Environmental consciousness spoken here

In an effort to keep waters in the Puget Sound area running clean, McLendon Hardware is spreading the word about rain gardens and water retention.
Bruce Stevens, a spokesman for McLendon, said the company is very environmentally conscious and their stores make sure they carry products to help in this effort.
“McLendon is behind anything that can be beneficial to the ecology and environment,” he said.
McLendon runs workshops to help homeowners stay up to date on ways to make sure their homes are working with the environment, as well.
On a Saturday morning in April, Joe Freeman, sales associate in the garden and nursery department in McLendon’s Tacoma store, ran a free workshop on rain gardens.
There is no doubt about the fact that Freeman knows his stuff when it comes to rain gardens. Passionate about his job at McLendon Hardware, he dispensed good, solid and sometimes humorous advice on the construction and maintenance of rain gardens. His advice included, “Don’t let this be an intimidating project.”
That approach works well with local-government advocacy of rain gardens. For instance, the city of Tacoma has a residential rain garden rebate program. (See additional story).
Saying that rain gardens can be as complicated as homeowners want them to be, Freeman added that he prefers to keep things simple.
When asked why homeowners should install a rain garden, Freeman said simply, “We apply fertilizer and weed control to our grass, and where is all that stuff going? A rain garden is a water containment system that channels water and lets nature filter it – and I think they look cool.”
His instructions were clear and straightforward.
First off, determine the best spot for the rain garden by figuring how where the water flows.
“Turn on your hose,” he said, “and let it run and watch where the water goes.” He suggested that after finding just the right spot, homeowners use a garden hose to lay out the area, or spray the shape with spray chalk paint.
Freeman also advised to check for anything that might be underground before beginning any digging of the area.
Plan and measure, draw out the size and depth, consider sun exposure, and get started, he advised.
“This can be a weekend project if you have enough friends to help, but don’t give up. Dig and create it during the summer and plant in September,” said Freeman, adding that determining the drainage of the area using a soil drainage test kit is always a good idea.
Then start digging.
“Lure people in with beer, cookies and chips,” he joked as he passed out a handout that gave details of how to build a rain garden and the appropriate plants for the area.
Sharon Jordan went to the workshop to learn about water drainage issues.
“I hope to learn what to do about the water. I come to a lot of the workshops and always learn something new,” she said.
Steve and Diane Barrett drove up from Lacey for the. “We just put a patio in the back yard and hope to retain some of the water and reuse it,” said Steve.
After Freeman’s presentation, which included a question-and-answer period, Ron Linck, another McLendon employee, demonstrated several water containment systems and explained the advantages of each of them.
“This area smashed the record for rain in March. Some folks want to contain that water and some just want to get rid of it,” Linck said as moved through his presentation.
Both of the demonstrations were full of valuable information, and Freeman stayed afterward to answer more questions from homeowners.
“Rain gardens are pretty, a nice addition to the landscape, and yet serve a really important purpose” in the Puget Sound area “to protect our watershed,” he said.

Joan Cronk, who wrote this article, is a freelance writer.



May is Puget Sound Starts Here Month, and Tacoma’s Environmental Services Department again is taking a leading role in the annual observance that encourages public awareness of protecting the Sound and its surrounding waters by limiting pollution from stormwater and runoff from streets, yards and driveways.
Officials note that everyday actions impact the environment in ways that can affect the quality of life for the public and its surrounding habitats. A healthy Puget Sound is critical to the natural environment and the economy. Tourism, working waterfronts, fishing and shellfish industries, and other commercial activity depend heavily on a healthy Puget Sound.
Citizens can do their part to keep pollutants out of streams, rivers and the Sound by washing cars at a commercial car wash that’s equipped to capture dirty water, find and fix oil and other fluid leaks in their cars, and practice natural yard care, among other environmentally proactive steps.
“It’s not just about the pipe coming out of the factory any more,” said Marc Daily, deputy director of Puget Sound Partnership, during last year’s Puget Sound Starts Here Month. “Today, stormwater runoff is the single largest contributor to our water quality problems. That pollution comes from our cars and how we wash them, from the chemicals we put on our lawns, and from not picking up after our pets. When it rains, bacteria and toxic chemicals from these and other sources end up in our local waterways. That’s a problem.”
The city’s Environmental Services Department and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department partnered to support workshops at Tacoma Nature Center that help kick off this year’s Puget Sound Starts Here Month.
At “Landscape Design Made Easy” on April 28, attendees will learn about plants, soil and water conditions from Bonne Holbrook, a Pierce County Master Gardener and Native Plant Steward. On May 2, “Right Plant for the Right Place” will provide landscape tips from Dana Kelley Bressette, who has her own environmental gardening website and has put her urban horticulture education to use at the Point Defiance Greenhouses and the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory. Both workshops run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $5 per person, and advance registration is requested at 253-591-6439 or TacomaNatureCenter.org.
Also giving a boost to clean-water thinking is the city of Tacoma’s Office of Environmental Policy and Sustainability, which has launched the Green Living Guide, an online, interactive mapping tool to help Tacoma residents live more sustainable lifestyles. It spans such topics as rain gardens, other green infrastructure, and environmental education resources.
Natural yard care is a win-win opportunity, especially for homeowners. They get a less expensive, lower-maintenance and safer yard. They also get the satisfaction of knowing that their yard is less harmful to aquatic life and provides needed habitat for native wildlife.
Surface Water Management, part of Environmental Services, is steward of the city’s 500-plus miles of public stormwater pipe, 22,000 storm drains, four pump stations and numerous stormwater ponds, swales, rain gardens and treatment vaults. Surface Water programs concentrate on preventing pollution before it reaches waterways and restoring sites affected by industry and urbanization.
Millions of pounds of toxic pollutants enter waterways every year as a result of rain washing over yard chemicals, oil, soaps, pet waste and other toxins that enter the storm drains, streams and ultimately Puget Sound. The city of Tacoma has invested millions of dollars in pollution prevention and restoration activities like the cleanup of the Thea Foss and Wheeler-Osgood waterways, annual stormline cleaning, business and construction inspections, and tracing pollution sources. But officials note that the city also needs the help of everyone to help keep Puget Sound healthy.


(These stories are part of a series of reports on stormwater control and management through a Make a Splash grant from the City of Tacoma.)

Joe Freeman and Ron Linck of the McLendon Hardware store in Tacoma addressed customers at a recent workshop on rain gardens and water retention for homeowners. (Joan Cronk/Senior Scene)
Joe Freeman and Ron Linck of the McLendon Hardware store in Tacoma addressed customers at a recent workshop on rain gardens and water retention for homeowners. (Joan Cronk/Senior Scene)