10 Neat Things

10 Neat Things: Planting City Trees

plant more city trees

1. Plant more city trees. 

Plant different kinds of city trees. Every year. Everywhere.

plant city trees in parking lots

2. Parking lots. 

Wouldn’t you rather park your car under a tree on a hot summer day? Many cities have bylaws that require developers to include little islands of green space in parking lots; that’s where you get the stone-mulched beds of sickly looking osier dogwoods and daylilies, and sometimes a lollipop little-leaf linden that never stuggles its way past eight feet in height. Cities, instead, could you please demand accommodation for shade trees that have a chance of growing big? We know it makes it harder to clear the pavement of snow (as do light standards), and it requires leaf clearing in the fall, but… please?

city trees housing

3. New housing developments. 

New housing developments are typically required to plant a certain ratio of trees to houses in their city developments. Could they please be required to plant more species that grow bigger? (Diversity of species helps moderate the spread of species-specific pests and diseases; it also leaves you with a decent stock of trees when devastation occurs, such as Dutch elm disease or emerald ash borer.)

prune city trees

4. Pruning for health. 

We know cities are often understaffed with qualified arborists… but could we please try to prune city trees for the health of the trees rather than the position of the utility wires that those trees—the ones lucky enough to mature—are impinging on? This brings us to numbers 5 and 6.

hire arbourists

5. Arbourists. 

Hire more. Find the budget. This is important.

6. Utility wires. 

Why can’t the wires be restrung instead of pruning trees for convenience? When your children grow do you cut of their limbs to fit their clothes? Alternatively, plant shorter-growing trees under hydro wires.

7. Structural soil.  

Smaller, slower-growing trees are often used in urban areas because the allowance for root space is quite cramped. Roots have a hard time expanding under roadways because the ground is too compacted and is devoid of moisture. Truth is, many engineers prefer it that way because the roots of a healthy growing tree can displace rigid pavement. But there is a solution: structural soil. It’s a mix of soil and gravel that is structurally stable for building roads over while allowing expansion of tree roots without breaking the pavement above.

8. Water. 

Some cities impose watering bans owing to their own unrealistic development planning: there isn’t actually too little water available; in fact, there is no net water loss from watering trees, lawns and gardens; the problem is that the facilities for processing the water are too limited for the population growth the city has allowed to occur. In other words, there is too little water for the same reason that there are too few spaces to accommodate children at the schools in their neighbourhoods. School portables (those little huts that get placed on the school grounds as satellite classrooms) and watering bans should be short-term emergency measures put in place while city planners fix their infrastructure mistakes as quickly as possible.

9. Public relations for tree roots. 

Tree roots are not evil monsters that break up foundations and water pipes. They do infiltrate and worsen water pipes that are already damaged as the roots seek moisture, but they haven’t the power or the motivation to initiate the damage to the pipes. As for foundations, unless you have significant moisture in your foundation, the tree roots will not infiltrate it. Either case represents a reason to fix an infrastructure problem, not a reason to remove (or never plant) a tree.

10. Public health. 

A healthy urban forest is required for a healthy human population. In short, trees clean air and water, they moderate temperatures, and they provide a psychological environment where there is less crime and where sick people heal faster. This is not opinion—this is documented fact.

Shauna Dobbie Copyright
Pegasus Publications Inc