In order to get the most production out of our lawns, gardens and fields while still protecting water quality it is important to test our soil regularly. With accurate information we will save money and protect the environment by only adding nutrients that the soil and plants actually need.
Indiana’s Conservation Team led by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the local Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) and the Indiana Department of Agriculture are actively promoting soil health in our state. While the focus thus far has been on the conventional farming community, thanks to federal and local financial assistance, the focus will now also turn toward the urban sector where the importance of soil health is equally vital. Early in 2015 a new Urban Soil Health program will begin in central Indiana. Spearheading the program are the Marion and Hendricks Counties’ Soil & Water Conservation Districts who will be hiring a program director soon.
The NRCS in Indiana has been promoting Soil Health by concentrating on these key principals:
1) Minimizing Disturbance in order to decrease erosion
2) Maximizing Soil Cover to protect the soil
3) Maximize Biodiversity to enhance & diversify soil biology
4) Provide Continuous Living Roots to increase water holding capability while protecting the soil from erosion & increasing organic matter in the soil
The Urban Soil Health Program will help urban landowners protect and build their soil which will in turn benefit water quality, improve soil water holding capacity to reduce flooding, increase nutrients and organic matter in the soil which will produce stronger, healthier plants, gardens and wildlife communities. In the urban environment these principles can be practiced through:
A) Urban erosion control & water quality improvement practices such as diversified seeding, bioengineering techniques, bioswales, and rain gardens
B) No-till or minimal till gardening techniques, and mulching
C) Rotational planting, interplanting, companion planting and various composting techniques
D) Cover crops, filter strips and native plantings while encouraging eradication of invasive species that destroy natural diversity
E) Eliminating or decreasing chemical fertilizers, herbicides & pesticides in lawns and gardens through the use of natural alternatives and soil building techniques
Educational materials and workshops as well as cost share on implementation projects and soil testing will be used to promote soil health in Marion and its surrounding counties. Be watching our newsletters and website (www.marionswcd.org) for more information in the coming months.