By: Sarah Meadows
Are you a “leaf peeper?” This is a person who travels in the fall to see nature’s show that is the leaves turning a kaleidoscope of colors. Good news for leaf peers in Ohio, you can stay home this year! ODNR Fall Color Foresters have predicted an especially good year for enjoying the bright array of colors here in our home state, expected to peak mid-to-late October.
Leaf color change is triggered by the changing photoperiod – the length of daylight in each day. As days grow shorter, trees begin allocating their resources away from their leaves and into their roots in preparation for going dormant during the cold winter season ahead. The green color in leaves is actually produced by chlorophyll – this is what the trees use to make their food from sunlight. When they stop producing chlorophyll, the green cloak disappears and the true leaf color underneath becomes visible!
Fall is a great time for outdoor activities, and it can be fun to follow the color change as it happens. Check out ODNR’s fall color website for weekly updates, follow the Ohio fall color progress map, find fall guided hikes, activities and more. Whether is in your own neighborhood or a scenic road trip, we encourage you to get outside and enjoy the color change this season, and share your photos using #FallinOhio.
By: Sarah Meadows
Reports of sick and dying birds have been coming in from Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, several other nearby states. Symptoms include neurological impacts causing their head to tilt to the side, and multiple eye issues such as cloudiness or discharge. It has been reported in multiple species, including American Robins and Blue Jays.
To keep the illness from spreading, experts at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center are asking everyone to take down your bird feeders and empty your birdbaths for 7-10 days. Before putting them back out, they should be thoroughly cleaned to prevent spreading the disease. The cause is still unknown and currently being investigated. You can also help by reporting sick or dying birds here: https://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/speciessighting/.
Read the full article for more details: https://bygl.osu.edu/index.php/node/1808
The Cooper Creek Collaborative (CCC) is a partnership of multiple organizations and community members who have come together to restore the Cooper Creek watershed. We are working to rebuild a healthy natural stream system to be enjoyed by the community and local wildlife. Under the leadership of the District, CCC is focusing its efforts on mitigating the impacts of “urban hydrologic alteration” (UHA) on the creek within a 1-mile2 Demonstration Watershed. UHA is the most wide-spread and foundational cause of biological degradation in creeks in Hamilton County and in urban/sub-urban areas throughout the region (and many regions globally). There are two primary in-stream symptoms of UHA: 1) reduced baseflow between rain events (our creeks are drying-out!), and 2) increased frequency of erosive flash flows in response to rain events.
Mitigating the impacts of UHA is no small task! In fact, it is not entirely clear that doing so, to a biologically relevant extent, is feasible in densely urbanized areas. For this reason, our work has attracted the attention and participation of several research groups from EPA, the University of Cincinnati, and the Ohio State University. The ultimate goal of the CCC’s Demonstration Watershed program is to restore a more natural hydrology, and more diverse biological community, to Cooper Creek. We pursue this goal in a methodical and data-driven manner that will facilitate answering key research questions associated with the feasibility and best practices for restoring urban streams.
CCC was founded in early 2019 and after two-years of planning, funding acquisition, and base-line monitoring, the fruits of our labor are beginning to emerge. In 2020, our first two projects were installed and funding was secured in support of additional projects to be implemented in 2021. CCC’s first wave of mitigation efforts is focused on three project types: urban reforestation, detention basin retrofitting, and installation of natural wood structures into the creek to create pool habitat and slow down erosive flows. In 2021, projects of each of these three types will be installed.
Research efforts have steadily ramped-up in the Demonstration Watershed over the last two-years and momentum continues to build. Our research partners are working to answer questions with importance to urban stream restoration: How effective are each of our mitigation strategies at naturalizing in-stream hydrology? How do urban fish populations move in response to unnaturally high frequencies of erosive flash flows (and through “perched” culvert)? How do aging sanitary sewers laid along\-side the creek (a very common occurrence) influence instream hydrology? Can we develop low-cost methods for improving the capacity of our soil to soak-up rainwater?
In addition to answering these important questions, much of this work is creating valuable research experience for local university students and helping to build the next generation of problem-solvers to address these problems.
There is simply too much going on in the Cooper Creek Demonstration Watershed to discuss in detail in a single article. We are working to document and provided updates on each of our on-going mitigation and research efforts at CooperCreek.org. We have also just launched a Cooper Creek Collaborative Facebook page to share updates on projects, new initiatives, and opportunities for the public to get involved and to enjoy the Creek. Keep an eye out for information on “Cooper Creek Adventure” opportunities coming soon!
By: Aaron Habig
It is spring again and thoughts move to working in the yard. It is time to get out and start to plant the vegetable garden, tend to the flower beds, and work on the lawn. So how do you know what these areas need? If you have not had a soil fertility test, you may not know what the soil conditions are, and you could be spending money on things you may or may not need.
Most people listen to the ads put out by the fertilizer companies telling them what they need to use. These ads are designed to sell you products, not to do what is best for your yard and the environment. Excess nutrients are one of the major contributors to water quality in our streams, lakes, and rivers. These nutrients do not just come off farm fields, they can be washing off your yard.
By having your soil tested, you can get a precise recommendation on the nutrients you need to apply for the crop you are trying to grow. This will reduce the amount of excess nutrients available to wash into the environment and save you money on purchasing fertilizer. You can also find out if the pH of your soil is in a range that is best for the plants you are trying to grow.
If your pH is not in the correct range, you may have all the nutrients a plant needs, but they may not be available for the plant to use.
Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District can provide a kit to have your soils tested and provide results tailored to the type of plants you are trying to grow. We use Penn State University to provide this service. The cost of a soil test through Penn State is $9.00 for the basic test. This test will tell you the amount of Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium, as well as your pH. Penn State will also give recommendation for the appropriate amount of nitrogen as well as the above listed nutrients. If your pH is not within the recommended range, guidance is provided on how to lower or raise the pH to an optimal level.
A copy of the test results is also sent back to the District, so that we can have the results on hand to go over with you should you have any questions about the results, or fertilizer recommendations.
To request a soil test kit visit our website. You can also pick them up at our office during normal business hours.
Feel free to contact Aaron Habig with any soil fertility or soil health questions.
By: Gwen Roth
2021 has certainly had it's challenges and depending on your perspective, this may or may not add to those challenges, because… the cicadas are coming! The Brood X cicadas are a once every 17-year event that some people look forward to and others dread. Those that dread it, there’s good news. The cicadas are very short lived and will only be around for about 6-8 weeks.
The cicadas we will meet this spring (late April/early May) are the offspring from the last round of cicadas in 2004. While there are many species of cicadas, found on all continents, except Antarctica, the periodical cicadas are some of the most interesting. They live most of their lives as nymphs in the top 2’ of soil eating juices from plant roots and only emerge above ground after 17 years!! Once the soil has reached 64 degrees, it’s time to emerge. The cicadas will crawl up a tree and molt for the final time, leaving their nymph exoskeleton behind. When they first molt, their skin and wings are a whitish color and it takes a few days for their exoskeleton to harden and to develop the darker colors.
Once their exoskeleton has hardened, it’s time to find a mate. The males use a body part called a tymbal to make a buzzing, clicking noise to attract females. The females have no tymbal but click their wings to signify to a male she is ready to mate. After mating, the female will use a special body part called an ovipositor to make a small slit in a tree branch (she prefers branches about 1/4”-3/8” in diameter) and lays a cluster of eggs, usually about 20-25 per slit. She will continue up the branch or to another tree, make another slit and deposit more eggs, continuing this process, she can lay up to 600 eggs before dying. The eggs will hatch inside the tree branch in about 6-10 weeks and the tiny nymphs will fall to the ground. The nymphs will use their legs to dig into the ground and feast on plant roots for the next 17 years until it is their time to emerge. The adult cicadas only live for about 4 weeks. Imagine spending 17 years underground and only 4 weeks above.
While many people in the tri-state may be dreading the cicada emergence, its good to know they are harmless to humans. Other than being loud and maybe annoying, they can’t sting or bite us and really just want to reproduce. They become a meal for many animals, including birds, frogs, fish, squirrels, reptiles, spiders and even people (if you’re in to that). If you have young trees or fruit trees, it is a good idea to cover them with a netting to help protect them. Older, more established trees are not as affected by cicadas and should survive just fine. Please do not use pesticides to try to kill them. Remember, they are here for a very short period of time and pesticides can kill many of our beneficial pollinators as well.
You can become a citizen scientist this spring and help track the emergence of the Brood X cicadas. Check out http://cicadasafari.org/ and download the Safari Cicada app. You can also use the hashtags #BroodX or #BroodXCicadas in social media.
Just remember, we have such a short time together with these cicadas and we won’t see them again for 17 years, let’s make the most of it.
By: Lori Lenhart
Urban agriculture is taking root in cities across the country, providing access to healthy produce, creating local jobs and strengthening communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has worked to increase urban agriculture opportunities through the High Tunnel System Initiative, a program that provides financial and technical assistance to urban producers to grow food year-round. In Cincinnati, the agency partnered with local organizations including the city’s Office of Environment and Sustainability, the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District, and others to create the Cincinnati Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative.
Through their efforts, the first high tunnel in Cincinnati was installed in Avondale on December 16, 2020. Members of the community joined together to erect the structure and finished the project in a single day. Small business owner April Pandora, who is managing the high tunnel, is excited for the new capabilities that the structure will bring to her business, Eden Urban Gardens, LLC. Through her business, Pandora delivers food directly to customers in surrounding neighborhoods through CSA food shares and farmers’ markets.
"The Cincinnati High Tunnel Initiative has helped us expand our urban farm production,” she said, “With the high tunnel, we will not only be able to increase the availability of fresh food in the winter, but also provide a more diverse selection of higher quality vegetables to nearby communities.”
In recent years, the city has revised regulations to allow for more urban agriculture opportunities. Former Ohio Statehouse representatives Dale Mallory and Jim Buchy spearheaded efforts to establish the Cincinnati High Tunnel Initiative to address fresh food shortages and alleviate food access challenges like transportation and grocery store proximity.
The initiative is now in its second year of providing funding and is gaining momentum. In 2020, the CHTI funded four high tunnels in the city. In 2021, NRCS received eight applications for high tunnels from a variety of candidates including a farming cooperative, nonprofits, female- and minority-owned small businesses and others.
“It is refreshing to learn about the existing farming operations in the city that have diverse missions,” NRCS Urban Conservationist Lori Lenhart said. “Urban agriculture provides countless benefits, from a health, educational and economic standpoint. We’re looking forward to working with these organizations to strengthen food security within the city.”
Contact Lori Lenhart at 614-653-3460, or by email at email@example.com for more information on Cincinnati’s high tunnel program, including eligibility and funding opportunities. Though the funding deadline has passed for 2021 applications, NRCS accepts applications year-round for the next funding cycle.