In what geographic area does UC Green work?
What can UC Green do for me?
How can I help?
What do I need to do to get a street tree planted at my property?
How can our neighbors get a project started?
What does a project take to complete?
What if no one else on my block cares?
How does UC Green deal with property rights?
Who is responsible for my street tree?
May I plant any kind of tree I wish as my curb line street tree?
Won't any tree I plant undermine my building's foundation, invade my sewer and water lines and buckle my sidewalk?
Once I agree to planting a new street tree, where do I get help?
What options to I have if I want to plant it myself or with help from Tree Tenders?
What basic care is required from me?
What about fertilizing newly planted trees?
Can I plant flowers or other things in the pit?
What about pruning a mature tree or removing a dead one?
What is the Tree Tenders program and how do I get involved?
In what geographic area does UC Green work?
University City Green’s service area at present includes the communities of West Philadelphia west of the Schuylkill River to 52nd Street, and north of the river to Haverford Avenue in West and SouthWest Philadelphia. (See map.)
What can UC Green do for me?
In keeping with its mission to work to maintain and expand the tree cover and green landscapes of University City/West Philadelphia, UC Green provides services to individuals, businesses, block groups and communities.
UC Green is available to answer questions about how you can green your property, your block or your community in the most effective and cost efficient ways to make the quality of life better for all of us.
For individuals, we can help you plant, care for and maintain your trees and green spaces. For blocks and community groups, we can lead you to resources for block and community greening improvements.
UC Green asks participants to put a lot of work to make things happen. Individuals and block residents are responsible for project planning and coordination. In exchange, UC Green provides resources for greening and beautification such as technical expertise, tools, information about supplies, materials and contracting services and recruiting volunteers to partners working on mutually agreed projects. UC Green offers help and resources in many different phases of any project.
By participating in any of the events sponsored by UC Green, contributing to this non-profit organization or becoming one of the resources UC Green provides.
You can request that Fairmount Park, which has ultimate say over all street trees in the city, plant one for you. You do this by calling (215) 685-4363 or print out the Tree Service Citizens Request Form and fax it to (215) 685-4364. You can also use this form to request the removal of dead street trees and the grinding of stumps which must be done before a new tree is planted. Fairmount Park will inspect your site and determine whether and what kind of tree is appropriate, using the list of Fairmount Park Recommended Street Trees. This process is, however, a long one and could take years before a contractor plants the tree.
Another option is to contract with one of the Tree and Landscape Services listed and have them plant a tree for you, which requires them to use the Fairmount Park permitting and inspection process.
And, beginning in 2008, any property owner in University City, West or Southwest Philadelphia can request a free street, yard, park or public space tree to be planted by volunteers coordinated by UC Green. Property owners should print out and complete the Property Owner Request to Plant a Street Tree in Philadelphia on this website, complete all appropriate portions of the form for each tree being requested, sign and submit the forms to UC Green by the deadline indicated. Only the property owner may sign the form.
If an inspection by Fairmount Park, which regulates all street trees in Philadelphia, determines the location requested is appropriate for trees and approves the species selected, trees for you will be planted by local Tree Tenders and community volunteers with the support of UC Green in the spring and fall planting seasons. If concrete cutting is required, that will be done by professional contractors at no charge to you.
These trees are part of the TreeVitalize Street Tree Planting Program, an initiative of TreeVitalize, a program of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources started in 2005 to increase the tree canopy in Southeast Pennsylvania.
Yet another, less expensive and often, more immediate, way, is to contact one of the active Tree Tender groups in University City/West Philadelphia and ask for their help. These groups can suggest where you might go to purchase a tree on your own and can help you to get it planted following the approved city process. They also have access, on a seasonal basis, to trees for street tree planting, through the Tree Tender Training Program of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society(PHS), particularly inexpensive, street suitable, dormant bare root trees which Tree Tenders and property owners can plant following an accelerated Fairmount Park permitting and inspection process.
And, if you do not find an active Tree Tenders group near you, you and your neighbors can attend one of the free, nine-hour, seasonal Philadelphia Tree Tender Trainings and form a new group of at least three new graduates which will be able to order street trees for their and their neighbors to plant, along with special tools, project support and continuing education opportunities (everyone gets pizza and a tree shirt!). The trainings are fun, highly informative about how to plant, care for trees and the resources and techniques available to do this effectively and efficiently. But, as soon as you and your neighbors decide to attend a training, you must sign up ASAP as the trainings in the city frequently are oversubscribed and close early for new registrations.
How can our neighbors get a project started?
A project starts with a vision, a dream of what could be. The first step is to walk down your block and think about what you like and do not like. The next step is to write a proposal formalizing the scope of what the project will do, by when, who will be responsible for doing what and a budget. You can contact UC Green at any point to get advice and direction.
A growing number of local University City community associations have block improvement grant programs that offer technical assistance and funding to blocks which have developed a viable and appropriate plan and are willing to “match” the grant with cash or in kind contributions or volunteer labor. Check out those in Spruce Hill and Cedar Park, for example. UC Green provides technical assistance and logistical support for these programs, including special tools such as a walk-behind concrete-cutting saw for opening concrete and weed tree pullers for removing invasive species.
All projects take a lot of effort and follow through by neighbors and UC Green and its partners to complete. Turning a vision into reality requires strong commitment from many of the residents of a block.
In our experience, every block has at least a few people interested in improving the pedestrian experience and streetscape. Finding and recruiting them might require extra efforts, but with the promise of specific results in a reasonable amount of time they can be mobilized. As a result people get to know each other and develop a stronger block network capable of undertaking other collective actions.
In Philadelphia, property owners are responsible for their front sidewalks. UC Green and its partners require agreement and signed permits from property owners before doing anything to alter the streetscape.
All street trees in the city are the responsibility of the city that is assigned to the Fairmount Park Commission. The commission discharges this responsibility through a group of District Arborists who operate on a less than adequate budget given the dimensions of the job. The current arborist for University City and all of West Philadelphia is Dave Cupps, who can be reached at Boelson Cottage, 2110 Martin Luther King Drive, 19131, (215) 685-4366. The best way to reach him directly is by FAX: (215) 685-4364.
The Fairmount Park Commission has a list of approved species, based on what is acceptable in an urban situation and past experience. You will need a permit from the arborist who must approve the choice of species and the site. Consideration also must be given to the existence of overhead wires. Planting a large species under these will result in some drastic and, at present, radical "pruning" by the utilities companies. It is important both for yours and the tree's health that an appropriate "under wire" species be chosen for under these wires.
If the choice of tree, site and planting conditions are correct, most of these "urban myths" are just that - myths. Most tree roots grow in the top 24 inches of soil and spread well beyond the dimensions of the tree canopy in search of water and nutrients. They do not "attack" underground mains, unless these are already damaged and provide entrances for developing roots. An adequate and generous tree pit, or long narrow continuous "tree lawn" will provide the best conditions for establishing and maintaining a "well behaved" street tree with the environment needed to survive in the city. More about trees and “lateral sewer lines” can be found here.
Contact UC Green or one of the active Tree Tender groups in UniversityCity/West Philadelphia. These are people who have gone through the Tree Tender Training given by PHS. They can help you with the basics: Suggesting a site, range of species, preliminaries (obtaining a permit, preparing the planting area, calling PA One Call (800 242-1776) to check on underground utilities, locating a source and/or contractor, planting and caring for the tree).
Balled and burlapped (B&B) trees or container grown trees may be planted at any time the ground is not frozen, but ideally in the spring or fall. They must be delivered to the site and require more than one person to handle them correctly. Bare-root trees are cheaper, lighter (one person can move them), have greater root mass than B&Bs, but require special handling and planting arrangements and even more solicitous care than B&B or container trees.
Adequate site preparation and maintenance (free of weeds), mulched and watered (15-20 gallons each week during the growing season for the first two years), stakes (to prevent damage from automobile doors and the like) and, later, pruning (best left to Tree Tenders, the UC Green Pruning Club or professionals.) The one thing to avoid at all costs is “topping” a tree, or cutting back upstanding branches as a way of reducing the tree’s height. This will simply cause a tree to put out many weak branches at the end of the “topped” limbs which will stress the tree and add additional leafy mass to the canopy, which will, in turn, require more expensive “topping” by the tree service and shorten the life of the tree. If you are attempting to “thin out” or reduce the green mass of a mature tree, only certified arborists using professional standards for pruning should be engaged. Or, if on-the-ground, professionally-supervised pruning is needed, you can request the volunteer services of the UC Green Pruning Club from UC Green. During the summer and fall, they work on pre-designated blocks one evening each week, “limbing up” and performing other, non-traumatic light pruning on young and developing street trees. Ultimately, these are your responsibilities, but well worth it for the benefits trees provide. If your new street tree is in the area currently serviced by the UC Green Corps, you can also contract with the corps to water and service your new tree in its first two years. Contact UC Green for additional information about this contract.
Not recommended. A properly prepared tree pit or lawn will provide all the nutrients needed. Fertilizing new trees is like giving them a drug overdose.
Annuals are preferred in the early years (so as not to compete for the available water and serve as a "signal" when watering is needed). A number of perennial ground covers can be planted at a later date, but avoid those which offer too much competition to the tree, like ivy.
Unless these are small, both of these jobs should be left to professionals. Contacting the district arborist and reporting a dead tree will put the tree on a list for eventual removal based on budget allocations. Tree pruning by the city, except for the utilities companies (hardly what you would want) is rarer still. UC Green can provide you with a list of professional tree services for privately contracting for such services. Or, if on-the-ground, professionally-supervised pruning is needed, you can request the volunteer services of the UC Green Pruning Club from UC Green. During the summer and fall, they work on pre-designated blocks one evening each week. Ultimately, these are your responsibilities, but well worth it for the benefits trees provide.
Call Mindy Maslin, at PHS, (215) 988-8844, to sign up for one of the regularly scheduled "courses", at http://www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org. These are free, informative and fun and groups of three or more attending together receive special tools (everyone gets pizza!). These also provide information and authorization for receiving grants for tree planting and education programs and put you "in the network" for other benefits for you and Philadelphia street trees.