Taking Care of Street Trees

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December 10, 2009

Trees next to sidewalkIn 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.


What Are Street Trees?

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.

Street Tree Stressors

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.


Street Tree "Do's and Don'ts"



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December 10, 20090 found this helpful

In some cities the property owner is responsible for trimming trees in the easement area. If they don't do it the city sends somebody to do and bills the property owner.


My opinion is that if they are on city property the city should be responsible.

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December 10, 20091 found this helpful

Terrific article Ellen. Here in Australia. Melbourne to be exact.. this time of year can be VERY hot, and also we have drastic water restrictions, ie, no watering of anything between certain hours and only on certain days. A few years ago our local council urged residents to take care of their street trees. HMMM! The problem for me is that I live in a second floor apartment of a block of ten, There is no garden here, just the concrete car park, Also I live at the back of the block, up 2 flights of external stairs.


No hose watering could be done, even if I had a hose long enough, so all that summer I carried buckets of water up and down the stairs to water a beautiful little flowering gum which was a street tree a few doors down.
However, outside this block, there was a little tree that the garbage collectors smashed to the ground by throwing the bins right on top of the tree.

complained to the council, and in due course they sent a worker around to plant another little tree.
Same thing! The garbage guys also smashed this one. It split, so I taped up the break hoping it would heal, but it died. I haven't tried for a third tree. I'm too disheartened.

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December 11, 20090 found this helpful

Great points, I think we tend to overlook these trees, but they play a big role in the neighborhood.

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August 2, 20220 found this helpful

8/2/22 - This article about the care of trees is quite timely - for many years, we've been home owners in a quaint, woodsy old Atlanta neighborhood. At 3:30 AM two nights ago after an extremely violent thunder storm, our next door neighbor's gigantic magnolia tree (standing at the edge of her driveway) fell across the entire front of her house, damaging the roof above her bedroom, living room, dining room, front doorway and carport. Other trees near the fallen one are leaning severely and do not look healthy. The tarps (plural) the tree removal workers put on her roof are sagging with rain water at the moment - a major mess! It is vital for homeowners to pay attention to their trees (and neighboring ones) to make sure they are healthy (no vines weighing them down and sapping their strength) (pun intended). Have branches removed to lighten big old trees so they can better withstand strong winds. I've known several people whose trees (and trees on sidewalks or in someone else's yard) have done considerable damage to their homes. We hire experts for tree pruning and/or removal; it is costly but dangerous work. A friend of a friend died a few years ago while cutting down a small tree in his back yard. Some time back, I noticed damage at the ground level of one of our big old oak trees and called a forestry expert to take a look - he used equipment to examine the tree inside and out. I was surprised when he said that the tree had to be removed ASAP, plus 3 other ones on our property because they all had a disease called slime flux - nothing was holding up these monster trees but a thin veneer of bark (most of the wood inside was dark and soggy although all the trees looked healthy from the outside). We spent $10,000.00 on tree removal that time, but better than having a tree fall on us or someone else. Take care out there!

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