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.

thisiswhatmulchlookslike Colman Mulch 2

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

Seattle Parks Rewrites the Story of Memory Loss

Dementia-2-1024x768Yet 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.

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

Seattle Ranks in the Top 10 U.S. Cities for Urban Forests!

Re-posted from Forterra’s blog

10bestcitiesforurbanforestsAmerican Forests announced recently that Seattle’s urban forests are among the top 10 in the nation! The ranking is based on six criteria: civic engagement, strategic planning, accessibility to the public, overall health of the urban forest, documented knowledge and management activities.

This ranking is a big pat on the back for our partner agencies, volunteer stewards, and researchers who have contributed extensively to the planning, implementation and monitoring of Seattle’s urban forest. The American Forests report cites research produced by Forterra and the Green Cities Research Alliance. Published in 2012, the Seattle’s Forest Ecosystem Values report summarizes forest structure and ecosystem service values based on data collected throughout the City of Seattle.

The other cities recognized include Sacramento, Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, and Washington, DC. For more information visit: http://www.americanforests.org/our-programs/urbanforests/10-best-cities-for-urban-forests/.

San Jose Combats Crime with Trees

SanJose_videoGood morning! This great story greeted us today and we couldn’t keep it to ourselves. We’re excited to hear about the great work being done by San Jose, CA non-profit Our City Forest, and the awesome community they work with to help trees and neighborhoods care for each other.

We love all the great information that’s been coming out lately linking green communities to healthier, happier, safer places to be. From published research out of Portland and Baltimore, to stories like this one, and from our own community at GSP restoration site Cheasty Greenspace Mt. View and others, this hot topic is turning out some pretty great news. Here’s to everyone out there working to keep the trend going!

Last call-Trees for Neighborhoods!

Fernleaf beech photo credit: Sten http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

Good news Seattle neighbors! Seattle reLeaf still has free trees for residential yards available through the Trees for Neighborhoods program. Residents are eligible for up to four free trees but trees are going fast and some species have waiting lists. The deadline for street trees has passed, but you can still apply for trees to plant in your yard. Here are two of the beautiful trees that still need good homes:

Fernleaf Beech – This naturally graceful and majestic tree brings year round interest to the northwest garden. Originating from France, this deciduous tree has glossy green fern shaped leaves and strong muscular branches. In the fall the leaves turn an enchanting golden color, lighting up the neighborhood.

Western Red Cedar – The flagship tree of the northwest forest! The western red cedar has graceful sweeping branches and stunning reddish-brown bark. Lewis and Clark thought that western red cedars were amazing enough to be called the “trees of life” – arbor vitae. Plant one in your backyard and bring new life to your neighborhood.

The deadline to apply for one of these handsome trees is October 21st, so apply now. Applications here: http://www.seattle.gov/trees/treesforneighborhoods.htm.

Seattle leads the nation in sustainable urban forestry!

The Emerald City remains true to its name. The City of Seattle’s Parks and Recreation was awarded the distinction of Forest Stewardship Certification, the highest international certification for sustainable maintenance of forests. While FSC has become a standard for sustainability for timber forests, Seattle is the first metropolitan area in the country to receive this certification for urban forestry!

As the first Green City Partnership, Seattle represents the realization of a public-private model to bring the community together to promote healthy forests and sustainable ecosystems. We’re pleased to have been able to participate and share in Seattle’s success!

Currently, the Green Seattle Partnership estimates that 23 percent of the entire city is covered by tree canopy – but the goal is much greater: “We have a goal for our forest of 30 percent canopy for the entire city” says Mark Mead, senior urban forester for Seattle Parks and Recreation. Considering that the potential loss of urban forests in just 20 years without active stewardship is 70 percent, this 7 percent increase will take lots of work. But, we know Seattle is tackling this challenge in with the highest sustainability standards!

Congratulations Seattle!

How are you helping our city and region to expand the tree canopy …and all of the benefits that come with it?