Archive | Trees

Get Outside!

 

In 2005, Richard Louv coined the phrase “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book, Last Child in the Woods, to describe the host of behavioral problems he attributes to humans, especially children, spending less time in the outdoors.

Highlighting this trend away from connecting with the natural world, a recent National Aquarium commercial shows a child watching sea life in an underwater tank and remarking how “life-like” it is. The dad tries to help the son recognize that it IS real-life, not virtual reality.

The solution: GET OUTSIDE! We are lucky here in Fairfax County to have 427 parks on approximately 23,359 acres of land. There is truly something for everyone: from outdoor waterparks to the new Treetop Adventure Course at South Run. The parks also include many miles of hiking trails. For  more information about Fairfax County parks and programming, go to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/

For those who want to gain in-depth understanding of the natural environment or want to work on an environmental project in their community, the Master Naturalist program may be an option. The Master Naturalist program describes itself on its Virginia website as “volunteer educators, citizen scientists, and stewards helping Virginia conserve and manage natural resources and public lands.” This organization has trained experts to help reconnect people to their natural surroundings. Check out the Fairfax Chapter http://www.vmnfairfax.org/SitePages/Home.aspx

For individuals who want to go even further, registration to start the training towards becoming a Master Naturalist is happening right now for the fall training session. http://www.vmnfairfax.org/Shared%20Documents/2017%20UPDATED%20FMN%20Application_Fillable.pdf

 

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Weed-free—Naturally!

Keeping our yards weed-free: It’s more than just a desire to “keep up with the Joneses” and not have the ugliest yard in the neighborhood. I would argue that most suburban homeowners in our area strive to maintain a beautiful yard because it is a pleasure to come home to a blooming weed-free paradise after a day of inside work. In our moderate climate zone, we are blessed with a fairly long growing season and an ability to cultivate a large variety of plants. With this opportunity, however, comes responsibility.

I noted in a previous blog (Invasives=Plant Litter March 20, 2017) the importance of planting non-invasives, and, whenever possible, removing invasives. However, what to do about weeds is another aspect of suburban gardening that requires careful decision-making to reduce negative environmental impact.

According to the Plant Natural Research Center, “While most modern herbicides are designed to kill only plants and have little or no toxicity to humans, many still have extreme consequences in the environment, changing habitats in ways that affect insects and wildlife. These consequences extend to water courses where they may kill beneficial aquatic plants and fish.”

In addition, a Purdue University study of dogs from treated and untreated yards found that untreated grass contained chemicals from drift from other yards, and half of the dogs studied who lived in untreated yards still had chemicals in their urine. The Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Purdue found that certain garden and lawn chemicals are linked to canine bladder cancer.

And there is some evidence that toxins in herbicides CAN affect humans. A case-controlled study published in March 1999 by Swedish scientists Lennart Hardell and Mikael Eriksson showed that non-hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is linked to exposure to a range of pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup often used to control poison ivy in this area. Relatively unknown prior to the 1940’s—about the time pesticides and herbicides came into more widespread use— NHL is now one of the most common types of cancer.

Fortunately, Earth 911 offers some excellent all-natural ideas on how to take care of weeds: http://earth911.com/home-garden/all-natural-weed-killer/?utm_source=New+Earth911+List+-+2015&utm_campaign=50dab42296-Tuesday+Emails+5.9.17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e8b4dc609-50dab42296-167852373

You may also decide that that “weed” in your garden is really quite beautiful and worth leaving alone. Make environmentally sustainable choices in your garden this year!

(Native Joe Pye Weed is popular with both bees and butterflies—and is technically not a weed : -)

Invasives = Plant “Litter”

Happy Spring! Start planning your non-invasive plantings now….

Like litter, invasive plants negatively impact the environment. Invasive plants, particularly ground cover like ivy and clematis, often have very little root structure and therefore when they cover large areas, fail to prevent erosion. Sediment then gets into our streams and creates poor water quality which impacts wildlife

Also, as their name suggests, invasive plants tend to “take over” areas. Invasive plants cause declines in native plants, including trees. They also can reduce both food and shelter for native animals, contributing to a decline in biodiversity. In fact, invasive plants are cited as a factor in Endangered Species Act listings!

 

Consider joining a local effort to remove invasive plants through Fairfax County’s Invasive Management Area (IMA) Volunteer Program:  http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/resource-management/ima/
Convinced that natives are the way to go? Here are some upcoming native plant sales in the Northern Virginia area:  http://vnps.org/spring-2017-plant-sales/

The Trees That Keep on Giving

Like down and out divas past their prime, unadorned Christmas trees line the streets the first two weeks of January.  Without lights, decorations, or stands these trees are a reminder that—at least until Valentine’s Day—the winter holiday season is over.

 

Fortunately, here in Fairfax County, these trees get to serve a second purpose. From January 1-16, if you receive trash and recycling service directly from the county, your tree will be picked up from the curb and it will not count as one of your allotted five special collections per fiscal year (July 1 –June 30). The tree, like the rest of your household waste, will then go to the waste-to-energy facility where it will be safely burned to help generate power.

 

While most private haulers also pick up your trees to send to the waste-to-energy plant (contact your private hauler to find out), if your private hauler sends out a truck just for the trees, i.e. a “dedicated” truckload of trees, these trees will be ground up to create mulch.

 

In Fairfax County, your Christmas tree keeps on giving. For more information, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/recycling.

 

 

Conservation Assistance Program

Conservation Assistance Program

Funding Assistance for Conservation Work on Homeowner and Community Association Property

Have you ever thought about improving your community’s common lands by installing a rain garden to capture runoff, incorporating native meadow or tree and shrub species into your landscaping, or even installing porous pavers on a portion of your parking lot? Do you want to improve the energy efficiency of your community’s clubhouse or other shared building? These practices and more are now eligible for cost-share funding through the newly-launched Conservation Assistance Program (CAP).

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Visit the CAP webpage on the Conservation District’s website to learn more about eligible practices, funding levels, and who can apply. Applications are due by March 11th, so don’t delay!

For other updates, please consider subscribing to NVSWCD’s monthly watershed calendar. Email conservationdistrict@fairfaxcounty.gov to subscribe.

Article Roundup: 10 Nutty Facts about Squirrels

Squirrels have been around for ages. . . and they are EVERYWHERE. Yet, not many people know much about these furry little creatures. A blog released by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), includes 10 nutty facts about squirrels.

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  1. Squirrels can find food buried beneath a foot of snow.
  2. A squirrel’s front teeth never stop growing.
  3. Squirrels may lost 25% of their buried food to thieves.
  4. They zigzag to escape predators.
  5. Squirrels may pretend to bury a nut to throw off potential thieves.
  6. A newborn squirrel is about an inch long.
  7. Humans introduced squirrels to most of our major city parks.
  8. Squirrels are acrobatic, intelligent and adaptable.
  9. They get bulky to stay warm during the winter.
  10. Squirrels don’t dig up all of their buried nuts, which results in more trees!

To find out more information about squirrels and ways to celebrate them, click here.