STEP Up: Enjoy These Smart, Earth-Friendly Tips at Home or on the Farm.

STEP ? Stewards for Trails, Education and Partnerships ? is an AQHA program that was formed to encourage good stewardship and conservation of riding trails.

Here are some Earth-friendly tips from STEP.

  • Organics: Sold as animal feed, alfalfa pellets are rich in nitrogen and make excellent organic plant food. You can dig the pellets into the soil or add them to a compost pile.
  • Composting: Composting is beneficial, because it binds water and nutrients in reserve, freeing them when plants need it the most. It holds double its weight in water, hence cutting back the need to water and increasing a plant’s capacity for our dry months.
  • Pressure washer: Not only do pressure washers make cleaning quicker and easier, they save water since they only take about 1/5 the water a garden hose would use to do the same job.
  • Spreaders: If your spreader has metal parts, spray them with lubricating oil after you?ve hosed it down and let it dry. This will prevent rusting. Plastic spreaders don’t need lubrication.
  • Container planting/herbs: Feed container plants at least twice a month with liquid fertilizer, following the instructions on the label.
  • Growing fruit/vegetables: Acidic soil tends to predominate in wet climates, while dry areas have primarily alkaline soil. Different crops like different kinds of soil. Using a kit, perform a soil test kit and amend your soil as needed.
  • Canning/Preserving: To freeze herbs, place small, clean, dry pieces on a cookie sheet. Freeze several hours. Place in freezer bags. Flavors keep for several months.
  • Sprayers (different sprayers for different applications): To avoid contamination, it is advisable to have two sprayers, one for herbicides and the other for pesticides and fertilizers. Label them accordingly.
  • Air filters: Replace your air filter every 25 hours or once a season.
  • Fiberglass/wood-handled tools: Fiberglass handles are up to 40 percent stronger and lighter in weight than wood handles. Wood handles are more flexible and shock absorbent, and provide a contoured gripping surface for comfort.
  • Phosphorous-free fertilizer (10-0-10): Excess phosphorus in lawns and gardens can be harmful to water systems. One pound of phosphorus entering a storm sewer can yield 500 pounds of algae growth.
  • Canning/Preserving: Canning uses mason jars, not tin cans. If you’re canning foods with high acidity, such as tomatoes, you’ll use a boiling-water canner. For low-acid foods, such as green beans, use a pressure canner.
  • Oil filters: On 4-cycle engines, check the oil and change it at least once before the season begins, along with the oil filter. There is no oil to check on a 2-cycle engine, just make sure the gas/oil mixture is to factory specifics and do not use old gas.
  • Trimmer line: Trimmer line that has lost moisture should be submerged in water overnight. This may help revitalize the line and improve its life and performance.
  • Lawn watering tips: Generally, the best time to water is in the early morning between 5 and 9 a.m. This allows the turf blades to dry, avoiding the danger of fungus.
  • Mower maintenance tips/replacement parts: For optimum performance, you should change the oil in your small engine after the first five hours of use and then annually, or every 50 hours of use (whichever comes first).
  • Growing fruit/vegetables: Almost all vegetables need full sun ? from morning through the end of the day. Soil must be well-drained. Water at soil level, at least 1 inch of water per week. Keep leaves dry, or water in morning if using sprinklers.

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