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Natural Yards Help Make Your Water Healthy

The Shellfish Partners, Special to Key Peninsula News

Lakes, streams and beautiful Puget Sound beaches surround Key Peninsula. As you break out your gardening shoes to get ready for spring, remember protecting those waters begins in your own backyards. When you apply fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, you can unintentionally harm groundwater, lakes, streams and Puget Sound.

Keep your yard lush, green and free of weeds without the use of harsh chemicals. Five easy steps will help you manage your yard naturally and save money in the process:

  1. Build healthy soil. Healthy soil should contain a good balance of air, water and organic material. Avoid over-compacting your soil to ensure enough air and water can get to the roots. Mix in some compost so your plants get plenty of food.
  2. The right plant in the right place. Different plants need different amounts of sunlight, warmth and water. Most vegetables need four to six hours of full sun per day, while ferns and rhododendrons love the shade. Get to know your yard. Where is it sunny, shady, soggy or dry? Work with your local nursery or master gardener to choose plants well suited to your yard to save time, money and hassle.
  3. Practice smart watering. Too much or too little water cause many plant problems. Excess watering may run off the yard and be wasted. It can also pick up chemicals along the way. Consider installing a drip watering system to deliver water directly to the plant, slowly and right at the roots. Kits start at around $40, at local garden shops, are easy to install and can come with automatic timers.
  4. Think twice before using chemicals. Pesticides and herbicides may eliminate unwanted bugs and weeds, but they can easily end up where you don’t want them. Rain and overwatering can wash them into waterways and children and pets can track chemicals into the house. Instead, consider pulling weeds in the early spring before they get established. Cover planting areas with 3 to 4 inches of mulch to keep weeds from growing. For denser weed patches, lay down cardboard or newspaper under the mulch to smother weeds and block new ones from springing up. You can also use vinegar to kill weeds in cracks and hard-to-weed areas.
  5. Practice natural lawn care. Grassy areas are the most challenging parts of yards. They require frequent watering in the summer and any shaded area will attract moss. Instead of “weed and feed” products, keep your grass healthy by using an organic, “slow release” fertilizer. Mow often, and keep your blade sharp. Leave the clippings on the yard as free fertilizer and only water about 1 inch a week. Consider reducing the size of your lawn to a more manageable area, especially where you have moss problems.

To learn more, attend the natural yard care and vegetable gardening workshops Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Longbranch Improvement Club, 4312 Key Peninsula Highway South. Sessions will include:

  • Natural Yard Care—Less Work and Money: 10 to 10:45 a.m. Learn how to fight weeds, build healthy soil, choose the right plants and have a great looking lawn without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Instructor: Walt Burdsall, Washington State University Master Gardener and Natural Yard Care program coordinator, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
  • Growing Great Vegetables: 10:45 a.m. to noon. Learn easy ways to plant, grow and harvest vegetables to enjoy. Growing your own vegetables is fun, healthy and can save you money. Instructor: Colin Evoy, AmeriCorps Farm Nutrition coordinator, YMCA Camp Seymour.

Learn more at or call 253-798-4708.

The Shellfish Partners are Pierce County Public Works Surface Water Management, Pierce Conservation District, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, community organizations and Key Peninsula residents. They have been at work to protect Key Peninsula’s beaches and shellfish resources since 2006. For more information, call 235-798-6470 or visit