SPAWN's Native Plant Nursery

In 2006, with the generous support of a foundation grant and community in-kind donations, SPAWN realized a dream of launching a watershed native plant nursery to grow local genetic stock of native species for use in its creek restoration projects aimed at restoring endangered coho and steelhead salmon habitat. 

A local family offered space for the nursery on their quarter acre parcel in the town of Lagunitas. Thanks to the family's generosity and their large roof, SPAWN would be able to collect rainwater runoff from a portion of the roof to irrigate the nursery plants and offset the nursery's needs for municipal water.

In total, three tanks were installed to collect rainwater, with a total capacity of 2405 gallons. The first tank (1550 gallons) collects water from the roof of the house via an underground pipe connected to a downspout. When it fills, it overflows through an above- ground 4" PVC pipe into a second tank (550 gallons) located slightly down slope. This location allows gravity to do the work. 

The second tank overflows into a small swale, where water can slowly percolate down into the soil. The water from both of these tanks is used to irrigate the nursery plants via an underground pipe that leads to a spigot located at the shadehouse. The third tank (305 gallons) is located at the garden shed. Rain falls on the plastic roof that drains into a gutter and down a beautiful copper rain chain into the tank, making a lovely chiming sound as it falls. When this tank is full, it overflows into an adjacent swale, where again the water can sink slowly into the soil.

Mel, the nursery manager, also uses the harvested water to fill small portable tanks to irrigate native plants at remote restoration sites located nearby during the dry season. While the rainwater harvesting system at the nursery is not able to completely fulfill the irrigation needs of the nursery and restoration sites, it does make a big contribution to reducing the project's need for municipal water.

Since the nursery was erected, it has been staffed by a group of extremely dedicated volunteers from around the community. Throughout the year, they collect seeds and cuttings, nurture the next generation of native plants, and train hundreds of volunteers in plant propagation techniques. SPAWN now grows 3,500-4,000 watershed-specific native plants of over forty species, and will be expanding their nursery to a second site this year.

If you would like to learn more or volunteer at the nursery, contact Mel, the nursery manager.