Go with the flow: 4 videos to help you take advantage of the rain

Not all water is the same. And there’s no water better for plants than rain.  

Free from the chemicals and salts in tap water, rain is 100% soft hydration. It also contains one of the most bio-available forms of nitrogen, a key nutrient plants need to thrive. Discover more reasons why you want to catch the rain in this short video, and practical ways to do it with our three-part Rainscaping series.   

Rainscaping is simply landscaping with the rain in mind. At a recent workshop we highlighted 3 easy ways to work with the rain and reap the benefits in your landscape. Put away the hose and make a self-watering landscape bed that attracts birds and butterflies. Learn six things to ensure success with rain barrels, and simple ways to work with rain to ensure a lush landscape. Find all this and more in our three-part series from the Rainscaping Workshop. 

Creating a Self-Watering Garden for Birds and Butterflies 

With a few easy steps your landscape beds can water themselves and provide habitat for birds, butterflies, and bees. Learn where to place gardens to take advantage of rainwater, how to prepare the ground, and which plants are best suited to your site. 

Success with Rain Barrels – 6 Things to Know 

Whether you already have a rain barrel or are considering adding one to your garden, discover 6 key points to make it easy, safe, and rewarding to use rainwater.  

Beyond the Barrel – easy ways to work with rain  

When it rains here it pours! Turn what may be a problem into an asset with these simple steps to direct rainwater through your landscape. Whether you have gutters or not, discover how to soften and slow stormwater with a “smiling landscape”. Get rewarded for your efforts with rebates from Woodlands Water.  


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The Water Wise Village Challenge

Turn off your sprinklers and see the benefits!

Consider all you can accomplish through one simple pledge. The annual Water Wise Village Challenge reminds residents about the many benefits of not watering your grass during winter. By pledging, you’ll not only have a healthier lawn, you’ll save water and help your village earn education funds, too!  

  • Lawn care experts, such as Texas A&M AgriLife’s Turf Specialists, stress that watering during winter (when St Augustine grass goes dormant) and overwatering in general, weakens a lawn’s root system. Weak roots are a siren call for chinch bugs, sod web worms and other damaging insects, disease such as brown patch, and a host of weeds. Protect your lawn’s health by avoiding winter irrigation and limiting warm weather irrigation to one inch a week.   
  • Now consider the water savings. Turning off your sprinklers from October through March will save an average of 20,000 gallons of water. When 500 homes pledge, 10 million gallons are saved! And a lot of money, too.  
  • The villages with the most pledges receive a cash donation from challenge partners, Woodlands Water Agency, Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware and The Woodlands GREEN. Those funds go directly to local youth education.  

Thousands of residents across The Woodlands have taken the pledge, and more than half heard about it from a friend. So, spread the word and help your village come out on top.  

Make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood by supporting education while saving water. Take the first step now and make the pledge. 

Take the Water Wise Village Challenge Pledge at www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/waterconservation  or use scan the QR code below with your phone’s camera. 

Scan this code with your phone’s camera and take the pledge today!

It’s so easy to pledge. Do it every year, and ask a neighbor to sign up, too! 

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According to AgriLife Extension Turfgrass Specialists, Water Wise Texas Home Lawns should rely on: 

  • Watering less frequently – no more than twice a week, but watering deeply to improve drought tolerance 
  • Using a Cycle and Soak method for best soil/water infiltration (water in small amounts over several hours instead of all at once, which results in runoff and water waste) 
  • Turning irrigation off when grass is dormant during the fall and winter.  

Simplify your life by receiving weekly email recommendations on watering from Woodlands Water Agency. Sign up by looking for “Receive Updates” at www.woodlandswater.org and entering your email address. The information is available even if you are not a Woodlands Water customer.  

5 beautiful, pollinator-friendly grasses for spectacular fall interest

Texas grasses are a striking addition to the landscape, asking very little of us in return to look their best. Bunch grasses keep a tidy, columnar shape with texture and movement that provides year-round interest. Low on upkeep and water need, they really shine in fall and winter when other plants are past their prime. Unlike your lawn, these no-mow beauties offer a special bonus for native bees, birds and butterflies.  

How do Texas grasses help bees and butterflies? 

Even though grasses don’t provide nectar, they’re vital to the lifecycle of many pollinators and other beneficial insects. Native bunch grasses give ground-nesting bumble bee queens protected sites to overwinter. Over 70% of native bees nest in the ground; adding grasses is one way to ensure more pollinators survive to emerge in the spring. Discover even more elements to help pollinators and other beneficial insects make it through the winter from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. 

Many species of skipper caterpillars develop only on Big and Little Bluestem grasses. Just like monarchs are tied to milkweed, skippers rely on these specific grasses to complete their lifecycle.  And the seed heads last through the cool months, feeding birds and squirrels, too.

Side-oats grama: the state grass of Texas 

Staying short in the spring, this grass mixes well with early wildflowers. Purple oat-like flowers with orange accents fall from one side of graceful arching stems. Blue-green growth turns pale yellow in the fall, with the basal leaves often taking on hues of red and purple. Makes a nice compliment to Little Bluestem but doesn’t compete well with taller grasses.  

Host plant for: 14 species of butterflies and moths including green and dotted skippers 

Get all the details from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Finder Database.

Big Bluestem: a butterfly magnet 

One of the “big four” native grasses of the Tall Grass prairies that dominated the center of the continent (along with Indiangrass, Little Bluestem and Switchgrass). Songbirds love the cover it provides, as well as cozy nesting material and tasty seeds. Blue-green blades turn russet in fall and winter. Plant this beauty where you want to make a statement or provide a backdrop for fall-blooming asters and goldenrod.  

Host plant for: 22 species including the dusted, Delaware, crossline and swarthy skippers 

Get all the details from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Finder Database.

Little bluestem: small and striking 

Bluish spring blades may give this grass its name, but the deep mahogany red fall color topped with white puffy seed heads are the most striking features of this 2-foot-tall grass. Planted in multiples of 5 or 7, it makes a dramatic focal point when the rest of the landscape looks drab in winter. Plants stay compact, reaching about a foot across.  

Host plant for: 8 species of skippers including the dusted, crossline and swarthy 

Get all the details from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Finder Database. 

Indiangrass: a glorious golden accent 

This grey-green grass provides a subtle backdrop most of the year until it erupts with golden flower plumes reaching up to 6 feet by October. Leaves turn shades of orange to purple. Plant two or three together to make a dramatic statement in place of a shrub or small tree.  

Host plant for: the pepper and salt skipper 

Get all the details from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Finder Database.

Bushy bluestem: a grass for wet places 

Bold, feathery flower heads catch the light and add texture to autumn beds. Especially striking when backlit by the sun; plant this bunch grass where the sun will glow through the copper leaves. Bush bluestem likes to have its feet wet, so plant in a place that stays moist such as near a downspout or low area where water collects. Just be sure that it is in full sun – this grass doesn’t tolerate shade. 

Host plant for: many skippers and satyrs 

Get all the details from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Finder Database. 

For more great Texas grasses and beautiful pictures of them in yards, check out this article from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  


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The 3 Rules all Birders Need to Know

Birding is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in the country. Formerly known as “birdwatchers,” birders come from all walks of life, running the gamut of professions, age, and locales. There are as many varieties of birders as there are birds – and as many reasons we enjoy it.

Whether deep in the woods or standing at the kitchen window, birding strengthens our connection to the outdoors. Birds draw us in with their complex behaviors, beautiful plumage and captivating melodies. They can be observed day and night, alone or with a group, competitively or casually. I do most of my birding while engaging in other activities like walking in the park, weeding the garden, and sipping my morning coffee. Birders also contribute mightily to the scientific world by reporting their observations through apps like Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird and Merlin Bird ID.

If you want to get a little more serious about your birding, try challenging yourself: quickly check off a list, learn to identify calls, or improve your observation skills by identifying birds in flight.

In 2015, an Oregon man visited 41 countries, across all 7 continents, and recorded 6,042 species of birds observed in just one year. There are an estimated 10,400 known bird species on Earth.

Regardless of what form birding takes, we are all held to an important code of ethics that ensures birders and birds alike are only positively impacted by this ever-growing pursuit.

The American Birding Association and National Audubon Society recommend the following guidelines:

1. Respect and promote birds and their environment. 

(a) Support the conservation of birds and their habitats.  

(b) Avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger.  

  • Be particularly cautious around active nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display sites, and feeding sites.  
  • Limit the use of recordings and other audio methods of attracting birds in heavily birded areas, and for species that are threatened, endangered or not common to the area,  
  • Always exercise caution and restraint when photographing, recording, or otherwise approaching birds. 

(c) Always minimize habitat disturbance.  

  • Consider the benefits of staying on trails, preserving snags, birding in small groups, and following leave no trace principles including disposing of waste properly, leave what you find and traveling on durable surfaces. 
Outdoor cat owners are encouraged to put a bell on the cat’s collar to protect birds from silent, stalking felines.

2. Respect and promote the birding community and its individual members. 

(a) Be an ethical role model by following this Code and leading by example. Always bird and report with honesty and integrity. 

(b) Respect the interests, rights, and skill levels of fellow birders, as well as people participating in other outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience and be especially helpful to beginning birders. 

(c) Share bird observations freely, provided such reporting would not violate other sections of this Code, as birders, ornithologists, and conservationists derive considerable benefit from publicly available bird sightings. 

(d) Approach instances of perceived unethical birding behavior with sensitivity and respect; try to resolve the matter in a positive manner, keeping in mind that perspectives vary. Use the situation as an opportunity to teach by example and to introduce more people to this Code. 

(e) In group birding situations, share your knowledge of this Code of Ethics with the group to ensure the group does not unduly interfere with others using the same area. 

3. Respect and promote the law and the rights of others. 

(a) Never enter private property without the landowner’s permission. Respect the interests of and interact positively with people living in the area where you are birding. 

(b) Familiarize yourself with and follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing activities at your birding location. In particular, be aware of regulations related to birds, such as disturbance of protected nesting areas or sensitive habitats, and the use of audio or food lures. 

By following these ethics, we ensure that both birders and the birds we admire experience safe and beneficial interactions.  

Check out these past articles on birding for beginners 

Bird is the Word 

Backyard Birds  


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3R Drive-Thru: Light Bulb Recycling

Recycle Light Bulbs; earn scholarship funds for your village!

If you feel in the dark about light bulb disposal, here’s a bright idea: recycle used light bulbs to earn scholarship money! The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has selected Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs for the annual Village Recycling Challenge held at the 3R Recycling Drive-thru on Saturday, November 13, 2021 from 9 a.m. to noon in The Woodlands High School’s parking lot. Light bulbs must be intact, not broken. Batteries and other listed items will also be accepted. This event is for residents only, no businesses. 

This year’s Recycling Village Challenge shines a light on the importance of responsible waste disposal. Recycling light bulbs saves material that can be reused, reduces landfill space, and keeps hazardous chemicals out of our environment. Although they are made of glass, metal and plastic, light bulbs cannot be recycled in your curbside cart 

How are light bulbs recycled? 

Light bulbs are put through a machine, called a tumbler, which crushes and separates the primary components: glass, metal, plastic, mercury and phosphor. These materials are then stored for manufacturing into new items.  

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) contain a small amount of mercury gas. If CFLs are disposed of in a trash can or landfill, the glass can crack and release mercury into the environment. Chemicals from CFLs and other hazardous waste, such as batteries that end up in the landfill, can leach into the surrounding water table, endangering human health and the environment. CFLs and other household hazardous waste should always be treated with care and safely disposed of through special collections. If you are saving CFL bulbs for recycling, please store them in a safe place such as their original box to avoid damage.

Want to save money, energy and even water? 

LED light bulbs use 80% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, saving energy, money and even water. They also pose almost no fire risk because they emit less heat than other bulbs. LED lightbulbs may cost more up front, but they’ll save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the years because of efficiency and long life span.  

Join us for free recycling of select items and support your village by bringing Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs to the 3R Recycling Drive-thru for the Village Recycling Challenge. The village that collects the most will receive a donation to its scholarship fund from The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N.  

Can’t make it to 3R Recycling Drive-thru?  

That’s ok! The Montgomery County Precinct 3 Recycling Center (1122 Pruitt Road in Spring), Home Depot, Lowes, Batteries Plus and Best Buy accept different types of light bulbs all year. For a comprehensive list of local recycling opportunities of other oddities such as electronics, batteries, paints, pharmaceuticals, and more check out the Recycle More Guide.  


For more information, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/3rbazaar