From the Union of Concerned Scientist:
As temperatures start to drop around the nation, the time has come to wrap up your home garden and prepare for next year. Most gardeners will be planting bulbs for next spring and taking steps to protect perennials from harsh winter weather over the next few weeks. But did you know that actions you take now can also help in the fight against global warming?
The following advice from a gardening expert offers a simple step you can take this fall to be a climate-friendly gardener by increasing your soil’s ability to store carbon—a key component in the leading cause of global warming. After you read the tip, take action to call for the same kind of actions on our nation’s farms.
Tracey Payton, a horticulture educator from Norman, Oklahoma, offers this tip on how to be a climate-friendly gardener.
"Mulch is a great way to protect bare soil, and most importantly for the climate-friendly gardener, it can help prevent carbon loss. Uncovered soil is vulnerable to releasing more carbon than it stores. Mulch also has other benefits, such as protecting against temperature fluctuations that can damage plants, suppressing weeds, and reducing moisture loss and soil erosion. Using mulch can be as easy as an additional 2-3 inch layer of compost or straw in the garden; in the flower bed, cotton seed hulls, bark mulch, or wood mulch can be used. Do only keep mulch about 2-3" deep and away from perennial plant stems to prevent rot and other moisture problems."
On the Farm…
If gardeners can adopt practices to combat global warming on a small scale, think what could be accomplished if similar steps were taken on the millions of acres of farmland across the country!
Similar to mulching, one of the most effective farm practices to store carbon in the soil on a large scale—while building soil health and preventing erosion—is widespread planting of "cover crops" in the winter. A sort of living mulch, cover crops protect farm fields when other crops aren’t growing. They also have the benefit of releasing nitrogen—one of the main ingredients in fertilizers into the soil just in time for spring-planted crops, which can reduce the need for added fertilizer (another source of global warming emissions).
We can help expand the adoption of this practice by making sure that the next Farm Bill rewards farmers who plant cover crops. Voted on every five years, the Farm Bill helps determines what food farmers will grow and what practices they will employ. This bill includes programs to help farmers successfully adopt a wide array of sustainable agriculture practices, including the planting of cover crops.
Write to your members of Congress and demand farm policies that help farmers protect our water, air, and land while producing the food we need!