WRN Teens – Native seed cleaning and planting

WRN Teens – Native seed cleaning and planting at Laurel Creek Nature Centre – February 1 2020
 
What better way to start a cold February day than by feeding a ravenous flock of Black-capped Chickadees? Up to 17 chickadees landed on each hand in the cool half hour before our afternoon session. This fun feeding activity provided incentive for the Waterloo Region Nature Teens to arrive early at the Laurel Creek Nature Centre for a joint community action session for teens, open to the public.

Three groups and 25 volunteers worked together for the first time. Thirteen members of Waterloo Region Nature Teens (including new members Eric, Owen and Jonah) and their Volunteer Coordinator Marg Paré gathered together for our first work project of 2020. The Grand River Conservation Authority provided experienced leadership (Sarah Fleischhauer: Development and Community Outreach Coordinator) and experience (Lindsay Campbell: Restoration Specialist), as well as equipment and a work space. The Waterloo Public Library coordinated and advertised the activity under the direction of Becky Roi (Programmer and Library Assistant).

Lindsay has 10 years experience in the field so she showed ambition and farsightedness last fall by going out and collecting seeds and pods of 10 native, local, wildflower species (Wild Bergamot, Foxglove, Black-eyed Susan, Bluestem Grass, Lanced-leaved Coreopsis, Gray-head Coneflower, Indian Grass, Dense Blazing Star, Blue Vervain and my personal favourite, Butterfly Weed). She then led us through the seeding process.

Native (indigenous species) were selected since they require less water (due in part to their deeper roots), appeal and nutritional value to wildlife.

Step one was to clean and separate the seeds from their pods or compound heads. This was a lengthy and finicky process involving great patience, manual dexterity and much sneezing. The group divided into teams, removed stems, fluff, casings or daisy-like centres, and ended up with 10 bowls of dust-like seeds (like Foxglove) and larger traditionally sized seeds (such as Gray-head Coneflower). The seeds were then placed into envelopes and labelled with both their English and scientific Latin name.

Step two was a down and dirty affair. It involved filling two wheel barrows with peat moss, filling gallon pots within 10 cm of the top, and hand compressing the dry moss.

Step three incorporated a lighter touch. Five to eight seeds of one species were sprinkled on top of the moss, then covered with a dusting of soil (only to a depth two to three times their seed length). A plastic label with both the English and Latin name on it was placed in each pot. Great care was taken to keep the pots dry since we did not want the seeds to absorb water and germinate until April or May.

Unbelievably, a total of 185 seeded pots were created, along with a number of envelopes full of native seeds. At some future date in the spring another volunteer event will be held to plant this precious cargo throughout natural areas in the region.

Our final activities of the day were to clean up the basement of the Laurel Creek Nature Centre (25 people can make one heck of a mess with seeds and clouds of peat moss) and to visit a native plant meadow previously created outside the nature centre, lead by Sarah and Lindsay.

After well earned congratulations, the Teens and other volunteers parted, expressing hope to continue the planting phase of the project in the spring.

Linda Dutka for Waterloo Region Nature Teens