Carbon — A Garden Blessing and a World Curse

       Carbon is a greenhouse gas. It gets trapped in the atmosphere and increases the temperature on Earth. Plants take in Carbon in the form of CO2 and lock-up the Carbon as wood and breathe out the Oxygen (the “O2” part of CO2). In the case of our lawns, it is the soils that hold the most Carbon — that black, crumbly stuff we find with our shovels.
       It has been reported that soils can hold 4 times more carbon than all the trees on the Earth! This is HUGE!
       The reason temperatures are increasing is because we release more Carbon from the Earth than the trees and soils can take back in. We release Carbon mainly in the form of Oil and Coal. These are stabilized Carbon sources that we extract and then burn them in our cars and factories. Once released, it is the plant’s job to take them back in. This process of removing Carbon from the atmosphere is called Carbon Sequestration.
       The problem we face is our plants can’t keep up with extraction and burning of Carbon-rich materials so the Carbon gets trapped creating a thicker atmosphere and we get hotter and hotter.
       The Carbon in our garden soils is highly beneficial for plant health and growth. It is the basic building block of an organic soil system. In our garden, it is truly a blessing but trapped in the atmosphere it is a curse. So, it only makes sense that we would like to lock up more of it in our landscape soils and release less to the atmosphere. And this can be done. Check out this article where a rancher recorded increasing carbon in her soils by 15 tons per acre in just 4 years! As I said, this is HUGE! http://soilcarboncoalition.org/holdridge
       But, there is a catch… If we depend on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in our maintenance practices we are going backward and releasing more carbon than we are capturing. Volatile Nitrogen sources like that in the fertilizers in the big box stores robs the Carbon out of the soil. And, the use of pesticides to kill weeds and insects also kills the soil’s life making it harder and harder for the soil to function as Nature intended and to capture Carbon.
       But there is good news and it is really simple… Quit using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and start applying organic fertilizers and topdressing with compost. It will take a little while to get established but your soil life will come back and your organic soil system will eventually begin start taking care of itself! Your plants will be healthier, your family and pets will be playing on healthy lawns, the water the runs off your property will benefit our rivers and streams, AND… You will be doing your part in bringing Nature back into her balanced point, right in your own backyard!

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