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Northwest Community Says No To Chemicals, Yes To Sustainable Landscapes

In a quiet, eastside suburb of Seattle, a revolution is taking place. Residents of Sammamish are turning their yards into havens of native plantings, limited patches of lawn, and organic gardens.

In the Pacific Northwest, where rainfall averages several feet a year, storm water runoff is a major concern. Pesticides and other chemicals in the run-off threaten marine life in streams and lakes. For Gail Twelves, planting cedar trees and Oregon grape shrubs that act as sponges prevent much of the rainfall from ever making it to the street.

“Sammamish has a lot at stake, with three major lakes and more than 11 miles of shoreline,” Twelves said. “That’s three lakes that really depend on us doing this right.”

Liza Burke is community relations manager for the organic gardening advocacy group, Seattle Tilth. She invites people to take self-guided tours through her yard for tips on how to set up a rain barrel or a compost pile, to which plants grow best in the moist northwest.

Sheri Henshaw, a garden educator for the group that also offers classes, advises the best thing to do for a garden is to use organic compost. Store-bought fertilizer often contains high amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen which, when caught in storm-water run-off, chokes the life out of lakes and streams. King County, of which Sammamish is a part, recently banned the use of fertilizer with phosphorus, except in the case of new or phosphorus-depleted lawns.

It’s not only concern for the waterways that is prompting residents to make changes.

“We let our dog out on the lawn,” Gail Twelves said. “We don’t want him out getting those chemicals on his paws and licking them.”

Read more from the Sammamish Review here: http://sammamishreview.com/2011/07/19/residents-use-landscaping-to-help-water-quality-in-lakes

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