Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ecologically Rich Border Lands

Often times you hear about hedgerows providing ecological diversity when they are used to separate fields and pastures. Out here in the semiarid parts of Utah hedgerows are unheard of. Yes, we have ornamental hedges that are sheared to oblivion and managed nearly as harshly as turf grass. So what do dry-landers do to bring diversity to our farms and homesteads?

I introduce you to the ditch bank! When Utah was first settled the only way to get a crop that the settlers from the East could recognize was to irrigate with water coming down from the mountains. Over the years an impressive number of canals and ditches were built. For decades this supplied many of the crops that Utahans relied on for food and to feed their livestock.

It wasn't long before some irrigation-less dry farming took hold, but for all practical purposes the ditches were about everywhere and a wide diversity of plants grew in them and around them. This was Utah's version of a hedgerow and hedgerow diversity.

Over the years the ditches have lost influence due to urbanization and the rise of pressurized irrigation systems. This has made it vital that we provide alternate spaces planted to create habitat for the critters that bring balance to our systems.

So when you hear about hedge rows and all their glory, remember that each area has an eco system hero of its own. If you don't take the time to look for that hero, you will not be doing your landscape any favors.


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