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Backyard Conservation

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Even in the city, conservation practices that improve

soil health and water quality are important!

Backyard conservation is about working with nature to provide an attractive landscape that benefits the soil, the water, and the wildlife.

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Using conservation practices that improve soil health and water quality help the environment and create a more attractive and enjoyable landscape.

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What's in Your Backyard?

Many urban landscapes have poor soil. We deal with compaction, poor drainage, and a lack of nutrients. With factors like construction, impermeable surfaces, and contaminants, urban soils are often very low quality. 

But soil should be ALIVE, even in the city!

Backyards have the potential to be thriving ecosystems! Whether you are producing food, or pollinator habitat, or simply want a beautiful place to relax, principles from regenerative agriculture can help! 

The goal of regenerative agriculture is to create a system that contributes to the health of the environment. By taking the time to utilize conservation practices, we can provide a better environment for the birds and pollinators, control soil erosion, protect our rivers and streams, conserve water, and more. In addition, as we are continuing to face changing weather patterns, these practices will improve the resiliency of our gardens and landscapes.

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Don't Garden Naked!

The key to a thriving backyard ecosystem is healthy soil. When we work to improve our soil, there is improvement in nutrient availability for the plants, water conservation, and biodiversity.

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Soil Testing

When our plants and lawn are not thriving, many of us jump right to fertilizers. But do you really know what your soil needs? Testing your soil provides information about the nutrients that are needed and the pH of your soil. Home kits are available in many garden centers, or you can have a service test your soil, which will be more accurate and will likely provide recommendations for improvement.  You can contact Purdue Extension for information on soil testing. You can also have your soil tested for contaminants, which may be especially important if you are growing food.

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Keep It Covered!

Naked soils are more prone to compaction, poor drainage, and erosion. Utilizing organic mulches (straw, wood chips, leaves), compost, and living plants has a great impact! A couple of inches of mulch helps the soil retain moisture and suppresses weeds. Plus, as the mulch breaks down, it adds to the organic matter in the soil. Mulching also helps regulate soil temperature.

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Feeding Your Soil

Urban soils are notably poor. Construction, low quality fill, and compaction have contributed to lower nutrient levels and decreased microbial activity. Compost is an excellent way to not only feed your soil, but decrease your household waste. See our Compost page for more info! You can also consider cover crops, also known as green manure, especially for vegetable gardens. 

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The Right Choice

Remember to make sure the plants you choose are appropriate for the location. Always consider the amount of water and sunlight the area gets. Consider choosing perennials instead of annuals, as this will lead to less soil disturbance.  You can take it a step further by choosing native plants. They tend to be more acclimated to our climate and will require less water and care than non-natives. Also, they are beneficial for our native pollinators and wildlife.

Whether your backyard is a postage-sized city lot, or a few acres, each one of us can make choices that benefits the environment around us!

Check out NRCS's site for much more information on Backyard Conservation. 

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