Thursday, June 7, 2012

Life has Changed on the White River


In today's Indianapolis Star, there was an article on the front page about the White River. I live on the White River and in the area that the article was written about.  That article is the reason for today's blog.  When we moved to our current home, we wanted to live near water. We found a wonderful river property with lots of possibilities that was perfect for us. It was in the city with all the conveniences, but if you were to see the area that we live, you would think you were living far away from the city. Guest who visit us are always amazed that this area exist in the city.

People who live on the river are called "River Rats".  I am proud to be a River Rat. I take great pride in the river and I am a steward of the river we live on.  I enjoy the animal life, boating and peace that one finds on a river. We sometimes have our problems on the river, like the annual flood, but you learn to live with flooding because of the love of the river and what she gives back.

I know that every year, the river will flood and that my gardens will be flooded. It is normally one week in the late winter to early spring.  As a gardener, I have learned that chemical usage in the gardens could damage the life in the river during a flood. I try to do my share by not using chemicals in my gardens or on my lawn.  I have found that my gardens look just as nice and seem to have less problems as those who do use chemicals. 
My grass is green, but as you can see it contains lots of weeds. I have learned, as most people on the river, that you just live with nature and what she gives you. Flooding always brings lots of weed seed. I have my share of insect damage, disease and weeds in my lawn and garden, but I prefer to deal with those problems without the use of  chemicals. Proper gardening techniques can take care of many garden problems and accepting the fact that lawns and gardens are NOT perfect.
Life on the river has been good, till things started changing three years ago.  These photos were taken four years ago on the river from the same location.
 Nice clear water for the wildlife to enjoy.
The river that we enjoy is now being taken over by an invasive aquatic plant called Eurasian Water Milfoil.  Each year it has spread and continues to take over the river.  The weed starts growing like most perennial plants when the temperatures warm and it continues to get bigger till it lies across the surface of the water. Then comes the algae and Duck Weed that starts growing on top of the Milfoil turning the surface of the river lime green. Eurasian Water Milfoil is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa and is very invasive. It prefers to grow in slow moving or standing water and has long been used as a plant for fish tanks.  According to the article in the newspaper, Milfoil was dumped into a pond in Washington D.C. in 1942.  It since has spread over 8 years in the Midwest and several Western states.  It has made boating and other water activities on the river a challenge due to it's growth in the water. The algae that grows with the Milfoil, enjoys the sunlight, warm weather, slow water and nutrient sources that are found in fertilizers that are used on lawns and gardens.

Currently the Milfoil has spread for miles in both directions from our boat dock, leaving only the channel open for boating. Each winter it dies to the river bottom, only to return the next year worse than the previous year.


We have been told the best way to control it (if that is even possible) is to hand weed and compost the plant. Weeding the garden is bad enough without having to weed the river!

I have my concerns as to what will happen to the White River.  I would not want to drink this water in the picture nor would I want to swim in it. Time will tell what will happen with the growth of this plant and how the river and the life around and in the river will change.


I do believe that we all need to be more conscientious about how we care for our lawns, gardens and even what plants we purchase for our gardens. Over the years, I have seen people misuse garden chemicals, cultivate invasive plants and in general not be responsible for what Mother Nature has given us. When it becomes a problem in your own backyard it may be to late to make change.

Happy Gardening!

The Creative Gardener

4 comments:

Freda Cameron said...

Good story to raise awareness. Try to get this republished in newspapers.

I'm sorry that this has happened to your paradise. I hope someone will figure out a more efficient way to rid your river without damaging the environment.

Best of luck to you and your community.

Lady in Red said...

This is all too familiar to me. I live on a river as well and the changes that have taken place over the years are heartbreaking. The main problem on our river though is that it is being mined for its sand - and even though it's illegal to do so - no one is stopping. The water has become stagnant and dirty... it's very sad to see.

Carol said...

Very insightful. I missed the article in the paper, so am glad to have caught up on this problem through your blog. I hope a better solution can be found other than "weed the river", a solution that doesn't involve poluting the river with more chemicals.

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