The following tree care tips require little time, minimal expense and do a great deal to maintain the health and beauty of street trees.
Water the trees
The most important factor in the survival of New York City’s street trees is water. All trees, especially newly planted trees, need 15-20 gallons of water per week in hot, dry weather. Place a hose at the base of the tree and water slowly for 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, purchase treegators and fill weekly.
Keep Tree Beds Clean
Litter is not only unsightly; it blocks the movement of oxygen and water into the soil. Keep tree beds free of debris and place garbage bags on sidewalks, not in the tree beds.
Bleach and cleaning agents seriously harm trees. Only wash sidewalks with water. If toxins inadvertently seep into tree beds, remove and dispose of the top ½ inch layer of soil and then flush the pit by watering slowly and deeply for 15-20 minutes.
De-ice Sidewalks Without Salt
Rock salt (sodium chloride) reduces the ability of a tree’s fine roots to absorb water, nutrients and oxygen - all necessary for healthy growth. As an alternative, use calcium, potassium or magnesium chloride to de-ice sidewalks. In the spring, flush tree beds with water to help remove salt residue from the soil.
Avoid Soil Compaction
Do not step on the soil in tree beds. Compacted soil prevents water and oxygen from reaching tree roots. Without oxygen the roots will die, eventually resulting in the death of the entire tree.
Cultivate the Soil
Break up soil in tree beds to help water and oxygen freely drain down to tree roots. Loosen the soil gently with a hand cultivator. Properly cultivated soil allows trees to act as green infrastructure and do double duty improving the quality of our air and the quality of our waterways! Find out how!
Install Tree Bed Guards
Automobiles, chemicals, dogs, bikes and pedestrians threaten the health of our city's trees. Installing tree bed guards (also commonly referred to as simply "tree guards") around street trees is an effective way to protect the health of city trees. For tree guard guidelines, click here.
Mulch the soil
Mulch conserves water, moderates soil temperature and mitigates damage from dogs, people and snow laden with de-icing salts and cleaning agents. Apply a 2-3 inch layer of mulch in the late fall and remove before the March growing season. Organic mulch, such as wood chips and bark mulch, decompose and improve the soil structure. Do not let mulch touch the tree trunk.
Flowers enhance your storefront and discourage people from walking on tree beds. Plant annual flowers such as impatiens, coleus, begonias or geraniums. Plant spring bulbs such as Muscari and Crocus before the first frost (mid/late November).
Do Not Raise Soil Levels
Do not add more than ½” of soil to tree beds. When soil or mulch mounds against the base of a tree, it can cause the bark to rot and provide an entry for pests and diseases. The extra weight can also cause compaction.
Keep Dogs Away from Trees
Many dog owners and walkers are unaware of the harmful impact that dog waste has on street trees. Help remind your neighbors to keep dogs from "visiting" tree pits with TreesNY’s attractive, rust-resistant Curb Your Dog signs.