Free workshops will teach safe lawn, garden practices

Islanders interested in sustainable yard and garden practices will be able to learn from several experts in the field when Natural Yard Care by Design, a three week-series of free classes, begins on Vashon next week.

Participants will learn the five steps in creating a healthy lawn and garden: building good soil, choosing the right plants, watering correctly, limiting the use of pesticides and practicing natural lawn care. The program, now more than a decade old, was developed by King County in a consortium with 10 other cities to help people limit the use of harmful chemicals and conserve water while creating and maintaining attractive yards and gardens.

Doug Rice, a landscape architect and one of the presenters, noted he and his fellow presenters like to entertain while they impart their information, and one presenter might even bring her ukelele, a notably popular instrument on the Island.

“People will have a good time,” he said. “Our sense of humor is very aligned with Vashon.”

While there might be plenty of laughter, Rice noted that the underlying issue is a serious one, especially on Vashon, where, he said, “All of your water is right underneath you” and is at risk of contamination from lawn and garden chemicals.

In fact, Rice said, the class was developed after the University of Washington tested 100 children and found that 99 of them had common garden pesticides in their urine. Additionally, program materials note that scientists have found 23 different pesticides in Seattle-area streams, many at levels high enough to hurt salmon and other wildlife.

Because of these findings, King County sought out garden experts, Rice said, such as Ciscoe Morris, Anne Lovejoy and Marianne Binetti, and asked for their advice. Their answers formed the basis of these classes that the consortium developed and now offers around the region.

The methods work, he said, and provide homeowners and other gardeners a sustainable approach to working with their land, often in a way that requires little maintenance.

Rice has been to Vashon several times, he said, and knows the Island well. In preparation for his class, he visited several gardens here and will talk about good design based on how people live and use their yards and gardens.

He encourages participants to bring photos of problem areas in their yards, samples of soil they would like to know how to amend and even slices of sod from their lawns.

There will be time for discussion with the experts after class, Rice noted, and door prizes and a grand prize — a new mulching lawn mower.

People can attend just one of the classes, he said, but often participants find they want to attend the whole series to learn all of the material.

“There is a lot of information,” Rice said. “Once you understand it, it’s like, ‘Oh, it all works together.’”


All workshops will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. at Chautauqua.

Thursday, Oct. 13: Garden Design with Doug Rice, landscape architect and  Smart Watering with drip irrigation expert Greg Butler.

Thursday, Oct. 20: Growing Healthy Soil with Lisa Taylor of Seattle Tilth and Designing with Plants with Islander Greg Rabourn of KUOW

Thursday, Oct. 27: Designing a Natural Lawn with Ladd Smith, co-owner of In Harmony Sustainable Landscapes and Natural Pest Control with Dan Corum of Woodland Park Zoo.

Registration is recommended. Call 971-3720 or email



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