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EDSS students to nurture seedlings for Trees

The Trees for Woolwich project, which aims to plant 23,000 trees by 2016 – one for every resident of the township – got a boost this week courtesy of some local high school students.

The Township of Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee (TWEEC) has launched a community nursery project in collaboration with Elmira District Secondary School, which offered the campus’ greenhouse and students to aid with the effort to grow 400-500 seedlings.

TWEEC nursery project leader John Mathers and EDSS science teacher Barbara Gaudet, who will be monitoring the project at the school, helped students to start the first stage by planting the seeds on the morning of February 20.

Mathers said the idea came from previous planting efforts at the school as well as plans to increase tree cover in the township.

EDSS students Jill Wiersma, Maggie Boine, Kristen Fisher and Mitch Devos get their hands dirty planting trees in the school’s greenhouse on Wednesday.[elena maystruk / the observer]
EDSS students Jill Wiersma, Maggie Boine, Kristen Fisher and Mitch Devos get their hands dirty planting trees in the school’s greenhouse on Wednesday. [elena maystruk / the observer]
“We had a big tree planting last year and we used a lot of bare root stock. We just got talking about how much more successful we’d be if we had rooted stock from pots and I got started on how we could maybe do something like that locally at a nursery.”

Bare root stock, he explained, involves removing soil from the roots and planting the tree into the new ground with its roots exposed. This time around efforts are being made to optimize tree growth by planting potted trees, where the tree roots are placed into the earth covered by a ball of soil.

“The success is hopefully going to be a lot higher with transplant shock and stuff like that for the trees that have got a potted, solid root base,” Mathers said.

During their stay at EDSS, the seedlings will be monitored by Gaudet as part of the curriculum for her students, providing academic and hands-on learning opportunities, she said of the project.

After germinating in the greenhouse until May, the four- to eight-inch seedlings will be transferred to pots and planted on township land for a maturity period of two years, when irrigation and regular care will be essential for success.

“Once we plant them out, that’s going to be the key through the hot summers: keeping them well irrigated,” Mathers said.

“That’s where the last time this was tried, it kind of died at that point. There weren’t people to take care of the plants on a regular basis, so that’s going to be key.”

Elmira’s Scouting groups have offered their services in caring for the plants following the May transplant. They’ll be organizing an irrigation plan.

Initial budget estimates place the project’s cost between $1,450 and $2,325 according to the TWEEC 2013 project proposal. Township trails coordinator Ann Roberts said the funds for the projects will come from TWEEC’s budget and the project has been brought to the attention of possible sponsors such as TD Canada Trust Friends of the Environment Foundation and the region’s Environmental Community Fund. EDSS is offering to provide supplies and the greenhouse facilities, while John’s Nursery is offering planting tips and pots for the spring transplant.

“We’re taking another stab at it,” Mathers said of the project aimed at educating youth as a primary goal.

Apart from increasing tree coverage young participants will have a chance to increase their awareness of environmental issues while making an impact, he explained. EDSS students will be taking care of the seedlings as part of their curriculum and marked on diligence and proper care of the plants.

“There’s a thrill in watching things grow, and knowing you had a role in it,” Gaudet said while helping students in the school’s greenhouse on Wednesday.

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