Step 8 – Always cover Bare Ground.
Bare ground is prone to erosion and emitting carbon into the air. Decomposition of organic matter in a soil releases CO2 into the air. Add cover crops and other plant material to cover bare soil. Managing our soils is an important conservation measure. By in large nature takes care of its soils when it is left alone. When we look deep into wooded areas, we see how the bare soil is covered with leaves. In thinner wooded areas the soil is covered with ferns and other vegetative plant material. When nature is left alone she takes care of covering her land. The problem occurs when man moves in clearing timber, stripping land, farming, mining the soil, building roads, buildings, towns, cities and much more. We take away nature’s tools to reforest the land. Nature’s very precious cycles are broken. We need to put back what we take away.
Where we have interrupted this process and have the people to rectify it, we need to intensify our efforts to make sure we always cover our soils with plants and grow them organically. Plants use the carbon in the soil to their advantage. We need to protect the food web in our soils, increase the microbiology in them and add more plant material to them. When we till our soils or turn over our soils, we expose the carbon in our soils to air and sun and it combines with oxygen and pollutes our air with CO2. The same thing happens to bare ground when it is not covered. We need to keep the carbon trapped in the soil. We can do this when we realize the importance of covering all the bare ground on our property. We can re-fortify barren soils by adding a mixture of organic amendments to it. We can add cover crops when our soil is not in use. We can make soils productive again to support plant life. Carbon is essential to the life of your soil. We know that organically grown plants will pull CO2 from the air and sequester it in the soil.
Living in Westchester County a suburb of New York City, I am lucky to live in one of the greenest counties in the Country. Instead of seeing large fields of bare land we have streets and back yards in suburbia filled with trees. A tree in its lifetime can remove a ton of CO2 or looking at differently a healthy tree can store 13 lbs of carbon dioxide each year. When we multiply that by the number of trees that we can accommodate in a neighborhood, the amount of CO2 we can remove is heartening. When we follow an organic program and intensify the CO2 removal by firing up our food web we are going in the right direction to reverse global warming. More importantly each of us can play a vital part and together we can make a difference. We need to line our streets with trees, fill our yards with more of them, cover our bare areas with plants, and fill our yards with a large diversity of plants. When we lose a plant or tree we need to replace it. We need ground covers to cover bare areas. It is not so much what plant we use but that we use plants grown organically to cover our soil. The larger our mixture of them, the greater will be our results.
The 1930’s was a good example why we must remain diligent to always cover bare ground. Tall prairie grass once protected the topsoil in the Midwest. But once farmers settled the prairies, they plowed over the prairie grass. Years of over-cultivation meant there was no longer protection from the elements. When the drought of the thirties killed off crops, high winds blew the remaining top soil away. Blizzards of soil covered houses blocking out sun and driving people out of their homes. Parts of the Midwest still have not recovered. The Dust Bowl remains one of the biggest man inflicted disasters in our country.
This is an example of man interfering with nature without considering nature’s ways. We left bare ground uncovered and suffered the consequences. We didn’t understand nature’s ways and did not consider her in our actions.
Similarly we constantly rip out the vegetation that nature has established to cover our soils. When we leave the ground bare, heavy rains wash our soil away. In the process we contaminate our water and our air. Erosion constantly occurs in nature. To counter it we need a rich porous soil that can absorb water filled with thick vegetation that covers it. Bare ground is open to erosion. On the pacific coasts of California houses are falling into the sea. They have been built on bare land to enjoy the incredible view of the ocean. We need to encourage plant material to grow on our coast lines. We need to fortify our bare ground with plant material that has deep root systems that can bind our land and stand up to the salt water seas. We can research plant material that will do this for us without spoiling our view. Plant roots find their way through rock ledges and bind together with the soil. Nature continues to amaze me as her strength is incredible. We need to follow the rule to always cover our soil and nature will do the rest. Uncovered soil is usually not nature’s fault it is man’s fault. No matter how small or how large an infraction this might be we need to embrace the very important concept that we always need to help out by covering bare ground.
Being a garden center operator who also had a landscape design and installation business I spent many of my evenings visiting clients to help them with their landscape problems. There was hardly a property that didn’t have bare ground or erosion problems that needed to be corrected. Each of us can do our part to cover these areas so that nature can do her part. I always made sure my planting beds were prepped with rich organic materials and once the food web was established we fed organic matter from the top down. I always recommended ground covers to cover exposed ground. Bare ground will not remove greenhouse gases from our air but a bed prepped with rich organic matter will support a vigorous stand of plant material which will pull CO2 out of the air. Beautifying our homes while preventing erosion and extracting CO2 from our air is a win, win situation. This is something we will not only be doing for the good maintenance of our property but for the good maintenance of our earth. These are the sort of little things that needs to be done by everyone to make a dent in carbon dioxide removal. Only by working together can we affect a change.