Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Willow Planting at Flat Ranch

In April, Idaho Nature Notes reported on winter willow clippings to help restore these plants along The Nature Conservancy’s Flat Ranch Preserve. The willows are cut in the winter while they are dormant, to be grown at a nursery and replanted this summer.

Dava McCann, the Conservancy’s East Idaho field steward, provides an update on that project:

To complete the restoration project The Nature Conservancy started last year on the Flat Ranch Preserve, we needed to plant the willows that Chet Work clipped in the spring. Two-hundred of the willow clippings have been delivered to Upper Valley Natives to be grown in five-gallon containers. These willows will be planted after reaching 5 feet in height. However, 300 willow clippings were placed in a freezer to remain dormant until they could be planted. On June 19, these willows were planted in a collaborative effort between employees of The Nature Conservancy and the Henry’s Fork Foundation.

Since the outlet has been removed from the channel for many years, the banks are highly susceptible to erosion. When the Henry’s Fork makes a natural bend, the bank on the outside of that bend gets eroded by the forces of water. These outside backs are thus in need of deep rooted woody vegetation to hold the soil of the bank in place. Our group of 6 people identified on maps the portions of the bank that would need to be protected and then located the exact stretches of the bank once on the ground.
The clippings were on average 6 feet long. We dug holes in the ground using a 6 foot long metal rod with a slightly larger diameter than the clippings. The holes were dug to depths at or below the water table. Clippings without roots will develop root systems if the basal end of the clipping is left in water. The willow clippings were then placed in the hole and the soil was closed back around the clipping. Spacing was left for the 200 five-gallon willows that will be planted at a later date. Although the success rate of the clippings is lower than the success rate of the five-gallon willows, we hope that the cuttings will begin to stabilize the banks of the channel before the greenhouse grown willows are ready to plant.
Thanks to the staff that made this project possible: Dava McCann, East Idaho land steward; Neal Kaufman, Flat Ranch education coordinator; Brett Tatman, Flat Ranch intern; Anne Marie Miller, Henry's Fork Foundation conservation technician; Catie Carr, HFF intern; Bryan Jones, HFF intern

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