Girl Scout Cadettes help spread awareness on their way to a Silver Award

As a guest post on our blog, we are thrilled to welcome all-star Green Redmond volunteer, Anna, who is working on her Silver Award for the Girl Scouts. It’s been great having her and her project teammate Erika help with volunteer outreach this year. Here are Anna’s thoughts on the project so far:
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Hi, I’m Anna from the Girl Scout Cadette Troop 42534. I’m currently in middle school and so is my fellow Girl Scout, Erika. We are working with the Green Redmond Partnership to earn our Silver Award. To earn the Silver Award, a Girl Scout must complete a project that leaves a lasting and sustainable impact on our community and takes at least fifty hours to complete. It is the highest award a Cadette can earn, and the second highest Girl Scout Award, below the Gold Award.

For our project, we are trying to get more people to come to Green Redmond events, especially in the winter, when the blackberries are being cleared. It’s also still important to have volunteers in the other seasons for clearing ivy and other invasive species, planting native species, and mulching around plants. We want to reach out to people who haven’t previously considered volunteering.

We chose to do this project because we wanted to help the environment more than just us two working with the invasive species and planting. We wanted bring in more of the community to help, to bring in more hands than just our four, because it matters that our parks are green and we have trees growing in our city. It’s important that the animals have a place to live and people have parks to enjoy.

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Farrel-McWhirter Park, where Anna and Erika planted trees and surveyed volunteers on Green Redmond Day.

At a fall volunteer event, we ran a survey. We found that a large group of volunteers had heard of the event through cub scouts or girl scouts. The next most common way people found out about the event was through their family. A few more people found out through the Redmond newsletter, and the rest found out through a variety of different sources such as school, Peachtree newsletter, Honor Society, and emails from the City of Redmond. Our results lead us to wonder how the family members and troop leaders who told the volunteers about the event heard about it themselves.

We also asked volunteers if they regularly read community bulletin boards. Only 37% reported that they do, which leads me to wonder where else we could put flyers so more people see them.

Our final question to volunteers was to find their reason for coming to the event. Most, about 47%, said they came just to help out, but there were also a large variety of other reasons, such as for college, service learning, to get volunteer hours, or to go out with their troop or family.

In the future, we will continue our quest for more volunteers. We plan to hang up our posters and post ads on websites like Facebook. We’ve learned that many people volunteer for groups as Girl Scouts or Cub Scouts, or for volunteer hours, and not as many people come without a group or without needing service hours.

So go out and volunteer! Not only will we appreciate it, but so will the Green Redmond Partnership and everyone who uses the parks. It’s a great way to connect with your community and neighbors. We’ve got to meet members of the Redmond Parks and Trails Commission and a WA representative for the US Congress. Volunteering is fun and gives a feeling of accomplishment.

Here are the results of the survey Anna and Erika conducted:

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Anna’s beautiful poster will be gracing bulletin boards this spring to promote volunteer events:
Annas poster 2016

Plant like a pro

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!

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  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Climate Change Impacts on Puget Sound’s Urban Forests

Plant Hardiness Zone Map picture pngWashington State faces climate change impacts that include sea level rise, temperature increases, and changes in precipitation. The conservation and restoration of our valuable urban forests becomes increasingly important in addressing these changes by mitigating storm water impacts from increased precipitation, reducing temperatures, and sequestering carbon. Limited information has been available to guide decisions on species selection for urban forest restoration, seed source selection and other management practices. The Green City Partnerships, with support from the US Forest Service, partnered with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment to evaluate climate change impacts on habitat suitability of native tree species that are commonly used for restoration of urban forests in the Puget Sound region. Climate change impacts were assessed using climate envelope modeling and seed transfer zones as well as through creation of future plant hardiness zone maps.

This research, led by Dr. Soo-Hyung Kim of the UW’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, suggests clear impacts from climate change on three native tree species. Climate conditions that make up the current seed transfer zones of western redcedar, western hemlock and Douglas-fir are likely to change radically within western Washington or, in some cases, nearly disappear towards the end of the century. In addition, the research team found that plant hardiness zones are likely to rise by a half zone in the Puget Sound area. This means that the Puget Sound area is projected to experience an increase of 5 to 6 degrees F in annual minimum temperatures. This implies that less hardy species may be able to grow in the region and could alter ecological dynamics in urban forests. These findings have implications for how we choose current and future planting materials for urban forest restoration sites.

We hope this research fuels further discussion and research into restoration strategies to mitigate climate change impacts to Puget Sound’s urban forests. To find research summaries on Seed Transfer Zones, Plant Hardiness Zone Maps, or to view the full report, go to the Green Cities research webpage: http://www.forterra.org/what_we_do/build_community/green_cities/green_cities_research

Green Everett Partnership -first event of 2013!

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Join Howarth Park Forest Stewards, Everett Parks, Forterra, and neighbors for the first Green Everett Partnership work party of 2013.  Come learn about the Green Everett Partnership and the many benefits that the Howarth Park forests provide us all.  We will stay warm and burn off some of those holiday cookies by digging out invasive blackberry and ivy as we work together to restore Howarth Park’s beautiful forest.

More info:  Green Everett Partnership

Join the forest monitoring team

Calling all citizen scientists! Join the Green Cities Network’s growing community of volunteers collecting scientific data about our urban green spaces. The Forest Monitoring Team is a new group of volunteers who will help us to better understand and manage the progress of our restoration efforts. No experience is necessary. Volunteers will attend one introductory training and commit to establishing at least 2 monitoring plots in local parks and natural areas (but more is encouraged!), between July and October.

To learn more, visit the EarthCorps website, watch this video of super forest monitor Tom Kelly, or get in touch with Malia Caracoglia, malia@earthcorps.org, 206.992.6853.

The last training date is coming up, so sign up now by contacting Malia directly at the email or phone number above. We are putting together a Forest Monitoring Team in Seattle, Tacoma, Redmond, Kirkland, and Kent, but volunteers from any city are welcome to join the last training at Camp Long in West Seattle.

What does it take to become a forest monitor?

  • Attend one introductory training and one small group practicum training
  • Ability to identify plant species (or enthusiastic about learning!)
  • Ability to take precise measurements
  • Ability to record and transmit data using written forms and online data entry
  • Ability to walk on uneven ground, sometimes through vegetation
  • Commitment is flexible, but ask that you are available to assist with at least two plots during the monitoring season (1 plot = 3-4 hours)
  • A good sense of humor and appreciation for the outdoors

It’s National Volunteer Week!

Hello Green Cities, welcome to National Volunteer Week 2012!

While we are pretty much beside ourselves with gratitude for our volunteers every single week, we’re jumping on the bandwagon to take this extra chance to celebrate the people who make Green Cities the program it is.

Thank you volunteers!!

We couldn’t have done it without you. This week, the Green Cities Network is 6 cities strong (welcome Everett!), working on the ground to restore and maintain our public urban greenspaces all over the Puget Sound. Hundreds of acres are in active restoration. Tons of ivy and blackberry have been removed from our parks and natural areas. Thousands of native trees, shrubs, and groundcover plants have been planted.

In 2011, Green Cities Network volunteers donated 100,000 hours to urban natural area restoration! That is amazing. Thank you so much for everything you do to keep our cities healthier, our water and air cleaner, our communities more vibrant! There’s no way we could say it enough, but thank you.

President Obama’s official proclamation encourages you to keep up the good work: “I call upon all Americans to observe this week by volunteering in service projects across our country and pledging to make service a part of their daily lives.” He also waxes poetic on volunteerism in a way that sure strikes a chord with us:

“Service is a lifelong pursuit that strengthens the civic and economic fabric of our Nation. With every hour and every act, our lives are made richer, our communities are drawn closer, and our country is forged stronger by the dedication and generous spirit of volunteers.”

So put two things on your to-do list this week: make a date with a work party coming up in Seattle, Tacoma, Redmond, Kirkland, or Kent. Then, take a minute to bask in the national spotlight, and know that you’re part of something pretty amazing.

Native Plant sales are around the corner!

Conservation district native plant sales are just around the corner. These are some of the best sources of native trees and understory plants around. Stock is sold bare-root, which means you’ll need to be familiar with planting that. Check out Forterra’s plant installation video (bare-roots are specifically mentioned in slide 9).

Planting season is winding down! New plants should ideally be in the ground before dry weather hits, especially if watering is limited. Bare root plants need to be picked up from the sale and planted promptly.

Pre-order deadlines for the conservation district sales are mostly over by now, but you can still take advantage of the walk-up sale.

King County:

March 2 & 3, 2012

Pierce County (volunteers wanted the week of 2/27! free plants, coffee and doughnuts!):

March 3, 2012

Snohomish County/Camano Island:

March 2 & 3, 2012

Skagit County (pre-order open until 3/2/2012):

March 23 & 34 and April 14, 2012

Whidbey Island:

March 2 and 3, 2012