February 21, 2013 in Washington Voices

Native plants can make garden wildflife-friendly

Pat Munts
 
If you go

Spokane Conservation District’s gardening workshop SERIES

Where: Spokane Conservation District’s office, 210 N. Havana St.

When: March 6, 13, 20 and 27, 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $15, includes books and other educational materials and access to local experts.

Call: Stacey Selcho, stacey-selcho@ sccd.org; (509) 535-7274, ext. 217.

Any of us who have gardened for a while are familiar with the wild creatures that also enjoy our well-stocked gardens. OK, I know there are deer that drive us nuts, but what about developing a more wildlife-friendly garden and in the process reducing water use and plant maintenance? Maybe even finding a way to keep the deer at bay?

The Spokane Conservation District is offering a series of workshops in March on how to make your garden more wildlife friendly by using native plants, building habitats that draw in animals, birds, bugs and pollinators and reducing water and pesticide use. The workshops will be Wednesday evenings in March at the Spokane Conservation District’s office, 210 N. Havana St.

The workshops will introduce methods on how to provide wildlife with food sources, water and shelter to get out of the weather, to avoid predators and to support breeding. The best food sources are the nuts, seeds and leaves of native plants that they are used to eating in the wild. Many of the popular plants we fill our gardens with have no food value for wildlife. The good news is that more nurseries are now carrying native plants.

Many people will say that the native plants we have around here don’t look very good or are too unruly for a home garden. Yes in the heat of August many of our natives look a little ratty from lack of water. However when they are placed in a garden and watered a little bit, they do just fine. The nice thing is that they don’t need as much water as other landscape plants so you end up saving water. One strategy is to plant natives in the outer edges of the garden where they can grow without needing constant maintenance.

Backyard wildlife conservation encourages letting natural predators take care of insect infestations rather than using pesticides. There are some great predator bugs out there that can knock an aphid problem down quickly if they are given a chance. The workshops will talk about how to attract predators as well as pollinators like our native solitary bees.

Reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides and non-organic fertilizers is a key to developing an attractive wildlife friendly garden. Many pesticides kill the beneficial insects as well as the bad bugs. By eliminating pesticides, you give the predators a chance to take care of issues. You just have to learn to tolerate some damage while their populations build.

Composting is a good way to use up excess organic matter and prunings. The resulting black gold makes a good organic soil amendment that helps hold water and improve soil texture.

The workshops will be taught by local experts from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Audubon Society, the WSU Master Gardeners, the Spokane Solid Waste Master Composters/Recyclers, the Inland Northwest Wildlife council, the Washington Native Plant Society, the Spokane County Noxious Weed Board and the Department of Ecology.

Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for more than 35 years. She can be reached at pat @inlandnwgardening.com.


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