When thinking about what we’re thankful for, we often overlook the earth. It seems bizarre- how could we forget something so major? Maybe it’s because the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil under our feet are such integral parts of our lives that we no longer take notice of them.
It’s time to show a little appreciation for our planet. Here are four easy, fun ways to give back to the earth that gives us so much.
1. Plant bee-friendly flowers
As the world’s chief pollinators, bees are essential for plant life, including our food crops. However, modern pesticides and parasites have caused a spike in Colony Collapse Disorder, in which worker bees abandon their queen bee. This destroys crucial bee populations. By growing non-invasive plants that pollinators love, you can encourage bee life. The University of Florida suggests anise hyssop, black-eyed Susans, pentas, gaillardia, and cilantro for your bee-friendly garden.
2. Skip the nitrogen-based fertilizers
When it rains in Florida, fertilizer runs off our lawns down into the lagoon, rivers, and ocean. The nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer encourage algae blooms, which in turn cause fish kills. According to Be Floridian Now, an organization committed to keeping harmful chemicals out of our waterways, these five fertilizers contain no nitrogen or phosphorus:
While the idea of composting might have you wrinkling your nose as you imagine piles of rotting garbage, composting is a highly rewarding process because it keeps extra waste out of landfills and gives you all-natural soil for your yard. And it’s really not that smelly.
Although you can purchase larger, heavy-duty composters on Amazon, at-home composting can be as simple as a plastic storage bin you keep under your patio. If you choose this version, make sure to drill a few tiny air holes into the sides but secure the lid on tight to keep rodents out.
Regardless of which kind of bin you choose, fill your bin with three or four parts carbon-rich material, like dead leaves, corn husks, paper with non-toxic ink, eggshells and sawdust to every one part nitrogen-rich material like lawn clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps and coffee grounds. Don’t compost any meat, dairy or pet waste. Keep your compost bin in a shaded area so it stays cool and turn it every few days to aerate it.
Soon, you’ll have healthy soil to give back to the earth. Compost is naturally rich in nutrients, so you can skip the expensive store-bought soils and spread this in your garden and lawn instead.
For the beginner composter, great online resources include Compost Guide and Gardening Know-How. Or, if you live in Melbourne Beach and don’t want to do the composting yourself, you can take part in Scott Parker’s free Green Earth Composting program.
4. Become a mangrove farmer
Mangroves are essential to life as we know it in Florida. Their roots protect our shorelines from erosion and shelter young fish and other Florida wildlife. As buildings overtake our coasts, mangroves need our help now more than ever. If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a farm, this is your chance, in a way.
The Marine Resources Council will provide you with mangrove seeds, called propagules, to nurture in your own backyard. Once the mangroves have grown enough, MRC will take them off your hands and plant them along the shorelines that need them the most.