January 2021
Soil is the foundation of all life on Earth! Attend one of OCSCD's online educational programs, or engage with our many environmental education partners throughout Ocean County. Experience nature at its roots!
Join us for our 2021 Webinar Series
"What's Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard?"
In partnership with Barnegat Bay Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Ocean County, Ocean County Soil Conservation District is excited to announce our 2021 Jersey-Friendly Yards webinar series: What's Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard? This series of 6 monthly webinars focuses on the importance of "bugs" as a vital component of the backyard ecosystem. Presenters will share knowledge about the relationships between native plants and insects, how to identify beneficial insects as well as manage pests, and offer ways to create ecologically sound backyard habitat that supports bugs and the wildlife that depend on them for survival. Webinars take place from January through June, on the second Tuesday of each month, at 7:00pm. Free! Registration is required, click on program links below. More information available on the Jersey-Friendly Yards website.

January 12, 2021
Not all bugs are bad, so let’s meet the beneficial insects in your backyard. Predators, parasites, and pollinators—learn how to recognize these good guys, their biology, and how to keep them happy in your yard.
Presented by Sabrina Tirpak, Principal Laboratory Technician, Rutgers University Plant Diagnostic Laboratory

February 9, 2021
Insects are the most diverse group of animals on Earth. With over 1 million described species, insects account for about 75% of all animal species. Insect diversity is essential in maintaining functional ecosystems, productive natural areas and working lands, and overall biodiversity. However, human perceptions of insects are often negative resulting in insects being misunderstood, underappreciated, and in some cases, unnecessarily feared. This session will cover a variety of “insect myths vs. truths” with the goal of reversing common misconceptions.
Presented by Kelly Gill, Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; Partner Biologist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mid-Atlantic / Northeast Region

March 9, 2021
Simply put: all life on earth depends on insects, for more reasons than most people realize. This talk will explore some of the immeasurably important ways that insects keep ecosystems functioning, including nutrient recycling, pollination services, and trophic interactions. It will also cover ways in which we can conserve much-needed insect diversity in our own yards.
Presented by Dr. Dan Duran, Assistant Professor, Rowan University Department of Environmental Science

April 13, 2021
The invasion has begun! Two non-native species: spotted lanternfly and Asian crazy-worms have already made it into New Jersey’s agriculture, yards, gardens, and forests. Learn the tools to help you fight back, including their identification, biology, impacts, research, and control measures. The talk will also include how non-native pests have a serious negative impact on ecosystems and their health.
Presented by Paul Kurtz, Entomologist, NJ Department of Agriculture

May 11, 2021
Most insects have a positive impact in our landscapes. Native plants can be selected to attract specific bees and beneficial insects including predatory and parasitic wasps, beetles, flies, true bugs, and lacewings. Learn about the predator-prey relationships of these flower-visiting beneficial insects and how they help keep problem insect populations in balance. The life cycles, diversity, and nesting habitat of native bees will also be along with examples of native plants for different site conditions.
Presented by Heather Holms, Author of the books Native Plants for Pollinators and Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide

June 8, 2021
This primer to the winged jewels known as dragonflies and damselflies will cover the most common species, their natural history (life cycle, seasonality, what they prey on, and who preys on them), and how to identify one from another. Pat Sutton, a long-time successful wildlife gardener, will share how to lure these ferocious mosquito predators into your own yard by creating a no-fuss wildlife pond.
Presented by Pat Sutton, Educator, Naturalist, Author
Jersey-Friendly Yards
Landscaping for a Healthy Environment
January 12, 7:00pm
Hosted by the Horticultural Society of South Jersey
Learn how gardening with native plants can save you time and money, conserve water, create healthy soil, and attract wildlife to your backyard. This webinar will teach you the steps involved with creating a low maintenance Jersey-Friendly garden or landscape that is healthy for the environment. Presented by Becky Laboy, Education Outreach Specialist, Ocean County Soil Conservation District. Hosted by the Horticultural Society of South Jersey. Pre-registration required through eventbright. More information can also be found on the Horticultural Society of South Jersey Facebook page.
Expanding Biodiversity - Attracting Birds to Your Yard
January 27, 12:00pm
Hosted by the Ecological Landscape Alliance
Join Becky Laboy, Education Outreach Specialist, OCSCD, for a special webinar hosted by the Ecological Landscape Alliance. Using an ecologically holistic approach, Becky will discuss native plant species that are appropriate for yards, and will point out the many ways these species provide essential services to birds. She will also introduce landscape features and practices that support birds, such as leaf litter, brush piles, dead trees, nest boxes, and water features. Pre-registration required. Free to Members of the ELA; Non-member fee is $10.
Stockton Tuckerton Reef Oyster Restoration
OCSCD continues to further our efforts on the Sustainable Practices for Aquaculture Resource Conservation grant project (SPARC), awarded by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), created with funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
This past month District Erosion Control Specialist Kristin Adams joined Dr. Christine Thompson and Steve Evert from the Stockton University Marine Field Station as they gathered data on the Tuckerton Reef, an oyster reef restoration site. With funding from the Barnegat Bay Partnership and the Jetty Rock Foundation, Stockton University has contracted with Parsons Mariculture to make the Tuckerton Reef site the first of its kind in southern Barnegat Bay. Established in 2016, this two-acre restoration site is monitored annually by Stockton research faculty and students, once at the beginning of the growing season in May or June, and again at the end of the growing season in October or November. Sampling includes water quality data, volume of the reef building materials and other organisms (oyster, clam and whelk shell, sponges, etc.), live oyster quantities and lengths, naturally set oysters and evidence of predation by oyster drills. This data helps to guide the future efforts of restoring health to the Barnegat Bay and Atlantic Intercoastal bays. Learn more about SPARC on the OCSCD website. 
Your Backyard is Their Home - Garden Thoughtfully!
Fall migration is over. Migratory songbirds have joined their resident cousins on their wintering grounds – our backyards. Here they will spend the next several months waiting out the cold weather until spring. Survival is their biggest challenge! Despite winter’s natural beauty, it is a difficult time of year for birds to find enough food, fresh water and shelter they need to survive. Shorter winter days offer less daylight time to forage. Fewer resources means increased competition.

What can you do to help? Look to nature for clues, and supplement with human ingenuity. Check-out Step 7: Create Wildlife Habitat on the Jersey-Friendly Yards website for great tips on how to support wildlife.

  • Plant native species that offer seeds, berries and nuts during the winter. 
  • Hang bird feeders filled with black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet.
  • Install a nest box for birds to use for roosting at night.
  • Build a brush pile that offers shelter and cover from weather and predators.
  • Provide a heated bird bath to ensure fresh clean water.
Search the Jersey-Friendly Yards Plant Database for perennials, shrubs and trees that are friendly to birds and wildlife. Once your perennials and grasses turn brown in Autumn, leave the stems standing throughout the winter. The structure provides shelter for wildlife and the seed heads are a source of food for many overwintering seed eating birds including: Purple Finch, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Fox Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco and Pine Siskin.
Fox Sparrow foraging for seed on the snow-covered ground. Photo: Karmela Moneta
American Tree Sparrow searching for seeds. Photo: Becky Laboy
White-throated Sparrow looking for seed in the snow. Photo: Karmela Moneta
Visit our website: www.SoilDistrict.org
For more information about education programs, events and projects pertaining to soil, water, native gardening and natural resource conservation, please contact Becky Laboy, Education Outreach Specialist, Ocean County Soil Conservation District: education@soildistrict.org.