Archive for the ‘Natives’ Category

Back in cold December, spring seemed far away, yet the SNAPP Dragons Garden Team was planning ahead and ordered many native plant treasures from the King Conservation District 2013 Bareroot Plant Sale.  We ordered some shrubs and groundcovers and quickly came up with a planting plan for our native garden space.

Native Garden Plan

Native Garden Plan

Over the winter, the large Elm was removed due to disease and that it dropped large limbs onto our teachers’ cars!  We decided to feature the stump that was left, and created a secret space so the kids can sit on the stump and be surrounded by a mass of pink flowers.  Although we were faced with a change in the exposure to the site, we kept the Acer circinatum in the plan since it will be a fabulous anchor plant for the site, and it will be protected from the blazing sun by the walkway and the brick wall to the west.

  • Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)
  • Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)
  • Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
  • Coastal Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis)
  • Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
  • Salal (Gaultheria shallon)
  • Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum)
  • Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)

Our team picked up 1.5 yards of a sandy two-way soil from Sky Nursery and the Dirt Exchange to place over the woody berms.  Another team member picked up the bare-root plants and plugs.  Unfortunately, the Vaccinium didn’t arrive, so we used more Ribes and Amelanchier in their place.

And then the kids arrived for the first birthday party for the Native Garden. Our first-graders were great helpers.  They learned where to put their feet (on the walkways and not on the “frosting” of the planting cake) and how to hold and use their tools (like mixing a cake, not flipping pancakes).  They learned how to tickle the roots to spread them out, and how to hold the trees so that they would be planted with the tree up and the roots down.  Then they were watered in, and everyone wanted to plant some more!  I can’t wait to see how this garden develops.

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If you visited our school during the summer, you would have been amazed at the size of the three piles of arborist chips, nearly 50 cubic yards, that were donated over the summer, and spread flat over cardboard by our enthusiastic volunteers. The cardboard effectively suppresses weeds and grasses from growing into the garden. It will slowly decompose so we’ll add more chips on the paths each year, and over time build up a lovely spongy layer like a forest understory.

But why did we leave big piles in the Native Garden section? We’re building a large Hugelkultur. This permaculture method improves soil tilth by hilling up compost and soil over woody material. As the whole pile decomposes slowly, spaces open up between the materials which will hold water like a sponge. This will reduce our requirement for watering the native garden after the first year or two once the large woody shrubs are established. I’m sure you’ve noticed how dry this area is!

One year old hugelkultur diagram

One year old hugelkultur diagram from http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

Good compost is decaying plant matter with a balanced amount of carbon and nitrogen, approximately C25:N35.  Think of carbon as the fuel and nitrogen as one of the building blocks for microbial growth.  Things with a lot of carbon are typically woody and decay slowly.  Our layer of woody chips from a variety of locally trimmed trees has very high amounts of carbon. We’ll need to add a lot of material that is high in nitrogen, such as goat or chicken manure, and coffee grounds to balance that.

Starbucks Grounds for your Garden

Starbucks Grounds for your Garden – photo by NancyCreative

You can help us by collecting coffee grounds and dumping them on the piles in the Native Garden … no need to ask us permission. Just collect and dump!

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