Conservation Notes: Conservation is for Everyone

07/21/2010 09:49

It takes over 500 years for one inch of topsoil to form. As urban or rural residents, it is imperative that we protect soil from erosion by wind and rain. We all need to be conservationists. Each of us needs to do our part in being good stewards of the land and conserving and protecting our natural resources. It is our responsibility!

What can you do to be a conservationist?
Install a rain barrel
    A rain barrel is a system of collecting and storing water from the roofs of homes, sheds, and barns. Rain barrels prevent water from attaching to soil or pollutants and being carried away and washed into storm drains. Reducing stormwater runoff reduces the amount of pesticides and fertilizer that impacts our water supply. For every inch of rain on a 1000 square foot roof, equals 600 gallons of water. Rain barrels store and provide pure, natural water that is perfect for watering landscaping and gardens, washing cars and windows.
Incorporate a rain garden in landscaping
    Rain gardens are designed to collect stormwater runoff from roofs of homes and other buildings. They are landscaped using native plants that utilize the rainwater. Rain gardens offer many environmental benefits. An increased amount of rainwater infiltrates into the ground. With a rain garden, 30% more water is able to penetreate into the ground compared to a conventional lawn. Rain gardens provide a habitat for birds, butterflies and other beneficial insects; protect communities from flooding and drainage issues; protect streams and lakes from pollutants; and enhance the beauty of the neighborhood and community. 
Soil testing
    Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are nutrients essential to plant growth. Over-application of nutrients is not good for plants or the environment. Nutrients may leach through the soil and into the groundwater or run off into storm drains. Soil testing promotes proper nutrient management. For those who fertilize lawns or gardens, soil testing prevents over-application of nutrients and assists in the application of the proper amount of required nutrients.
    When applying chemicals, be sure to read the label closely and follow directions. Be aware of the concentration of chemicals being applied, and do not over apply chemicals.
Start a compost bin
    Compost is a wonderful, nutrient-rich soil amendment that helps plants grow well. For compost, decomposing micro-organisms need moisture, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. Moisture is provided by rain. At times, the compost pile may need to be watered to keep it damp. Oxygen is supplied when mixing the compost pile. Mixing the compost pile often aids in faster decomposition. Leaves, lawn clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, along with livestock manure, coffee grounds, straw, sawdust, and shredded paper create compost. Have a mix of materials high in carbon like, dried leaves and twigs and materials high in nitrogen such as, clover and grass clippings. 
Plant trees and shrubs for wildlife
    Trees and shrubs offer many benefits to rural and urban landowners. They improve water and air quality, sequester and remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen, prevent soil erosion, provide shade from the sun, protection from wind and snow, conserve energy by reducing heating and cooling, create visually eye appealing surroundings, as well as provide a wonderful habitat for wildlife. Shrubs and trees provide wildlife: food, nesting sites, shelter, and safety from predators. To boost the amount of wildlife, improve the quality and increase the quantity of habitat.
Plant native species to attract bees and butterflies
    Attract pollinators by landscaping around your home using a variety of flowers, shrubs and trees. Provide pollen and nectar sources throughout the seasons with successive blooming flowers in the spring, summer and fall. Remember that bees and butterflies love blue, purple, yellow and white flowers. Bees and butterflies are attracted to native plants. Black Eyed Susan, Butterfly Milkweed, Culver's Root, Joe Pye Weed, Ironweed, Mountain Mint, New England Aster, Pale Purple Coneflower, Prairie Blazing Star, Stiff Goldenrod, Swamp Milkweed, and Wild Bergamot are native plant species that both bees and butterflies find appealing.
    Like I have said before, there is no excuse not to recycle. Everyone should recycle. It is easy, environmentally conscious and respectful. Recycling prevents useful materials from being sent to the landfill, reduces water and air pollution, and saves energy.

Urban or rural, it is everyone's responsibility to be stewards of the land and natural resources. As Aldo Leopold wrote, "A thing is only right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the community; and the community includes the soil, water, fauna, flora, as well as the people."        

- Monica Stevens, Resource Conservationist