TALENT — Elizabeth Zwick started weeding chip beds around the civic center's library, history center and kids playground to cut down on pesticide use in the area. Her efforts have led to a community tree nursery.
"I began finding little seedlings. I started weeding these and putting them in the compost," said Zwick. "Then I thought, gee, it's a shame to not give these things a chance to grow."
A member of the Together for Talent city committee, Zwick potted some starts, then enlisted help from the group's Friends of Trees subcommittee. People tended the pots at their homes and planned to donate starts to individuals and city departments.
City Planner Mark Knox learned of the effort and offered to find city property to house a small nursery.
The 40-by-40-foot nursery now is established on land the city acquired to develop as Suncrest Park in the future. The nursery is south of the city's Public Works Department in an area that at one time was a golf driving range.
Public Works cleared brush for the nursery and will run water to it. Starts will be kept in containers for easy transplanting.
"We are going in without a great deal of knowledge," Zwick admits. "We do have an arborist who has joined the group, and we are hoping to lean on him quite a bit."
There are about 100 starts so far, said committee member Sharon Anderson. Friends of Trees members check on the starts regularly and hope to hold an Arbor Week event at the nursery in April.
"Our next step as far as a big one is to get some kind of fencing set up," said Anderson. The group has applied for a grant to cover the $600 needed for materials, and volunteers will supply the labor.
Members of the group and others have donated labor and materials, including pots and planting soil.
"We haven't had any official budget," said Zwick. "It's been a labor of love."
Nine volunteers showed up to establish the site. They put down cardboard to prevent weeds from growing and covered the area with wood chips.
There are plans for an irrigation system, but if that doesn't happen, summer watering may be accomplished with a "very basic system with a hose and timer," said Anderson.
Jerry Bunch, who lives on five acres next to Highway 99 between Talent and Ashland, supplied the nursery with 20 starts after Anderson brought him containers.
"We have a lot of mature trees and we have a lot of starts each year," said Bunch. "It appears to be a good place to put them rather than discard them."
Firs, wild cherry, cedar and catalpas are varieties Bunch donated. A few starts were nearly 2 feet tall, but most were about 6 inches high, he said.
City Manager Tom Corrigan plans to bring in about 30 trees, including manzanita, madrone, black and white oak and cedar, from his property in Sams Valley that he has to clear to create a fire-defensible space.
Right now about half the plants are conifers and the other half deciduous, but it's hard to tell what's what in the latter category.
"They lost their leaves and they weren't labeled," said Zwick.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com.