All posts by musksoil

Douglas Fir

Good morning Muskingum County! Today we will be focusing on the Douglas Fir, the first of our trees that we have for sale as part of our 2019 tree sale.

Not considered a true fir and sometimes referred to as a false hemlock, the Douglas Fir is native to a large swath of the western US and Canada. It is a large tree, growing from between 50-70 feet tall. The Douglas Fir is reasonably picky about its growing location and for optimum growth should be planted in a well-drained sandy loam soil. They do not tolerate wet feet or heavy soils and should be watered during extreme drought. The Douglas Fir is one of the more popular species of Christmas Tree with beautiful dark green-blue green flattened, flexible needles that emit a sweet fragrance when handled and when cut, their needle retention is excellent. For commercial growth, they require good management, especially when young as they do not tolerate high weeds and they are sensitive to spring frost damage. Plantings should occur outside of frost pockets or areas with poor air drainage. They are a popular tree for wildlife, commonly browsed by deer, rabbit, squirrel, and mice. The seeds of Douglas fir are a good food source for a number of birds that overwinter in our area. The Douglas Fir is an excellent specimen for windbreak and soil erosion, acting as a restorer for eroded soils.

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Christmas Tree Compromises

Why do I buy a live Christmas tree? Well, I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t always buy a live tree. I’ve actually owned an artificial tree for almost 20 years. I have lots of beautiful and very fragile old ornaments and I have always been afraid of weak branches allowing my ornaments to fall crashing to the ground. However, a decade ago my husband put his foot down and insisted on getting a live tree in addition to our artificial tree. He missed the smell and the tradition. What kind of Christmas memories, he asked, would the kids have if we didn’t get up one frigid Saturday morning in December and dutifully follow him across a hillside with an ax, arguing about whether he gets a fat tree or I get a more graceful, slender tree? He was right about having a live tree, although don’t tell him that I said so. There are many perks to buying a live Christmas tree.
1. The smell! Is there anything that says Christmas more than the smell of a fir tree? Well, maybe the smell of gingerbread, but since my entire existence revolves around food, nobody is going to be surprised by the fact that I am willing to go to bat for gingerbread here on the Christmas smell chart.
2. The experience. The kids do a lot of complaining about getting up before noon to drive to a farm and walk across a field. They argue endlessly about which tree we are getting. One of them usually gets hives. But every year, they want to know when we are getting the tree. If I offer the option of not having the live tree, it’s met with a mixture of disbelief and anger. So out they go, complaining merrily all the way.
3. The environmental impact. What? How is cutting down a tree good for the environment? Aha! Here it is. Christmas tree farms are a sustainable and environmentally friendly enterprise. Christmas tree farmers plant thousands of trees each year. Those trees grow for almost 10 years before they are large enough to cut. That’s a decade of benefits per tree and when those trees are cut, the tree farmer generally plants at least one more in its place. Tree farms aren’t cutting down old growth timber out of forests to sell to consumers. Think of the Christmas tree as a huge crop, like tomatoes and lettuce. You grow trees intended for harvest and reap all the added environmental benefits of having millions of extra trees growing each year. Artificial trees are made of plastic and millions of those trees end up in landfills each year. The majority of the artificial trees that are sold in the US are made in China and shipped to the United States. Even with the necessary chemical interventions required to keep live Christmas trees at their optimum, the current accepted estimate is that you have to reuse your artificial tree for a minimum of seven years for the environmental impact of a live tree to be equal to that of an artificial tree. To be honest, many of the pre-lit trees that are being sold these days don’t seem to last very long.
4. The economic impact. This is where your decisions matter to your community. Big box stores generally buy their trees in bulk from states like Oregon where there are massive commercial wholesale tree farms. They ship those trees across the US and then you purchase them at your local big box store. But when you buy a tree from a local tree farm, you’re keeping your money in your community. The family that owns that tree farm is using those funds to support their households. They’re keeping their farmland from being developed into housing and preserving local rural businesses. There is less environmental impact because your trees aren’t being shipped from thousands of miles away, and you are literally keeping the dollars you spend in your own community. The Christmas tree industry is a billion dollar industry. That’s lots of American jobs raising, harvesting, and preparing Christmas trees and that money stays right here at home.
Sure, there are cons to live trees. They’re more work. You MUST water them daily. A dry tree is a dangerous tree and live trees aren’t sprayed with fire retardant chemicals to make them safer (I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s a pro or a con). They’re messy, although they’re a lot less messy if you follow rule number one and water that tree daily. But needles drop and they have to be swept up. Some folks have famously had issues with squirrels. I will admit that although I have never experienced a single squirrel issue yet, we do get spiders occasionally. Having the tree farm shake your tree before you take it helps tremendously.
You also have to properly dispose of the tree at the end of the season. Lots of places offer recycling and removal services if you live in the city. We usually use ours as a winter garden mulch. I drag the tree outside and use the cut branches to cover some of my less hardy plants, it keeps the ice off of them and offers them winter protection. During the spring thaw, those branches go to the compost pile or are shredded into mulch for the blueberries. We use the trunk during the summer as logs for our outdoor fireplace where we enjoy roasting hot dogs over our Christmas tree while we look at the stars. If you don’t want to mess with the tree at all while the snow is falling, just lay the tree outside near the woods and let the wildlife use it as a great winter shelter. A bonus if you leave it upright next to a fence and use it to hang your bird feeders or suet cakes, the birds will adore the sheltered space and flock to its branches. I’ve never had a moment of regret about our decision to include a live tree in our holiday festivities. I look forward to seeing you at one of our many local tree farms, many of which offer a variety of activities this holiday season. We will be the family arguing loudly about whether tall or fat trees are perfect Christmas trees. Blessings to you all.

By April Lovejoy

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Wrapping up the garden for the year

By Lisa Crock-

While the recent temperatures have remained summer-like, I have noticed that some trees are beginning to change color. It’s not too early to start thinking about preparing your garden and yard for winter. It’s not unusual to see snow fly in November, and I know I’d rather do my outdoor chores in a light sweatshirt than bundled up in a winter coat!

If your garden and flower beds still have some plants standing, now is a good time to remove them. This will help avoid diseases and pests that can over-winter in the plant material and cause problems in next year’s plants. Remove any unpicked vegetables to avoid them going to seed, which will result in hundreds of volunteer plants next year. After all the plants have been cleaned up, sow a cover crop down. I usually rake the surface of the garden strips or raised beds, throw on some rye, and rake it around again. Sometimes it will then get covered with a little straw or grass clippings. Rye is cheap, so I tend to put the seed on pretty heavily to get a thick stand.

After pruning out the dead perennials from the flower beds, I’ve found the beds are great places to use up some chopped leaf mulch. For winter, mow your grass a little shorter. This is supposed to help suppress disease and fungus that could over-winter in taller grass. It also allows those pesky fall leaves to blow off your yard and pile up along fences, in corners, etc. Piles of leaves are easier to gather up than leaves across the entire yard. Or, you can run your lawn mower through the leaves, chopping them up finer. They make a wonderful mulch or addition to your compost pile, and chopping them up helps them to decompose faster. Flower pots should also be emptied, cleaned, and stored for the winter.

Don’t forget about your tools. Take the time now to clean up your gardening tools, sharpen anything that needs it, and put everything away. Drain and wind up hoses and empty rain barrels and any plumbing they have so that they don’t freeze and bust. You’ll be ready for next spring that much faster! While you’re at it, make sure to find your snow shovel because nothing’s worse than waking up one morning and needing it…yet having no idea where it’s actually located. Happy autumn!

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Funding Now Available to Treat Spotted Knapweed and Other Invasive Species

Application Deadline is October 19, 2018

The Morgan Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) announces new funding available for the Spotted Knapweed Treatment for Ohio Producers (STOP) Project. Morgan SWCD and other partners received project funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
RCPP is a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) program that encourages partners to join efforts with producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources. Through the program, NRCS and its partners help producers install and maintain conservation activities in selected project areas.
The STOP project will focus on the treatment and control of spotted knapweed and other invasive species in four Appalachian counties in southeastern Ohio: Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum and Noble. These counties have each experienced an exponential spread of the spotted knapweed in privately owned pastures and hay land in recent years.
To implement the STOP Project, NRCS will provide agricultural producers with financial assistance, and one-on-one technical help, to plan and implement improvements to their pastures and permanent hay land. NRCS calls these improvements “conservation practices”. Using these conservation practices will improve the producers’ grazing and hay land operations and lead to cleaner water, cleaner air, healthier soils, and better wildlife habitat.
Other local partners who will also be providing technical assistance for the STOP Project include the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and Ohio State University Extension (OSUE) staff located in each of the four counties.
To participate in the STOP Project, applicants must be farm operators or farm landowners who are managing pasture or hay land in Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum and/or Noble Counties. They must also meet other NRCS eligibility criteria. Applications for the STOP Project must be signed and submitted to NRCS by the October 19, 2018 deadline to be eligible.
To learn more about the STOP Project or to submit an application, visit your local USDA Service Center or visit the NRCS website and select Get Started with NRCS.
The USDA Service Center for Muskingum and Morgan Counties is located at 225 Underwood Street, Suite 100, Zanesville Ohio. You can contact the NRCS office at 740-454-2867 extension 3 to speak with Lori Ryan-Griffin, NRCS District Conservationist.
USDA is an Equal Opportunity Provider, Employer, and Lender

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Ohio NRCS Announces New EQIP Application Deadline for 2019 Funds

COLUMBUS, OH, Sept. 11, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced Friday, October 19, 2018, as the deadline to submit applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in Ohio.
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program which helps producers make conservation work for them. Together, NRCS and producers invest in solutions that conserve natural resources for the future while also improving agricultural operations.
Through EQIP, NRCS provides agricultural producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement improvements, or what NRCS calls conservation practices. Using these practices can lead to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better wildlife habitat, all while improving agricultural operations. Through EQIP, you can voluntarily implement conservation practices, and NRCS co-invests in these practices with you.
Financial assistance is now available in a variety of agricultural categories such as cropland, forestry, pasture operations, and organic. Several special projects are also available which address water quality, forestry management, improving pollinator populations, applying best management practices and many more. All available agricultural categories are listed on the Ohio NRCS website under “EQIP Application Deadlines.”
To participate in USDA conservation programs, applicants should be farmers or farm or forest landowners and must meet eligibility criteria. Applications signed and submitted to NRCS by the October 19 deadline will be evaluated for fiscal year 2019 funding.
To learn more about EQIP or other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit Get Started with NRCS or visit your local USDA Service Center. The USDA Service Center NRCS office for Muskingum and Morgan Counties is located at 225 Underwood Street, Suite 100, Zanesville Ohio. You can contact the NRCS office at 740-454-2867 Extn. 3 to speak with Lori Ryan-Griffin, NRCS District Conservationist. In Morgan County, you may also call 740-962-4234 to speak with Dee Wiseman, NRCS Soil Conservation Technician.
The USDA is an Equal Opportunity Provider, Employer, and Lender

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Oh the many reasons for my garden failures

Lisa Crock

This has not turned out to my year for gardening. I will blame it on the weather, of course, but our epic fails might have more to do with lack of time, attention and possibly fertilizer.

We started out the year well enough. I had decided in the spring not to plant much in the way of vegetables. With our kids very involved in 4-H and the fair, and our son starting college in August, we decided to downsize the gardens. We took one of the garden strips out of production and planted grass. In the two strips that were left, my husband planted three different plantings of sweet corn. In the raised beds, I planted only a few basics – a couple of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cabbage and green beans.

Sadly, I should have just left the cover crop in the raised beds. The tomatoes did get caged, but they have long since grown out of them and gone crazy enough they could be mowed off with the lawn mower. I’m sure there are tomatoes in there somewhere, but no one is brave enough to reach in too far. During the fair, the cucumbers were ignored and grew as large as watermelons. Needless to say, no one wanted to eat those except the chickens. The green beans didn’t come up well, but what did grow yielded a couple of meals and enough to freeze a few quarts. The beans are done, so they have been pulled. The poor cabbage never had a chance against the cabbage worms this year.  I salvaged what I could, but it’s a good thing we don’t have a huge appetite for cabbage.

The first patch of sweet corn was actually ready early, like it was supposed to be. We were able to sneak out a few ears past the raccoons that found it before we knew it was ready. Although we planted different varieties of sweet corn, with different maturity dates, most of it was ready to eat fair week, which of course is when we’re not home long enough to eat anything. So that will all be cut off and fed to the heifers. At least the raccoons and cattle enjoyed the corn.

I typically use a water soluble fertilizer on my potted flowers throughout the summer. Knowing I would be pressed for time most of this summer, I splurged on potting soil that was supposed to have fertilizer in it that would last for a few months. Looking at all of the dead flowers I have, I don’t think that worked out well for me. I have never had so many potted flowers die before Labor Day, and I am always rather neglectful after August first. I’m guessing it was a lack of fertilizer, but I’m not sure. Let’s just say I won’t be buying the same potting soil next year.

As I went through the Zanesville Farmers Market recently, I realized I am grateful that not everyone has garden fails like I do. Those farmers make part, if not all, of their livelihood from growing things and they can’t afford epic failures. I am grateful that there are people who know what they are doing when it comes to growing food, and that I don’t have to depend upon just my own garden to feed my family. If making a trip to one of the farmers markets is on your to-do list sometime soon, be sure to thank those you buy produce from – it isn’t easy battling the weather, wildlife, pests, and weeds to get that produce to market.

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Reflections from a wildlife specialist

It was not an easy decision for me to make, as I love my job with the district, but sometimes we all need to make a change. It was time for me. Thirteen years is a long time, and I have learned a lot. So, as my last article, I thought I’d talk about some of the things I’ve learned as an education/wildlife specialist.

Education is what I was originally hired to do, but as budgets grew tighter, I assumed the wildlife specialist role as well. It was an easy thing for me to do, wildlife is my passion and educating people about wildlife is something I consider vitally important. As a wildlife specialist, I have worked with countless homeowners on issues with nuisance wildlife, from bats in the attic, to raccoons in the chimney.

As a wildlife rehabilitator, I am constantly reminded the there is still good left in this world. Kindness and empathy toward other living things is what makes us human, and in the world we live in today, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative. The animals that come in to our care are brought by people who cared enough to help them. We do what we can for injured and orphaned animals, but it starts with one person.

One of the things I’m most grateful for in my life is that I have the experiences of working with wild animals, and I’m equally grateful for those individuals who bring them to us.

Education is what the Muskingum SWCD is all about. The district does not just do education in classrooms, or just with children. Our Urban Greens project is about educating people about where food comes from, how to grow your own food, and eat healthier. The program reaches people in the Putnam area who lack access to fresh food, and often live in a place where they can’t grow their own food. Our community gardens address both these issues and the food grown in one of the gardens goes into the Zanesville City Schools summer lunch program.

We offer many community events, from the ATV Conservation Tour, to canning workshops, movie nights in the park, backyard conservation workshops, and Kids Conservation Camp. We have a forester on staff to assist landowners, and an agricultural technician who assists farmers. The district is vital to Muskingum County and there are few people who have not used the district’s services at least once. We help make Muskingum County a better place to live.

Finally, I have met some amazing people in my position here and that has been one of the greatest gifts in my life. Many of the kids in my summer Kids Conservation Camp have spent countless summers with me, and I have watched them grow up into amazing people. I have met people in the community that want to make a difference and strive to always help others. I’ve worked with people who shared my visions of the world, and some who have not, but I have learned from all of them and each impacted me in a positive way.

In the end, conservation is about people, and that is what I will miss most as I leave this place. Muskingum County is a wonderful place to live. I encourage you all to get outside, look for some salamanders, plant milkweed for monarchs, take your kids fishing, whatever experience that sparks your interest, and gives you a passion for nature.

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Urban Greens Update

Things are growing with Urban Greens! All of the beds have been reserved and planted at our Restoration Park Community Garden. I suggest spending some time at the park on a nice summer evening to check out what people are growing. You can even nibble on some produce from our public beds #1-4, which are closest to Muskingum Avenue. Your children will love running through and playing in the natural willow tunnel that we planted last year and is now flourishing. Our apple trees, grape vines, and blueberry bushes made it through the winter and we look forward to their fruits in a couple of years.

We have been very busy expanding our Farm to School Garden located behind the Zanesville Community High School on Moxahala Ave. In fact, we have doubled the garden in size from last season! We are very excited to be partnering with the Ohio State University Extension office to offer a program called Kids Dig It at this garden throughout the summer. We will be hosting kids from area youth centers every Tuesday for eight weeks. They will be participating in hands on learning activities in the garden. If you drive past this garden you will see a large sign that will show how much produce we have harvested from the garden throughout the summer.

We are partnering with the Putnam Business Association to present Movie Nights in the Garden again this summer. They will be held on Saturday, July 7 and August 4 in Restoration Park at dark. Please watch our social media for announcements about the movie titles. Also, on July 7th we are proud to be partnering with the United Way and the Kellogg Corporation for a community garden event before the movie that will involve activities like a neighborhood litter pick up. Please stay tuned for more information on that event—we will be seeking volunteers to help make our garden beautiful and productive!

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Celebrate Stewardship Week

Written By: Lisa Crock

Stewardship Week was established by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) in 1955 and runs April 29 – May 6 this year. It is a week set aside annually to promote stewardship, or the conservation and the wise use of our natural resources, such as water, soil, forests and habitat. The program is administered by 3,000 conservation districts across the United States. It serves as a reminder that each individual has the ability to conserve our natural resources and improve our world.

The theme for 2018 is “Watersheds: Our Water, Our Home”. Water is one of our most precious resources, and we all live in a watershed. There are 2,100 watersheds in the continental U.S. Many people on Earth don’t have access to safe, clean, fresh water, but it is necessary to maintain all life on Earth as we know it. The human body is comprised of approximately 60% water (for the average adult). Having available, clean water is important to everyone, whether it be for drinking water, recreation, irrigation, manufacturing, or habitat for wildlife.

While 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, 97% of that is in the oceans. Only 3% of the water on earth is fresh water. Of the 3% that is freshwater, glaciers and icecaps account for 69%, groundwater accounts for 30% and accessible surface water comprises only 1%. The Earth is considered to be pretty much a “closed system”, like a terrarium. The Earth, as a whole, neither really gains nor loses water. The water we have now is the same water that existed in the time of dinosaurs. The water is constantly moving and changing form, from liquid to vapor and ice. It is up to each of us to do our best to keep our fresh water supplies healthy and clean.

The Muskingum Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is proud to support Soil and Water Stewardship Week 2018. For more information contact the Muskingum SWCD at 740-454-2027 or at More information and teaching resources can be found at the NACD website at .

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March 20 – Celebrate Spring and National Agriculture Day

Lisa Crock-

On March 20, 2018 we have two things to celebrate – the spring equinox (the first day of spring) and National Agriculture Day. After the winter we’ve experienced, I think most of us are more than ready to see the first day of spring arrive! But why celebrate National Agriculture Day?

The Agricultural Council of America established National Ag Day in 1973 as a way to help Americans recognize the value of agriculture in their daily lives. It’s a day to celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture.

Agriculture produces almost everything we eat. We are blessed to have safe, abundant, and affordable food. Today, each American farm produces food and fiber for 165 people. Due to mechanization and other efficient management practices, this number has dramatically increased from 25 people in the 1960s. This number will need to continue to grow in the future as our world population increases, while the number of actual farmers is projected to decline. Technology has helped farmers do more with less, and will continue to do so in the future.

Much of what we wear and use daily is produced by agriculture. From the cotton in our socks to the ethanol-infused gasoline in our cars, agriculture affects every aspect of our lives. Ohio’s 75,000 farms grow over 200 different products, from corn and cows to blueberries and honeybees. The average size of Ohio’s farms is 184 acres, while 42% are less than 50 acres.

Agriculture is Ohio’s largest industry, contributing $105 billion annually, and it plays an essential role in maintaining a strong economy. Yet, less than 2% of Americans are employed in what we think of as traditional agriculture – the hands-on farming and ranching. Over 22 million people are employed in an agriculture related fields, whether it be food science or inspection, packaging, agriculture engineering, or conservation. One in 12 American jobs is dependent upon agriculture.

Americans spend approximately 10% of their disposable income on food, when those in other countries spend much more. For example, consumers in Mexico spend 23% of their disposable income on food, while those in Nigeria spend 57%. I know this is a hard fact to keep in mind when you get to the checkout at the grocery and you owe $200. However, many times that $200 is not all for food products, and try to keep in mind how much more expensive that same food would be in another part of the world.

Ohio has a lot to offer agriculture – we have good soil, abundant water, plentiful natural resources, and a variety of landscapes. The Muskingum Soil and Water Conservation District is committed to helping keep Ohio’s land productive, its soil healthy, and its water clean through the conservation and the wise use of these resources.

For more information on ways to celebrate National Ag Day, go to

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