The world celebrates Earth Day today, and in the spirit of respecting and protecting our natural resources, it’s a good time to offer up some tips we can all use to lessen our impact on the Earth.
Our Agronomic Division processes soil and other tests to help farmers and backyard gardeners alike determine what is needed to maximize production. That way, you are aren’t applying nutrients to your soil when they are not needed. Soil tests are free, and once processed, you can go online to find the reports and recommendations. (Another Earth-friendly benefit.)
Give a few of these tips a try:
- Don’t guess. Soil test! Fertilizer is expensive, and it can also be environmentally harmful when applied in excess. Don’t apply it without knowing exactly how much is needed and without first adjusting soil pH to suit the target crop. The only way to know for sure how much to apply is to collect soil samples and submit them for analysis. Soil test reports give specific lime and fertilizer recommendations for the crop to be grown. For most North Carolina soils, lime application is necessary to optimize nutrient availability and promote root growth.
- Go paperless . . . go online. Soil tests and other agronomic reports are posted online and are easily searchable from the Agronomic Division Web site. Check the box in the center of your sample information form to indicate you do not need a paper report mailed to you. You can get your results faster, and you will also have the option to store and manipulate the data electronically.
- Compost. Make good use of table scraps, grass clippings and fallen leaves. When turned regularly and allowed to decompose, they can make a nutrient-rich amendment to improve your soil. Adding earthworms can speed the process and produce richer compost. You can measure the nutrient content of your compost by sending a sample to the our Agronomic Division for waste analysis.
- Mulch. The benefits are many and include preventing erosion, conserving soil moisture, controlling weeds and improving landscape appearance.
- Choose native plants. Consider more use of native perennial plants. Traditional lawns are high-maintenance and require lots of mowing and chemical inputs. Exotic ornamental plants can run the gamut from being invasive to being ill-suited for our weather and moisture patterns. Native ground covers, trees and shrubs require less adjustment of soil pH and are more likely to thrive without pampering.
- Fertilize with animal manure. It’s organic. In some places, it’s abundant and inexpensive (or free). It’s high in the fertilizer nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. And it can improve soil structure. But, again, Don’t guess. Before using horse or cow manure, poultry litter, or any other waste as fertilizer, submit a sample for waste analysis to determine its nutrient content so you can use it appropriately.
- Choose resistant plant varieties or companion plants that help control pests. This advice is especially helpful in home garden situations where chemical management options are limited or unavailable. For example, certain types of marigolds inhibit the development of root-knot nematode populations. By planting marigolds in among vegetable plants in a garden, nematode problems can be lessened or avoided. Always look for resistant crop varieties when planting home gardens.