Thursday, March 6, 2014

Plan Before You Plant

When we know what a plant needs to be healthy, we can take better care of it. Planning out your landscape carefully can allow for plants to thrive without the need for any toxic bug and weed killers. A common thought is, “Why should anyone care what I do on my lawn?” When it comes to using toxic bug and weed killers - one person’s use can affect the surrounding community.

Whatever is placed on the ground can make its way into the groundwater – which is what most Thurston County residents drink. It can also contribute pollutants to stormwater runoff, the water that comes from the rain that falls on lawns, rooftops, sidewalks, parking lots, and other hard surfaces and flows to the nearest creek, rivers, and Puget Sound. Stormwater is untreated and often full of other contaminants.

A healthy landscape can be achieved without the use of toxic bug and weed killers, just be sure to plan before you plant

Here are some tips:

  • Build healthy soil for healthy plants – Soil that is rich in organic matter is less susceptible to pests. Compost and composted manure hold water and nutrients in the soil for plants to use.
  • Cover the ground – bare soil is a happy home to weeds, so cover it. You can add more plants or use mulch. Mulch can include: leaves, straw, grass clippings, wood chips, bark, or straw.
  • Choose the right place for each plant – When deciding what plants you want to grow, figure out what the growing conditions are for each location and be sure to select plants accordingly. It can also be helpful to keep plants that require a lot of watering and attention in areas that are highly visible and easy to water.

  • Encourage beneficial insects and birds – Not all bugs are bad. In fact, many insects, along with birds, can be garden heroes that eat pests. A concern of using pesticides is that it often results in killing the good bugs along with the pests. Flowers in the sunflower and parsley families such as parsley, sunflower, zinnia, caraway, yarrow, daisies, and asters attract beneficial insects. Encourage birds by adding a bird bath, shrubs, or a small wild area.
  • Use water wisely – Deep, infrequent watering encourages plants to develop healthy root systems. Water only the areas that need watering - this will help keep unwanted plants (weeds!) from growing. Avoid watering cemented areas such as sidewalks and driveways – it will save you the cost of the wasted water and reduce runoff. If you notice water running off of your lawn, the soil may be saturated or so dry that it hasn’t absorbed the water. In that case, watering in cycles to allow time for the water to soak in can help.
  • Observe your plants – Spend time in the lovely landscape you have created. Observe the health of your plants to see how they are recovering from a stressor such as a heat wave or if there is any fungus growing on them. This can help you deal with any problems at the earliest stages.
  • Indentify the problem and act wisely – The most common landscaping problems are because of weak, stressed plants. This can be weather stresses, poor soil, over fertilization, plants placed in the wrong growing conditions, or from too much or not enough water. Be sure that you know what the problem is before taking action. Research solutions to the problem and put thought into your choice. Find prescriptions for common landscaping issues visit our Common Sense Gardening web page.

Planning out your landscape carefully can make a huge difference in its health. 

Take the time to plan it out – it’s worth it.

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