APRIL 21, 1997

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Gardening tips for a healthy environment

gardening tips from the Dept. of Ecology
Are you smelling the fresh-cut grass, seeing the beautiful flowers bloom, and hearing the birds sing? Springtime also means mowing the yard, pulling weeds, and raking flower or garden beds.
   Try to pull weeds instead of poisoning them with chemicals. Chemical pesticides can pose hazards to humans, pets, and the environment. Chemicals kill the good as well as the bad plants and bugs. Contamination of water supply can occur when pesticides are applied just before a heavy rainfall and can run off into a nearby stream or storm drain. If you choose to use pesticides, read the labels carefully and apply as little as necessary. Washington residents dump more pesticides per urban acre into the environment every year than are used on commercial croplands.
   Always use only enough fertilizer necessary to feed plants. Excessive use of fertilizers can contaminate the water supply because it is washed by rain or irrigation into drainage systems. Fertilizers encourage rapid growth of plants and algae in lakes and streams, causing harm to aquatic life and threatening the safety of boaters, swimmers, and anglers. Providing needed nutrients and moisture and the right plant placement creates a healthy pest-resistant plant.
   Compost yard waste. Composting, instead of burning, land filling and littering, protects our air, land and water resources. Outdoor burning releases carbon monoxide and tiny particles of soot, dust, and unburned fuel into the air. Disposing of yard waste at the landfill increases the volume of solid waste. Grass clippings in ditches can pollute the water when they disintegrate. Composting saves money, turns yard waste into a personal resource, benefits soil and plants, and saves landfill space.
   When watering, make sure water goes only where it's supposed to and when needed. Water in the evening or early morning and when the wind is not blowing. This reduces evaporation. Water shrubs and plants separately from lawns. Plants have different needs and may be over-watered if watered at the same time as lawns.
   Finally, service gas-powered lawn equipment. Having lawn mowers, weed eaters, or leaf blowers tuned up means fewer pollutants coming from their exhaust and fluid leaks on the ground. Dispose of wastes safely to prevent serious water pollution.
   You can find lots of earth friendly ideas in a free booklet, 1997 Project Action Guide. Call 1-800-RECYCLE.