Frost: Our diverse marsh, six months later

Students mix composted leaf mulch with excavated clay soil.

Students mix composted leaf mulch with excavated clay soil.

A student begins the Carex grayi planting.

A student begins the Carex grayi planting.

Carex grayi has an ornamental seed head.  It thrives in both sun and shade, in rain gardens and around storm drains.

Carex grayi has an ornamental seed head. It thrives in both sun and shade, in rain gardens and around storm drains.

A team of girls join in and the Carex planting is almost done.

A team of girls join in and the Carex planting is almost done.

Here's the first summer's growth of Hibiscus.  It really loves the rich, moist soil surrounding the drain.

Here’s the first summer’s growth of Hibiscus. It really loves the rich, moist soil surrounding the drain.

The native switch grass, Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah' has tripled in size since its April planting.  A great plant for stormwater management.

The native switch grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ has tripled in size since its April planting. A great plant for stormwater management.

By the end of the summer, the plants have matured enough to begin their hard work of filtering and holding back stormwater.

By the end of the summer, the plants have matured enough to begin their hard work of filtering and holding back stormwater.

 

Ready for a review?

Step 1:  Find a drain.

Step 2:  Remove turf grass adjacent to the drain to the size you want your garden to be.

Step 3:  Excavate existing soil any where from 6 – 12″ (depending on your energy level – deep is good!)

Step 4:  Mix excavated soil with composted leaf mulch; about 50-50.

Step 5:  Fill in the excavated area with the amended soil.

Step 6:  Plant tough, native plants that can tolerate both wet and dry conditions.

Step 7:  Topdress with leaf mulch.

 

Here’s what we put in our garden – so far!!!

Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed

Carex grayi, Gray’s sedge

Hibiscus moscheutos, Hibiscus

Ilex verticillata, winterberry holly

Iris versicolor, blueflag iris

Lobelia cardinalis, cardinal flower

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, switch grass

Chesapeake Bay Trust Logo

frost50-logo

 

 

 

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Accenture Workday at Kutner Park and Lanier MS

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Accenture joined us again this year for a volunteer workday on their annual Give-Back day! In partnership with the City of Fairfax Department of Parks and Recreation, we began the day working at Kutner Park in Fairfax, off of Jermantown Road near Route 50. Our crew of volunteers pulled vines where there was a dense invasion of English Ivy. They then planted some native vegetation to help enhance degraded areas of the park and prevent invasive species from regaining their footing.

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The Accenture volunteers then pickaxed their way through some tough compacted clay soil to prepare the area for Lanier Middle School students to plant.

Accenture Planting with EcoClub Students

The Accenture team then planted the bioretention cell with members of the Lanier EcoClub. Many of these students helped to envision the initial design for the rain garden while on their Stormwater Campus Tour with Lands and Waters. Sweetbay Magnolia and Lowbush Blueberry were two of the native plants selected for this area because of their high wildlife value.

Many thanks to the Accenture team, and James for pulling it all together!

Carlin Springs ES: Bog Expansion and Composting

November 9th, 2012

The bog is happy and healthy — and providing an oasis for the turtles! Students dig up more turf grass so that we can expand the area of our created wetland.

Carlin grub! Learning respect for all living organisms and debunking the myths that cause all those squeamish squeals associated with crawly critters — is at the heart of what we do!

Students planting woodland sedge around the hibernaculum

Learning about the magnificent marvels of the decomposing world through a primer on vermicomposting! Students harvest red wiggler worms from an older composting bin and create a new, roomier home for them. The richly fertile worm castings will provide new life and nutrients for our gardens.

Carlin Springs ES: Creating a Turtle Hibernaculum (Part 2)

November 2, 2012

Students amend the existing soil with rich, composted leaf mulch.

Students haul amended soil over to the hibernaculum area.

Rich soil is piled over hollowed logs so that there are numerous cavities for the turtles to easily dig themselves safely into the earth for the coming winter.

Ready for burrowing!

While we’re at it — a brush pile to provide shelter for birds and habitat for invertebrates.

Teamwork! An old log becomes a makeshift turtle ladder.

Swamp milkweed in the bog goes to seed.

Wind dispersal — students help to spread milkweed seeds.

Carlin Springs ES: Creating a Turtle Hibernaculum (Part 1)

October 26th, 2012

How the turtle project began…

Lands and Waters began working with Carlin Springs Elementary School last spring when we were asked to host an after-school program. Upon beginning our work to create a bog wetland habitat, we discovered…


Numerous Eastern Box Turtles were inhabiting the courtyard that was to be the site of our bog creation project. We had heard legends of the duckling eating bullfrogs, but these little scaly gems had crawled under our radar. We wondered how they were surviving in habitat that supplied so few food resources for them. Thus, we had a shift in focus to accommodate this unique teaching opportunity and to provide a better habitat for these magnificent little creatures.

Eastern box turtle populations are severely threatened, mostly due to habitat destruction and roadway casualties. We encourage citizens to create turtle-friendly habitat in their backyards and to rescue turtles when you see them trying to cross the road. They get their name because they are the only turtle that can completely “box” themselves in when threatened by predators. Thus, this defense mechanism may be great against foxes and raccoons, it is no match for those lumbering piles of steel and rubber that take us to the grocery store. So when you see a turtle crossing the road, be a good samaritan and kindly give her or him a lift safely to the other side — just make sure it is in the direction they were already heading!

Back to Carlin Springs — the turtles were not at all shy about accepting our offerings of fruits and vegetables.

We began enhancing the courtyard and creating a better habitat for eastern box turtles. We brought in some rich compost and leaf litter to amend the soil. Also large logs rescued from a fallen snag to decompose and provide habitat for insects, fungus, and other yummy turtle snacks.

Creating a Turtle Hibernaculum

A few large hollowed out logs are brought into the courtyard to provide a protective sanctuary for the turtles during the coming chilly winter months.

Members of the Carlin Springs Nature Club work in their courtyard to prepare the turtle hibernaculum. By combining leaf compost and shredded leaf litter students create rich soil that will retain moisture, conditions that are preferred by eastern box turtles. The mixture is then stuffed into the decomposing logs, which will also provide habitat for insects.

Although it is about the time for eastern box turtles in our area to begin nestling down for the winter, we still find a few of them wandering around the courtyard bog and chomping on selections from the platters of shredded vegetables and fruits we offer them. We often call it hibernation, that’s technically a process for mammal. Turtles and other reptiles “brumate,” when due to cold temperatures, the body metabolism slows down to use less energy — they are still awake during this time but become very sluggish.

However, an understandably grumpy turtle was very unhappy that we woke him! We made sure to tuck him into some rich soil and cover him with leaf litter so that he could quickly burrow himself back into the earth.

[   Go to Carlin Springs ES: Creating a Turtle Hibernaculum (Part 2)   ]

Lanier MS: Eco-Club Begins!

Three years ago, Lands and Waters partnered with Lanier Middle School to create a living classroom in their turf-dominated courtyard. The objective was to create a forested area to provide habitat for organisms that would use the vernal pool ecosystem, such as amphibians and invertebrates. We wanted to create examples of ecosystems — a bog, plantings representative of upland woodland forest, a riparian area, a meadow, a vernal pool, a pollinator garden and finally a vegetable garden was added last spring by the hardworking members of the Eco-club.

The courtyard is opened to all disciplines but the Eco-club is at the heart of the maintaining and enhancing courtyard. Lanier’s Eco-club meets twice a week this year — primary activities evolve around the courtyard and the school’s recycling program.

This year projects:

  • Creating a circulating stream powered by solar energy and designed by Dr. Desouza’s students (Techonolgy and Engineering teacher)
  • Fall plantings in the vegetable garden culminating in a salad day and “Real Cost of Food” educational program about the environmental, ethical and health impacts of the global food system
  • Installing a small-scale indoor composting system so students can observe decomposition
  • Creation of a field guide to catalogue and monitor the species found at Lanier as our greening projects mature and provide better habitat to local flora and fauna
  • Monitoring vernal pool organisms
  • Raising fairy shrimp in the classroom

Eco-club students investigate the vernal pool habitat in their courtyard.

Water samples collected from the vernal pool to test for water quality parameters and macroinvertebrates.

Eco-club students use microscopes to look for macroinvertebrates and other microscopic life forms.

Teamwork! Students working together to load and haul fresh gravel for the dry-bed stream.

Students help to put in a low area that runs through the courtyard to conduct water to two internal drains.

Ms. Alam, science teacher and Eco-club leader, picks the last of the summer tomatoes before they are killed by frost.

September plantings of radish come to harvest.