Do You Really Need to Fertilize?

Soil Sample BagsBy Deborah Wessner, Hickory Ridge Watershed Advisory Committee

In preparation for the fall fertilizing season, the Watershed Resident Advisory Committee for Hickory Ridge suggests you first determine how much and what type of nutrients your lawn needs.  Much like a blood analysis for a person, a soil analysis can indicate what levels of chemicals and minerals are present in a lawn, and what type of nutrients may need to be added. Your lawn may already be rich in nutrients, so why pay for expensive fertilizer if you don’t need to?

A soil analysis can be provided for your lawn, FOR FREE, thanks to a program provided by Columbia Association. Soil sample collection bags are available at the Hickory Ridge Village Center office and can be returned to the same office once you have collected your samples (a ten minute task!)  Soil samples you collect from your lawn will be analyzed by a recognized laboratory in Delaware , and the results provided back to you by mail or email.  If you are unable to collect samples yourself, please contact the Hickory Ridge Village office at 410-730-7327 and we will ask a watershed volunteer to set up an appointment to collect the sample for you.

Remember, fall is the best time to fertilize but Maryland law requires homeowners to complete any fertilizing by November 15, so get your soil sample submitted today!



Hickory Ridge WAC Guest Post: The Importance of Healthy Streams

By Patrice Donnelly, Hickory Ridge Watershed Advisory Committee

Healthy streams are a necessary component of a thriving, stream ecosystem.  Flora and fauna habitat are integral to our healthy streams, promote biodiversity and provide natural beauty surrounding our homes and businesses. Outdoor recreational opportunities and effective planning to improve our environment and the community at large will often require monitoring, restoring and maintaining healthy streams.

Healthy streams also have a positive impact on the larger water bodies to which they are tributaries. Water bodies, including streams, rivers, lakes, bays and oceans, exist within watersheds. Watersheds are the land areas that surround water bodies and provide drainage into and out of the water body. They are defined in scope by the water body to which they refer (i.e., the Patuxent River Watershed, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed) and therefore may encompass one or more political entities (e.g., village, city, county, state, regional).

Rain water, storm water run-off and other human-engineered sources of water and fluids (including chemicals) infiltrate the land mass and eventually impact the water bodies. In Hickory Ridge the immediate water bodies are our streams and the Middle Patuxent and Little Patuxent Rivers. Debris can also find its way into the streams and rivers, causing negative impacts.

In some communities infiltration can have a direct impact on ground water sourced for drinking through private well systems (CDC, 2014). In Columbia, our public drinking water is supplied through several reservoirs that are part of the Big Gunpowder Falls, Patapsco, Patuxent and Potomac River Watersheds (The Nature Conservancy, 2015).

We want rain water and storm water infiltration as a part of good storm water management practices to Slow the Flow (Carson, 2010). Infiltration helps to reduce erosion. Yet, we also need to be well-informed and careful about chemical products that go into the watershed, such as lawn fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides, household toxins, automobile fluids, paint and more, referred to as nonpoint source pollution (EPA, 2014).  Whatever goes into our streams has the potential to impact the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed, of which our local watersheds are a part. Two of our larger primary concerns with stream health, therefore, are the immediate health of the local environment and also the State of the Bay (CBF, 2014).

Maintaining and restoring healthy streams involves a web of biological and geo-political interactions and a high degree of complexity.

What can we do together this Spring to promote healthy streams?

Three helpful practices that are easy for our village residents to do, take little time (in the big picture) and can be done with whatever level of cost and effort you are comfortable, are listed below:

March 21, 2015. CA Clean-Up Day. Photos by Patrice Donnelly.

March 21, 2015. CA Clean-Up Day. Photos by Patrice Donnelly.

  1. Help keep the streams free of debris.

A few weeks ago, many brave and enthusiastic village volunteers and friends, joined together as part of the Columbia Association (CA) Clean-up Day (March 21, 2015). We walked through the snow on a cloudy, cold morning, to pick up litter along a segment of our CA pathways that follows one of our beautiful streams. We found soccer balls, golf balls, baseballs, an iPod, a biking helmet, parts of a car – we are definitely a community that is on the go!  We also picked up the small litter, particularly the colorful pieces that are attractive to birds, turtles and other wild life. Small litter is a BIG problem worldwide. Tiny, glittery, colorful pieces of plastic that we consider miniscule often float on the water. They are perfect sized morsels for unsuspecting wildlife who are attracted to the unusual colors. If they ingest enough, they die —  in part because their bodies aren’t built to digest plastics and in part due to accumulated harmful heavy metals that may attach to the plastics (Alberts, 2014).

After we bagged up quite a bit of debris – both the interesting and the mundane – CA employees hauled it away for us.  At the end of the event, village employees handed out snacks and more water, while retrieving our clean-up gear. It was a team effort.

Over the spring and summer – and anytime during the year – if you meet volunteers in neon jackets with our village or CA name-tags, picking up trash, feel free to stop and ask how you can help out and join us again next year for the CA Clean-Up Day.

March 21, 2015. CA Clean-Up Day. Photos by Patrice Donnelly.

March 21, 2015. CA Clean-Up Day. Photos by Patrice Donnelly.

  1. Pull invasive species and plant native plants.

This weekend, we will all be joining together again to pull invasive species from our walkways and streams and plant native plants. In general, if a plant is non-native AND invasive, we will consult with botanists and other experts to determine if the plant should be removed, because in most cases a non-native, invasive plant will not be conducive to protecting our ecosystems and promoting biodiversity. Furthermore, it might fail to reduce erosion and slow the flow of storm water.

Note that another related part of the Slow the Flow campaign includes dedicated tree plantings, as they are a cost effective way to enhance storm-water management (CA Communications, 2012). Tree planting, particularly native tree planting, also protects ecosystems and promotes biodiversity.

On Sunday April 19th, between 12 pm and 3 pm, along the same CA pathway and stream that we cleaned in March, we will conduct a pull and plant with CA Watershed Manager, John McCoy and Howard County Invasive Species Expert, David Rogner. Dave is also a founder of Pick-Up America 2012-2013 (PUA, 2015). All are welcome to join in this effort. Groups are encouraged to register in advance. Rain date is the following Sunday, April 26th.

  1. Gain more knowledge about our local environment.

On Sunday, May 24th between 4pm and 6pm, we will walk along the walkway that abuts the stream where our community members have picked up debris and planted native plants and we will talk about the condition of the stream in general, the flora and fauna, the wildlife habitat and whatever else you would like to discuss, so we can all learn more while we enjoy a spring afternoon together. (Rain does not cancel.) John McCoy, CA Watershed Manager will be joining us. All are welcome.

Contact the village office for more information on any of the above events at (410) 730-7327.

OVER THE SPRING AND SUMMER, the Watershed Advisory Committee at the village will look more closely at several best storm water management and water conservation practices in upcoming blog posts, including bio-retention cells, grassy swales, rain barrels, permeable parking areas, underground irrigation systems, xeriscaping and more.

Patrice Donnelly is a member of the Hickory Ridge Village Association Watershed Advisory Committee and is currently completing an MBA in Sustainability and General Management.

References and Resources

Alberts, Claire Elizabeth. (2014). Plastic ingestion killing Shearwaters: But not for the reason you might think. Audubon.  Retrieved from

CA Communications. (2012). Planting trees in Columbia to slow the flow. [blog]. Retrieved from

Carson, L. (2010). John McCoy – New advocate for Columbia’s ailing watershed. Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from

CBF. (2015). State of the Bay 2014. Retrieved from

CDC. (2014). Drinking Water. Private Water Wells. Retrieved from

EPA. (2014). Managing Urban Runoff. Water: Polluted Runoff. Retrieved from

The Nature Conservancy. (2015). Where does your water come from? Retrieved from

PUA. (2015). About. Retrieved from

Better Late then Never – Our Letter to the CA Board of Directors

At their June 16 meeting, the Hickory Ridge Village Board decided to send a letter to the Columbia Association (CA) Board of Directors regarding the CA Board meeting held on June 12, 2014. Below is the text of the letter:

Dear President Matthews and Members of the Columbia Association Board of Directors:

The Hickory Ridge Village Board was recently made aware of the events that took place at the Columbia Association Board of Directors meeting on June 12, 2014. It is our understanding that a new item was added to the meeting agenda by a 5-4 vote at the beginning of this meeting, without any advance public notice. Later, a vote was taken on this item without any public notice that a motion would be on the table.We believe that this action clearly violates the Columbia Association Board of Directors’ Special Rules of Order. With regard to Agendas, this document states (emphasis is ours),

3.1 Preparation of Agenda: The Board Operations Committee shall be responsible for preparing the Board agenda with background materials for each regular meeting. This agenda shall be submitted to all members of the Board, the Village Boards and the press seven (7) days in advance of any regular meeting, unless circumstances shall prevent such distribution. Generally, items will not be placed on the Board agenda until they have first been reviewed by a Board committee and then referred with a recommendation to the Board Operations Committee for placement on the Board agenda.

3.2 Agenda Items within 7 days of a meeting: If any matter arises within seven (7) days immediately prior to a regular meeting which, in the opinion of the Chairperson or President, requires action by the Board before the next scheduled regular meeting, that item shall be included on an Agenda Additions Sheet and distributed at the beginning of the meeting. Such addenda shall be announced at the beginning of the meeting.

3.3 Emergency Items: An emergency item may be added to the agenda during a regular meeting or executive session only if it has the two-thirds approval of all the members of the Board present at such meeting.

The actions taken by the CA Board of Directors on June 12 did not follow these Rules. This was not an “emergency item,” and a two-thirds approval vote was not achieved. In fact, these actions could also be considered violations of the CA Code of Ethics. And while the actions taken on June 12 are not a direct violation of the Maryland HOA Act, they certainly do not follow the spirit of the law.

We believe that the actions taken at the June 12 meeting reflect poorly on the CA Board for several reasons. First, the members of the CA Board who took these actions were not acting in the spirit of transparency that CA strives to achieve. Because this particular agenda item is so important to Columbia’s lienpayers, the actions make it appear as though the CA Board was attempting to make a major change without gathering public input.  Finally, the CA Board is setting a bad example for all the condominium and homeowners association boards in Columbia by either not being aware of its own meeting rules or intentionally disregarding them when it found it convenient to do so. We ask that Columbia Association take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that this does not happen again.”

A PDF version of the letter is viewable here: Letter to CA Board June 2014

Because this issue is so important to the Board, we are sharing this letter with the public so that all our residents are aware of what the newly-seated CA Board of Directors is operating. We urge you to stay informed on the CA Board’s activities — this elected body oversees how your assessment dollars are spent. Attend a CA Board meeting if you can. Speak up if you have something to say!

Find out when the CA Board meets and what’s on the agenda here:

Get involved and make a difference!

Let it Rain!

Rain GardenAt their August 5 meeting, the Hickory Ridge Village Board approved an architectural guideline for the installation of rain gardens in our village. If you have a rain garden on your property, you already know how helpful they can be in eliminating damp spots in your yard after rainstorms, and minimizing the flow of water across your property. If you don’t have a rain garden, or don’t know what a rain garden is, visit to find out more about Columbia Association‘s rain garden program. Thanks to our new guideline, applications for rain gardens being built through CA‘s grant program are eligible for our Fast Track process. This means your rain garden could be approved in less than one week.

Make sure you follow the instructions on the application completely, including obtaining the signatures of two visually affected neighbors. Bring the completed application to the village office by noon on a Monday to start the Fast Track process. And then you can let it rain!

Family Pool Party Pictures (and more on Flickr)

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We are now on Flickr! So many people asked for pictures from Wednesday night’s pool party that we thought it would be a great idea to make it easy to share them with you. Share your comments and tags, and feel free to download any images you want. Please keep in mind that these photos are copyrighted material belonging to the Hickory Ridge Community Association, so behave accordingly!

New Sixpence Tot Lot Design!

New Sixpence tot lot design

The new design for the replacement of the Sixpence/Buglenote tot lot. Denis Ellis from Columbia Association incorporated residents’ suggestions, and keeps several elements of Fred Jarvis’ design in place while bringing everything up to the CPSC guidelines. This process was truly a successful partnership between CA and residents. Sometimes, it takes a village to make a difference! Thank you to all the Hickory Ridge residents who spoke up for this beloved tot lot, and to the CA staff and Board members who worked with the Village Board to come up with a win-win solution.

Don’t Say They Never Asked…

Do you pay the Columbia assessment? Have you ever grumbled about how it’s used? Admit it — I know you have. Do you sometimes think that you could solve Columbia’s problems if someone would only listen to what you have to say? I know you do. We’re all armchair quarterbacks, aren’t we?

If you have ever complained (to yourself or out loud) that Columbia Association doesn’t care what their residents want, then I challenge you. About two months ago, CA launched, a web site created specifically to get input from residents on everything from plans for Downtown Development to how to improve the gyms. Yes, the Columbia Association is ASKING FOR YOUR INPUT. They are listening. They want to know what you think.

In the two months since the site launched, they have had 175 ideas submitted and 250 comments made.  Sounds good, right? But many of these come from a few very active contributors. And remember that we have 100,000 residents in Columbia, right? So about .25% of Columbia residents are speaking up. THAT is unacceptable. If you care at all about the future of Columbia, speak now or forever hold your peace. And if you choose not to contribute, then stop whining about Columbia Association. You can’t say they never asked for your opinion.