Friends of Trees is no stranger to creatively addressing challenges. Though the magnitude of the current challenge presented by the COVID 19 fallout is massive, our team is experienced delivering our mission during difficult times.
Weather is often the cause of the unpredictable: snow and ice storms, extreme heat, buckets of rain – all have impacted planting and caring for trees. These are the times when we take a step back, take a deep breath, and reconsider the possibilities. And we’re doing that now.
Friends of Trees is going to stretch as we find ways to continue to engage our community to plant trees. For instance, for the first time ever, our Summer Inspector training program went virtual – in the midst of this pandemic we still have over 200 people who want to look out for young trees and make sure they have a strong start.
You will continue to see new approaches, and we’ll likely be leaning on our support network of volunteers in new ways. What won’t change: Friends of Trees is still here, we will still plant trees and grow community. We know it will be more important than ever to help build a future with strong community connections – and, of course, more trees and healthy natural areas.
Here are some examples of how Friends of Trees is flexing (be sure to keep reading to the Eugene Branch to see how our Eugene Tree Team is getting creative):
Connecting youth to the environment. Springtime for our Green Space Program usually includes deep engagement with school and agency partners, connecting youth to the environment through classroom curriculum, field trips, and tree planting.
To continue this work for the students at South Meadows Middle School during this time of social distancing, Green Space Tree Team members met virtually with teachers, Clean Water Services staff, and our educational consultant, Jamie Stamberger; we asked, in the absence of live visits and field trips, how can we help you meet your need? The result is a science-based, virtual curriculum comprised of video and slides that students can work from at home; a printed version was also created, for students without regular internet access.
Ely O’Connor, with funding partner Clean Water Services shares, “Shifting from in-person field programs to virtual content has been quite a learning experience. Luckily we have great relationships with our teachers and partners, which has made the transition not only smooth, but fun! We really want to support teachers and students during this difficult time with content that is engaging and inspiring.”
The focus of this partnership is watershed health, specific to the Tualatin River. Friends of Trees’ lesson contributions focused on rain gardens, native plants, and pollution. Green Space Tree Team members Harrison Layer and Nanda Ramos made videos at home, which were shared with a videographer who edited them into the final products.
“We had our own creative license to take the curriculum material and turn it into fun, informative video content.” This was an exciting part of the process for Harrison, whose rain garden lesson is a perfect example of this creative, informative content:
Harrison used his own rain garden as an example of how to filter and also capture roof runoff from rain, preventing pollutants from flowing into the sewer system. Harrison guides students through the design process and explains things like ideal size (10% of roof area); components (3 zones: dry, moderate, wet); and, general design, such as creating a channel to emulate a river, using rock and gravel, and planting a variety of native plants such as sedges, rushes, perennial wildflowers (Oregon sunshine, red columbine, large leaved lupine), and big shrubs “that really like to clean water” such as Pacific ninebark and Douglas spirea.
Here’s where some of that creative license comes in: Harrison found an open area with a deep slope and had a housemate film him,
“I rolled down the hill and became stormwater runoff. At the bottom I talked about all the pollutants I accumulated while I rolled.” Harrison then went on to explain how rain gardens can intercept these pollutants, which in turn helps keep our rivers and waterways cleaner and healthier.
What do the students get out of this? Harrison says, “For me, I would like students to come away seeing themselves as part of the environment, and for them to see how all the pieces connect. Do they feel connected to the water cycle? Do they understand that everyone lives in a watershed? And if so, maybe they’ll start to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Above photo: Harrison with his rain garden.
Summer Inspectors help trees thrive. Summer Inspectors are one of our most popular volunteer roles; SIs visit recently planted street and yard trees (they also visit a subset of older trees, learn more here), toward helping tree recipients properly care for new trees.
Typically we recruit volunteers to attend live training events for new SIs, but social distancing required some big changes: our Volunteer Program went above & beyond to recruit volunteers, who then participated in an incredible online training – a first for us!
Put together by Neighborhood Tree Team members Litzy Venturi, Haley Miller, Michelle Yasutake, Kassy Delgado, and joined by EDI Specialist Surabhi Mahajan, the training video covers the different aspects of the training program: About the Summer Inspector Program; The importance of Young Tree Care; Trees & Environmental Justice; Data Collection; and more! It’s very digestible chapters with accompanying graphics and clear, concise narrative from the team who put it together. Followed by live Zoom-based Q & A sessions, the training received rave reviews:
I think we all owe you a great deal of appreciation for creating this ‘FIRST VIRUS SPECIFIC TRAINING”!
I enjoyed learning about environmental justice and the role FOT plays with supporting that.
I particularly enjoyed the maps that showed how the different levels of heat across Portland corresponded with the tree canopy percentage!
It was really nice to be able to complete it remotely! I have 2 small kids so being able to do things after bedtime is nice. The slides were great and the instructors were clear.
Lessons, of course, were learned. Litzy shares, “It took a lot of collaboration with the team, much more than expected, to get this result. Working remotely, without the opportunity to stop by their desks, I had to lean into trusting my teammates and their strengths; fortunately, I knew they also had high expectations for a strong final product.”
And a strong final product is exactly what we ended up with, making it all very worthwhile, for the team, for participants, and for the trees.
There is a lot more flexible, creative programming in our future, and we know there will be more lessons learned plus triumphs achieved. Through it all we couldn’t ask for a more supportive, enthusiastic tree family, and we are so grateful that you are a part of it.
Even though our season was cut short, more than 6,000 individuals came together to plant 47,000+ trees and native shrubs! Here’s a tree-rific Thank You video, courtesy of our very talented Volunteer & Outreach Program staff.
Have you recently planted a fruit tree? Wonder how to care for it? Presenting Fruit Tree Care 101, by Neighborhood Tree Team member and fruit tree expert Andrew Land:
Welcome to the wonderful world of home orchardry! It will not be long before you are enjoying the fruits of your labor in the form of delicious apples, pears, Asian pears, pawpaws, persimmons, and figs (the species FOT plants, but this information can apply to all fruit trees). Not only will you eventually be enjoying a steady supply of fruit, but you are also enjoying all of the economic, environmental, and social benefits that trees provide.
Fruit trees in general have some unique maintenance needs in terms of pruning, harvesting, and pest/disease management. Simply left alone, fruit trees may become more of a burden than an asset. Luckily, there are several great resources in our region to help get you and your new fruit tree(s) off to a strong start.
If you don’t already know the fundamentals of how to be an orchardist, the Home Orchard Society is a great resource for fruit tree care through its website and workshops. Additionally, the Oregon State University Cooperative Extension allows you to “ask an expert” your fruit tree questions, and if you’re north of the Columbia River the WSU Extension website has some great resources on a variety of fruit-related topics. Finally, Portland Fruit Tree Project is also a fantastic resource.
Your fruit tree will need annual pruning to ensure a regular crop and unlike a shade tree, fruit trees should be pruned the first few years they’re in the ground to establish strong architecture before the onset of fruit. We’ve distilled some of the basics of pruning into a concise basics of fruit tree pruning flier that you can print and take with you out to the garden. If you’re inspired to go more in depth or have additional questions, here’s a more in-depth fruit tree pruning basics video from an OSU Master Gardener & Clackamas College.
Beyond that, keep in mind that on your new fruit tree you should be able to make all of your cuts with bypass-style hand pruners (at left in this image) that have two blades as scissors do. Please note that anvil-type pruners are not intended to be used on live wood.
Properly planting and caring for a fruit tree is a commitment, but one that is definitely worth the effort. Questions? Feel free to email me and I’ll do what I can to help.
Though not about tree care, this video from FOT Volunteer Program Manager Jenny Bedell-Stiles about her Asian pear tree is like a love note to a fruit tree – enjoy!
Above photo: Jenny’s Asian pear tree in glorious bloom