Can You Dig It? Tulalip Natural Resources helps community grow together with a garden workshop 

 By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In the heart of the spring season, the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources department put together a successful event dedicated to a popular springtime hobby, though many would argue that gardening is a way of life, in both the literal and figurative sense. 

Natural Resources opened the garden workshop to include all residents of Tulalip. On the morning of May 11, close to 60 community members showed up at the Tulalip Admin Building to really dig into the art of gardening and learn about the many benefits that plants have to offer, while cultivating new skills and knowledge along the way. 

“I have always loved gardening and working in the yard. To me, it’s relaxing. Even pulling weeds, I just really enjoy it,” shared community member and home gardener, Catherine Key. “I decided to come when I saw the flyer and all the subjects looked interesting. I just think it’s really cool that the Tribe did this.”

The garden workshop featured three presentations that focused on several aspects of gardening. Valerie Streeter, Tulalip Natural Resources Stormwater planner, opened the three-hour event with a presentation titled, Go with the Flow, that informed the people about watersheds, rainwater collection, and natural yard care. Local Horticultural Inspirer, Seth Smith, led an informational presentation dedicated to growing a garden for sustenance, which included a Q&A where people absorbed any and all insight that Seth had to share.  

Said Seth, “Today I talked about subtropical plants, citruses, fig trees, pomegranates, any unique plant that’s not apple trees or pear trees that we’re all familiar with. I wanted people to think outside the box, open their mind and inspiration to achieve things that people would rather you not succeed at. [Gardening] allows you to free your mind of negativity on the day to day. It allows you to have your own space, and I think that’ll allow you to clear your mind of work, family drama, vehicle issues, and allow you to just focus on yourself.”

The Tulalip Health Clinic Diabetes Program presented a detailed lesson on the medicinal usages of plants, while also touching on the native plants of this region, essential gardening tools, and the special connection to the natural world that we experience as Indigenous people

Tulalip Diabetes Educator, Veronica ‘Roni’ Leahy explained, “Plants were here before people, we think of them as our first teachers. The more you’re around them, the more you feel connected. Think of them as friends that you get to see once a year. Enjoy your time with them, go and be out with nature. I brought two plants that are representing us today; Camus is a native plant and you’re on tribal lands. Sacred plant, sacred land. And iris, which we planted at the Tulalip Health Clinic, it represents the community, this group of people who were able to come out and learn today.”

Along with Roni was Herbalist, Leslie Lekos, who explained the step-by-step process of creating tinctures from plant extracts, that could be used as home remedies to help treat a variety of ailments such as nausea and muscle soreness. Leslie has numerous tinctures and sprays for sale in her Etsy store, Wild Root Botanicals. She also teaches hands-on classes throughout the year including Foundations of Herbalism and Wild Foods: Resiliency Through Connection, more details can be found on her website. Following the presentation, both Roni and Leslie held live demonstrations on transplanting and creating tinctures. 

The event ended with a raffle drawing and a plant giveaway, in which people received primroses, elderberries, planter boxes, and compost. 

“The turnout was great. It did turn out really cool today,” exclaimed Melissa Gobin, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental and Education Coordinator. “At the Earth Day planning meetings, that started in January, a lot of people were talking about sustainability for food and growing our own foods, along with rain gardens. Val (Streeter) has a grant through the EPA, and she has money to put on workshops to talk about rain gardens. I met with Seth and he’s a garden guru, and also with Roni because she’s amazing with gardens and we’ve been learning so much from her, and Leslie too. So, we just wanted to get all these people together to inform the community and give them some inspiration to get out and garden.” 

She continued, “On May 22, we’re going to be at Quil Ceda Elementary and we’re going to have Farmer Frog there to help us put plants in the ground. It’s going to be a Plant 101 course on how to put them in, the dos and don’ts, and we’ll be going over a lot of the basics because it’s Family Day at the elementary. And hopefully in the future we’ll have more of these classes. I also want to start a gardening group, something where people can get together to plant, seed exchange. Earth Day is every day and we’re going to have a bunch of stuff going on now. I’m just so glad there were so many people that came out and enjoyed it and seemed so engaged.”

Equipped with invaluable gardening game, new plants, and tools, the people were eager to get back home to enjoy the sunny weather and get lost in their personal gardens. 

Following the garden workshop, community member, Tracy Owens, shared, “I got the flyer in the mail and I’m really into gardening. I wanted to see if I was going to learn something new and share different ideas. Ever since we bought our property here on Tulalip, we’ve expanded something new every year to our garden. We have herbs, we have vegetables, we have flowers. I just love it. Today I enjoyed learning about different plants and just listening to people talk about gardening and seeing their love that they have for plants too. You can see that plants make people happy.”