Bothell landscaper a composting guru

  • By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, December 15, 2015 2:21pm
  • Life

BOTHELL — Ladd Smith, co-owner of In Harmony, a sustainable-landscaping company, works hard to encourage gardeners to improve and maintain healthy soil with compost and mulch.

Smith will do that, too, when he talks Jan. 8 in Mukilteo as part of the Snohomish County Master Gardener Foundation’s winter speaker series.

A funny, knowledgeable guy, Smith is a sought-after speaker on topics regarding organic landscaping. The goal is to grow plants that are successful and need less water, he said.

In Harmony is a winner of the state Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention and the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association’s Environmental Excellence Award. In Harmony’s work has been featured in various magazines including Sunset, Northwest Home and Garden and American Gardener.

Winter is a good time to talk about soil because heavy rains demand that people care for their basic sandy, silty or clay soil with compost and mulch, Smith said.

“Without it, you risk erosion of good soil,” Smith said. “Mulch slows the rain down.”

It also keeps the weeds away, encourages beneficial insects, controls pests and adds nutrients. Mulch reduces evaporation in the warm months and insulates in the cool months.

Of course, before the mulch you want to start with good soil and add compost or compost tea.


Yep, Smith brews it on the In Harmony campus, located adjacent to Country Village on the site of the late Torben Barfod’s longtime, well-known nursery on Bothell-Everett Highway. In Harmony was incorporated 21 years ago and has been at its current location for the past 14 years.

The five-acre campus is home to business offices, gardens, a rare old tulip tree, goats Daisy and Lulubelle who keep brush at bay, a plethora of ducks on a small pond that Barford built many years ago and an area for Arborwell Tree Management, which provides tree chip mulch for In Harmony.

During the summer, the quonset hut where compost tea is brewed operates continuously.

Compost “tea bags” are placed into two 500-gallon tanks filled with solar-heated water. The tea brews for 24 hours and then is trucked out to customers who have the brew sprayed on their soil.

“While brewing, the microbes from the compost explode in population. The tea inoculates the soil, gives it a nutritious jump start and creates clumping in the dirt that allows for oxygen space and drainage,” Smith said.

Leaves are Smith’s favorite mulch.

“They’re free. So are pine needles. Rake them off your lawn and onto your garden soil. If you don’t like how it looks, add tree chips,” Smith said. “When you begin to see the fungal growth, you know your soil is going to be great.”

How did Smith get involved in landscaping and soil care?

Smith, 53, of Lake Stevens, grew up in Reno, Nevada, as did his business partner Mark Gile. Just six months apart in age, Gile and Smith think they played football against each other in high school.

They had competing lawn mowing and landscaping businesses in high school and college, often working across the street from each other. Still they did not meet.

Smith, who earned a horticulture degree from the University of Nevada at Reno, and Gile moved to the Seattle area within a week of each other, and were hired at P&G plant company in Seattle within days of each other.

That’s where they finally met. When P&G went out of business, Smith and Gile started In Harmony.

“We were meant to be,” Smith said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; Twitter: @galefiege.

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