How to Combat Soil Erosion in the Garden (Video)


Image credit: The Garden Rock Star

Yesterday I posted a video on how tax payers are subsidizing soil erosion in the Mid-West, and it's a story that John has covered in great detail in his piece about why eating local or vegetarian cannot stop soil erosion, only Government can. But soil erosion is not just a problem on our farms. In fact, as the aftermath of the weekend's storms here in NC showed me in my garden, soil erosion happens to us little guys too. So what can be done about it?

Michael Nolan has some plans involving little more than a fallen log, some soil, and some careful reading of the land.
Slowing Water Stops Soil Erosion
At its simplest level soil erosion is caused by water washing away soil. Stopping soil erosion is not rocket science either. By reading the land, watching out for heavy slopes and gulleys, and understanding the flow of water on your property, you can identify where water is washing down and where you need to slow it down. In Michael's case he is using a downed log to create a catchment area for soil and compost washing down the hill—building up a fertile planting bed for future crops in the process.

Tackling Soil Erosion Requires a Diverse Approach
Another technique that can help slow erosion and capture nutrients and water for use on the farm is digging swales—or on-contour ditches that help capture water and channel it into the ground. Even just mulching heavily, adding plenty of compost, and practicing no dig gardening can help maintain soil structure and increase its capacity to absorb water.

Perennial Vegetation Keeps Soil in Place
Farmers are already exploring perennial fodder crops as a means to preserve soil, but what works on the macro-scale can be applied in the garden too. By planting perennial polycultures, and even embracing our inner lazivore and not weeding too thoroughly, we can avoid leaving bare soil and allow nature to keep soil where it belongs.

Architectural Solutions to Storm-Water Runoff
Of course the increase in hard surfaces, especially in towns and cities, has resulted in greater volumes of storm-water runoff. Consequently, these mini flash floods can carry away a great deal of soil. Luckily, here too there are plenty of ideas that can contribute to a gentler, less disruptive approach to channeling water through our homes, gardens and neighborhoods. From rainwater harvesting through porous paving to green roofs, it's worth looking not just at how soil is eroded in our gardens, but how our homes, driveways and even garden sheds help make that happen.

Sure, soil may not be washing away from our gardens in as dramatic a fashion as from the farms of the corn belt. But there are an awful lot of gardens out there. If each of us took just a little more care with the soil that we are in stewardship of, we might just keep the nutrients we need to keep our gardens healthy. And if we use that experience to learn more about sustainable soil management on a larger scale, maybe we'll remember to put pressure on Government to fix this problem too. Soil's too precious to be treated like dirt.

More on Soil Erosion
How Tax Payers Subsidize Soil Erosion in the Mid-West (Video)
Eating Local or Vegetarian Cannot Stop Soil Erosion, only Government Can
Lester Brown on Losing Soil
The Dirt on Soil Erosion
Want to Clean Up Chesapeake Bay? Plant Forest Buffers Up Stream (Video)

Tags: Agriculture | Conservation | Do It Yourself | Farming | Permaculture | United States

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