Pennsylvania DCNR says that at the beginning of the 21st century, about 1,300 species of nonnative plants existed in Pennsylvania outside of gardens, parks and agricultural lands. That means that 37 percent of Pennsylvania’s total wild plant flora consists of nonnatives. DCNR says that more nonnative plants are introduced every year. A nonnative plant is one which was brought into the state and eventually became established in the wild.
Pennsylvania’s native plants number 2,100 in the wild. They include ferns, mosses, grasses, sedges and rushes, wildflowers, woody trees, shrubs and vines. Native plants are those plants growing in Pennsylvania before European settlers arrived. Native plants evolved in Pennsylvania and are therefore well adapted to the area soils and climate. That means they are easy to care for once established. Many natives require little to no additional fertilizer and extra watering. Landscaping with native plants means you can use less fertilizer and less water to keep them looking happy and healthy in your garden. If everyone were to utilize native plants in their gardens, there would be less chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides washing away to local waterways, which means a reduction in water pollution.
According to the Penn State Cooperative Extension, another big reason to landscape with native plants is biodiversity. 90 percent of our native insects feed on only three or even fewer families of plants. Our native insects rely heavily on native plants. If our native insects cannot feed on growing nonnative plant populations, then by extension, native birds would have fewer insects to feed on. Penn State Extension says that what we plant in our yards today will determine what kind of wildlife will be living in Pennsylvania.
By planting native species we can help Pennsylvania’s natural history and diversity sustain. Pollinating insects keep our fruit, vegetable and seed crops going. Bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, birds and even bats rely on pollen and nectar. Food from native plants will keep our native ecosystem going.
The Venango Conservation District is pleased to announce that a grant from the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts has been received. Funding is provided through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The district will be working to educate home/land owners and the general public on how to landscape with native plants rather than exotic plants. A workshop will be held later in the summer. Three outdoor brochure holders have already been installed throughout Two Mile Run County Park. These brochure holders contain a hand-out sheet highlighting the native plants in bloom each month on the Park. Informational signs demonstrating how native plants reduce nonpoint source pollution in the watershed are also installed on the Park.
Want to learn more about using native plants in your landscaping? There are many great websites to use for research. The Pennsylvania DCNR webpage on Landscaping with Native Plants is www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/plants/nativeplants. The Penn State Cooperative Extension webpage on Pennsylvania Native Plants for the Perennial Garden is located at http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fact-sheets/perennial-garden/pa-native-plants-for-the-perennial-garden/pdf factsheet.
Nutrient Management – Manure Management – what is this stuff all about? Well, since the Venango Conservation District spends a lot of time on nonpoint source pollution solutions, then it’s a good bet that the management of nutrients and specifically manure would be a good place to address these solutions. Excess nutrients can enter local waterways via stormwater and can cause water quality impairment.
Nutrient Management Plans can help agricultural operations to utilize nutrients on their farm, while utilizing practices to reduce any pollution that might be running off their farm via stormwater. Concentrated Animal Operations are required by law to develop and implement nutrient management plans. Five to ten percent of farms in Pennsylvania are estimated to fall into the Concentrated Animal Operation category. The other 90% of agricultural operations are encouraged to develop and implement nutrient management plans on a voluntary basis.
Pennsylvania requires anyone who land applies manure or agricultural process wastewater to develop and implement a Manure Management plan. Even if a farm does not apply manure mechanically, but might have pastures or Animal Concentration Areas, they still need a manure management plan.
The Venango Conservation District can help operators with their Nutrient Management Plans and their Manure Management plans. The VCD works to seek out funding to help operators install and implement best management practices to assist in implementing plans. The district holds workshops to educate operators on plans and how to get one. Contact the Venango Conservation District at 814-676-2832 to get more information.
Noticing a bit of hub-bub about rain gardens? The Venango Conservation District has been working to get the word out about rain gardens with news articles, mailings and educational events. The district has been awarded funding to build rain gardens for educational showcases and most recently to build rain gardens for property owners in the Lower Two Mile Run Watershed (Cranberry/Seneca area). Why you may ask?
To reduce nonpoint source pollution.
Nonpoint source water pollution is pollution that comes from many different sources, even your back yard. Stormwater runs off impervious surfaces of your property (rooftops, paved driveways, sidewalks etc.). That stormwater run-off causes nonpoint source pollution by adding a large amount of stormwater entering your neighborhood waterway and causing erosion. That stormwater also picks up contaminates on its way to the stream, and so causes additional pollution problems.
What is a rain garden?
Rather than a traditional raised garden bed, a rain garden is a sunken garden. A ponding area is created and layers of gravel, sand, and a soil/sand mix are added. Then native perennials are. The garden will collect stormwater to allow it to infiltrate rather than run off. Compared to a patch of lawn, a rain garden allows about 30% more rain water to filter into the ground.
What are the benefits of a rain garden?
Environmental – a rain garden reduces nonpoint source pollution by collecting stormwater, filtering it and allowing it to infiltrate or evaporate. Rain gardens provide food and cover for wildlife.
Maintenance – rain gardens reduce lawn area that needs to be maintenanced. Rain gardens themselves are easy and inexpensive to maintain. A rain garden reduces flooding and drainage problems.