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Chipped Scotch broom to help gardens grow in Sooke

Free broom drop-off available for Sooke residents on May 21 and June 4
Numerous clusters of Scotch bloom are visible along Phillips Road. The District of Sooke is offering free broom drop-off at the parks yard on May 21 and June 4. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)

The District of Sooke has found a use for Scotch broom.

The noxious weeds will be chipped, blended with manure and composted and used for garden mulch.

“This is a practice that has been done in the Highlands with good success,” said Jessica Boquist, Sooke’s parks and environmental services coordinator.

“In (Highland’s) case, we understand the compost is used in the community garden and germination of seed has not been observed. The effectiveness is due in part to the heat at which it decomposes when blended with manure. We will similarly monitor as the compost is used in a controlled area to ensure effective disposal of the broom.”

This year for the first time, the municipality is helping members of the public control the noxious weed by hosting free broom drop-offs at the District of Sooke Parks Yard at 2070 Kaltasin Rd. on May 21 and June 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Scotch broom is an invasive plant introduced to Vancouver Island in the mid-1800s. Sooke was ground zero for the escape when Capt. Walter Colquhoun Grant planted it in his garden in 1851.

The plant spreads rapidly on rights-of-way, trails, forest roads and under power lines and can take over any disturbed land such as farms, vacant lots, estuaries, wetlands, parks and green spaces. The plant is toxic to animals, threatens forests and presents a huge wildfire risk.

The district encourages residents to remove broom on their property or participate in a local “broom busting event” hosted by Sooke Broombusters or the Juan de Fuca Community Trails Society.

“Ideally, remove broom when in bloom by cutting at the base of the plant instead of pulling, to limit soil disturbance and prevent weed seeds from germinating,” said Boquist.

“It’s helpful to restore sites where broom has been removed with native plants such as Oregon grape or red currant.”

A community broom-busting event is scheduled with Sooke Broombusters at Phillips Road and Riverstone Drive on Saturday (May 7) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ashlene Akatarian, the district’s FireSmart program coordinator, will be on-site at the parks yard during the broom drop-off events to assist residents and provide more information on how they can reduce wildfire risk and damage to their property by using FireSmart principles.

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