JeffCo H2O:A Test You Can’t Fail!

Jeffco Blog_Feb15_Test Your Soil

If the thought of taking a test makes you break out into a cold sweat, take a deep breath and read on!  The only way you can fail this one is if you don’t take it.  Maybe you apply some sort of fertilizer to your lawn or garden every spring because the commercials on TV extoll its importance, or because your neighbors are putting fertilizer on their yards.  Before you rush to the store, doesn’t it make sense to first find out if your soil needs these nutrients, and if so, what kind and how much?  Rather than wasting money guessing, you can purchase a soil test kit from your local lawn and garden store, or pick up a free kit from the nearest Alabama Cooperative Extension System office and have your soil sample analyzed by Auburn University for $7.

If the soil test recommends adjusting soil pH, applying lime may be recommended.  If the test suggests adding nutrients, you will need to purchase the right kind of fertilizer for your yard.  First look for those three little numbers on the fertilizer bag.  These tell you the percentage of each of the three elements – nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium – that are included in the product.  The results of the soil test will indicate how much of each of these elements should be added to the soil to achieve the proper nutrient levels.  The remainder of the product is a filler which allows the fertilizer to be spread at the application rate recommended in the package directions.  You can set the application rate of your spreader by adjusting its dial to the number specified.

The fertilizer package also indicates how many square feet the product will cover.  Don’t forget to subtract any paved areas from the total when calculating the size of your yard.  Remember not to apply fertilizer right before or during a rain and to sweep up any product that falls on paved areas.  Like anything else, rain will wash fertilizer into the storm drainage system and carry it to the nearest stream or creek. Using the right amount of the right nutrients at the right time will save you money, maximize your yard’s ability to fight off pests and diseases while looking its best, and help protect water quality in local waterways.

What’s Happening?

Urban Forestry Fair, February 25 – Come on out to Linn Park (between the downtown Courthouse and Birmingham City Hall) from 9 am to 2 pm to receive FREE tree seedlings ready for planting.  Sponsored by the National Resources Conservation Service and the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Birmingham Annual Plant Dig, February 28 – Grab your garden tools, gloves and containers, and head to the New Georgia Landfill (2800 47th Street North, Birmingham) from 10 am to 2 pm to stock up on FREE plants for your yard.  Call 787-5222 to learn more.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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Posted in JeffCoH20

TCNP Currents: Reflections

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These cool, overcast, winter days provide a great opportunity for reflection, if for no other reason than to help motivate us beyond the cold bite of the wind to move forward and make things happen. The last few years have been a whirlwind at the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. It has been difficult to keep up with all of the wonderful advancements and developments as they are occurring and almost impossible to share those things with the public, who will certainly enjoy them the most.

So it seems to be a good time to take a moment between meetings, planning sessions, and trying to catch up on the long list of maintenance, repairs, and improvements before the spring busy season to reflect on where we have come from and what direction we are headed.

Most of you know that the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve (TCNP) is still relatively young; it was not that long ago that people where dumping their trash along the banks that children now run up and down all summer long. We have come a long way in just 6 years. Every year the list of improvements and achievements seems nearly impossible to keep up with. We have been working so hard to improve Turkey Creek that we have really not done a good job of sharing all that we are doing for you.

Here is the short version of some of the things we have recently accomplished:

  • Recent Enhancements:
    • 5-Star Stream Bank Restoration Project: Restored over 100 feet of Turkey Creek’s banks with native vegetation, erosion control, creek access steps and a native plant propagation nursery.
    • Added visitor amenities including: improved trash cans, benches, picnic tables, and signs
    • Native Plant Pollinator Garden
    • Developed 3 miles of new trail (over the last 2 years)
    • Improved parking
    • Updated energy efficiency of Nature Center and Residence
    • Added Pedestrian Friendly hours on Friday and Saturday Mornings
  • 2014 Public and School Programming
    • Approximately 100,000 annual visitors to the Preserve
    • 113 programs with over 6,000 participants
    • 29 Public Events; Highlights include: Float Your Boat, Naturalist Hikes, and Living History Programs
    • 37 Service groups with over 500 participants
    • 45,000 blog views

Currents Blog Banner-01

Even with all that has already been accomplished, we are not slowing down. Not even close! 2015 is already shaping up to be even busier than previous years with more public programs, educational offerings, and enhancements.

Here is a quick peek at what we already have in store for our visitors this year:

  • 3 miles of new multi-use trails for mountain biking, hiking, and cross-country running. Funding provided through a grant from ADECA’s RTP program.
  • 240+ acre addition that could host over 12 miles of new trails for the future
  • Amenity improvements: additional parking, changing rooms, enhanced security, handrails on stairs to the Falls, and more informational signage.
  • Wilderness Ranger Training provided by Wild South
  • Summer Camp Programs

Site Map RTP 2014 with legend-01

Proposed Multi-Use Trail System Map

Obviously, there is a lot going on, and a lot of reasons to come out and visit Turkey Creek Nature Preserve this year. However, even with all of the wonderful support that we are provided by our partners and volunteers, we still need your help to keep our operation functioning! Consider for a moment: we do not charge admission, we have only one full time staff member, and we are doing all of this on less than a shoestring budget. Imagine what we could do if we received more support from people like yourself.

What is Turkey Creek, all of the memories, fun, and discovery worth to you?

Remember while admission to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is always free, maintaining it is not!

If our visitors (like you!) were all willing to give just a little it could provide us the opportunity to give a lot!

Please take a moment and invest in the future of TCNP, if not for you, then for your community and the children that live there!

Visit: https://turkeycreeknp.wordpress.com/support-2/ to learn how you can make a difference.

 

See ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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JeffCo H2O: The Bare Naked Truth

TCNP BLOG H2O January winter home landscape

Although we are fortunate here in the south to have very few bleak, sunless, winter days, there still are times when it’s easy to look out the window and yearn for the color and freshness of spring.  The one good thing about brown grass, leafless trees, and sparse garden beds is that they provide the chance to really evaluate your landscape. This bareness can highlight the shape, balance and location of all the good (and sometimes not so good) elements of your yard.  It’s easy to see trees and bushes that need to be pruned, and areas of the yard that look empty and uninspired.  There are many varieties of native plants, trees, and bushes with brightly colored berries, evergreen leaves, or beautiful bark to consider adding to your landscape to improve its visual interest during the winter months.  Many of them also have the added benefit of providing food and shelter for wildlife.  In fact, inviting birds to become frequent visitors to your yard can help reduce the insect pest population in the spring and summer.

Winter also provides a chance to think about how you would like to enjoy your yard and to determine if it currently is fulfilling those wishes.  It’s very possible that your needs or abilities have changed but your yard hasn’t kept up with those changes.  Maybe physical or time limitations mean that this year you would like to plan for a more maintenance free landscape.  Or life changes such as children, pets, or retirement have inspired you to create a more functional space for play or relaxation.  Whatever changes the New Year is bringing to your life, winter is the perfect time to start thinking about what you want your outdoor space to become.

Like most things in life, the best landscape designs start with a plan.  A home landscape planning guide can help you organize your ideas and get started implementing a new vision for your yard.  The Alabama Cooperative Extension’s (ACES) Alabama Smart Yards (ANR-1359), available for free at the ACES website, is a great reference for turning your landscaping ideas into reality.

 

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCo H2O: Get your green on!

The holidays are a time for celebrating family traditions and enjoying festive gatherings.  Unfortunately holidays also can have an unintended impact on the environment.  Take trash for example:  According to the Nature Conservancy, household waste in the US increases by more than 25% from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, and trash from gift wrap and gift bags alone totals 4 million tons annually.

No matter what holidays you celebrate, there are many ways to make them greener.  Getting creative when it comes to wrapping gifts can provide a second life to old newspaper, paper grocery bags, and gently used wrapping paper.  You can even eliminate paper wrap all together:  a scarf, t-shirt, reusable shopping bag, festive container, or other similar item can be used to wrap a gift.

jeffco gift wrap

sustainable t-shirt gift wraps

Choosing seasonal, locally grown foods means that your ingredients didn’t have to travel across the country to get to your point of purchase.  Heating several side dishes together and resisting the temptation to open the oven door to peek reduces energy use.  You can even strive for zero waste by using real dishes, cups, flatware and napkins rather than disposable goods and finding recipes that will help use up any leftover food.

According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Both disposable and rechargeable batteries can become an environmental hazard if they are not recycled and properly disposed.  While outdoor lighting displays can add to your home’s appearance, choosing LED lights and turning them off during the day will save energy.  For inside the home, opt for beeswax or soy candles rather than paraffin; they are made from renewable sources, burn longer and produce less soot.

Rather than purchasing pre-made decorations for your home, consider bringing the outdoors in and decorating using natural elements.  Sustainable arrangements and garlands made from seasonal fruit like apples and cranberries, dried flowers and pods, and fresh greenery such as holly, pine or magnolia branches from your yard look beautiful and smell great.  When it’s time to undeck the halls, these materials can be added to your compost pile.

jeffco cranberry candle

Cranberry Candle

Real or fake tree?  The debate goes on, but most experts agree that real trees are the more environmental choice.  The majority of cut trees are grown on farms as a crop, are replanted after harvesting, and can be recycled into mulch.  Many municipalities and some local businesses offer free tree recycling.  In some cases, the resulting mulch is used for parks, school grounds, and other public areas.

jeffco sustainable wreath

Sustainable Wreath Idea

Want to know how, where, or when to recycle something?  The Alabama Environmental Center’s RecycleAL.org website is a great local resource for information about most things recyclable.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

jeffcoh2o_graphic_only

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Holiday Hours

The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve will be closed for the following dates over the Holiday Season:
November 27th
December 24th
December 25th

December 31st
January 1st

We hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday season!

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JeffCoH20:Baked, broiled, grilled or fried

More than 3,000 miles of sanitary sewer lines serve 480,000 people in Jefferson County.  This vital function makes it possible for customers to rise in the morning, get ready for work or school, and not have to think about what happens to their waste water after showering, brushing teeth, or flushing!  One challenge to the operation of the sanitary sewer system is the buildup of fats, oils, and grease – FOG – in the sewer lines.  Over time, these substances can create clogs and result in backups that cause sewage to overflow into homes, yards, streets, and waterways.  Not only are these events costly to repair, they also can be a health hazard.  One main source of FOG in the sewer system is households. 

Dirty dishes in sink

No matter what you cook or how you cook it, there usually is some fat, oil or grease involved in the process.  When the holiday meals are over and it’s time to wash the stack of plates, pots, pans, and casserole dishes piled in the sink, take a few minutes to make sure that FOG doesn’t wash down the kitchen drain.  Even if you have a garbage disposal or use hot water and detergent, it will not prevent FOG buildup in your plumbing or the sewer system.  If you are connected to a septic system, a similar scenario applies – FOG can build up and cause your septic system to malfunction.  

The good news is that the solution is easy!  Discard in the trash unwanted food scraps from plates and cookware.  Any remaining FOG can be cooled and poured or scraped into a plastic or metal container with a lid and taken to the nearest Jefferson County cooking oil recycling station.  New recycling containers are available to you for free at all recycling stations.  Preventing FOG from going down the drain can go a long way toward reducing plumbing emergencies and unhealthy sewer overflows.

Proper FOG disposal

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCoH2O: Dirt, only better

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Some people call it organic fertilizer.  Others go so far as to call it black gold.  Whatever the name, compost is a free, renewable source of rich, nutrient dense material that can be used in multiple ways in your yard.  Compost is the natural result of decomposing organic materials and contains a variety of nutrients that plants need to grow.  Organisms such as earthworms, beetles and snails munch away on these organic materials and break them down into smaller bits.  Microscopic bacteria and fungi go to work on the leftovers and handle the chemical end of decomposing.  Even though it sounds icky, the result is a rich topsoil-like blend of exactly what most plants need to thrive.

Starting a compost pile at home is not difficult, does not require much space and, depending upon weather conditions, can yield usable compost in as little as a few weeks.   All you need to get started is an area in which to contain the materials, a combination of green and brown organic waste, some water and air, occasional stirring of the ingredients, and some patience.  Materials you can use to start composting are not hard to find – look no further than your yard and kitchen.  Rather than sending yard debris such as grass clippings, leaves, and small branches, and kitchen waste such as vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds to the landfill, compost them instead.  With our relatively mild winters here in Alabama, composting can continue year-round.  Once your compost pile has transformed into dark, crumbly material, and you can’t identify any of the original ingredients, it is ready to use.

Besides being a rich organic fertilizer, compost also can help transform clay or sandy soil into a more plant friendly composition, increase the soil’s ability to retain moisture, prevent weeds from growing, and reduce stormwater runoff.  According to the EPA, for every1% that you increase your soil’s organic content, you also increase its water absorption capacity by 16,000 gallons of water per acre, down to one foot deep.  The beneficial organisms that compost introduces to your soil help perpetuate the benefits of composting by continuing the cycle of organic decomposition.  Fall is the perfect time to install new plants, trees and shrubs in your yard, and the availability of your homemade compost will provide numerous benefits to any landscape additions you make.  Check out Alabama Cooperative Extension’s publications Backyard Composting and Commonly Asked Questions to learn more!

What’s happening?

 Birmingham Botanical Gardens Fall Plant Sale – October 18 -19 – Shop for herbs, trees, native plants, and more!  Call 414.3965 or visit www.bbgardens.org for details.

Electronic Recycle Day – October 22 – Bring unwanted electronics to Linn Park from 6 am to 2 pm for FREE recycling.  No white goods (washers, dryers, etc.).  Call 787.5222 for more information.

Recycling & Waste Reduction Summit – October 30 – Learn how businesses, schools, and communities are tackling waste reduction in innovative ways.  Contact Alabama Environmental Council for information.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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Posted in JeffCoH20