An Update on Nate’s Forest

When I visited Nate a couple weekends ago, I got a chance to see his forest first-hand. Some of the trees had died, but some were actually doing quite well!

This birch (er…actually red alder? we think?) is doing really well! (See the previous post for comparison.)

The avocado is hanging in there. It survived both 107°F heat and no watering for an entire week when Nate was on the East Coast. I’d say it’s done remarkably well, considering. That tuft of broth on the top is actually healthy new growth.

Unfortunately, something (someone) has been chewing the base of the stem.

The top of the oaks were eaten, but there are still a couple of small leaves.

This maple is also doing really well:

I was so impressed! I really didn’t think these plants would survive transplanting.

But then…….

The very next day, the city came by a mowed a thick perimeter of the triangular lot. There are blackberry bushes in this lot (which Nate had been diligently clipping out of the area where he planted the trees), and I suppose the city thought the bushes were encroaching on the sidewalk/street too much.

The unfortunate consequence was that most of Nate’s trees were mowed down in the process. It’s really a shame. I know that blackberries are an invasive species and the city needs to do something or they can get really out of control, but is mowing really the best strategy?

From what I read (and I’m no expert), it seems like the most effective strategy is clipping the blackberries and selectively applying herbicide to anything that regrows. That strategy, of course, involves nasty chemicals, which, fortunately, Seattle generally (but not always) tries to avoid.

Repeated mowing is another strategy. By continually cutting off any leaves, the blackberries can’t make energy and they eventually run out of steam. This seems to be what the city is doing with Nate’s plot. The major drawback of this method is that mowing cuts everything down, so you can’t plant native plants that could provide competition for the blackberries.

A third strategy is digging up the blackberries. This can be effective, but it’s hard to get the entire root system out, and in the process of digging you’re bringing new weed seeds to the surface and potentially creating an even bigger problem.

To be fair, none of those options seems great for blackberry control, so mowing the plot is… I suppose…. a reasonable thing to do….

…but would be even better is to turn this plot into a community garden! There are a number of P-Patches around this city, which always have long wait lists. The future P-Patchers could have put in the time to do what Nate was doing – manually clipping the blackberry canes (repeatedly) and planting other non-invasive plants in their place – to eventually clear the land and put it to good use.

Lo and behold, there is a page on’s website called “Create A New P-Patch Community Garden,” complete with a handy-dandy flow chart! I had no idea it was that easy! Anyone can start a P-Patch!

I don’t expect that Nate has the time or bandwidth to actually start a P-Patch, but it’s a really great resource to know about! I was initially upset with the city for mowing the lot, but they’re doing the best they can. This feels like a moment to invoke John F. Kennedy’s words, “Ask not what [Seattle] can do for you, ask what you can do for [Seattle].”

2 thoughts on “An Update on Nate’s Forest”

  1. Thanks for sharing the p-patch resource. I’m tempted, but it looks like a lot of work! Just getting water service seems like it would be a big undertaking.

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