Author Archives: Nancy

Space To GROW

September 17, 2014

We have plenty of space to grow more plants in the orchard! We could spend a lot of money purchasing all the berry bushes and companion plants we need to fill the tree guilds and planting beds. Instead, we are propagating our own plants, mostly from cuttings and division. New plants, new skills.

I took my first propagation lesson at Seattle Tilth. The winter savory we cut and planted in that class 140530 propagation WP_20140530_004is now growing in the Liberty tree guild. A ‘cutting’ is a piece of new growth taken from the plant and cared for while it races to develop roots to stand on its own.

Propagation from a cutting is not as simple as just snipping a woody stem and sticking it in the soil. Some plants, like willow, are almost that easy but most require careful attention to several factors. The new growth must be cut at the right time, properly prepared, placed in the right medium, and kept moist, but not wet. So far, I’ve been successful with winter savory, grapes, currents, honeyberries, lavender, and elderberry. I have failed with figs and blueberries, but I’m not giving up. I’ve learned a few things and I’ll try again.

Propagation by plant division is much easier. Often it is as simple as digging up a plant, dividing the 140917 straw propagation 910root mass, and replanting as two or more plants. For example, at a spring work party volunteers divided the daffodil bulbs growing around the pear tree and moved half of them to the Early Fuji tree guild.

Strawberries divide themselves by sending out runners. I’ve been placing the young runners in little pots where they can take root and mature. I then move them to a new guild.

Propagation from either cuttings or plant division gives you an exact copy of the parent plant. As such, it is important that you like what that parent produced. Before I take cuttings of a fruit-bearing plant, I taste the fruit! Likewise, if I want to propagate a pollinator plant I make sure I’m cutting from a plant that bees like.

Sun, Sept 21, 2-4pm, Work Party
We can use weeders
Sat, Oct 18 2-5pm, Cider Fest!
We can use volunteers
Sun, Oct 19, 2-4pm, Work Party
We can use compost

As I’ve worked at starting new plants, I’ve amassed a few resources. I usually start by doing a web search on the name of the plant I want to grow and then add ‘propagation’. I find the state and county extension service sites most trustworthy. A good one from North Carolina is  The Secrets of Plant Propagation, by Lewis Hill, is an excellent manual to which I refer frequently, but I am not always patient enough to follow his highly regimented methods.

We still need volunteers to help on the Plant Selection Committee. Please consider serving.

Nancy H.

Enlisting Nature to Stem Climate Change

March 16, 2013

On February 27 I attended a panel discussion on, Enlisting Nature to Stem Climate Change: Capturing carbon in our NW cities, farms and forests, co-sponsored by the Sustainable Path Foundation and Climate Solutions. Speakers discussed ways in which forest, urban, and agricultural landscapes can be managed to increase their ability to capture and store carbon dioxide in the form of organic carbon. They also elaborated on other ways that we might mitigate climate change by our use, management and interaction with these landscapes.

Nancy Rottle, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington, talked about the urban landscape. She used the term green infrastructure to encompass plant-based urban landscapes and all of the functions they perform. The multiple functions of green infrastructure can be categorized as: social, circulatory, biologic, hydrologic, and metabolic.

The social function provides community and open space. The circulatory function helps to provide opportunities for active transport: walking, running and bicycling. The biologic function addresses the ways that green spaces can provide habitat that increases the biological diversity of urban areas. The hydrologic function refers to the ways that green landscapes can be part of the use, treatment, storage, and transport of water. In the metabolic function green infrastructure becomes part of our energy and food systems.

Professor Rottle elaborated on these functions with several important points. Green infrastructure can side-step climate-related controversy because we like it and want it. Green infrastructure helps promote resiliency and redundancy in the urban environment. Good social space helps make urban density palatable so it’s easier and nicer for people to live with a smaller environmental footprint. Urban greening and habitat provide contact with the natural world which helps cultivate environmental values. Growing food is an important way for people to start building connections with their environment. The ways that green infrastructure treats, stores and uses water can save energy.

After listening to this discussion, especially Professor Rottle, I have some new ways to think and talk about the goals of Freeway Estates Community Orchard. We are creating green infrastructure that can provide services in all five of the functional areas discussed.