grow your own veggies...
There's nothing quite like eating just-picked veggies straight out of your garden! This is the year to finally start that little garden. To get started, check out "Growing Food in the City" for some great tips. And while you're planting, why not add a row to donate to the local Food Bank. For information on the donation process, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seven simple steps to a successful landscape...
- Planning & Design: A landscape plan is the first and most important step in creating a successful landscape. Take a close look at your yard and draw a simple plan. Indicate where the sunny and shady areas are. Are there wet spots? Is the land level or sloped? Do you have a view you’d like to enhance or is there an area that you’d like to screen off for more privacy? Mark all of these elements on your drawing before heading to the garden center.
- Healthy Soil: Soils can vary from one yard to another, and even within a given yard. To ensure best results for your landscape, get your soil tested to make sure it has the appropriate balance to support your plants. Whether soil is sandy, clayey or in between, adding three to four inches of compost into the top foot of soil will be hugely beneficial. It will add texture to sandy soil, helping it to better hold onto the water you apply and loosen clay soil to improve drainage. In addition, compost will feed beneficial life like worms, bacteria, fungi and microscopic soil bugs, which in turn, will feed your plants making them healthier and more disease resistant.
- Appropriate Plant Selection: Select plants based on your landscape’s site conditions. If your landscape is hot and sunny or cool and shady, the plants you select will determine if they thrive or struggle to survive. Unless the area is wet, look for drought-tolerant native or climate-friendly plants, which once established, require very little to no additional water beyond normal rainfall. Native plants commonly do not require the addition of fertilizers and are more resistant to pests and disease. Avoid exotics as they generally require more water and avoid invasives such as English Ivy which tend to take over and choke out native species. Your favorite nursery person can be your best friend when it comes to selecting the appropriate plants. Use their expertise. Need more inspiration? Tour various Water Wise Gardens to see how beautiful they can be. Visit: www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/waterwise-garden.htm. Here is a great Plant List.
- Practical Turf Areas: Since keeping lawns green requires more water than is required by most other plants, keep lawn areas small. Remember, the more water it takes to keep turf green, the more money it will cost you. In addition, reducing lawn size will reduce time spent mowing and give you more time to enjoy the outdoor space you’ve created.
- Efficient Irrigation: Turning on the garden hose at full blast can use ten gallons of water a minute. Soaker hoses that ooze water slowly and drip systems that get the water directly into the root zone in gallons per hour, are the most efficient means of applying water to your bedding plants. Don't like the look? Cover the hose with some bark and you'll never even know it's there. If you have an underground sprinkler system, make sure it includes a soil moisture sensor and a rain-shutoff device so it isn’t sprinkling when Nature is already doing the job. When you are watering, make sure to do so only in the cool part of the day to reduce loss to evaporation, and water deeply enough to moisten the root zone. This will encourage deeper root growth resulting in healthier and more drought tolerant plants and will take up to a week to dry out. If you're in the market for a new irrigation system or simply want to upgrade an old one, look for a WaterSense labeled controller. This smart technology uses local weather data to water only when needed. To learn more, visit: www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor/landscaping_tips.html.
- Use of Mulches: Use mulch around trees and shrubs to moderate soil temperature and minimize evaporation, reduce weed growth and prevent erosion. Wood chips, small gravel and shredded landscape clippings make good mulches. Just be sure to keep mulch at least an inch or so away from the plants. For free wood chips, contact: email@example.com at Asplundh Tree Expert Company, or call 425-483-9339.
- Appropriate Maintenance: If you have followed the first six steps, maintenance will be easier and less expensive than conventional landscaping methods. Some weeding and pest controls may still be necessary to help keep your lawn and garden healthy and your water bill low. But you will find that your landscape will be healthier, use minimal amounts of water and less fertilizer and pesticides will be needed.
build healthy soil...
Good soil is the key to a great landscape. Soil consists of mineral matter (rock, sand or clay), organic matter (plants, animals, and microorganisms) and “pore space”, the gaps between organic and mineral matter where air and water can circulate.
Our soils tend to be very thin and either rocky, sandy or dense and claylike. The organic content is often relatively low. Adding compost and other organic materials to the soil is the most important thing you can do for your plants. You can buy compost in bags or bulk, or you can make your own.
Food scraps and food-soiled paper and yard waste can all be turned into compost. It’s giving back to the soil that which came from it. It’s nature’s recycling system, in which the natural processes of decomposition break down organic matter into a dark, earthy, nutrient-rich material. A teaspoon of healthy compost-amended soil contains about 4 billion organisms!
For good information on how to make compost, visit www.epa.gov/compost.
The King Conservation District’s Manure Share Program connects folks who would like manure for their gardens with livestock owners who have more than they can use on their own pastures and gardens. All you need is a pick-up truck to pick up the free manure. For a list of providers, call 425-282-1930, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at www.kincd.org/programs-farm-manure.htm.
WOODLAND PARK ZOO-DOO...
Buy in 2-gallon containers year-round. Bulk purchases are available twice a year during the spring and fall Fecal Fests. For details, call 206-625-POOP (7667), or visit: www.zoo.org/fecalfest.
GET YOUR FREE WATER...
Did you know that just 1/4 inch of rain falling on a typical size home roof will yield over 200 gallons of FREE water? Catch it in a series of rainbarrels placed under your downspout and use it to water your flower beds and garden plants. For information on where to find barrels and easy instructions on how to retrofit them, please call: 253-856-5549.
ONLINE GARDENING CLASSES...
New to gardening – or looking for design ideas? Visit: www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor. Also check out the “Yard Talk” video series at www.kingcounty.gov/environment/stewardship/nw-yard-and-garden/yard-talk.aspx. It covers topics from composting to soil, native plants and planting techniques.
Visit: www.bewaterwise.com for an online gardening tutorial. It comes out of California, so be sure to substitute local plants wherever California ones are mentioned. Your favorite nursery will be able to assist you with that.