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ASAP – Adopt a Sapling Project

Author: Margot McMahon, Yale Class of ‘84
Location: Chicago, IL

Personal Action

It’s easy to become a tree steward! Basic activities include watering trees, adding mulch and soil, and removing weeds and litter; as well as advanced activities such as installing a tree guard, expanding tree beds, and installing or removing stone or brick pavers.

Environmental Impact

Chicago Regional Tree Initiative (CRTI) will plant 22 million saplings to replace and protect its regional forest. Trees clean the air and water, capture carbon, reduce flooding, improve our quality of life and the value of our homes, create habitat for wildlife, and provide significant health benefits.

The Chicago Region Trees Initiative describes its intent: “(CRTI) is a partnership for coordinated action on key issues facing trees. It is the largest such initiative in the country, with leading organizations and agencies from across the seven-county metropolitan region working together. CRTI is leveraging funding, knowledge, skills, and expertise to build a healthier, more diverse regional forest.

How to Get Involved: Basic Tree Care Activities

Tree Care Tips: Watering

For the first few years, watering is the most important thing you can do for your tree. It may also be the hardest task to accomplish. Getting water from the source to the tree can be a challenge. Also, because of pollution and compression due to foot traffic, city soil has difficulty absorbing water. This means that you need to cultivate or loosen the soil so that the water can reach the tree’s roots. There are a number of different tools and techniques available to help your watering efforts.

Tools You Can Use

Suggestions for Street Tree Watering

Tree Care Tips: Weeds and Weeding

Weeding your site, although not as important as watering, is still essential. Both street trees and green streets live in very small spaces that provide limited amounts of soil and nutrients. Weeds are fast-growing and fast-reproducing plants that tend to dominate space and sap resources from the plants intended for the site. If weeds are left untended, they will ultimately kill some plants and stress others. Thus, weeds should be removed from green streets and street tree pits as frequently as possible.

Tools You Can Use


Tree Care Tips: Mulch, Compost, Soil Maintenance

Mulch is roughly ground up wood from other trees, and can act as both a protective buffer and nutrient-rich layer for a young street tree. Spreading a 3-inch layer of mulch on a street tree bed can help prevent soil from becoming hard and compacted, making it easier for the tree’s roots to take in air and water.

Mulch is also a great retainer of moisture, and can help prevent the soil from becoming extremely dry during a hot summer drought or high winter wind. In addition, spreading a 1-inch layer of compost, decomposed food, and yard clippings before placing the mulch will allow the soil to better hold air and water, drain more efficiently, and provide a nutrient reserve that the tree can feed on.

Too much mulch, compost, or building a mulch ‘volcano’ around the base of the trunk can be harmful for the tree. Before any additions to the tree bed are made, it’s important to aerate the soil. See how it’s done below!

Tools You Can Use

You can obtain mulch through stewardship of other street tree care workshops or your park district. You can buy mulch at gardening stores like Home Depot.


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