February 2021
In 2021 we celebrate the 69th 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.
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!
What's Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard?
Join us for our 2021 Jersey-Friendly Yards Webinar Series
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. For more information visit the Jersey-Friendly Yards website.

January 12, 2021
Getting to Know the Good Guys: Beneficial Insects in the Landscape
Presented by Sabrina Tirpak
February 9, 2021
Presented by Kelly Gill
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.
March 9, 2021
Presented by Dr. Dan Duran
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.
April 13, 2021
Presented by Paul Kurtz, Entomologist, NJ Department of Agriculture
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 how you can 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.
May 11, 2021
Presented by Heather Holms
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 discussed along with examples of native plants for different site conditions.
June 8, 2021
Presented by Pat Sutton
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. 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.
Expanding Biodiversity
Attracting Birds to Your Jersey-Friendly Yard
February 4, 10:00am
Hosted by the Pinelands Commission
Join Becky Laboy, Education Outreach Specialist, OCSCD, for a special webinar hosted by the Pinelands Commission. Learn how to create a Jersey-Friendly Yard to attract and support birds. 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. Free! No need to pre-register; tune-in to the Pinelands Commission YouTube page at 10am on Thursday, February 4.
Get More Dirt on Your Soil!
Spring 2021 Webinar Series
The Get More Dirt on Your Soil - Spring 2021 Webinar Series is presented by Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Ocean County and the Ocean County Soil Conservation District. Healthy lawns and gardens start with healthy soil. Join this new webinar series to learn more about your soil and how to keep it healthy. Three new presenters will share their knowledge about life in the soil, organic matter as a soil gold mine, and composting at home. Webinars are free! Have questions? Please call 732-505-3671 or email: tbecker@co.ocean.nj.us For an introduction to soils, please visit the Get the Dirt on Your Soil web page and watch our videos to learn the basics.
Unearth the Life Beneath Your Feet
Thursday, March 25, 7:00pm-8:00pm
SPEAKER: Dr. Jennifer Adams Krumins, Montclair State University
A healthy soil has a healthy community of critters that live in it!  Learn about the variety, both big and small, of organisms that call soil home and their role in keeping your soil healthy and happy. Register 
An Organic Gold Mine in Your Yard
Thursday, April 15, 7:00pm-8:00pm
SPEAKER: Mr. Fred Schoenagel, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
Organic matter is an essential component in soil. Learn about the function organic matter plays and how it can improve the health of garden soil. Plant and animal material we think of as dead - old brown leaves, broken and rotting branches, torn-up roots - are an organic matter gold mine, which feeds soil life and keeps soil healthy. Different forms of organic matter that gardeners can add to a soil will be defined and described. Register
Breaking Ground on Composting 
Wednesday, May 5, 7:00pm-8:00pm
SPEAKER: Ms. Sandra Blain-Snow, Ocean County Department of Solid Waste Management
Home composting is an easy way to improve your soil and help feed the organisms that live in it.  Learn how to turn your yard waste into an excellent source of food and shelter for your living soil. Register
Healthy Forests = Healthy Communities
Poster Contest for Kids!
Our annual Poster Contest is open to all students from grades 2-12. The 2021 theme is: "Healthy Forests = Healthy Communities". The Ocean County Grand Champion Winner will receive a $50 cash prize. Find out more about the contest, the prizes and how to enter. All Ocean County entries must be received by the Ocean County Soil Conservation District, either hand delivered or postmarked, by March 11, 2021. For more information contact Becky Laboy (609) 991-1534 or education@soildistrict.org
OCSCD strives to lead efforts to conserve our soil and water resources by working with homeowners, farmers, public officials, various state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations. Read about our ongoing efforts to restore, protect and conserve natural resources through our various projects and partnerships.
Sustainable Practices for
Aquaculture Resource Conservation (SPARC)
Rhode Island NRCS Conservation Practices for Aquaculture Producers
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).
(Photo of Rhode Island Oyster Farmer, Nicholas Papa, used with permission.)
The Rhode Island NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) has been working with aquaculture producers since 2008 to utilize a variety of conservation practices to address resource concerns. This past fall District Erosion Control Specialist Kristin Adams joined NRCS District Conservationist Melissa Hayden on the water in Ninigret Pond, a coastal salt pond, to learn about conservation practice scenarios that are available to oyster farmers. 

As pictured here, with the assistance of NRCS EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program) funds, Rhode Island oyster farmers may be eligible to raise oyster seed in plastic mesh bags and cages on their leases during the growing season, from approximately May/June through October/November, prior to moving the seed on shell to a state-owned and selected restoration site. The oyster farmer pictured here, Nicholas Papa, has just transported his clean cultch, which functions as the reef base, as well as seed on shell from his lease to the state-owned restoration site, where the cultch and spat on shell is being counted by NRCS prior to being placed on the restoration lease. NRCS provides funding to growers for monitoring of these reefs for several years. Staff from NRCS and from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management will use the monitoring data to assess the success of these restoration projects over time. New Jersey NRCS is looking into this practice scenario and will hopefully be able to offer it to New Jersey oyster farmers in the future.

For more information about Oyster Restoration buyback programs due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, as well as funding and conservation practices currently eligible to New Jersey Oyster Producers, please visit OCSCD's SPARC Project webpage
Urban Agriculture Conservation
Growing Community, Nourishing Our Future
Ocean County Soil Conservation District is proud to be a community leader in efforts towards eliminating hunger, creating a healthier community and supporting a more sustainable planet through the implementation of our Urban Agriculture Conservation (UAC) initiative. The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided funding for OCSCD's project, Growing Community, Nourishing Our Future, launched in 2017. OCSCD is among 100 grant recipients who implemented projects throughout 34 different states spanning the country. Explore NACD's UAC Story Map to learn how conservation districts have provided technical assistance to urban and smallholder farmers on soil health, pollinators and biodiversity conservation, native plants, irrigation and water management, and a variety of other technical topics. 
OCSCD strives to be recognized as a conservation leader with the ability to partner effectively and use every opportunity to further sustainable resource management and restore functioning ecosystem services for current and future residents of Ocean County and beyond. Enjoy the latest news and information from OCSCD!
Winter is the Time for Planning Your Garden
Get a head start on your summer garden by browsing through the 400+ plants in the Jersey-Friendly Yards Plant Database. Use the search filters to narrow your selection based on the speficic conditions in your yard. Sandy Soil? Slightly acidic? Well-draining? Partly Shady? How about these hardy native beauties? Click on each photo for more plant details.
Whatever the particular conditions in your yard, the Jersey-Friendly Plant Database can help you make the right plant choices. Whether your soil is sandy, clayey or loamy, acidic or basic, situated in full sun or full shade, there are dozens of possibilities! Keep dreaming and start planning with Jersey-Friendly Yards!
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.