1. Quite an amazing transformation out there in basically 3 days… About how many “oak circles” got planted? Where did the “oak circle” concept come about? How has the strategy changed from what you guys did last season on the same field?
Two oaks in the middle, coyote brush, black sage, elderberry, mugwort
I’d say around 60 circles with OVLC Restoration Field Crew and The CREW. The oak circle came from Brian, and where he got it I don’t know. It’s a way to create a little island of life which we hope will grow and spread seed to each side; it’s a way to cover a large amount of ground without having to close plant, and leaves space in between for grasses to flourish. Also the areas we’re planting in oak circles are designed to be oak woodland and grassy areas. The work we did in the same field last year was somewhat different in that we planted what will become a dense thicket of basically coyote brush with oaks in between. The thicket is designed specifically to be denser so as to try and out compete a nasty infestation of the invasive plant Russian knapweed (it gives us some small idea how the Ukrainians must feel right now) which is very hard to control by hoeing. Even if we did use herbicides (which we don’t typically use) on it it wouldn’t be very successful. Also, because of fire safety issues and proximity to our nursery and the elementary school we planted mostly coyote brush which tends to be fire suppressive. For that reason we also didn’t mulch the thicket area. That smaller field also had grant requirements in it to install wildlife features and that’s why there are raptor bird houses and perch poles sprinkled throughout and at the edges.
2. Tell us about the circles. Diameter of each one? How far apart is each one from each other? Why two oaks instead of one? What was the thinking on the complementary shrub species you planted?
Each circle is around 8′ in diameter and in the planting in question we’ve spread them out a little and they are around 30′ on center. We plant two oaks because we expect one of them to die–in another recent oak circle planting next to Nordhoff we slotted in valley oaks. The one complementary planting that we follow are coyote brush and live oaks. Other plants are chosen based on what is or would be found in the area.
3. What was the thought process on the grass plantings, i.e. the purple needle grass within the circles and the Creeping Rye in between?
Purple needle grass (in my yard, a year old)
The grass plantings in the oak circles were done with purple needle grass plugs grown in our nursery and the hope is that these will grow and spread seed. Also, by planting in circles we can maximize and yet conserve water but not being too spread out. The field was already sown with wildflower and native grass mix pre-rain by a local farmer. The creeping rye is a grass which can really “creep” and spread out and so by interplanting we hope it will thrive and spread in between the oak circles. We also, spread more grass and wildflower seed into the oak circles.
4. How was the soil to work with? Would this massive planting been possible without the rain from 2 weeks ago? What were some difficulties faced in the planting process?
Mugwort and mulefat
The soil pre storms had to be pre soaked and let sit because it is so clayey it is too gummy to plant. Post rain we let the ground sit for the same reason. What’s great about the quality of the soil in that planting is that the ground really soaks up the moisture and retains it. On the surface it can dry out and look cracked, but dig down a foot in July and the soil is damp.
5. Most aggressive non-natives you will have to deal with over the next few months? What sort of mortality rate do you predict? What are the main causes of plant failure?
We will have to deal with the usual suspects: black mustard and purple vetch and possibly filaree. The mortality can vary, but probably about 30%. The main causes of plant failure can be planting shock, lack of water before the plants get established and gophers. I’d say gophers are one of the biggest problems since we take good care of the plants when we slot them into the ground and keep them well maintained until they establish. Also, with the advent of weeds and grasses, the gophers will tend to go for those tastier roots rather than the natives we’ve planted.
6. How often do you think you will need to water this summer. How long will it take to water this entire field?
We will probably water every couple of weeks out there this summer and will have to be aware of out water usage given the drought. Luckily we have our own water supply (solar pumped well) recharged by the wetland. I’d say we can sprinkle water the whole field in a few hours.
7. Any thanks you’d like to give out….