Rain Barrel Workshop, June 15th

Fairlington Community Center
3308 S. Stafford St., Arlington VA
Saturday, 15 June 2019
10am – 12pm

Rain barrels purchased from retail sources can be expensive. As part of a regional initiative, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District offers build-your-own rain barrel workshops and distributes low-cost rain barrels to Fairfax County citizens. You will learn how to install and maintain a rain barrel and take one home! By installing a rain barrel at your home you will provide your plants with water they will love, save money and water, and protect the Chesapeake Bay! The workshop is free to attend and learn more about rain barrels, and building a rain barrel for you to take home is $55. Learn more about the program and register to attend this workshop.

NVSWCD recognizes Plant NoVA Natives Campaign Partners as 2018 Cooperator of the Year

(Republished from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District site)

Established in 2011, the Plant NOVA Natives initiative has been key in increasing awareness of native plants across Northern Virginia and working across non-profit, government, and industry sectors to promote the use of natives in landscapes.  The work of the campaign partners greatly supports the initiatives of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD).  Information is sought between agencies to share common messages and lift each other’s programs.

For example, in spring 2018, the Plant NOVA Natives group purchased advertisements (pay for clicks) on social media platforms that promoted the use of native plants and linked to NVSWCD’s Seedling Sale webpage.  In total, the partners spent roughly $100 to promote the sale.  This drove many new customers to purchase seedlings, rain barrels, or composters during the sale, benefitting NVSWCD environmental education programs.

In addition, campaign partners post blog and Facebook items about the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program and the benefits the program provides for water quality through the addition of native plants as Conservation Landscapes.  Through their efforts, the Native Plants for Northern Virginia guidebook has become the definitive resource for highlighting the most common native plants in our region.  The campaign has renewed the interest in the utility of native plants throughout the landscaping community and many retail establishments have improved native plant visibility since the campaign began.  The campaign’s website is a clearinghouse and wealth of regionally-specific information, resources, and events.

There is no doubt that this campaign has contributed significantly to bringing groups together and elevating the shared interest in the use of native plants across many different landscapes.  The program is truly a partnership, by which the work of several agencies outweighs the work of one.  It is for these reasons and many more, that we recognize the Plant NOVA Natives Campaign partners as our 2018 Cooperator of the Year awardees.

The Cooperator of the Year award is named in honor of Diane Hoffman, an Associate Director with NVSWCD and the former NVSWCD District Administrator, for the legacy of cooperative spirit that she instilled throughout all District programs.

Visit for more information about partnership, find native plant sales, and to peruse the wonderful resources they provide.

NVSWD’s Sustainable Garden Tour, June 9

One of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District’s most exciting gardening events of the summer is coming up in just one month, on Sunday, June 9! The Sustainable Garden Tour allows folks from all around Fairfax County to show off their innovative and sustainable gardens to interested visitors.

This year’s Sustainable Garden Tour features nine sites throughout the Vienna/Oakton area. Each  of these gardens boasts an array of native plantings, provides habitat to key pollinators, works to mitigate drainage or erosion issues, and helps these homeowners and community members reduce their environmental footprint.

Please join the community on June 9, from 1-5 pm, as we tour these nine gorgeous gardens. Here is a general interest flier, a set of directions to, and a brief description of each site.

BTW The NVSWD team could use some help staffing the tour. Reach out to Benjamin Rhoades ( or Ashley Palmer ( if you can volunteer or have any questions.

Please share this information around your organization, office, or on your website.

If we work together, we can be a true force for nature

Cathy Ledec

If variety really is the spice of life, my work with Fairfax Master Naturalists is a tasty dish indeed. I engage with many projects throughout the year: as the president of the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park, the chair of the Fairfax County Tree Commission, as an Invasive Management Area site leader and Resource Management Volunteer for the Fairfax County Park Authority, Audubon-at-Home Ambassador, and as President of the Pavilions at Huntington Metro Community Association.

Mt. Vernon Government Center before our project

One of the most rewarding projects has been establishing a Natural Landscaping Demonstration project at the Mount Vernon Governmental Center, in Alexandria, Virginia. I attend meetings at this Fairfax County building frequently, and observed that the landscaping around the building had no variety, included mostly turf grass, and lacked blooming plants. The center needed some TLC! When I mentioned my observations and thoughts to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, he was enthusiastic. So I marshaled resources and my network and went to work.

Next steps towards implementation included preparing a planting plan, with drawings of the landscaping beds; and researching and preparing plant lists. I consulted with fellow Fairfax Master Naturalist (FMN) Betsy Martin, who is also an Audubon-at-Home Ambassador and very knowledgeable about native plants. Betsy provided great guidance on low-impact ways to establish the mulched planting beds. These methods included covering the large areas of turf grass with cardboard or newspaper and covering with 3-4 inches of mulch. 

Betsy Martin and George Ledec deep in the mulch

We established the first planting bed in November 2017, with one of Betsy’s friends donating of a huge load of mulch. Consulting with technical experts from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District and Earth Sangha was especially important to the research and writing that resulted in our receiving two grants from these organizations for this project. (The grant writing process was fast, only taking a few months).  

Someone said to me once, “If you don’t plan, plan to fail.” So plan I did! The first planting event was in early April 2018. At the same time that I was planning for the planting, I started pursuing the needed permissions from the Fairfax County Facilities Management Division (FMD). This process was more challenging than I expected, but I kept the end goal in mind and eventually signed off on the needed Memorandum of Understanding with FMD. I knew that once this was signed, it would pave the way for future projects of this type for my fellow FMNers.

The goals of this project were to restore and improve environmental conditions. Converting turf grass areas to mulched planting beds would result in:

  1. Improved stormwater management
  2. Reduced urban heat island effect
  3. Restoration of wildlife habitat
  4. Improved visual appearance of the building
  5. Trees planted to shade the building, reduce summer cooling costs, provide natural privacy screen for staff working inside, and improve the view to the outside for staff working inside

Anticipating questions from the visiting public, I also prepared outreach materials on the project that could be shared with interested visitors.   

Concurrently, I was also contacted during the planning phase by a scout leader looking for an outdoor project for his scouts—what great luck!—and an excellent project for this scout troop and their families. This serendipity brought in more than 90 volunteers to establish the planting beds and the spring planting. The scouts dug holes, planted trees, moved mulch, and completed their work in one weekend. Volunteers rock! Thanks to FMNer Patti Swain for her help guiding the scouts.  

FMNers Maryann Fox and Chris Straub

We did a second planting in the fall of 2018, with thanks to FMNers Christine Straub and Maryann Fox, who helped with weeding and the fall planting. Special thanks to Supervisor Storck and his wife Deb for their help with the planting. Supervisor Storck’s support for this project was key to our success. 

We planted over a dozen tree seedlings and more than 100 native plants. There will be continuing need for maintenance, so you’ve not heard the last on this project. You, too, can join with us on our next maintenance day (I’ll send out a note and put it on the calendar), and record service hours to Stewardship project S256.

Blooming New England Aster with bumble bee in Summer 2018

This past April, I was honored for my work improving our environment with the 2018 Fairfax County Citizen of the Year award, both a humbling and thrilling recognition.

It remains very rewarding to watch the landscape our little team built fill in, bloom, and attract the birds and the bees. Every time I go by, there is a new flower blooming, with bees in attendance.


Rain Barrel Workshops, 18 & 25 May

Walker Nature Center, 11450 Glade Dr., Reston VA
Saturday, 18 May 2019
10:30 am-12:30 pm

Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, 5040 Walney Rd.,
Saturday, 25 May 2019
10 am-12 pm

Rain barrels purchased from retail sources can be expensive. As part of a regional initiative, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District offers build-your-own rain barrel workshops and distributes low-cost rain barrels to Fairfax County citizens. You will learn how to install and maintain a rain barrel and take one home! By installing a rain barrel at your home you will provide your plants with water they will love, save money and water, and protect the Chesapeake Bay! The workshop fee is $55, which includes the rain barrel for you to take home. Learn more about the program and register to attend a workshop.

Green Breakfast, May 11th

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

Brion’s Grille
10621 Braddock Rd., Fairfax VA
Saturday, 11 May 2019
8:30 am

Thinking about the “wild” spaces in and around a busy metropolitan area can be difficult, but we are fortunate to have several wildlife refuges at our fingertips. How did these areas become protected and what’s next for the system? Patuxent Wildlife Refuge Manager Brad Knudsen will present “The Evolution of the National Wildlife Refuge System.” He will present information on the important wildlife resources the NWRS conserves, how the NWRS as grown in its 116 years, how legislation and public involvement have impacted the direction the NWRS has gone, and a glimpse at what the future holds.

Breakfast begins at 8:30am, $10 at the door, cash preferred. No prior registration required. Breakfast includes an all-you-can eat hot buffet with fresh fruit and coffee, tea, orange juice or water. If you have any questions, please contact the Northern Virginia Soil and Water at

Bull Run Stream Monitoring Session

James S. Long Park, 4603 James Madison Hwy (Rt. 15) Haymarket, VA 20169 Parking: Old Library parking lot (first right past the horse field)
Sunday, 28 April 2019
12-2:30 pm

Join Elaine Wilson, one of the District’s pioneer/certified monitors and her team for a spring monitoring at this beautiful site in Catharpin Creek in the Gainesville area. This site has some outstanding critters that are unique only to this site. STEM kids are welcome. Spots are limited. For more information and RSVP, contact Elaine Wilson.

2019 Conservation Poster Contest entries due Oct. 4th

Deadline: October 4, 2019
The Youth Poster Contest is a national competition. Students submit entries to their local Conservation District. Winning entries can be sent to state and even national competitions for judging and awards. The contest is open to the public, private or home school students, girl scout/boy scout troops, etc. Please note that both Girl and Boy Scouts that participate in the contest and submit valid entries at any level are eligible to receive the VASWCD Conservation Poster Patch. This year’s theme is Life in the Soil: Dig Deeper.
· K-1
· 2-3
· 4-6
· 7-9
· 10-12
Entries must be submitted to the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District by October 4, 2019. Learn more and enter.

Apply for the 2019 Youth Conservation Camp by May 1st

Deadline: May 1, 2019
For over 35 years, the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts has sponsored a week long summer conservation camp in July for Virginia high school students on the campus of Virginia Tech. The program brings together about 70 interested students for a week of learning about Virginia’s natural resources from conservation professionals and Virginia Tech faculty. Most of the instruction is hands-on and outdoors. Youth Conservation Camp is a selective program and interested students must send their application to their local Soil and Water Conservation District. Each year, the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District receives applications, makes selections and offers a partial scholarship to students who will attend Youth Conservation Camp. The total cost of camp is usually around $550, including meals, lodging, activities, and transport during camp. Students are responsible for obtaining their own means of transportation to and from Virginia Tech. We are now accepting applications for Youth Conservation Camp, which will be held from July 7-13, 2019 at Virginia Tech. NVSWCD Application Deadline: May 1, 2019. Learn more and apply.

Build-Your-Own Rain Barrel Workshops, various dates

Sunday, 10 March 2019, 2-4pm, Hollin Meadows Elementary School, Alexandria
Saturday, 30 March 2019, 10:30am-12:30pm, Walter Reed Community Center, Arlington
Saturday, 25 May 2019, 10 am-12 pm, Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, Fairfax

As a part of a regional initiative, the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District will once again offer build-your-own rain barrel workshops this spring. During the workshop, you will learn how to install and maintain a rain barrel and take one home! Registration is required for all programs. Learn more!