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Rain - It’s what’s on my mind this fall. Between the destructive hurricanes that hit the east coast and local climate forecasts which predict that the Pacific Northwest will encounter more frequent and intense precipitation extremes in the future, it is hard not to think about how we can counteract the consequences of increased rainfall. Currently, Everett receives about 37 inches of rain annually. For a 1,000-square-foot house, that means over 26,000 gallons of water falling off the roof onto yards, driveways and into storm drains. If predictions hold, rain is going to dramatically increase. This edition focuses on ways you can embrace the rain and create spaces in your yard where the rain can slow down and soak in to minimize impacts on the drainage system.

seasonal garden tips
panoramic garden

The City of Everett is a big proponent of rain gardens. Through the homeowner rain garden rebate program, over 50 rain gardens have been installed throughout the city. Rain gardens are a landscaped, shallow depression that collects, absorbs and filters stormwater runoff from roof tops, driveways, patios and other areas that don’t allow water to soak in. In order to install a rain garden, you need native soils that allow some degree of water infiltration. As some of you may have discovered already, there are pockets of Everett that are almost exclusively glacial till, which is a mix of clay and rocks. Heavy clay soils drain slowly and can stay saturated longer after a rain event. Therefore, here are some alternatives for your property that are not necessarily dependent on your soil or installing a rain garden:

cherry tree

Landscaping Solutions
Making simple landscape changes on your property can help slow down stormwater runoff. Amending your soil with compost, using cover crops or mulch can help encourage soil microbes to do what they do best – aerate the soil so water can penetrate into the ground. Planting a tree may sound simple, but tree roots can help slow down erosion. Trees, especially evergreens, catch rainfall and detain it before it even reaches the ground. Planting shrubs and perennials allow more water to infiltrate the ground than typical lawns. Keeping leaf litter and plant debris in your garden beds, instead of taking them away, also slows down water and allows for more infiltration.   

paver driveway

Hardscaping Solutions
Hardscaping solutions focus on capturing and storing runoff. Rain barrels work well for this. Rain barrels are hooked up to your roof downspout, collecting water during rainy times. Water is then stored in the barrel to be used when it is convenient for you. Rain barrels should have an overflow mechanism to help direct overflow rainwater away from your house and into a close flower bed, etc. Cisterns function like a rain barrel, but are on a much larger scale. While barrels may capture hundreds of gallons of water, cisterns capture thousands of gallons of water. 
Permeable paving is another option. For example, depaving converts an unused pavement area to a lawn or garden bed. For areas that require pavement, there are alternative techniques that allow water to permeate the ground even where you have “pavement.” Examples include pavers, permeable concrete, concrete open grids (above photo) and the “Hollywood driveway” where there is a vegetated strip running between two parallel strips of concrete.   
Whatever method works for you, the idea is to take some responsibility for the stormwater runoff on your property and harness it to your advantage. 

stormwater and you

RainScaping Expo

Do these hardscaping and landscaping solutions interest you? If so, join us and Snohomish County as we host a free RainScaping Expo on Saturday, Sept. 29 from noon – 4 p.m. at McCollum Park. Cisco Morris will be on hand speaking on environmentally-friendly gardening. Enjoy mini-workshops by rainscaping experts on rain gardens, lawn alternatives, soil solutions, pavement options and rain barrels. There will also be food vendors, prizes and rain barrels on sale at the event.
For more information, visit or call 425-388-3464

the usual suspects


If you have lived any amount of time in the Pacific Northwest you know that fall is when you start to see an uptick in spiders in and around your house. Most spiders are harmless even if you find them creepy to look at. There are very few venomous spiders in Washington and even fewer that actually live on this side of the mountains. The most common ones in our area are the giant house spider, orb spiders, crab spiders and trapdoor spiders.

The main reason we see more spiders in the fall is because it is their mating season. So simply put, they are out looking for love. More specifically, it is the male spider out looking for a mate since female spiders tend to be stationary and hidden. Spiders are great predators of many garden pests including aphids, mites, flies, wasps, leafhoppers, whiteflies, thrips and mealybugs. Entomologist Arlo Pelegrin recommends using oils like peppermint, tea tree or neem to deter them. To people, these oils might smell fresh and pleasant, but to spiders, the smell of peppermint, for example, is overwhelming and generally keeps them away.

The idea is to spread the oil around the home. There are many methods from sprays to soaking cotton balls with the oil and placing them in dark corners or cracks.
Whenever you’re feeling a bit jumpy after spotting that spider out of the corner of your eye, just try to remember that they are just trying to find a date and are not necessarily interested in you.

in the news

Roof water and vegetable plants

Sightline Institute has an educational pamphlet that discusses the safety of using rain barrel water collected from your roof to irrigate vegetables. They complied studies done in Washington, New Jersey and Australia to help answer that question. Bottom line? Most rain-barrel water is safe to use on edibles, particularly if you stick to a few steps to reduce exposure to bacteria and other contaminants. 

rain barrels

Step One: Avoid using rain barrels on wood-shake or pesticides-treated roofs. Ecology found higher levels of pollution from treated wood-shake roofs. If your roof was recently treated with toxic chemicals to kill moss or algae, then those can still be present in stormwater runoff.
Step Two: Dump the first flush of collected rain water. This runoff from the first heavy rain may contain accumulated pollutants and bird waste.
Step Three: It is a good idea to water the soil, not the food. This allows the soil to help “clean the water” before it is taken up by the plant.
Learn more steps and see the entire pamphlet at

upcoming programs

RainScaping expo

Saturday, Sept. 29, noon – 4 p.m.
McCollum Park, 600 128th St SE
Join Ciscoe Morris, Snohomish County, City of Everett and other partners as we show off rainscaping solutions for homeowners. Hear engaging speakers, talk to local vendors and attend workshops to see how easy it can be to be a part of the stormwater runoff solution.

Ciscoe Morris

Rain barrel sale

Saturday, Oct. 20, 9 a.m. - noon
Everett Public Works, 3200 Cedar Street
Each 55-gallon barrel includes a spigot, overflow and double screen on top to keep out debris and bugs. Purchase pre-made rain barrels for $55/each, cash or check. This is our last rain barrel sale until 2019. 

installed rain barrel

Make a rain barrel workshop

Thursday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.
Everett Public Works, 3200 Cedar Street
Join us for our final 2018 rain barrel workshop. The fee covers the cost of the 55-gallon barrel and all parts. You must pre-register for the workshop. Space is limited. Fee is $40, cash or check. Call 425-257-8992 to register.

 make a barrel
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