was to build 33 condos on a parcel of 2.59 wooded acres that had never been developed. The buildings planned numbered 10-11 and were 3-story--a venture clearly not compatible with a neighborhood of mainly 1-story homes. The developer’s required “green space” was realistically non-existent as was the buffer between the development and adjacent homes. The development would have required a zoning change from “residential” to “mixed use,” and would have destroyed the woods. The grassroots movement stopped what we considered to be an unwanted invasion in our neighborhood and helped, we believed in a small way, to stall the heating of the planet. The initial movement continues as SAVE The TREE CANOPY, Ltd.
We are now seeking members, and offering a choice of different levels of membership. Our group does indeed focus locally; however, we encourage all like-minded people to join our cause and make their feelings known. Our signs and stickers can be used in any area. Many effective non-profits began with a small group of volunteers who wanted to make a difference in a cause about which they were passionate, e.g., Greenpeace, National Resources Defense Council, and World Wildlife Fund. We ask you to join and work with us in your local area, or in connection with any wooded area that needs protection, wherever that might be. We are happy to share any or all of the activities we chose to use to defeat the destruction of our neighborhood’s mature trees.
If you want to see the wooded area saved by grassroots volunteers, check out 96th Street between Haverstick Road and Wild Cherry Lane in Carmel, IN 46280.
Learn more about their efforts at their website: https://www.savethetreecanopy.org/
Written by Mark McCauley
Do trees and other plants get thirsty in the winter? Well, it depends on the weather conditions, but generally yes, especially newly planted trees. Older established trees have a more extensive root system and are more resilient to dry winters. Since we recently had a tree sale this past fall, I will concentrate on “new” trees as opposed to older established trees, however even older trees can experience winter drought issues.
Although trees go dormant during winter months, their root systems still need adequate moisture and can suffer from lack of it. Regarding evergreen trees, which keep their needles throughout the winter, watering can be even more important, as they lose moisture through their needles faster than deciduous trees, which lose their leaves in the fall.
So, when should you consider watering? Well, you should water your newly planted trees on a regular basis up until freezing temperatures. Then also about 2 times per month during the winter if there is no snow cover on the ground or little precipitation. It is also recommended that you water on days when the temperature is at least 40 degrees (with no snow or ice around the base of the tree) and do so in the morning so the tree roots have time to absorb the moisture before temperatures potentially drop back into the freezing range at night. If it is a windy, dry winter, this is even more critical. Trees that have experienced winter dryness may still look normal the next spring, but the damage may become apparent later in the summer with dieback of branches.
Mulching with a good organic material will also help your new trees conserve moisture going into the winter, and weather the hard freezes better too. However, keep in mind that mulch should not be piled up around the base of the tree like a small volcano, but more like a flat doughnut shape, leaving a “hole” (or space) around the base of the tree. Stacking mulch up against the bark of the tree, which is meant to be above ground, can encourage disease and pest problems which can more easily enter the bark than the root system.
You may find it suitable to carry water to your trees, but a hose may be easier if you have access to it. Laying a soaker hose around the base of the tree is also an option, but whatever hose you do use, remember to drain it and put it away, as frozen hoses are a pain to deal with.
So far this winter we have seemed to have quite a bit of moisture, so watering may not be a need in your location yet, but that could change quickly. One method you could use to check soil moisture is to dig a small hole down at least 2 inches within the “dripline” (diameter of the crown spread) of the tree and feel the soil. If is feels damp, the tree should be fine, but if it feels dry, then watering might be needed.
I know gray wintery days might not seem like the time to water, but if it is a dry ground, windy type of winter, it could be very important. You invested time and money in your new trees, so be sure to take the necessary steps to protect that investment.
Written by Jacob Luken
Winter in Indiana may bring visions of snowy landscapes and dormant vegetation, but for environmental stewards and conservationists it signals a critical phase in the ongoing battle against invasive plant species. As the temperatures drop and native flora enter dormancy, invasive plants can often seize the opportunity to establish themselves and wreak havoc on ecosystems. In response to this seasonal challenge, residents of Hamilton County can employ a targeted and strategic approach to invasive plant management practices during the winter months.
One key aspect of winter invasive plant management is identification and removal efforts. Land managers and conservationists utilize this time to survey landscapes for invasive species that may not be as apparent during the growing season. By identifying and removing these plants in their dormant state, there is a greater chance of preventing them from gaining a foothold in the warmer months. This proactive approach is crucial in protecting the biodiversity of Indiana's natural habitats. Even though we can remove invasive plants well into the winter, there are still certain weather restrictions (such as below freezing temperatures and presence of snow on the ground) that put a pause on our efforts. During this time invasive plants can be marked with spray paint, flagging tape, etc. for future removal when weather conditions are more favorable.
Herbicide application is another integral component of winter invasive plant management. With many invasive plants experiencing reduced metabolic activity in the winter, herbicides can be more effective during this time. Targeted application ensures that non-target species remain largely unaffected while invasive species are selectively managed. These methods aid in the control and suppression of invasive plant populations, laying the groundwork for a healthier and more resilient ecosystem.
Winter serves as a season for strategic planning in invasive plant management. As stewards of the land, we assess the effectiveness of past control measures and refine our strategies for the upcoming growing season. This planning phase includes evaluating the success of herbicide applications, identifying areas of high invasive species concentration, and devising innovative approaches to tackle emerging threats. By taking advantage of the winter months for thoughtful planning, citizens of Hamilton County can position themselves for a more effective and coordinated response to invasive plant challenges.
Community involvement also plays a vital role in winter invasive plant management efforts. Educational programs and workshops conducted during this season empower residents to recognize and report invasive plant species. This collaborative approach fosters a sense of shared responsibility as communities participate in the preservation of Indiana's native landscapes. By engaging citizens, we build a stronger foundation for the sustained management of invasive plants throughout the year.
In conclusion, winter in Indiana is not a dormant period for environmental conservation, but a season of active engagement in the ongoing effort against invasive plant species. Through identification, targeted removal, herbicide application, strategic planning, and community involvement, our community can have a comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to managing invasive plants.
Written by Dave Bradway
There is a lot of discussion in Hamilton County about water availability and usage, but less talk about water quality. When it comes to drinking water, the quality can differ a great deal with location. The main contaminants in well water in the county are E.coli, Total Coliform bacteria, Nitrate/Nitrite, Arsenic, Lead, and Copper. Some of these contaminants show signs of sewage infiltration and contamination: E.coli and Nitrate/Nitrite. Total Coliform, Arsenic, Lead and Copper are naturally occurring in the ground but can adversely affect the health of well owner(s).
The Hamilton County SWCD offers private well testing for residents. Testing annually is encouraged to ensure the quality of your well is continuous throughout the time you own your home. The Annual Well testing package costs $65 and includes all the parameters listed above to determine the quality of the water coming into your home from your well.
We also offer several other parameters that can be tested for in certain cases such as wells on or near a brown field or industrial site. While there is increased cost for these tests, in the right circumstance, these tests could prove invaluable. If you believe these parameters would be appropriate for your location, contact the office or drop by and our staff can discuss which tests are right for you.
If you are unsure about taking the sample yourself, we also offer our assistance. We will come to your home and take the sample for you. This service costs $50 plus the cost of the test kit.
To obtain supplies to test your well, please visit our office at 1717 Pleasant Street in Noblesville and pick up one of our testing kits. The kit includes bottles, instructions for taking the samples, and some literature about well ownership. After you take the samples and return them to our office, we will transport them to the Indiana State Department of Health Laboratory for testing. Results are then sent to us and will be relayed to you along with any information and recommendations depending on the results.
Residents whose water comes from a utility, or city water supply, can contact their specific provider to obtain testing results for their water.
For help answering questions visit https://www.hamiltonswcd.org/well-water-testing.html, call our office at 317.773.2181, or stop by the office Monday – Friday 8:00am-4:30pm.
Hamilton County SWCD secures $70,900 Clean Water Indiana Grant for Invasive Species Education and Restoration Initiatives
Written by Claire Lane
The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is delighted to announce it has been awarded a $70,900 Clean Water Indiana grant from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. The grant will empower the Hamilton County Invasives Partnership (HIP) to offer a variety of invasive species educational programs and trainings as well as a small grant program through which county residents can receive financial support to remove invasive species from their property.
The detailed program framework, including application procedures for small grants, training schedules, and educational resources, will be made available to the public in early 2024. We encourage individuals, landowners, and community organizations to stay tuned for further announcements and opportunities to get involved.
“We work with so many landowners who want to do more to fight invasives on their properties, but resources are limited,” said Claire Lane, SWCD Urban Conservationist and HIP Coordinator. “This grant will allow us to provide the financial support that can get a lot of Hamilton County natural areas back on track toward ecological balance.”
More information about the SWCD’s programs, including the Hamilton County Invasives Partnership, can be found at www.hamiltonswcd.org.
Written by Taylor Wilson
We’re starting a new advice column where we answer your anonymous conservation questions. We’re looking for any topics, including:
Written by Taylor Wilson
Hi everyone, I’m back at Soil and Water! I’m taking over for Alexis Warren as the Conservation Technician and Outreach Assistant. I’m very excited to be back and reinvigorate outreach projects from my previous time in this role. I’ll be working on several programs, including the Soil Trailer, Women 4 the Land, social media outreach, the Town and Country Newsletter, maintaining the garden tower, boothing and events, the annual meeting, and the 4h fair.
For those wondering what I did with my time away from the district, I spent a lot of it traveling. The decision to leave was tough. I had lost sight of what motivated me to pursue conservation, and I could feel myself not bringing 100% effort to projects that I knew deserved it. I realized that I had outgrown my place in the world and needed to expand my horizons. I’ve lived my entire life in 2 Indiana towns, I had only traveled to a handful of states, and had never crossed the Mississippi River. To quote Leslie Knope, “The world is a very big place, and I’ve seen very little of it”.
I decided to travel across the country in my car. I hoped to find a place along the way that “called to me” as a place to settle down and continue my career. However, something completely unexpected happened: the more I traveled and the more I saw, the more I appreciated the place I had left. By getting a better grasp of the difference in American cultures, I started to understand the cultural identity of the Midwest more. A huge takeaway for me was understanding the way that the Midwest landscape is functional in nature . We provide so many agricultural products at the expense of losing our native environment and beautiful views. It’s not a bad thing—food has to come from somewhere—but it makes conservation here so important.
Seeing the landscape change from midwestern agriculture to the sandy barren soil of Texas, to bright orange Arizona, to the various landscapes of California, helped me more deeply understand the way the American ecosystem is all connected. I knew that the United States landscape varied, but fully immersing myself in the landscape helped me gain a deep understanding of how connected it is.
All of this confirmed something that I’ve known for a long time. Everything I’ve done, from being a first-generation college graduate, to my professional work, to my personal life, has been an ongoing love letter to the American landscape and the people who occupy it.
Invasive jumping worms (Amynthas spp.) are spreading all across North America. The worms thrash wildly and move in a snake-like manner; their feeding produces granular castings that look like coffee grounds on the soil surface. The worms can be distinguished from nightcrawlers by their quick violet movements and the white band fully circling their bodies. You might hear them referred to as crazy worms or snake worms as well. Jumping worms leech out all nutrients, provide nothing for soil and plants, and outcompete other worms. They will leave your top layer of soil barren and crumbly which will ultimately leave your plants to die from malnutrition and not being able to root properly.
They originate for Asia and spread from contaminated compost and potted plants. To stop the spread, make your own compost and inspect potted plants before purchasing. Do not use jumping worms for bait or vermicomposting.
To kill any jumping worms that might be present in pre-purchased soil, it is recommended that you place the worms in a plastic bag in direct sunlight until the interior of the bag reaches 105 degrees. You should verify the worms are dead.
If you believe you have found a jumping worm in your garden, report it to 1-866-NOEXOTIC or file a report at EDDMapS.org/indiana and attach a very clear picture.
For more information, check out the below links:
One of the biggest challenges when managing invasive species is controlling the population before it goes to seed. Most invasive plants have hundreds or thousands of seeds each and once it releases them it exponentially increases the effort needed to control the population. This is especially important in newly established populations. Each viable seed that is allowed to enter the ground represents a potential new plant which will in turn produce seed unless stopped, therefore early management is key to reducing the spread and maintaining natural environments.
Although control methods and timing can vary slightly by species and geographic location, it’s generally best to either spray or cut invasive species in the early spring (March or April). This reduces negative impacts on desirable species while also ensuring the species is controlled before seed can be produced. Sometimes early spring control is simply not possible – maybe you weren’t able to identify it early on, missed a certain area, or were simply busy – that doesn’t mean all is lost. One possible method of slowing down invasion is to cut the seed head off, bag it up, and throw it away.
Before we start talking about how to control plants with mature seed heads it is important to understand what they are and how to recognize them on a plant. We are exposed to seeds regularly in daily life, but some seeds might not look how you would expect. It is easy to recognize sunflower seeds, bird seeds, or the seeds inside tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, etc., but take a look at these pictures to test if you would recognize where seeds are stored on these invasive plants.
Many herbaceous invasive plants produce their seeds in the late summer, making it ineffective to spray or mow which might spread the seeds even further, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still manage them. The best way to keep seeds from spreading in late summer on many herbaceous invasive species is to cut off its seed head or flowers. Unfortunately, this isn’t always practical or safe. When dealing with large populations or monocultures it is often easiest to simply spray the plant with herbicide until numbers are significantly reduced. As always, herbicide should be applied in accordance with the label using appropriate chemical application methods as outlined by Purdue Extension.In some cases – such as with Poison Hemlock - it is unsafe to cut the seeds off of a plant due to its toxic nature. For a more complete management guide regarding poison hemlock, please use this link from the Dubois County SWCD.
When cutting the seeds off a plant, immediately put it into a yard waste bag without walking around or shaking the seed off of the plant (this will spread the seed). Additionally, it is smart to use shears, trimmers, or a knife which is sharp to minimize shaking the plant. It’ is important to make sure that the bag is tied shut and there aren’t any holes or tears in the bag so that seed can’t escape and spread further. If your bag gets a hole in it or tears simply double bag it before disposal.
It’s important to remember that cutting seed heads off won’t kill the plant, but it does help to significantly reduce how fast it spreads to buy time until next growing season. A good practice after cutting seed heads is to spray the plant with an appropriate herbicide, this will kill the existing plant, opening up space for natives to colonize the area. After you have cut off the seed head and sprayed, cut, or mowed the plant to kill the plant you will need to keep an eye out for any new sprouts or missed seed heads and treat those accordingly.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.