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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The resilient garden ethic has us chopping up garden debris and dropping it back onto the bed to decay. It may be messy, but spring growth will cover it up.  (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
The resilient garden ethic has us chopping up garden debris and dropping it back onto the bed to decay. It may be messy, but spring growth will cover it up. (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

The garden experts and publications are buzzing this year about a new garden ethic for gardeners and their gardens.

This new strategy is driven by the need to respond to the long-term effects of our changing climate with gardening planning and strategies that will be resilient to the changes.

The basic tenets of resilient gardening call for gardeners to observe the natural surroundings of their garden and incorporate plants that tie that native landscape back into their landscape. Even if it is in the middle of an urban neighborhood, creating gardens that work with natural landscapes nearby helps build connectivity between landscapes. Individual gardeners may think we can’t have an impact, but every plant is a carbon sink that helps slow the production of CO2 in the atmosphere or provides habitat for our critters.

The ethic calls for us to plant more trees and shrubs, especially natives, to provide both continuous habitat for wildlife but also for shading our communities from extreme summer heat or protecting us from cold winter weather. A shady garden can reduce heat by 10 or more degrees during a heat wave, which is enough to shelter us, our plants and the wildlife from extremes.

Rather than reaching for the insect spray at the first sign of a bug, use integrated pest management strategies to identify beneficial and bad-guy insects we commonly see in the garden and decide if we can coexist with them. We need to learn about the insect life cycles and work to either prevent them from sharing our gardens or encouraging them to move in.

Our gardens wouldn’t exist without soil, and respecting it helps keep intact a community of fungi, bacteria, worms and insects that provides nutrients for our plants and ties up carbon. The new ethic calls for not amending your existing soil and working with what you have. Plants put in native soil learn to adapt and are better able to withstand changes in natural conditions. Gardeners are encouraged to keep leaf and needle debris on beds to hold in moisture, slow weed development and provide material for soil organisms to break down. This means pulling debris off lawns and out of beds, shredding it with a mower and putting it back on the beds. The ethic also asks us not to rototill vegetable gardens every spring and fall. It destroys the soil structure and disrupts the soil organisms’ ability to function. Instead, top the garden with the organic debris and plant through it in the spring. The side benefit is less weeding come spring.

Use water wisely throughout the garden. Group plants together by their water needs and set sprinkler systems to provide only the water needed. Replace old sprinkler timers with new smart timers that provide flexibility in scheduling throughout the growing season. Check for leaks and replace old sprinkler heads with more water-efficient ones.

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