We plant native plants because they are good for the environment. Native plants heal damaged land, provide food and shelter for creatures large and small, filter runoff and cool streams. It only makes sense that growing native plants be done in a way that heals.
Tadpole Haven is located near the top of the Bear Creek watershed, a biologically diverse and sensitive area. The Paradise Valley Conservation Area is just upstream from us. We operate our nursery in a way that integrates with the natural areas that surround us and supports good water quality and high-grade wildlife habitat.
Sheet-mulching and Arborist Chips: We made the decision early on to minimize our use of synthetic ground-cloth to suppress weeds in the nursery; this petroleum-based fabric eventually winds up in a landfill. We use wood chips from local arborists, sheet-mulching first with cardboard. The chips also buffer the nursery pots from temperature extremes. Wood chips have an almost magical effect on the soil underneath, bringing in all kinds of biological activity; fungi, worms, insects, centipedes: our moles are happy! When we started the nursery in the mid-‘90s, the area we began with was disturbed, having been scraped clear of topsoil decades ago. We are proud that when this area is no longer a nursery, it will be able to support a garden of Eden. It is worth the extra time and effort we spend.
Healthy Weed and Pest Control: We weed the nursery plants and beds by hand, which is time-consuming, as any good gardener knows! Plants in containers are in an artificial state, which often makes them vulnerable to pests or fungal diseases. When we run into some kind of pest problem, we find ways of changing the way we care for them; perhaps we’ve given them too much water or maybe they need a different location within the nursery. We don’t rely on herbicides, fungicides and other pesticides. We look at most “diseases” and “pests” as part of the environment and try to give them few chances to get out of balance. But a few spots or nibbles? Not usually treated as a big deal, but as a message from the plants. We have never felt the need for chemical pesticides. As a result, birds, amphibians and insects use our nursery as habitat.
Natural and Organic Fertilizers: Most of the fertilizers on the market are made with natural gas, a petroleum product. We have moved away from natural gas-based fertilizers and use fish- or plant-based and organic fertilizers. We use locally-produced Walt’s Organic Fertilizer in our potting soil mix. The fertilizers we choose tend to be slower-acting than conventional fertilizers, so our plants sometimes grow slower, but are hardy. We avoid the temptation to create lush-looking beauty queens that collapse when confronted with real-world conditions.
Local Sources and Local Genes: Nearly all of our plants begin their lives in one of three ways: as a plant harvested from our growing areas at the nursery, from a seed or cutting that we ourselves have collected and sown or “stuck” directly into containers, or from seeds grown by other native nurseries on the west side of the Cascades. We make a real effort to stick with plants that have a local genotype. This often makes a difference in the long-term vigor of the plant. It also helps keep the gene-pool of locally-adapted plants strong.
Conservative Irrigation and Sustainable Soil: We water judiciously, and have many plants in pools, where they can be thoroughly watered from the bottom up; even in the hottest weeks of the year the pools only need to be filled once a week. We use our compost in the field-growing beds. Our potting soil mix contains locally provided waste bark from lumber mills. We use no peat in our main potting mix, though our seedling mix is still peat-based. We’re always looking for ways to get around using mined materials such as peat. We’d like to find a low-impact alternative to the pumice we use in our mix. We welcome your input!
Re-Use!: The manufacture of plastic nursery containers is energy- and petroleum-intensive. Though we have not (yet) found a way to avoid using plastic pots and flats, we re-use them. This saves money and reduces waste. We use old newspapers and cardboard boxes in our sheet-mulching process. You can help! Bring your excess cardboard and unbroken plastic flats and pots (1+ gallon size) next time you visit us!