Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fall Lawn Care Made Easy

Fall is here, and it's the perfect time to get your lawn ready for next spring. Here are a few easy steps from the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District's,(CCSWCD), YardScaping program, which aims to help Mainers improve soil health, reduce the use of lawn care products, and grow a beautiful lawn with few or no additives. 

Get confused at the store? CCSWCD works with many lawn and garden centers throughout the Greater Portland area to label healthy lawn care products with a rubber ducky logo. To find a list of participating stores, click here. For more information or specific questions regarding your lawn, give us a call at 207-892-4700. 

Step 1: Do a soil test
Fall is the best time to fertilize your lawn, but it is not always necessary. Avoid wasting money on fertilizer by doing a soil test first. Fall is also the perfect time to add lime to your lawn, and a soil test will tell you exactly how much is needed. Request a soil testing kit from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension or by calling CCSWCD at 207-892-4700. Learn more about soil testing here

Step 2: Aerate
Help grass roots thrive by loosening the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to reach the roots more easily. Core aerators are easy to use and affordable to rent, especially if you split the cost with a neighbor.  Learn more about aerating here

Step 3: Add Compost
Ideally, grass needs 6-inches of quality soil to grow. Unfortunately, Maine soils tend to be very shallow (only about 3-inches in most places). Adding a thin layer (1/4 to 3/8 inch) of compost over your lawn will help you build up your soil layer faster, while also adding nutrients and organic matter to help you grow a healthy lawn. Learn more about topdressing with compost here.

Step 4: Overseed 
Spread new grass seed over your existing lawn to rejuvenate your grass and have a thicker lawn next year. Learn more about choosing the right grass seed here

With a little time this fall, you'll have a healthier lawn next spring!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Longfellow Elementary 5th Graders Talk Healthy Lawn Care

The Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) was excited to work teach 5th graders at Longfellow Elementary School about Youth YardScaping this year. 2017 marks the third year students have learned how to grow a healthy lawn while keeping Capisic Brook clean. For one month the students learned about healthy lawn care practices and alternatives to harmful fertilizer and weed and bug killers. On June 4th they demonstrated their knowledge by educating community members at their annual Spring Fair. 

A look inside Youth YardScaping...

The 5th graders started the program by venturing on a walking field trip from the Longfellow School to Capisic Pond. As natural observers, the students took note of possible pollutants, storm drain locations, and where they thought the water may flow next.  Once at the pond, they put their science caps on to conduct water quality assessments, experiment with stormwater models, and participate in various nature games.

Checking out storm drains on the walk to Capisic Pond.

Back in the class room, the students were split into 12 groups and assigned a healthy lawn care topic to research for the next month.  Topics included mowing, watering, aerating, topdressing, overseeding, fertilizing, pest control, healthy soil, erosion, watersheds, compost tea, and rain gardens. CCSWCD educator, Kat Munson, made weekly visits to the classroom to work with the students on their research, as well as to help maintain an outdoor test plot in the school's garden area. 

The test plot allowed each student the chance to put what they were learning into action. They topdressed the plot with fresh compost, brewed compost tea to apply on the grass, added new grass seed, and more.

On June 4th, with the sun shining, the students invited the community to join them for their presentations at the school's Spring Fair.  With their displays set up and ready to go, family and friends rotated through the groups as the students explained what they had learned and their advice for a healthy lawn. 

Explaining how Compost Tea is made!

Showing off some homemade compost and explaining topdressing.

Thank yous are in order to all of the 5th grade teachers at Longfellow Elementary, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Pratt, and Mr. Connolly, for all of their hard work and support. Thank you also to the students from USM and Doug Roncarati from the City of Portland for volunteering their time and sharing their knowledge during the Capisic Pond field trip. Most importantly, a big round of applause for each and every student at Longfellow Elementary that worked so hard on this project - awesome job!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

NEW Story Walk at Hall School!

Many Rivers first and second grade students spent this past semester working with the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District, (CCSWCD), to develop a story walk for a portion of the City Forest Trail behind Hall School. We're excited to announce that with the help of some awesome parent volunteers, the story walk has officially been installed and open to the public!

Starting in early February, CCSWCD educators began weekly visits with the first and second grade students to learn about the water cycle and protecting our water resources.  Using what they learned, the students then wrote and illustrated a story to be used for the story walk, called "Flow's Amazing Adventure".  The story follows a water droplet on her crazy journey through the water cycle.

This project was made possible with funds from the Greener Neighborhoods Cleaner Streams program in partnership with the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District.  We would also like to give a big thank you to the amazing Many River's Educators, Carie Garrett and Kristen Wyatt, as well as teaching artist Sarah Boyden.

Join us on Tuesday, June 6th at 5:00pm for a ribbon cutting ceremony and walk through to celebrate the new story walk.  We can't wait for you to see it!

Parent volunteers help install the Story Walk at Hall School.

Deering High School Students Monitor Capisic Brook

As part of our school outreach, educators from the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) have been working with Deering High School students to study the health of Capisic Brook. The students are participating in the University of Maine’s Stormwater Management Research Team (SMART) program, which encourages students to become actively engaged in water quality monitoring at a local water body in their neighborhood.

CCSWCD has been supplementing the student's SMART work to provide them with a better understanding of how actions and activities on the land can impact our water. Lessons focus on how pollutants enter Capisic Brook, their effects on the water and wildlife, and the many different indicators of stream health.

The students also participated in a field trip that taught them how looking at stream life (critters called macroinvertebrates) can tell scientists if pollution is present in the stream. The students stepped into waders and got into Capisic Brook to collect and identify macroinvertebrates.

Students identify macroinvertebrates collected from Capisic Brook.
As part of the SMART program, the students will share their findings with the community. The students are enthusiastic about working with CCSWCD staff to explore different ways to share their information.  Possible outreach includes working with younger students at Longfellow Elementary School, and participating in storm drain stenciling. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fun at the 6th Annual Green Neighbor Family Fest!

The 6th Annual Urban Runoff and Green Neighbor Family Fest were a blast! Thank you to everyone who came out to join us (despite the weather) to help raise awareness of water pollution and to support the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District's CONNECT clean water education program.  We couldn’t be more excited to see the race and festival grow year after year and are already looking forward to 2018.

We may have had to move this year's festival inside, but it didn’t stop the fun! The Maine Marimba Ensemble had us grooving, Party Palooga joined us for face painting and Cannoli Joe’s food truck was serving up delicious cannolis.  We also had over 25 organizations join us to provide awesome hands on activities for youth, while talking about what we can all do to be greener neighbors!

Check out this year's festival participants below:

Breakwater                                                              IDEXX 
Chiropractic & Sports Health                                 Lamey Wellehan Shoes
City of Portland                                                      Maine Green Power 
Cumberland County SWCD                                   Maine Water Environment Assoc.
CC-UCAN                                                              Oceans Wide
Cultivating Community                                          Odyssey of the Mind
Cycling Savvy                                                        Opportunity Alliance
Deering Center Neighborhood Assoc.                   Party Palooga
EcoMaine                                                               ReVision Energy
Friends of Casco Bay                                             Sappi Paper 
Friends of Presumpscot River                                Spiral Tree Yoga
Garbage to Garden                                                 Sunrise Guide
Greener Neighborhoods Cleaner Streams              Surf Camp Maine
The Honey Exchange                                             U-Maine 4-H: Aquaculture Activities

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Green Neighbor Family Fest 2017!

UPDATE: Because of Saturday’s weather forecast, we are moving all festival activities into the Deering High School gym. The gym is located at the back of the school.

Spring is just around the corner, which means it's almost time for our 6th annual Green Neighbor Family FestJoin us on April 22nd at Deering High School to celebrate Earth Day and clean water with hands on activities, live entertainment, face painting, a bounce house, and more! Not to mention, the festivities are FREE and fun for the whole family.

Stop by the festival early to help cheer on the finishers of the Urban Runoff 5K race and walk. The Urban Runoff helps raise awareness of water pollution and supports clean water education programs in local schools.  Learn more at

Added Bonus: Learn about ways to become a green neighbor and be entered into our festival raffle. Last year's winners won Maine State Park passes just in time to venture out for the summer. Stay tuned to find out what this year's give away will be!

Green Neighbor Family Fest

 Saturday, April 22nd | 9:30am - 12:30pm

Deering High School, Portland


Thursday, November 3, 2016

A New Approach

When we embarked on cleaning up Capisic Brook in 2011, our focus was to help residents make good choices to reduce pollution from their properties. We've had a lot of fun chatting with you all about healthy lawn care, where to dispose of leaves and brush, and the importance of picking up your pet's waste. We are excited to see the changes residents of Capisic Brook neighborhoods are making for clean water!

We think now is the time to try something new. There are several schools close to the Brook. We know students get excited about being outside and exploring their local environment, so we're giving them the opportunity to do just that! Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, we'll be working with teachers and students from Hall Elementary School, Longfellow Elementary School, and Deering High School to teach students about clean water and ways students, parents, and community members can help keep water clean. Each initiative at these schools will include  "service learning," where students learn by working on a project that benefits the community.

Hall School students will be writing and illustrating a story walk with a clean water message. The walk will be installed on their school grounds for students and community members to enjoy.

Longfellow Elementary School students will participate in the Youth YardScaping program for the third year, where they will learn about healthy lawn care practices that won't pollute the Brook. They'll share what they've learned at their spring fair in 2017.

Deering High School students will help assess the healthy of the Brook by conducting various tests and learning the stream life in the Brook.

We'll still be at community fairs to talk about clean water, and the 6th annual Green Neighbor Family Fest is already scheduled for April 22, 2017 (Earth Day!). We're also still here to answer your questions about lawn care, reducing runoff, and being good land and water stewards. Give us a call (207-892-4700) or drop us a line. We'd love to hear from you!