Why do we plant in the fall? Planting season in the Pacific Northwest coincides with rainier weather and cooler temperatures, meaning that new plantings get plenty of water, and their growth slows down so that they can get settled in their new home and establish their root systems before their first dry summer hits. There are also some great sales to be found at nurseries in September! Fall planting is delayed gratification, since you won’t see much growth until the following spring, but it’s much easier on the plants, and you’re rewarded with budding, happy plants once the weather warms up, while your neighbors are out there paying full price, working in the sun, and driving up their water bills.
Planting at the right time of year helps give plants the best chance of success. So does planting correctly. In our restoration projects, some of our native trees, if they’re lucky, can live for hundreds of years out in our parks. So it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to plant them well. Here are our top tips for planting season, that might be helpful in your own home planting projects too. Happy planting season!
- Don’t dig too deep.
Even though they need their roots underground, plants don’t like their other parts to be buried by soil. Planting too deep can cause stems (so fragile in very small plants) to rot, and prevents necessary air flow. Filling extra soil back into the hole after you realize you dug too deep means that your plant is sitting on a loose, churned up foundation and is likely to sink as soil underneath it settles over time. Instead, measure periodically as you dig and stop when you’ve gotten to the right depth. When you are finished, the root flare (or root collar) of your plant – the widened base of the main stem just above where the roots start – should be visible just above the ground. If your plant was in a pot before, dig a hole exactly as deep as the pot, try to leave the plant in the ground at the same depth that it was in its former pot.
- Dig wide.
While you don’t want to dig too deep under your plant, you do want a nice wide hole with plenty of room for all of the plant’s roots to spread out on all sides. Loosening up the soil around the plant also allows lateral (sideways) roots to grow easily. If your plant was in a pot, dig a hole that is twice as wide as the pot.
- Leave a mulch doughnut.
Mulch can be anything you put on top of the soil after you are finished planting: wood chips, bark, compost, or fallen leaves can all make good mulch for different kinds of plants. The right mulch for your plant helps keep it from drying out, keeps in warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather, and adds nutrients to the soil. But you don’t want anything that can rot to be anywhere near your plant’s roots! So keep mulch, and any leaves and sticks, out of the hole you dig to put the plant in, and don’t add mulch until the very end when your plant’s roots are all covered up. When you’re finished planting, your mulch should look like a nice doughnut around your plant. Just like you don’t want to bury your plant too deep, you also don’t want mulch touching the main stem of the plant itself, because that can cause it to rot too. Pull the mulch a few inches away from the plant to let air to flow all around the main stem, leaving a thick ring on the surface of the soil, on top of where the plant’s roots are.
- No J-roots or girdling roots.
Make sure you lay the roots of your plant out in the bottom of the hole so that they spread out and down. Roots that are pointing up underground (making the shape of the letter J) are bad for the health of the plant. Roots that wind around the hole, encircling the plant, will keep growing around and around – these are called girdling roots because they can strangle other roots. If you have J-roots or girdling roots on a plant that you take out of a pot, and they are too stiff to straighten out in your planting hole, it’s better to cut them before putting the plant in the ground, as long as it is a side-root. Never cut a tap root or the main connection from your plant’s stem to the rest of its roots.
- Right plant, right place.
Don’t ever plant invasive species! Plants that “escape” from people’s yards through fragments, suckers, spreading vines, or seeds carried by birds or the wind, eventually end up in our parks and other public lands, where they threaten our natural habitats. Choose from a wide variety of beautiful native plants, or non-invasive horticultural species, that will stay in their own space. Also make sure you understand how big your tree or large shrub will grow and how long it will live, so you can plant it far enough away from power lines, foundations, and other things it might encounter as it grows, or pick a species that stays small enough to plant closer.
Want to put these tips to good use? Sign up to help out on Green Seattle Day, Saturday, November 8th, as we plant the future of our forested parks! Or, if you live in Tacoma, Redmond, Kirkland, Everett, or Kent, check out upcoming volunteer opportunities closer to home.
Those of us who attended this year’s Green Seattle Partnership Shareholder’s meeting were treated to a brief address about the Public Engagement Committee by member-at-large, Rick Paulsen. We were so inspired we asked him to share his words on our blog. Rick is a volunteer with Friends of Lewis Park, an amazing and active group who has been transforming Lewis Park - check out their next work party for a chance to chat with Rick in person and get involved with their exciting new trail-building project!
Hi, I’ve been asked to speak to you today as a member of the Public Engagement Committee. We are made up of representatives from local government, non-profits and volunteers: the 3 constituents that make up the Green Seattle Partnership. As a group, we work on issues of outreach and engagement for the GSP as a whole. There are the monthly e-blasts to produce and planning for Green Seattle Day (put Nov 8th on your calendars, this is a great way to let the community know what we’re doing). In addition, this group provides an opportunity to consider some longer-range issues. These include working more closely with the community centers, bringing additional partners like local businesses into the GSP and striving to better reach out to the public in vital and inclusive ways so that we can involve the widest possible cross-section of the city in this work we are doing.
I am also speaking to you as a Volunteer Forest Steward. Lewis Park, the park I work in is a 5 acre wooded hillside on the north tip of Beacon Hill. We’re a group that is small, but mighty. My participation as a volunteer began almost 3 years ago at a meeting held by the Friends of Lewis Park. What I heard that day has changed my life in several ways, both large and small. Here is what I took away from that meeting:
Much of the initial work of clearing invasives and then planting and establishing native species had been accomplished. As the landscape was opened up, new challenges and possibilities had appeared. The park which had previously been a barrier between neighbors could become a bridge to bring us together. As the restoration took hold, the effort required would be changing from restoration to stewardship. Over the long term, if the park was to remain healthy and vital, the neighborhood (myself included) needed to take responsibility for it. We were being asked to contribute our ideas, our support and our time. There was a lot of enthusiasm at that meeting and I realized that this was something that I wanted to commit to. I signed on that day. Here I was, the “public” and I had been engaged.
Over time, my level of commitment grew and this past winter I became a Forest Steward. As I’ve become involved, I realize there is more to this than I first expected. In addition to building our park, we are also building our community. In order to recruit the neighbors who will care for the park in the future, we have to find them, meet them, ask for their input and invite them to join us. In supervising volunteers at work parties, through relationships with school groups and neighborhood teenagers, when hosting community meetings and tabling, and by communicating with other organizations in the neighborhood, we have tried to do just this. There have been a lot of successes but also many unmet challenges. So now, here I am, the “public”, I have been engaged and find myself in the position of needing engage a broader “public”. I am living both sides of this idea of “public engagement”.
So, who are the members of the broader “public” we need to reach? They are our neighbors and coworkers, our children’s schoolmates, the people we ride the bus with, folks who shop where we shop, local business owners and many others. They are all around us every day but it is often difficult to make connections. It is quite possible, and important, to describe a city like Seattle by identifying groups that are distinct and different from each other. You can subdivide the population along the lines of ethnicity, culture, economic resources, language, physical abilities, education, and age to name a few. These distinctions are important. I greatly value the diversity of this city and have learned and gained much from sometimes being a minority in the neighborhood where I live.
As a Forest Steward, I want the volunteers that work in Lewis Park to represent as much of that diversity as possible. The more connections that Green Seattle Partnership can make among the many diverse groups, the stronger our parks will be. If we can achieve this, we can build a demographic of people who love their parks and want to work hard to preserve and protect them. This new group, made up of diverse individuals and united by a common purpose, our forests, will be the next generation of Forest Stewards, valuing our urban forests for decades to come. For that is our true mission within the Green Seattle Partnership.
After two years working with Forterra, outgoing Stewardship Associate, Mariska Kecskes, is prone to nightmares about invasive plants – like knotweed being planted in her front yard or a tattoo of a Western hemlock being mistakenly inked on her arm as English ivy.
In the past year as our AmeriCorps Individual Placement, Mariska lead over 900 volunteers to complete over 63,000 square feet of restoration and maintenance and install over 1,000 native trees and shrubs. She spent her first year with Forterra as part of the restoration crew with Washington Conservation Corps, ripping out invasive species throughout the Puget Sound region.
Mariska is busy wrapping up loose ends during her last few days with Forterra but took some time to answer a few questions.
First things first. Do you like eating blackberries anymore?
Yes. I like to think that by eating blackberries, I’m preventing birds from eating them and spreading them everywhere.
Why did you decide to work a second year with Forterra?
I have always been impressed by Forterra’s holistic approach to environmental issues so I applied to their Stewardship Associate – AmeriCorps Individual Placement position. I believe that it’s important to not just focus on one isolated issue.
What was rewarding about your job?
It was great to see the progress that can be made during one work party. You start with a huge blackberry bush patch and by the end feel so accomplished. It helps you feel proactive about restoration and understand why maintaining a healthy habitat in and outside of the city is a long but necessary process.
What is challenging about your job?
Sometimes it’s hard to detach myself from my restoration work. Driving along I-5 is a struggle now because I look around and can’t help but get stressed out by the amount of weeds along the highway.
What’s something cool you’ve learned?
I’m happy that I’m able to identify so many plants. Not only does it impress colleagues, turns out it’s also a great way to impress dates on hikes! Nothing makes you an object of desire like pointing out all the edible wild berries or saving someone from a stinging nettle.
Before you leave us, do you have any tips to share?
First, if you ever take part in restoration – as a volunteer or otherwise – try to visit the site again in the future. It is really gratifying to watch your impact literally grow and it helps you understand the importance of the work you did. Second, when you spend a lot of time pulling blackberry bushes and have endless scratches, it’s easiest to just tell people that you have angry cats.
Mariska will be heading to graduate school for an MSc in Environmental Science & Policy at Central European University. We wish her the best of luck and thank her for her incredible two years of service! If you or someone you know is interested in joining Forterra’s Restoration Crew through the Washington Conservation Corps, check out WCC’s website for more information!
“Puget Sound Starts Here” – We have all seen this phrase marking our street storm drains. Yet how many of us really know what this means or how true this phrase really is? There are few things quite as beautiful as the Puget Sound and it is one of the many things that make this region such a great place to live. However, beneath the outward beauty is a dirty reality that often goes unseen: Annually, 14 million pounds of toxic chemicals enter Puget Sound waters , and this doesn’t just come from waste discarded directly into the Sound.
The Puget Sound is like a circulatory system, with rivers and creeks moving water to the Sound, like veins move blood to our hearts. This means that the things that go into these creeks and rivers matter later down the system when they reach the Puget Sound – including invasive species that grow along shorelines, garbage carelessly tossed on the ground, and especially the chemicals of urban life that travel through storm water runoff.
May is Puget Sound Starts Here month, with the hopes of encouraging individuals to do their part to keep the Sound healthy. Following this spirit, the Green Tacoma Partnership is hosting the first ever Salishan Green Days. Next week Green Tacoma, in partnership with the Salishan Association, The Tacoma Housing Authority, the City of Tacoma, and Forterra— will be running events focused on the health of First Creek in Tacoma. First Creek is an important storm water fed creek that flows into the Puyallup River, and eventually the Puget Sound. The creek is culturally significant for the Puyallup tribe and was once known to be laden with salmon; it has since been heavily impacted by surrounding development and infested with invasive species.
Salishan Green days will be May 29th- 31st, with different events each day. All events are free, family-friendly, and full of exciting activities:
Thursday May 29 : First Creek and Puget Sound Need Our Help
Salishan Family Investment Center (1724 East 44th St, Tacoma, WA)
Learn more about this important community asset through hands-on activities and presentations! Enjoy free snacks and fun giveaways.
Spanish and Russian interpreters provided.
Friday May 30th: Composting, Recycling, and Garbage…Oh My!
Salishan Family Investment Center (1724 East 44th St, Tacoma, WA)
Learn the ways of proper recycling and play a little Garbage Bingo. Enjoy free snacks, fun giveaway items, and prizes for our Garbage Bingo winners! Spanish, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese interpreters provided.
Saturday May 31st : First Creek Restoration and Clean-up Event
East T St and East 39th St, Tacoma WA
Join us to help restore First Creek by removing invasive weeds and trash. Stick around after for a light lunch and fun giveaway items. Spanish and Russian interpreters will be provided.
To learn more and register for these events, click here.
Questions? Contact: Jennifer Chang firstname.lastname@example.org
Urban Forests in our region are expected to suffer negative impacts due to climate change. At the same time, they play an integral role in mitigating the effects of climate change by reducing temperatures, sequestering carbon, and capturing stormwater runoff from increases in precipitation. The 6th Annual Urban Forest Symposium, hosted by Plant Amnesty and the University of Washington, takes an in-depth look at climate change and considers the impact to the urban forests in our region. Learn about the climatic changes our region can expect and strategies that can be used to plan and manage for a healthy and resilient urban forest. Regional experts will discuss the expected changes to the climate, urban forest responses, and what urban foresters and advocates can do to prepare. Presentations will be relevant to urban foresters, landscape professionals, restoration ecologists, tree care professionals, consulting arborists, sustainability professionals, urban planners, landscape designers, landscape architects, municipal managers, and tree advocates.
Here are the details:
What: 6th Annual Urban Forest Symposium
When: Wednesday, May 28, 9am to 4:30pm
Where:University of Washington Botanic Gardens’ Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st St, Seattle, WA 98105
Cost: $75 per person. Lunches available for $15. Free lunch included for the first 100 registrants.
Contact: email@example.com or 206-685-8033.
Greg McPherson, Research Forester, Urban Ecosystems and Social Dynamics – Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service
Jim Robbins, journalist and author of The Man Who Planted Trees
Nick Bond, Washington State Climatologist and Principal Research Scientist for the UW Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean
Nancy Rottle, RLA, ASLA, Associate Professor at University of Washington and founding Director of the UW Green Futures Research and Design Lab
Tom Hinckley, Professor Emeritus, University of Washington School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Drew Zwart, Ph.D. Plant Pathology and Physiology, Bartlett Tree Experts
Municipal representatives on putting urban forest-related climate change plans into action
Photo credit: Stephanie Jeter.
Yet another reason our urban forests are such an important part of the City: they help improve the lives of people living with dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 68 seconds someone in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s hard to change the statistics regarding memory loss, but Seattle Parks and Recreation is trying to change the memory loss story. By offering programming specifically designed to comfort, engage, and inspire people suffering from memory loss, recreation specialist Mari Becker says, “We are part of the movement to transform what it means to be living with dementia.”
Programming includes going for walks in the parks, watercolor classes, and other activities to be added this spring. Participants really appreciate the social aspect: “Living with memory loss doesn’t have to mean staying at home, feeling isolated,” Becker said. Being outside and experiencing nature is also known to help Alzheimer’s patients, including improving sleep patterns and decreasing aggression.
By volunteering in a forested park, you can help make sure we have healthy, safe, natural public spaces for these kinds of programs, and for everyone in the City. Click here to volunteer with the Green Seattle Partnership.
Join the Green Seattle Partnership to celebrate and restore Seattle’s beautiful forested parks for the 8th annual Green Seattle Day on Saturday, November 2nd from 10 am to 2 pm! Green Seattle Day is made possible by the City of Seattle as well as the generosity of our lead corporate sponsor, Odwalla.
Green Seattle Day is a meaningful way to connect with nature and create a healthy and vibrant community by planting native trees and shrubs in a park near you. The event takes place in 17 parks city-wide. Seattle’s own West Duwamish Greenbelt is this year’s central hub site, which will be hosted by Nature Consortium and Forterra.
The Green Seattle Partnership is a collaboration between the City of Seattle, non-profit partners, and thousands of committed volunteers that seek to create a sustainable network of healthy forested parklands by removing invasive species and replanting with native shrubs and trees. Without a coordinated effort, Seattle is at risk of losing 70% of its forests in just 20 years.
Green Seattle Day is a celebration of Seattle’s 2500 acres of forested parks, the committed neighbors who care for them, and the kick-off event for the 2012-2013 restoration planting season. We supply all tools and supplies. So, grab a water bottle, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to have fun in the forest! We are sure you will leave the parks with a smile on your face. We look forward to seeing you soon!
Learn more and REGISTER for your preferred park at www.greenseattle.org. If your company or organization is interested in participating as a volunteer team, contact Kim Frappier at firstname.lastname@example.org.