Street Tree Planting FAQ

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Who is Blue Water Baltimore? 

Blue Water Baltimore (BWB) is a small non-profit organization focused on improving water quality in Baltimore. We achieve our mission through restoration, advocacy and education. Our Restoration Team plants hundreds of trees each year across our neighborhoods.

Why are we planting trees with your community?  

In some cases, trees are requested by community associations or residents. We meet with them to learn their priority locations to plant. We also receive grants to work in specific neighborhoods.

  • Trees save money. A large tree can reduce energy costs by 15-35% by shading your home in the summer and blocking winter wind. 
  • Trees reduce flooding. They slow down rushing rainwater during storms. 
  • Trees are natural air conditioners. They lower temperatures and combat urban heat island effect to make city life livable.  
  • Trees improve our health. They provide oxygen and filter pollutants out of the ground and the air, helping to reduce asthma rates. 
  • Trees increase property values. Tree-lined streets bring beauty to our communities. 
  • Trees are homes. They provide habitat for native wildlife such the Baltimore Oriole!  

What types of trees are being planted? 

BWB is focused on ‘Right tree, right place,” which means that we carefully select tree locations to ensure both the health and well-being of trees and residents. We plant smaller ‘understory’ trees in areas with limited growing space, such as a narrow median or under a powerline. When there is more space available, we plant larger shade trees with the goal of increasing our local canopy to 40%, which is recommended for a healthy city. 

We plant native species. Native trees are adapted to our climate and soils in Baltimore. They do not require any amendments to survive and provide habitat to native wildlife. 

We do not plant fruiting trees on the street to avoid mess on your vehicles and sidewalks. 

You choose the type of tree from our list that will be planted in front of your home! Contact us to learn more.

Where are the trees being planted? 

Trees will be planted in front of homes in the “public right-of-way” between the sidewalk and the curb. Depending on your neighborhood, we may cut the sidewalk and remove concrete to create new tree beds. In other cases, we’ll plant trees in the grass strip.

How do we select exact locations within a neighborhood?

We solicit feedback from leaders and residents to determine planting zones. For example, in a recent project in Oliver, our neighborhood contact asked us to focus on greening up Asquith St because it is large, busy gateway into the community and she wanted to slow down traffic. We typically start by downloading data from the Baltimore City Tree Inventory to find open tree beds and grass strips. This map is available online. We survey the blocks to determine which locations are the best for trees. Before digging, BWB works with MISS Utility (811) to mark buried utilities and prevent damage.  

What do these spray paint marks on the sidewalk mean?

Before we dig, we always call 811 (MISS Utility) to avoid damage to underground infrastructure. Located underground is a complex network of pipes and wires for critical services such as electricity, natural gas, communications, water, sewage and other utilities. Unsafe digging can damage equipment. This is the first, vital step to ensuring we are doing the job safely. Miss Utility will notify BGE and other affected utilities that will then send professional locators to the dig site to mark the exact location of any underground lines. Visit the 811 website to learn what each color means.

How do tree roots affect my sewer lines? 

Tree roots will only invade sewer lines that already have breaks or cracks. These openings in the pipes are caused by age – not tree roots. The growing tip of a plant is very tender and not capable of drilling into an intact pipe.  

However, when a pipe develops a break and begins to leak, tree roots can spread to take advantage of the water and nutrients. Over time, the roots may then grow through the opening and into the pipe.  

If a pipe is damaged, removing a tree will not unclog the pipe or stop the leak. The permanent solution for a root-clogged pipe is to replace the defective pipe with a modern watertight PVC pipe. 

The Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for maintaining pipes in the public right-of-way. Property owners are responsible for the maintenance of the sewer pipes on their property.  

Will street parking be affected?

Yes, briefly. For 1-2 days during tree installation, we ask that residents do not park on the block between 8am-3pm to allow access for equipment to pre-dig holes.

We will clean up any remaining soil piles within 1 business day.

What is process for planting trees in your community? 

6 months before planting:  

  • BWB connects with community organizations and partners to create project plans and incorporate feedback. 

1 month before:  

  • Direct mailers are sent to all homes on our list. 

2 weeks before:  

  • BWB staff and community leaders knock on doors, offering residents the opportunity to select their tree species!  
  • We stencil the sidewalk (if removing concrete) or place yard signs (if grass strip) or to alert everyone that “Trees are coming!” 

1 week before:  

  • “No Parking” cones are placed 

Day before:  

  • Holes are dug with excavator 

Volunteer events:  

  • BWB staff work with community partners and individuals to plant and water the trees.  Join us! We welcome volunteers of all ages. Sign up to volunteer at a tree planting.

Who is responsible for caring for the trees? 

  • BWB maintains newly planted trees for the first 2 years. We water trees regularly in the summers and remove the wooden stakes and Greenwells (the green plastic ring used for watering) after 1-2 years.
  • If possible, after three to five years, we lightly prune trees to improve their structure and health. 
  • We strive for 100% survival rate and replace any dead trees.  
  • After year 2, Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks’ Forestry Division takes on maintenance of the city’s street trees with four in-house crews and nine contract crews. There are approximately 200,000 street trees in Baltimore City. Maintenance includes pruning and removal of dead trees. Learn more at treebaltimore.org and bcrp.baltimorecity.gov/forestry/faq

How can I help care for my tree? 

Street trees can always use extra TLC from residents! The best love you can give your tree is regular weekly watering in the summer during extreme heat and re-mulching each season. Street trees require an average of 20 gallons of water each week. Use natural, undyed mulch and do not pile it against the trunk of the tree.  Think mulch donut, not mulch volcano!

Learn more at our Street Tree Care blog post!

Questions or concerns?

Contact our Community Engagement Manager, Zoe, at [email protected] or (410) 254-1577 ext. 121