JeffCo H20: The Invaders

JeffCo Aug2015

They start out small, often unnoticed: a little leaf here, a vine tendril there.  But before you know it, your landscape is being overtaken by invasive plants.  Kudzu, privet, honeysuckle – these are just a few plants labeled as invasive that thrive in Alabama.  So what’s the big deal?  An invasive is a nonnative plant which spreads and threatens the survival of native plants and crops, or affects human health.  (Not all nonnative plants are invasive – think cotton and peanuts.) Alabama provides a long growing season and mild winter which help these invaders thrive.  In fact, invasives are such a serious threat to native ecosystems that there are federal, state, and local agencies devoted to controlling or eliminating these pests.  For home landscapes, the best solution is to be on the lookout for invaders and deal with them as quickly as possible.  Chemical free solutions include digging up the plant, root and all, putting it in a plastic bag, and placing it in the trash – or covering the affected area with a layer of cardboard topped with mulch to prevent the plant from getting any sunlight. If the invader already has become established and is spreading, carefully and selectively applying an herbicide such as glyphosate, which is absorbed by the plant rather than lingering in the soil, can help eliminate the problem while having minimal potential impact on water quality if you carefully and accurately follow package directions.  Remember to avoid applying yard chemicals just before or during a rain event and use only what you need.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCo H2O: Smorgasbird

One of the fastest growing hobbies in the US is bird watching.  More than 46 million people consider themselves to be bird watchers and about 60 million people regularly feed birds in order to attract them to their yards.  While many varieties of bird seed blends are readily available, the cost can quickly add up.  Rather than just purchasing seed to fill your bird feeders, another option is to install and grow a variety of plants, trees and grasses in your yard now so that they will produce berries and seeds that birds like to eat.  Many of these are native to our region, and generally are more drought and pest resistant, which can help reduce the need for supplemental watering and the use of yard chemicals.

zinniapainted-bunting-on-beauty-berry-by-roger-clark

Inviting birds to become frequent visitors to your yard has other benefits as well.  Most songbirds primarily eat insects and spiders during the spring and summer months, which can help reduce the insect pest population in your yard without the use of insecticides. w1_aud0713_jad52

It’s also important to provide a water source to encourage birds to stick around.  A birdbath with a gently sloping shallow bowl (which birds prefer) is a simple and easy to install water feature to add to your yard, but any shallow, wide container or similar vessel lined with some clean gravel or rocks, filled with a few inches of water, and placed on the ground can work just as well.  Then, just sit back and enjoy your visitors!

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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TCNP Currents: Reflections by Samantha Brasher, Legacy Summer Intern

IMG_1979Legacy Summer Intern Samantha Brasher at Tapawingo Springs

Legacy: Family and the Environment

            The word legacy has multiple, slightly varied definitions in the English language. It is most widely used in reference to money and/or property received after a person’s death. For my purposes, however, I will use Dictionary.com‘s second definition, which is, “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.” Note, that with only a slight change in wording, the meaning of legacy expands to include so much more than material things. For me, legacy has everything to do with family and the environment.

There are a few ways I can introduce myself…

  1. My name is Samantha Brasher. I am on track to earn my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Stewardship from the University of Montevallo in the spring of 2016. Upon graduation, I am eager to pursue a career specifically in informal environmental education from a Christian perspective.
  2. I am the Legacy, Partners in Environmental Education, Summer Intern for 2015 at the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson, AL.
  3. I am O.C. Brasher’s granddaughter.

For many, the latter introduction is perfectly sufficient. Oran Cleveland “O.C.” Brasher, who passed away in August of 2013, was a pillar of the Pinson community in which Turkey Creek is located. He played an instrumental role in the founding and operation of S.T.A.R.T. (Society to Advance the Resources of Turkey Creek), the grassroots organization that is responsible for the creation of Turkey Creek Nature Preserve as we know it today; served as one of the founders of my home Church, Turkey Creek Missionary Baptist Church, and left a legacy of morality, strength and love that can be felt by everyone who knew him. He was so much to so many people, but to me and my two cousins, he was simply “Paw Paw,” and that means more to me than anything else he ever did.

SBrasher1

(Check me out top left!)

            My Paw Paw loved Turkey Creek and he passed that love down to his children and grandchildren. Multiple branches of my family tree lived off of this land and likely rubbed elbows with famous Turkey Creek residents, John and David Hanby and R. Dupont Thompson. Turkey Creek, its history and all of the incredible variety of life contained within its boundaries are apart of my legacy and I feel a deep personal responsibility to care for it. However, my desire to care for Turkey Creek and all of creation is not based solely on my family’s legacy. As a Christian, I believe that God has called all mankind to serve as stewards of creation. The whole earth and everything in it is our legacy from God!

Becoming stewards of God’s creation is the main message of the fun, free new program I will be leading at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve this summer. Valuing God’s Variety: Biodiversity and the Bible– in which students of all ages will discover the value of biodiversity, the incredible variety of life, will only be offered June-July 2015, so if you are reading this post and would like to sign up a group please contact me ASAP at samantha.c.brasher@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you! And thanks so much for hearing a little bit more about me.

SBrasher2Learn more about Legacy’s programs and future internship opportunities at: http://legacyenved.org/

Samantha Brasher

legacy. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from Dictionary.com             website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/legacy

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JeffCo H2O:Marvelous Mulch

Yes, mulch really is marvelous!  But how is it different from compost?  Compost is any kind of decayed organic material – vegetable scraps, leaves, grass clippings, or similar material.  Finished compost is brown and crumbly, smells earthy, and is packed with rich nutrients that plants need to grow.  Compost is best used by working it into the soil so that plants can absorb these nutrients through their roots.  On the other hand, mulch is organic material that is spread on top of the soil as a protective layer.  The main reason for using mulch is to minimize gardening chores, and who can argue with that?  That’s why it’s pretty much impossible to say enough good things about mulch.  Even if you never were good at math, it’s easy to see that when you add up the benefits of mulch, they greatly outweigh the cost and effort to install and maintain it.  A fresh layer of mulch around plants, bushes and trees creates an instant facelift for your landscape.  (Fresh mulch = enhanced curb appeal.)  Maintaining a layer of mulch about 3 inches deep creates a protective layer which stabilizes soil, reduces soil erosion,  and suppresses weed growth. (Fewer weeds = less need for weed killer.)  Mulch also helps soil absorb water more efficiently and traps in moisture.  (More moisture = less frequent watering.)  Mulch prevents harmful fluctuations in soil temperature, promotes better root systems, and assists plants in resisting pests and disease.  (More resilient plants = healthier, lusher landscape.)  Mulch promotes the growth of beneficial soil microorganisms which gradually decompose the mulch and help to enrich the soil from the top down.  (Richer soil = less need for fertilizer.)  And most importantly, mulch reduces yard work.  (Less work = more free time!)  Bottom line:  including mulch in your landscape truly provides one of the greatest returns on your investment than nearly any other landscape element.

Jeffco Blog_Feb15_Test Your Soil

What’s Happening?

Do Dah Day, May 16 – Caldwell and Rhodes Parks, Birmingham.  Come on out to Birmingham’s oldest event and support local pet charities.  Storm Water Management staff will be there again with the ever popular poo toss game.  We will be distributing pet waste bags and flyers to reinforce the importance of picking up after your pet.

Brown Bag Seminar Series – Birmingham Botanical Gardens, 2612 Lane Park Road, Birmingham.  This free seminar series offers practical landscape design, fresh lawn and garden ideas, and proper planting and maintenance techniques.   No reservations are required; light refreshments are provided. Visit bbgardens.org to learn more.

 

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCo H2O: Go Vertical!

Vertical garden_bottles

Need some ideas to perk up your deck, porch or patio area?  Try looking UP rather than out and consider installing a vertical garden.  Vertical gardens have increased in popularity over the past few years for many reasons.  The obvious is that they are a great way to create a big impact in a small outdoor space since this concept makes it possible to really define an area with thoughtfully chosen placement, plants and containers.  There currently are many products available which have built in planters, pouches, or holders where plants or pots can be placed to make creating a vertical garden easy.  Alternatively, ideas for designing and constructing your own vertical garden using plastic soda bottles, jars, cans, garden fencing, gutters, hanging shoe organizers, or pallets are readily available online.

pallet garden

The benefits of vertical gardening go way beyond saving space.  Vertical gardens can be configured to maximize water use by allowing water to drip downward from one level to the next.  Any water that is not utilized by the plants on the lowest tier can be collected at the base of the frame or wall and reused as needed, eliminating any potential runoff.  Also, vertical gardens are usually more pest resistant than traditional container gardens because most insects will not make the upward trek to munch on them!  Strategically placed, a vertical garden can assist with home energy costs because it provides shade and can serve as a natural insulator for the external walls of your home.  Since they are space and water efficient, a vertical garden also can be installed inside your home where it can greatly improve interior air quality while providing a dramatic focal point for any room.

vertical garden_pallet

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCo H20:Turn Up the Heat!

Do you have a garden in a sunny area of your yard that is plagued with weeds, fungi, or other pests that infect your plants?  There are many weed killers out there for treating a variety of lawn and garden challenges.  And used properly, they can be very helpful.  But it’s also possible to avoid using yard chemicals altogether and still get rid of these issues by turning up the heat in your yard.  This process is called soil solarization, and the only requirements are water, a clear plastic tarp, and some time.  Preparing your yard or garden for soil solarization will take a little bit more effort than using a short cut with weed killers, but the end results will have some extra benefits that just might make it worthwhile.

Jeffcoh20 march 2015

The first step in the process is to create as clean a slate as possible:  remove any plants and debris from the area, then till, level and smooth the soil surface.  Next, water the soil until it is very saturated, about 12” deep into the soil.  Cover the targeted area with a heavy duty clear plastic tarp, and secure the edges with soil or rocks to keep it in place.  The clear plastic and water will concentrate the sun’s energy and magnify its effect, raising the temperature under the plastic and trapping heat in the soil.  The temperature under the tarp can rise to as high as 140⁰ depending upon the time of the year you choose to try this process.  During spring and fall, it will take about 6-8 weeks to achieve the desired results.  In the heat of summer, the process will be shortened to 4-6 weeks.  The sustained high temperature under the tarp is enough to kill weed seeds, insects, and many harmful fungi and bacteria.  Soil solarization also speeds up the breakdown of organic material in the soil and promotes the repopulation of worms, bacteria, and other helpful organisms.  The end result is that not only will you have eliminated many of the pests that had been hampering your plants, but also your soil will be in better shape than before you began.  After allowing the process to work for the recommended amount of time, carefully remove the plastic to keep it from shredding, and get ready to start planting!

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCo H2O:A Test You Can’t Fail!

Jeffco Blog_Feb15_Test Your Soil

If the thought of taking a test makes you break out into a cold sweat, take a deep breath and read on!  The only way you can fail this one is if you don’t take it.  Maybe you apply some sort of fertilizer to your lawn or garden every spring because the commercials on TV extoll its importance, or because your neighbors are putting fertilizer on their yards.  Before you rush to the store, doesn’t it make sense to first find out if your soil needs these nutrients, and if so, what kind and how much?  Rather than wasting money guessing, you can purchase a soil test kit from your local lawn and garden store, or pick up a free kit from the nearest Alabama Cooperative Extension System office and have your soil sample analyzed by Auburn University for $7.

If the soil test recommends adjusting soil pH, applying lime may be recommended.  If the test suggests adding nutrients, you will need to purchase the right kind of fertilizer for your yard.  First look for those three little numbers on the fertilizer bag.  These tell you the percentage of each of the three elements – nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium – that are included in the product.  The results of the soil test will indicate how much of each of these elements should be added to the soil to achieve the proper nutrient levels.  The remainder of the product is a filler which allows the fertilizer to be spread at the application rate recommended in the package directions.  You can set the application rate of your spreader by adjusting its dial to the number specified.

The fertilizer package also indicates how many square feet the product will cover.  Don’t forget to subtract any paved areas from the total when calculating the size of your yard.  Remember not to apply fertilizer right before or during a rain and to sweep up any product that falls on paved areas.  Like anything else, rain will wash fertilizer into the storm drainage system and carry it to the nearest stream or creek. Using the right amount of the right nutrients at the right time will save you money, maximize your yard’s ability to fight off pests and diseases while looking its best, and help protect water quality in local waterways.

What’s Happening?

Urban Forestry Fair, February 25 – Come on out to Linn Park (between the downtown Courthouse and Birmingham City Hall) from 9 am to 2 pm to receive FREE tree seedlings ready for planting.  Sponsored by the National Resources Conservation Service and the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Birmingham Annual Plant Dig, February 28 – Grab your garden tools, gloves and containers, and head to the New Georgia Landfill (2800 47th Street North, Birmingham) from 10 am to 2 pm to stock up on FREE plants for your yard.  Call 787-5222 to learn more.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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