The Mulching Season
I work as a Forest Steward and Washington Native Plant Steward at a forest restoration site in the East Duwamish Greenbelt in South Seattle. The project is part of the Green Seattle Partnership (GSP) and encompasses an area of a bit more than one acre.
I took this project on with three teammates who were in the same Washington Native Plant Society class in 2011 and we’ve been working on it ever since. This coming August will be two years at the site and we’ve made some great progress. But it has taken a ton of work, and a lot of support from many different people and organizations involved in GSP, especially Seattle Parks and Recreation, Forterra, Student Conservation Association, and EarthCorps.
Earlier this month we held our regular work party, and I was very pleased with how our bareroot plants were looking. OK, admittedly, for some reason the Oregon grape doesn’t seem to be doing so well on our site, but really everything else is growing well. And in early April in Seattle, most of the new native plants were already showing a lot of new leaves! Of course the best plants were the bareroots that we planted about a year ago, but even those that we planted earlier this year seem to be taking to their new home. So for this particular work party, a group of about 7 of us spent 3 hours filling buckets with mulch and making sure that these new plants are “tucked in” for the coming dry months.
I felt compelled to share our success with the world, because it seems that many people invest all of the time and energy to remove invasive plants from a site and get them replaced with what promises to be a batch of beautiful native plants. And they stop there. But it isn’t planting that is the most valuable part of the process; rather, it is the three years after the plant is in the ground that is critical. And though moving mulch for three hours on a Saturday morning may seem more mundane than tearing out ivy or demonstrating our dominion over armored blackberry canes, there is a quiet satisfaction in knowing that this simple task is what will make the site great. The simple act of spreading mulch around new plants will help enrich the soil and hold valuable moisture around the plant’s roots while it establishes its root system.