Spring 2021 WCN Tree-Planting Event Update & Survey Feedback
By Sara Merrell
As we head into summer, it’s a perfect time to take stock of how this spring’s neighborhood tree planting event turned out. As you may know, everyone had the opportunity to sign up to have trees delivered to their home free of charge, and I am pleased to announce that we had a strong response. A total of 79 trees, along with planting instructions and other educational materials, were dropped off on 36 doorsteps on March 5th.
Additionally, the event received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Thank you to everyone who ordered trees!
Those who were interested in getting help planting their trees also got a visit from a crew of friendly and knowledgeable volunteers who helped dig holes, properly place trees, mulch, and then water them in. Please join me in extending a big thank you to your neighbors Colin Haymes, Meg Seidel, Eric Shaughnessy, Patrick Merrell, and Matthew Dorrance, as well Urban Forest Steward, Jim Coupal, and Maggie Valenti from the City’s Tree Preservation Board for all their hard work. This outstanding crew was able to get 20 trees in the ground and it didn’t even take as long as expected. Nice work!
The trees were provided to neighborhood residents free of charge through the Treefolks program,
Neighborwoods, which partners with the City of Austin to reduce energy consumption and lower the city heat index by expanding the tree canopy cover in Austin. NeighborWoods is proudly supported by Austin Energy and the Community Tree Preservation Division in the Development Services Department. Their goal is to provide 45,000 5-gallon trees to Austinites during this central Texas tree planting season, which runs October – March and they have distributed over 70,000 free trees to date.
The tree species provided were selected based on recommendations from the City Arborist for our specific location. This season, recipients could select from Cedar Elms, Mexican Sycamore, Montezuma Cypress, Arroyo Sweetwood*, Anacacho Orchid, Desert Willow, and “Texas Ever-bearing” Fig trees. The trees are sourced from reputable local growers – who sell them to TreeFolks at wholesale rates – and are carefully checked before distribution to ensure they are quality, healthy trees with a good chance to thrive.
That being said, the unprecedented winter storms we experienced damaged some growers’ stock. That is why the fig trees we received were smaller than expected. It may also be why some of these new trees have so far failed to leaf out. As the coordinator of this event, I extend my sincere apologies to those whose trees are not doing well. However, I do have good news: Neighborwoods will replace your dead tree! That’s right – if you planted your tree promptly and correctly and cared for it according to the instructions but it still failed to survive, they will be happy to provide you with a replacement tree in October, when it is once again cool enough to plant it.
To receive your replacement tree(s): Go to www.treefolks.org/NW. There, you can read about the program and click the button that says, “Apply for Free Tree Delivery”. This will take you to an application where you can enter your information and let Neighborwoods know that your tree died.
PLEASE NOTE: In order to have a new tree delivered to your home in fall of 2021, it is important that you mention that you received a tree through Neighborwoods in March, and it died. That is because the standard policy is to only deliver to a house once every three years.
But don’t get me wrong, despite some trees struggling after the winter storm or being munched by hungry deer, an informal survey of tree recipients indicates that the majority of our new “tree friends” are doing great, with plenty of healthy new growth. It looks like, with continued proper care, these trees could go on to thrive for decades to come.
In fact, many neighbors commented that they are happy with the way their new additions will make their yards look and are excited to watch their new trees grow over time. Said Geno Gargas, “Our yard was hit hard by oak wilt. When they died, there is pretty much no shade. It is nice to start setting up the yard from scratch so that in time it becomes lively again”.
The anticipation of harvesting fresh figs right from their yard was also a popular reaction among tree recipients. When asked what plans he has for his new trees, Colin Haymes said, “I enjoy shade and figs with goat cheese, maybe on a pizza.” Sounds delicious, Colin!
Many of the comments people made were simply heartwarming. But that’s not too surprising, since planting a tree can be a truly meaningful event, as Carol Clark so beautifully imparted through the examples she shared of the ways in which planting has enriched her life. From gardening with her grandmother as a small girl, to creating school gardens with special needs students, gardens and planting have been a way for her to connect with multiple loved ones, making it a “generational connection”.
Some folks mentioned that they learned from this experience that planting wasn’t as hard as they thought it would be, while others said they bought a new tool for the occasion – a shiny new pickaxe – and that the experience was “fun and rewarding”.
Others, like Geno Gargas, described joyful memories being made:
“I will remember planting it with my wife, and my 1-year-old trying to help us best she could… The hardest part was negotiating on where exactly to put it. Once we decided on that it was pretty fun. We all went out. My 1-year-old kept grabbing our gloves and trying to help, so we gave her a little shovel and she played around while we were digging out the hole. Then we planted it.”
Anya Cranmer commented, “This is my first year in the house so it will be cool to watch them grow.” She is right. The growth of a tree is a beautiful marker of the passage of time. And how interesting will it be to look back 5, 10, 20, or 50 years from now and see this little markwe left on the world by planting these trees, not only for us, but for many future generations to enjoy. I, for one, look forward to watching everyone’s trees grow and thrive and will treasure the memories I made meeting awesome neighbors and getting to know others better through this project.
So, thank you once again to everyone who participated, volunteered, and supported this program and to everyone in the ‘hood for being a part of the community, regardless of your interest in trees. I look forward to continuing to work with you all to make this a beautiful and healthy community.