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Sunday, August 25, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pat Munts: Eco-friendly garden trends will save you money

Instead of taking fallen leaves to the dump this spring, use them as mulch. Record your savings of time and in dump fees, Pat Munts says. (FILE)
Instead of taking fallen leaves to the dump this spring, use them as mulch. Record your savings of time and in dump fees, Pat Munts says. (FILE)

I got an almost desperate email from a friend who lives in the Garden Springs area of west Spokane looking for some ideas on how to keep a trio of moose from destroying recently planted cherry trees. It seems a cow, her calf and a yearling are hanging around and nibbling any tasty twiggy trees and shrubs they can reach. Alas, my answer was to install a deer fence around the trees. Now here is the problem: How are you going to set the fence posts needed to hold up the fencing when the ground is frozen solid? The hair dryer isn’t going to cut it on this one.

With that dilemma left to your suggestions, it’s on to the new year. I’ve had some time recently to check on some of the hot trends in gardening, and a few have emerged that I would like to see gardeners adopt in our region.

As you plan your plant purchases for the year or as you peruse the nurseries when spring comes, make sure the plants you select will provide habitat and food for beneficial and pollinator insects. Planting some of their preferred plants will keep them around to control the bad bugs and preserve our stocks of honeybees and mason bees. Our region’s fruit and vegetable growers depend on the pollinators to produce a crop. Encouraging beneficial insects will reduce chemical use in the long run and save you money and time. Check out this Colorado State University website for more information:

Interest in composting is growing but not just for dealing with your grass clippings. More people are actively trying to recycle any vegetable material they create into garden compost. Seattle even has a law that requires that food waste be recycled rather than go straight to the landfill. Even during the winter you can place your vegetable peelings, egg shells and fruit rinds in a large container and then take that out to a compost pile near the kitchen door. We have a 2-gallon stainless steel, lidded container we fill up and then take out to a wire mesh bin a short walk from the back door. The freeze-thaw cycles over the winter will break down the material quickly. We don’t have any odor issues either in the house or near the pile. A side benefit is that the deer raid the pile once in a while for a winter snack.

Lastly, I’d like a few people to join me in an experiment. This spring when you clean up the yard, resist removing and hauling off the fallen leaves. Instead, leave them as a mulch around your plants. The material will provide a fresh source of food for soil critters and microbes and eventually nutrients for the plants. Granted large accumulations of maple leaves will need to be shredded up; just put them back on the beds. Keep track of how much time and dump fees you save doing this.

Pat Munts is the author of the Northwest Gardeners’ Handbook. She has gardened in Spokane for over 35 years. Her email is

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