Murrayhill family's environmentally friendly yard features in Metro tour
by: Jonathan House, The Peck family garden in Murrayhill will be featured in Sunday's Gardens of Natural Delights tour.

A Murrayhill couple will teach local gardeners how to use less chemicals and conserve water Sunday during Metro's eighth annual Gardens of Natural Delights.

Marcia and Dennis Peck's yard on Southwest 153rd Place is featured among 28 gardens in the tour.

The tour hopes to show local gardeners ways to maintain gardens and yards without producing environmentally harmful residue.

'People learn best by seeing things in real life and talking to real gardeners and I think that's the real power of this tour,' said event coordinator Carl Grimm, who works as a Metro natural gardening and toxics reduction specialist.

The show features yards and gardens that are maintained carefully in order to reduce the toxic waste that can sometimes end up in nearby rivers.

Marcia and Dennis Peck say it was their love of nature that led them to seek alternative methods to fertilizers and other chemicals when they began developing their quarter-acre garden nearly 15 years ago.

'We kind of just live with nature instead of trying to fight against it and as a result we enjoy our garden more,' Marcia Peck said, explaining that even the slugs most gardeners dread have found a somewhat welcome place in her yard.

The couple cleared the entire yard of blackberry bushes and poison oak without using any chemicals and now Marcia said she uses their yard as a sort of testing ground for her landscaping ideas.

After working on constructing her family's backyard, Marcia started her own landscaping company, Marcia Westcott Landscape Design. She works from home and does each unique design on paper with the intent of creating nature-friendly gardens.

'There is a natural bounce to things,' Marcia Peck said. 'There's just such a balance with nature and we really try to respect that.'

Have fun with it

Back in her own yard, Marcia has discovered alternatives to chemical fertilizers to keep her lawn green and her flowers blooming. Surprisingly, she said, mulch and crushed rock will do the trick.

After using about 24 tons of crushed rock - similar to gravel, only with sharp edged rocks - she explained that her plants and yard have stayed very healthy and green.

With plantings ranging from kiwi trees, herbs, pumpkins, rose bushes, and shrubs, among other things, watering could have posed a challenge for the Pecks, but Marcia said she found many tricks to conserve as much water as possible.

Marcia Peck said she managed to conserve water by designing her live garden as a Waffle Garden, which includes raised plant beds with a dip in the middle of each to collect rain water for the plants.

Throughout their yard, the Pecks use a drip irrigation system.

'You can really regulate it, I've had great luck with them,' Marcia said. 'People who complain about drip really just aren't using the right kind.'

During Sunday's tour, Steve Carper of the Tualatin Valley Water District will make presentations in the Pecks' yard on the anatomy of a water-saving irrigation system.

After all the work is done though, environmentally conscious gardening is really just about getting creative and having fun, Marcia said.

'I'd rather break rules than conform,' she said. 'If you love it, then that's all that matters, just have fun with it.'

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