Home Gardeners Grow Tiny Trees for Wild Spaces

March 6, 2021 6:52pm

Jim Wright, a former environmental engineer and biologist, understands the struggle to preserve habitat for salmon and other struggling species in the Seattle area. Realizing how work-intensive it is for habitat restoration organizations to identify and restore small plots of damaged salmon habitat, inspiration struck in his Greenwood garden. (You may have enjoyed his annual spring plant swaps over the years.) He thought: what if we can grow and donate ready-to-grow young trees to habitat restoration sites?

Jim Wright taking a batch of seedlings to their new forest home. Photo via Jim Wright

Wright started “Grow It Forward” in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, funding the supplies and plants himself – with 23 volunteer home gardeners around Seattle – each growing a mini-forest of 100 saplings to donate to restoration projects. Wright calls these “Micro-Nurseries” and hopes to expand the project by 50 growers this year. 300 of the first 2300 seedlings were especially robust Douglas Firs, and were donated last fall to the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group site at Sedro Wooley’s Riverfront Park.

GROW IT FORWARD | Restoring Forest Habitat with Micro-Nurseries
A “Micro-Nursery” of Western Hemlock seedlings freshly potted up Photo: Jim Wright

Grow It Forward aims to assist the restoration process while saving habitat restoration organizations time and money, by producing some of the expensive tree seedlings they must buy for their sites. This lets the organizations focus on identifying and accessing habitat locations and removing invasive plant species to prepare the site for restoration. Wright hopes to obtain grant funding to expand and offer seedlings to more organizations.

Wright says volunteers need basic gardening skills and about 16 square feet of garden space – that’s a 4 x 4 plot or raised bed. Initial planting takes about five hours followed by consistent watering over the next one to two years. He says seedlings like the occasional bedtime story, too.

Ready to become a mini-forest ranger for a year or two? Applications are open now for this year’s growers to start planting on April 4; the cost covering plants, soil, and pots is $95. Get started at the crowdfunding page or ask any questions via the contact page on the Grow It Forward website.


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Kombucha For Your Plants Created By Local Mom

April 16, 2018 6:19am

In case you hadn’t heard, microbes rule the world as our tiny, yet all-powerful, overlords. Through complex networks of relationships, they boost or withhold health in us, in our plants, and for the planet.

Dr. Sarah Pellkofer, 34, was struck by those relationships in her Ph.D. studies in Switzerland, seeing how certain bacteria and fungi extended a plant’s root development and ability to take up and use key nutrients.

Her research – which tagged nutrients with dyes and followed their progress through the plants – showed her that the greater diversity of species living in the soil, the better the plants ate.

“It was real testament that we need more diversity in the ground. That’s what we would see in a forest or natural grassland. If you look in urban or heavily farmed soils, we don’t see that diversity,” she said.

Knowing that soils are depleted worldwide from chronic use of chemical fertilizers – which leave the soil weaker with each use – and from increased urbanization, Sarah began to look for a way to empower people to help the planet from the soil up.

“I wanted to give people the power to bring the soil back to life in their own backyards,” Sarah said.

After completing her Ph.D, Plant Probiotics was born in 2015 here in Seattle.  It’s already in nine Seattle shops.  Greenlaker met Sarah at her Northwest Flower and Garden Show booth where we learned she heads MicraCulture LLC out of her Wallingford home.

The overall idea isn’t new, Sarah points out – farmers have used bacteria on a larger scale to renew soil depleted from heavy-feeding crops for years.

She chose bacteria that are found in many environments around the world, and wanted to make it easy to use.

The product, which looks like espresso dust, comes in either a bag or a handy shaker. Each 2-ounce package covers 100 sq. feet of soil; it calls for a ¼ teaspoon per square foot.

That dust contains the building blocks of life for several beneficial bacteria and fungi, activated by adding water. You can use it on your outdoor plants, houseplants, or even to supercharge your compost pile – especially helpful in our heat-challenged climate. You can even use it hydroponically.

You can’t overuse it, Sarah says, and it will help any other amendment (like lime or kelp) be better absorbed.

How does it work? Sarah says it’s a win-win for the microbes and the plants. The bacteria gain sugar to eat, and in exchange help extend roots, fend off diseases and pests, and break down nutrients for the plants to digest.

She claims it can:

  • Double the ability of your plants’ ability to uptake nutrients (and fertilizer)
  • Decrease your water costs by improving plant’s water use
  • Remove pollutants and maintain your garden’s health safely without endangering the environment (like chemical fertilizer runoff does)

With mounting evidence that breathing spores from active soils is good for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, healthier soils should help the gardener too.

If you want to learn more about how to harness the power of microbes, check out “The Hidden Half of Nature,” by David R. Montgomery and Anne Bikle – who, amazingly, also live in Green Lake.





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Meet Green Lake Author Donna Miscolta

July 25, 2017 6:15am

Donna Miscolta receiving the Independent Publisher gold medal in New York in May.

We recently got a tip that a Green Lake resident and author was nominated for a Seattle Weekly Best of Seattle 2017 award. Her name is Donna Miscolta and she is an award winning writer. We asked her a few questions to find out a bit about her writing and ties to Green Lake.

SG: How long have you been writing?

DM: I started writing in the fall of 1992 when I signed up for a fiction writing class through the UW Extension Program. I immediately started a practice of writing an hour each night after work and after the kids were in bed. I’m not a fast writer and often I would produce no more than a few paragraphs, which is why it took so long to produce two books. My novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced was published in 2011, and my story collection Hola and Goodbye came out last year. Of course, a number of those years since 1992 were spent trying to find a publisher.

SG: Is that your full time profession?

DM: I’ve worked full-time as a project manager for King County for almost thirty years. I work on education programs focused on resource conservation and proper use, storage, and disposal of household hazardous products.

SG: Is Hola and Goodbye your first book?

DM: My novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced was published first, but I was often working on both books in parallel over the years, sort of switching back and forth when one or the other project got stalled.

SG: Can you tell me a little bit about Hola and Goodbye?

DM: Hola and Goodbye is a collection of stories about the lives of family members over three generations, the first of which came from Mexico. Language, race, and gender conspire to thwart an easy sense of identity for these family members seeking to belong in America. They must balance loss of the traditional and the familiar with the exhilarating promise of the new.

In the 1920s Southern California, Lupita Camacho settles not far from the border—and so begins the journey of an American family: from fish cannery jobs and halting English of the newcomers to their children’s goals of dancing championships and dreams of kidney-shaped pools, then on to the wide-open lives of the grandchildren: a karaoke barkeep, twin female wrestling champs, a mentally fragile beauty.

Lupita’s American-born children must make peace with lives that never quite match the pages of Ladies Home Journal. Lupita’s English-only-speaking grandchildren discover that they somehow remain not quite “at home in America.” Each of these generations must respond to a particular question: What’s it like to move to a new country and adapt to a new language and culture? What happens to your dreams when opportunities and expectations of you are low? How do you learn to claim your space when you don’t seem to fit? The answers bind these family members to each other, even as they break away to their separate lives.

SG: What inspired you to write it?

DM: I was curious about those three questions above. As someone whose father and maternal grandparents were immigrants, I was interested in how their struggles to assimilate affected them, and how subsequent generations were affected in terms of identity, opportunity, and a sense of place or belonging.

How long have you lived in Green Lake?

DM: My husband and I bought our house in 1984. We raised two daughters in it. We were once the young family on the block. Now we’re the oldsters.

SG: Anything else you would like to add?

DM: The book has received a several awards. First, when it was in manuscript form, it won the Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman, sponsored by Carolina Wren Press who then published it. Hola and Goodbye has also won an Independent Publisher gold medal for Best Regional Fiction, and it’s a finalist for an International Latino Book Award.

Recently, I was a finalist in the Seattle Weekly Best of Seattle reader poll for Best Author. It was quite a surprise and an honor to be on the list with some famous authors, among them Sherman Alexie, Lindy West, Maria Semple, and Domingo Martinez, who was a finalist for the National Book Award several years ago.

SG: Thank you, Donna. I already have your book on hold at the Green Lake Library.


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Introducing Shelly Najjar

May 8, 2017 7:49am

You may have noticed we have a new contributor, Shelly Najjar.

We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to her. Shelly is a lifetime Greenlaker who has lived in the area her entire life, with the exception of a four year stint when attending WSU for her undergrad.

She has a blog called The Goal List, her bucket list and travel blog, since Jan 2014. She started her bucket list in eighth grade (calling it her Goal List), after reading a small blurb in a magazine that said people who wrote their goals down were more likely to accomplish them than those who didn’t. Now the list is 130+ goals long (with 55 of them already checked off).
An entrepreneur and registered dietician, Shelly helps people achieve their goals through process and structure where she works with fellow entrepreneurs and freelancers.

Welcome Shelly!


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Meet Innovative Greenlaker Sarah Barnard

September 15, 2016 6:09am

We recently learned about a Greenlaker that is trying to solve some pretty big problems with an invention that she posted to Kickstarter. Her name is Sarah Barnard and she created an organization board called Chart á la Carte. Within 9 hours of posting to Kickstarter Chart á la Carte exceeded her fundraising goal. We chatted with her to find out more.

SG: What inspired you to create Chart á la Carte?
SB: For the past 10 years, I’ve been haunted by a statistic I remember hearing in college, where I studied psychology and sociology. “The average married woman believes she does 90% of the household chores, and the average married man believes he does 60% of the household chores.” Much conversation has been had around what the actual numbers are, and the gender inequality of domestic labor distribution, but what caught my attention was the fact that, apparently, BOTH men and women FEEL that they are contributing more than their share. This is significant because, as a result, they may both feel frustrated about having to do more AND frustrated that their partner is not acknowledging their contributions (because they themselves feel that they’re doing more than their share and not getting acknowledgement). It seemed obvious to me that it came down to a communication failure, but, having lived with 5 roommates, I personally understood the undesirability of making chores a primary topic of conversation. So, I created an interactive system involving dry-erase magnets that focuses on teamwork, and validates each person for their actual contributions, so that no one has to feel frustrated or unappreciated.

Believing that my system could be helpful to support healthy marriages and families, I set about designing a board that could use both push pins and magnets, hold extra pens and magnets in a storage compartment, and have a detachable frame so that the fabric could be changed to suit the asthetics of any home. During the design process, it occurred to me that there may be a great many uses for this board, and, with the free printables I designed to fit with our dry-erasable display magnets, and other decorative and functional magnets, the board could be used for a wide range of purposes from jewelry organizer, to menu planning station or memo board or chalkboard or just decorative. One of the most exciting options involves ready-to-color task pieces, to empower children who are learning to complete daily routines.

SG: What’s unique about your invention?
SB: The product is unique because, until now, there has not existed a magnetic pin board that allowed you to easily customize the fabric. Similarly, I have not seen, on the market, acrylic, magnetic holders for making printable charts and lists dry-eraseable.

SG: What’s this we hear about trying to get onto the TV show Shark Tank?
SB I have been obsessed with Shark Tank and have believed that a positive response to our Kickstarter would give us a good boost toward both applying to be on the show and also the potential of getting investment from a “Shark.” However, in the meantime, I was recently contacted by a casting director who is working on a similar style of show, to be aired on ABC in early 2017, and am excited to be in the application process.

SG: Any other info you think Greenlakers should know about your invention?
SB: We’re excited about the product, the response from our local community on Kickstarter (we met our funding goal in 9 hours) and we’re especially excited in our anticipation to see our online community grow into a place of sharing tips, photos and inspiration about what they’re doing with THEIR Chart á la Carte, how to organize and live life.


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Former Greenlaker in Need of Support

September 9, 2016 6:27am


Former Greenlaker Greg Wickenburg could use a bit of help. Greg was in an automobile accident when he was a teen that left him a C-5 quadriplegic. Unable to control his body temperature after the accident, he moved from Green Lake to Arizona in search of warmer surroundings. The warmer weather has helped him but his aging van is no longer reliable and can’t get him around town.

He is now in search of a reliable wheel chair accessible van and created a Go Fund Me page to help him get one. Check out the link and more on his story and how you can help. Currently, Greg is a little over half way to his goal.


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Seattle Greenlaker Contributor Chelsea Off to a New Adventure

August 26, 2016 6:24am

Back when Seattle Greenlaker was just a glimmer in our eyes, we had one enthusastic cheerleader who was rooting us on from the sidelines and would go on to become a contributor. You probably know her too – Chelsea Asplund.
Chelsea is about to move from Green Lake on to a big new adventure in another state, but before she does we wanted to write a post about her because she is a Greenlaker that has tried to make other Greenlaker’s lives better, happier and more informed.

chelseaChelsea has written for Seattle Greenlaker since the beginning her posts have been with a focus on the fun events, people and unique gems that make Green Lake like no other place. She started the Green Lake Gym Rats Series, reported about the Corgis of Green Lake and the correct way to walk/run/cycle around the lake. But most of all Chelsea reported about the things that make Green Lake tick. Even after working full time and having a super busy life she still found time to write (56!) posts for Seattle Greenlaker. Many of her posts are timeless and you will probably see us reference them from time to time.

So bon voyage to one of our favorite Greenlakers. Thanks Chels for all you have done to help make this place we call home so great!


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Green Lake Artist Brings Moments to Life Through Color and Light

March 18, 2016 6:10am

Green Lake painter David McGranaghan is the subject of a new video created by UW Journalism student Grace Swanson.

You may remember our feature on David last year and perhaps you’ve even seen him painting various landscapes around the lake. In the video Grace asks him several questions about his art techniques, passion for painting and connection to Green Lake. Grace does a great job of showing a bit more behind the scenes of David’s world and even gets the often stoic artist to smile a few times.

Here’s more about the project and the specific style of David’s painting style in Grace’s own words.


By Grace Swanson

On a typical Seattle day with scattered rain showers, artist David McGranaghan is capturing the moments and his experience at Green Lake through light, color and oils.

Snippets of time are brought to life as his paintbrush kisses the canvas. A woman in a pink sweatshirt races across the space and down the lake shore path. In another moment, a cyclist rides along lush trees and sparkling water. Each painting tells a story.  

He paints with a plein air technique, a style that occurs outdoors and involves small, visible brush strokes. Plein air, a French phrase meaning “in the open air,” has its roots in 17th and 18th century Rome and mid 19th century France. His palette includes oil paints of magenta, yellow, cyan, raw amber, and white.

The Seattle area has a large community that celebrates the technique and artists who enjoy painting outdoors. Each year the Plein Air Washington Artists group holds a large show with a different theme at the American Art Company, a studio in Tacoma. Plein air artists from around the state gather to exhibit their work.

Pat Meras, a member of the Plein Air Washington Artists, has been working with this technique for the last 15 years. Although it can be a challenge, she believes plein air is a great exercise to strengthen her studio painting. When working outdoors she must focus on the way light behaves rather than depend on a photo from her camera. The light changes quickly, requiring artists  to work in a two-hour window.

“If you don’t, you will end up with a schizophrenic painting,” she said.  

Seattle-based painter Brooke Borcherding, who is also a member of the Plein Air Washington Artists, says there has been a plein air resurgence among professional painters. Painting outside gives artists more information about a scene than a two dimensional photograph.

Since taking her easel outdoors in 2009, Borcherding has depicted scenes in nature and urban environments. The two-hour time constraints of plein air painting forces her to be hyper-focused, the aspect of the art form she loves the most.


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Green Lake Artist Steven Reddy Launches New Art Book

January 4, 2016 6:35am


A few months ago we shared Green Lake artist Steven Reddy’s Kickstarter project to launch his new book This is Then That was Now. The book, which focuses on North Seattle illustrations is now available online through The book includes several chapters of Seattle illustrations including one chapter dedicated to Green Lake area coffeeshops. Other chapters include a detailed how-to, that shows in detail exactly how Reddy creates the drawings, still-lives from his drawing classes at the Gage Academy on Capitol Hill, and subbing at North Seattle-area elementary schools, including Lincoln, McDonald, Lawton, etc.

For more on Steven Reddy, check out our Q&A we did last year.


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Green Lake Artist Steven Reddy Creates Kickstarter For New Book

July 13, 2015 7:28am

You may remember earlier this year we wrote about local artist, Steven Reddy who had his art on display at a few local coffeeshops. Reddy is now doing a Kickstarter for his second book This is Then, That Was Now – an Illustrated Memoir.

Steven is trying to raise $28,000 and has asked for pledges ranging from $5 – $2,500.

His new book is similar to his first book but includes more autobiographical comics and, at the request of some of his students that he teaches here in Seattle, one of the chapters details the process of how he creates the drawings in his book.

For more information, go to Steven’s Kickstarter page. But hurry, you only have a month until the Kickstarter is done.


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