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Spring = Tree Planting


SDOT's Urban Forestry staff are hard at work planting hundreds of bare root trees around Seattle.

470 :  That’s the number of bare root trees SDOT Urban Forestry tree and landscape crews will plant this spring.  Bare root trees are dug from a nursery field in Oregon and shipped without their soil.  Trees that are shipped in pots or with root balls wrapped in burlap can weigh hundreds of pounds. Even the lightest weigh at least 40 lbs, which makes delivering, moving and planting challenging.  On the other hand, one person can carry a bundle of 5 bare root trees.  It is still a huge amount of work to dig the holes, plant, water, mulch, and stake all those trees, but using bare root trees makes the job a little easier.  Bare root trees cost less to purchase and ship than trees with soil, but nurseries only produce them this way in the spring.

Bare root trees can develop better root structure than containerized trees, because we can see and easily prune roots with poor structure.  In containers, roots can circle around the tree, causing problems when the tree is larger.  Bare root trees have one major risk: if they are not planted quickly, the roots can dry out, killing the tree.  We are careful to keep the roots covered with wood chips and tarps while storing and transporting them.  Once planted, we water the trees immediately. 

Before planting starts, property owners with adequate room in their planting strips are notified that they will be receiving trees.  A door hanger  is delivered with information and a choice of species-small trees which can be planted under electrical lines reducing City Light maintenance costs .  Larger species can be planted where there are no overhead distribution wires. This spring the large trees are cimarron ash, emperor ginkgo, green column maple, and swamp white oak. The smaller trees are serviceberry, crabapple, Persian ironwood, and red cascade mountain ash.    The planting crews get a map and a list of addresses noting which of the eight species to plant and must ensure that the right species is planted at each address.  The Urban Forestry field crews do an excellent job sorting out the logistics and planting the trees properly and efficiently. 

Our largest project this spring is in Ballard (from 8th Ave NW to 14th Ave NW and from NW 65th St to NW 85th St).  Smaller projects are in Brighton (on 39th Ave S, from S Graham St to S Holly St and S Myrtle St from 42nd Ave S to 44th Ave S) and Bryant (38th Ave NE and 39th Ave NE, from NE 55th St to NE 65th St). In Ballard, those who received trees have been appreciative.  One resident wrote: “Just a quick note to thank you and your team for the newly planted tree which arrived today. Very cool.”

SDOT Urban Forestry plants 800 trees in the right of way each year to increase Seattle’s urban forest canopy and fulfill Bridging the Gap tree planting goals. The trees that comprise the urban forest provide numerous benefits; they reduce particulate air pollution, reduce stormwater runoff, provide summer shade to keep streets cooler, and beautify neighborhoods.