Dry, dry summer

sunWe 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.

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Let us know what works for you, and good luck!

Heroes of Green Everett: Sara Noland

SaraNolandatSorticultureSara 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!