Vol. 9, No. 2

Welcome Spring!

It’s finally time to put your winter ideas into action. As the longer days pull us outside, notice which plants made it through winter, whether there is frost damage that needs to be pruned right away, and any areas where you need to add plants, mulch, or seeds. Nurseries and stores will be filled with flowering plants but before you bring them home, make sure they will do well in your specific growing conditions including watering needs and overall fussiness. There is nothing wrong with accepting the challenge of fussy plants, but you want to be sure you can meet the care they need.

Check out our Plant List for sunny and shady ideas and visit Great Plant Picks for even more suggestions. Armed with information on the plants that you really want, you’ll visit stores less likely to get carried away, and more likely to successfully grow thriving, healthy plants!

Make note of the first flowers you see in your yard this spring. There is something almost holy about the abundance of blooming and budding plants after the starkness of winter. Maybe you want to see more tulips, daffodils, and crocuses scattered about your yard next year. Make a note to plant those in late fall.

When we enjoy the moment while planning for the future, we can get into the spring yard-care zone with more intention and less fuss.

Indoor Air Quality

The quality of the air inside your home can affect your health, comfort, and well-being. The air inside of our homes can become unhealthy from cleaning products, personal care products, fragrances (like air fresheners), mold, pet dander, a buildup of dust, and lack of ventilation. Poor indoor air quality can contribute to or worsen symptoms of allergies or asthma.

Thankfully, there are many ways to improve indoor air quality for a safer, healthier living space. Follow these simple steps to improve the air quality of your home.

Increase ventilation.

  • Every day, open each window in your home, and then go through and close each one. This rapid air exchange will help reduce the buildup of unhealthy air inside. Avoid opening the windows if outdoor air is polluted, like from wildfire, burn piles, or woodstove smoke. Learn more about how smoke and wildfires can impact our air quality, and how to protect yourself.
  • Use the bathroom fan every time you shower or bathe and leave it running for 30 minutes afterwards to help clear out moisture.
  • Turn on the kitchen fan or open a window (even just a crack) while cooking and leave the fan running or window open for 30 minutes afterwards to clear out cooking fumes and moisture.
  • Make sure to have good ventilation in rooms with working fireplaces and gas or wood stoves.
  • Keep doors between rooms open to allow airflow throughout your living space.

Choose products wisely.

  • Avoid using air fresheners, like wall plug-ins, sprays, wax melts, candles, or incense. These items can pollute indoor air.
  • Household cleaning and maintenance products can impact the air quality inside your home. Choose safer products or make your own that are safer for you and your family. Dispose of unwanted household hazardous products for free at HazoHouse.
  • Personal care products, like hair spray and other aerosol products, and scented products like perfume and cologne, can pollute indoor air. Avoid using these products or choose non-aerosol alternatives. Learn more from the Environmental Working Group about how personal care products can affect you and your family’s health.
  • Hobby and craft materials, like paint, ink, glues, and sprays should always be used in a well-ventilated area or outdoors, if possible.

Clean your home regularly to improve indoor air quality.

  • Vacuum floors and dust hard surfaces often. Toxins from cleaners, personal care products, and air fresheners can gather in dust, rugs, and carpets. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Remove shoes at the door to prevent tracking in dust, pesticides, and other pollutants. Place a rubber-backed doormat at each entryway.
  • Clean visible mold with dry detergent mixed with a bit of water to make a paste. Use a scrub brush or scrubby part of a sponge to clean it off. Bleach is not recommended for cleaning mold because it pollutes indoor air and is a personal hazard while being used.
  • Replace the filter on your HVAC system at least every 3 months to keep it working as well as possible.
  • Keep kitchen and bathroom ventilation fans clean and free of dust buildup.
  • Wash bedding at least once per week to reduce dust mites, a common allergen.
  • Consider an air purifier with a HEPA filter to improve the air quality in your home.

Check out these additional resources to learn more about indoor air quality:

Department of Ecology – Healthy Home Guide

American Lung Association – Signs of Unhealthy Air

King County – Indoor Air Quality

Environmental Protection Agency – Learn about Mold and Indoor Air Quality

Overseed with Microclover

If you’re not quite ready to go full wildflower meadow to replace your lawn but want something that will stay green all summer, won’t need fertilizer, and can blend in with the grass that you already have, microclover is a great option.

Microclover works well to overseed patchy or sparse grass. Microclovers don’t flower, they don’t get very tall, and they don’t need fertilizing because they fix nitrogen in their roots and will even share that nitrogen with neighboring grass. Microclover can be mowed along with the rest of your lawn and will stay green even if you let the lawn go dormant this summer. There are many different clover seed blends available, and they all have these benefits, but if you want the clover to stay closer to the ground, choose microclover.

Rabbits, Squirrels, and Slugs, oh my!

We don’t have many poisonous or dangerous pests in Northwest yards, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have voracious plant predators! Rabbits and squirrels may be cute, but we don’t want them munching on our growing efforts and the only things that think slugs are cute are the snakes hunting them at night.

Only the tightest fencing dug into the ground can keep rascally rabbits out of vegetable gardens. In larger areas, one of the best strategies is to over-plant to share the bounty. Use fencing to protect smaller plants, once they get larger they are less susceptible to rabbit damage. Keep greens like kale and chard pruned up from the bottom and use floating row covers to protect more vulnerable greens as they sprout. Floating row covers are lightweight landscaping fabrics that allow light and water to reach the plants and that plants can push up as they grow. Remove the cover once plants are large enough to survive nibbling.

In general, keep squirrels out of the garden by protecting plants with fencing or even caging susceptible plantings like berries. Choose squirrel-resistant bird feeders and limit their ability to nest in outbuildings and sheds. Decoys like owls can be effective, especially in the areas where the squirrels enter the garden. If using decoys, they need to be moved around from time to time to be most effective.

Slugs can be deterred by mulching around plantings with wood chips. If hunting slugs, use a flashlight at night and follow their sticky trails to find their hiding spots, often under plant leaves or wooden boards. Traps are effective at reducing their populations and thankfully, there are many safer control products on the market with iron phosphate as the active ingredient. Always follow label directions exactly.

Grow Smart Grow Safe has a list of all of the repellents for cute pests and the safest slug products for the not-so-cute ones.

How do you make your house smell nice without air fresheners? 

We’ve all had the experience of walking into our home and scrunching up our nose because something doesn’t smell right. Instead of spraying a product that will mask the unwanted scent, it’s important to find out what’s causing the smell and take care of it! Common smelly culprits are found in the trash or compost that needs to be taken out, kitty litter that needs changed, food in the fridge past its prime, or a spill that hasn’t been cleaned up.

In general, the smell of “clean” doesn’t really smell like anything! Regular cleaning and good ventilation are the best ways to create fresh indoor air. Try a daily “fresh air blast” by opening each window in your home, then go back through and close each one. This will reduce stale air and help clear out indoor air pollution. Routine cleaning, like vacuuming, dusting, reducing clutter, and taking out the garbage and any pet waste can also help keep your home smelling fresh. Check out these Green Cleaning Recipes that use simple, healthy ingredients for use on the sink, drains, countertops, oven, and mirrors that will leave your home feeling fresh and smelling like nothing much at all. 

Do you have a question for the Thurston Home and Garden editors or a topic you’d like to learn more about? We’d love to hear from you!

Please contact us at 360-867-2674 or send us an email at healthyhomes@co.thurston.wa.us

Fragrance-Free vs Unscented 

Many people are or can become allergic or sensitive to fragrances. Choosing personal care and fragrance-free household products can be safer for you, and the others around you. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice label can help you identify and choose products that are safer for you and the environment, including those that are fragrance-free. Look at the product label to determine if it has been verified by the Environmental Protection Agency as fragrance-free.

There is a difference between products that are labeled “fragrance-free” and “unscented.” The Environmental Protection Agency explains the difference as:

  • Fragrance-free means that fragrance materials or masking scents are not used in the product.
  • Unscented generally means that the product may contain chemicals that neutralize or mask the odors of other ingredients.

Knowing the difference between “fragrance-free” and “unscented” can help you choose products without fragrances. Use this online tool to search for products that are labeled Safer Choice, including fragrance-free: Environmental Protection Agency product search

Connect to Farmers

Olympia Farmers Market

Thursday-Sunday, April-October

10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

700 Capitol Way N

Olympia, WA 98501


West Olympia Farmers Market

Saturdays, May 4-September 28

10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

1919 Harrison Ave NW

Olympia, WA 98502


Tenino Farmers Market

Saturdays, May 4-September 28

10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

213 Sussex Ave

Tenino, WA 98589


Yelm Farmers Market

Saturdays, May 4-September 28

10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

The Yelm Community Center               

301 Second St SE

Yelm, WA 98597


Community Farm Land Trust Fresh From The Farm Guide

Community Events

Check these great local calendars for up-to-date information about what's coming up.

Thurston Conservation District

Thurston Talk

Experience Olympia Calendar of Events

Stream Team Calendar


City of Lacey Arts and Events

City of Tumwater Special Events

City of Tenino Community Recreation Page

Master Gardener Foundation of Thurston County