Friday, April 30, 2010

Healthy Habitat in your backyard - part 5

Garden in an Environmentally Friendly Way

How you maintain your garden or landscape can have important positive or negative effects on the health of the soil, air, water and vegetation that we all use! Here are some sustainable gardening techniques that you will help you conserve and protect our natural resources.
How to Maintain a Chemical-Free Lawn
Mulch helps keep water in the soil and available to the plant, rather than evaporating into the air. This can help reduce water consumption. As mulch breaks down, it provides nutrients to the soil, which can help reduce or eliminate the need for additional fertilizers. Be sure to use mulches that are free from pests and diseases.
Reducing Lawn Areas
Grass lawns often require chemicals and frequent maintenance. Gas-powered lawnmowers produce high amounts of greenhouse gases, which contribute to air pollution. Since lawns are often made of only a few types of plants that most animals do not consume, they do not provide a lot of value for wildlife. Replacing grass lawn with native wildflowers, bushes, and trees provides the food, shelter, and cover that help to maintain healthy, natural ecosystems and reduces your time and labor working on the lawn!
Xeriscaping is an approach to landscaping that minimizes outdoor water use while maintaining soil integrity through the use of native, drought-tolerant plants. This is a common practice in drier areas, such as the West and Southwest, where water supplies and water quality are in very short supply.
Removing Invasives and Restoring Native Plant Communities
Native plants are better for the environment than exotic plants, generally requiring less fertilizer and other additives, less water, and less effort in pest control. They are especially important to native wildlife, such as pollinators, that may have coevolved with a particular species. Pollinators often rely on a certain type of flower as a source of food, while the flower depends on the pollinator to transport its pollen to other flowers for reproduction.
When non-native plants are used, they often times upset the delicate balance of a local ecosystem and sometimes even out-compete native species to the point of extinction. Wildlife benefit more when native plant communities remain intact, or are restored to their natural habitats, providing the best source of food for wildlife.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Healthy Habitat in your backyard - part 4

Give Wildlife a Place to Raise Their Young

Wildlife need places to reproduce, bear and raise their young, and for their young to survive to adulthood; all safe from predators, bad weather and human intervention.
Creating a wildlife habitat is about creating a place for the entire life-cycle of a species to occur, from tadpole to frog; from caterpillar to butterfly.
Many habitat features that serve as cover can double as locations where wildlife can raise their young;  from wildflower patches where butterflies and moths lay their eggs and small mammals burrow into the undergrowth; to constructed birdhouses, ponds for amphibians and fish; or caves where bats roost and form colonies.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Healthy Habitat in your backyard - part 3

Create Cover for Wildlife
Wildlife require places to hide in order to feel safe from people, predators and inclement weather. Use things like native vegetation, shrubs, thickets and brush piles or even dead trees.
Even dead trees work, as they are home to lots of different animals, including some that use tree cavities and branches for nesting and perching.
If natural options aren't available for you, consider constructing a birdhouse specifically for the types of birds you would like to attract to your habitat.
Providing these places of cover not only helps wildlife, it can also help your overall garden if you "branch out" to attract other helpful pollinators, such as bats or bees.
Ponds provide cover for aquatic wildlife, such as fish and amphibians. A "toad abode" can be constructed to provide shelter for amphibians on land.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Healthy Habitat in your backyard - part 2

Supply Water for Wildlife

Wildlife need clean water sources for many purposes, including drinking, bathing and reproduction. Water sources may include natural features such as ponds, lakes, rivers, springs, and wetlands; or human-made features such as bird baths, puddling areas for butterflies, installed ponds or rain gardens.
The easiest water source to install in your garden is a bird bath. Be sure to change the water 2-3 times per week during warm weather when mosquitoes are breeding, so that any eggs laid in the water don't have time to hatch. If you live in a climate with cold winters, consider buying a small heater available at wild bird feeding stores to keep the water from freezing.
Bat facts
•Bats have been around for 50 million years.
•There are over 1000 known species of Bats
•There are 11 species in Ohio.
•All Ohio bats eat insects.
•Bats use echolocation to navigate through the sky.
•Bats are not blind.
•Bats life span is 25 to 30 years.

Photo:  Endangered Indiana Bat

Attracting Bats
Bats have to find new roosts on their own. Existing evidence strongly suggests that lures or attractants (including bat guano) will NOT attract bats to a bat house.
Bats investigate new roosting opportunities while foraging at night, and they are expert at detecting crevices, cracks, nooks and crannies that offer shelter from the elements and predators. Bat houses installed on buildings or poles are easier for bats to locate, have greater occupancy rates and are occupied two and a half times faster than those mounted on trees.

Healthy Habitat in your backyard - part 1

Provide Food for Wildlife
Everyone needs to eat! Planting native forbs, shrubs and trees is the easiest way to provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that many species of wildlife require to survive and thrive. You can also incorporate supplemental feeders and food sources.
Native forbs, shrubs and trees provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that many species of wildlife require to survive and thrive.

Natives are well adapted to survive in a particular geographic area according to the climate, soils, rainfall and availability of pollinators and seed dispersers. And because they are indigenous to a specific region, native plants usually require little maintenance and are welcomed by wildlife, serving an important role in the local ecosystem.
In times when natural food sources are not as available, it is important to also provide bird feeders, hummingbird feeders, squirrel feeders and butterfly feeders to add to the native food sources for resident and migrating wildlife.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Celebrating 55th annual National Stewardship Week!

Pollinators are an important part of a healthy habitat. When hummingbirds visit flowers, they feed on the nectar and pollinate the flowers, which allows plants to produce fruits and seeds. To maintain its calorie intake, a hummingbird can visit between 1,000 to 3,000 flowers a day.

Most of the flowering plants we need and enjoy are pollinated by insects. When the populations of pollinating creatures start to shrink, many plants either produce fewer seeds or no seeds at all. When pollinating creatures start disappearing, plants start disappearing. Pollinators aren’t just annoying insects; they are an important part of the web of life that we all depend upon for survival. Over 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants wouldn’t survive if it weren’t for pollinators. Providing habitat areas will help increase the pollinator population.

Through collaboration with service organizations, schools and others, new habitat areas can be developed or maintained. A variety of programs are available in your community, such as master naturalist, master gardener and others, to assist citizens on how to best design and develop natural areas.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More Thoughts on Earth Day

Did you know that when you’re washing your car in the driveway, you’re not just washing your car in the driveway?
Did you know that when your pet goes on the lawn, it doesn’t just go on the lawn?
Did you know that when your car is leaking oil on the street, it is not just leaking oil on the street?
Did you know that when you’re fertilizing your lawn, it is not just your lawn you’re fertilizing?
Clean and abundant “Water” is so vital to our quality of living, our economy and environment. Water is important in our recreational opportunities, commercial development, wildlife and plant habitat, and for our viewing pleasure – just to name a few!
The Earth is made up of three-fourths water, however only one percent can be used by humans. Considering the small amount of water we possess, we really need to be aware of things that pollute our waters. Nearly sixty percent of water pollution comes from the items mentioned about, along with failing septic tanks and other things we can work to control!
So help us do a better job keeping our waters clean and abundant today and into the future. Use soap sparingly to wash your car and rather than dumping the leftover suds down the storm drain, pour these down your sink – or use a commercial wash instead. Pick up your dog’s waste and flush it down the toilet or bury it deep into the soil. Stop oil drips and leaks in your car and never dispose of unwanted oil or fluids down a storm drain, ground or ditch. And, use fertilizers sparingly, don’t fertilize before a rain storm and consider using commercial or homemade compost to help revitalize your lawn.
These are just a few items to consider! Conservation habits make for a better quality of living. Join with us today and let’s help make “Earth Day = Everyday!”

Its Earth Day!

Soil is an important ingredient in your everyday life. Last evening, you slept in a house  built on soil. You drink water that flows through soil and is cleaned by soil. The air that  you breath comes partly from plants growing in the soil. You even wear clothes made from plants that grow in the soil.
Soil makes our lives possible. We build on them, play on them, drive on them, eat food grown in or raised on them, take medicines made from them, and so much more. The entire earth, every ecosystem and every living organism, is dependent upon soils.
Here are some other facts about soil:
• Soil makes up our outermost layer of our planet.
• Topsoil is the most productive soil layer.
• 5 tons of topsoil spread over every acre is only as thick as a dime.
• Natural processes can take more than 500 years to form one inch of topsoil.
• Soil scientists have identified over 70,000 kinds of soil in the United States.
• Soil is formed from rocks and decaying plants and animals.
• An average soil sample so 45 percent minerals, 25 percent water, 25 percent air and 5 percent organic matter.
• Fungi and bacteria help break down organic matter in the soil.
• Plants roots and lichens break up rocks which become part of the new soil.
• Roots loosen the soil, allowing oxygen to penetrate. These benefit animals living in the soil.
• Roots hold together and help prevent erosion.
So as we celebrate Earth Day this week – let’s truly celebrate the “earth” – the soil that makes our life possible! And, contact us to learn more conservation stewardship practices and programs that helps keep Ohio’s soils productive!
*Facts provided by the USDA,NRCS

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Celebrate EARTH DAY April 22nd

We were protecting the earth before it had a day....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What are those beautiful lavendar-pink trees?

No doubt anyone driving in the country this time of year has noticed these showy small trees scattered along the roadside and at the edges of woodlands. 
The Redbud, also known as Eastern Redbud or Judas Tree, is abundant in the southern two-thirds of Ohio, with scattered distribution in the northern one-third of the state . It heralds the arrival of spring with its showy, lavendar-pink flowers that typically open in April, long before the foliage emerges. Redbud is a native of the entire eastern half of the United States (except for New England), but is not found in Canada, as its scientific name implies. This ornamental tree is rapidly growing and usually multitrunked in the wild, having a vase shape with a rounded crown that reaches about 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide at maturity, when found in the open. However, since it is often located at the edge of woodlands, it commonly has a leaning growth habit, trying to grow into as much sunlight as possible.
As a member of the Bean Family, Redbud is also related to Honeylocust, Kentucky Coffeetree, Black Locust, and Wisteria, as well as other types of Redbuds. The Bean Family is also known as the Legume, Pea, or Pulse Family, and may go by the alternative scientific family name of Leguminosae. Many of this family's members are important vegetable crops as well as ornamental plants.
Planting Requirements - Redbud prefers deep, moist, organic, well-drained soils, but adapts to many less-than-favorable soils of either acidic or alkaline pH as long as they are not wet. It grows most rapidly and flowers most prolifically in full sun if adequate moisture is available during the heat of summer, but it is often found in partial sun to partial shade in nature. It can grow in zones 4 to 9, but occurs naturally in zones 5 to 9.
Potential Problems - Redbud grows rapidly and often lives about twenty years before it begins to decline or die, especially in urban situations where poorly drained, heavy clay soils predominate. Trunk canker is a serious disease of Redbud, and is evident as sunken depressions in the bark of large branches or trunks, which often begin to heal before the tree eventually dies. Verticillium wilt and root rot are two additional, serious pathogens that affect the roots (often due to wet soils) but become evident as entire branches rapidly die. Some pests (such as scales) may also cause problems, but the tree diseases sited above wreak havoc on Redbud and limit its lifespan.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Guernsey SWCD and OSU Extension hold Pond Clinic

Thursday evening May 20th at 6PM, the Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District in partnership with the OSU Extension Guernsey County will hold a Pond Clinic. The clinic will be held at the Eastern Ohio Research Station near Belle Valley. The topics to be discussed include aquatic weed control, stocking rates, pest control, Wildlife habitat enhancement, and design and construction of ponds.

Cliff Little, OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resource agent for Guernsey County will explain the available chemical and natural controls for unwanted vegetation in your pond. He will also cover the topic of stocking rates for ponds including types and numbers of fish to include in a new pond. The most popular species for this area include bass, bluegill, channel catfish, and shell crackers.

Joe Lehman, Wildlife Specialist for the Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District, will speak on the topic of animal control around ponds. The two most devastating animals to a pond are muskrats and beavers. Muskrats can dig holes in the dam and cause the pond to leak and beavers may plug up overflows and emergency spillways. Joe will present ways and ideas to discourage these trouble makers and effective means to lessen the damage caused. Other pests to be discussed are crawdads, geese, and snapping turtles.

Dave Sayre, technician for Guernsey SWCD; and Jim Mizik of the Noble SWCD will speak on the topics of pond design and construction. There is more to building a pond than just digging a hole. Items such as soil type in the area, size of the watershed, and surface area of pond are all important considerations. Construction issues include a core trench for the dam, size of overflow, and size and location of the emergency spillway. Ponds and lakes may also require a permit through the ODNR Division of Water because of location and size.
A pond can be a useful resource for human or animal use, but in building and maintaining a pond it entails a lot of planning and responsibility. For more information, or to register for this clinic, please contact the Guernsey SWCD at (740) 432-5624. There is no charge for this event, but we do need to know how many plan to attend.  You can download a flyer for this clinic from our education page.