President’s Message (11/10)

MGFKC President's Message 11/10Congratulations to the MGs we honored at October’s recognition dinner.  Not only did we share another delicious potluck, but we did it in appreciation of the contributions of MGs from around the county.  It’s humbling to glimpse what folks are doing and trying as our outreach changes.  Sometimes we get so busy with our routines as MGs we forget to look up to reassess our broader goals and to ask what we might be ignoring.  David McDonald, from Seattle Public Utilities, spoke at the recognition dinner about our effect as gardeners on our shared environment.  I’m particularly interested in these issues, especially the issue of water as it leaves our gardens, when it becomes stormwater.

Just before the recognition dinner, I had a fascinating discussion with Xenia Callahan regarding our policy on pesticides.  As with so much else, our policy is changing.  Certainly it is different than it was when I went through training, when we could recommend glyphosate as a chemical weed control.  The research on glyphosate, however, shows it is highly mobile in soil, in sharp contrast to its original marketing claims, and that it is mixed with inert ingredients quite toxic to marine environments (Puget Sound, Lakes Washington, Sammamish, Union, Haller, Greenlake?).  Research also continues to show that glyphosate does not break down quickly in the soil, in fact it persists in soil far longer than many MGs would like after we’ve recommended it to homeowners.  I’m pleased that our chemical policy reflects current research and now allows us to assist individuals in reading specific pesticide labels on products they’ve chosen, but that we may not recommend any particular chemical, including glyphosate, for pest control.

At the excellent state MG conference in Vancouver in September, I attended a session on Portland’s attempts to manage stormwater, the same topic David McDonald spoke about.  Portland, like Seattle and much of King County, has an old single pipe sewer system.  This means when water leaves our properties it flows into the gutters and then into the sewer.  When it rains a lot the sewer system cannot contain the water and we all dump untreated sewage into our shared waterways, in addition to the chemical soup we use to control dandelions in our lawns, kill black spot on our roses, or wash our cars.  I was inspired by Portland’s efforts to plant rain gardens all over the city to keep the water out of the sewer system and the Willamette River, and in the soil where it can be naturally processed by plants and soil.  They’ve saved tens of millions of dollars, literally, in a sewer pipe replacement project by decreasing the need for stormwater capacity through plants, many of them native and easy to find.

What are we doing in King County to ensure the health of our glorious lakes, rivers, and the Sound?  Governor Gregoire has repeatedly admitted the Sound is beautiful but sick due to runoff pollution from all of us.  What do we have if not our clean water and superior landscape, mountains reflecting in our beautiful water bodies?  I fail sometimes to understand our collective environmental priorities but I’m pleased to be part of a group participating in these discussions in the most practical way, homeowner by homeowner.  How are we confronting our own roles in the safeguarding of these shared treasures?  How are we engaging the public about the use of chemicals in our gardens?  What future credibility do we risk for the program by sticking to our personal chemical habits, or by refusing to discuss the issue with the public?  More central to all this, though, what do our garden choices mean for the King County we’re leaving to our children?  When you’re out this winter, dodging raindrops, I encourage you to consider water in the sky, in our gardens, and after it leaves our homes.

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