Thanks to the environmentally minded planners, natural areas are seemingly ubiquitous in The Woodlands with nearly 8,000 of The Woodlands’ 28,000 acres preserved as open space. Take pride – this fact sets us apart from most common communities in North America. However, our forest areas represent just a portion of the native forest expanse (what existed here pre-development). This presents a challenge as our forests do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to cleaning the air and water, capturing and storing carbon, and providing wildlife habitat.
Cue our residential landscapes to the rescue! They offer tremendous potential for supplementing those critical forest services, provided we’re mindful in how we tend them. Some basic considerations regarding what we put into our landscape and what we allow to flow off it carry a lot of weight.
Read on to find out how easy it is to turn your landscape into a resource for the environment and all of us who depend on it.
Encourage soil health
In healthy soil fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates work constantly at breaking down nutrients, making them available for uptake by trees, grasses, and shrubs. There are many critical functions of healthy soil and this is one of the biggest.
When we apply chemicals to our landscape we sever these microscopic relationships, stemming the production of soil nutrients. Organic lawn care methods, as opposed to chemical methods, support these relationships, promoting healthier soil which is the foundation of all healthy ecosystems.
Composted organic material – leaves, grass clippings, etc. – is chock-full of beneficial soil microbes. When you leave cut grass and leaves on your lawn or apply a layer of compost to it, you’re automatically introducing soil microbes which get right to work producing nutrients and building healthy soil! Composting is an easy yet powerful way to ramp up your landscape’s ecosystem value AND it’s a lot cheaper than chemical applications.
Give your lawn what it really wants
Warm season native grasses such as St. Augustine, which comprises most lawns in The Woodlands, depends on fungal soil networks to supply their nutrients. Compost, not chemicals, helps build those networks. The more roots interact with their fungal friends, the stronger they get, which then allows more energy to funnel to the leaves resulting in, you guessed it, that lush, green look we all love.
A healthy lawn needs, and wants, far less water. If you “set and forget” your sprinkler system you’re apt to overwater and harm the microbes. Use a moisture meter to avoid overwatering (they’re available at any home and garden store for a few bucks). Or make things even easier for yourself and subscribe to the weekly water recommendation email from Woodlands Water Agency – let the experts tell you when and when not to water. Installing a rain sensor on your irrigation system is another easy way to avoid overwatering by automatically shutting off your system during a rain event. Did you know you can install a rain sensor yourself in about 15 minutes?
Healthy lawns to the rescue! They add oxygen to our air, capture carbon in the soil and nourish plants and trees. You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood, to boot.
The most important thing of all
Multiply your impact – spread the word! When you make smarter choices in your landscape you become a model for environmental sustainability. Share your knowledge with others and encourage them to do the same.
If you’d like to learn more and take your impact to the next level, attend the online Smarter Choices Seminar on October 2, 2021 from 9 a.m. to noon. We’ll look at simple, practical steps for developing your landscape’s ecosystem value plus you’ll get an update on the new “smart” water meters Woodlands Water Agency installed across the community this past year. Learn how to track your water use and reduce waste right from your phone – remarkable!
This is a free presentation, sponsored by Woodlands Water Agency, The Woodlands GREEN, Chevron Phillips, HEB, and Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware.
Registration is required to receive the link to the Zoom presentation. Register using the button below.
2 thoughts on “Our forest needs our help. 3 ways you can lend a hand.”
I was hoping this article was going to be about the forest “understory” which I believe is becoming a greater issue here in The Woodlands. California is a prime example of communities that haven’t managed forests well and the ensuing problems what happen with fire.
I would also like to hear something about a community “early warning system” in regard to emergencies like flooding or fire.
Thanks for the comment. An article on our forest ‘understory’ is a good suggestion.
I have passed along your comment to our forestry staff and emergency management staff. If you don’t already receive emergency updates from The Township, you can sign up to receive important safety alerts here https://www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/list.aspx