30 years ago, my front and back yards were covered in grass. After the last mowing in late October, I would fertilize and weed. I stopped fertilizing the year that my eldest daughter, Jenny, as a part of her 6th grade Science class, began testing the water in various tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. My daughter explained that run off from chemicals put in the soil from our garden went directly to the Bay. The two Science teachers that year inspired the children by creating a pollution competition, which included collecting trash and recycling. The team with the most aluminum cans won, the teacher of the losing team had to kiss a pig! Both classes got to enjoy a pizza party.
As I drove Jenny to her designated spot to test the water, I began to understand my responsibility to reduce pollution on these beautiful waterways here in Dorchester County. We were always on the “look-out” for aluminum cans and were so excited when we found one or two in the ditches along the country roads. Jenny’s class won by a landslide! It was a wonderful lesson for me and my family, to this day, I still look for cans and collect trash by the side of the road. My grandchildren hand me litter that they find on our walks as we sing the Litterbug song.
Thirty years ago, as a family, we decided to reduce our imprint on the earth. We shredded paper and used it as Guinea pig bedding. We bought a push lawn mower to cut our grass. We composted fruit and veggie scraps. We kept the thermostat lower in the winter, wore sweaters and socks, and we turned off lights and appliances that we weren’t using.
Dandelions were my arch nemesis in the spring. I used my Dandelion digging tool on a daily basis until I read that Dandelions actually enrich damaged soil by providing a nutrient boost, and are edible. I learned that our bunny loves the leaves, and what other plant gives you wishes when you “puff it’s fluff”! I actually have had fewer dandelions since I stopped spraying with weed killer!
In 1998, I read a book about Lasagna gardening. My goal was to change from a yard full of grass to a flower and vegetable garden. Every brown paper box that was delivered to our house was laid on top of a patch of grass in the back yard. It has taken 24 years to eliminate all but a small patch of grass in the front yard. We now have a garden full of fat worms, flowers, blueberries, veggies, and herbs growing everywhere.
This weekend is the beginning of raking leaves. The leaves go right on top of the raised garden beds as free mulch. Mulch is important in our area to keep the soil from washing away during our winter rainstorms. The rest go in our compost bin or to my chickens who enjoy kicking and pecking in a pile of leaves.
Thanks to my daughter, Jenny and her sixth grade Science class, I have become a student of the environment. My goal is to do my part to keep the soil and the water healthy, and it feels good!