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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Luther Jackson: From rainy work days to full blooms

Students from Luther Jackson get wet and muddy as they plant a Magnolia virginiana.

Last school year, Lands and Waters began a very exciting partnership with Luther Jackson Middle School.  The program included watershed education, coupled with the design and planting of a native pollinator garden in the very front of the school.  Our first work day was a blast!  The rain just added to the fun.                                                                                              

 PLT logo

 Many thanks to Project Learning Tree for funding this great project!

Luther Jackson students worked hard mixing soil.

Luther Jackson students working hard mixing soil.

Rudbeckia blooms dominate the landscape. They’ve been in bloom all summer and are still going strong.

Luther Jackson students have already begun to place plant identification signs in the landscape.

Students have already begun to place plant identification signs in the garden.

 

 

 

 

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!

YSOP Workday at Burrville ES

October 27th, 2012

In partnership with Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region, we worked on a reforestation project at Burrville Elementary School. In a planting bed adjacent to the front entrance of the school we created a small representation of a forested area. Volunteers from Youth Services Opportunities Project (YSOP) helped us to clear the area of invasive plants and prepare the site for the installation of native plants. Tackling those invasive plants is always a labor-intensive job — thank you YSOP volunteers!

Removing large invasive plants

Loading composted leaf mulch in to amend the soil for planting

Anacostia Watershed Walk (Day 2)

October 25th, 2012

The second day of our “Follow the Water” program at Kimball Elementary School, funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This time Ms. Williams’ 5th grade class learned about their local watershed as they followed a stream to the Anacostia River.

And a hearty thank you to our volunteer leaders — Michelle, Bill, Kelly, Vessie and Nick!

Also, many thanks to the local Yes! Organic Market for donating lunches for our volunteer leaders!

Anacostia Watershed Walk (Day 1)

October 23rd, 2012

The first day of our newly developed “Follow the Water” program, where students of Ephraim Kimball Elementary School learn about the ecological health and conservation issues associated with their local watershed as they follow a nearby stream to the Anacostia River. This educational program was funded by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. On day one, Ms. Brummell’s 5th grade class was the first to make the journey.

Students listen to Sean as he gives a short presentation summarizing watershed basics and the watershed address of Kimball students.

Identifying beautiful — yet problematic — non-native, invasive plants. A student holds a specimen of porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), originally from Asia. This aggressive plant climbs over vegetation, strangling out native plants and monopolizing habitat.

Where does city rain go? Storm drains line the streets along our walk, the litter, road pollution and illegal dumping that flows into them leads straight to the Anacostia River. Students ask why they are not covered to prevent trash from going in, but the unfortunate choice is pollution in the river or flooding.

Exploring a rain garden

Joyous faces as onlookers watch their fellow students burn some energy and run down a hill slope.

An unloved stream

Yes! Organic Market generously donated lunches for our volunteer leaders. Thank you, Yes!

Thank you! And a hearty thanks to our volunteer leaders — Michelle, Cindy, Vessie, and Jose! We could not have done it without you.

Creating a Bog at Daniels Run ES

On October 5th, 2012

Our bog creation project at Daniels Run Elementary School was funded by a watershed grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The site was a problem area adjacent to a playground with a compacted clay foundation. After a rain event, water collected here and stood for numerous days. Lands and Waters and Daniels Run decided this was an excellent opportunity to create a bog-type wetland using stormwater runoff, turning a problematic area into an ecosystem that students can study.

Our first step was to create a berm that would deflect the water from the foundation of the nearby trailer.

Building blocks: our hardworking team member Phillip uses precast concrete blocks and re-purposes them to create a wall.

Phillip them creates a gentle slop away from the wall with the existing clay that was in the area.

DR Bog

The students of Daniels Run, eager to lend a hand, skirted recess time to help us compact the clay slope.

Students help us move soil

Here we see the bog at work after a rain event! The berm is effectively draining water more quickly than before. Phase one is completed.

Next, we must evcavate out in a basin shaped pool, place in exploratory structures to encourage student engagement (while protecting protecting flora and fauna), amend excavated clay by mixing it with composted leaf mulch, and create a ponding area of no more than 4 inches. Finally, we will plant with native riparian herbaceous plants — our favorites are swamp milkweed, cardinal flower, turtlehead, joe pyeweed, and great blue lobelia. Whew, there is still much to do! But we’re off to a wonderful start.

Creating a Vernal Pool at Daniels Run ES: Breaking Ground (Part 1)

For a project funded by a generous National Fish and Wildlife grant, we begin breaking ground on a series of stormwater projects at Daniels Run Elementary in Fairfax, Virginia.

Day 1: September 29th, 2012

Breaking ground on a vernal pool construction project!

Something tells me this isn’t the first time we’ve lost Kris down a hole…

Kris pulled out a few volunteers that eagerly inhabited the hole that was used to check the soil profile and test percolation. I guess they are impatiently awaiting their new home! We relocated a few pickerel frogs (Lithobates palustris) to a nearby constructed wetland that was part of an earlier schoolyard greening project.

Relocating natives — we work to find new homes for the goldenrod and chestnut oaks that were at the site of our vernal pool creation project.

All in a days work! Digging out a vernal pool by hand (aka people-power) requires a lot of physical labor.

Day 2: September 30th, 2012

[  Creating a Vernal Pool at Daniels Run ES (Part 2)  ]

Vegetable Garden Fall Planting and Biodiversity Tour at Kimball ES

Fall Vegetable Garden Planting

This semester, Kimball’s second grade students are focusing on plants. Joined by volunteers from the Washington Center, the Lands and Waters team helped engage students and reinforce their classroom lessons by leading a fall planting in their schoolyard vegetable garden.

The soil has been weeded and rich leaf compost has been turned in, now the students line-up and prepare to plant! Close observation of lettuce seeds reveal creative descriptors from the students — “raindrops” and “bugs” fill tiny palms.

Finally, each student gets a turn to gently scratch their seeds into the soil.

Kimball ES Community Forest: Schoolyard Biodiversity Explorations

While exploring the Kimball Community Forest, students roll over logs to reveal the abundance of life beneath them. Surveying their schoolyard biodiversity as discovery-based learning helps to teach students to explore and analyze the world around them.

Through the trees — there are many taboos associated with the woods. Learning to love the “wild” is sometimes a re-learning process, especially for children more familiar with an urban jungle.

Volunteers from the Washington Center

Garden Surprises and Teachable Moments

While preparing the garden beds for planting, we find a monarch caterpillar voraciously munching on honeyvine leaves (Ampelamus albidus). Closer inspection revealed numerous caterpillars stealthy camouflaged among the vines.

We gathered them up, planning to rear them back at the office. Only 1% of the monarch eggs laid make it to become butterflies, so they need all the help they can get! A cozy home in captivity, lazily munching on milkweed leaves, greatly reduces the threats of parasitism and predators.

Our caterpillars will transform into one of these magnificent butterflies! Then they will make their long, obstacle-filled migration to Mexico, on those fierce yet fragile wings.

[Update — All eight of our caterpillars successfully emerged from their chrysalis! They were then released to begin their long journey south. Sadly, one monarch’s wings did not develop properly and she was not releasable. As luck would have it, she’ll live out her days in Christine’s apartment, slurping down boxes of apple juice.]

Monarch caterpillars are collected and kept in a box for temporary safe-keeping. They provide a delightful “teachable moment” in which students learn about life cycles and migrations. One of those wonderfully impromptu lessons we embrace as environmental educators.