It’s Salmon Season!  Visit us at Community Salmon Watch Day (9/23)! Volunteer for Salmon Watch Field Trips!

 

Little Habitat Project Education Actions

Soil

Level I: Choose One Action Item

Level II: Choose Two Action Items

Level III: Choose Three Action Items

This is one of two northwestern garter snakes I found in my compost pile this spring. The cloudy eyes indicate this snake is getting ready to shed its skin.

Add Compost from Off-site Sources

Add compost to improve soil quality and health can help with soil structure, reducing erosion, increasing fertility, water holding capacity, pH regulation, suppressing weeds, reducing compaction, preventing disease, promoting soil microbial activity, and beneficial insects. Whether you have soil that has too much clay or sand, compost is the best option to achieve the desired soil texture. Compost will also introduce beneficial microorganisms to the soil by acting as a house and food source for beneficial fungi, bacteria, and earthworms. The best time to apply compost is before planting, after harvest, or as a top dress during the growing season as needed. Compost can be sourced in bulk or in bags from local landscape supply stores.

 

two white pointy tipped leaves on a green circle background

Leave the Leaves

Leave the leaves or add leaf litter on the ground instead of raking them up to improve soil health. Leaf litter provides many benefits to managed landscapes including nutrients to support plants; organic matter to improve soil structure; providing a valuable source of food for birds such as sparrows and thrushes that rely on insects that overwinter in leaf litter as a primary food source; microbial habitat such as microorganisms, bacteria, and fungi that contribute to the decomposition process and nutrient cycling; shelter for many different wildlife species including pollinators/insects, spiders, small mammals, and amphibians that play an important role in ecosystem function.
a field of crimson clover

Plant Cover Crops

Plant cover crops to help reduce erosion, suppress weeds, add nutrients back into the soil. Cover crops, also known as green manure and living mulch, have the ability to capture nitrogen from the air and make it available in the soil through a process called nitrogen fixation. As the cover crops grow and later decompose, it releases nutrients into the soil and becomes available for plants. There are several different cover crop options to consider including legumes (crimson and peas), and grasses (barley and rye). Cover crops have the most success when planted in late August to early October to ensure establishment before the winter. If you are not planning on keeping the cover crop as a permanent ground cover, make sure you terminate the crop before it goes to seed.

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  • Plant cover crops to help reduce erosion, suppress weeds, add nutrients back into the soil. Cover crops, also known as green manure and living mulch, have the ability to capture nitrogen from the air and make it available in the soil through a process called nitrogen fixation. As the cover crops grow and later decompose, it releases nutrients into the soil and becomes available for plants. There are several different cover crop options to consider including legumes (crimson and peas), and grasses (barley and rye). Cover crops have the most success when planted in late August to early October to ensure establishment before the winter. If you are not planning on keeping the cover crop as a permanent ground cover, make sure you terminate the crop before it goes to seed.
  • Add woodchips to the soil as a bulking agent help increase porosity, water retention, and protect the top layer of soil from weeds. Woodchips can help create air pockets within the soil that are important for root growth and nutrient uptake. When a thick layer of wood chips is applied, this creates a physical barrier between weed seeds and sunlight. When sunlight is blocked, weed seeds are less likely to germinate and grow. Different sizes of woodchips can be sourced depending on the intended use. Source woodchips from landscape supply shops or local arborist companies.
    • Avoid walnut chips as this is toxic to soil.
    • Reapply as needed preferably in the Spring and Fall.
    • Leave a gap around the base of trees to prevent moisture from rotting the trunk.
    • If applied around plants allow the woodchips to partially decompose before using them. Fresh woodchips can deplete nitrogen in the soil that supports plants due to microorganisms using the nitrogen to help with the decomposition process. If you do not have time to let the chips age, apply it to the topsoil layer only and do not mix into rooting systems.
  • Add compost that I create myself to break down yard waste and food scraps to create a dark, crumbly, and rich amendment teeming with microorganisms and nutrients for plants. To make compost, mix one-part nitrogen-rich material “greens” with two-parts of carbon-rich material “browns” to ensure the optimum ratio of nitrogen and carbon. There are different styles of composting such as active and passive composting. Active composting requires more frequent turning and watering which produces a final useable product sooner. Passive composting is less intensive, requires a holding bin, and takes around 8-12 months to get a finished product. Animal products, weeds, or pet waste should be avoided for home composting.
  • Create a vermicompost bin to convert food waste into a useable soil amendment. Vermicomposting is a process of composting organic materials using earthworms. These worms will help break down the organic matter into nutrient-rich compost through their feeding and digestion process. This type of composting offers several benefits to soil by providing rich nutrients, improving soil structure, and microbial activity. To set up a vermicomposting system, you will need a suitable container, bedding materials such as shredded newspaper or cardboard, composting worms (typically red wigglers), kitchen waste scraps, and proper maintenance. Make sure you avoid animal/dairy products, oily foods, spicy foods, and highly acidic food items such as citrus.
  • Pick up and dispose of pet waste in the trash to reduce E. coli bacteria and parasites in the soil that can harm the environment, people, and other animals. The best disposal method is to put pet waste in a trash can to prevent it from entering local waterways. Pet waste can negatively impact water quality since it contains nutrients that cause algae blooms and wastewater treatment plants are not able to remove all pathogens. Pet waste can also make other pets sick with diseases such as parvovirus.
  • Create bare patches of soil for ground-nesting bees. 70% of native bees nest in the ground in holes they excavate themselves. We don’t know much about where ground nesting bees like to live, but they seem to prefer sunny areas with exposed soil. To help ground-nesting bees, select a site that is open with good drainage. Clear most of the vegetation; it is okay to leave some low plants like grass to help keep soil in place. Don’t dig up the soil as bees need stable ground for nesting.

Interested in getting a soil test conducted on your own property? Check out the Analytical Laboratories Serving Oregon that offer a variety of testing options, including nutrients, contaminants, and plant analysis. Before submitting your sample, it’s a good idea to check the laboratory’s website or call them directly to clarify your testing objectives, the cost, shipping procedures, and turnaround time.

Extra resource https://bentonswcd.org/programs/soil/#compost

Water

water components

Focus areas:

  1. Creating Water Sources
  2. Water Conservation 
  3. Water Quality Management 

Level I: Choose One Action Item

Level II: Choose Two Action Items

Level III: Choose Three Action Items

  • Install a wildlife water feature such as a birdbath or bubbler to provide a natural water source for birds and insects. When installing a water feature for wildlife, it is important to consider factors such as type of water feature, its size, location, and maintenance requirements. Proper planning and maintenance are essential to ensure that the water feature remains healthy and safe to drink. Replace the water every few days to ensure it is free of animal waste, algae, and mosquito eggs/larvae.
  • Install a puddling area to provide a source of moisture and essential minerals that many wildlife species of insects such as bees, butterflies, and moths, as well as snakes and frogs depend on. This can be a shallow depression on the ground or a dish such as a terra cot plate. Keep the dish filled with fresh water and periodically replace the mineral content by adding small amounts of sand and soil. If you add sugar to the water, make sure the dish is placed on a plate of water forming a moat to avoid ants.
  • Create a garden pond for wildlife species such as dragon flies, newts, and frogs. When creating a backyard pond for wildlife, it’s important to consider factors such as size, design, plant selection, safety, maintenance, and accessibility by providing gradual edges or shallow areas to allow safe access for wildlife to enter the pond. Visit your local pond shops and garden centers to receive more advice on how to properly install a pond or work with a pond contractor directly.
  • Eliminate Lawn Watering: Allow the grass to go dormant during the dry months. Although it may turn brown, it will green up again as it rains in the Fall. Conservation benefits include water conservation, water cost savings, and less maintenance. You can also consider alternative landscaping practices such as xeriscaping or incorporating native plants that require less water which still enhancing aesthetic and ecological value.
  • Install a rain garden or bioswale (where appropriate): Rain gardens and bioswales are shallow depressions that are planted with native plants that help absorb and filter and reduce stormwater runoff to local waterways. They can be installed in low-lying areas or in areas where rainwater naturally collects. Important factors to consider when installing a rain garden include: proper site location, soil texture, planting design, planning for overflow, long-term maintenance, and permitting. 
  • Install a stormwater planter: Stormwater planters can be an easy and attractive way to filter and manage stormwater runoff.
  • Improve irrigation efficiency: Use soaker hoses, drip irrigation, or hand water to deliver water directly to the roots of plants, reducing water loss from evaporation and runoff. Adjust sprinkler heads to avoid watering sidewalks or driveways. Install an irrigation system and get it audited.

Plants

plant components

Infrastructure

infrastructure components

Education

education components.

Add pdf on electric lawn tools from this page

headshot of Kassi smiling and wearing a yellow cap and a gray sweatshirt with her hair pulled back.
Kassi Roosth
Urban Conservation Planner
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