The Timing of Restoration
They don’t let me out of the office much these days, but I was recently invited to revisit a property our team here at WES worked to restore back in 2008. Historically, this area was part of a riparian flood zone that, during years of intense rain, was inundated by water from a bordering creek. About fifty years ago, the land was cleared, leveled and set up for flood irrigation. The irrigated crops took the place of native flora, displacing wildlife and altering the hydrology. When the property was acquired by our friends at Placer Land Trust WES had the opportunity to help restore this area back to its historic habitat.
Unlike some of our projects that require moving large amounts of dirt, this restoration project was primarily installing 5700 plants. The plant pits were dug in October/November using an auger attached to the front of a tractor, making them ready to receive by the time early November rolled around and the plants started to arrive. Planting took roughly two months to complete with the timing dictated by the weather. Sure, we had the option to plant during a warmer time of year, and possibly complete the project in a matter of weeks but by choosing to plant during the fall we were giving our plants a better chance of survival. Why?
In the fall, the soil, still warm from summer, encourages root growth. Roots continue to grow through the winter until the ground freezes. In areas like Sacramento, with more mild winters, roots may continue to grow below ground while above ground the plant remains dormant. In early spring, roots begin new growth or start to develop at a faster rate, and top growth can really begin. Conversely, a plant put in the ground in the spring gets a slow start due to cool soils, not allowing it to be as well-established as fall plants. Hence, the spring plants lag behind. This means that when summer finally arrives, the fall plant is far better equipped to deal with heat and drought, largely due to its well-established root system. This means less irrigation and management effort is needed.
Of course, there are plenty of other good reasons to plant in the fall, too, such as occasional rainfall, cooler weather and fewer pest and disease problems.
As the years have passed, the plants in this restoration area have developed at an impressive rate. During this past fall, we completed our final year of monitoring. Now it’s up to mother nature to take what we started and complete the restoration for us. I hope the next time I visit I will see that the restoration has come full circle and observe the plants installed in 2008 producing seed that will continue to revegetate the site for many years to come.
–Lydia Renz, WES Sales Associate