Lawn and Garden
Luch lawns and gardens are a beautiful thing, but green lakes and streams are not. When applied incorrectly, pesticides and fertilizers can wash into storm drains and then into our creeks, streams, and other waterways where they have unintended consequences.
Can you have too much of a good thing?
When fertilizer and pesticides flow into our waterways, they continue to do the job they started on your lawn or garden. Fertilizer has a high concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus, which stimulates lush plant growth. When used in excess, pesticides can also cause water quality problems downstream. The problem with using fertilizers and pesticides occurs when the chemicals and nutrients from either substance flow into our waterways. Fertilizer continues to stimulate aquatic plant growth in algae, leading to what’s known as an algae “bloom” or an abundance of algae. These algae blooms deplete oxygen from the water and suffocate fish and other beneficial wildlife in aquatic environments. Pesticides are also detrimental as they continue to kill or harm good aquatic organisms once they enter a lake or stream.
How you can help
The following is a brief summary of some of the different ways you can help our waterways by choosing more natural ways to garden. If you would like more detailed information, please review the Washington State Department of Ecology Booklet in the “More Info” section which follows:
Fertilizer and Pesticide Alternatives
- If you have a mulching attachment to your lawn mower you can leave the grass clippings on your lawn instead of fertilizer, which will add nutrients to your lawn and help it to retain moisture. Similarly, you can add compost to flower beds and other gardens to increase soil productivity and to feed and protect your plants. You can choose to compost at home, or you can purchase compost in bulk from a reputable source.
- Pulling weeds by hand is also a great way to instantly remove pesky plants without having to purchase or use chemical-based weed killers. For stubborn weeds (such as dandelions) consider using a long-handled weed puller. This gardening tool requires little effort and immediately removes.
Follow the Directions
If you still decide to use fertilizer or pesticides, remember to follow the directions indicated on the packaging to avoid overdosing your plants or lawn. Overusing chemical additives can actually harm plants and cause soil compaction in your garden. Be sure to follow warnings and other safety precautions as well, such as keeping children and pets away from treated areas for a period of time.
Choose Appropriate Plants
By choosing plants for your yard that match its characteristics, you will be able to keep a yard and garden that requires less work and water and help keep local waterways cleaner. First, observe your yard and note the amount of sun or shade each section gets throughout the day. Test your soil and determine the type of soil you have (ex. sandy or full of clay) and the amount of moisture in the soil. Once you understand these parameters, select plants that are native to or grow well in the Northwest and grow well in each environment.
When you water your yard and garden make sure to water well, but infrequently. Plants often grow better if the soil is allowed to temporarily drain and become partially dry between watering. Another thing to consider is the time at which you water. Mornings and evenings especially are the best times to water because it is cooler and less water is lost to evaporation.
If you would like more information on this subject, follow the links or review the informational material we have available below:
- Washington State Dept. of Ecology, Natural Yard Care Booklet (.pdf)
- Washington Waters, Ours to Protect - Yard Care (.pdf)
- Native Plants of Western Washington - Washington Native Plant Society (.pdf)
- Washington Native Plant Society
- Snohomish County Master Gardener's Website
- Master Gardener Hotline: (425) 357-6010
- Puget Sound Starts Here - Try going natural in your yard
- Puget Sound Starts Here - Go green with fewer chemicals
- Puget Sound Starts Here - Sound-wise planting tips
- Puget Sound Starts Here - Smart watering tips