Some of the Why, Where, and What-Have-You of planting trees in the city with Friends of Trees
Since 1989 Friends of Trees has been growing our urban canopy through planting street and yard trees in neighborhoods. A LOT changes during 30 years of tree planting! We continually work with our city and county partners to ensure the right tree is planted in the right place, and since every location is different we are used to getting quite a few questions. Here are answers to some of the questions we get the most:
I want a smaller/larger tree for my planting strip but all the trees on this list are just too big/small, why can’t I get a smaller/larger street tree?
We work closely with our municipal partners and we can only plant trees that are on their approved street tree planting lists. One of the goals of our program, and the partners we work with, is to increase the urban canopy in order to maximize the benefits. In other words, the larger the tree, the more the urban canopy grows, which provides more benefits in terms of cooling in the heat of summer, providing oxygen, and cleaning our air and water. So when a planting site allows it we need to optimize the size of the tree planted, and consequently, maximize the benefits provided. We also want to make sure we aren’t planting trees that are too big, in order to protect existing urban infrastructure. So these same guidelines ensure we aren’t planting over-sized trees in spaces that are too small.
I want to plant a fruit tree in my planting strip and I know you have them, why aren’t they on my list of approved street trees?
Fruit trees are only approved for certain spaces, such as yards or planting strips that are six feet or larger and have overhead primary power lines (however, Vancouver and Clark County do not allow fruit trees to be planted as street trees at all). If you’d like a fruit tree for your yard in addition to your street tree, we offer a wide variety, including apple, pear, plum, fig, and persimmon.
I only want native trees for my street tree and you only have one native on this list, why don’t you plant more natives?
Right Tree Right Place! We love native trees, but many tend to get pretty big and just won’t work in some planting locations due to overhead power lines, if the strip isn’t wide enough, a nearby intersection, etc. We want to make sure your tree is the best tree for your planting spot! We also want to plant as diversely as possible toward a resilient urban forest. P.S. Want to plant some natives? Join one of our Green Space planting events–all natives, all the time.
I want a street tree, but will it break the sidewalk?
Again, Right Tree Right Place! The trees offered by Friends of Trees do not have aggressive root systems and are specially approved to minimize such conflicts. Proper watering also helps. Deep watering for the first three years after planting encourages tree roots to grow deeper in the soil, we recommend 15 gallons a week during the summer for the tree’s first three years, and as needed in the future when temperatures are extreme. Keep in mind that we cannot guarantee that the trees we offer will never buckle sidewalks, as they are living beings and situations vary. We do our best and encourage you to keep an eye on your tree.
I’m concerned that tree roots will damage the sewer pipe, doesn’t this happen?
A tree’s roots grow where the growing is easy, they are opportunistic and not invasive. They do not seek out water or sewer pipes unless the pipes are leaking. Further, 90% of tree roots are in the top 2-3 feet of soil, and most sewer lines are deeper than that. Your municipal tree inspectors take into account the location of your water meter and assigns the planting location within the guidelines of the water company.
Can you help me remove a tree so I can plant a new one with you?
We can’t help you with a tree removal, but you can re-plant with our program if the city allows you to remove your tree. If you want to remove trees in your yard, check with the city to see if there are laws affecting your tree. To remove a street tree, you need a permit. Contact your city’s urban forestry department directly for a removal inspection, a list of contact information for our municipal partners is here. It’s a good idea to request that the city mark “all approved locations.” If you want to re-plant with us after removal please include on your application that you are working with Friends of Trees. Visit our website for more information about tree removal and replacement.
The approved locations where the trees are going are strange, can you change the location?
Unfortunately we can’t change the location. All street tree locations are based on a city inspection, and there are many factors involved, including distance from underground utilities, overhead lights and power lines, utility poles, fire hydrants, intersections, and street signs. Planting in the spot chosen by the inspector will help ensure your street tree has the best shot at surviving–and thriving!
Love trees? Looking for meaningful work in a supportive, fun work environment? Then check out our opening for a Neighborhood Trees Specialist.
Neighborhood Trees Specialists implement community-based, neighborhood street tree planting projects in collaboration with volunteer Neighborhood Coordinators, Neighborhood Associations and other partner groups in accordance with the Friends of Trees’ mission. Ideal candidates will be personable, creative and adaptable; have a background or interest in community tree planting and care; able to juggle multiple priorities at once; and have a desire to work with diverse communities and individuals of all backgrounds.
Interested? Details here.
Dear FOT: The weight of the snow and ice is causing my new trees to lean and bend over. What should I do? Will my trees be OK? I wonder how many people with taller, newer trees are going to have this problem from the ice…
-Jacob in Rose City Park, Portland
As your young tree collects ice and snow, it may gain a little winter weight. (Yep, we’ve all been there.) New trees are especially vulnerable to the extra weight, as their young, flexible branches may begin to bend under the heavy load. There are a few ways you can help your tree deal with challenging winter conditions.
Reduce the weight. If the extra weight is snow build-up, consider brushing loose snow off the trees branches with something soft, like a broom. Take care not to damage the tree’s branches. Some extra weight, like frozen ice, should not be removed from the tree. In doing so you may do more harm than good by damaging the tree’s living tissues.
Support your tree. Keep an eye on your tree during ice storms. If your tree’s branch or leader is beginning to bend, simply prop it up with a board, a bucket, a ladder, or some other kind of sturdy support to keep it from bending further and potentially breaking. If the branch is already touching the ground, it can be left in place as its weight is now being supported by the ground. If a branch is at risk of bending further, place a support under the branch to keep it from bending any lower and potentially breaking. You do not want to try to bend the tree back into shape; just prop it up a little bit to support the weight.
Prune off broken branches. If a branch has already been damaged and broken from the heavy load, you’ll want to remove the rest of a damaged branch to help the tree heal. Don’t just cut randomly; make sure to cut back to the closest branch collar. (Not sure what that means? Check out this article about proper pruning.)
Your tree should return to normal position as the ice melts off. If not, consider re-staking your tree to straighten it out. Earlier this week we re-staked some newly planted broadleaf evergreens which were uprooted from the weight of the heavy ice. They’ll probably be fine, but it’s good to correct these issues as soon as possible!
–Ian Bonham is a Neighborhood Trees Specialist at Friends of Trees
Have a tree care question? Send yours into firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey! My name’s Bryan, and I am working as an intern (via the Duke Engage program) for the summer here at Friends of Trees. In my position, I support both the Neighborhood Trees and Green Space programs as they perform necessary administrative and maintenance tasks in between planting seasons. We don’t plant in the summer because many trees would not be able to survive the shock of being dug up and then planted in a new location during the hot summer months. But even though there are no planting events going on, we still have much work to do! Planning an entire year’s worth of planting events for both of our main programs is no small feat. Our team is hard at work making sure that our previously planted trees are doing well and that our upcoming plantings run as smoothly as possible.
The Green Space team is going back through all of our planting sites from the past year, doing maintenance which is vital to the survival of the native ecosystems we work to restore. Without the care of the summer maintenance team, many of the trees and shrubs planted by our awesome volunteers would not be able to survive their first years in their new environments. Much of our maintenance work involves removing invasive plants from planting areas, putting down mulch, and watering the new trees and shrubs. I’ve found that I have conflicting feelings towards Himalayan blackberry, one of Oregon’s most prevalent invasive species. With its fast-growing, spiky, and hardy stems, this plant gives our team quite a challenge at most of our sites. However, the berries it produces are a delicious snack, especially after working out in the sun all day!
The Neighborhood Trees program has several different projects going on during the summer months. Volunteer Summer Inspectors travel around the city, checking on the health of all of the trees we have planted over the past year. They even go back and check on a portion of trees that have been planted more than a year ago, to make sure that our trees are continuing to thrive on Portland’s streets. Any trees that seem unhealthy are checked on by our staff, and we work with homeowners to help their trees grow or replace any trees that have died. Our canvassing team is working its way across Portland, talking to homeowners and trying to find new places for us to develop the city’s urban canopy. Back at the office, our staff is working hard doing all sorts of administrative work that helps us re-organize and transition from one planting season to the next.
I’m from the east coast, and have never been to the western part of the country until this summer. Since coming here, I’ve been absolutely astounded by how green Portland is. The people who live here clearly care a lot about their environment, which is why I see so many beautiful trees and gardens around the city. Exploring different neighborhoods on my Summer Inspector routes, I’ve witnessed firsthand how urban street trees really benefit those who live near them. Especially during the summer, trees provide streets and buildings with awesome shade and insulation. The air quality is noticeably nicer in areas with more foliage, which is so important for cities that have a lot of car and bus traffic. Plus, in my opinion, trees just look beautiful, and make urban landscapes much more pleasant and liveable. I can confidently say that Portland has the best commitment to preserving and increasing its natural resources out of any city I’ve been to. A huge part of that commitment comes from individuals, either by maintaining trees and gardens on their own properties, or by volunteering with organizations like us!
Bryan Higgins is the Duke Engage Intern with Friends of Trees
By Andy Meeks
We need to do everything we possibly can — right now — to help combat climate change. No single effort is going to fix the Earth’s rapidly-deteriorating natural resources and systems, but every little bit matters. By starting small, thinking big and acting now, we can make a difference. That’s how Friends of Trees views its work, by planting and caring for trees every weekend from October – May, year after year, for more than 25 years. Since 1989, Friends of Trees and tens of thousands of volunteers have helped combat climate change on a regional and global scale by planting more than 500,000 trees and native shrubs in Pacific Northwest communities.
While the immediate impact of this work is hard to measure, it is becoming common knowledge that planting trees is one of the most cost-effective ways to combat climate change. In fact, Oxford University researchers released a report this February that concluded that planting trees should be included as one of the primary tools to help offset climate change. The Atlantic magazine, discussing this report, said that planting trees where there weren’t any trees before will “help the atmosphere no matter what, they’re comparatively low-cost, and they carry little additional risk.”
Earth Day is this Wednesday, April 22nd and it’s the 45th Anniversary of the very first Earth Day — originally conceived as an environmental teach-in day and when 20 million Americans stepped “into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform.” This was a heady time in the United States for the environmental movement; within the next 6 years that followed, landmark environmental protection laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Toxic Substances Control Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act were enacted. In 1990, one year after Friends of Trees was founded, “Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.”
Even if you celebrate the natural world every day, Earth Day, or even Earth Week, offers everyone an opportunity to boost and re-commit their support for environmental causes. Celebrate Earth Day and Earth Week by supporting Friends of Trees:
- Consider making a donation to Friends of Trees. We are a member-based organization and our work is funded by supporters like you. Just last weekend, we distributed almost 1,000 young fruit trees to residents in the Portland-Vancouver metro region during our annual Fruit Tree Giveaway when we raised over $6,000 from voluntary donations for each tree.
- Support the dozens of local businesses who pledge their support to help Friends of Trees do the work we do. Our Friends of Trees Days campaign engages with businesses who are doing their part to help support Friends of Trees through various promotions over the course of this week or this month.
- Learn more HERE about all of the different ways you can volunteer with us throughout the year — we have a professional staff waiting to find out how you are most excited to get involved.
Whatever your view of our current state of affairs, one thing is sure: planting trees makes a big difference. Thank you for your support!
– Andy Meeks is the Development Manager with Friends of Trees.