Thursday, February 26, 2015

Septic Sense: Regular Maintenance Saves Money

We know that regular maintenance of large investments such as tools, cars, and homes can save money. Regular maintenance of our septic system can do all of that and protect our drinking water, lakes, rivers, streams and Puget Sound.

What many of us want to know is, what exactly does “regular maintenance” of our on-site septic system really mean? 

Annual inspections can help find problems when they are small and easier and less costly to fix. Hire a professional to do the regular inspection or learn how to do it yourself. This septic system inspection video and can help you inspect your own septic system. We suggest that you watch the video and hire a professional for your first inspection. You will learn a lot about how your septic system works, and be better able to maintain it, even if you decide to keep hiring a professional for future inspections.

Set up a regular pumping schedule. All septic systems need to be pumped at some point. Most of them need to be pumped every 3-5 years, depending on how many people live in the home, types of products used and the amount and type of waste put into the system (like water, fats, oil, wipes). The professional who does the initial inspection can help you determine how often to pump your tank.

Everyday ways to keep your septic system healthy
  • Be careful of what goes into your septic system. Only water, poop, pee, and toilet paper are meant to enter your septic system. Other items like wipes (even flushable ones), condoms, tampons, cotton swaps, medicine, food, and pet waste (even flushable litter) should not be flushed or put down the drain.
  • Keep your drainfield in good condition. Plant only shallow-rooted, low-water-use plants on and near the drainfield. Keep cars and livestock off of your drainfield and make sure to never pave or park over it. This includes the reserve drainfield area that you (hopefully) have in case the drainfield ever needs replacing.
  • Use safer products for household cleaning. Baking soda, castile soap and vinegar can tackle most of your cleaning needs. Check out these green cleaning recipes. Avoid using household products labeled with the words “Danger” or “Poison” to protect your septic system and your health.
  • Avoid the use of septic tank additives. These are not proven effective and do not replace the need for regular maintenance. 
  • Conserve water. Remember the statement above that says pumping schedules depend on the amount of waste treated? All of the water that goes into your system goes through the tank for treatment. Less water means less treatment is needed.

Regular septic maintenance can save you money and protect the health of you and your family. Septic system care begins with you.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Common Sense Gardening: Five outdoor tasks you can do right now

The recent unseasonably warm weather is allowing for more opportunities to get outside and do some yard work. You may be wondering what kind of tasks should be done this time of year when the weather is so mild. Well, we’ve made a list to answer that question!

1. Pull weeds and mulch. You probably don’t have a huge amount of weeds right now. So this is a great time to get ahead of them. Once you’ve weeded an area, lay mulch (straw, woodchips, leaves, or compost) on top, leaving space around the plants. This helps keep future weeds from sprouting.

2. Prune trees and shrubs if needed. Prune dead branches any time.  Prune trees and shrubs for shape, to encourage flowers or fruit, or in some cases to improve the health of the plant. WSU Pruning Landscape Trees discusses about the pros and cons of different pruning times on page 8.

3. Transplant trees and shrubs. Prepare a hole that is twice as wide as the plant’s root system but only deep enough to fit the roots. Set the plant at the same level it was previously growing and fill in with the native soil. Research has shown it is better not to mix compost or additional organic matter into the planting hole to encourage the plant to root firmly into the soil.  Be sure to water right away.  Adding mulch on top of the soil helps conserve moisture.  Read more in the WSU publication Planting Trees and Shrubs in the Landscape.

4. Clean and organize tools. Take some time to go through your yard and garden tools. This is a good time to sharpen blades, replace handles, and toss out those old work gloves you never use anymore.

5. Plant roses. Late winter or early spring are the months to plant roses. Our Common Sense Gardening Guide to Roses can help you choose the varieties that grow best in Thurston County. It also has great tips to help you grow beautiful roses… that hopefully the deer don’t find out about.

And the sixth unofficial task is daydream of beautiful spring and summer days spent enjoying your yard and garden!