Maui Business

Free Webinar to Discuss Home Gardening

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People are taking up gardening in record numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Maui residents are joining the trend.

Experts say growing your own produce, as well as doing your own landscaping and yard care, are great ways to save money, get exercise, be outdoors and engage your keiki in hands-on science learning.

Unfortunately, many people turn to toxic herbicides and chemicals when weeds and pests appear. In fact, the average yard contains 10 times more chemicals per acre than a typical commercial farm, says Consumer Reports.

Learn tips for skipping those toxic herbicides and pesticides and growing a successful garden and a beautiful yard at a free Zoom presentation by landscape and gardening expert Duane Sparkman on Thursday, June 4 at 3:30 pm. Sparkman is the Assistant Chief Engineer and Landscaping Manager at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa.

The guest emcee is Darla Palmer-Ellingson, local radio show host and owner of 360 Social Business.


Sparkman will take you into his own yard via Zoom to demonstrate non-toxic gardening and landscaping practices in action. You’ll discover how you can achieve great results in your yard, save money and keep family and pets safer. Because chemicals travel through Maui’s porous soil into the ocean, switching to organic methods will also help protect our local coral reefs and nearshore fish populations.


This free Zoom presentation is part of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council’s “Know Your Ocean Speaker Series” now being held via Zoom due to COVID-19. To make a free reservation, click here.

Sparkman offers a wealth of practical firsthand experience about what works to control pests and weeds based on his years of experience as a professional landscaper, designing and maintaining luxury resort properties and private residences, his work at Haleakala National Park’s Vegetation Management Division and recently, as the Assistant Engineer and Landscaping Manager at The Westin Maui.

At The Westin Maui, Sparkman has successfully implemented measures to reduce the resort’s use of herbicides and pesticides, showcasing alternatives that are safer and more environmentally friendly.


“We are offering this presentation with the hope that more people will resolve to find ways to protect our coral reefs and marine environment by reducing or avoiding the use of herbicides and pesticides in their home gardens and yards,” says Robin Newbold, Chair of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council.

Newbold points out that most people don’t realize how porous our soil is on Maui and how readily chemicals from pesticides and herbicides find their way into the ocean, causing harm to fish, birds and corals.

According to the NOAA Ocean Service Education website, pesticides are designed to be toxic to a target organism, but they often kill other organisms as well: “The insecticide azinphos-methyl, for example, which is used to control insects such as biting mites and aphids, is also very toxic to fish and birds.”

The website notes that many of the compounds used today are toxic at very low concentrations.

Herbicides also penetrate coral tissues and rapidly, within minutes, can reduce the efficiency of the beneficial algae (zooxanthellae ) that live within the corals, reports the book, Chemical Pollution on Coral Reefs: Exposure and Ecological Effects. The zooxantellae convert the energy from the sun into food for the corals through photosynthesis, providing corals with about 90% of their food. When herbicides enter the ocean, they can cause the corals to suffer due to reduced food availability.

“We owe it to our coral reefs and ocean water to find better ways to manage pests and weeds without adding harmful chemicals to our land- and marine-ecosystems,” says Newbold. “We’re grateful that Duane Sparkman is willing to share his practical, hands-on knowledge and experience with us all.”

“We thank the County of Maui Mayorʻs Office of Economic Development for supporting our Know Your Ocean Speaker Series,” says Newbold.

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