We plant hardy, native plants in all of our restoration projects. In addition to playing important roles in our healthy forests, these species evolved to the conditions in the Northwest, and for the most part can thrive with a lot less intensive care than most plants. However, even these tough guys are struggling in this summer’s unusually hot, dry weather.
If you spread wood chip mulch at a volunteer event this spring or winter, right now our plants are saying a giant thank you. Like a natural buffer against extreme conditions, mulch helps slow down evaporation of water from soil, keeping plants wetter, cooler, and happier during dry weather. (Amazingly, mulch also keeps the ground warmer during cold winter days!) In many of our restoration sites, we are also implementing emergency watering measures to help extra-vulnerable new plantings from this past winter to survive the next months.
If you see your plants at home starting to wilt in the heat and dry weather we’ve been having, or worse yet, developing brown, dry tips or leaves, read on. Here are some things you can do to help your plants survive the summer:
Keep close watch: this summer has been much drier than usual, so pay a little extra attention and keep an eye out for signs of drought stress. You may need to water more often, especially if you have new plants that were recently planted. But remember that your neighbors will all be watering their plants more too, so follow the rest of these tips to conserve our water resources. As a bonus, you’ll be watering more effectively for your plants, too.
Water early, or water late: Watering your plants during the heat of the day will cause you to lose a lot to evaporation. Watering in the early morning, or late evening, when the sun is low and air temperatures are cooler, will allow more water to soak into the soil and get to your plants.
Water close to the ground: Instead of spraying high above plants, where it will quickly evaporate into the hot, dry air, point the watering stream as close to the soil as you can. Water slowly to allow it to soak into the soil instead of running off the surface. Soaker hoses, drip-irrigation setups, and tree watering bags can also help a lot.
Water deeply: a lot of water, slightly less often, is better then a little water more often. Water gets deeper down into soil and encourages plants to grow longer, stronger roots.
Think about shade: Very young plants that are having an especially tough time might benefit from partial shade covers made from lightweight cloth, narrow wood lattice, or old window screens.
More mulch! Something to cover the ground, like wood chip mulch, straw, or even gravel can help slow water from evaporating out of the soil. Mulch is your best friend for conserving water and helping your plants at the same time.
Let us know what works for you, and good luck!
Sara Noland brings a generous spirit, dedication, and a passion for the environment to all that she does. As a Forest Steward, she can be found leading work parties at Howarth Park and Rotary Park, supporting staff and volunteers at big events like Green Everett Day, or conducting outreach to the public at Sorticulture. As a wetland biologist, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Green Everett Partnership.
Sara grew up in the Renton area and spent many hours building treehouses in a nearby park. She attended UW and Western Washington University, where she studied zoology and journalism. Sara and her husband bought a teeny house in Everett in the early 1990s and have lived there with numerous cats ever since. As a biologist with a local consulting firm, Sara gets to work outside sometimes, delineating wetlands and doing wildlife surveys. But to counteract the time she has to spend at the computer writing reports, she gardens at the Red Barn Community Farm in the Snohomish Valley, and volunteers with Green Everett Partnership, as well as with King County Parks, Adopt-A-Stream Foundation, and the UW RareCare rare plant monitoring program.
The Green Everett Partnership is just that – a Partnership! Community volunteers are essential to restoring Everett’s forested parks and natural areas to health. In fact, from January to June of 2015, 298 volunteers participated in restoration! Way to go! Volunteers do everything from remove invasive plants, to mulching, and planting native trees and understory – they help with educating and reaching out to friends and neighbors, doing data entry or helping with office tasks, and bringing snacks to volunteer events.
But Forest Stewards like Sara, who have stepped up to adopt a park they love and help get others involved, are the heroes of the Partnership. Without their leadership, we could never hope to care for all of Everett’s amazing forested parks and natural areas. Forest Stewards get special training from Green Everett staff and learn how to lead their own forest restoration projects. They are our eyes and ears on the ground, helping us create a program that truly follows community priorities and brings parks and people together.
…Look for more heroes of Green Everett in the coming months!
If you are interested in becoming a Forest Steward, contact Norah, and stay tuned for an orientation for new volunteers this fall!
The Green Everett Partnership is excited to celebrate Sorticulture from June 12-14th! Why are we so excited about this annual garden arts festival? Because gardeners – in addition to our amazing restoration volunteers – help grow healthy urban forests.
Taking care of Everett’s forested parkland is a critical step to improving our water and air quality, protecting habitat for wildlife, and providing safe and enjoyable recreational spaces. The volunteers who remove invasive plants like ivy and blackberry and plant native trees and understory plants provide an invaluable service in protecting Everett’s natural resources. However, if you looked at the City from a bird’s-eye view, most of what you’d see would be privately-owned land, including a lot of ornamental and vegetable gardens or natural areas. That means that in order to have a truly healthy city, public and private lands need to work together.
In some cases, how we take care of our private backyard garden can end up degrading the condition of Everett’s parkland, despite our best efforts to restore, maintain, and steward these areas. For example, English ivy growing as a border plant in someone’s garden can “escape” into a public park, by spreading beyond a property line or when seeds are carried by birds (sometimes over large distances!). Invasive plants also spread onto public lands when yard waste is illegally dumped into a park. And if yard waste is dumped on a steep slope or bluff, it can actually smother vegetation that is stabilizing the slope and cause erosion or even contribute to a slide. About half of all invasive species are escapees from gardens!
Home gardeners, however, can also be a great ally for Everett’s parks and urban forest by using good gardening practices and helping trees thrive on their property to add to the City’s forest canopy. Gardeners can also talk to their neighbors and friends to support the Green Everett Partnership’s forest restoration efforts.
Please visit the Green Everett Partnership booth at the Sorticulture festival on Saturday, June 13th to learn more about our community-based forest restoration efforts, how gardeners can support our forests, and make your own pine cone bird feeder to take home!
Some things gardeners can do to support healthy forested parks:
- Remove invasive plants from your landscape and dispose of them properly – for a full list of plants to avoid and what to do with them, check out the Washington State Noxious Weed Plant List
- If you know that a plant is invasive, do not plant it in your ornamental landscape (or anywhere!)
- Place all yard waste in your city yard waste container, never in a public park
- Create a backyard habitat garden with beautiful northwest native plants
- Volunteer at a Green Everett Partnership event!
- Become a volunteer VIP as a Green Everett Forest Steward!
Why do native plants make our hearts skip a beat? So many reasons, we’re taking a whole week to tell you about it. Stick with us on the blog this week, as Forterra’s Stewardship staff pens a love letter to the plants that help us do our best work.
To understand the importance of native plants, imagine you go to the supermarket one day, planning to buy all of your basic food and household essentials, but when you walk in all they have is turnips. And you don’t even really like turnips. And then you go in another week and there’s nothing at all.
That’s what it’s like for native wildlife when invasive plants take over a landscape, pushing out the wide array of native plants that called it home: plants that flower and fruit at different times of the year, produce food that can be stored, and even provide shelter. Invasive plants grow so aggressively that eventually, they’re the only thing around. Some wildlife might manage eating invasive blackberries or nesting in ivy, but those plants may only be available for part of the year, and many species may not be able to get by at all.
But wildlife is only one part of it. The key is variety. Our native plants evolved together over hundreds and thousands of years, and they’ve adapted to co-exist so that no single one dominates. Instead they make a beautiful patchwork quilt of trees, shrubs, and smaller plants, each contributing its own bounty to the landscape. Some are great at feeding wildlife, others clean our waterways, keep steep slopes or sand dunes from falling apart, or capture carbon in the atmosphere. Best of all, they can thrive here without needing to be watered or fertilized—they’ve already been doing so for millennia. All of these awesome qualities allow native plants to blanket our wild places and urban jungles with the wide variety of life that is necessary for a healthy and sustainable environment.
Native plants are also a living part of the history of the Northwest. First Nations people depended on the plants that have grown here throughout their history, and their traditional uses reflect a deep knowledge of the natural history of the land and its plants, called ethnobotany. Learning about it is a fascinating way to understand native plants while connecting to the history of this place at the same time.
Throughout the rest of this week, we’ll be focusing on different fun and interesting aspects of native plants each day. Stay tuned and let us know what you think! We hope it inspires you to dig in with us at a volunteer project or plant some native plants in your own yard.
We’re excited to announce that the Green Seattle Partnership will be getting this year’s “Community Game Changer” award at Forterra’s Awards Breakfast on May 19th!
The Community Game Changer Award recognizes that a sustaining and sustainable renaissance and restoration of our city green spaces require visionaries who think beyond traditional, narrowly defined scopes and missions; collaboration and partnership among a broad coalition of people – from government agencies to organizations; from schools to businesses; and the hands-on hard work and green thumbs of devoted community volunteers. This Forterra award to the Green Seattle Partnership celebrates 10 years of outstanding service and dedication to Seattle’s parks and natural areas—a game-changer in our community that is now a nationally acclaimed and regionally replicated model.
Within the Partnership as a whole, Forterra is recognizing the contributions of the following standouts: Mayors of Seattle Greg Nichols, Mike McGinn, and Ed Murray for their vision, leadership, and ongoing commitment to green space and the idea that citizens who dig in and get their hands dirty are a very good thing for the health of our communities. Seattle’s Offices of Sustainability and the Environment, Public Utilities, and Parks and Recreation, GSP’s dynamic founding partners, for joining Forterra in launching the Green Seattle Partnership, advancing the importance of place-making, and furthering a ‘living’ project that has now enrolled over 1000 city acres into restoration – and along the way brought together residents of all ages and neighborhoods. Stewards and volunteers for their generosity in giving 722,500 hours in volunteer time to plant 169,000 trees in order to maintain ecologically balanced green spaces and provide for quality of life in the city of Seattle.
If you would like to attend the breakfast to see the award presentation, click here for more information. If you are a volunteer, put “Green Seattle Partnership” as your table captain.
Want to join a team of volunteers who make a BIG difference? If you’ve dropped in for a work party with your local Green City Partnership, you have a taste of what volunteer restoration is like. Take it to the next level and see how a longer-term restoration project can transform a park you love. Be a local leader, inspire others to get involved, and learn what it takes to keep urban forests, parks, and natural areas healthy and green.
Nature in the city gives us so much: clean air, beautiful places to enjoy and encourage more frequent exercise, open space to spend time with friends, a local connection with nature that reduces stress and improves mental health, habitat for local wildlife, stormwater retention to reduce flooding, carbon sequestration, and more. Stewards are the VIPs that enable volunteer projects to be successful in taking care of valuable public spaces in their own communities.
Current Stewards have this to say:
“This has been one of the most positive volunteer experiences I have ever had. . . I can’t believe how great the park looks since we started.” – Kaytlyn, Redmond
“The park is full of small, special spots, each with its own story.” , Seattle
“The Green Kent Partnership has a powerful message, and that is to conserve the beautiful environment that we live in. It is such an honor to be a part of this.” – Danielle, Kent
[Q:What do you get out of this mostly? A:] “Its fun!” – Glenn, Redmond
“I look forward to the day that I can walk through a forest that I helped create.’
HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN YOUR LOCAL PROGRAM:
In REDMOND: Lots of parks, including the top priorities shown on this map, are still looking for their own Forest Steward – could it be you?! An orientation for new Forest Stewards will be held on Monday, April 20th. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
In KIRKLAND: An orientation for new Green Kirkland Stewards on Sunday, May 9th welcomes you to jump in! Contact Katie to be placed on the list.
In EVERETT: This relatively new program is ready for Forest Stewards to take the reins in some awesome parks. Contact Joanna for more information on getting involved.
In TACOMA: There will be an orientation later this year for new Habitat Stewards. Contact Yvonne for more information.
In KENT: Find your own corner of Green Kent and dig in. Contact Desiree to find out when the next orientation will be held for new Stewards.
In SEATTLE: Join a team of Forest Stewards working in a park near you. They’ll be thrilled to have an extra set of helping hands, and you’ll learn hands-on restoration from the pros as you get great work done together. To get connected with a group, contact Andrea.
Seattle Parks is conducting a public input process this spring to find out what people value most in our public greenspaces. They want to hear from you! From now through mid-April, different questions will be posed here for your to make your voice heard. So check back frequently and contribute a thought about your favorite park or natural area. Public input matters!
This isn’t any old survey…. The intent of this effort is to develop values-based guidelines for the appropriate use of these areas. Check out some background information on this project, here.
And save the date for a mini-summit where the results of the public input process will be presented along with next steps:
Date: April 4, 2015; Time: 9:30-12:30
Location: Seattle Center Armory Loft
Thank you for giving your input to this process so that we can all help make Seattle’s park system the best it can be!