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You and Your Land: A Guide for the Potomac Watershed

The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District has published an online book for those of us who live within the Virginia portion of the Potomac River watershed. The discussion on soils and plants and the references cited are all specifically related to this geographic area. This publication offers practical information to aid homeowners in the economical care and maintenance of their property. It provides a simple step-by-step approach to solving common problems found in most yards, gardens or common areas. Topics include:

  • Climate and local conditions: Find out how our home landscapes are directly influenced by local climate and geology.
  • Soils and drainage: Many landscape problems are soil or drainage-related. Learn about common problems related to runoff, wet areas and erosion.
  • Landscaping and gardening: Learn how to choose and install plants, prune, compost and more!
  • Controlling pests: Environmentally sensitive management of landscape and garden pests.

And much more!  Find the book here.

Find new opportunities with Plant NOVA Natives

Label native plants in garden centers
Three nursery companies (Greenstreet Gardens, Meadows Farms Nurseries, and Merrifield Garden Center) have kindly agreed to allow volunteers to put Plant NOVA Natives stickers on their plant signs at a total of 12 garden centers. This will make it immensely easier for shoppers to recognize native plants. Plant NOVA Natives is looking for more volunteers to put on these stickers, so email plantnovanatives@gmail.com if you are interested in adopting a nursery. Experience is not needed, although the more familiar you are with Northern Virginia natives, the less time it will take you to do the job.

Sign up to be tapped as a volunteer
Whatever your experience or skills, the organization needs your help! If you tell them which county you live in and a bit about your background, then when opportunities arise, they will know whom to contact. You incur no obligation at all by signing up. Please fill out this form to get on their roster. They currently are seeking more help for their website from someone experienced in web design.

Volunteer for Earth Sangha Nursery workdays

Join Earth Sangha on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9.00 am to 2.00 pm for regular nursery workdays. Volunteers can help with the whole range of native plant propagation activities  from weeding, watering and transplanting.

Please wear shoes that can get muddy and bring your own water.

Please email Matt Bright if you’re interested in attending.

The nursery is in Springfield, Virginia, in Franconia Park, which lies just south of the Beltway, and just east of the Beltway’s intersection with Routes 95 and 395. Access is from Franconia Road (644). From Franconia, turn north on Thomas Drive, less than half a mile east of the 395/95 intersection. There is a traffic light at Thomas. From Thomas, turn right onto Meriwether Lane. Turn left onto Cloud Drive. Please park in the parking lot at the bottom of the entrance road, then walk down the dirt road along the community gardens. Our nursery lies beyond the community gardens.

Join or volunteer for the 2018 Sustainable Garden Tour, June 10

The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District’s 2018 Sustainable Garden Tour  features rain gardens, green roofs, native plant landscaping, rain barrels, backyard wildlife habitat, composting, and more. Local residents open their gardens and share their experiences landscaping with natural resources in mind. Visitors on the tour are allowed to visit each garden at their own pace, and may visit as many or as few as they like. There is no RSVP required, and the tour is free and open to all: Sunday, June 10,  1-5 pm at sites throughout the Fairfax-Falls Church-Annandale area,

NVSWCD needs volunteers to assist garden hosts. Volunteers will welcome and guide visitors and provide information. Each volunteer will be assigned to one of nine sites:

  1. Booker Residence, 3442 Surrey Lane, Falls Church VA
  2. Sawhney Residence, 4212 Saint Jerome Dr, Annandale, VA 22003
  3. King Residence, 4023 Roberts Road, Fairfax VA 22032
  4. Belvedere Elementary School, 6540 Columbia Pike, Falls Church VA 22041
  5. Chesterfield Mews Community Association, BEHIND 3170 Readsborough Ct, Fairfax VA 22031
  6. Daniels Run Peace Church, 3729 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22030
  7. Carosella Residence, 2903 Rosemary Lane, Falls Church, VA 22042
  8. Meara Residence, 7211  Arthur Drive, Falls Church, VA 22046
  9. Jones Residence, 3517 Queen Anne Dr, Fairfax, VA 22030

You can sign up to volunteer for the whole time (12:30 – 5 pm) or one of two shifts (12:30 – 3 or 2:30 – 5).

Please contact Ashley Palmer: Ashley.Palmer@fairfaxcounty.gov

Take advantage of native plant sale season!

Are you looking for plants that will beautify your yard while requiring a minimum of maintenance? The plants that evolved here are the ones for you! The more local the origin of a plant, the more likely it is to be adapted to our particular soils and climate. There could be a big difference between an Eastern Red Columbine that evolved in Virginia and one that evolved in Saskatchewan, even if they do look alike!

We are fortunate in Northern Virginia to have many sources of native plants. In addition to the native-only nurseries – some of which propagate plants themselves from local seed sources – there are numerous vendors who set up shop at special plant sales in the spring and fall.  Find a list  on the Plant NOVA Natives website. The homepage of the site has the free, downloadable Guide to Native Plants of Northern Virginia.   If you are looking for particular plants, you can contact vendors in advance and ask them to bring them for you. Traditional commercial nurseries are selling more and more native plants as well (but don’t expect to find natives at big box stores).

In addition, the Virginia Native Plant Society sells plants from its propagation beds at Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria VA the first Wednesday of the month from 10.00 am to 12.00 pm from April to October.  The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is also having its sale on May 19th.

Our local wildlife agree that native plants are the best. In fact, the ecosystem is entirely dependent on the plants that evolved with our bees, butterflies, birds, etc. Why not give them a home on your property?

Become part of the Habitat Network

Cornell Ornithology Lab and The Nature Conservancy have joined together to create Habitat Network, the first citizen science social network. Habitat Network is a citizen science project designed to cultivate a richer understanding of wildlife habitat, for  professional scientists and people concerned with their local environments.

The Network collects data by asking individuals across the country to, literally, draw maps of their backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools, and gardens. They connect you with your landscape details and provide tools for you to make better decisions about how to manage landscapes sustainably.

The kinds of questions they are seeking to answer with your help:

  • What practices improve the wildlife value of residential landscapes?
  • Which of these practices have the greatest impact?
  • Over how large an area do we have to implement these practices to really make a difference?
  • What impact do urban and suburban wildlife corridors and stopover habitats have on birds?
  • Which measures (bird counts? nesting success?) show the greatest impacts of our practices?

Service Project C253-Habitat Yard Mapping is approved for credit for FMN graduates. You can map your own yard, a local park, or other public or private property for which you have access permission. 

Learn more

Volunteer with the Virginia Native Plant Society Potowmack Chapter at Green Spring Gardens

Join the VNPS Propagation Crew on Wednesday mornings to learn how to divide, pot and grow from seed a wide variety of native forbs. 

The native plant beds are a demonstration garden and source of plants for our spring and fall plant sales. VNPS gathers every Wednesday morning from April through October to maintain the beds and pot plants for these sales. The beds are located at Green Spring Gardens behind the Horticulture Center.

You’ll enjoy light physical exertion, and have lots of fun getting your hands dirty and your spirit full. Tools and gloves provided.

Learn more

Help tend healing gardens at Crisis Care Center in Annandale, 14 April

The Crisis Care Center in Annandale is looking for volunteers to tend to its healing gardens (right next to the parking lot at Fairfax Hospital). You may remove debris (fallen branches, trash, leaves) and invasive plants, place mulch, add plant, harvest produce from a vegetable garden, and water. The Center will provide lunch.

No prior experience is necessary. Bring a hat, work gloves, sunscreen, bug spray, and water. Organizers suggest that you wear pants, long sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes. Bring garden clippers and a digger if you have them. Since the CCC is a community treatment facility, volunteers will need to complete required paperwork when they arrive on-site. This will include an application gathering some basic information, criminal/cps history disclosure form (self report), role description, and confidentiality statement, as well as handouts to read. Volunteers can register on site when they arrive

Crisis Care Center

3300 Woodburn Rd

Annandale, VA, 22003

Saturday 14 April 2018

9 am-1 pm

For Fairfax Master Naturalists, this work counts toward Service Project S257

The healing gardens are a joint venture between Green Springs Gardens Master Gardeners and the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. The gardens serve the residents of the CCC as a place to practice mindfulness and to find peace. Learn more

Turn Hard Virginia Clay into Healthy Soil

Building Soil Health, DIY Sustainable Yard Series

Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia

Wednesday, 7 March, 7.00-8.30 pm

Bentley Library, 5005 Duke Street, Alexandria VA 22304 OR

Tuesday, 13 March, 7.00-8.30 pm

Westover Branch Library, 1644 N. McKinley Road, Arlington VA 22205

Healthier soil means healthier and happier plants, and in this class you will learn how to create healthy soil, even if you have hard, Virginia clay!  You will learn how to create and use compost, and discuss landscape and planting techniques for preventing erosion and compaction.  Free.  Advance registration requested at mgnv.org.  Questions, telephone 703-228-6414 or email mgarlalex@gmail.com.

Review of The Humane Gardener, by Nancy Lawson

Reviewed by Ann Di Fiore

As a Fairfax Master Naturalist and Audubon at Home Ambassador, I am always on the lookout for books on native plant and wildlife gardening. The Humane Gardener (2017, 224 pp) offers insights on both topics, but what sets Lawson’s book apart from others is her emphasis on creating habitats that nurture all forms of wildlife. Interspersed with chapters on native plantings, creating habitat, and the benefits of decaying plant material are profiles of humane gardeners whose properties range from modest backyards to commercial farms.

Many of the principles Lawson lays out are well known to master naturalists: “Plant for all seasons and sizes” to address “diverse diners”; use “green mulch”—native grasses and groundcovers—rather than bark in between shrubs and trees to improve soil; choose straight species over cultivars; and don’t “love” –overwater and over fertilize—native plants.

Lawson urges us to be attentive to gardening activities that have tragic consequences for wildlife.  In a section entitled “Don’t Mow the Teenagers,”she warns us that mowing, pruning, and raking can cut short the life cycles of ground insects and other animals. Fritillary larvae, for example, crawl onto violet plants in early spring and, as Doug Tallamy puts it, “we murder them with our lawn mowers.”  Baby rabbits in hidden nests and other young animals are vulnerable as well.

When removing invasive plants from our properties, Lawson asks us to “triage” their removal to minimize adverse effects on wildlife that make use of these plants. Early blooming invasives may be the only available nectar sources to bees, fruiting shrubs like Amur honeysuckles may fill a significant part of a bird’s diet.

In The Humane Gardener, Lawson addresses an uncomfortable truth:  the wild creatures most gardeners want to support are songbirds and pollinators. Many other forms of wildlife we consider interlopers—enemies. She enumerates the cruelties inflicted by pest removal services, glue traps, even “humane” deterrents (predator urine, for instance, is captured from caged coyotes and other animals on fur farms). She advocates flexibility and a more generous perspective:  opossums and raccoons eat carrion, ticks, and slugs; rabbits devour dandelions; and moles and chipmunks till the soil, increasing its fertility.

In a world of shrinking natural spaces and biodiversity, Lawson asks us to reconsider our ideas of ownership and make room for all forms of wildlife.  Above all, she asks that we be conscious of the consequences of our routine gardening choices.  She promises that our gardens will be healthier—and more humane—as a result.

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