Landscaping makes the South Puget Sound even more beautiful. Get outside in the fresh air, work in your yards, move your bodies, and gain an even greater appreciation for your role in making this a more livable community. Playing in the dirt has also been shown to reduce stress.
Our yards and gardens can play an important part in our personal health care plans. Whether you have landscaped flower beds, luscious lawns, fruit trees or a vegetable garden, our outdoor environments help support the health of our families and communities. A healthy yard-care strategy can meet the needs of any kind of yard — whether it’s a healthy space where kids and pets play, a bountiful vegetable garden, a garden brimming with flowers and shrubs, or a lawn that’s nice enough to keep the neighbors happy.
Start with the soil. Compost, mulch, minerals and the right fertilizers improve the amount of air, water and nutrients that plants can soak up from the soil. Soil that’s rich in these things produces plants that are better able to survive pests and disease. Chemical weed and bug killers, and the fertilizers that contain them, destroy the health of the soil. Never combine fertilizer with weed control; if you need to feed plants, feed them. If you need to kill weeds, do that separately.
Here are some other tips.
As annoying as they are, weeds provide important information about the soils and the places where they grow. Moss indicates a shady, compacted area; dandelions thrive where there is low soil fertility; and buttercups spread in damp soil that needs more organic matter.
Identify your weeds to earn more about the underlying problems. Grow plants that can do well in the conditions in your yard or change those conditions by adding organic matter, light or soil aeration.
Close plant spacing is another way for desired plants to shade out weeds. Mulch and other weed barriers also reduce the need for weeding, but it’s important to recognize that some weeds will always sneak in. Invest in long-handled weed tools that remove roots entirely, a sturdy weed claw for low-growing and spreading weeds, a hula hoe for shallow roots in edges and rows, and other quality tools to help keep the chore manageable.
If you believe you need a chemical product to get the upper hand, ask garden center staff for the least-toxic product and spot spray weeds instead of spreading the chemical over a larger area. Shoes and paws can track garden chemicals into homes, where they can linger for years in house dust.
It may be hard to believe but most bugs are helpful. One of the problems with chemical bug killers is that they destroy the helpful bugs as well as the pests.
Traps, barriers and adding beneficial insects such as lace wings and lady beetles can help keep the number of pests under control. But always monitor an insect problem to see if the bugs are actually creating the problem before reaching for a product. Find out what type of pest you are dealing with and the life cycle stage when it is best controlled before choosing a product. That bug might be food for your favorite wild birds.
You can get gardening tips delivered to your inbox every month by subscribing at co.thurston.wa.us/waterresources/ Scroll down and click the last button on the left. For more information on how to create healthier outdoor spaces, go to co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehcsg/index.html or call 360-867-2674.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.