A zero-waste way of mulching

Patchwork Farms/Capay Valley Lavender
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 26, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Sherri Wood – Patchwork Farms/Capay Valley Lavender
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Beth DelReal
Thomas Steensland
Josh McCabe
Cody Hamer
Jen Knudsen
Lars Knudsen
Anna Tolle
Stuart

Summary of the Day
When I visited Patchwork Farms last summer for a meeting with landowner Sherri Wood and Yolo County RCD Project Manager Joanne Heraty, Sherri showed us a big pile of lavender stems she kept from her harvest and asked if we could use it as mulch around the hedgerow project we were planning. “Why not, it’s worth a try!” was Joanne’s reply, which brings me to our second (and third! Another double day) field day at Patchwork Farms.

I will say, this was the best-smelling SLEWS Field Day I have ever experienced – the spent lavender clippings were still incredibly fragrant. Our volunteer crew had a little aromatherapy bonus to go along with the hard work! The other bonus was this was a great way to use up Sherri’s lavender waste while providing our native hedgerow with weed prevention and increased water retention.

Our two shifts of volunteers mulched around two lines of plants, 342 plants in all. We had great weather all day, with rain beginning only as I unloaded gear at the end of the day. This rain turned into the HUGE storm we all remember in late January, with power out and damage done throughout the Sacramento Valley. With the addition of mulch, hopefully our plants can enjoy that water for a few weeks to come!

The second phase of hedgerows at the Maples

The Maples
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 9, 2020

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Miles DaPrato
Sara Bernal
Joel Jorgensen
MJ Farruggia
Katie Wrightson
Ric Murphy
Chris Jadallah
Joel Jorgensen
Corey Shake
Kendra Just
Bri Grosskopf
Ric Murphy
Dominic Carrillo

Summary of the Day
For our first “double header” SLEWS day (two field days in one!), we were at Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples. As you may recall, Woodland High School students participated in a SLEWS project here last year, installing a native plant hedgerow and grasses in the stormwater basin (see the blog posts here: https://landbasedlearning.org/blog/category/slews-program/the-maples/). This year’s project would be somewhat of a continuation of that project, a hedgerow and native grassland perpendicular to that site and extending around an adjacent ag field.

We began the day by installing an irrigation system, working as a team to lay out the irrigation line and install emitters. We followed by planting 205 native plants in the very dry soil – we had to use pickaxes in order to loosen the ground enough to plant! Many of these plants were planted in metal baskets to protect the roots from pesky gophers. We also installed a protective tube around each plant to protect it from wind, herbicides, and pests. The morning volunteer crew got through about two thirds of the planting before the afternoon crew arrived to finish up. Then we began on the next task – mulching! Yolo County RCD had strategically placed native grass straw bales along the hedgerow, and we applied a thick layer of mulch around each plant to assist with moisture retention and prevent weed growth. Finally, to prepare for the native grass seeding to come in a few weeks, we cleared a bunch of cobblestones from an area they had been discarded. Looking forward to watching this hedgerow mature right outside our office doors!

Becoming native plant caretakers

Winters High School at Putah Creek Dry Creek Confluence
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 21, 2020

Participating School
Winters High School

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Valerie Whitworth and Michael Barbour

Mentors
Carolyn Kolstad, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Josh McCabe, Restoration Coordinator at ACRT Pacific
Karleen Vollherbst, Schoolyard Habitat Program Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Lea Pollack, UCD Graduate Student
Marisa Alcorta, Apprenticeship Program Manager, Center for Land-Based Learning

Summary of the Day
Our final day working at the confluence of Putah Creek and Dry Creek in Winters was a hot one, but that didn’t stop us from accomplishing a TON of work.

After mentor groups faced off in a game of PVC golf, we headed down to our planting site to hear from Amy Williams of Yolo County Resource Conservation District about the plans for the day. The main goal was supporting the plants we had planted on our second field day to give them the best possible chance at survival. This was a multi-step process. First, students checked to make sure the emitter was working properly. Then, they installed protective tubes around each plant and drove a bamboo stake into the ground to keep the tube upright. They then cleared weeds around the plant and applied a thick layer of mulch to prevent weed growth around the plant and minimize water loss. There were a few areas in which plants needed to be planted as well, so we planted about 15 native plants in addition to what we had done on our second field day. As we planted, students and mentors noticed many birds around the project site, including yellow-rumped warblers, western bluebirds, and tree swallows.

After a productive morning, we had burritos for lunch and celebrated the last SLEWS day with a cupcake cake. Once lunch was finished, we moved on to mentor interviews. By now, students had been working with their mentors for 3 field days, and this gave them an opportunity to get to know them even better and ask them questions about their education and career paths. As you can see by the diverse job titles above, students were able to hear about several different lines of work and asked great questions, a popular one being, “what is the most surprising thing about your job?”.

To close the day, we shared our favorite experiences of all three SLEWS Field Days. Many students cited visiting Putah Creek on Day 1 and learning about black widow behavior with mentor Lea on Day 2 as their favorite experiences, along with mulching and planting.

Thanks for 3 awesome Field Days!