Keeping the Emerald City Green

Seattle has long been known as the Emerald City because of its lush green environment and beautiful trees, and the city of Seattle hopes to keep its neighborhoods green by actively planting new trees for future generations.

Trees for Neighborhoods

Seattle residents have until October 11 to apply for trees this year.

The greatest potential for planting trees in Seattle is on private residential property, so Seattle reLeaf—housed within Seattle Public Utilities—launched the “Trees for Neighborhoods” project a couple years ago to provide 1,000 free trees each fall for Seattle residents to plant in their yards and planting strips. And this year, for the first time, the University of Washington Botanic Gardens is working with the city to help distribute the trees and engage residents in urban forest stewardship.

The UW Botanic Gardens’ involvement may be new, but the project’s roots with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) run deeper. In fact, Seattle reLeaf Program Manager Jana Dilley earned a joint Masters from SEFS and the Evans School of Public Affairs in 2010, and the Trees for Neighborhoods program was developed based on her thesis research. Now, Dilley and an intern, Katie Gibbons (who is also a current SEFS/Evans graduate student), manage the project.

The city is currently taking applications from interested residents who have space suitable for growing trees. To participate, you must live in Seattle. You can apply to receive up to four trees per household, and when you come to the UW Botanic Gardens’ Center for Urban Horticulture to pick up your plants—either on October 19 or November 3—you’ll receive a brief training on how to properly plant and care for the trees, as well as free watering bags. You’ll also get ongoing care reminders and opportunities for additional training, like pruning workshops, says Jessica Farmer, continuing education coordinator for the UW Botanic Gardens. Farmer is managing the support from the university side, including help with outreach, tree storage, distribution and training.

If you’re hoping to plant in your yard, you have until October 11 to apply for trees. The deadline to apply for street trees has passed, unfortunately, but if you’re interested in receiving advance notice of next year’s application opening, email treesforneighborhoods@seattle.gov.

Trees for Neighborhoods

A number of varieties are already sold out for this year, but you can add your name to the waiting list or sign up to receive early notice when the application process kicks off next year.

As for your tree options, many varieties are already sold out for this year, yet Farmer recommends that you add your name to the waiting list, as more than 50 percent of those on the waiting list received trees last year. This year’s trees with the shortest waiting lists are Austrian pine and Oriental spruce. These larger conifers are often the hardest to place, but Seattle reLeaf encourages residents who have the space to plant them. As they grow and mature, these conifers offer ideal cover for birds and other wildlife, stabilize soil with their roots, and help keep Puget Sound and other water bodies clean by trapping rain runoff and pollutants.

Right now, the trees are still at the growers and will be delivered to the Center for Urban Horticulture in early October. That’s where participating residents will pick up their trees during the distribution days on either October 19 or November 3.

If you have questions about the application process or how to get involved, Seattle reLeaf has assembled a host of great resources to help you navigate the program, including an online and paper option for the application, an up-to-date list of available trees, and “Things To Consider When Planting a Tree” and “Frequently Asked Questions” pages. You can also direct inquiries to treesforneighborhoods@seattle.gov or 206.615.1668.

Photos © Courtesy of Seattle reLeaf

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