Planting season is here, and for many CBF volunteers, that means helping to improve water quality in Pennsylvania and downstream by planting trees along streams. Volunteers recently helped to plant not trees, but "live stakes," along the Conewago Creek near Elizabethtown, in Lancaster County.
Live stakes are cuttings that are harvested from new growth branches of tree species like black willow and red osier dogwood. These native trees commonly grow along stream banks, at or below the water line, providing great soil stabilization of the banks with their root systems, as well as providing habitat for aquatic life.
This spring CBF will be working with Penn State Extension’s Lower Susquehanna Initiative to plant trees throughout the Conewago Creek watershed, and on March 21 volunteers got started by harvesting willow, dogwood, and elderberry stakes.
Matt Royer, director of the Lower Susquehanna Initiative, taught volunteers the proper method to harvest cuttings: pruning the young branch at a 45-degree angle at the base, trimming off the small shoots to a single, 18-24" live stake, with a straight cut across the top to encourage new growth. Royer says that it is important to harvest the live stakes while they are still dormant and have not begun to leaf out.
Some of the cuttings were potted and sent to Davis Nursery, a partner of the Lower Susquehanna Initiative, for use in future streamside buffer plantings. Two days later, volunteers stepped into hip waders, got into the Little Conewago Creek at the Hanson Farm, and planted the remaining willow and dogwood live stakes. Using a piece of rebar to first drill a hole in the stream bank, they inserted the live stakes just above the surface of the water, spacing the stakes every two feet. Harvesting more live stakes from black willow and red osier dogwood stands along the creek as they went; the volunteers planted a considerable section of the creek.
Sherry McLain, a volunteer from Dauphin County said, "I had read about live staking before, but had never seen it done. I was excited to bring this new skill back to my local watershed group."
The live staking workdays kicked off a busy season of spring volunteer restoration projects in south-central Pennsylvania. For a list of upcoming volunteer opportunities, check out our website.
CBF's Pennsylvania Grassroots Field Organizer
CBF is proud to partner with Penn State Extension's Lower Susquehanna Initiative, Tri-County Conewago Creek Association, Lancaster County Watershed Manager, and other "Greening the Lower Susquehanna" partners in offering these opportunities to restore your local watersheds.