Pierce’s Pond Outdoor Classroom

Drawing influence from ancient practices of tending the landscape, we teach students about relationships with plants. Historically, Penobscot of this area did not cultivate crops in a way that disturbed the soil, instead they work within the landscape, like forest gardening….suppressing plants that are not as useful and encouraging those that served a purpose.

We have the intention of maintaining an open woodland around the outdoor classroom at Pierce’s Pond fish ladder. There are a lot of Gray Poplar that wants to fill the area with thickets. While Gray Poplar is a native pioneer species that holds wildlife value, it does serve the intentions expressed for maintaining open woodland, so we work to suppress it, while letting the beech and oak trees grow.

When the fish ladder was constructed, a deep rubber liner was sunk into the ground to cut off seepage and direct water through the ladder. This changed the moisture content in the soil, and we are curiously following the transformation from wet to dry forest. Three years after the first wave of hugelCULTURE, Gray Poplar is showing itself again. We will be coppicing the young sprouts again and using the leaves to help oust the invasive Bishop’s weed that is taking over the meadow…making use of material found on site

We start by working with Brooksville students to coppice the poplar, covering the cuts with several layers of cardboard and topping it with mulch and leaves to hide the cardboard.
Maintaining an open woodland allows for spatial connections with the pond. Hidden under these leaves are suppressed Gray Poplar, which we do not want to fill in. In the transformation from Red Maple forest that was kept wet from the seepage from the pond, to a dry hardwood forest as the liner cut off the seepage, we are following the adaptation of the trees and diversifying the forbs that grow here.
Students from the Bay School create seed head mandalas around the site, this one particularly expressive in its form.
See how slowly the seedlings grow!
The Blue Hill Garden Club worked with students from the Blue Hill Consolidated School to add plugs that were grown out over the summer in school nurseries.
New plugs are marked with rings of shells both as a nod to the connection of the river to the sea and as a way to enrich the soil with minerals as the shells break down.

Pierce’s Pond Woodland Path

The woodland path is a short trail that runs adjacent to the meadow and follows the fish ladder downstream. Find a sign at the end that follows the history of the site. We are working with plant communities that come from upland dry forests of the area.

Juliet Nalweyiso sports slippers as she sows seeds around the woodland path during COVID
The ‘before’ shot, just after the trail was structured.
Many native flower seeds need cold stratification to germinate. Directly sowing seeds onto open ground in winter is the best way to initiate a restoration because the plants become established in this particular soil from the get-go.
Seed mandalas were created by local students, this one tucked under the boulder…
Seeds sown as mandalas flourish in the following years
During the fall, native wildflower ‘plugs’ are added to the site. These plugs were cultivated from seeds started the prior winter at local schools and allowed to grow out through the summer to develop root systems before being added to the field. Cooler autumn temperatures ease the transition.
Rings of shells mark the new plantings, using natural materials connected to the sea as a nod to the opening of the fish passage. The minerals in the shells eventually break down to enrich the soil.
Plants start filling in the path area, but note the right uphill area, where too much mulch impedes the establishment of new plants
Dutch landscape architect, Mixy Montague visits the site and plants a few shade loving plants. Along the upper side of the trail, a LOT of mulch was laid down. After 3 years we can see where plants have taken hold and where the mulch is impeding growth. As we address the invasive Bishop’s weed in the meadow, we will pull from the areas of thick mulch to top the hugelcultures while opening ground to receive native seed.
The woodland path overlooking the small meadow to the fish ladder as it fills in with native large leaf wood aster and shade loving Virginia Wild Rye. As the plants fill in, we will continue to diversify the selection of natives.

Pierce’s Pond Lakeshore Restoration

In order to direct the outflow from Pierce’s Pond, a dam was constructed with a deep rubber lining going down the middle to prevent underground seepage and keep a robust flow through the fish ladder. The ground was super-compacted, making the growth rate extra slow to establish plants there. Sedges that exploded in the hard scrabble of the ladder are present, just miniature…as are many of the varieties sown from seed.

The final shots are views of the dam as it slowly fills in after 3 years of sowing seed and adding plugs.

A school of baby alewives….the ladder is working!
Standing with ankles immersed, we can enjoy the light nibbles of fish eating dead skin off our toes.
The dam just after construction. We tried laying screen down in one area to see how much of a difference it made in seed germination. It did not make much of a difference! We felt like it was not worth bringing the foreign material to the site to protect the seeds, they emerged regardless.
Many Maine native plants need winter cold to germinate. The best time to sow seeds onto open, disturbed ground is in the late fall and winter. Grasses do not need a period of cold to germinate and may be sown at any time.
The creative act of making seed head mandalas with materials found on site. Students from the Bay School visited the site to create ephemeral artworks that assisted in re-seeding the site.
Plugs were sown at various area schools during the winter & grown out over the summer. When autumn approached, the young plants had developed enough roots to be transplanted in the field. The cooler temperatures eased the transition.
Plugs are planted quite literally in the stone since we cannot dig into the compacted dirt on the dam in order to preserve the integrity of the structure. We take away stone until the compacted soil is exposed, place the plug on top then surround the plug with stones so the soil does not dry out. There is seepage up to the lining, so the roots stay moist on the pond side of the liner, despite dry conditions.
Sticks brought by the beaver help shelter plugs by providing dappled shade during the heat of the day
Growing native plants from seed is a slow process. The compacted soil makes it even slower! This is the view three years after the initiation of the project, where the dam is slowly filling in with green.
Other, less compacted areas provide grounds for pioneers like this Rudbekia to flourish, despite the gravelly nature of the soil. While the plant communities are based on the book, the Natural Landscapes of Maine, we are also working with native plants that are already present at the site.