After church one Sunday, a friend told me he enjoyed reading about conservation issues, but doesn’t farm or own a large tract of land, and he wanted to know what he could do to be more of a conservationist. While not humorous like Dave Letterman’s top 10 lists, I have compiled a top 10 list of easy to achieve conservation practices that everyone can do at home to help protect our valuable natural resources.
10. Keep your soil under cover – Anytime you have bare soil in your yard, whether it’s from grass that has died out, a garden plot, construction, etc., it is susceptible to erosion. Bare patches in the lawn should be seeded and mulched. Garden plots benefit from planting cover crops and/or mulching between the rows.
9. Compost yard wastes and food (non-meat) scraps – There are a variety of composters on the market for purchase, but even if you have limited space you can build a compost pile on a 3 foot by 3 foot area and compost yard wastes to build nutrient-rich material for use in your vegetable garden and flower beds.
8. Eat local – buy fresh foods from local farm markets and growers – This practice not only ensures that you are getting fresh produce and helps local growers economically, in the bigger picture it reduces the energy and transportation costs of shipping food from long distances.
7. Eliminate (or reduce) the phosphorous in your lawn fertilizer applications – This one practice alone can have a major impact on improving the water quality in our lakes, streams and rivers. Generally speaking, if you are leaving grass clippings on your lawn when you mow, you should not need to add phosphorous in your fertilizer blend. Too high of phosphorous levels in the soil cause the potential for toxic algae blooms in our surface waters when runoff occurs following a rain event.
6. Fix leaky faucets and toilets – While these may be merely irritating to you, they are costly to all of us, as they waste water and increase the cost of providing more water to your home.
5. Plant a tree – Planting trees helps our environment in a variety of ways. It helps by cleansing the air as trees take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Their roots hold the soil in place and reduce soil erosion. Trees also provide food, shade and shelter for wildlife and people.
4. Follow the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – We live in a convenient, throwaway society, creating a waste stream that is costly in many ways. To help shrink that waste stream, think before you purchase – do I really need this? Can I get by with less? Can the container be reused? If not, is there a different packaging that can? Finally, make sure the products you purchase are in containers that have material that can be recycled rather than dumped into a landfill.
3. Plant flowering vegetation attractive to pollinators – Honeybees and other pollinators are vitally important to our food production, yet their populations have declined drastically in recent years. You can help increase the populations by planting flowering vegetation in your gardens and lawn which will provide pollinators with a food source.
2. Don’t overwater your lawn – Your lawn only requires about an inch of rain or water each week to grow. Overwatering is costly and reduces the ability of the grass roots to grow deep into the soil.
1. Take a hike! Finally, after you have completed all of the above tasks, take a break, go on a hike and enjoy the beauty of our outdoors that you are working to sustain. Better yet, take along a child and share with them the wonders of nature and the miracles of life with which we are all blessed. Too often we get caught up in our daily routines and forget to really live!
For additional information about any of these conservation measures, give us a call (740-368-1921) or look us up online at www.delawareswcd.org. You can also check OSU Extension’s website at http://ohioline.osu.edu and the Natural Resources Conservation Service at www.nrcs.usda.gov.
Brad Ross is a Communications Specialist for Delaware SWCD.