- Associated Press - Monday, September 26, 2016

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - The homeowner had requested a peach-color tree, and while the flowers will be yellow rather than peach, Matt Viens of the Urban Resource Initiative said the newly planted cornelian-cherry dogwood will be the first on Shelton Avenue to flower in springtime.

As the young tree, stretching about 12 feet high and weighing roughly 300 pounds, was being planted recently outside her house, Angela Kelly spoke with Viens about the best ways to water the tree to make sure it survived in the new neighborhood, especially in the dry soil left by the summer-long drought.

“We wanted to beautify our front yard,” Kelly said, as workers with URI dug a hole between the sidewalk and curb in front of the house, adding that the tree was mainly for the benefit of her mother, Evelyn Miller.

“I wanted something peachy,” Kelley said.

Kelly said she requested the tree after she saw other trees being planted on her street by URI last year.

URI will plant 330 trees - paid for by the city - this fall, all at the request of residents or businesses, and at no cost to the requester.

URI Director Colleen Murphy-Dunning said the aim of the organization’s marketing campaign is to get requests for trees in areas of New Haven where satellite imagery shows less tree cover than others.

“Tree cover comes with different associated environmental and economic benefits,” she said, such as reducing energy costs by providing shade, increasing property values, soaking up pollution, and providing a home for birds and other animals.

“They provide all types of ecosystem services,” she said.

Katie Beechem, Green Skills manager for the URI, said that while trees are being planted, she likes to go to neighboring houses with space out front to tell homeowners about the process of requesting a public tree. The trees come at no cost to the homeowner, except for the promise they’ll water them.

Because of the drought this summer, the stipulation of recipients watering the trees is even more important, said Chris Donnelly, Urban Forestry coordinator for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“The trouble with newly planted trees is a less-advanced root system,” Donnelly said. “They need their roots watered.”

After this summer’s drought, there is very little water in the soil from which the young trees can draw moisture.

Donnelly likes to encourage at least 10 gallons of water per week for young trees, and that water has to penetrate the soil to soak the roots. Mulching the area around the tree also helps maintain moisture in and around the root system, he said.

URI actually encourages residents receiving a tree to water 25 gallons per week for three years, Beechem said. Residents are provided pamphlets with information about best watering and weeding practices for new trees.

Even without drought, the same watering practices would be encouraged, said Murphy-Dunning. Rain is never consistent enough to ensure the tree can establish itself well in a new neighborhood without some help, she said.

“It’s a really long process to get a tree established,” Murphy-Dunning said.

She added that every tree planted by URI is tagged with a GPS, so the group can go back and check on the trees, following up on how well the plant is doing.

Similarly, the Friends of Edgewood Park volunteer program known as the Wondrous Waters aims to water trees with more than 20 gallons of water per week, according to Stephanie Fitzgerald, a member of the stewardship program. Fitzgerald said the park’s newest trees are completely reliant on the volunteers who dedicate their time to water every week. Some trees planted in memory of community members have no shortage of volunteers, she said.

In Hamden, Tree Commission member Mike Montgomery said he understands it may seem unnecessary to water trees once they lose their leaves in the fall, but it’s still necessary to keep the roots hydrated.

Montgomery is a retired entomologist of the U.S. Forest Service and said he encourages volunteers to put three holes in the bottom of a bucket, fill it with water and place it near the base of the tree. This allows a slow drip of water that will help deeply soak the roots, rather than spraying gallons of water that might splash away from the base of the tree.

He recommends watering 10 gallons to 15 gallons twice a week for new trees, especially in dry weather.

Even long-standing trees may show signs of distress this fall due to the drought, Montgomery said. Due to the dry summer, he said many trees may be weakened by the lack of water, and show wilting and an earlier color change this fall.

There still may be spectacular foliage this season, he added, but that may be stress-induced.

Thankfully, he said, trees are resilient and can survive a bad drought.

“It’s going to take a couple of years of defoliation or bad weather for the tree to die,” Montgomery said.

Even with the risk that comes from planting in a dry fall following a dry summer, Donnelly said he believes it’s better to plant more than less in cities in fall, and he applauded URI for going ahead with its planting plans. Fall actually is a good planting time, he said, because the soil stays warmer than the outside air as temperatures cool toward the winter, so the ground is still soft enough to plant.

“I think it’s better to plant than not to plant,” he said. “Trees are an essential part of our cities.”

URI plans to plant 560 trees by the end of spring 2017, with trees being brought in from as far south as Maryland and as far north as Ontario, Canada, she said.

The city’s budget for fiscal year 2016-17 allocated $20,000 for tree planting, which Mayor Toni Harp believes is an important investment for the city. The money will be used for trees and other supplies, according to city spokesman Laurence Grotheer.

“New Haven has a proud tradition of working with URI, other conservation groups, and individual residents to maintain its natural tree canopy and consistently live up to the legacy built into its nickname, ‘the Elm City,’” Harp said. “The return on this investment is beautiful, tree-lined streets, glorious city parks, and repeated recognition by the Connecticut Audubon Society and other environmental advocates for providing welcoming wildlife habitat.”


Information from: New Haven Register, https://www.nhregister.com

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