Cultivating that Green Thumb

Cultivating that Green Thumb

Summer is in full swing here at the North Cascades. We have had many weeks where temperatures have been in the high 90s or low 100s! Fires are throwing smoke in the air, and the warmer weather is attracting more visitors. Luckily, we have yet to get as warm as last year with the high of 113°F. With these warmer weeks, watering is a must! 

I have mentioned what I’ve been up to on a broad scale this summer, but in this blog I thought it would be good to explain my day-to-day tasks here with the native plant restoration program.

Area image that identifies main areas for nursery work. Photo captured from Google Maps

Before even the sun is above the mountain, we check the plants to see if they need watered. On the left, I roughly outlined my work area. The greenhouse and old greenhouse area is watered by sprinklers. Weekly, we hand water the tree saplings to make sure they are getting sufficient water. The shade bed and sun bed get hand watered when needed. Recently it has been daily! I am not sure how much water we use, but I roughly calculated that we use at least 2,000 gallons per day! 

Once watering is done, there are always various tasks to be worked on around the greenhouse area. When I mentioned how I spent HOURS transplanting seedlings, I meant it. Even though I am not transplanting as much at this moment in time, myself and my team have already transplanted over 8,000 plants this season! 

There is a a whole process in order to transplant these seedlings to get them ready to be installed into a revegetation site. Below I roughly break that process down! 


Collect the Seeds

Seed collecting occurs during late summer once a project is finalized. Seed is gathered locally, cleaned, and sown into seed beds late fall to cold stratify and germinate over the winter months.

Transplant seedlings into pots

In spring, when the young plants have grown, we transplant each seedling one by one into pots. This includes reusing pots, and making our own potting soil!

Reuse the pots

Instead of buying new pots, we reuse them! After use, the pots are scrubbed out with water and sterilized so they can be used again.

Soil Making

We sift and sterilize dirt at 170ºF before adding coconut coir and perlite.

Water the seedlings until installation day

These plants will stay in the greenhouse for a couple weeks before getting moved out into the shade bed. When they mature even more, they are then moved to another area, depending on what that specific plant likes!

Bare root the plant

When installation day comes, plants are usually bare rooted the day before. This means they are taken out of their pots and removed of any excess soil. They are then bunched up with same plant species, and their roots are kept in a container with some moisture to prevent drying out . This makes them more manageable to carry, as well as it reduces the weight significantly.

Restoration day(s)

Plants are installed into the restoration site with plenty of water to help mitigate the transplant shock.

Water and weed

Monitoring the restoration site is a must if we want a successful project. Sites are watered and weeded throughout the months where it is needed until the plants are fully mature and producing seed.

To give a little more understanding about soil making and transplanting, below are some time-lapse videos of myself completing the tasks at hand. 

Create Potting Soil: Sift the dirt

Here at NOCA, we try to stay local. We recycle our used soil and compost organic material to create our soil. In order to do this, we have a compost pile where we sift out unwanted materials, such as rocks and non-decomposed organic matter. 

Create the Potting Soil: Adding sustenance

After the dirt is sterilized by heat (170°F), it is cooled before adding perlite and coconut coir. We add these two ingredients to help with nutrients, proper drainage, and proper water retention. The ratio we use is 3:1:1.

Transplant the Seedlings

Using the soil we created, we will transplant those new plants from the seedbed into their own pots! Here you can see me transplanting some yarrow (Achillea millefolium).


Unfortunately I don’t have any videos of myself installing plants into the ground yet!  We are waiting for some rainfall before we get these plants to their new homes. This is to give them the best chance since the ground is currently very dry from the lack of rain. Instead, enjoy the video of our typical boat day when we go out to water current restoration sites along Ross Lake. If you can’t tell, the video is a bit smoky since we have multiple active fires in the park!


Although I do enjoy summer, I am ready for fall. Fall brings rain, and it is what I am hoping for. One reason is to put these wildfires out. The fires quickly put a stop to our planned backpacking trips which is a bummer. The other reason is so we can start putting plants into the restoration sites. Without rain, we are just in an endless cycle of watering! Anyone else ready for fall?

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