Spring at Violet Prairie Seed Farm

Spring at Violet Prairie Seed Farm, Post and Photos by Ruth Mares

Ruth (they/them) joined the Center for Natural Lands Management’s Nursery Program in 2018 as a farm crew member. Originally from rural Maine, Ruth moved to Olympia, WA in 2011 to pursue a degree in Ecology from The Evergreen State College. They initially fell in love with the temperate rainforests and dramatic coastal shores, but it was seeing the prairies of Thurston County in full wildflower bloom that inspired them to pursue conservation work in the South Puget Sound region

Spring at Violet Prairie Seed Farm

Somehow, it has been an entire year since the world first became entangled with COVID- 19. This major event has caused many shifts globally, trickling all the way down to the prairies of Western Washington, and to the Violet Prairie Native Plant Nursery. Taking precautions early, beginning in March of 2020, we have become accustomed to the shift to distanced work (which again, is nothing new to us!)

Clouds break to let some sun down onto Violet Prairie seed farm as Andy Hopwood walks to the barn. Photo by Ruth Mares.

Clouds break to let some sun down onto Violet Prairie seed farm as Andy Hopwood walks to the barn. Photo by Ruth Mares.

A slow and steady slog through the winter finally brought us to the first hints of Spring, with some early bloomers teasing us as early as mid February.

Collinsia parviflora blooming, Photo by Ruth Mares.

Collinsia parviflora blooming, Photo by Ruth Mares.

 

Winter was not through with us though, and the heavy snowfall in the Puget Sound region left us with severe damage to our drying sheds. Although this will shift some of our energy from the fields to reconstruction this Spring, our steadfast staff and seasonal crew are determined to get new sheds up and press on with our mission. It is amazing what this small team has been able to withstand and accomplish, and though the winter gave us some beautiful glamour shots of frosty mornings, we are ready to wave goodbye to the colder months.

Frozen Collomia grandiflora, Photo by Ruth Mares.

Frozen Collomia grandiflora, Photo by Ruth Mares.

Frosty Upper Violet Prairie, Photo by Ruth Mares.

Frosty Upper Violet Prairie, Photo by Ruth Mares.

 With the vernal equinox having just passed, we are feeling the full excitement of Spring! We’ve almost finished the sowing of our annuals, namely Microsteris gracilis, Collomia grandiflora, and Plectritis congesta. We’ll expect to see these freshly seeded beds begin to emerge in the coming weeks, and we are already seeing the adorable new growth and cotyledons of most of our lupines!

Lupinus oreganus var. kinkaidii cotyledons, Photo by Anika Goldner.

Lupinus oreganus var. kinkaidii cotyledons, Photo by Anika Goldner.

Though the weather is warming up, the fields have still been a bit too moist to drive the tractors on – we want to avoid compaction in our tractor wells! – but we have been able to sneak in a bit of tilling here and there in preparation for our Spring planting. We hope to get our plugs in the ground within the next couple of weeks, and if the rains cooperate with us we’ll be in great shape. We have a fair amount of fresh irrigation repair to get to as well – another thing to add to the long list of Spring to-dos! Luckily, we completed our raised bed repairs and construction over at Shotwell’s Landing Preserve in October, including a new location for our Allium amplectens bulbs that we suspect were experiencing predation from rodents.

Farm crew members Emily LePlante and Anika Goldner installing hardware cloth at the bottom of a reconstructed raised bed, Photo by Ruth Mares.

Farm crew members Emily LePlante and Anika Goldner installing hardware cloth at the bottom of a reconstructed raised bed, Photo by Ruth Mares.

2020 brought what seemed like an endless onslaught of hurdles for this team, but it has been amazing to see staff and crew persist, with a seemingly unshakable commitment to the cause of conservation and tending to these wonderful plants. We enter this new year ready for whatever may come – be it the continuation of this pandemic, wildfires or heavy snow – knowing that we not only have the support of each other as a solid nursery team, but the unconditional love of our canine companion, Finn Hopwood!

Finn supervising the installation of experimental use of burlap sacks as temporary weed suppression in some of our tarped beds. Photo by Ruth Mares.

Finn supervising the installation of experimental use of burlap sacks as temporary weed suppression in some of our tarped beds. Photo by Ruth Mares.

 

We are excited for the season to come, and welcome folks to visit the farm through tours that are being arranged for Prairie Appreciation Month!

Please visit our website, http://cnlm.org/native-seed-nursery/ to see updated lists of our current seed availability, and read a bit more about the nursery’s role in the restoration of prairies in Western Washington.

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