A New Season

By Graduate Research Associate Carl Elliot

The nursery sowing season at Stafford Creek Correction Center (SCCC) opened amidst mud and construction.  Excessive rainfall throughout the spring led to great volumes of mud around the nursery, just as we completed the moving of the greenhouses from one area of the prison to another. I know that sounds redundant – excessive rainfall in Aberdeen, Washington – but it was truly more rain that usual.  April 2011 was one of the top five coldest April’s on record and one of the top ten years for precipitation. The State Climatologist’s report has some interesting facts about our anomalous weather. The rainfall combined with construction made for a muddy mess, but the building was well organized by the construction supervisors and crew at SCCC. Though they had to apply more foundation rock into the muddy morass than was budgeted, the green house and two hoop houses were up and running by the middle of April.

The greenhouse is beginning to get full as offenders sow seeds

Sowing began with some new species this year and some of the target species from previous years. Lomatium triternatum, the nine leaved biscuit-root, was a new species to the nursery and the early sowing in April should make for well rooted plants by October. Castilleja hispida (harsh Indian paintbrush) and Viola adunca (blue violet) are two species vital to the pollination ecology of the Salish Sea (Western Washington) prairies. We will probably be sowing these two species every year at the nursery for as long as it is in existence; the need for them for pollinator restoration is inexhaustible. With these two species, our goal this year is to perform trials, testing the germination rate in response to varying lengths of stratification. Stratification is the process of subjecting seeds to cold and/or moisture to replicate environmental conditions required to break seed dormancy.  Through trials, we hope to determine the appropriate amount of stratification time these seeds require to generate a high germination and seedling success rate.  To date, our experiences germinating these species in the nursery has not corresponded with what is indicated in the published literature. 

Research Associate Carl Elliot teaches about the ecology of the plants offenders are learning to sow.

We’ve also had several new members join the crew.  These new offenders have benefited from the training and experience of those that have returned from last season. The training video that was produced last year is very helpful in providing and introduction to nursery techniques.  We’ve partnered each new member with a mentor to learn about nursery production.  By learning each aspect of the nursery from soil making to record keeping, the offenders develop a greater range of skills to use when they re-enter society.

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