The weather is getting warmer which means gardening season is just around the corner. Whether this is your first season or you’re a seasoned expert, there are always opportunities to learn and apply something new. Growing successful plants requires healthy soil and adequate amounts of water. Irrigating for agriculture purposes is the largest user of water. Although you likely don’t have a farm, there are still ways to reduce the amount of irrigation (water that comes from surface or groundwater) that your garden uses.
Creating healthy soil is a great way to increase your soil’s resiliency to droughts and periods of low rainfall. An easy and cost-effective way to increase your soil’s health is through the addition of organic matter. Organic matter is decomposed plant or animal residues that are typically applied to the soil in the form of compost or manure. Composting is a great opportunity to reduce your household’s waste by transforming food scraps into food for the soil.
Organic matter is thought to be “the jack of all trades” when it comes to soil health. Organic matter impacts the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of the soil. It adds nutrients to the soil which feeds soil biology and provides essential nutrients for plant growth. Organic matter also protects against erosion by aiding in the creation of aggregates. Organic matter increases the moisture retention of the soil and thus makes it more resilient to periods of water scarcity.
Compost is created from the breakdown of food scraps and plant residues. Composter bins can be purchased, if you live in Thunder Bay, EcoSuperior sells composters for a reduced rate. In order for the residues to decompose, water and air are needed. Rainwater or in dry periods, water from the tap should be added to the compost bin. Turning over the compost on a regular basis with a shovel, pitchfork, or other tool is also necessary to bring air to the process to keep the process aerobic.
Composting is a great tool to reduce the amount of inorganic or chemical-based fertilizers used. This not only saves money but also reduces the number of chemical fertilizers entering water bodies which is beneficial to aquatic ecosystem health.
Manure can be purchased from local farms or greenhouses and can be applied to soil to provide similar benefits to compost.
Watering your garden is a necessity in dry periods, even if your soil has a healthy amount of organic matter in it. Using the hose or tap as a source of water may be great for plant growth, but it increases the water footprint of your household. Harvesting rainwater is a great way to reduce the amount of surface or groundwater used. Rain barrels can be installed to collect the water from eavesdrop. Rain barrels are another great piece of equipment to improve the quality of your garden while reducing your environmental impact. If you’re a resident of Thunder Bay, you can buy a subsidized rain barrel from Ecosuperior to help support the watering needs of your garden, while decreasing your water bill and water footprint.