Category Archives: Muskingum SWCD Blog

Moon Phases and Gardening


Lisa Crock-

Some of my earliest memories are of helping my Grandma in her garden. She lived beside us and because she was very crippled from arthritis, we grandkids were her labor force when it came to gardening. She would instruct us on what, where and when to plant and then harvest the bounty of vegetables. Of course we benefited from all this because she was a widow with a huge garden!

When it came to gardening, I don’t know if Grandma followed an almanac or not. I do remember she followed the moon and was picky about where and when things were planted. For instance, potatoes had to be planted in the dark of the moon. Tomatoes had to be planted in the light of the moon. Crops had to be rotated and there were other instructions I thought were odd at the time. As a kid, I had no idea what most of it meant.

This past week’s “super moon” got me to thinking about the moon and its effects on the earth, so I did a little research on the moon and gardening. For example, not only does the moon’s 28-day journey around the earth affect the tides it also affects the earth’s water table. During the new moon to the full moon (called the waxing moon or the light of the moon) the gravitational pull brings more water to the topsoil. So plants and seeds absorb more water during this time. This is a good time to plant above-ground crops like cabbage, beans, and tomatoes. The gravitational pull during this time also causes sap to rise. Fruits harvested during this phase will be at their juiciest.

The period from the full moon to the new moon is called the waning period, or the dark of the moon. The water table falls at this time, reducing the pressure on root systems. It is also considered the best time to kill weeds, turn soil, and plant below-ground crops, such as carrots, potatoes, and turnips. Grandma always wanted her potatoes planted in the dark of the moon because if you planted your potatoes in the light of the moon, they grew up instead of down and you ended up with a bunch of small, sun-burnt potatoes.

If you’re interested in following the moon, as farmers have done for centuries before Doppler radar on television, there are several almanacs still in print, plus at least one offers a smart phone app. All the almanacs list the same basic information, but often in different formats. The almanac usually interprets the information so that you can easily pick out the most favorable time to plant certain things. Many almanacs also link moon phases with astronomical (not astrological) positioning. Knowing when the moon passes through the astronomical constellations is a helpful indicator of when to perform activities such as fertilizing, weeding, harvesting, watering, etc.

Whether you follow the moon or not to garden, I hope you at least think of the moon a little differently the next time you glance at the sky!

Native Control of Exotic Invaders

By: Robert Boehle

In the natural resource world it seems like at least once a month there is news coming out about a new invasive species that is affecting some different area, whether it is forests, pastures, crop field or just your back yard. Typically control of these invaders falls to a landowner who knows what to look for and what to do. This is because these non-native species didn’t evolve in our ecosystems and therefore have no none predators in the United States. There are native fungus that are attacking some of these invaders and providing some relief. The two primary species that we are seeing these natives doing control are in Ailanthus and multiflora rose.

The disease that is attacking multiflora rose is a blessing to some and a curse to others. Multiflora rose was introduced into the 1700’s, and was heavily planted in the mid 1900’s as living fences and to reduce erosion on sites that would grow very little else. To most rural landowner with large populations of multiflora rose it is a blessing reducing the populations of this pest which can take over large areas of pasture and forest. For urban landowners who may be downwind of multiflora rose it can be a real issue especially if they have roses in their landscaping, because it attacks ornamental roses as well as multiflora rose. Although many times with the reduction of the canopy over, other invasive species can move in so it is not a time to reduce vigilance. The void left can be filled by honeysuckle and autumn olive, neither of which are desirable.

The invasive that is at or close to the top of biggest problems in the woods is Ailanthus or Tree of Heaven. This tree was originally introduced into Pennsylvania in the late 1700’s. It has spread across the majority of the continental US both through natural seed movement and human planting of this species. In 2002 Ailanthus Wilt, a native fungus which attacks and kills Ailanthus was found in Pennsylvania. In 2012 it was found in Pike County, with this discovery United States Forest Service was able to start doing in the field testing. Results for this testing has been very promising with several test plots including two here in Muskingum County. This wilt attacks the vascular system of the trees and begin to wilt them within 4 weeks of inoculation- and death follows within 10 weeks of inoculation. This wilt unlike most commercial control methods does not require follow up and do not leave small seedling to come up and replace the killed larger trees.

The battle against invasive species will continue, likely forever. Combining these native fungus with native beetles and control applied by landowners can greatly reduce the invasive species throughout our landscape giving a better opportunity to our native species. The native species are evolved to grow in this area, as well as evolving with the native animals which provide benefits for both the animals and the plants. Pollinators especially benefit from native species over exotic ones. Controlling invasive issues whether it be through encouraging these native diseases or through chemical control can have long standing benefits for forests, pasture and crop land.


Providing for the Over-Wintering Birds

We have quite a few species of birds that over-winter in Ohio. Once the snow starts flying, their food and unfrozen water sources can become hard to find. Even if you only have a small backyard patio area, you can still provide for the birds this winter.


There are several ways to provide food for our feathered friends. There are five basic types of feeders, each attracting certain species. Ground feeding tables attract doves, juncos, sparrows, towhees, goldfinches, and cardinals. By using a table instead of just scattering the feed on the ground it keeps some of the droppings separated from the feed. A basic hopper feeder, in which the feed flows out the bottom as it is eaten, will attract jays, grackles, cardinals, and red-winged black birds. The tube thistle feeder is popular with all finches. Suet feeders not only attract titmice, woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches, but often times the unwanted starling, also. To deter starlings, limit the access to the suet holder. Smaller birds can hang upside down to eat from it while the starlings cannot. If you only put out one type of feeder, a sunflower feeding tube should be the feeder of choice. The sunflower seeds attract the smaller birds, but the larger birds will eat also.


To maximize the number of species at your feeder, you will want to offer a variety of food. Black-oil sunflower seed attracts cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, gold finches, purple finches, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches. Goldfinches love Niger seed. The sparrows, juncos, and doves favor white millet. If you would like to see woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees, make sure to hang a suet cake. Corn, either on the ear, shelled, or cracked, will attract blue jays, sparrows and starlings.


Once you have your feeders up and filled, be patient. It may take several weeks for the birds to find your feeder. Keep the feeders full and clean. Shake tube feeders to dislodge any wet compacted feed and empty the wet feed before refilling. Clean off trays and platforms. At least once a winter clean the feeders in a solution of two ounces of bleach to two gallons of water. Rinse and let dry before refilling.


Birds still need water, even in the winter, so you might consider installing a birdbath. There are models available that will keep the water from freezing, or there are small water heaters made that can be placed in a bird bath.


It can be a neat hobby to feed the birds and then determine exactly which species are coming in to your feeder. Have fun identifying the birds as they flock to your feeder and water source!

Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

Unlike the infamous chicken of many riddles, turtles actually cross roads not just to get to the other side, but because they actually have someplace to go.
It’s common to see turtles crossing roads in Ohio from April through October. Considering we have about 10 species of turtles in Ohio, eight of which can be found in Muskingum County, it’s likely you will encounter one. Road mortality is a major factor in turtle population declines throughout the United States. Helping these animals cross safely is an important and valuable contribution to the preservation of North America’s turtles.

Because much of the habitat necessary to turtle survival is fragmented by roads, just getting to food, water, and fellow turtles requires turtles to cross roads. Turtles often cross roads in the morning, especially after rain. They will also cross when looking for territory to call their own, in search of water during periods of drought, and in the fall they a looking for somewhere to hibernate.

The box turtle is the only completely terrestrial turtle in Ohio and therefore are more commonly seen crossing roads; however, aquatic turtles including Painted turtles and Snapping turtles are often crossing to find a safe place to lay eggs. It is especially vital to help these females with eggs safely cross in order to preserve regional populations. So, what can you do to safely help a turtle avoid the perils of road travel?

Don’t put yourself or others in danger. Simply pulling off the road and turning on your hazards may alert other drivers to slow down. Pay attention to your surroundings and traffic. Make sure other drivers see you before you step out of your vehicle.

Don’t pick turtles up by the tail! Box turtles do not bite and can be safely picked up around the shell, but snapping turtles do bite and can be dangerous. A turtle can be safely picked up by the back of the shell, or with larger, more aggressive turtles, I generally push them across with my foot on the back of their shell. A little road rash is far better than a crushed shell. Be aware the turtle is afraid of you and may empty their bladder, hold them away from your body and be sure not to drop the turtle.

Allow turtles to cross unassisted if there is no oncoming traffic. Just “walk” the turtle across the road.

Always put the turtle off the road in the direction they are heading. They are going that way for a reason, and if placed on the wrong side, they will just turn around and walk back into the road. Remember the phrase “if you care, leave it there.”

Never take the turtle home with you. It’s illegal in Ohio now to remove a box turtle from the wild. Their populations are declining at an alarming rate and one of the reasons is people taking them for pets. Turtles live over 100 years, don’t do well in captivity, and generally do not make good pets, especially for children. Please, do not take animals out of the wild for pets.

Relocating wildlife, especially turtles, is not a good idea either. All animals have a territory where they know where the resources they need to survive are found. Removing them from their “home” and relocating them is most often a death sentence. Relocated animals do not know where their food, water, and shelter are found and are vulnerable to predation from other animals.

If you happen to find an injured turtle, safely put it in a box and note the location where you found it, then contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator. There is a list by county on the Ohio Division of Wildlife website, or call our office at 740-454-2027.

Snap a quick picture of the turtle with your phone and send it to our survey, the Muskingum County Reptile and Amphibian Survey on Facebook, or
Turtles and other reptiles are truly at the mercy of drivers when they are forced to cross roads. It is out of necessity that these animals are on the road and helping them across is an easy thing everyone can do to help protect reptiles in Ohio. So when you are driving this summer and fall, please watch for turtles on the road and help them cross. The turtles will thank you.

Can You Dig It?

The anticipation of spring is a thrill for many community gardeners who await the opportunity to grow their own food and build meaningful relationships in the garden. While urban agriculture and community gardening may be a relatively new concept for many in our region, it is a phenomenon that has been sweeping through the country for many years. Muskingum County’s strong agricultural roots and our Appalachian heritage lends itself nicely to this model of community development.

Urban agriculture is a movement comprised of individuals who care about issues such as environmentalism, food insecurity, community development, and social justice among others. At its core, it is a platform by which people of different backgrounds and interests collide around the concept of growing food in urban environments. The idea of growing food in the city is not new. Many individuals and families have been growing fruits and vegetables in their backyard for decades. Yet, as our food system has become more mechanized and removed from our daily lives, many are looking to get in touch with where their food comes from.

The significance and impact of community gardens runs much deeper than growing food. It engages folks in the foundational, life-giving practices of agriculture and simple living. It also brings people together across differences around a common goal. This may seem elementary, but in a time when much of our daily lives are politicized, togetherness and community are more important than ever. We desperately need to return to the art of living well together.

This season, several local community gardens will be available to the public for the purpose of growing healthy food. More established gardens like Brighton Grows Community Garden, Maple-Harding Community Garden, and Bethel Community Garden have been around for several seasons and are great resources for community members looking to become involved in the movement. Additionally, there will be several new gardens popping up in Muskingum County this season, all with different focuses. For instance, a Farm to School garden will be developed at Zanesville Community High School and a garden to engage the homeless population will be installed at First United Methodist Church. Individual garden plots can be reserved for personal use at Putnam Gardens, a garden located at Restoration Park on Muskingum Avenue and at Eastside Community Ministry. New Concord is even getting in on the action as a local group of passionate community members are working hard to develop a garden there.

Muskingum County is fortunate to have many passionate advocates working hard to ensure all residents have access to fresh, local food. For those looking to get involved, joining the movement will mean befriending people they may have never encountered otherwise. For others, it will entail growing their own food for the first time. If anything is certain, we all need food and one another to truly thrive. That is what community gardening and urban agriculture is all about. Together we can live into a better future where all are have the opportunity to live well!


More places to donate unwanted “stuff”

If you read my December article, you might remember I gave some options on what to do with all your outdated “stuff” when you got new items for Christmas.

The day the article ran, I received a phone call from fellow article contributor Dorothy Montgomery. While she noted she enjoyed the article, she pointed out that I had forgot to mention the Habitat for Humanity ReStore site that we now have in our community. I certainly didn’t mean to leave them off my list of suggestions, which was in no way meant to be an all-inclusive list. I did some more research on places to take “stuff,” so below are a couple of more places to consider.

The Habitat for Humanity of Southeast Ohio ReStore accepts donations of new and used building materials from companies and individuals. From their Facebook page, it looks like they accept and sell everything from lightbulbs to bath tubs. The store sells these items at discounted prices, and the revenue is used to build new Habitat homes in southeastern Ohio.

Of course, this also reduces landfill waste. So whether you are looking to donate some unused kitchen cabinets, or looking to buy some new light fixtures, consider checking out the Restore at 100 Sunrise Center Drive. They also advertise their current deals on their Facebook page and there is a complete list of items accepted and the store hours on their website.

I also hadn’t included the Heartbeats Family Center in my initial article. When my kids were little, I often donated clothing and small toys to the center instead of trying to sell them at a yard sale. It was just easier to donate them and get them out of the house. The Heartbeat Boutique takes gently used and new blankets, sheets, towels, small toys and books, and clothes from size newborn to 3T. They are located at 216 Hazlett Court, second Floor. Check their website for a complete list of accepted items and their hours.

There are also many churches that accept donations of furniture and housewares, so check with the churches in your neighborhood before hauling a still-useful piece of furniture to the curb. Some churches operate clothing and/or food banks, so consider donating there as well.

After the holiday decorations are packed away for another year, and we are all stuck inside because it’s winter in Ohio, I want to start clearing out stuff. My urge to de-clutter and make space is usually gone by spring, when there are more enticing things to do outside.

So if you just want to get rid of some things that still have life left in them, consider one of the above organizations for your donation. And if I have forgotten any other organizations, know that I didn’t mean to and drop me an email or call to let me know.


Lisa Crock


Already time to look at next hunting season

As we close in on the end of one hunting season for many people that means that the preparations for next year are just beginning. People begin to reconsider what they might do to increase their likelihood of taking that big buck or just filling their freezer with meat. This can range from the basic like moving tree stands, to the more involved like planting trees and food plots to increase cover or feed sources. With these more involved practices, some planning and prior thought process can greatly increase the odds of success in the long range.
Many people look at food plots as quick and easy, but to ensure the success there is some planning that needs to be done. There is still time to get soil tests taken and sent in to give you an idea of what that soil contains at a very basic level. These tests will give you an idea of the amount of the primary nutrients needed for plant growth as well as soil pH and some other information. With these levels you can also get a recommendation for application rates to get your soils to the optimal levels to support the type of plant you are growing. This gives your seeding the best odds possible for success baring major interference from Mother Nature.
While most food plots are an annual or every few years’ investment of time, trees can provide food for wildlife for generations to come. Planting trees can serve many wildlife purposes, but the two primary ones are cover and food. The majority of the trees sold by nurseries in this area are fairly well adapted to this climate and the common soil types. With this being said some trees are fairly particular with the soil types they will grow in while others will grow in a very wide range of soil types.
The next question that is often asked is “How do I know what my soil type is?” While this information is available publicly online and in print, many times it is hard to locate and then once located it is hard to decipher the information reported. So that is where your local natural resources professional comes into play. Whether they work for the county, state, federal government, nonprofits a private employer they have a wealth of knowledge. Many can provide their information for free.
These professionals can provide information on what trees will be best to plant where on your property as well as what trees will perform the desired objective. The can also provide information on how many to plant, how to plant them and how close to plant them. This is the type of information that can greatly increase the likelihood that in the end the project meets landowners’ objectives and provides benefits for many years to come.

By: Robert Boehle