We should treat every day as Earth Day

April 20, 2010|By JEFF SEMLER

By the time you read this column, the Washington County Envirothon will be complete as it was held Friday at Claud E. Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview and Earth Day will be observed Thursday.

The reason I point that out is one of the topics for the Envirothon was groundwater, and if you live in Washington County, there is a great possibility you rely on groundwater for your home's water supply.

Even if you live in some of the smaller municipalities around the county, several of them rely on groundwater for their public service water supply. In addition, it is very difficult to separate groundwater and surface water when it gets right down to it. And Hagerstown's water supply is the Potomac River.

All that said, when it comes to everything including our water, every day should be Earth Day. Regardless of your bent, it is your responsibility as a citizen of this blue orb or it is your stewardship assignment from God.


As far as protecting our water supply goes, it is a must. Previous generations fought wars and had internal conflicts over land and riches. The coming generations will experience strife over water.

Living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed as we do, one cannot avoid hearing about save the bay and how agriculture has been the target to assign the blame.

The fact of the matter is in Maryland we have passed the tipping point where we now have as much land in lawns as we do in farms. Additionally, if lawns were considered a crop, they would stand in fourth position behind corn, wheat and soybeans nationally.

Several studies indicate that more than 82 percent of homeowners fertilize their lawns and my guess is the number has only increased. These same studies reported 32 percent used pesticides on their lawns as well.

Did you know that you should not catch grass clippings?

In fact, grass clippings contain valuable nutrients that can generate up to 25 percent of your lawn's total fertilizer needs. It is said that 100 pounds of grass clippings can generate and recycle as much as 3 to 4 pounds of nitrogen, one-half to 1 pound of phosphorus and 2 to 3 pounds of potassium back to the lawn. These are the three most important nutrients needed by lawns and commonly supplied in lawn fertilizers.

The other good news is that grass clippings do not contribute to thatch (an organic debris layer between the soil and live grass) since grass clippings are 75 to 85 percent water and decompose readily.

So how do we protect our water? Farmers follow nutrient management plans. Landowners should fertilize their lawns and landscapes based on soil test results, too. Additionally, take care when changing your oil and antifreeze in your cars, dispose of all chemicals properly, and just for the record, flushing them is not proper disposal. My hope is the sun is shining on you on Earth Day and you remember every day is Earth Day.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at">

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