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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What to serve at a fall Garden Party... how about fertilizer?



When I scooted through the door at Commencement Bay Coffee I saw Geoff Rinehart already at a table in front of the sunny windows, waiting for me. I landed in the chair opposite him, caught my breath and apologized.

“Sorry. I’m ten minutes late. It just took longer than I expected, with traffic and all.”

Geoff smiled from one of those friendly faces that make you feel like he’s your next door neighbor, and assured me it was not a problem. He seemed relaxed. I noticed his bicycle helmet on the chair next to him and realized he probably didn’t even have to care about traffic. Geoff likes to keep life as simple as possible. He lives what he teaches.

Geoff Rinehart has taught me and others a lot already. He brings dedication and enthusiasm to a one-of-a-kind job with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, as their man in charge of outreach and education on the subject of natural yard care. He does this through workshops, staffing booths at fairs and festivals, and much more. We met so he could give me the details on some upcoming events I wanted to share through Good Life Northwest. But even more exciting than that, I’d hear about a pilot project he’s starting: events held in homeowner’s yards with neighbors invited, called Garden Parties. I’d volunteered to host the very first one.

So why would the Health Department be sponsoring garden parties? Well, this is the kind of party where the word “spread” isn’t something on a cracker. It refers to natural organic fertilizer, and while guests relax in lawn chairs, or stand around, Geoff himself will be spreading it on my own lawn. Better yet, all those guests get a free bag to take home, along with a lot of good information. That’s in addition to some of my cookies and coffee. Sounds like a deal to me. What’s more, my husband and I will receive a special gardening gift pack as a thank you for hosting the event.

The lawn treatment and freebies sound great, as does the chance to just get some neighbors together. But the real reason we’re doing this, is to help Geoff get this program going because we think he’s making a difference by using a positive approach. Geoff has faith that most people want to do the right thing, and that results will come through education and encouragement.

“I believe most people do care about the environment” he said. “ And they must care about the health and safety of their own families and pets. But they aren’t always aware of the natural products and ways of managing pests and disease that can be used as alternatives to toxic chemicals. Or they’re just not convinced these things really work. Then there’s also habit, doing what you’ve always done. It’s easier than trying something new.” The idea behind the Garden Parties is that homeowners will see the tangible results in their own neighborhood.

Geoff Rinehart’s goal, which is very personal to him, is threefold. He wants to educate people about the garden management practices best for the environment, provide them with the tools (literature, product samples and sources, visual example, etc.) and lastly, encourage implementation. It’s more than a job. It’s what he loves doing.

I love gardening, but must guiltily admit that my husband tackles most of the heavy work. I’m inclined toward the more ladylike chores, such as daintily cutting flowers for a vase, or pulling weeds, as long as they come out easily, or better yet, just pouring a cup of coffee, sitting down, and writing about gardening. You might say I prefer “spreading the word” over “spreading the manure”. But I have gone to several of Geoff’s excellent Natural Gardening Workshops, and even wrote about them here last spring. I’m excited about this new program.

Now autumn is upon us, and fall lawn and garden care is needed. If you love gardening, and our planet, you’ll want to learn what Geoff can teach. Better yet, if you too would like to host a Garden Party, either this fall or next spring, just call or email him. Here’s his contact information plus dates for upcoming Natural Gardening Workshops in the Pierce Co. area. Happy fall gardening, the natural way.

Geoff Rinehart at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: 253-798-4587 grinehart@tpchd.org

Natural Gardening Workshops are presented as a series with a different topic at each one. Call for information or to pre-register, as space is limited. There is a $5 program fee.

Tacoma: Thursday, Sept. 25 and Friday Oct. 3, 7-9 PM at the Tacoma Nature Center

Spanaway: Sat. Sept. 13, 9:30 AM -noon at the Spanaway Water Co.

Key Peninsula/ Gig Harbor: Tuesdays, Sept. 16th, 23rd, and 30th, 6:30-8:30 PM at the
Peninsula Light headquarters

Edgewood/Milton/Fife: Wednesdays, Sept. 17 and Oct. 1st and 15th , 6:30-8:30 PM at the Milton City Hall

1 comment:

Bev said...

Candace,
Thanks so much for continually providing information that involves our community. I will pass this along here at the gym since we have several that enjoy working in their yards.

Bev