My first real awakening to the importance of gardening came when we discovered a hummingbird nesting in our yard. After a rain, Mama hummingbird would roll around on rosebush leaves to take a bath in beads of water. The two eggs she laid were the size of tic-tacs, and I thought with babies smaller than a kidney bean, any chemical I sprayed on my yard might be picked up and carried to them.
I had never really thought much about gardening before falling in love with those sweet little birds. Suddenly it became so real, so tangible, that what we do in our own backyard has an impact on creatures, water quality, and the amount of energy we use. Seemingly innocuous things like raking leaves and deadheading flowers in the fall has an impact on the microorganisms, little critters and birds that rely on those leaves, seed heads and hollow stalks for food and habitat to help them get through the winter. As climate activists, you already know that we are part of this Earth, and when we deny that is when we get into trouble.
In The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic, author Sarah Hayden Reichard says, “Many garden practices are based on half-truths, misinformation, and anecdotal rather than scientific evidence.” She devotes a chapter to confronting climate change, highlighting several things that gardeners can keep in mind – the “why” behind the “what”:
- Help plants and animals adapt by providing little oases of food and habitat for creatures that are under stress due to climate change;
- Grow more trees to not only sequester carbon, but also to reduce energy use;
- Leave the soil alone because healthy soils sequester carbon, and lose it when disturbed;
- Use your muscles because all that energy for power-tools has to come from somewhere; and
- Be a Locavore, eating foods grown or produced within 100 miles (and I would add, grown within season. Consider the carbon footprint of the tomato grown locally in a heated greenhouse under artificial sunlight over the Winter).
- Lower Your Carbon Footprint.
I’d like to introduce several more ways how you might choose climate-friendly gardening practices, and where you might find reliable sources for self-education.
For example, We Renew includes several carbon-lowering actions you can take to earn points in the We Renew Challenge, and you can share your experiences with other participants. (If you haven’t signed up, yet, what are you waiting for? Join the 350 Spokane team!) The We Renew gardening actions include:
- Replace the Lawn
- Install Weather-Based Irrigation Controls
- Water Plants Just Enough
- Install Efficient Irrigation
- Catch the Rain
- Plant Trees
I’d add: grow your own food. Although it doesn’t earn We Renew points, you can’t get more locavore!
These local sources can help you get started on the path of climate-friendly gardening:
- SpokaneScape https://my.spokanecity.org/publicworks/water/water-wise-spokane/spokanescape/ is an incentive program from the City of Spokane which provides a rebate up to a maximum of $500 off your utility bills to replace turf grass with a new landscape that requires little to no water.
- Spokane Conservation District (http://sccd.org/) has numerous free or low cost programs for landowners to implement climate friendly gardening, forestry and agricultural practices.
- Certified Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary: https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/living/backyard or https://www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife The planning tools on these sites will help you create that oasis for creatures under stress, and learn how to co-exist alongside wildlife.
- Water Wise Spokane https://my.spokanecity.org/publicworks/water/water-wise-spokane/outdoor-conservation Free conservation kit to help you get started.
- Free trees from Spokane’s Urban Forestry Office: https://my.spokanecity.org/urbanforestry/programs/neighborhood-tree/
- Yard and Food Waste Info: https://www.spokanecounty.org/2012/Yard-Food-Waste has links to find out if you can order curbside green yard waste pickup in your community.
- Spokane Master Composters/Recyclers https://www.spokanecounty.org/2024/Master-Composter-Program has posted their composting brochures so you can learn at home…
- …and you can communicate with real live Master Composters/Recyclers via their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Spokane-County-Master-CompostersRecyclers-561089677364650/
- City of Spokane recorded webinars: Composting 101, Worm Composting, and Compost Tea. Access them here: https://my.spokanecity.org/solidwaste/recycling/composting/
- Marle Worm Growers https://marlewormgrowers.com/ has everything you need for indoor composting, including the worms you need to start vermicomposting!
- Spokane garden writer Susan Mulvihill maintains a very active blog that’s a treasure-trove of information: https://www.susansinthegarden.com/
- Food Preservation: https://nchfp.uga.edu/
- Washington State University: http://gardening.wsu.edu/home/
- Master Gardeners Clinic: https://extension.wsu.edu/spokane/master-gardener-program/
- WSU Hortsense: http://hortsense.cahnrs.wsu.edu/Home/HortsenseHome.aspx
- WSU Pestsense: http://pestsense.cahnrs.wsu.edu/Home/PestsenseHome.aspx