By Doug Akers
For the Times Sentinel
I found my first two tiny, gray sponge mushrooms Thursday, April 25. With relatively warmer weather over the weekend, this should be the prime week for the Central Indiana mushroom hunter.
Spring 2013 is as late as spring 2012 was early. Last year, all the Boone County corn crop was planted at this time; this year, less than 1 percent of the local corn crop has been planted.
Some song birds are making their way back from the South to Boone County. Brown thrasher, catbird, bluebird, tree swallow, phoebe, chipping sparrow and warblers have also been spotted locally. Hummingbirds should be appearing any time now. One of their favorite early season flowers is the columbine. One columbine is native to Indiana, and numerous other hybrids have been developed. Wild columbine is the flower at which we usually see the first hummingbirds of the spring in our yard, often during the first week of May.
We planted onions a month ago. Despite more than 6 inches of rain during April, they are off to a good start. Our two favorite varieties are Candy and Yellow Granex, both very mild, sweet onions. Granex is a Vidalia onion type. Early-planted onions will put on more growth prior to flowering, resulting in a larger bulb. It’s also time to plant other cool-season vegetables if you haven’t done so already: leaf lettuce, beets, cabbage, radishes, broccoli and cauliflower, as examples.
WHAT’S THAT PURPLE WEED?
Each year at this time, I receive numerous questions. One is: What’s the purple weed blooming all over farm fields and other bare areas? It is purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum). The short, 12- to 16-inch-tall plant is a winter annual. It germinates from seed in the fall or very early spring. By the time fields and gardens are dry enough to work, these plants are already full size and ready to flower. Being in the mint family (Labiatae), the stems are square. Distinctly triangular leaves are crowded near the upper portion of the stem. Lower leaves are larger and have longer petioles than upper leaves. Flowers are light purple. Each plant produces thousands of seeds that can persist in the soil for several years.
See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.