Spring 2016
wet winter dry summer 1Finally we’re seeing the rain taper off – you made it through the wettest winter on record! Spring is here, the tulips and daffodils have popped, and you’ve probably mowed your lawn for the first time. Since you’re thinking about your spring and summer gardening projects, I thought this would be the perfect time to remind you of 5 simple ways you can grow beautiful yards and gardens, save money and water, and minimize impacts to our families’ health and the environment.

Build Healthy Soil - healthy soil makes for healthy plants!
  • Use compost to feed the soil. Mix 1 - 3 inches of compost into the soil to feed the soil organisms, which in turn feeds your plants.
  • Place mulch/wood chips 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 lawns.

Plant Right for Your Site - get to know your yard!

  • Determine the characteristics (soil, shade/light, and moisture) of your yard/garden to match with your plant selection.
  • Enrich the soil with compost when planting.
  • Create refuges for wildlife – use native plants, avoid “noxious weeds” and pesticides, and provide a water source (bird bath).

wet winter dry summer 2

Practice Smart Watering – save money and water; don’t over-do it!

  • Water deeply but infrequently – most plants do best if the soil is allowed to dry out between watering. Once fully established, most (native) plants require very little water.
  • Moisten the whole root zone – this builds deep, healthy root systems.
  • Make every drop count – use compost/mulch to keep the ground wet; use soaker hoses/drip irrigation/timers for more efficient watering; and water in the morning or evening to minimize evaporation.
  • Collect it – save rain in rain barrels or cisterns for dry season watering.

Think twice before using fertilizers and pesticides – chemicals can harm soil organisms and salmon!

  • Start with prevention – build healthy soil, select pest-resistant plants, and pull weeds early.
  • Identify the problem before you spray – is it a watering or pruning issue? Is that bug really a pest?
  • It’s okay to have a little damage – natural predators need time, and plants will often outgrow the damage.
  • Try less toxic solutions – like traps, barriers, or repellants. Soaps, oils, and plant-based insecticides are also available.
  • If you must, choose/use wisely - select a natural, slow-release fertilizer – it stays in the soil longer. Over application of pesticides can impact beneficial soil organisms, and can wash off into ground water, streams, lakes and Puget Sound, where they can harm people and wildlife.
  • Use chemical pesticides as a last resort – and spot apply, don’t broadcast spread.
  • For more information, check out Edmonds’ Parks Department pesticide reduction web page.

Practice natural lawn care – create a healthy lawn and reduce time/money spent!

  • Mow higher, more frequently, and use a mulching mower (grasscycle!).
  • Water deeply, and less frequently – only 1” a week!
  • Over seeding thin areas, then cover with compost, to improve poor lawns.
  • Use slow-release fertilizers, avoid fertilizer/pesticide mixes, and spot treat problem areas.

wet winter dry summer 4Rain Gardens to Rain Barrels
So how about that wet winter! Too bad we can’t have some of that rain during the summer, when our gardens are bone dry! LID (Low Impact Development) techniques can help take advantage of, or at least better deal with, our wet winters and make the dry summers more tolerable (at least in the garden). The idea behind LID, in terms of stormwater, is to manage stormwater on your property, both minimizing pollution and downstream flooding impacts. LID practices include rain gardens, rain barrels/cisterns, permeable pavement, green roofs, native plant retention and natural yard care. I’m going to focus on rain gardens and rain barrels.

Rain gardens are more than just a beautiful addition to homes and yards. They also collect, absorb, and filter stormwater runoff from roof tops, driveways, and other hard surfaces that don’t allow water to soak in. Rain gardens are sized to temporarily store stormwater runoff and are not meant to be permanent ponds (no standing water!!). There are a variety of native plants available that can be tailored to complement the existing landscaping in your yard. And because the plants are native, they thrive in the wet winters and rarely need watering during the dry summers.

wet winter dry summer 5Rain barrels and cisterns are a great way to collect and save this “free” resource. Rain barrels can hold between 55 and 80 gallons of rain water; cisterns, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes, can hold larger (up to 1,500 gallons!) volumes. Rain barrels are installed above ground, near your roof downspouts, where cisterns can be stored aboveground or underground. The Snohomish Conservation District and the City of Everett both have rain barrel programs that have barrels available for purchase, or classes where you can learn to build your own. Rain barrels are also available at your local hardware or gardening store.

For information on rain gardens, rain barrels, or other low impact methods to manage our wet winters and dry summers, visit us at the Watershed Fun Fair at the Willow Creek Hatchery on May 7, 2016, from 11 am to 3 pm. We’ll be talking about stormwater and our rain garden program. Staff from the Snohomish Conservation District will be available for questions about rain barrels, rain gardens, and other ways to manage our stormwater runoff. And ask how you can help with the planting party were having later that afternoon at our 3rd Avenue S Rain Garden Cluster.

If you can’t make it to the Fair or the planting party, come see our new Green Resource Room at the Development Services Permit Center, second floor of Edmonds City Hall, scheduled to open the beginning of May. We’ll have examples of low impact ways to manage stormwater (including a rain barrel and a pervious pavement display), decrease energy usage, and conserve building materials and other resources. Feel free to contact Patrick Johnson at pat.johnson@edmondswa.gov or 425-771-0220 x 1322 should you have any questions.

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