Celebrate Earth Day April 22 and All Year Long

By Melinda Myers - horticulturist and gardening expert
April 22, 2017

Make a difference by sharing your knowledge and passion for the environment on Earth Day, April 22nd.  You will be one of millions of citizens from more than 192 countries celebrating the beauty and fragility of our planet. 

Whether it’s your first or 47th Earth Day, there are many ways for you to get involved. Earth Day was started in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson as a grassroots effort to help educate the public about the environment. The tradition continues with educational programs, rallies, service projects and more.

I plan to be part of the celebration and continue my commitment to the environment on Earth Day and every day.  Here are a few things you can do on Earth Day and throughout the year to create a healthier environment.

1) Purchase or make your own worm bin from plastic storage bins.  Fill with damp shredded paper, add red worms and kitchen scraps. Use the worm compost to amend soil, fertilize containers and more. I find worm composting (vermiculture) is a great way to get those who fish and youngsters involved in recycling and gardening.

vermiculture or worm casting bin

2) Start a compost pile. Convert disease-free and insect-free plant debris into a valuable soil amendment. Keep annual weeds gone to seed, perennial weeds, invasive plants, meat, bones and dairy out of the compost pile. Incorporate finished compost into the top 8 to 12 inches of garden soil, spread an inch over your perennial flowerbeds or add it to your container potting mix. It improves drainage in heavy clay soils and increases the water holding ability of fast-draining sandy soil. Plus you’ll burn a few calories and tone up your oblique muscles when turning the pile. That means you can have that cookie for dessert.

3) Plant a garden and grow some of your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. You’ll reduce energy consumption used for transporting food an average of 1800 miles from the farm to your home.  You’ll also enjoy the flavor and higher nutritional content of vegetables harvested from your own garden.  No room to garden? Purchase seasonal produce at your local farmers market.

4) Plant a tree. Trees help clean our air, shade our homes and shelter our houses from the wind.  They also slow and absorb rainwater, keeping it out of our storm sewers and reducing flooding. And don’t let a lack of space stop you.  Contact a nearby school or your local municipality. Donate and help plant a tree where you and others can enjoy its beauty. Dan and Son Planting a Tree 5) Care for an existing tree in your landscape or community.  Extend the mulch ring around the tree to reduce competition with grass for water and nutrients. Pull mulch away from the trunk of the tree to avoid rot. And water existing trees thoroughly during extended dry periods. Even established trees benefit from thorough watering during hot dry weather. Fertilize trees in need of a nutrient boost with Milorganite according to label directions this spring.  

6) Maintain a healthy lawn with proper fertilization. Proper fertilization with low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, like Milorganite, encourages dense cover and deep roots that are more drought, pest and disease tolerant and better able to out compete weeds.  Plus University of Minnesota research showed that properly fertilized lawns do a better job of holding soil and nutrients in place than unfertilized lawns. This means less phosphorous run-off polluting our waterways.

7) Sharpen your mower blades. You’ll save time, money and improve the look of your lawn. Dull blades tear the grass resulting in a dull or brownish cast to the lawn. Plus these ragged edges are slow to close increasing the risk of disease.   You’ll also save time as you can cut more efficiently when the blades are sharp. Speaking of savings, you’ll use 22% less fuel and the lawn will use up to 30% less water when using sharp blades.

As Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth said “The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”

So let’s all invest some time and effort now and throughout the year to create a better environment for future generations to enjoy.