Leave Those Leaves Alone

By Clermont County Office of Environmental Quality

Every year nearly 8 million tons of leaves end up buried in landfills across the United States. Due to a lack of oxygen, those leaves are unable to decompose quickly and instead release methane gas. However, when fallen leaves are left in your yard they can decompose faster and leave behind organic matter that greatly enhances soil health. Leaves are full of nutrients that will make your lawn thrive, including potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen. While ditches, driveway culverts, and storm drains still need to be kept clear of leaves and other debris to prevent flooding, wildlife and lawn experts agree that when it comes to your lawn it is usually better to skip the raking and bagging and leave those leaves in place!

Chopping up blankets of leaves with a lawn mower may be necessary to thin out the material and break the leaves down quickly. This is important because thick layers of leaves left on your lawn blocks out the sunlight which is needed for photosynthesis. Excess leaves can be raked around trees and shrubs in 3 – 6 inch deep piles or into a landscape bed or garden and used for mulch. Combining fallen leaves with grass clippings and other organic green material can also produce nutrient-rich compost.

Visit the Adams-Clermont Solid Waste District’s website at www.OEQ.net to learn more about home composting and other yard waste disposal options in Clermont County.

Clermont SWCD and Park District Host Landowner Conservation Series

Stream Buffer Plants Available at Plant Sale

Buttonbush is a great option for stream buffers and is a favorite of butterflies. Photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

The “Be the Change for Clean Water” article describes how a buffer of native plants along a stream helps prevent bank erosion, filters pollutants, cools the stream, and provides habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. Several of the species we are offering as part of our annual plant sale work well as stream buffers. In particular, buttonbush will work very well along the stream edge. Other plants will fare well higher up on the bank including:

  • Spicebush
  • Serviceberry
  • Elderberry
  • Maple leaf viburnum
  • Hazelnut
  • Redbud

For questions on what plants would work best in your stream bank buffer, contact Clermont SWCD at 513-732-7075 for assistance.

NRCS Announces April 7 Sign-up Deadline for CSP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications from landowners interested in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to build on existing conservation efforts to increase operational efficiencies and environmental benefits as well as reduce overall input costs.

This year, Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding is providing additional financial opportunities for select conservation practices and enhancements to increase direct climate mitigation benefits. The deadline to receive fiscal year 2023 funding for both CSP-Classic and CSP-IRA is April 7, 2023.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture and forestry production on their land.

Learn more about the CSP-Classic and CSP-IRA application process and eligible land use resource concerns on the Ohio NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program webpage. Landowners in Clermont County who are interested in signing up or learning about other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS should contact Christina Gates, District Conservationist, at christina.gates@usda.gov or (513) 732-2181 ext. 3.

Earth Machine Compost Bins Available

When most people hear the word ‘compost’, they automatically think of a smelly pile of moldy food. However, when done correctly, composting does not smell bad and is a sanitary way to dispose of organic waste. There are many excellent reasons to compost and the greater Cincinnati area has numerous resources available to assist you on your composting journey. Composting yard, garden, and food waste at home saves transportation and disposal cost, and provides an environmentally sound way to manage waste, since yard waste makes up to 30% of the municipal solid waste stream.  In addition, composting can provide excellent fertilizer for gardens, yards, and other plants.  Adding compost to your garden will increase drainage and provide a continuous source of nutrients required for plant health.

There are many different ways to start composting and no matter what your restrictions may be, there is a composting method that will work for you. At the most basic level, composting can happen when materials are placed in a mound and left alone. If you want a faster or more contained system, you can consider building or purchasing a composting bin. It is not necessary to have a bin, however, it can make it easier to turn the pile, keep the pile manageable, and remove finished compost. You can make your own bin out of wood or fencing and posts. You can also purchase a compost bin that is an enclosed system which will produce usable compost typically in less than a month. These types of bins include rolling bins, tumblers, enclosed bins, and worm bins. If you are interested in purchasing a composting bin, the Office of Environmental Quality currently has Earth Machine compost bins available for purchase for $46. Contact Hannah Lubbers (513) 732-7894 x 4 or hlubbers@clermontcountyohio.gov for more details.

Composting can be an easy and cost effective way to improve the soil quality in your gardens and help your landscaping thrive. No matter how you choose to compost your organic waste, know that you are doing your part to help reduce the amount of waste that goes to our landfills.

Sustainability… What Is It?

By: Susie Steffensen

There are a number of definitions for sustainability and ways to achieve it. For example, one definition is, “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Another, as it applies to nature is, “The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.” For both of these definitions, steps taken now will determine the quality of life for future generations.

There are factors that play into the world’s ability to be sustainable, such as population growth…. energy usage….waste production… agricultural practices and deforestation…plastic use. Addressing these factors and implementing practices that reduce their effects on the environment is the goal, and everyone can do a little something to achieve this goal.

Recycling and reducing the use of single use plastic addresses the need to reduce waste. Turning down the thermostat, turning off lights, and reducing the hot water heater to 120° are ways to reduce energy consumption. Implementing best management practices such as precision agriculture, cover crops, and grassed waterways will improve water quality and help prevent erosion.

So if you are already taking action to help sustainability, thank you! Picking up litter, stopping erosion on your property, allowing weeds to grow in your yard… these things are so beneficial and don’t cost a thing. It might mean rearranging your priorities, but anything that benefits our natural world will benefit you in the long run.

For more information follow us on Facebook, as we will be posting additional ideas on ways to practice sustainable living.

SWCD Water Quality Efforts Recognized

Full detention structure in field waterway

Clermont SWCD, along with the Clermont Office of Environmental Quality and the US EPA Office of Research and Development were awarded the top government storm water project of the year at the 2019 Ohio Storm Water Conference in Sharonville, OH. Our project was funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant and was installed in 2015. This project was funded to research innovative solutions by developing new strategies to support conservation efforts. The project involved the installation of an urban storm water detention basin into an agricultural setting. This project is currently being researched to determine effectiveness of agricultural nutrient removal.

Submerged treatment bed for nutrient removal

The need to address agricultural runoff is important because of the water quality degradation and algal blooms that are occurring around the world. Nutrients leaving agricultural fields are a contributing factor to water quality problems. The soils that we have in our county are very unique to Ohio and an “outside the box” approach was needed because current management practices do not always apply in our area.

The partnership to make this project successful includes many county, state and federal agencies, landowners, and the private industry. This project speaks to the great success of everyone working together for a viable solution.

Erosion Concerns? Try a Riparian Buffer

If you own property that borders a stream and have concerns with the banks eroding and/or water quality, there are some relatively simple measures that you can take to alleviate the problems.  Sometimes the impact is too great, and steps are needed to provide armoring or protection, but if the erosion is not too severe, riparian buffers may be the answer to your worries.

Property owners that mow or weed right to the stream are setting themselves up for erosion problems.  Turf grass has very shallow roots which do a poor job of holding soil in place.  As a result, there is very little under the ground holding the soil in place, and it can be more easily washed away during high stream flows.  When natural vegetation is allowed to grow along a stream’s banks, the benefits are amazing.  When trees, shrubs and native grasses become established along a stream, it is referred to as a riparian buffer.  These plants have deep root systems which do a very good job of holding soil in place.

Buffers also provide many other benefits.  They shade and cool to the stream, which helps promote a healthy and diverse fish community.  Buffers are very effective at filtering pollutants such as lawn fertilizers, animal waste, and pesticides.  They also provide wildlife corridors and habitat.

Clermont SWCD suggests a buffer width of 25 feet for small streams, and increasing the width as the drainage area and stream gets bigger.  However, any buffer width is better than none at all.  The greater the width, the more positive impacts there will be for the stream.  Some plant species that will work well in a stream buffer zone include sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), willows (Salix sp.), red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), and grasses such as meadow sage (Salvia pratensis) and different varieties of rushes (Juncus sp.)

If you have any questions or would like any guidance in establishing your own riparian buffer, contact us at 513-732-7075, or by email at jhahn@clermontcountyohio.gov.

Duke Energy, Clermont SWCD Partner on a Beautiful Solution to Storm Water Pollution

Recently, Duke Energy and the Clermont Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) partnered with a homeowners’ association in a Union Township subdivision to combat runoff problems and beautify the neighborhood at the same time.

Under a $25,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, Clermont SWCD worked with the Shayler Woods Homeowners Association (HOA) to install a 1000 square foot rain garden in a section of the subdivision where storm water did not receive any treatment before it reached a small creek. The garden will catch storm flows from two small drainage areas and allow it to soak into the ground over a day or two rather than running off into the creek. Along with reducing flow, the garden will help filter pollutants, including nutrients found in lawn fertilizers what can contribute to algae blooms.

Gene Benninger, the president of the Shayler Woods HOA, said “We are pleased that our community was chosen for this project. It has greatly enhanced the appearance of the landscape, and we look forward to Spring when everything will be blooming.”

Clermont SWCD offers guidance to any landowner in Clermont County, including homeowners associations, interested in creating their own rain garden.  Requests for assistance can be made by calling (513) 732-7075. or sending an email to ssteffensen@clermontcountyohio.gov.