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Gardening: Of eagles, mistletoe and resolutions

Mistletoe grows on trees all over the region, like this Ponderosa pine tree on High Drive in Spokane. (FILE)
Mistletoe grows on trees all over the region, like this Ponderosa pine tree on High Drive in Spokane. (FILE)

I love it when readers let me know the answer to a question, identify something I didn’t know or ask a question of their own.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the eagle we spotted in the field below the house. A reader responded to say it was a juvenile bald eagle. Golden eagles don’t have any white on their bodies and are much larger than a bald eagle. Now I want to see that bird when it really grows up.

Last week I delved into the myths and legends about the holiday mistletoe. A reader emailed asking what to do about the mistletoe he has all through his pine trees.

Unfortunately what he has is our native dwarf mistletoe. This mistletoe is one of several species found throughout the West on different conifers. It is a parasitic plant that lives on a host plant, in this case pine trees, and draws its nutrients from its host, eventually weakening the tree. Unlike holiday mistletoe, dwarf mistletoe is leafless and forms branched, chartreuse green stems on tree branches. When the seeds are ripe, the seed capsules explode, dispersing the sticky seed over a wide area.

Unfortunately, there is no real control for dwarf mistletoe. The best way to reduce its spread is to cut out infected branches early and thin stands of trees so there is about 30 feet between them. This reduces the chance that flying seed will find a place to land and spread the infection.

OK, enough of the lessons for this week. It will be January in a few days and we can turn the page on 2012 and start over. I have a few New Year’s resolutions for you to consider.

• Hug your kids – even the big ones. Then take them into the garden and teach them to plant a seed. If you don’t know how yourself, learn and all of you can share the wonder when something comes up.

• Don’t let a day go by that you don’t go outside and feel the weather. If it’s cold and snowy, stick your tongue out and catch snowflakes. Listen to the snow squeak underfoot. Watch lightning storms from a safe place. When we get our first rains in the fall, go out and smell the earthy air.

• Go out on a dark, clear night and watch the stars. When the moon is full and high in the winter sky, take a walk in the moonlight. Somehow things take on different colors in the pale light.

• Plant your gardens so that the vegetables come up quicker than the weeds.

• Order your seeds early; the catalogs will run out of the most popular ones quickly. Plant something you have never tried before and then see how many different ways you can cook with it.

• Lastly, do your taxes early or at least as soon as Congress sorts out what they are going to be. April 15 is better spent getting the garden ready to plant than finding receipts.

Happy New Year.

Master Gardener Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for more than 35 years. She can be reached at