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Technical assistance

Technical assistance

Small Habitat Restoration Program

Would you like to try your own restoration or enhancement project?

This page provides basic information on how to use native vegetation to restore or enhance streams, wetlands and their buffers. It includes instructions on how to:

  • determine the number and types of plants to use,
  • how to prepare a basic planting plan, and
  • how to maintain the project.

Types of projects

These guidelines are for revegetation projects that can typically be performed using hand labor. They should not be used for projects that involve grading, water control structures, or that have slopes steeper than 40% (4 inch or more drop over a 10 foot horizontal distance).

Getting started - four steps to an effective project

Step one: design

  • Draw up a site plan - Prepare a site plan using an assessor's map or other base map. This will help you plan your project and can be used later for the planting plan. You can view a parcel map and information using King County's on-line Parcel Locator. You can also view examples of site plans. (SHRP staff can assist you with your site plan.)
    The site map should include:
    • a north arrow,
    • map scale,
    • nearest street names,
    • location of existing or proposed improvements including house, barn, garage, driveway, septic system,
    • approximate location of any streams or wetlands.

    Step two: preparation

    • Order your plants - The native plant resources web page list nurseries, books, publications, and other resources.
    • Remove invasive plants - such as blackberries, Japanese knotweed Download the weed management guidelines (.pdf file)
    • Stake plant locations - You may wish to prepare the ground by rototilling the planting area to make installing the plants much easier.

    Step three: planting

    • Dig the planting holes - for each plant these should be at least twice the size of container.
    • Score edges - score with a shovel so that the roots can travel outside hole.
    • Loosen plant roots slightly - and place in center of hole, upright and level with ground surface.
    • Tie dayglo survey flagging - around a branch of each plant in order to locate plants in the future. Label the flags with the abbreviated plant name, using an indelible marker (e.g.: Sharpie).
    • Where bare soil is exposed - hand broadcast seed and/or mulch with straw to prevent erosion.
    • Mulch - with 3" of compost or wood chips to dripline of every tree or shrub.
    • Water the whole site - with 2" of water right after planting.

    Step four: maintenance

    • Water - the whole site with 1" of water every week from July 1 to October 15 during the first year after planting.
    • Weed - around the plants at least 2X per year, in the early and late spring. Mulch immediately after weeding.
    • Replace - any plant that dies within five years after planting.

    Project example

    "Typical" SHRP site has been subjected to overgrazing in wetland and along salmon-bearing stream by livestock. As a result the streambank is eroding and downcutting, the pasture is getting drier and is being invaded by noxious weeds (e.g. Tansy ragwort, giant hogweed).


    1. Calculate total number of plants required:   1000 x 0.012 (trees) = 12 5-gallon trees (If bare-root, 18 trees)   1000 x 0.028 (shrubs) = 28 2-gallon shrubs (If bare-root, 42 shrubs)   1000 x 0.063 (herbs) = 63 herbs   Total number of plants = 103 (If bare-root trees and shrubs, 123 total)
    2. Calculate area of habitat type(s):   500 square feet are Class 3 Wetland - habitat type SS   200 square feet are wetter buffer - habitat type WB   300 square feet are drier buffer - habitat type DB
    3. Appendix A, Habitat Worksheet, lists plants matched to each habitat type.
    4. Homeowner selects plants appropriate to each habitat type.
    5. Homeowner selects 5 tree species, 5 shrub species, 5 herb species for a total of 103 plants for the site overall.
    6. Homeowner prepares site plan showing existing and proposed structures, approximate location of wetland (or stream) edge and buffer edge, planting locations, and plant schedule (see Figure 1: Planting Plan).
    7. Plan shows plants arranged in random, naturalized clusters, and describes weeding and maintenance plan to be carried out three times yearly for at least three years, and watering at 1" per week from July 1 to October 15 during the first year after installation.
  • Measure the planting area - Flag the strip of ground you wish to plant. Use dayglo surveyor's flagging tape to mark the corners, then measure the distances between corners. Now you can calculate the square footage of the planting area.
  • Evaluate site conditions - Identify habitat types in order to select plant species. Calculate the total area of these habitat types in square feet. Identify the approximate boundaries of these areas on your site map. Download the Plant Selection Worksheet (.pdf file)
  • Determine number and species of plants needed - Use the Planting Design Worksheet to determine the number of different trees, shrubs, and herbs that you will need for your project. Download the Planting Design Worksheet (.pdf file)
  • Draw up the planting plan - Draw an outline of the planting area onto a copy of your site plan. Using the plants you have selected from the planting design worksheet, make a drawing that shows the location of the different plants. You can also view examples of planting plans.
    Most native shrubs are between 3 and 6 feet around. Since most plants are roughly circular when seen from above, draw circles that are from 3 - 6 feet across onto your plan in the location you wish to plant each native. Since trees grow above and over shrubs, their circles can overlap the others. Be sure to tag each circle with an abbreviation of its name so you won't forget what it was, e.g.: VM for Vine Maple.
    Tip: your planting will look better if you plant in groups of three or more shrubs of the same species, and even more of the smaller plants.

For more information about the Small Habitat Restoration Program, please contact Mason Bowles, senior ecologist, Water and Land Resources Division Ecological Restoration and Engineering Services Unit.