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Image by Lisette Verwoerd

Diane Emerson - Pruning & Tool Talk

"Pruning Tips for Overgrown Shrubs" presented Oct. 2023

How to Shrink a Shrub:

  • Locate the worst offending branch (tallest or sticking out the most.)

  • Follow it back all the way to where it joins a bigger branch.

  • Cut it off there, leaving about 1/4" of the branch that you are removing.

  • Sometimes, there is no bigger branch, and you have to cut it off at ground level. That is OK! Don't be scared. Use your oldest saw blades to cut at ground level because soil will dull them quickly

  • Step back and locate the next worst offender. Repeat as needed, but do not cut off more than 25% - 30% of the live wood.  Keep the cut branches in a pile near you so you can judge your %.

  • As you continue, you may decide that taking the next branch will leave too big a hole in the shrub. If so, leave it for next year's pruning adventure. 

"This process will not only reduce the overall size of the shrub, it will also thin it out and let in light and air to the center of the shrub"


Shrubs Grow From Where you Cut Them:

If you only cut the ends of the shrub over and over, eventually all the growth is on the outside surface of the shrub.  The insides of the shrub will be shaded out and will have no leaves.  This is why you need to prune deep inside the shrub instead of only at the surface.

Shrub or Small Tree?

when you have an old mature shrub you often have a choice of retuning it to a smaller shrub form or turning it into a beautiful small tree.

How to decide?

Get inside the shrub and see what the trunk looks like.  If it looks pretty to you, and it is OK to have the shrub remain tall, prune it as a small tree.  If the trunk isn't pretty to you and you want the shrub to be smaller go for turning it back into a smaller shrub.

How to turn a Big Shrub into a Small Tree:

Prune from the ground up, at the base of the shrub. Prune all the smallest branches, leaving only the nicest, largest trunk(s) of the shrub. Clean away all the branches until 1/3 of the trunk(s) are visible when you stand back and look at it.

How to turn a Big Shrub into a Smaller Shrub:

Much depends on the species of the shrub itself.  Some shrubs (cane growers, especially) can be cut down nearly to the ground every few years and they will come back;  even an old rhodie might come back if it is severely pruned.  If you are at the point where you are OK if the shrub dies, go ahead and severely prune it.  if it comes back, you have a smaller shrub.  If it dies, you can remove it then.


NOTE: Water the shrub well for weeks after pruning if it is dry out so it can recover from the stress of pruning.

King County Wastemobile annual visit to Vashon
April 21 -23rd, 2023 

17001 107th Ave SW, Vashon 98070 (Tjomsland Gravel Pit)

What can you bring to the Wastemobile?

Residents and small businesses can safely drop off household hazardous waste such as oil-based paint, batteries, antifreeze, or pesticides to the Wastemobile at no cost. 

No latex paint accepted.  There is a limit of 50 gallons for most liquid hazardous waste per residential customer per day at all Wastemobile events. There is a 5 gallon limit on gasoline, oil and antifreeze.  No containers over five gallons in size will be accepted.  

For everyone's safety, please:

  • Do not mix products.

  • Keep products in their original containers.

  • Label products that are not in their original containers.

  • Secure products so they do not spill or leak.

  • Store hazardous products in the trunk of your vehicle, truck bed, or trailer, keeping them separate from items you wish to keep.

  • Stay in your vehicle and listen to directions from on-site staff while visiting the Wastemobile.

Before you go, check out a full list below of accepted items and quantity limits for residents and eligible businesses.

Image by Wolfgang Hasselmann

It's Slug Season! - presented April 2023

Garlic Wash Recipe

Ingredients:  2 blubs garlic, 2 pints of water

Crush bulbs of garlic
Steam or boil in 2 pints of water f
or 3-4 minutes until blanched
Strain mixture and make back up to print
leave to cool


When ready to use, mix one tablespoon in five quarts of water and sprinkle on to leaves in late afternoon (in dry weather).  Re-apply every two weeks. The mixture dries on the leaves making them unappealing to slugs and snails! The mixture will apparently dry on the leaves making them rather unappealing to slugs and snails!


Holly, Ivy, Scotch Broom, and Blackberries –
 NonChemical Removal


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Holly and Scotch Broom
Small holly trees and Scotch Broom are best removed with a Weed Wrench. The Vashon Tool Library has medium and heavy duty weed wrenches you can borrow.   


Once ivy begins to climb, it will make berries and the birds will spread those berries throughout our forests. So it is important to keep ivy from climbing. To get ivy off your trees, find every ivy stem all around the tree. Pull it away from the base of the tree and cut it off 6 ft. up the tree. It will help to have something to pry it away from the tree so you can cut and pull it. For very large ivy trunks, a reciprocating saw with a pruning blade works very well.

Himalayan Blackberry
If they are growing in a flat area, you can rent large equipment to tear it out, or keep it mowed until it gives up. But it will still be there along the fence line. Those you will need to dig out. My favorite tool for this is the sawtooth shovel, available at Ace and Island Lumber. For blackberry growing in among trees or shrubs, cut the blackberries down with a lopper, but leave one strong stem 1 foot or so tall to grab into when you dig the root out with the sawtooth shovel.

If blackberries are growing on a steep slope, cut them down, but don’t dig them out until replacement shrubs are in place and growing well. The slope needs the roots. If you do dig them all out at once, be prepared to replant immediately, and consider laying down and staking Jute Erosion Control mesh. You can buy a roll 4 ft. by 225 ft.

Best price: Home Depot $136 plus tax and delivery. Don’t lay down plastic mesh.


Presented February 12, 2023

Glyphosates - presented December 12, 2022


How are we exposed to glyphosate?

Glyphosate as an herbicide is used to protect crops from weeds. Because of its high solubility, when this herbicide is placed on crops, it is rapidly absorbed into the ground, contaminating the soil and the groundwater. It also accumulates in the roots of the plants.3 Genetically modified plants are designed to be more resistant to herbicides, so higher amounts are sprayed on them.

Based on how glyphosate is used, our primary exposure is from food that is not organic. USDA Certified Organic foods cannot be grown with pesticides and herbicides. Unfortunately, even organic foods can become contaminated. Glyphosate residues have been found in our air, water, and soil. Our groundwater and, therefore, our drinking water also contain glyphosate. This prevalence means that we can be exposed to this toxin in many unexpected ways.

King County Wastemobile annual visit to Vashon - April 22 - 24th, 2022


 About the Wastemobile: 

Created in 1989, the Wastemobile was the first traveling hazardous waste collection program in the nation. It visits rural, suburban, and urban areas in King County to provide more convenient options for safe disposal of hazardous waste. Since first hitting the road, the Wastemobile has collected more than 17,000 tons of hazardous household waste from nearly 500,000 customers. 


2022 Schedule

Wet grass

On Weed and Feed

Weed and Feed products contain 2,4-D. This is a very harmful chemical.


1. What King County has to say:


2. Health Effects of Commonly Used Lawn Chemicals:


3. Grow Smart, Grow Safe (Thurston County) hazard ratings for a typical Weed and Feed product containing 2,4-D:

"Organic Lawn Care"

presented Feb. 14th, 2022

natural lawn pic.jfif
"Get your yard off drugs!"

What To Do Instead


City of Seattle: Ecologically Sound Lawn Care for the Pacific Northwest:


Grow Smart, Grow Safe: Natural Lawn Care:

"Live Stakes" presented Dec. 2021


"My sawtooth shovel - so
perfect for digging blackberries"

"Organic Gardening Update" presented Sept 2021

Roundup is Pulling Their Products

Roundup products containing glyphosate will be removed from US retail shelves in 2023. It will still be available for commercial use, schools and farms, however.

If you have some and want to get rid of it, you can:


1. Bring it to a hazardous waste collection site: 


2. Keep it until next April, when the Hazmobile comes to Vashon again (once a year!)


3. If you are 65+ or have a disability, King County may pick it up at your home for free. Call 206-296-4692.


Notes on Weed & Feed