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Category Archive: Urban

  1. Tree Sale Highlight: Red Osier Dogwood

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    by Carrie Brown, Engineering Technician

    Our 2021 Seedling Tree Sale has finally arrived! Additional information on this year’s selection and details on ordering can be found on our website.

    Join us weekly as we highlight this year’s available tree species.

    Red Osier Dogwood

    This week’s 2021 Tree Sale highlight is the Red Osier Dogwood. Though it tends to be a bit of an underdog, this beautiful red-stemmed shrub has a boatload of functionality. As a Soil and Water Conservation District, we advocate for this species often, as it is at the top of its class at stabilizing soil and preventing erosion. This is especially true along streambanks.

    Red Osier Dogwood is one tough cookie. This species can take a beating and keep on going. Once established, it can be inundated along a stream edge and live to tell its story. It can be pruned hard for live fascines (more on that later!) and easily make a comeback the following spring.  Talk about resiliency!

    Additionally, due to the striking red color of its stems, red osier dogwood is often used as an ornamental to beautify landscapes.

    Let’s take a closer look at this shrubby native that has found the sweet spot between durability and charm.

    Planting Requirements

    The red osier dogwood doesn’t mind getting its feet wet…in fact it prefers it! They grow best in soils that are saturated for at least a portion of the growing season. Therefore, they are often seen growing on the edges of lakes, ponds, within wetlands, and on streambanks. Red osier dogwoods are perfect for sites that are nitrogen-rich and shallowly inundated in the spring, only to dry out by late summer.

    Mature Size

    On average, the red osier dogwood grows to a height and width of approximately 10’. It has a fast growth rate, gaining more than 2’ a year in height.

    Red osier dogwood benefits from a type of pruning called coppicing. This management method involves cutting all stems to approximately 2-3 inches from the base in late fall, after the shrub has shed its leaves. Following pruning, apply mulch and fertilizer around the base. Coppicing will stimulate the shrub to send up new stems, often with especially vivid burgundy color.

    Wildlife Benefits

    The fleshy white berries that ripen in late summer are favored by many bird species, including eastern bluebirds, cardinals, woodpeckers, and grosbeaks. Gamebirds such as bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasants, and wild turkeys also benefit from red osier dogwood fruit.

    The fruit and foliage are enjoyed by mammals too, including black bear, beaver, squirrels, and deer.

    Phenology

    Red osier dogwood typically begins leafing out in April. The bark, twigs, and leaves of the new growth are bright green in color.

    White to cream-colored flower clusters appear from June to August, eventually developing to smooth, white berries that ripen in late summer.

    Beginning in September, leaves turn from green to shades of red and purple and are eventually shed for the winter.

    Bare, deep burgundy branches provide an interesting contrast with white snow and the drab browns of the off-season.

    Flowering red osier dogwood
    Flowers develop into white berries
    Fruit persists into the fall
    Naked red osier dogwood stems
    Red osier dogwood buds

    Functionality

    Because of its dense growth nature, red osier dogwood can be used as a secondary plant in windbreaks. It is also an ideal species to use for streambank stabilization as live fascines.

    Live fascines are long bundles of live woody vegetation (6-8 inches in diameter) buried in a streambank in shallow trenches placed parallel to the flow of the stream. These branches are harvested from adult red osier dogwoods – a great use of stems leftover from a fall coppicing session!

    The plant bundles sprout in the spring and develop a root mass that will hold the soil in place and protect the streambank from erosion. This method is often coupled with a row of stone placed at the toe (bottom of the slope that supports the weight of the bank) of an eroding bank.

    Below are photos from a streambank stabilization project that Fairfield SWCD designed for Lancaster City School District to address streambank erosion issues along Fetters Run.

    Dogwood branches were harvested from dormant mature shrubs
    Branches were tied into bundles
    Red osier dogwood bundles being staged for installation
    Red osier dogwood bundles were laid into shallow trenches and buried
    Live fascines are now fully-grown shrubs

    Visit Fairfield SWCD to order your Red Osier Dogwood tree seedlings today! Seedlings can be purchased in sets of 5, 25, or 100 while supplies last. It is also offered individually as a 3′-4′ sapling.

    Purchased trees from us in the past? If so, enter our Facebook “Show us your Trees” contest! Visit our Facebook Page for details.

    Additional information can be found below:

    Bare-root Tree Planting Guide

    National Tree Benefits Calculator

    South Central Power: Plant the Right Tree in the Right Place

    Fairfield SWCD Tree Planting Guide

  2. Fairfield SWCD Tree Sale Begins February 1, 2021: Tree Highlights

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    By Carrie Brown, Engineering Technician

    Our 2021 Seedling Tree Sale has finally arrived! Additional information on this year’s selection and details on ordering can be found on our website.

    Join us weekly as we highlight this year’s available tree species.

    Can you fill in the missing words below?

    Chocolate __________

    Brutus ____________

    Ohio State __________

    (Hint: It’s the SAME WORD each time!)

    The word in question is, of course, Buckeye! And that brings us to our first tree species highlight:

    The Ohio Buckeye

    Image by James St. John, Aesculus glabra, CC by-SA 2.0

    Just as handsome as Brutus, (though not nearly as delicious as chocolate – in fact, all parts of the plant are toxic!) the Ohio Buckeye is our official state tree and often chosen due to its iconic nature. Let’s take a closer look at a few characteristics that make this tree a fan favorite.

    Planting Requirements

    In the wild, Ohio Buckeyes typically occur in moist – but not perpetually wet – bottomlands, often along streams and floodplains. They perform best in moist locations with deep, well-drained soil but are quite adaptable. The Ohio Buckeye is an understory tree in its native habitat, so it can withstand, and even prefers, partial shade.

    Mature Size

    A medium-sized tree, growing 30-60 feet in height and 25-30 feet in width when grown in the open. Develops a strong taproot.

    Wildlife Benefits

    As mentioned above, all parts of the Ohio Buckeye are toxic for humans, dogs, and livestock. That being said, the Ohio Buckeye does have a few evolutionary partners that are able to partake in its seeds, including deer and squirrels.  The flowers attract a variety of native pollinators such as bumblebees, long-tonged bees, and ruby-throated hummingbirds.

    Phenology

    The Ohio Buckeye is a true spring ephemeral, beginning to leaf out in the early spring, as soon as April depending on location and weather. Spikes of showy, yellow-green flowers soon follow.  Its newly emerged leaves have a beautiful, bronze color and eventually develop into the classic, palmately compound leaf (5 narrow leaflets) we are so used to seeing on our OSU garb. Unfortunately, this beautiful foliage is shed earlier than other tree species, typically in the late summer. It is at this time of year that the ripened Ohio  Buckeye fruit is often noticed hanging on tree limbs, consisting of slightly spiny, golden-brown husks enclosing 1 or more dark brown seeds that are commonly referred to as Buckeyes.

    Challenges

    Ohio Buckeyes are susceptible to a variety of leaf diseases, including leaf blotch, leaf scorch, and powdery mildew. While these ailments don’t kill the tree, they can cause it to lose its leaves, sometimes as early as late summer. Because of this, it is often recommended not to make the Ohio Buckeye the focal point of your yard. Rather, it may do better along a woods edge or your side yard.

    Newly emerged Ohio Buckeye leaves in the spring
    Image by H. Zell, Ohio Buckeye seeds, CC by-SA 3.0
    Ohio Buckeye bud and leaf scar
    Image by BONAP, Ohio Buckeye Range Map

    Visit our website to order your Ohio Buckeye tree seedlings today! Seedlings can be purchased in sets of 5, 25, or 100 while supplies last. Order deadline is March 15, 2021.

    Purchased trees from us in the past? If so, enter our Facebook “Show us your Trees” contest! Visit our Facebook Page for details.

    Additional information can be found below:

    ODNR’s Trees of Ohio Field Guide

    National Tree Benefits Calculator

    South Central Power: Plant the Right Tree in the Right Place

    Fairfield SWCD Tree Planting Guide

  3. The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Water Drainage

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    We often receive calls regarding the best practices of water drainage. (“Water” is in our name, after all!)

    Below are water drainage “rules of thumb” that we at Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District often recommend to folks.  Some information is found in more detail in the resource sections of our website at www.fairfieldswcd.org.

    Streambanks and Ditches

    DO:

    Seek advice prior to placing hard materials (stone, etc.) in streams and determine if permits are required for your planned work.
    Maintain vegetation; turf-type fescue is recommended.
    Use a rigid material such as PVC for tile outlets. Single-wall tile can droop, catching passing debris and ultimately causing stream bank erosion.
    Locate rock pads below tile outlets to prevent bank erosion from falling water.
    Remove fallen trees quickly to avoid back-ups and logjams. Logjams cause erosion when water makes its way around them, cutting into streambanks.
    Add rock in the toe of the streambank to secure it, as this is where water velocities erode the soil causing collapse of the area above it.
    Learn more about preventing erosion and stabilizing your streambank in our Stream Management Guide.

    DON’T:

    Don’t dump concrete over the bank. Concrete floats and can cause issues downstream.
    Don’t spray herbicides creating bare soil. This will cause erosion issues quickly.

    Water Patterns and Waterways

    DO:

    Maintain vegetative cover where possible; turf-type fescue is recommended.
    Repair any tile blowholes as soon as possible to prevent additional erosion. To learn more about tile, refer to our article, What is Field Tile?
    Seed and mulch any bare areas that develop.

    DON’T:

    Don’t pollute! Do not throw grass clippings or yard waste into any water course or pattern. Keep any compost/manure away that could leach into water. Learn more about keeping yard waste out of drainage patterns in Engulfed in Leaves? 3 Options for Dealing with your Trees’ Autumn Offerings!
    Don’t build structures (house, barn, shed, etc.) in or too close to a water pattern.
    Don’t drive across a waterway when it is too wet; ruts could prevent proper flow.

    Watch a grassed waterway in action! The timber drop structure at the bottom of the waterway helps to control flow and prevent erosion.

    Residential Drainage

    DO:

    Work with your neighbors. In most cases, drainage issues are a civil matter that must be resolved in court. Read more about Ohio Drainage Laws.
    If possible, talk to previous landowners about the location of drainage tiles, including those that connect to gutters/downspouts, sump pumps, leach fields, perimeter/foundation drains, etc.
    Add animal guards to tile outlets. Small critters can crawl into tiles and cause a blockage.
    Checking historical aerial imagery may assist in identifying existing tiles. Download Google Earth
    Pro
    (free version) and enter the address or intersection in the search window at the top left. Clicking on the clock icon in the toolbar at the top will allow you to scroll through several years of
    aerials through the timeline (usually 1994-2017, depending on location) . Contact our office for older aerials, dating back to 1938.

    DON’T:

    Don’t plant trees near tile, unless the tile is non-perforated. Tree roots searching for water will quickly plug tile.
    Don’t plant trees under power lines.

    Aerials can be very revealing! The aerial on the left clearly shows systematic tile in a field. The aerial on the right was taken a few years later after the western portion of the property had been sold as a house lot.

    As you can see, tile lines were cut when the house was built. Unfortunately, the tiles weren’t appropriately rerouted during construction. This resulted in a very wet basement (see below) and had to be addressed.

  4. Engulfed in Leaves? 3 Options for Dealing with your Trees’ Autumn Offerings

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    by Carrie Brown, Engineering Technician

    This week we wrap up our series on leaves by examining the methods and benefits of utilizing the fallen ones!

    I don’t know about you, but one of the keystone autumn memories I cherish from my childhood is raking leaves into an enormous pile…only to wreck my efforts by diving into them.

    Of course, this would happen repeatedly until my father would declare the scattered mess off limits and hurry me inside to clean up.

    As I got older, the task of raking lost its allure and became more of a chore, so as an adult, I’ve become a bit savvier when dealing with autumn’s leafy offerings.

    Engulfed in leaves? Here are some options!

    1. Leave the Leaves!

    Option one, and likely the easiest route, is to simply leave the leaves where they fall!

    If your yard is scattered with black cherry, locust, or other broadleaf species that have mostly smaller leaves, there may not be much action to take after they fall.

    In the case of maple, oak, and other trees with larger foliage, however, a bit of mulching may be in order.

    Use a lawnmower to shred the leaves into dime-sized pieces.

    There are several benefits to gracing your grass with this mulchy mixture:

    Provide habitat for wildlife such as frogs, turtles, bats & salamanders. Additionally, many moths and butterfly caterpillars overwinter in fallen leaves before emerging in spring.
    Increase your soil fertility and offer your lawn a nutrient boost! As leaves decompose, nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, and potassium are added to the soil.
    Supply food for critters like earthworms, millipedes, and other essential decomposers.
    Suppress weeds in your lawn. Decomposing leaves cover the soil in between individual grass plants where weeds are most likely to germinate.
    Save your back! Mulching is far faster and much easier on the body than raking leaves.

    2. Compost to Feed Future Plants

    If your yard is rather arborous and fallen leaves are too thick to mulch with a lawn mower, it may be necessary to turn to plan B: Collect and compost leaves in a designated location.

    Composting is a process in which microbes break down organic materials into a nutrient dense, soil-like material.

    When done correctly, leaves and other fall garden debris can be composted and ready to use by late spring.

    This is a great option for gardeners with the desire to build their own rich planting medium.

    In the case of leaf piles, size and location matters!

    A pile that is 3’ x 3’ x 3’ is manageable and large enough to maintain the heat needed for the composting process. Make as many piles as necessary, choosing a shaded site with good air flow.

    “Feed” your compost pile throughout the fall season by adding freshly fallen leaves to a pile of older leaves.

    You can also supplement by adding other natural materials you may have laying around such as grass clippings, garden debris, and kitchen scraps. (It’s important to note there are a number of materials that shouldn’t be added to backyard compost piles, such as animal products, that will attract pests and take too long to compost.)

    Maintain your compost by keeping it moist and oxygenated.

    Water is needed for the composting process, so it may be necessary to add water to your pile. Additionally, compost requires aeration. This can be accomplished by occasionally turning the pile with a spading fork or other garden tool.

    Additional information on backyard composting can be found in OSU Extension’s Composting Series.

    3. Utilize a Leaf Pickup Service

    If you don’t have the space to compost your leaves and live in an area that offers leaf pickup, this service may be a good option. There are some important tips to remember when readying your leaves for collection however.

    Keep yard waste, including leaves, grass clippings and garden debris, out of drainage ditches and storm drains.

    If you caught our earlier article on stormwater, Only Rain Down the Drain, you likely remember that everything that enters a storm drain is ultimately outletted, untreated, into a local water body.  Leaves, in particular, can be very problematic for storm sewer systems so never leave them in the path of stormwater. Even if leaves are left behind, water filtering through can become rich in nutrients. When this “leafy brew” makes its way into rivers and streams it can cause an overgrowth of algae and wreak havoc on water quality.

    These same rules should also be followed in rural ditches and waterways.

    Avoid piling leaves, grass clippings, etc. in drainage ditches and grassed waterways. Doing so blocks the natural path of water and can result in flooding and erosion.  

    When bagging leaves and yard waste, use biodegradable paper bags.

    Paper is a better option, as plastic trash bags can take many years to break down. Better yet, designate a trash can for yard waste and mark it appropriately.

    Specific leaf pickup guidelines for Fairfield County communities can be found below:

  5. Only Rain Down the Drain

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    by Carrie Brown, Engineering Technician

    What is Storm Water and Where Does it Go?

    What comes to mind when you hear the word “storm water”? Perhaps you think of torrential rainfall deluging yards & overwhelming gutters in the springtime. Or maybe you imagine water screaming through large parking lots, making it impossible to avoid puddles as you tiptoe towards the store entrance. And it could be that you visualize the storm drains that line the curb outside of your home (that are often labeled “storm water”)!  

    These are all accurate representations of storm water – but we find there are many misconceptions as of where this water goes.


    Where does this water and the debris it carries end up?


    “Too much yard waste, son? Just stuff it down the storm drain! No one will ever know.”
    “Industries are the greatest cause of water pollution! Our actions don’t matter!”
    “Calm down, Clark! It will end up in a sewage treatment plant!”

    The truth is, anything that enters a storm drain is eventually discharged UNTREATED into a local water body!


    Polluted stormwater runoff is a threat to clean water.

    If you’re a resident of Lancaster, your storm water eventually spills into the Hocking River and travels southeast until it reaches the Ohio River.

    If you’re from Pickerington or Lithopolis, the storm water surrounding you outlets into George, Walnut, Blacklick, or Sycamore Creek.  It travels west and soon enters the Scioto River and makes its way down to the Ohio River.

    Those of you in the Buckeye Lake watershed, the water entering your storm drains travels north to the Licking River. This travels east to the Muskingum River and then south to the Ohio River.

    (If you wish to play the long game, the Ohio River later teams up with the Tennessee River to join the Mississippi and travels south to the Gulf of Mexico!)


    These are the very water bodies we use for swimming, recreation, and drinking water. When pollutants enter them, they can destroy aquatic habitats, reduce aesthetic value, and even threaten public health.


    Why is this all important? It’s proof that your actions matter. As storm water flows over parking lots, streets, and lawns it transports substances such as automotive waste, lawn chemicals, eroded soil, and just about any other small object in its way. And as we just discussed in our geography refresher, this water, and everything it is carrying, has a long path ahead of it!


    What Can You Do At Home?

    * Keep chemicals, yard waste, and other materials out of storm drains.

    * Check your car and lawn equipment for oil leaks and make repairs as soon as possible.

    * Avoid washing your car in your driveway, as this provides detergents a direct path to the storm drain. Instead, use a commercial car wash or wash your vehicle in a grassy area so the ground can filter the water.

    * Keep your soil and sediment from moving. Plant ground cover to protect and stabilize areas prone to erosion.

    * Choose native plants for your landscapes, as these species need fewer chemical inputs and require less water.

    * Cut down on your use of insecticides by providing habitat for pest-eating critters such as birds, bats, and beneficial insects.

    * Is it time to drain your swimming pool? Make sure you know whether its contents can be discharged into the the storm sewer.


    More Information on preventing storm water pollution can be found by visiting the following links:

    Fairfield SWCD Storm Water Pollution Reduction

    Pickerington Storm Water Management

    Lancaster Storm Water Management

    Ohio EPA Storm Water Program

    U.S. EPA Household Waste

    Ohio EPA Office of Pollution Prevention

    U.S. EPA Nonpoint Source Information