<% Language=VBScript%> Discovery Park Habitat - Yearly Restoration Cycle

The Habitat Restoration Yearly Planning Process

Last Updated: 10/1/2005  Home

This page is a summary of the process we go through each year to carry out another cycle of restoration in our adopted areas. It is by no means exhaustive, but it does give an idea of what must be done (probably in perpetuity) to actually restore and sustain a native plant ecosystem in Discovery Park.

The steps below are usually done in the order shown, but realize that the steps can be going on independently for multiple areas at the same time, either by different stewards or by a single steward who feels comfortable with multi-tasking(!).

The whole process also pre-supposes that a particular area has been mapped, at least in a rudimentary fashion, to isolate regions with different conditions, and thus different plant possibilties at the micro-scale. At the macro-scale, certain principles have been laid out by the Discovery Park Vegetation Management Plan (VMP); for example, to increase the coniferous forest cover of the North Slope. This macro-scale principle leads to many micro-decisions each season on what needs to be done (ie more conifers, some other tree species for a diverse forest, some understory shrubs suitable for slopes, meadows, etc., and various groundcovers for low-level habitat).

The process is biased towards what Tom and Phil do on the North Slope (Areas 9/24/31), but should be helpful to other stewards. In these areas, we have a map of over 50 sub-regions which we plan on an individual basis. We augment any plants the Park is able to provide from the City nursery with native plants gathered in salvage operations in King County, grown from bare roots purchased from the King Conservation District or purchased outright from local native plant nurseries. Our budget for native plants is about $2000-$3000 per year. We also maintain a spreadhseet showing what has been planted in each area and region within the area to support survivability monitering.

Without further ado, here's the list (for Area 31, part of the North Slope):

  1. MAR Review overall plan for Area 31, re the VMP.

  2. MAR Decide which Region(s) within Area 31 to focus on this season. The Area 31 Region map shown elsewhere on the web site, lists 20 different regions within Area 31, ranging from open forest to thickets to sandy bluffs and slopes.

  3. MAR For each Region, evaluate status of the plants put into it last season. Consider planting more of the flourishing survivors this season. Decide if the plants which are struggling are victims of drought (do more hand-watering on these next season, if possible) or light levels (ie too much sun or not enough -- think ahead about light levels when the trees get big). Note the plants which mostly or all died -- they don't want to be in this Region right now, so don't waste time and money trying these next season, or at least do some serious thinking about how to help them survive better.

    Consult Pojar and other books and resources to determine which additional species to try in this Region this season. Pay attention to documentation which lists associated species for plants already there. Be realistic about the number and variety of species which are really available at local nurseries. Some natives would be fantastic to get into this area in the sunny slopes (eg Garrya elliptica or Silk Tassle), but may be hard to get in meaningful numbers or too expensive (a 2-foot Garrya elliptica at local nurseries can go for over $50 for one plant).

  4. APR After appropriate research, make a list for each Region of planned species and number of plants. Visit the Region and verify there is an appropriate place in the Region for each species.

  5. APR-SEP Prepare each Region for the next season's plantings. For the initial years of the restoration process, especially in Area 31, most work consists of repeatedly cutting and digging out all Himalayan blackberries and Scotch Broom. Currently, the preparation consists of cutting blackberry and Scotch Broom survivors and digging out invasive grass to below the sod level. Because haul-away support by Park Staff is problematical, all cut invasives and sod are composted on site by making long, winding berms which have many advantages. This is all explained in much more detail on a web site page devoted to the Crop-Circle or Ink-Spot method of meadow restoration. After the sod is dug out, we usually apply a thick layer of wood chips to start the re-building of soil bacteria and organic matter in the sandy soil, to hold moisture and to serve as a ready source of mulching for the plants to be installed later.

  6. APR-OCT Acquire plants for each Region. In earlier months, APR-JUN, buy plants at WNPS or other plant sales, salvage plants, grow bare roots, etc and store these in Tom and Phil's amateur nurseries (driveways) where they can be watered and tended all Summer. In SEP-OCT, buy plants from native plant nurseries and take directly to Discovery Park for storage in our staging area behind Building 417.

  7. SEP Organize and inventory plants in staging areas by Region

  8. OCT Transport plants to Discovery Park and stage in the target Regions.

  9. OCT-NOV Place all plants in a Region in their final locations and assess the overall affect and adjust as necessary. These pots may sit around in the target Regions for a few days, weeks or even months before they get planted. This time of year, they shouldn't dry out, but check anyway and also be on the lookout for a hard freeze. A hard freeze can damage a potted plant, but rarely hurts one in the ground unless it was just planted a week or two before and its root system has no way to protect the plant yet. You can't do much about the latter case (excpet avoid planting when a hard freeze is definitely in the offing), but you CAN move plants back under a tree for protection during a freeze (they get much colder when they can radiate to the sky).

  10. OCT-FEB (PLANTING SEASON) For a given Region, dig the holes for the placed pots. Grade the site and level out a terrace on steep slopes. Since the planting areas have have probably been prepared by removal of sod and application of wood chips, rake away chips where the hole will go; try not to mix any wood chips into the soil you are putting back into the hole. Mound soil around the hole to eventually provide a shallow depression around the plant stem to naturally sequester water rather than let it run uselessly down the slope. After the hole is dug, drop the pot into it and leave it there until you can finish planting it. In the hole it even gets more protection from freezing weather.

  11. OCT-FEB When ready to plant the contents of the pot, put a half-gallon of water into the hole and let it perk away. If Nature has been kind, and the hole has been setting there getting rained into for days, weeks or months and the soil is wet, you don't need to carry all that water to each hole, but be wary -- plants not planted with enough water are as good as gone and a waste of your time and money.

  12. OCT-FEB Once the applied water has perked or if the hole is already wet enough, de-pot the plant and correct any root-bound conditions (take a look at the web page on this site devoted to planting native plants for more details). Then put the plant in appropriately prepared hole and back-fill to 75% if the soil is dry and water again. Otherwise, just fill to 100% and smooth the soil to the level where soil was on the stem when it was in the pot.

  13. OCT-FEB Once the soil in the hole has been applied and gently compacted, apply chips or simply push back the layer of chips in the area to form a shallow mound around the plant stem. Carefully push all chips away from the stem and the area where it enters the soil, as some plants will suffer bark rot if wet chips bury the stem for a long time. If conditions are dry, water again over the final planting.

  14. OCT-FEB Either when planting or later, apply LWD (Large Woody Debris), as desired around the plant. Consult the web page on this site devoted to LWD for more background/rationale for this practice.

  15. MAY-AUG Moniter the plants and weed the immediate area to suppress return of invasives and also to remove competitors for water. Apply water by hand as needed during the dry season. Update the spreadsheets showing what plants are planted in each Region.

  16. MAY-AUG Visit often to see the new growth in this Region and start thinking about the next season in this Region !