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Pat Munts: Conservation workshops can help you become better steward

In the last decade or so, many gardeners have adopted much more sustainable gardening methods, reducing use of water and chemicals while working with nature to protect soil health and conserve habitat for local wildlife and beneficial and pollinating insects.

In the process, many gardeners have also found that using sustainable methods reduces the amount of work needed to maintain a garden and saves them money.

The process of recreating a sustainable garden in the shell of an existing garden is, by necessity, an individualistic one. Every garden is unique with different types of existing plants that may or may not be adapted to our growing conditions; inefficient irrigation systems; and insect, weed and critter control methods that use too much of the wrong chemicals. We also don’t acknowledge that as gardeners, our gardens should be a place that welcomes local wildlife and provides beneficial and pollinating insects the shelter, food and water they need to thrive. Yes, with planning, even the deer should be part of our gardens.

To help with the process of evaluating your existing garden and taking a few steps toward sustainability, the Spokane Conservation District will be offering its monthlong Backyard Conservation Stewardship workshop series again this year. The workshops will be 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday evenings, March 5 through 26, at the Spokane Conservation District’s office, 210 N. Havana St. in Spokane. The cost is $25 per person and registration is required. More information and online registration is available at the Conservation District’s website,, or by calling (509) 535-7274.

The series is designed to help backyard gardeners become better stewards of the land and to encourage the use of organic and sustainable practices. This year’s workshop topics will include landscaping with native plants; xeriscaping, or low-water usage landscaping; soil health management; permaculture; organic gardening; compost making; managing invasive plants; attracting pollinators and beneficial insects; and landscaping for native birds, small animals and the evitable larger animals like deer.

The workshops will be led by local experts from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Spokane Audubon Society, the WSU Spokane County Master Gardener Program, the Master Composter/Recycler Program, the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, the Washington Native Plant Society and the Spokane County Noxious Weed Control Board.

If you can’t make the workshops, here are a few tips to make your garden more sustainable:

• Take proper care of your lawn by watering it so that moisture gets down 6 to 8 inches. And, mow the grass at the right height; Kentucky bluegrass should be mowed 2 1/2 to 3 inches tall.

• Plant plants with similar water needs together to use water effectively.

• Encourage pollinating and beneficial insects by planting flowers that provide them with food, breeding sites and shelter. Check out the Xerces Society for lists and more information at

• Use deer fencing to keep deer out of your favorite plants.

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