New District Program Will Benefit Homeowners, Environment

On the streets and in the press, there is considerable chatter these days about environmental concerns. For people who are inspired to take action, the biggest question is often: “What can the ordinary citizen do to help address these concerns?”

In Hamilton County, the answer is: Take advantage of the new Backyard Conservation program.

The first of its kind in the state, this free program was promoted at the March 6 annual meeting of the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). Because it is still in its infancy, local residents can get involved at a “grassroots” level in the Backyard Conservation program and help with its design to better serve the area’s interests. No time-consuming commitment is necessary – just complete a 30-second survey to voice your interests and then sign up for the SWCD’s newsletter to keep informed about future activities.

The Backyard Conservation program’s director, Shirley Ooley, is excited about giving county residents the opportunity to learn how they can help reduce damage to the environment by actually beautifying their own backyards using a variety of simple and inexpensive gardening techniques.

“We’re not talking ‘rocket science’ here, just easy gardening practices,” she said.

Run-off of damaging lawn care chemicals is a major factor in water pollution. Shirley explains that the Backyard Conservation program’s mission will be to organize workshops about ecologically-sound gardening practices. Her office is currently in the process of preparing tip sheets and other materials which will be available to the public and distributed at the workshops.

According to Shirley, some of the tips and techniques advocated in the program include:

Increase your Growing Area
“Like I always say: ‘Grow rather than mow’ by decreasing the yard’s grassy areas,” states Shirley. She recommends planting attractive garden patches that require no lawn chemicals.

Apply only as much pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer needed to permit growth
The practice of over-fertilizing lawns and gardens causes more harm than people realize.

Grow native plants and replace invasive species
Plants like Purple Coneflower and Black-Eyed Susans are meant for this region and should replace invasive species like Periwinkle, Crown Vetch or Honeysuckle.

Rain Barrels
Water collected from rooftops can be used during drier periods. This not only decreases run-off into the storm sewer system and reduces utility bills but also adds another attractive feature to the yard.

Rain Gardens
Situated in a low-lying area of the yard, plantings of species which thrive in wetter areas make attractive additions to the landscape.

These are just a few of the simple Backyard Conservation techniques recommended by Shirley, who points out that her program also offers site evaluations, from which a design of Best Management Practices will be tailored to suit a specific property. She welcomes inquiries and invites citizens to see what the program has to offer.

For more information regarding site evaluations and other recommended Backyard Conservation practices, contact Shirley Ooley at 773-2181, ext. 107. Visit the Hamilton County SWCD website to take the online survey ( and learn more about upcoming events. Also call 1-888-LANDCARE for a free colorful Backyard Conservation booklet and tip sheets.

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