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Trees for Nipissing growing success through starter nurseries

'We planted about 900 different species of trees at the nursery here. We repeated that again in 2020'

“Rooted” is all about the people and places that make us proud to call our community home. 

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Trees for Nipissing is a volunteer group that has been doing planting projects since 2004.  

“It has long been our goal to have a supply chain of different sizes for different needs,” says Chair Peggy Walsh Craig. 

That goal is now becoming a reality thanks to the two nurseries they have set up inside the City of North Bay; one on Second Avenue and one on Hammond Street.  

“In 2019 we started with funding from TD Canada Trust to build raised beds on Second Avenue near the Chippewa Creek Eco-Path. Along with Living Fit we started a project called “Grandchildren Planting Trees” and we planted about 900 different species of trees at the nursery here. We repeated that again in 2020,” says Walsh Craig.  

The trees will go toward community planting projects and it will be a busy month for the group as Walsh Craig says they have three projects taking place in September.  
 
“Some of the trees will help with the re-greening process at the old landfill site on Marsh Drive, where we will plant 250 plants there and that project was funded by TD Canada Trust,” says Wash Craig. 

“Another project is to plant 50 trees for Cogeco in September and the third project is for Caisse Populaire who have started a newborn forest which is taking place at Laurier Woods.” 

Walsh Craig has a diploma in horticulture from the University of Guelph and worked in wholesale nurseries in southern Ontario for over a decade and at the Royal Botanical Gardens.  

“Horticulture has kind of been my thing,” she says, adding there’s an importance to the work they are doing with these nurseries in North Bay.  

“In the North Bay area, we don’t have any wholesale nurseries where you can buy a quantity of plants for a reasonable price. Plus, the trees that we are growing here are not usually available in your typical garden centre, they are all native plants and usually garden centres have to grow just the prettiest looking plants,” says Walsh Craig.  

The plants were purchased from a nursery in southern Ontario and they start as plugs which means they have a small ball of soil around the roots and they were about 10-12 inches tall when they were first planted. 

“They will grow here for two to three years and then they will be planted in city parks or public land, and community groups can apply to receive some plants for community planting projects,” says Walsh Craig.  

“Because they have been growing here for a couple of years, we know that they are especially hardy. That was one of the reasons we wanted to do this.” 

Walsh Craig says these nurseries are a huge benefit to the city.  

“It is tremendously expensive for city parks to purchase the plants in the sizes they need. They like to plant bigger plants and trees so that they have less of a chance of being vandalized,” says Walsh Craig.  

“What we will do with a portion of these trees is to put them in our other nursery on Hammond Street and we grow them to the sizes that the city parks like so that the city has a more rapid supply and they can look at the trees ahead of time and make their decisions based on that.” 

Walsh Craig adds, “If you are a community group that wants to plant upwards of 100 plants well it can take a lot of time and money to get those here. The shipping is almost just as much as the cost of the plants at the wholesale level.” 

The North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority built the raised boxes two years ago and the group then filled them with topsoil, sand, and peat moss.  

Walsh Craig says, “Other than the watering that was done at the time of planting, we haven’t done any irrigation of these plants. There’s also been no pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizer used and some of these plants are now five to six feet tall and all of the plants from 2019 are ready to be moved out of here.” 

She says keeping everything natural is a big goal for the group.  

“Everything that Trees for Nipissing does is environmentally friendly and we want to demonstrate that anyone can do this and you don’t have to grow things with lots of outside products. We feel like that’s the way of the future, by producing things naturally.” 

Walsh Craig says the group will be looking to the public for assistance with maintaining the plants at the nursery next year.  

“The weeding needs to be done three times a year and we are considering having families or groups adopt a box and look after it. The workload for that would consist of six to eight person-hours per bed per summer which is about mid-May until the end of September, so if you have three or more people adopting one box, you can go through it in a very short time so it's not a huge time commitment.” 

If anyone wants to find out about more events, you can like them on Facebook at Trees for Nipissing.  

If you have a story idea for the “Rooted” series, send Matt an email at m.sookram@outlook.com