The temperatures are rising. It is still not comfortable outside but we can start to see an end in sight. Don’t worry too much yet about getting those tomatoes in the ground as the weather has to be a constant 50 degrees or better for our tomatoes to grow. Whatever you plant this year, be it ornamentals or food producing plants, try not to use much, if any, fertilizers. Fertilizers can be helpful in providing macronutrients to plants but can also cause harmful runoff.
Runoff occurs when fertilizer seepage happens across usually hard surfaces and into our storm drains. When enough of this occurs is causes lake enrichment. This sounds good but it is far from that. The enrichment is due to Phosphorus levels at an increased level. The heightened levels cause overgrowth of algae. The algae multiplies and reduces the oxygen content of the waterways. This reduces the ability for other hydrophytic plants to grow and therefore conduct the processes we rely on them for. Water loving plants reduce the water temperature, increase oxygen content, filter the systems and reduce algae and phytoplankton populations. The ecosystem works when all parts of the whole are working properly. If algae takes over then temperature increases, oxygen decreases and the then fish populations are affected. It is not a stretch to imagine at what point our own existence is then in crosshairs.
Another macronutrient used by plants and prevalent in fertilizers is Nitrogen. Nitrogen is not as sessile in our soils as phosphorus. Nitrogen becomes present in the soil as a nitrate ion and easily dissolves in soils and waters. When Nitrogen becomes concentrated in our soils it leaches into our water systems. This can produce serious problems for humans. Methemoglobinemia is a problem infants can be plagued with if too much Nitrogen enters our water facilities. This causes infants to suffer from the inability to uptake oxygen.
We rely heavily on water. From drinking to bathing and even recreation, we use it every day in mass amounts. When Phosphorus or Nitrogen enter the system in high amounts we begin to affect the resource. If we plant, conscientiously, then we reduce the need for fertilizers and further reduce the damage that can occur to our water resources.
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”