Finally, it’s springtime!! Time to get back to our yards and gardens and make everything green again. So as we bring out the weed and feed, soaker hoses, and moss killer, here are some simple ways we can grow beautiful yards and gardens, save money, and minimize impacts to our families’ health and the environment.
It starts with these 5 easy steps: 1. Build Healthy Soil
Soil is alive - a teaspoon of healthy soil contains about 4 billion organisms! Here are some ways to build healthy soil, which makes for healthy plants!Use compost to feed the soil. Compost is decomposed plant matter, which can be purchased at your local gardening store (or you can make your own!). Just mix 1 - 3 inches of compost into the soil to feed the soil organisms, which in turn feeds your plants.
Place mulch (a mixture of leaves, wood chips, and other organic matter) on top of the soil. Mulch helps to conserve water, prevent weeds, and serves as slow-release organic matter for the soil. Mulch can be added to flower beds, around trees and shrubs, and lawns (“grasscycle” - leave the clippings on the lawn).
Use Fertilizer Smartly - if you must add fertilizer, use the natural, slow-release fertilizer kind instead of a chemical-based one. Slow-release fertilizers stay in the soil longer instead of being washed into stormwater or streams. Follow application instructions - overuse of chemicals can harm beneficial soil organisms and can wash off into ground water, streams, lakes and Puget Sound, where they can harm people and wildlife.
2. Plant Right for Your Site
Get to know your yard! Knowing what type of soil, shade/light, and moisture conditions are present in your yard and garden can help in the selection of plants that will succeed. When planting, make sure to enrich the soil with compost. And create refuges for wildlife in your yard – use native plants, avoid “noxious weeds” and pesticides, and provide a water source (bird bath).
3. Practice Smart Watering
Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing – believe it or not, overwatering is a frequent problem with plants in our area. To save two very important resources – money and water –give your lawn and garden just what they need to thrive.
Water deeply but infrequently – most plants do best if the soil is allowed to dry out between waterings. Once fully established, most plants require very little water.
Moisten the whole root zone – this builds deep, healthy root systems.
Make every drop count – use compost and mulch to keep the ground moist longer; use soaker hoses/drip irrigation/timers for more efficient watering; and water in the morning or evening to minimize water loss from evaporation.
Collect it – save rain in rain barrels or cisterns for dry season watering.
4. Think twice before using pesticides
Pesticides have been detected in our local streams, some at levels that are harmful to salmon and other wildlife. Overuse of these chemicals can actually harm plants, by damaging the soil organisms that make the soil healthy. So before you spray or spread, try these steps:
Start with prevention – build healthy soil, select pest-resistant plants, and pull weeds early
Identify the problem before you spray – make sure it’s not a watering or pruning issue. Is that bug really a pest?
It’s okay to have a little damage – give nature time to work. Natural predators need time. Plants will often outgrow the damage.
Try less toxic solutions – traps, barriers, or repellants. Soaps, oils, and plant based insecticides are also available.
Use chemical pesticides as a last resort – and spot apply, don’t broadcast spread.
5. Practice natural lawn care
Lawns are where we use the most pesticides, fertilizers, and water. Putting these suggestions to work will help build a healthy lawn and reduce time and money spent!
Mow higher, more regularly, and use a mulching mower (grasscycle!).
Water deeply, and less frequently – only 1” a week!
Improve poor lawns by aerating, over seeding thin areas, then covering with compost.
Use natural organic or slow-release fertilizers – try to avoid weed and feed fertilizer/pesticide mixes. Don’t broadcast spread; just spot treat problem areas.
For more information on natural yard care, click on these links: http://www.snohomishcountywa.gov/1097/Natural-Yard-Care
| http://www.seattle.gov/util/EnvironmentConservation/MyLawnGarden/index.htm Questions or comments? Contact Mike Cawrse at 425.771.0220 or