In urban environments, street trees add value by reducing traffic noise, lowering energy costs, increasing property values, and purifying the air, not to mention the aesthetic beauty they add to the local community. Some cities have programs aimed at planting and caring for these trees. In other cities, homeowners are responsible for their care and maintenance, either solely, or in partnership with their local city governments. If "street" trees fall under your care, here are some tips for keeping them healthy and looking great.
In cities and towns, trees growing in the easement area along sidewalks and on boulevards (the area between the sidewalk and the street), are called street trees. The city usually retains ownership of these areas (and these trees), in order to maintain access to city utilities.
Because of their proximity to human activities, street trees are constantly exposed to a number of stressors not normally faced by trees growing in other areas:
Although street trees are usually selected based on their ability to withstand tough environmental conditions, providing a little extra care and maintenance can greatly increase their chances of living a long and healthy life.
Proper watering is essential to maintain the health of any tree-especially newly-planted trees. Concrete and asphalt create run-off, which greatly reduces the amount of water available to nearby trees. You can help street trees develop deep root systems by watering them deeply every 10 days or so throughout the growing season. (Deeper roots are also less likely to damage sidewalks.) To check the moisture level of the soil, dig 4-6 inches deep, about 24 inches from the tree trunk. If the soil is dry, the tree needs water.
Adding mulch around street trees adds organic nutrients to the soil, conserves water, and suppresses weeds. Use organic materials (wood chips, chopped leaves, grass clippings) to create a bowl-shaped ring of mulch 4-5 inches deep, starting 6 inches out from the trunk and extending to the drip line. Avoid building a mulch "volcano" (a mound of mulch around the trunk), which can trap moisture near the trunk and promote disease.