Water those newly-planted trees

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Have you noticed white “T” marks on curbs, and new trees here and there where the tornado hit?

Notice dramatic white scars on trees where major limbs used to be?

Minneapolis Park Board Forestry crews were out in force in March doing spring tree-trimming work. They’ve wrapped it up and are on to planting new trees, especially bare-root stock, throughout the city starting in North Minneapolis where 3,100 of the citywide total 6,000 trees will be placed.

In replacing trees today, foresters strive for some continuity in species, but introduce diversity on every block. Whereas you used to have, say, a hackberry block or a linden block, Ralph Sievert, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s head forester, said you might now see several of one variety in a row, but then a switch to different varieties all within the same block. This reduces the chances of losing an entire block of trees, as pests tend to be species-specific.

On the first North Minneapolis block to get trees on a frigid April 9, the first few placed were bare-root accolade elms, disease resistant. New species residents will be seeing on their boulevards include Kentucky coffee, river birch, buckeye, bicolor oak and alder.

At the ceremonial tree-planting at 14th and Upton avenues N., Third Ward Council Member Diane Hofstede reminded people that the trees are going to need water. A Park Board news release came out soon after, suggesting that homeowners start watering weekly already.

“Turn on a slow trickle of water for a few hours. If it rains any less than one inch in a week, trees need to be watered to help them recover from the last years of drought. Watering one tree weekly for five months costs only about $3” according to the park board’s website. “If it’s easy to lose track of when you last watered a tree, try watering it on the day your trash is picked up.”

Warm weather helped crews make quick work of trimming in the absence of snow obstacles. Typically they would switch to planting in late April, “but the nurseries started digging up trees quicker,” so the foresters had to start accepting delivery earlier. Container trees and stock with root balls in burlap are next. All planting will be done by June 1, foresters estimate.

Tree locations have been marked with a white “T” on the curb. Apparently-incomplete blocks may be filled in later with different varieties of trees.

Will trees go right back in where the tornado-downed trees were? Often, yes, said Sievert, especially where the sidewalk has been altered to accommodate tree roots, otherwise the city will condemn the sidewalk. “We’re grinding deeper,” Sievert said. “Usually we would go down eight inches, now we’re going down 18, and it’s all new dirt,” which will help the new trees get established. In the past, the city would not re-plant trees until roots had a chance to rot away.

On the subject of trimming, in general, they trim so that as a tree grows, its limbs will be higher than 14 feet off the ground on the curb side so as to avoid truck collisions, seven feet on the sidewalk side.

A major limb might be taken off if it’s one of multiple leaders, or if the tree is in danger of splitting in half. Many trees have been trimmed already in years past—not necessarily well—by the power utility, to keep them from growing into the lines. A lot of the replacement tree stock in the 1970s was placed anticipating that the city would be putting utilities underground by 2000, which, for lack of money, never happened, Sievert said.

“Many of these trees aren’t going to be around long,” said one worker. The tree variety used to replace diseased elms on block after block, the green ash, is now in danger of emerald ash borer infestation. It’s just a matter of time, he said.

More information on trees is at minneapolisparks.org under news and events.