The quest for lush gardens, vibrant yards, and thriving acreages has just received a significant boost with the launch of the groundbreaking booklet titled Healthy Soil at Home. Developed as part of the "Where Good Things Grow" soil health awareness campaign, this 20-page resource equips South Dakota homeowners with the essential insights and practices required to foster healthier soil environments right in their own backyards.
Home to a treasure trove of practical information and captivating imagery, Healthy Soil at Home takes inspiration from the innovative soil health strategies employed by leading-edge farmers and ranchers. Now, these proven principles are being translated into easy-to-follow practices that can help homeowners enhance their land's resilience, vitality, and productivity.
At the heart of this initiative lies a collaborative effort between the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts (SDACD) and the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in South Dakota, which has generously supported the endeavor through a Cooperative Conservation Grant. Angela Ehlers, the Executive Director for Conservation Districts of South Dakota, underscores the booklet's focus on nurturing the intricate ecosystem of microorganisms. "The key to resilient soils and drought-resistant landscapes is nourishing the billions of microorganisms in the ground beneath your feet," she explains. "Once you realize your soil is teeming with life and treat it that way, you’ll be rewarded time and again."
Drawing from years of collaboration with South Dakota farmers and ranchers, the NRCS has distilled its valuable insights into a guide that is as applicable in urban and suburban settings as it is on agricultural lands. Tony Sunseri, NRCS State Conservationist, emphasizes the importance of aligning with nature's rhythms and the five fundamental soil health principles. "We’ve learned that if you work with nature, nurture native plants, and follow five soil health principles, your soil will soon absorb and hold more rainfall and require fewer fertilizers and pesticides," he explains. "That’s true on farm and ranch lands and in yards and gardens."
Kent Vlieger, an NRCS soil health specialist, attests to the booklet's unique value in making soil health accessible to homeowners. Having implemented practices like cover crops, crop rotation, no-till planting, and native grasses in his own garden and yard for years, Vlieger believes in the booklet's transformative potential. "There’s no doubt you can save water, produce healthier, homegrown food, and regenerate your soil. This booklet shows you how," he remarks.
Healthy Soil at Home offers practical recommendations for native prairie grasses, trees, shrubs, and forbs, alongside insights into attracting pollinators and wildlife. It even delves into the historical use of native plants for medicinal purposes by Native Americans.