Urban Forestry

I started off 2020 with the Our City Forest Tree Amigo volunteer program. Over 5 weeks we learned about urban forestry, nursery best practices, tree planting, tree care and stewardship, and water conservation. The program was fun. I learned about native plants and met like-minded folks, all while planting and pruning trees. Although the year quickly took a turn, some of the info stuck with me. Here are some reasons why the urban forest is an important investment:

  • Helps filter the air of pollutants
  • Reduce the urban heat island effect
  • Provides noise and wind barrier
  • Shade reduces energy cost of A/C
  • Shade protects roads from sun damage
  • Flood protection
  • Prevent soil erosion
  • Cleans contaminated soil
  • Psychological and spiritual benefit
  • Provides a wildlife habitat

Urban trees don’t come without problems. But most can be avoided through better planning and practices. Avoid planting trees with invasive roots near underground water/sewage pipes. Shallow watering can promote shallow roots that break pavement. Most trees prefer deep watering. Forming a berm around the tree helps funnel water to the roots and prevents runoff. When a tree grows in a pot it may form girdling roots. When the tree is replanted, those roots should be adjusted or broken so that the tree doesn’t get strangled as it grows. Prune trees to establish a central leader and the lowest permanent branch. A tree’s mature size should be considered when planting. It should have space to grow without breaking the things around it. Overall, given that a tree is a decades long investment, spending a few minutes to plan the right tree for the space is worth the time.

A couple memorable plants are the California Sagebrush and California Pepper Tree. The California Sagebrush, aka “Cowboy Cologne”, earns it’s nickname from smelling like the outdoors. Apparently cowboys used to ramble through Sagebrush and come back smelling like it. The California Pepper Tree is actually not native to California. It’s endemic to South America, but has been in California long enough, without being deemed an invasive nuisance, to be considered naturalized. It also produces spicy pink peppercorns which can be used for seasoning food. I ended up planting one in my garden (see below). I started noticing these trees all over the place after that.

California Pepper Tree planted in the Spring compared to now.

Looking forward to more planting next year.

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