Troutdale's Rita Alm and Gresham's Sue Ruonala talk about why they 'went organic.' Both women's gardens will be featured in Metro's annual Natural Delights Tour
by: John Klicker, Rita Alm has been part of Metro’s Natural Delights Tour for four years. She says organic gardening brings her rewards and peace of mind.

If avid gardeners are usually a passionate bunch, organic gardeners are perhaps even more so. Not only are they caretakers of their little corner of the earth, but they have taken a broader view, recognizing the ecosystem we all impact.

On a recent beautiful day, Troutdale's Rita Alm busily prepares her organic garden for hordes of similarly minded visitors as part of Metro's annual Natural Delights Tour on Sunday, July 16.

'If I could only talk one person into going organic,' she says, 'that would be good.'

What makes a gardener organic? Rain barrels instead of sprinklers. Native plants instead of showy annuals. A safe haven for birds and bugs. Clover instead of weed killer. Copper sheet barriers instead of slug bait.

The list could go on and on. The bottom line for many natural garden converts is that creating chemical-free beauty brings rewards and peace of mind.

'I don't use anything that ends in c-i-d-e,' Alm says. 'I think it's healthier to be organic, and in many ways, it's easier.'

Sue Ruonala, whose Gresham garden also will be featured in this year's Natural Delights Tour, couldn't agree more.

'I love the idea of not using chemicals,' she says. 'If you stop and think about chemicals, they kill things. Why would I want that in my yard and around me?'

It is too late to register for this year's 28-garden tour, which features gardens from all over the Portland metropolitan area, but there are many lessons to be gleaned from these two East County natural gardeners, and plenty more information available on Metro's Web site,

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