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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gardening: Biochar, seed swap, Seattle show offer fun learning

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 17, 2018

By now you have read all your seed catalogs twice. Their pages are probably full of sticky markers noting seeds you want to order. It must be time to take advantage of some fun learning opportunities around the Inland Northwest and beyond.

Tonight, the Spokane Urban Agriculture Network will be hosting a discussion on making and using biochar given by Gloria Flora of Sustainable, Obtainable Solutions. The talk is free and will be at the WSU Spokane County Extension Office, 222 N. Havana, at 6:30 pm.

Biochar is a form of fine-grained charcoal that can hold on to tremendous amounts of soil microorganisms, nutrients and water when added to the soil. It is created by slowly burning organic matter in a restricted flow of oxygen, a process called pyrolysis. Once the material is reduced to charcoal, the burning is stopped, and the charcoal is crushed and added to the soil. As a result, the charcoal particles create many tiny spaces and surfaces that can hold microorganisms, nutrients and water to improve soil quality. Flora has extensive experience in ecosystem management and the sustainability of public lands including soil improvement using biochar.

On Saturday, Feb. 3, the Inland Northwest Food Network is teaming up with the Coeur d’Alene Public Library and the True to Seed Coeur d’Alene Seed Sharing Library to host the third annual Seed Swap at the Coeur d’Alene Library Community Room, 702 E. Front Ave in Coeur d’Alene. Seed swaps are a great way to find unique varieties of vegetables, fruit, flowers and other plants you aren’t likely to find in a seed catalog. The event is set up as a way you can trade open pollinated (not hybridized) varieties you have grown for other seeds people will have to offer. If you bring seeds to trade, the event is free, and if not, they are asking for a $5 donation. Check out more information and how to prepare your seeds at: event/3rd-annual-seed-swap/.

Last but not least, if the winter has you desperately looking for something green, the Seattle Flower and Garden Show is running Feb. 7-11 at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. This is the show’s 30th anniversary, and it is one of the top garden shows in the country. This year’s theme is “Garden Party,” and the designers of the 20 show gardens will be featuring designs that incorporate elements that help you celebrate being in the garden. There are over 300 exhibitors showing off all kinds of garden themed products, plants and information. The seminars this year will feature more than 100 speakers on topics ranging from preserving pollinators to the gardens of Jane Austen to several DIY demonstration presentations. I also hear that the Container Wars which pit Northwest celebrities against one another to create the best container display will be raging again this year.

Tickets are available online for a single day or a two- or five-day day pass. Prices are reduced until Feb. 6. Check out the website at

Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for over 35 years. She is co-author of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook” with Susan Mulvihill. She can be reached at

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