Welcome 2 SJGC Blog

The St John Indiana Garden Club is a niche club that focus on gardening in and around St John, Indiana. The member contributes their personal background, hands on experience and formal educations, to meet the common interest of gardening.

We hope that you find our blog an asset to your gardening, personal growth and invite you to join us online.

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Onions, like most vegetables, thrive in a rich organic soil. Prior to planting, work 2 to 4 inches of compost or well-rotted manure into the soil plus 1 to 2 pounds of a complete fertilizer per 100 square feet. Try to be careful about the fertilizers you use around onions. Onions tend to be more pungent when grown on soils with a high sulfur content. Choose a nitrate-based fertilizer over a sulfate-based fertilizer if you can make that determination. It’s difficult to do this with blended fertilizers, but ammonium nitrate would be better to use than ammonium sulfate for side dressing. The fertilizer bag, even on complete fertilizers, 12-24-12 for example, may indicate the components used to formulate the fertilizer. Onions also have a limited root system so, while you don’t want to get fertilizer on the plants when you side-dress, you don’t want it in the middle of the row either.

Try to space onion seeds 1/2 inch apart and cover them with 1 inch of soil mix. Later it is recommended to thin onions to stand four to six inches apart. If you’re planting onion sets or setting out plants start at this spacing. For scallions (green onions), leeks, garlic sets (cloves) or bunching onion transplants, space them two inches apart. Onions need lots of moisture as the bulb initiation process begins, but less when the bulbs are approaching full size. When the tops begin to fall over naturally, it’s time to pull the onions up.

The common practice is to break or crush the onion stems if there are signs of flower heads. When the stems are dry, dig the bulbs, which can be left on top of the ground to cure and dry for several days.

Members of the onion family generally give a very obvious signal when they are ready to harvest. The tops fall over and the tips of the leaves have started to turn brown. In addition, the bulbs or buds (in the case of garlic) are full size. Pull the onions, shake off any soil, but do not wash them or pull off any outside wrapper leaves. Store onions in a cool, dry, shaded area to cure for several days or up to 2 weeks if the weather is dry and not too hot. Then clip off the roots and tops leaving about one inch of the stem and brush off any remaining soil.

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Leaf Mold

Leaf mold serves as a soil conditioner rather than a natural fertilizer. It primarily changes the structure of the soil rather than serving nutrient needs. It’s the fungus. All the little hairs of the fungus grabbing onto soil particles help to bind loose soil, while at the same time the hyphae helps to break up compact soil. The natural growth habit of the fungus will move from the leaf mold to the surrounding soil in all dimensions. Start with a small area of leaf mold and end up with a greater volume of better soil.

Leaf mold will continue to break down until the only thing left is stable humus which will remain in the soil for decades to centuries, taking a fire to destroy it. Until then, the leaf mold is rich in organic components including humic acids, carbohydrates and lipids. It is complex and impossible to manufacture. As the foundation of the soil ecosystem, there is nothing better.

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Soil Temperature Tools

Here are two sources for soil temperatures that are helpful tools for knowing when to harden and plant vegetables and perennials.

The Illinois State Water Survey maintains a network of nineteen soil temperature sites across the state that measure temperatures at 4 and 8 inches. You can look at maps anytime as the data is updated hourly and reports any hour of the day, high and/ or for the day, under sod and/ or under bare soil. Click here to learn more about online tool.

GreenCast is another online source for soil temperatures and provides both daily and weekly forecast. GreenCast provides superintendents, lawn care professionals, sports turf managers, growers and aquatics applicator up-to-date agronomic, business, product and technical advisories to effectively manage daily operations. Click here to learn about this online tool.


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Frost Protection

Here are a few proven methods of frost protection for our landscape.

  • Water the garden thoroughly before nightfall.
  • The soil will release moisture into the air around your plants during the night, keeping the air somewhat warmer.
  • Cover up before dusk. By the time it gets dark much of the stored heat in the garden has already been lost. If you have time, build a simple frame around the plant, or row of plants. (Even a single stake can be used in many cases.) Then drape a cover of newspaper, cardboard, plastic tarp, bed sheeting or any other lightweight material over the frame to create a tent. If you don’t have time to create a frame, lay the protective cover directly onto the plant. Remove the covers in the morning, once the frost has thawed, to let the light and fresh air back in, and to prevent overheating by the sun.
  • For smaller individual plants you can use glass jars, milk jugs with the bottom removed, paper cups upside down flower pots as heat traps. Don’t forget to remove these covers in the morning.
  • You can collect heat during the day by painting plastic milk jugs black and filling them with water. Place them around your plants where they will collect heat during the day. Water loses heat more slowly than either soil or air. This collected heat will radiate out throughout the night.
  • Container grown plants are particularly susceptible to frosts because their roots are also unprotected.
  • If you are unable to move your container plants indoors or under cover remember to also wrap the pot in burlap or bubble wrap, or simply bury the pot in soil in addition to protecting the foliage.

If your efforts were too late, or too little to protect your plants from a frost, resist the urge to prune off the damaged parts of the plants. To a certain extent, these dead leaves and stems will provide limited insulation from further frost damage. You will have to go back and re-prune your plants in spring anyway.

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Minimize Pesticide Exposure

Buying organic, in-season produce from your local market is the best assurance of pesticide-free produce. To identify fruit grown organically, look at the little sticker – the number should be five digits and start with “9” (e.g. 94223). If you are on a limited budget, look for organic choices for the produce your family eats the most. National surveys have also shown that fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets contain less pesticides even if they’re not organic.

Commercial vegetable and fruit washes are available which are formulated to remove chemical residue from produce. Examples are Environné and Vitanet, available online or at your local health food stores and some supermarkets. You can also make your own produce wash using a very diluted solution of mild dish-washing detergent (1 tsp detergent per gallon, or 4 liters, water).

For grapes, strawberries, green beans, and leafy vegetables, swirl the foods in a dilute solution of dish detergent and water at room temperature for 5 to 10 seconds, then rinse with slightly warm water. For other fruits and vegetables, use a soft brush to scrub the food with the solution for about 5 to 10 seconds, then rinse with slightly warm water.

Much of the health risks associated with pesticide residues on produce are concentrated in a relatively small number of fruits and vegetables. By knowing which fruits and vegetables pose the highest risks, you can take adequate precaution, such as washing the food more carefully, peeling the skin on some fruit, or avoiding commercial sources. To learn which foods have higher pesticide residues, see our page Pesticides and Produce.

A backyard garden plot, as small as 400 square feet, can provide much of the required produce for a family of four. Organic methods can replace the need for pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and tending the garden is a healthy activity for children. Planting perennial crops like asparagus, blueberries and strawberries will provide crops for years with very little work. Even homegrown produce should be washed before eating, however, since pesticides are sprayed aerially in some regions of the country, and other wind-blown contaminants may reach your garden.

Using chemical-based commercial insect pest control treatments may introduce chemicals to your home which pose more of a threat than the insects they are designed to kill. There are effective, non-toxic methods for controlling insect problems in the home such as diatomaceous earth, which will kill a broad range of common indoor insects without posing any hazard to your family or pets.

In the garden, growing healthy plants using organic methods is the best pest deterrent, and there are a variety of natural pest control methods such as beneficial insects, non-toxic remedies, traps and barriers.

When visitors to your home walk across a lawn that has been treated with chemical fertilizers and herbicides, residue from these chemicals may be tracked into your home. In some instances, these residues may last for years in carpeting and on floor surfaces. The simple practice of leaving shoes at the door will minimize this risk and reduce your home cleaning chores. You can provide inexpensive house slippers for guests who are unused to going shoeless indoors.

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Dirt Under Nail Prevention

A method for cleaning finger nails after a day of dirty work.


Hold a bar of soap in one hand while gently scratching it with the fingernails of the other hand. Scratch softly enough that you don’t break your nails but firmly enough that you get bits of soap to accumulate under your fingernails.

Put the bar of soap into the other hand and scratch your other nails along the bar.

Make sure you scrape some soap underneath the nails on your thumbs. Check each nail individually to see that there is some soap trapped underneath.

Do whatever dirty activity you planned ahead for.

When it’s time for cleanup, wash your hands as usual with soap and warm or hot water. Use a soft-bristled fingernail brush to clean underneath your fingernails. You’ll find that the soap prevents most of the dirt from accumulating in the first place, and that the visible dirt cleans away easily because it was mixed in with the soap.

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April Showers

An April Shower is a simple and refreshing version of a Vodka Martini. The only addition is a splash of lime, which adds a delicate touch to the easy cocktail. Of course, I recommend fresh lime juice and there’s really no reason not to since you are already cutting a lime for the garnish.


  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • Lime peel for garnish


Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the lime peel.

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