You’re rethinking your landscape to favor bird food and habitat?

Wow, that’s awesome!

Doug Tallamy, author of  Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, wrote in a  2016 article in Bird Watcher’s Digest, “Some plants are far better at producing insect bird food than others. For example, oaks support 557 species of caterpillars (bird food) in the mid-Atlantic states alone, whereas non-native Zelkova trees from Asia support no caterpillars at all.

“Ninety percent of the insects that eat plants can only eat specific plants; if those plants are absent from our landscapes, so will be the bird food they produce. Unfortunately, this is the case in our yards and managed landscapes when we remove native plant communities that are good at making insect bird food and replace them with vast lawns and ornamental plants from other parts of the world that produce few insects in North America. This oversight must end if we want birds in our future.” 

Are you telling me you’re removing some turfgrass to make way for native plants that actually attract insects? That’s really smart of you! In case a neighbor asks you why your lawn is getting smaller, tell them a lot of research is being done on why birds are in decline, and urban landscapes are proving to have great potential to help, see the article below.

Oh, and you can also mention that people who already feed birds are the most likely to transform turf to native plants that birds need. And, by the way, many younger homeowners are getting savvy to gardening for birds, too. So, you are definitely part of the in-crowd when it comes to forgoing the “old school” vast expanse of lawn for bird and wildlife-friendly plants.

Look back at this previous article and learn more about the critical ways native plants support local bird populations.


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Twelve native trees to plant now

Which lovable, albeit grumpy, Dr. Seuss character is known for saying “I speak for the trees”?  If you guessed The Lorax, you’re right! And I’m guessing you share his love for trees, for their beauty and their tremendous environmental value.  Our woody friends reduce cooling costs, increase property values, improve air quality, reduce soil erosion, and improve water quality. 

And native trees offer even more. They’re more pest and disease resistant, can handle our weather extremes, and are essential to the survival of thousands of species of local wildlife and beneficial insects. 

Selecting a native tree  

Consider the following when selecting the right native tree for you: 

  • How large will the tree be when fully grown? 
  • How much sun does the planting site receive each day? 
  • How much water does the tree need? 
  • Do you want a tree that produces flowers, fruits, nuts or fall colors? 

We’ve made it easier to select the right tree for you by including key details for each of our twelve native trees highlighted below.  Let’s start with those that need the most growing space. 

We’ve compiled information on the following five large varieties. These canopy trees, which comprise the upper layer of the forest, typically reach heights of 40-90 feet at full maturity.  Scroll through the images to learn which tree is right for you. 

Need to go smaller? Consider one of these seven understory trees which range in height from 8 to 20 feet at maturity and are generally more shade tolerant. 

Each of these native seedlings benefit local wildlife. Flowering varieties provide nectar for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Berry producing trees offer small mammals and birds a source of food. All are critical hosts for beneficial insects. 

Interested in adding some of these trees to your yard or a nearby greenspace? Come celebrate the 46th annual Arbor Day Tree Giveaway on Saturday, January 29, 2022, from 9 a.m. to noon at Rob Fleming Park for free native seedlings. The twelve varieties listed above are available, while supplies last. 

You can also bring your tree planting and care questions to our Ask An Expert booth, have your photo taken with The Lorax and Puffy the Pinecone, and visit with experts to learn how to create habitat in your landscape for birds and pollinators. 


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

5 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2021

We’re saying good-bye to 2021 and ringing in the new year. Like most of you, we’re looking back at the past 12 months and acknowledging our big moments. Thanks to support from this community, we’ve been able to host some great events, resume our educational classes and continue to grow as a resource for gardening, water conservation, mosquito control, recycling and more. 

And we want to share some of 2021’s best resources. Below are the top 5 most read articles published on The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department Blog this past year.  Whether you missed it the first time around or it’s time for a refresher, these top-rated reads are worth a look. 

1. A Better Way to Keep Mosquitoes at Bay

In addition to flavoring your favorite dishes, garlic is known for its many health benefits: 

  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol 
  • Reduce risk of heart disease 
  • Improve memory 
  • Natural antibiotic 

That’s not all this allium can do! You can use garlic to rid your backyard of mosquitoes. Find out how to put this superfood to use here.  


2. Native Plant Spotlight: American Beautyberry

Each fall, nature puts on a beautiful show. As we slowly move into cooler temperatures, leaves begin to change colors and show-stopping berries appear on many native plants. These berries provide a critical source of food for birds and mammals preparing for winter.  

For a gorgeous pop of color each fall, consider adding American Beautyberry to your landscape. Learn more about this magenta berry producing native, perennial shrub here.  


3. 6 Ground Covers to Replace Turf Grass

Tired of looking at that bare area under trees, where grass just won’t grow? Fed up with fighting brown spots and disease in your lawn? 

Are you ready for a yard that needs less maintenance so you can spend more time enjoying the outdoors?  

Consider adding some of these native ground covers to your landscape this spring. We’ve pulled together our top 6 ground covers for you here.  


4. Bad guys are stealing water from our forests, right before our eyes!

One of our most precious resources is in danger of being stolen! Just who, or what, is threatening to disrupt our ecosystem? 

Learn how you can help protect our forest from the ‘bad guys’ here. 


5. Can your freeze damaged plants recover?

Winter Storm Uri won’t soon be forgotten. Texans were hit hard with one of the most devasting winter storms in history and the costliest winter storm on record. One of the longest lasting effects was the impact on vegetation. To help those feeling overwhelmed by the losses in their landscape, we compiled a one-stop resource to address your freeze related gardening questions here.  


That’s it! Our top 5 most viewed articles for 2021. Check back weekly for new articles and hot topics in 2022.   

The internet is a big place to navigate. If you get lost or distracted easily, sign up to receive a weekly email with the latest from The Woodlands Township Environmental Services. Simply click the button below, enter your email address and be sure to look for a confirmation email.  Once you confirm, you’ll hear from us weekly, or until you decide otherwise.  However, you want to manage your subscription, we will be here, creating new content for you to enjoy. 

Feed Your Plants with Kitchen Scraps and Yard Trimmings

Would you like to waste less, eat healthier food, and grow thriving plants in your home and landscape?  With just a few small steps and habit changes, you can do this!  Take advantage of these ideas for thinking outside the box. 

According to a new report, “Food Waste in America”, by Recycle Track Systems 

  • Food takes up more space in US landfills than any other material. 
  • On average, each American can save one pound of food per day with a few simple steps. 
  • By simply putting our food to good use (consuming or composting) we will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 11%. In fact, it’s one of the easiest things we can do to fight climate change.  
  • Food-saving planning, shopping and storage strategies prevent most produce waste and save households an average of $1,600 each year. That’s enough to pay for more than an entire month’s worth of groceries for a family of four. 

What can you do to reduce food waste in your own home?  The organization “Stop Food Waste” suggests putting this cycle into action: 

Plan 

  • Before shopping, take inventory of your home food supply 
  • Create a weekly menu plan using the food in your refrigerator and pantry. 
  • Take advantage of the “Save the Food” Guestimator and Meal Prep Mate
  • Base your shopping list based on needed items. 

Store 

Eat 

  • Start 2022 with a “New Year’s Fridge Clean-Out”. Make a resolution to eat down your food before the next big shopping trip.  
  • Take advantage of “Save the Food’s” recipes for creative and tasty ways to make use of those odds and ends in your refrigerator or pantry. 
  • Check out these handy resources from “Stop Food Waste” like the “10-Minute Fridge Reality Check” and the “Food Shift Kitchen Guide” 

Compost 

  • Save vegetable and fruit trimmings, cores, peelings, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags and other compostable items. 
  • Start a compost bin in your backyard. 
  • Make backyard composting part of your food preparation routine. 
  • Place your grass clippings and leaves in your compost bin rather than curbside. Sure, yard trimmings collected curbside in The Woodlands are composted commercially, but why not save the good stuff for yourself? You’ll also reduce hauling and the green house gases that come with it.  

Create Compost in Your Own Backyard 

Let’s talk more about compost. Because, while we can all do better at reducing waste, there’s still going to be some great resources coming out of your kitchen. I’m looking at you carrot ends and egg shells. Don’t look a resource in the mouth, compost it! It’s easier than you think, and your plants will LOVE it. Backyard composting is the process of combining dry leaves, brown pine needles, green plant trimmings, and kitchen scraps to create a rich, slow-release fertilizer for your plants. 

Adding compost to soil is one of the best ways to improve soil quality and texture.  Here’s why. Compost contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – primary nutrients  gardens and landscape plants need. It also includes traces of other essential elements like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. These nutrients are released slowly, as opposed to fast-release synthetic fertilizers, and far healthier for your plants. Compost improves drainage and helps the soil retain moisture – less irrigating for you. In short, you’ll have healthier plants with less work, water, and money. 

Creating compost requires a few weeks to a year depending on how often you turn (or mix up) your pile. The more often you turn it, the faster the rate of decomposition. This is because the microbes that are the workhorses of decomposition need air to live. The more often the pile is turned, the more air is delivered to the microbes and the harder they work. I usually turn my pile about every two weeks. But, again, it’s up to you how often you choose to do it. I have some friends who are proud lazy composters and never turn their pile. They still create compost; it just takes longer.  

How can you tell when your compost is finished?  The material at the bottom of your compost bin turns a rich, dark brown color and smells and looks like fresh earth. 

Now comes the most gratifying part – using your compost!   

  • Sprinkle ½”-1” over your backyard vegetable garden and around your planting beds.   
  • Add 1/4” to the surface of indoor and outdoor potted plants.  
  • Make your own potting soil with one of these recipes from University of Florida soil experts.  
  • Or even brew a potent “compost tea” for container plants by steeping homemade finished compost in a five-gallon bucket of water for 1-3 days.  Strain the liquid and apply it to your plants. While research is ongoing, it is thought that compost tea not only provides nutrients but a host of microorganisms that boost plant health.   

Resolve now to reduce food waste, give our climate a hand, and help your landscape thrive in 2022. Learn more about backyard composting with our free, hands-on, backyard composting class on Saturday, January 8 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at The Woodlands Township Parks, Recreation and Environmental Services campus, 8203 Millennium Forest.  Experts from Montgomery County Master Gardeners Association will show you all you need to know. High quality C.E. Shepherd collapsible compost bins will be for sale for only $50 each.  Drop in – no registration required. See you there! 

2021 Holiday Waste Guide: Service schedule updates and tips to make your holiday a little greener

There will be no interruption in curbside trash and recycling services during the Christmas and New Year holidays. All services will occur on their regularly scheduled day including yard trimmings and bulky trash pick-up.  

The Woodlands Recycling Center at 5402 Research Forest Drive will be closed on SaturdayDecember 25 and Saturday, January 1.  It will be open on Wednesday, December 22 and Wednesday, January 5 from 4 to 7 p.m. 

Waste Management has discontinued courtesy collection of extra holiday boxes and wrapping paper the week after the holiday. Extra boxes left outside of the cart will not be picked up unless items are bagged and affixed with an extra trash “pink tag”. See Extra Trash guidelines below. PLEASE NOTE, recycling that is bagged and pink-tagged will be considered trash and landfilled, not recycled. Residents can recycle extra boxes at The Woodlands Recycling Center or by requesting bulk cardboard pickup from Waste Management, 800-800-5804.  

To report a missed pickup or schedule bulky trash pickup, please contact Waste Management Customer Service at 800-800-5804 or cssatex@wm.com.   


Extra Trash Bags  

  • Extra bags of trash can be placed on the curb next to your cart.   
  • Each bag must be affixed with a pink extra service tag.   
  • Purchase tags for $1.75 each from The Woodlands Township offices, Kroger (Cochran’s Crossing, Alden Bridge and Sterling Ridge)  
  • Each bag may weigh no more than 40 pounds.  

For trouble-free service this holiday season, please keep streets clear of parked cars to allow trucks to safely access carts, place carts at the curb by 7 a.m. and ensure cart lids close completely.  


Christmas Tree Guidelines

Cut Christmas Tree Recycling – Unflocked Trees Only  

  • Remove tree stand, all decorations and lights.  
  • Place the tree at the curb on your regular service day for collection by the yard trimmings  truck.  
  • Trees free of decorations may also be deposited at the Recreation Center at Rob Fleming Park, 6464 Creekside Forest Dr and Research Forest Park & Ride, 3900 Marsico Pl. These trees will be chipped and used for flooring at Texas TreeVentures.

Flocked Christmas Tree Disposal  

  • Schedule for bulk pickup by calling Waste Management at 800-800-5804.
  • Call at least two working days before your regular service day.  
  • Flocked Christmas trees must be landfilled.  

Quick Tips for a Greener Holiday 

Greetings cards and packages fill our homes and warm our hearts during the holidays. Consider these tips for a greener Christmas and reduce the amount of holiday tidings that end up in the landfill. 

  • Recycle plain wrapping paper and flattened cardboard boxes in your curbside cart. Check out these Recycling Tips for the Online Shopper for help deciphering which items can be recycled and which cannot. 
  • Give a second life to your clean, gently-used clothing, housewares, toys, furniture and appliances by donating to local charitable organizations. Items should be in good, usable condition. Check out The Woodlands Donation Guide for a list of local organizations accepting donation. Many organizations will pick up your items. If you have an item that is not specified in the guide, call first to assure it is accepted. 
  • Find new recycling opportunities for items that cannot be recycled in your curbside cart. Items such as used electronics, batteries, Styrofoam, light bulbs, eyeglasses, mattresses and more can all be recycled locally at participating locations. Check out the Recycle More Guide for a complete list of locations and phone numbers. 

If wrapping paper is metallic, has glitter on it, or has a texture to it, it is not recyclable. Gift wrap mistakenly put in the recycling cart harms the value of other collected paper at the recycling center. Check this Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Guide for sustainable wrapping tips. 


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov