Soil, Compost, & Water
The Connection Between Healthy Soil
and Clean Water:
What you can do to keep Vermont’s lakes and waterways clean.
Have you considered the connection between healthy soil and clean water? Common sources of water pollution are soil erosion and the runoff of fertilizers and pesticides. Compacted soils encourage runoff. Soil degradation is often caused by a lack of or decline in organic matter, one of the most important indicators of soil health and productivity. Healthy, organically rich soils greatly reduce and can even prevent water pollution.
A healthy soil food web has many benefits for gardeners, farmers and turf growers. Healthy soil: recycles and uses nutrients better; retains more moisture; acts as a filter for environmental toxins (phosphorous, etc) by immobilizing or degrading the potential toxins and; generally produces healthier plants that are more resistant to diseases, insect infestations, and drought.
A healthy balance of soil microbial life comes from the right mix of living material: humus, fungi, bacteria, protozoa, and other microbes. You can create or help maintain a healthy soil food web by making sure you have 5% to 10% organic matter in your soils. It’s easy, just add compost to your lawns and gardens. A healthy soil food web creates the best conditions for soil and plant health and is better for the environment, including waterways.
When gardeners add the "biology back to their soil" by using compost, they create the conditions that lead to fewer health problems, more production, and less maintenance.
What are the economic benefits?
By using compost as a soil amendment or mulch, you can cut costs and:
- Reduce the use of herbicides
- Reduce the use of chemical fertilizers
- Support markets for local compost producers
- Avoid landfill disposal costs for "green" material
- Conserve water saving on water bills, less time watering
What are the environmental benefits?
yard waste and kitchen scraps (without animal products) is one
of the best and easiest things you can do to reduce what goes to the landfill, to grow healthy, sustainable gardens and lawns, and to discourage chemical runoff into our waterways. Using compost whether home made
or store-bought recycles nutrients and organic matter that
helps grow trouble-free plants with less water, fertilizer or pesticides.
In addition, by diverting organic materials from landfills you reduce
their environmental impact, including green house gas emissions.
In general, the benefits from using compost as a soil amendment or mulch are:
- Increased soil fertility
- Improved soil structure: increased resistance to erosion and
- Increased water holding capacity (i.e. water conservation)
- Improved disease resistance in plants: less pesticide use
How to "dress" your garden and lawn:
- Apply partially decomposed compost in the fall to let microbes
munch and build their numbers through the winter.
- In spring add a uniform layer of finished compost before planting
and seeding garden and turf. A finely crafted, completely decomposed
compost is like gold. If you have healthy soil, you'll only need
to add a 1-inch thick layer mixed into the top few inches of soil.
For depleted soils, apply a two to three inch thick layer.
If you don't want to make compost yourself, check local sources
for Vermont made compost. Some businesses even provide a service
of "top dressing" lawns for you. Good compost should
have a rich, dark brown color, earthy smell, and crumbly texture.
With this little bit of soil savvy, you'll be producing healthier
flowers, fruits, vegetables, and grass from now on.
Where you can purchase locally-produced compost:
- Food cooperatives
- Garden centers and nurseries
- Farm and Field shops
To find a retailer near you, check this site for Vermont made compost companies, or go to http://www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/wastediv/compost/main2.htm and the LCBP
web site links under: "Phosphorous Pollution Reduction
The Composting Association of Vermont promotes composting as an integral
link between healthy ecosystems and sustainable agriculture, communities,
and local economies. More Soil
and Compost Information.
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