Free your trees from turf. Please see the short article at the bottom of this page and share it as widely as possible.
Outreach of the month: Waiting rooms
Waiting rooms are pretty boring when they are not anxiety-producing, and People magazine is not much help. Why not donate some copies of the Native Plants for Northern Virginia guide and help people dream instead of worry?
Partner of the Month – Nature Forward
Nature Forward (formerly Audubon Naturalist Society), DC area’s oldest independent environmental organization founded in 1897, seeks to create a larger and more diverse community of people who treasure the natural world and work to preserve it through outdoor experiences, education, and advocacy. As a partner with Plant NOVA Natives, Nature Forward has led workshops to empower HOA residents to work with their Boards for managing their HOA common property with more sustainable approaches and also led a PNN workgroup to explore ways to infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion principals in PNN’s work. Nature Forward continually educates residents on the value of native trees and plants in creating healthier communities (and appreciates PNN’s materials for doing so!) and actively works to empower residents to engage with decision makers to push for better ecological outcomes. Sign up for Nature Forward’s Action Alerts or become a member today.
Were you hoping we were exaggerating when you heard a prediction that by the end of the century, Northern Virginia may have lost millions of trees and most of its usable habitat unless we take action now? This just came out: ”In the D.C. area, 9 out of the 11 parks studied were categorized as in imminent or probable failure.” https://dcist.com/story/23/12/20/dc-local-forests-failing-tree-regeneration
Tree of Life Community for faith communities
A group of us are meeting to learn, discuss, and exchange information and ideas about preserving, restoring, and expanding natural systems on the grounds of faith communities. We’ll focus on planting native trees and plants, establishing community gardens, removing invasive species to save native trees, composting, and implementing sustainable landscaping and lawn care techniques. Our next meeting is Thursday, January 18 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. via Zoom. Register here.
Tree rescue training events
The Friends of Holmes Run and the Friends of Dyke Marsh offer periodic hands-on training on how to identify and clip invasive vines. See our calendar for details.
Taking back the forest – See Fairfax County’s volunteer program to restore our public lands explained on this nice story map by volunteers at Difficult Run.
On December 5, 2023, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to allocate $250,000 in funding to scope the invasive plant problem in Loudoun County. Their action was prompted by leaders from 28 homeowners associations in Loudoun County, representing nearly 200,000 citizens, who joined forces to address the pressing issues and impacts of invasive plants. Recognizing the economic, health, safety, and environmental threats posed by invasive species, this group of community leaders formed the Loudoun Invasive Removal Alliance (LIRA). Board Chairs from all 28 HOAs signed a letter addressed to the Loudoun BOS requesting their support and help. If you would like to know more about their approach, contact us and we will put you in touch. email@example.com
2023 Year-end wrap-up – thank you, everyone!!
Since our native plant campaign is made up of hundreds and hundreds of people working to spread the word and put plants in the ground, a comprehensive summary is impossible. This list just represents some of our initiatives. By the way - we have no paid staff. We still need donations to pay for all this. :) And of course we always need more volunteers.
· Labels on native plants at 23 garden centers placed by over 50 volunteers;
· Distribution of Tree Rescuer door hangers and surveying for trees at risk from invasive vines by over 70 volunteers so far, bringing the total to 1700 residents alerted and 75,000 trees spotted;
· Campaign updates distributed monthly to over 5,300 people;
· Fifth annual native plant conference for landscape professionals;
· First annual native plant conference for Spanish-speaking landscape professionals;
· Thanks to Audubon-at-Home and the Fairfax Tree Preservation and Planting Fund, mini-grants for Fairfax community associations and faith communities to remove tree-threatening invasive vines;
· Distribution of 200 front yard signs;
· 5.7K followers on Facebook;
· 120 packages of outreach materials mailed out by one dedicated volunteer, and 125 by another;
· Articles forwarded to NextDoor and other sites by 56 volunteers;
· 43 tabling events and presentations;
· Over 2000 copies sold of Native Plants for Northern Virginia;
· Countless educational and other events by over 100 partnering organizations.
Report your native tree and shrub plantings
Please help Northern Virginia meet its tree-planting obligations by reporting your tree and shrub plantings here. So far 14,165 have been reported!
Report your tree rescues
Millions of trees are at risk from invasive non-native vines. You can help save them on your own land or by volunteering on public land. So far, 11,754 tree rescues have been reported in Northern Virginia. Please add your report here.
Next Steering Committee meeting – via videoconferencing – All are welcome. Tuesday, January 30, 10:00am-noon. Check our Event Calendar for future meetings.
This month’s newsletter articles to share. Please use this link.
Help Trees Thrive: Tear Up Some Turf
By Elaine Kolish, Fairfax County Tree Commission
It’s fairly common in residential neighborhoods to see trees surrounded by grass or by small mulch beds, often heaped high like a volcano. But did you know that your trees would be healthier and grow faster if you replaced that turf and mulch volcanos with a 2-4” deep ring of mulch that extends out to the tree’s drip line or even beyond? Let’s look at why this is.
Tree roots are not as deep underground as you might think. Instead they are generally fairly shallow, in the upper six inches of the soil, which is where turf grass roots grow. This means trees and turf are competing for the same water and nutrients in the soil. The grass generally wins. And of course, as trees become more established, the shade they cast doesn’t do the turf any favor. Turf grass does best with lots of sunlight, and dense shade will significantly affect grass growth and quality. Another factor to consider is that exposed tree roots in your lawn can be a trip hazard. In addition, when you mow over the grass-surrounded roots, you could be damaging them and detrimentally compacting the soil.
If you wonder how much difference turf under trees can make, one study reported that trees in turf grow at half the rate of trees that are not dealing with that competition. So if you want vigorous tree growth, no turf or less turf under them is best.
Another wonderful benefit from eliminating or reducing turf is the improvement in the survival rate of the caterpillars that turn into butterflies and moths that in turn bring beauty into our lives and environmental benefits. According to Doug Tallamy, a famous professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, a hard-packed lawn underneath a tree does not provide adequate pupation sites for caterpillars that may have been feeding on your native tree, such as an oak. The caterpillar may find no leaf litter (because the lawn has been cleaned up) in which to spin a cocoon, or if it is a species that burrows into the soil, it won’t find any loose soil if there is only turf under the tree. And we need these insects, not just for their beauty, but for their role as pollinators and as food for other wildlife. As E.O. Wilson, the eminent ecologist, famously said, insects are ”the little things that run the world.”
So consider eliminating the turf under your trees or combining various smaller mulched areas into a bigger area. Your trees will be happier (and you will have less lawn to mow and maintain)! But, remember, don’t let the mulch touch the trees—stay one to two inches away from the trunk to avoid bark rot. Too deep a mulch layer will keep water from reaching the soil – two to four inches is ideal. Best of all is to use arborist wood chips (which you can get for free from Chip Drop or from any tree company that needs to dispose of the chips after felling a tree), as they don’t mat down the way standard bagged mulch may.
Once you have wider rings around the trees, you will have the opportunity to create more biodiversity and habitat by under-planting with native plants including shrubs, flowers and ground covers that thrive in shade or part shade (think ferns and wild ginger). Native plants have different root depths compared to turf grass, so you won’t have the same unhealthy competition for water and nutrients that you did with turf. You can find details about these plants on the Plant NOVA Natives website.