Be the Solution to Pollution! – World Soil Day December 5, 2018

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Many of the changes we humans have made to our planet are obvious, but some are not; soil pollution can be invisible. When we began Canillas Community Garden ten years ago, we had no idea the soil was contaminated with lead (which is why we had to build raised beds and purchase healthy soil.) “Be the Solution to Soil Pollution” campaign for World Soil Day 2018 aims to raise awareness and call people to #StopSoilPollution.

Soils have a great potential to filter and buffer contaminants, degrading and attenuating the negative effects of pollutants, but this capacity is finite. Most of the pollutants originate from human activities, such as unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmentally-friendly practices. As technology evolves, scientists are able to identify previously undetected pollutants, but at the same time some technological” improvements” lead to new contaminants being released into the environment.

Canillas Community Garden is an organic garden. We do not want pesticides in our food, in our soil, in our air, nor in our water. (NH law prohibits the use of pesticides within 50 feet of the Mascoma River.) To enhance the soil in our gardens we have set a number of guidelines and have made an effort to increase the health and carbon sponge-ability of our soil:

• Soil life is hard at work building underground structures that make life on land possible. We try not to disturb those underground structures with tillage.

• Soil life needs protection from heat, pounding rain, and wind. We keep soil covered year-round with shredded leaves and periodically add compost. (Thanks to Lebanon Public Works for delivering unsprayed shredded leaves from Colburn Park!)

• A diverse system is more resilient than a monoculture. We plant a wide variety of herbs, vegetables, and flowers to increase diversity in soil microorganisms, beneficial insects, and other species.

• Like any other living system, soil ecology will succumb to overwhelming stresses (such as excessive use of biocides, and compaction,) We are an organic garden and minimize chemical, physical, and biological stresses and  have been working to protect our soil from pesticides used in our surrounding environment.

• A healthy landscape stores and filters water, cools the surrounding atmosphere, creates mist and clouds, and prevents flooding and drought. We try to keep the big picture in mind.

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Each of us can do something to protect our soils.

*We can work to reduce toxins in our own lives and in our community.

*We can support farmers who use sustainable, regenerative methods.

* We can mow lawns less frequently, forego chemicals, and plant with pollinators, birds, and other creatures, and the “big picture” in mind..

* We can pick up plastic litter which breaks down into micro-particles in the air, soil, water, and our bodies.

*We each can play a role in reducing single-use plastics in our lives. Read more on the plastic issue at https://noplasticpollution.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/plastics-turning-up-in-organic-fertilizer-from-food-waste/

 

Happy World Soil Day!

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Thanks Doug!

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We are grateful to our good neighbor, Lebanon Recreation & Parks Facilities Manager Doug McGrath, for his help in dealing with the many piles of shredded leaves delivered by Leb Public Works. The hugelkultur and the perennial beds are now blanketed with shredded leaves, the tomato cages have been stored, and the garden put to bed.

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Let’s “Lift Our Boot Off Nature’s Throat.”

(This piece is an excerpt from observations by Peter Donovan of the Soil Carbon Coalition on a series of talks by Walter Jehne, founder of Healthy Soils Australia .) Our current method of agriculture and land management is largely monoculture, reliant on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the plowing up the natural biome community in the soil, and expansion through deforestation, with little attention to how the natural world actually works. This piece takes a different perspective, another way that is more in line with Nature’s way and might be the solution to land degradation, drought, flooding, malnutrition/famine, and global warming.

 

The condition of the soil surface, and what’s growing on it, controls the fate of rainfall.

Deforestation, fire, and agriculture have tended to move landscapes leftward, baring soil, increasing fine dust particles that nucleate haze but not rain, planting short-season annuals, shortening the length of green season and the sugary plant root exudates that feed soil porosity and aggregation. Bare soil heats up, radiates, and some of this heat is re-radiated back from greenhouse gases. Regular fire or tillage bares soil and prevents the soil carbon sponge from developing. High-pressure domes over large expanses of hot bare ground repel rain. These landscapes multiply heat and aridity.

On the right, the formation of high-albedo rain clouds from abundant transpiration with bacterial precipitation nuclei helps recycle water locally, while the pressure drop from large-scale condensation drives the biotic pump, which brings in moist air from the oceans. When the clouds clear, heat can escape. Abundant plants harvest atmospheric moisture as dew. More solar energy is dissipated upwards by transpiration, and less by sensible heat. These landscapes multiply rainfall and cooling.

The soil carbon sponge may increase your local multiplier for rainfall–the number of times that water is recycled from soil to sky and back again before it leaves your area, either as vapor or runoff. If you are in a dry area, increasing your multiplier can be significant!

To shift a landscape to the right, keep in mind the soil health principles: integrate livestock, cover the soil, diversity, living roots as long as possible, minimize tillage. There is some evidence that a reduction in summer fallow (from 77 million to 20 million acres in the northern plains of the U.S.), and an increase in summer plant cover may decrease temperatures and allow for more convective precipitation.

The vast majority of the heat balance in our blue planet, Walter noted, is governed by water. Australian agricultural pioneer Peter Andrews wrote, “Plants manage water, and in managing water, they manage heat.”

The opportunity to cool our planet, Walter emphasized, is by influencing the hydrological cooling processes, for which plants and the soil carbon sponge are critical. He suggested that a small increase in high-albedo convective cloudiness might even be enough, and if the soil carbon sponge could be increased rapidly, cooling could be correspondingly rapid.

Walter noted that nature has been doing all of this since plants and fungi colonized the bare rock of land masses hundreds of millions of years ago. “We can lift our boot off nature’s throat.”

 

This is why we at Canillas Community garden encourage minimal tilling of the soil, cover crops, chop-and-drop, mulching, and why we prohibit pesticides. Thanks to Lebanon Public Works, we have shredded, un-sprayed leaves from Colburn Park to cover any bare soil throughout the winter.

 

 

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Busy Bees and Butterflies

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The garden is winding down – the pollinators are not.  It’s great there are still flowers in the garden feeding the bees and butterflies! Thanks to Al Tedeschi for these photos!

 

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Birds-eye View of Garden

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Birds-eye view from the 4th floor of Emerson place – a great place for watching all the squirrels, chipmunks and woodchucks rampaging through our gardens!

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Mid-September in the Garden

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Monarch on Garlic Chives

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Monarch on my garlic chives – Canillas Community Garden. I am guessing this monarch was part of Saturday’s butterfly release in Colburn Park, a fundraiser for the Visiting Nurses and Hospice of NH and VT.

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Love those polka dots!

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