Tuesday, May 24, 2011

POND CLINIC, Thursday, June 9th @ 6PM

Thursday evening June 9th at 6PM, the Guernsey SWCDin partnership with Noble SWCD and the Guernsey/Noble OSU Extension 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. A special fish eletro-shocking demonstration will be put on by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

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.

Van Slack, 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.

The ODNR staff will demonstrate electro-shocking, a way to immobilize fish so that they can be captured and studied without harming them.

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,directions and 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.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Buckeye Trails 6th graders @ MMW

75 sixth graders descended upon Moore Memorial Woods in Friday, May 20th to enjoy a day of science and fun. They broke into 5 groups, and spend the day moving from station to station, learning about water quality and waste treatment plants, Ohio mammals and amphibians, forestry, and how plants are used to make dyes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Build your own Backyard Wetland

May is National Wetlands Month

In Your Backyard
A mini-wetland in your yard can provide many of the same benefits that natural wetlands offer. A mini-wetland can replace the important natural functions of wetlands that may have been lost when your community was developed.

A wetland in your backyard will temporarily store, filter, and clean runoff water from your roof and lawn. It will provide habitat for many interesting creatures--from butterflies and bees to salamanders, toads, frogs, and birds.

Most wetland plants do not require standing water to grow successfully, and will survive even in an area that appears dry during most of the growing season.

If you have a naturally occurring wet spot in your yard, or a low swale or drainageway with heavy clay soils, you easily can turn it into a wetland paradise. Even if you do not have a naturally wet spot, you can establish an area in your yard to grow many of the beautiful plants associated with wetlands.


What Is a Wetland?
A wetland is simply any area where water covers the soil or keeps it saturated for at least two or three weeks during the growing season. You will usually find them anywhere water accumulates at a rate faster than it drains away. Some are inundated year-round while others only hold water for brief periods in the spring. Most wetlands are covered with water for less than a month during the summer. Wetlands dominated by grasses, cattails, and similar herbaceous vegetation are referred to as marshes, while wooded wetlands, dominated by shrubs and trees, are called swamps.

The saturation of the soil limits the types of plants you can grow to those with "wet feet." How long the soil is saturated determines which wetland plants will grow best. There are many small wetland plants that grow quickly when the soil is wet in the spring and disappear when the soil dries up. Species like cattails, bulrushes, jewelweed, and the attractive cardinal flower do well where there are alternating wet and dry periods. These plants will survive persistent flooding as long as most of the leaves are out of the water. Water lilies and pond weeds grow well in permanently flooded ponds.

In your backyard, toads and tree frogs (spring peepers) will lay eggs and the pollywogs will mature where water only lasts 3 or 4 weeks; other frogs need longer periods. Where you have permanent water, the bullfrog pollywogs and small fish eliminate reproduction of most other frogs, toads, and salamanders. Mosquitoes will not survive in wetlands that dry out in less than a week after a summer rain or in wetlands connected to a deeper pond that supports small fish and large aquatic insects that feast on them.


Where to Put a Wetland
A natural depression or ditch that tends to stay wet is an ideal place to develop a wetland. Other areas with heavy clay soils that drain slowly may also be suitable. Better drained sites may require use of a plastic or other type of liner. Of course, if you are building a backyard pond, as discussed in another tip sheet in this series, a shallow area of saturated soil can be incorporated in the design. When selecting a site, consider:

Is the site away from your foundation, out buildings, existing landscaping that you want to maintain, or neighboring properties that might be damaged by excessive moisture?
Would there be a safety concern for neighborhood children?
How will the site be integrated into your plan for maintenance?
If you need supplemental water, is it readily available or can you use roof drainage?
If there is an existing wetland, check state and local wetland regulations before altering it.
Unless you completely own a ditch, check with local authorities before making any alterations. Be sure you won't cause adjacent properties to flood.


Building a Wetland
Since wetlands refer to a variety of conditions, there is a lot of potential for including wetland plants in your yard. You may want a wetland that only stays wet for a short period after heavy rains or one that stays wet most of the time. It depends on the site and your desires. Establishing a wetland in your yard may be as simple as planting wetland plants in an existing wet area, or it may require the same effort needed to install a backyard pond.

Building a Wetland in an Existing Wet Area or Drainageway
In some instances, all you need to do is stop mowing during dry periods. Too often homeowners go to great lengths to establish plants that are not adapted to the site or to modify the site, when it would be more effective to use plants suited to the conditions. Numerous landscape plants are well adapted to wet conditions and will provide beauty as well as wildlife habitat. Be sure to check the growth and rooting characteristics of trees you want to plant. Many wet soil tolerant trees have shallow root systems or brittle branches and must be planted a safe distance from buildings.

Partially blocking a drainageway or small ditch to create your wetland by trapping storm water needs more planning. Where a low berm less than a foot high will create a small wetland, planning is not complicated if:

The drainage area above the berm is small, generally less than an acre;
There is adequate area for flood flows to go around and over the berm; and
The soil contains a high percentage of clay.
For sites requiring a higher berm, and those with a larger watershed, you need engineering advice. For sites with sandy soil or a lot of rocks, you also may need to install a plastic liner (described in the next section) under all or the lower portion of your wetland.

To construct the wetland with a small berm to hold back water for a few days or weeks:

Put a stake in the center of the lowest portion of the drainageway where you want the berm.
Using a level on a large board or string, place a stake where a level line reaches the ground on either side.
Using the same type of level, mark how far back water will be impounded at the top of the berm.
Remove any existing sod from an area about 4 feet wide along the line of the berm and over about half the area that will be flooded.
Dig a trench about 1 foot deep along the center line of the berm and fill it with slightly damp heavy soil, packed down firmly.
Build your berm about 4 feet wide at the bottom and 1 foot at the top. The center should be 4 to 6 inches higher than the ends to allow for settling and to force water flowing over it around the ends, reducing the likelihood of erosion.
Cover the compacted berm with purchased grass sod or the sod you originally removed from the area.
Plant wetland adapted plants in bands from the deepest areas to an area about six inches above the expected high water level, selected according to the degree of soil saturation they require.

Building a Separate Wetland
You can create a wetland in any level area and make it suitable for most wetland plants by digging out a depression, lining it with plastic, refilling it with soil, and adding water. After selecting the site, you should:

Using a hose or rope, lay out the shape of your wetland. An irregular shape will appear the most natural. Sometimes a long narrow curving wetland will fit nicely into a landscape plan.
Excavate an area 1-1/2 to 2 feet deep. The sides should slope gently to the deepest area.
Put an inch of fine sand or lose soil in the bottom to prevent the plastic liner from being punctured by small stones.
Line the depression with sheet plastic. Hold in place with heavy objects such as round stones. Or, install a pre-formed pool liner or use a child's wading pool.
If you live in a region with heavy annual rainfall, puncture the liner in several places with pencil-sized holes about halfway up the sides to allow slow drainage so the soil will not stay completely waterlogged for long periods.
A. If you plan to grow common species of low maintenance plants adapted to moist soils in your area, fill the depression with a mixture of soil and peat. A significant amount of peat will help retain moisture and allow for aeration.
B. If you intend to grow true bog plants that require acidic soils saturated with water most of the year, fill the area with a mixture of half peat and half humus. Also, you should fill the lower half of the depression with pea gravel or coarse sand to assure more even distribution of water. Burying a perforated pipe in the pea gravel connected to an upright pipe fitted with a hose connection will help add water evenly to the bog.
Cover the edges of the plastic with soil to hide them and hold the liner in place.
Building a Wetland by a Backyard Pond
Putting a shallow wetland at one edge of your backyard pond will increase its value and attractiveness. If you are using a pre-formed liner for your pond, you may want to build the wetland as described above, with the water level slightly above the pond liner or the edge of the pond liner lowered a couple of inches to allow water to flow into the pond. This design filters sediment and other contaminants out of the water coming off your lawn or roof through the wetland before it enters the pond. The wetland area also protects fish and other aquatic life in the pond by removing any chlorine from city tap water you use.


Establishing plants
The plants you select for your wetland will depend on:

Length of time the soil will be saturated or covered with water,
Depth of the water,
Amount of sunlight on the site,
Soil pH, and
Size of the wetland.
Select plants that are hardy for your area and provide the desired wildlife habitat and aesthetics. The species of plants most common in other wetlands in your area with similar flooding cycles will be easiest to grow and need the least maintenance.

Choosing and Establishing Plants for Ponds
To make part of your backyard like natural wetlands, use a mix of diverse plants. Most trees, shrubs, ferns, and many other plants grow best in soils that are only saturated early in the growing season and after heavy rains. Others, like the true bog plants, need almost continually saturated soil. Plants like water lilies need to be continually flooded. Once established, plants like cattails will thrive in water a couple feet deep, but also in areas that are wet for only short periods. However, most have a narrower tolerance range that may vary depending on where you live. Always check with your local nursery or other expert before making final decisions on what varieties to plant. Plants should always be purchased from a reliable source.

Native Trees Tolerant of Wet Soils
Red and silver maple (Acer rubrum, A. saccarinum)
River birch (Betula nigra)
Catalpa spp.
Ash (Fraxinus spp.)
Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor)
Sycamores (Platanus spp.)
Native Shrubs Tolerant of Wet Soils
Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Leatherwood (Dirca palustris)
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Inkberry (Ilex glabra)
Pussy willow (Salix discolor)
Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa)
Native Herbaceous and Flowering Plants for Sunny Moist or Boggy Conditions
Cattails (Typhus spp.)
Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)
Blue flag iris (Iris versicolor)
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Goldenrods (Solidago spp.)
Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Gentian spp.
Native Herbaceous and Flowering Plants for Shady Moist or Boggy Conditions
Bee balm (Monarda didyma)
Arrowhead (Sagittaris latifolia)
False hellebore (Veratrum viride)
Turtlehead (Chelone spp.)
Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
Royal fern (Osmunda regalis)
Netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata)
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamonmea)
Shield ferns (Dropteris spp.)
Lady ferns (Athyrium spp.)
True Bog Plants Requiring Low pH and Sun
Sundews (Drosera spp.)
Butterworts (Pinguicula spp.)
Pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.)
Numerous other native wetland species are available in most areas. There are also many species that have been naturalized in North America and are often considered native plants. Unfortunately, some of these species are more competitive and have become invasive, crowding out the native species that provide habitat for indigenous wildlife.


Locate the backyard wetland where it is unlikely to attract unattended children. Check local safety ordinances and building ordinances for restrictions and permits.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Coyote – Friend or Foe?

There were no coyotes in Ohio when the land was first settled. Today they live everywhere in the state. A hundred years ago, coyotes were only found west of the Mississippi River. After the first sightings of coyotes in 1919, the coyote moved in and has become a part of Ohio’s wildlife

Coyotes are about as big as a medium-sized dog. Males range from 20 to 50 pounds, and stand between 41 and 53 inches in length. They have a bushy tail with a black tip, carries at a 45 degree angle. Most coyotes are gray; a few can be reddish brown or pale tan. Coyotes are nocturnal, being active at night. They often hunt together, in search of small mammals like mice, shrews, voles and rabbits. The coyote will also eat fruits, grasses, vegetables, or carrion; it is an omnivore and adapts its diet to the available food source. Sheep predation normally occurs in the summer when additional food is needed by the adults feeding pups. The coyote is notorious for killing sheep and other domestic livestock; studies show that livestock make up 14% of the coyote population’s diet.

Today the coyote lives almost everywhere, even in our cities. They survive in towns by living off of the food found in dumpsters or garbage cans. They also catch and eat the more common animals found in cities such as squirrels and rabbits, as well as domestic cats and small dogs. Coyotes sometimes find shelter in drainpipes and old buildings. And since many cities are built around big rivers and lakes, water is usually easy to find. By being nocturnal, coyotes avoid their biggest threat, people.

Coyote pairs mate in late winter and anywhere from 1 to 12 pups are born in April or May. For the first few weeks of their lives they are blind and helpless, depending on their parents for food and shelter. The male hunts for food to support both his mate and the pups for the first few weeks. The female nurses the pups and they grow quickly. As the pups get older, both parents will hunt for food and feed the young. At 8 weeks, the parents begin teaching the pups hunting skills. The family stays together until fall, when the pups begin to leave to establish their own territories.

Because they live near people, coyotes can become a problem for farmers and ranchers. Biologists study Ohio’s coyotes to learn more about the their behavior and movements in the state. Help is provided to farmers and landowners so they can learn how to control individual coyotes that keep causing problems.
The coyote has the remarkable ability to adapt to different habitats and to share space with people, but it remains an almost invisible neighbor. We can admire them for their cunning, or dislike them for the problems they sometimes cause, however, the coyote is here to stay.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wet Meadows and Agriculture

May is National Wetlands Month

Wet meadows usually have greener or darker vegetation than the surrounding area. Like other wetlands, they help control flooding and pollution, replenish the groundwater, and support unique communities of plants and animals. Agriculture can be an integral part of this type of wetland.

Haying has been a seasonal use of some wet meadows for centuries. The wetland is not disturbed during the early part of the growing season, when the land is too wet to work and many wetland species are raising their young. By late summer, the meadow has become drier, the wetland grasses have matured, most young birds are out of the nest, and it is time to harvest the hay.

Grazing is another use compatible with these wetlands' natural cycles. Deer and elk have always grazed wet meadows, and carefully managed livestock grazing can be just as beneficial to a healthy wetland. Grazing of the wetland vegetation for short periods opens up feeding areas for shorebirds and other marsh species. Then the area is left ungrazed until it has fully recovered, to allow for fall regrowth. The tall, undisturbed wet meadow vegetation provides winter cover for many species, as well as residual cover for early nesting birds.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why Celebrate Wetlands?

May is National Wetland's Month

Water Quality Protection & Improvement
Wetlands are often referred to as the "kidneys" of the landscape for their ability to remove excess nutrients, toxic substances, and sediment from water that flows through them, helping to improve downstream water quality. Recently published studies on pollutant removal rates for natural and restored wetlands indicate that, depending on the type of wetland, the season, and other factors, wetlands can retain significant percentages of nitrates, ammonium, phosphorus, and sediment loads. Natural wetlands have also been effective in removing contaminants such as pesticides, landfill leachate, dissolved chlorinated compounds, metals, and stormwater runoff.

Reducing Flood Risk
Wetlands play an important role in reducing the frequency and intensity of floods by acting as natural buffers - slowing, absorbing, and storing significant amounts of floodwater. Since flooding is the most common natural hazard in the nation, wetlands play an integral role in managing this risk, particularly through planning approaches that consider the entire watershed. Wetlands can also significantly mitigate the impacts of storm surges and waves. The nation's vital Gulf coastal landscape and associated infrastructure experienced crippling damage as a result of wind, tidal surge, and flood related impacts during the 2005 hurricane season. Experts have concluded that the significant historic losses of wetlands in southern Louisiana contributed to the magnitude of hurricane impacts. These events illustrated the economic, cultural, and ecologic consequences of losing protective coastal wetlands, which provide significant and sustainable protection to life and property.

The presence of wetlands on the landscape can also mitigate flood damage inland. A study by the Wetlands Initiative concluded that restoring wetlands along the 100-year flood plain of the Upper Mississippi River could increase storage capacity to 39 million acre-feet of flood water--a similar volume to the Mississippi Flood of 1993 that caused $16 billion in damages.

Water Storage & Supply
The ability of wetlands to store and filter water helps to protect and replenish surface and underground drinking water sources. Studies have concluded that the thousands of small wetlands that dot the U.S. Great Plains (called playa lakes) play a significant role in the recharge of the Ogallala aquifer - one of the Nation's largest aquifers and a principal source of groundwater used to irrigate agricultural land and provide drinking water in the Great Plains.

Bioproductivity & Habitat
As nurseries of nature, wetlands are among the most biologically productive natural ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs in their productivity and in the diversity of species they support. Mixtures of vegetation and shallow water zones provide diverse habitats for a variety of species - plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish, shellfish, and mammals. Many species rely on these critical habitats for survival as sources of food, shelter, and breeding grounds. For example, frogs, toads, and salamanders depend on small, isolated wetlands during their development. It is estimated that one-half of all North American bird species nest or feed in wetlands, and despite the fact that wetlands comprise only 5% of the land surface in the conterminous United States; they are home to an estimated 31% of plant species.

Economic Viability
Commercially, wetlands provide an essential link in the lifecycle of 75% of the fish and shellfish harvested in the United States and up to 90% of the recreational catch. Many industries, in addition to the fishing industry, derive benefits or produce products that are dependent on wetlands. For example, coastal wetland and barrier systems can provide buffers that protect commercial and industrial infrastructure, including ports, and oil and gas structures. Commercial products harvested in wetlands include rice, cranberries, peat, hay, medicines, timber, and fur.

Recreational & Cultural Opportunities
Finally, wetlands provide infinite opportunities for recreation and cultural pursuits. They are inviting places for popular activities such as hiking, fishing, bird watching, photography, and hunting. In 2001, more than 82 million Americans took part in these types of recreational activities, spending approximately $108 billion.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Look for the District at the Cambridge Garden Show

We'll have a display at the Cambridge Garden Show from 9-1PM on Saturday, May 14th. The event is held at the main pavillion at the Cambridge city park. You'll be able to purchase plants and garden related items, too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

In support of Bees

Bees may sting — OUCH! But they are truly crucial to our life! Bees are pollinators, therefore,they are needed to pollinate the flowers that produce one third of all of our food! There are 130,000 plants for which bees are essential to pollination, from melons to pumpkins, raspberries and all kind of fruit trees, as well as cover crops like clover.
But honeybees, the primary species that fertilizes food-producing plants, have suffered dramatic declines in population. Some of the issues that are impacting these pollinators include: habitat destruction and loss of feeding grounds as a result of growing development; pesticide use and other environmental pollution; pests; and, the human shoe!
We need to help the bee population rebound so that we continue to have an abundant food supply!
You can bee a friend and help — without getting stung! It’s easy! Plants help bees by providing nectar, which the bee converts into honey. So grow a small garden in your backyard! Make it bee friendly by growing native and local plants, which help attract the local bees. Avoid the use of pesticides and definitely don’t kill the bees! Should you encounter any bee nests that are causing swarms, contact your local beekeeping association to come and safely remove any nests keeping the bees alive and keeping you safe!
Bees equal food! So bee friendly and join our conservation buzz to save the bees!