Although you’re probably aware of air pollution and water contamination, there is a third major environmental issue going on where you can have a positive impact, and this is soil contamination and erosion. The ground we live on is literally becoming worse over the decades, and it is very important to care for this soil if we want to continue living on it. If you garden or farm, it is all the more important that you take steps to conserve soil. If you want to help the environment, see the following 10 ways to conserve soil:
- Grow indigenous plants. When deciding what to grow in your garden and flower beds, plant choices that naturally grow in your environment. The local plants actually help in soil conservation.
- Plant trees. The roots of trees and shrubs help hold the soil together, and keep it from eroding. Their shelter helps keep the soil from washing away.
- Plant groundcover. Grass and other plants can also help keep water in the soil, which will stop it from drying out and blowing away with the wind. Ground-covering plants will protect the ground, restricting weeds and reducing water runoff, while holding the soil in place with their root systems.
- Water appropriately. Water the soil in your yard, but do not add too much moisture. Dry months can make it difficult to care for your yard; this is one reason why choosing to cultivate indigenous plants that can grow in your climate is so important. Over-watering is very hard on the soil, and can wash it away. Water early in the morning, not in harsh sunlight or near dusk.
- Add mulch. Damp piles of mulch can add moisture during the dry months. Organic mulch can be made from your own yard and kitchen waste; it can also be purchased. When purchasing mulch, find a type that is not chemical-laden; this type will just add to the soil’s problems.
- Till the soil. There are many methods to do this; be sure to choose one that’s appropriate for your climate, amount of rainfall, and type of plant life. Tilling improves the biological and physical condition of the soil.
- Design to prevent erosion and runoff. Physical structures such as walls made of earth, stone, and other organic materials can protect soil against runoff and erosion. If you’re building such structures in your yard, consider these effects when planning your design. For large farms, wind barriers act in a similar manner to prevent the wind from blowing away dry soil. If you’re planning to re-grade your land, try to avoid steep slopes, and add terraces if possible.
- Avoid using chemicals. Avoid adding chemicals to your land, either through herbicides and pesticides applied intentionally, through chemicals added to the mulch, fertilizer, and other products you use, or through unintentional dumping of household chemicals. Stop using herbicides, even safe ones; it is much better for the land if the top layer of soil is covered in vegetation. Hand weed your yard rather than spraying it.
- Avoid paving. Make paved surfaces like driveways only as large as they need to be. It is bad for the land to cover up large areas in concrete. Use gravel or similar materials instead of paving wherever possible.
- Add nutrients to the soil. Beneficial minerals can be added through compost, which can be made using your kitchen and yard scraps or purchased at any garden or home improvement store. Earthworms can also be added to the soil; they help to aerate the soil and break down plant waste. Other supplements can also be added to the soil; soil test kits are available to determine what mineral supplements your yard or garden may require. If you have trouble growing anything on your land, consider a test kit so that you can find out what needs fixing in the soil.
Because it takes thousands of years for soil to form through natural processes, it is imperative that we protect the soil we already have.