Leaving no tree behind

Jerome Gab­ri­el, with North­east Tree Tenders, helps main­tain the or­gan­iz­a­tion planted in front of the Cottman and Lor­etto Ave. fire sta­tion, Wed­nes­day, Ju­ly 25, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

The mem­bers of the non-profit North­east Tree Tenders have put 530 trees in­to the ground in the past four years.

But they didn’t just plant ’em and for­get ’em. Every year, a small group of mem­bers vo­lun­teer to re­vis­it the trees to do a little main­ten­ance, said Has­an Ma­lik, the tree tenders’ ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or.

The trees need the at­ten­tion, he said, as he and oth­er mem­bers went to work on five trees out­side the fire­house at Cottman and Lor­etto av­en­ues last Wed­nes­day.

Stand­ing next to a 9-year-old Ja­pan­ese tree lilac planted four years ago next to the side­walk on Lor­etto, Ma­lik showed how to prune it. He care­fully trimmed branches that had grown over the side­walk and in­to the street where they might brush against cars.

“This tree is good for tight areas,” he said, “but it must be pruned so there is ped­es­tri­an and vehicle clear­ance. We’re not go­ing to let the trees grow like crazy.”

Vo­lun­teers clear weeds and cul­tiv­ate the ground around the trees that were about five years old when they were planted four years ago.

Talk­ing about the dry weath­er we’ve been hav­ing, Ma­lik said wa­ter­ing is really im­port­ant. Each tree needs at least 15 gal­lons of wa­ter a week to help it de­vel­op a good root struc­ture.

To keep mois­ture in the ground, mulch is needed, but Ma­lik, an ar­bor­ist, is par­tic­u­lar about how mulch should be put down around a tree.

Mulch, or even dirt, should not cov­er a tree’s flares, the thickened bases of the trunk that shoot out above ground and look like they are an­chor­ing the tree to the ground. He showed how he had mulch put down around a tree in the shape of a dough­nut, with the tree rising, un­touched by the mulch, through the hole in that dough­nut.

Pil­ing up sev­er­al inches of mulch so that it cov­ers the bot­tom of the tree trunk is not good for the tree, Ma­lik said, adding it could weak­en the tree as it gets older and big­ger. Look around and it’s easy to see how of­ten that mis­take is made.

One of the main reas­ons the tree tenders formed is to re­store the North­east’s tree can­opy, which has been dis­ap­pear­ing.

Mem­ber Paul Co­hen re­called the tree count was high­er when he moved onto the 1400 block of Nap­fle Street 35 years ago.    

“We had 38 trees on my block,” he said. “Now, there’s only one.”

The tree tenders help North­east res­id­ents get trees twice a year and are now ac­cept­ing ap­plic­a­tions for street and yard trees for spring 2013. They are plant­ing nat­ive red­buds, hawthorns, dog­woods, red maples, hon­ey­lo­custs, Amer­ic­an horn­beams, oaks and lindens.

Go to TreeNorth­east.org for an ap­plic­a­tion. E-mail NeT­reeTend­ers@aol.com or, for those with no In­ter­net ac­cess, call Ma­lik at 215-694-9607.

A $20 dona­tion per tree is re­ques­ted.

The city has a free tree pro­gram that is on­go­ing, but trees from the tree tenders are planted by the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s vo­lun­teers, not just giv­en to homeown­ers to plant them­selves, and they’re much lar­ger, about 6 feet to 12 feet tall, than the city’s trees. Also, the tree tenders re­turn to check on the trees.

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

Tend­ing to the trees

  The North­east Tree Tenders will be prun­ing trees they planted in the North­east throughout the month of Au­gust.

  Vo­lun­teers are wel­come to help out at the fol­low­ing loc­a­tions:

  Lawn­crest, 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 1, at Rising Sun and Cottman av­en­ues;

  Rhawn­hurst, 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 8, Lo­ney and Fron­ten­ac streets;

  Fox Chase, 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 15, Pal­metto and Stan­wood streets;

  Somer­ton, 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 22, Boyle Re­cre­ation Cen­ter, 13024 Stevens Road.

  The ad­dresses above are  where the vo­lun­teers meet, then they move to dif­fer­ent loc­a­tions to tend to trees at oth­er sites.


You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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