Conservation In The Garden

We learned in elementary history that: 

“one great cause of the continued prosperity of the United States has been a large number of rich acres, covered for the most part with gigantic forests and the great stores of coal, oil, and gas which are hidden away in the earth.”

conservation in gardenPin

Over 100 years ago (May 1908) President Theodore Roosevelt invited the governors of all the states to come to a conference at the White House. 

Preservation of Natural Resources

The purpose was to discuss a policy of preservation of these natural resources so that the prosperity of our country might continue. 

Among the articles of agreement that the governors adopted was this one: 

“We declare our firm conviction that this conservation of our natural resources is a subject of transcendent importance, which should engage unremittingly the attention of the Nation, the States, and the People in earnest cooperation.”

Beginning Gardeners

But this is a column for beginning gardeners. 

Why do we have a history lesson? 

The president called the conference because of the wasteful practices of the people with these rich gifts of nature. 

Natural Resources for Gardens

We, too, have “natural resources” in our gardens that should be conserved not gigantic forests, of that we are sure, and probably no stores of coal, oil or gas underground but for our immediate garden needs, we have even more valuable reserves than these. 

We should use this page from history as a warning to value and conserve, not waste, what we have at hand and make the best possible use of it.

Conservation of Everything

A gardener who practices conservation saves everything that can be returned to the soil. 

Nothing is burned except that which is diseased. Leaves, small twigs, and any garden refuse when decayed make rich garden humus. 

Materials for Conservation

Where such material is not so heavy as to smother plants (as between rows, or between plants in the perennial borders) we can let nature take care of it by leaving it to disintegrate where it falls. 

On lawns (a layer of leaves will soon smother the grass) or on small plants, it should be raked together and carried to other parts of the garden or added to the compost pile. It is far too valuable for bonfire material. 

When decayed and added to the soil it helps to keep the soil loose and porous so that water can seep down easily.

Rains cannot readily penetrate hard, baked soil, and much valuable moisture is lost. Humus helps the bacterial life so necessary for productive soil.

Conserving Moisture

Conservation practices include conserving moisture. Examine the soil at various places in the garden during drouth periods. 

  • Where is moisture found? 
  • Is the soil moist where it is directly exposed to the drying rays of the hot summer sun? 
  • Or is it the soil underneath a mulch of straw, partially decayed leaves, ground corn cobs, sawdust, or other mulching materials? 

The exact amount of rain probably fell on both spots. Conserving moisture with mulch makes an amazing difference.

The garden may look tidier if you cut all perennial plants to soil level in the fall and rake away all debris, but if it is left less tidy with stubble, it will catch the snow and hold it.

Protecting Perennial Plants With Snow 

Snow protects perennial plants from winter injury and provides moisture when it melts. A fall-plowed vegetable garden (or spaded bed) left rough catches more snow than one raked smooth.

Plants that remain green throughout the winter such as pansies, Cilia Rubra, and penstemons need protection from the winter sun to prevent frequent freezing and thawing action which causes heaving.

Materials for Mulching

Much of this mulching material is found in the garden. Leaves can be tucked around plants (straw is good, too) but do not cover the plants with leaves for they might pack down and smother the plants. 

Save any branches pruned from evergreens, and the old tops of asparagus, tomatoes, or zinnias any loose materialófor the top cover.

Spent flowers from arrangements, vegetable parings, outer leaves of vegetables that are not used as food, all such material that came from the garden can be returned to it. 

Bury it in a trench so as not to attract flies or cause an offensive odor. It will decay and enrich the soil.

Erosion on Topsoils

Erosion causes the valuable topsoil to wash away. This is particularly true on slopes. Terraces can be made to prevent water from running wastefully away taking the soil with it, exposing the roots of plants, or piling it on to such a depth that plants are injured. 

Hemerocallis is one plant that holds its own in such a location, and also helps to hold the soil in place.

44659 by Olga Rolf Tiemann