Using natural yard care methods in your garden or yard this spring will not only result in vibrant green spaces, but it will also protect people, pets, and wildlife from exposure to harmful chemicals and prevent pollution of local waterways.
Natural yard care focuses on building healthy soil, reducing waste, and choosing alternatives to chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
As beginning and seasoned gardeners dig into outdoor projects, they may discover poor-quality soil, weeds, and pests. It can be tempting to use harsh solutions that promise a dramatic fix, but chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can cause immediate health effects like nose and throat irritation, nausea, and rashes.
Repeated exposure can cause damage to people’s neurological and reproductive systems. Pesticides and fertilizers can also wash into local streams and lakes, harming fish and birds. Children and pets who play in these areas can also be at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.
In King County, people can access free, sustainable garden and yard care information through an education program funded by the Hazardous Waste Management Program and Seattle Public Utilities.
“The Natural Yard Care Program provides resources like hands-on workshops, print and web resources, and a phone and email service to answer individual gardening questions by professional garden educators,” said Kate Kurtz, program manager. “The goal is to teach and encourage safer practices that protect people, water quality, and wildlife.”
The Natural Yard Care Program helped 5,335 residents grow healthy yard spaces through phone, email, and events in 2022. Educators hosted 265 events throughout King County and over 60% of those classes served diverse audiences.
Start now with these three natural yard care tips:
- Use compost instead of chemical fertilizers. Compost builds healthy soil to help your plants, grass, and edible gardens thrive. Healthy soil holds more water, which means less water use, it suppresses plant diseases, and it can even bind and break down pollutants.
- Pull weeds by hand. It is free and prevents exposure to chemical products that can cause serious harm to people, pets, and local wildlife and waterways.
- Remove pests by hand or with traps. Many insect and bug species naturally help control other harmful pests such as aphids around the garden. If these methods are insufficient, choose a certified organic product that is less harmful.
In addition to supporting home gardeners, the Natural Yard Care Program works with over 50 nonprofit and community-based organizations. Professional garden educators partner with community groups to co-develop programs that are tailored to the specific interest and needs of the participants, ranging from helping youth see the connection between sustainable gardening and food justice, to creating hands-on learning opportunities for families to grow their bond and plants together. This community-centered approach is growing thriving gardens and communities throughout Seattle and King County.
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