Friday, May 30, 2014

Common Sense Gardening: 6 Quick Tips for Vegetable Gardens

There is nothing quite like growing and eating your own fresh produce. Growing vegetables isn’t always easy, but they are absolutely worth the work! Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your vegetable garden.

1) Water smart. Soaker hoses have multiple benefits. They make watering easy, deliver water directly to the plants, they don’t water between rows which would help weeds grow, and they don’t waste water by watering surfaces that don't need water, such as pavement.

2) Create healthy soil. Healthy plants grow from healthy soil. Compost adds fertility and structure vital for healthy soil. You can make your own compost or purchase it from a garden center. Choose slow-release fertilizer and stay away from fertilizers that combine bug or weed killers. These contain chemicals that can kill beneficial insects and contaminate groundwater that we drink.

3) Take care of weeds & bugs naturally. Invest in long handled weed tools to make the labor easier on your back. Use mulch around plants to keep weeds down and conserve water. Minimizing space between plants will also give less space for weeds to grow. If you find you have bugs, take a deep breath, stay calm and find out what they are.  Most insects are helpful or neutral, only a small percent cause harm. Our friends in Clark County created this nifty bug guide. Learn what bugs are attracted to in your garden, and what predator eats them. Adding a bird bath in or near your garden can attract birds that will eat up those bugs. Look for the least toxic solution to a pest problem. Please visit our Integrated Pest Management web page to find prescriptions for common pests.

4) Observe your plants. Take time to look closely at the plants in your vegetable garden. How are they doing? This can help you spot any problems early and help remind you to weed and water your investments.

5) Rotate vegetable gardens annually. Not all plants feed off of the same nutrients and some plants actually add nutrients to the soil. Rotating your plants to different spots of your garden each year will help keep plants productive and balance soil nutrients. This also helps prevent pests and diseases from building up in the soil.

6)  Wash your produce before you eat it. As an official blog of the Health Department, we must remind you how important it is to wash your produce. Even if it comes from your own garden, bacteria from wildlife and other sources can wind up on your produce. To lower your risk of foodborne illnesses, wash your produce (and hands!) before you eat it. For more information about food safety visit


If you have specific questions about Common Sense Gardening, please call Thurston County Environmental Health (360) 867-2674. Happy gardening!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Financial Assistance for Repair & Replacement of Failing Septic Systems

Did you know Thurston County Environmental Health offers financial assistance to homeowners for the repair or replacement of their failing septic systems?

The Septic System Financial Assistance Program offers loans and grants to qualified applicants. 

Why are failing septic systems a health concern?

When septic systems fail, raw sewage from the systems can contaminate the surface and groundwater. Groundwater is our main source of drinking water, so we want to keep it safe for us all to drink and use for cooking, bathing, washing dishes and clothes and so much more. We depend on groundwater. When surface water is contaminated it can harm wildlife and close local beaches and shellfish beds due to unsafe bacteria levels in the water.

How can I keep my system from failing?

Repairing and replacing septic systems is costly.  Proper maintenance of septic systems greatly lowers the risk of failure and it prolongs the life of the system. To learn how to protect your investment, attend one of the Free Septic Sense Workshops this month.

Some simple “Dos” and “Don’ts” will help extend the life of your septic system, save on maintenance costs, and protect water quality. Read them on this past blog post, “Septic System Care Begins with You.”

Septic System Financial Assistance Program

The health concerns related to failing septic systems are why Thurston County Environmental Health receives funding from Washington State Department of Ecology and a federal clean water grant to implement a financial assistance program. So far, the program has helped 124 homeowners fix or replace their failing septic systems.

The program provides loans and grants depending on the situation. Homeowners in Thurston County with any income level can apply for low interest loans to replace their system or to connect to sewer. There are small grants available for eligible repairs (does not include regular maintenance) and larger grants available for the replacement of a septic tank, a pumping chamber, or an entire on-site septic system. There are income requirements for the grants.  There are also grants available specifically for homeowners in the Henderson Inlet or Nisqually Reach Shellfish Protection Districts.

To find out if you qualify for the Septic System Financial Assistance Program, contact Debra Baker at (360) 867-2628 (TDD 360-867-2603). 

For more information, visit:  

Got a specific septic system question you need answered?

Call the Septic Help Line (360) 867-2669

Monday, May 5, 2014

Free Septic Sense Workshops

If your wastewater (what you flush and what goes down your drains) is treated by an on-site septic system, you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for sewage treatment. However, you do have an added home maintenance responsibility. Like any other investment, septic systems require regular care and maintenance.

Come to a free Septic Sense Workshop. We’ll provide information specific to your system, give plenty of tips on how to extend the life of your system, and hear from professionals working in the field.

Please register in advance at (360) 867 - 2674 or on our website.

      Wednesday May 14
      7:00-9:00 p.m. 
      Gordons Grange Hall
      308 East Yelm Ave. Yelm

      Thursday May 15
      7:00-9:00 p.m.
      McLane Fire Station
      125 Delphi Rd. NW Olympia
      Wednesday May 21
      7:00-9:00 p.m.
      Griffin Fire Station
      3707 Steamboat Island Loop NW Olympia

      Thursday May 22
      7:00-9:00 p.m.
      Thurston County Courthouse
      2000 Lakeridge Dr. SW (Building 1) Olympia

Take care of your septic system and it will take care of you!