Watertown’s First Miyawaki Forest to be Planted This Fall

Print More
Local teens have been tending tiny trees for the Miyawaki forest planting.

By Liza Ketchum

Good news for Watertown: the city’s first Miyawaki Forest will be planted this fall! Miyawaki forests — which can be as small as a ping pong table or as big as a parking lot — are named for Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese ecologist and weed expert (1928-2021).

He studied groves of ancient, native trees growing close together at shrines around Japan. Since trees take up carbon and release oxygen into the atmosphere, Miyawaki realized that these small groves could clean the air in urban areas, while attracting wildlife, birds, and beneficial insects. When planted densely, they become self-sustaining ecosystems in just a few years. With the help of other botanists — soon joined by volunteers of all ages — he began planting these small forests across Japan and eventually, around the world.

Inspired by a Miyawaki Forest planted in Danehey Park in Cambridge, an enthusiastic group of Watertown residents has been meeting for more than a year, making plans for our own Miyawaki forest. (Our group, Forests for Watertown, operates under the auspices of Trees for Watertown). We have also collaborated with Watertown Community Gardens, in a joint search
for garden plots as well as a forest site.

From the start, we have received encouragement and support from Mike Micielli, Watertown’s Tree Warden, and a welcoming response from the Lowell School, where our group plans to plant the city’s first Miyawaki Forest.

The City wanted to plant a Miyawaki Forest as part of its Sustainability Plan’s Green Infrastructure, and we joined efforts when J.R. Lowell Elementary School was selected as a site to meet all three needs. The School has been very welcoming, and the City’s DPW will generously help with soil preparation, fencing, and hookup to a waterline. The Lowell School site is blessed with abundant sunshine and access to water. It will be ideal for the school community to participate in the planting. Students will also learn more about forest communities as they care for the trees and watch them grow.

As our investigations proceeded, the Bosch Community Fund invited our “mother tree” organization, Trees for Watertown, to submit a grant proposal. We accepted the challenge and recently learned that our grant was approved. The Bosch Fund states: “This grant will support the creation of a Miyawaki Forest and outdoor classroom on the grounds of an elementary school, in collaboration with the City, school staff and students, the surrounding neighborhood, and the wider Watertown community. The forest comprises a thousand native trees, shrubs, and pollinators densely planted in prepared soil the area of a tennis court.”

Watertown’s own Community Foundation has also agreed to support the project, with a grant that focused on “community engagement in shaping the forest as well as nature engagement experiences with families.” Other organizations have been generous, including Matt Border, formerly of the Newton Tree, which donated many “Tiny Trees.” The seedlings arrived in May and four Watertown residents have been nurturing the seedlings, watering them and protecting them from critters.

SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, Oct. 26 (Rain Date Oct. 27). Our planting will take place over ONE DAY — and requires many hands. (In a recent planting in St. Paul, 50 people planted 1,400 trees in an afternoon!). Stay tuned for more information or Sign Up at https://forms.gle/B9AySJwMvGEyDFje7 to receive our monthly newsletter. The event is guaranteed to be fun, satisfying, and inspiring as we create Watertown’s first Miyawaki Forest.

Watertown author Liza Ketchum is the author of 17 books for young readers. She is co-author, with Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Phyllis Root, of the forthcoming “Green Heart, Tiny Forest,” illustrated by Japanese artist Narisa Togo—who knew Akira Miyawaki and helped him plant a forest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *