June 2022
In 2022 we celebrate the 70th year of the Ocean County Soil Conservation District. We remain committed to building and sustaining a conservation legacy by working with our partners and constituents to conserve, protect and restore our soil, water and natural resources by providing technical assistance, implementing restoration projects, and most importantly through education.
Education Events
Barnegat Bay Environmental
Educators Roundtable Highlights
Teachers Stephanie Boyd (left), Stefani Mercer (right) of Whiting Elementary School, and educator Kerri Bo Bates, participate in the "Soil Science Sampler" workshop at OCSCD's 25th Annual Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable. Photo: Kristin Adams, Erosion Control Specialist, OCSCD.
Our Roots Run Deep
Celebrating 25 Years of Local Connections, Culture & Conservation
The Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable is a professional development event designed for educators to enhance their knowledge of local natural resources, culture and history. On April 27, 2022, we celebrated 25 years of shared learning experiences that root us to the land, to the community, and to each other. Over 100 teachers, informal educators and nature enthusiasts gathered under the "big top" at Jakes Branch County Park to peruse over a dozen exhibitors sharing their educational literature and resources. Participants selected from an array of experiential workshops and field trips to attend, and engaged in lessons and activities that aim to support the development of environmental stewardship in the students they teach. Soil science, salt marsh muck, and soil and plant relationships were a few of the themes educators explored through hands-on and place-based learning. Field Trip destinations included Cattus Island, Cloverdale Farm, and Cedar Bridge Tavern, all managed by the Ocean County Parks Department, as well as Double Trouble State Park, one of New Jersey's historical, cultural and ecological gems. Read more about our 25th annual Environmental Educators Roundtable and view a Gallery of Photos in OCSCD's blog. Reporter Bob Vosseller of Micromedia Publications attended, read his review.
Soil Science Sampler
OCSCD staff, Jessica Pinto and Kristin Adams, led the Soil Science Sampler workshop. Participants engaged in several hands-on soil activities to determine soil texture, nutrient content and pH. One activity had teachers manipulate a sample of moist soil into the shape of a ribbon to determine the composition of sand, silt and clay. Connections to soil health and native soils were emphasized. Download a copy of OCSCD's Soil Science Sampler Activity Packet.
Photo showing teachers engaged in the "Ribbon Texture Test" provided by Jessica Pinto.
Windows on the Salt Marsh
Nikki Vernachio and Megan Zorns led the activities for the Cattus Island County Park field trip. Using hula hoops to focus their view, teachers learned how the nutrient rich "marsh muck" supports a diversity of plant and animal life. Teachers engaged in a "salt marsh stomp" to experience the spongey bounce of the soil that absorbs water and wave energy. Attention was drawn to the importance of the salt marsh as a mitigating tool to impending sea level rise. Book your next school field trip with Cattus Island County Park!
Photo showing teachers engaged in the Window on the Salt Marsh activity provided by Nikki Vernachio, OCPR.
Cultivating Soil & Plant Connections
German Georgieff, Naturalist at Wells Mills County Park, guided a walk through the Pine Barrens habitat at Jakes Branch County Park. Native plants that live in this unique habitat thrive in the nutrient poor, acidic, sandy soil. The thick bark of the quintessential Pitch Pine trees protect them from fire - an important and necessary natural "disturbance" that keeps Oak succession from occurring and replacing the Pines. Bracken Ferns, Inkberry Holly and Huckleberry all thrive in the "sugar sand" of the Pine Barrens. Download a copy of Plant-Soil Relationships curriculum guide created by the Forest Resource Education Center (FREC). Photo showing Chief Naturalist, German Georgieff, provided by Ben Hayden.
This year's Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable was cohosted by the Ocean County Soil Conservation District and Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation. Since 1997, local teachers (and their students!) have benefitted from this much anticipated annual professional development event. To view a Photo Gallery of this year's Roundtable, and learn more about the exhibitors, workshops and field trips offered, please visit our website and read our blog!
Education Programs & Resources
Jersey-Friendly Yards 2022 Webinar Series
Back to Basics: 8 Steps to a Jersey-Friendly Yard!
This year’s webinar series reminds us that a Jersey-Friendly Yard doesn’t have to be a monumental task. Start small and stick to the basics. Each program in this series ties-to one of the 8 Steps to a Jersey-Friendly Yard. Join us as we incorporate these basic components into our landscaping practices, resulting in a beautiful and healthy Jersey-Friendly Yard!
June 14 - Step 5: Minimize Risks When Managing Pests
Join Emily May, Pollinator Conservation Specialist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation's pesticide program, to talk about how to manage pests while protecting pollinators in home landscapes. Along with providing flowering plants and undisturbed places to nest, home gardens also need to be protected from pesticides. This webinar will discuss some of the key pesticide concerns for pollinators, offer simple pest management tips for home landscapes, give you ideas for how to make your garden more resilient to pest pressure, and help you identify and respond to any pests that do arrive. Pre-registration required. Photo by Becky Laboy..
Jersey-Friendly Yards was developed by the Barnegat Bay Partnership (BBP), with funding from NJDEP. The Jersey-Friendly Yards website provides comprehensive resources and tools about landscaping for a healthy yard and healthy environment in New Jersey. The Ocean County Soil Conservation District and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Ocean County are partnering with the BBP to offer educational programs about how you can make your yard more Jersey-Friendly!
Schedule a Jersey-Friendly Yards Program for Your Group
Calling all Green Teams, Environmental Commissions and Garden Clubs! Is your "Green Group" interested in hosting a Jersey-Friendly Yards webinar for your constituents? Jersey-Friendly Yards partners will provide a free 1 hour webinar discussing the importance of landscaping for a healthy environment. We'll start by introducing the tools and resources on the Jersey-Friendly Yards website, explain how to get your soil tested, introduce water conservation practices, suggest appropriate native plants, and offer ways to attract and support pollinators and wildlife. Contact Karen Walzer [email protected] and Becky Laboy [email protected] to schedule a program.
Gardening Tips
How Does Your Garden Grow? How Does Your Soil Sow?
How well do you know the soil in your garden or landscape? Do you know your soil texture? Nutrient content? pH? How can you find out? Why does it matter?

Start with a soil test! Rutgers Soil Testing Lab can determine the textural composition of your soil (percentages of sand, silt and clay), if your soil has any macro- or micronutrient deficiencies, the the acidity or alkalinity of your soil (pH), and many other important soil attributes.

By digging deep into your soil's "health" you can begin to understand the intricate relationship your garden plants have with your soil. For example, most plants need adequate amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to support healthy vegetative growth and blooms, and to boost your plants' natural defenses. Deficiencies of certain nutrients in the soil can lead to poor plant health, disease and pest invasions.

Your soil's pH level will determine the availability of nutrients to your plants. Most nutrients are available to plants in soil with a pH between 6.5 to 7.5. However, acidic soil below 6.5 and alkaline soil above 7.5 cause phosphorous to bind with other nutrients and is no longer available for plant uptake. Your soil's pH can affect the availability of a range of essential nutrients.

Your soil's texture plays a critical role in retaining moisture for your plants. Depending on your soil's texture - it's composition of sand, silt and clay - it may hold on to moisture like a sponge, or allow water to pass straight through, like a sieve. The addition of organic matter and mulch can aid in moisture retention.

Changing your soil's texture, nutrient content and pH can be tricky, time-consuming, expensive, and unnecessary. Here in Ocean County we naturally have sandy, nutrient poor, acidic soil. Don't fight the site - instead of adding chemical nutrients that will leach away or run-off after a rain event, select native plants for your flower garden and home landscaping. After you get your soil test results, visit the Jersey-Friendly Yards Plant Database to find the right plants for the right place in your yard, based on your texture, nutrient content and pH. Dig-in and get to know your soil!
Visit our website: www.SoilDistrict.org
OCSCD's monthly newsletter is edited by Becky Laboy, M.Ed. Education Outreach Specialist. For information about education programs, events and projects pertaining to soil, water, native gardening and natural resource conservation, please contact Becky at [email protected]. For technical questions regarding soil disturbance and regulations pertaining to the Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Act, please call (609) 971-7002.