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Master Gardeners help keep areas green

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Whether you have a green thumb or not, consider signing up for Master Gardener classes. The Purdue Extension Johnson County office will conduct classes each Tuesday evening Aug. 20 to Nov. 5. The program provides a learning framework for you to increase your knowledge on a variety of horticultural topics, such as lawn care, soil science, ornamentals, vegetables, pesticides and more.

After completing Master Gardener training, you can volunteer your service in educational gardening activities in the community to “help others grow.” With increased gardening knowledge, Master Gardeners have the skills and confidence to teach others, either one-on-one or in a group setting.

Typically, Master Gardeners volunteer time at schools, parks, churches, public gardens, libraries and other veneus. You can sign up for our 2013 fall classes by contacting the Purdue Extension Johnson County office (484 N. Morton St. in Franklin; 736-3724). The cost per participant is $125, which includes all class-related materials.

Once you get into the world of plant science, it seems that the more you learn, the more questions you have. Recently, invasive plants have come into the spotlight. You might want to look through the Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management website (www.sicim.info). I will add to the mix with some educational information from Purdue’s Extension Forester, Ron Rathfon, and the former project director, Eric Eubank.

Poison hemlock is a plant in Johnson County that is considered invasive. It is a member of the parsley family. You wouldn’t want this garnishing your dinner plate, though; as the name implies, it is poisonous to both animals and humans. Use caution (protective clothing and eyewear) if you touch this plant.

To identify poison hemlock, look for stout stems with purple spotting. This plant can be 10 feet tall in its second year. The flowers seen in summer are small and white (clusters like that found with Queen Anne’s lace). Seeds mature in August and September and are easily spread via mowing and with agriculture equipment. To effectively control the spread of this plant, seed production must be prevented. Also, it is managed by preventing the spread of existing seeds.

Avoid walking or driving through infested areas. Clean ATVs, clothing and shoes following activity in infested areas. Herbicides can be sprayed effectively to control large infestations and for spot applications. The chemical should be applied while the plant is in an active growing stage, before flowering. Follow-up treatments are required. Always follow label directions when using herbicides. Tilling can kill poison hemlock and prevent seed production, but generally is not recommended because of soil disturbance.

Be mindful that there are other plants that look comparable to poison hemlock, such as giant hogweed. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources closely monitors giant hogweed, but it is fairly rare in Indiana.

Giant hogweed can reach heights of 10 to 15 feet, while poison hemlock is generally 5 to 8 feet tall. The leaves of giant hogweed have deep, broad lobes and can reach widths of up to 5 feet. The leaves of poison hemlock are much smaller and resemble wild carrot.

Sarah Speedy is the agricultural natural resources extension educator through the Johnson County Purdue Extension. She has a master’s degree in animals and public policy from Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Purdue University. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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