“Help the trees help you” is part of the Keystone 10 Million Tree promotion this year. Trees really help us, giving us shade to reduce our air conditioning bills in summer, and our heating bills by protecting us from winter winds. Today, they are even more essential to our lives, as they play an important role in the fight against global warming. Regardless of why the Earth is warming or whose “fault” is, we are smart enough, rich enough, and need to deal with this problem for our children and grandchildren. So what can we do?
We are lucky to live in this country. We hear about countries that don’t have drinking water, enough water, where the parched lands don’t allow crops. We are still able to turn on our taps and have water, although in some places we are faced with the “clean” aspect. What if you turned on the tap and there was no water?
Groundwater tables fill as water seeps into the ground at a deeper level. Plants and trees with deep roots are the gateway to groundwater. Streams and wells do not fill with runoff; they fill with underground springs from the water table. If not, our wells dry up. How to lower the water to the water table? Certainly not by paving millions of miles of roads, building thousands of houses on tiny plots, or large agricultural machinery compacting the soil creating a hard layer a few centimeters or feet below the surface. But that’s life, so what can we do?
Each of us can do our part to help our ecosystems. Native plants and trees are our best choice. They require less water, less maintenance, once established they require little care. But an important contribution is that they have deep roots. Native plants are the only ones that contribute to our unique ecosystem. It took millions of years for plants, insects and birds to establish these relationships. If we don’t have enough native plants in 60% of our plantings, insects won’t survive, birds won’t have food for their young, native seeds won’t spread, and the whole system breaks down. In large cities, huge rooftop gardens of pollinator-friendly plants thrive.
Unfortunately, in the United States, we think a pristine lawn is what looks best. But lawn grasses have very shallow roots. They offer no possibility for water to seep into the ground. Indeed, lawns very quickly cause runoff. Runoff is what we do NOT want. This is what causes flooding of waterways, erosion, loss of topsoil, and chemical fertilizers and other pollutants and sediments being carried into our waters and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay.
The Watershed Alliance of Adams County (WAAC), in partnership with the Adams County Conservation District, is once again offering you a chance to participate in the recovery and maintenance of our natural world, which we need to survive. We’re hosting another free Keystone 10 Million Tree giveaway on April 7, 8, and 9 at the Ag Center hub building at 670 Old Harrisburg Road. Orders must be placed by March 23. We will have another free tree giveaway in the fall.
Joan Horak is Vice President of WAAC and Chair of its Landscape Conservation Committee; his email address is [email protected] To learn more about WAAC, visit www.AdamsWatersheds.org, or find WAAC on Facebook at Watershed Alliance of Adams County.