Across Baltimore City, much of our green space has been replaced with hard, impervious surfaces such as pavement, roads, sidewalks, and rooftops that increase issues like extreme heat, flooding and sewage backups.
Trees act like giant sponges, absorbing heat and pollution. They reduce health issues like asthma and cool down blocks in the summer. They reduce residents’ utility bills. They add shade and beauty. Trees gain value as they age. An abundance of well-maintained trees improves quality of life for city residents.
At Baltimore Tree Trust (BTT), we understand that tree canopy is not distributed equitably and that lack of trees directly impacts residents’ health. We focus on planting in neighborhoods with the fewest trees to improve public health. Even in neighborhoods with higher canopy, we need to plant to replace aging trees before they die out.
BTT is part of a citywide coalition of nonprofits, city agencies, community groups and individual residents working toward a shared goal of 40% tree canopy cover under the TreeBaltimore partnership. Tree canopy is the percent of a city’s land covered by leaves and branches when looking down from a bird’s eye view.
Being thoughtful about tree species selection and placement promotes safety, reduces damage to utilities and ensures beauty for years to come. We use a palette of city-approved trees, most of which are native to the Baltimore region and well adapted to urban growing conditions such as concentrated air & water pollution, compacted soils, extreme heat and vehicle and pedestrian traffic – to name just a few challenges! Some common species include swamp white oak, sycamore, honey locust, hackberry, sweetgum, American elm and black tupelo. We focus on large canopy trees to reach our 40% goal, but occasionally plant smaller flowering trees in locations with limited growing space.
BTT abides by the credo, “right tree, right place,” which means we select trees that are the best suited to the specific conditions of a location. In the past, tree species have not always been carefully selected and many trees were planted in tiny tree wells that they quickly outgrew.
Our site assessors look for areas that are clear of street signs, lights, overhead utilities, or other hindrances that may affect the success of tree growth. Ideal planting locations include tree lawns (grass strips), street tree wells that are 4 x 8 feet or larger, and parks or green spaces that can accommodate bigger species. We also work with communities to determine priority blocks.
Typically, no. Our planting days are subject to weather and crew availability, and are usually scheduled months in advance. We do hold volunteer events throughout the planting season that community members are invited to join and assist with planting day. Our newsletter and social media accounts are the best place to find information about upcoming volunteer opportunities.
We engage communities and raise awareness about upcoming planting projects before we start digging. We aim to share details about our project plans, the many benefits of trees, and offer an opportunity for residents to ask questions or decline a tree.
First, BTT seeks out contact information for local community organizations and attends association meetings when possible. We send direct mailers to each home in the community via the postal service in advance of our projects. Finally, our outreach team goes door-to-door to speak with residents. If no one is home, we leave a door hanger.
Tree roots cannot break an intact pipe. Root tips are delicate hairs that are not capable of drilling into anything. Tree roots will only invade sewer lines that have pre-existing cracks. Baltimore’s infrastructure is aging, and many old sewage lines are still made of terra-cotta. When a sewer line breaks or leaks, a tree’s root can grow toward the water and enter the pipe.
Once your pipe has a crack that a tree root has grown into, removing the tree will not solve the problem. Many people incur the unnecessary expense of removing trees around their property only to find that the problem still exists. The only solution is to replace the lines with watertight PVC or cast iron lines.
If you know your pipes have not been replaced in the recent past, you can have an inspector come out. Repairing pipes before roots enter can save money and trees!
The Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for maintaining pipes in the public right-of-way. Property owners are responsible for the maintenance of the sewer pipes on their property.
Again, at BTT we are committed to “Right tree, Right place.” The standard size for new street tree wells is now 4 x 8 feet, which gives the tree a lot more breathing room for the roots than previously mandated. We avoid planting large trees in narrow spaces wherever possible to limit damage to the sidewalk. We follow ADA (American Disabilities Act) standards to ensure that sidewalks are wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users and we aim to make Baltimore accessible for ALL pedestrians.
If a large mature tree does impact the sidewalk, contact 311 and request that the Footways Division come out and repair the sidewalk. The city will not remove a tree because it conflicts with a sidewalk. If a root lifts a sidewalk, the resident is NOT financially responsible for the repair!
While we encourage and solicit suggestions during the outreach phase, we cannot always guarantee a specific tree request will be met for trees planted in the public right-of-way. We plant thousands of trees each year and requests are difficult to coordinate. Considering availability and site constraints, our staff of ISA Certified Arborists and trained Neighborhood Foresters will ultimately make decisions regarding species selection.
It takes about two years for a newly planted tree to grow roots and become established in its environment. Our team is committed to caring for our tree canopy during this vital period. Our two year warranty on all trees planted by our Neighborhood Forestry team covers staking, watering, mulching, and basic pruning. Our maintenance crews generally aim to revisit plantings that are under warranty at least once per month.
After two years, Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks’ Forestry Division takes over maintenance of the city’s street trees.
A newly planted tree requires about 1 inch of rain every two weeks– that’s about 20 gallons of water per week. If you would like to help water a neighborhood tree yourself, some residents like to reuse a 1 gallon milk jug or a hose connected to a household water spigot. If using a hose, turn the water pressure to medium-low and allow the water to seep into the ground a few inches from the base of the tree trunk for about 2 minutes. The trick to watering newly planted trees is to go slow and allow the water to penetrate deep into the soil where the tree’s roots are located.
A tree is considered dead when ALL of its leaves have turned brown during the spring or summer. It can be more difficult to tell during the winter, so wait until late May to decide. One exception might be a recently planted tree. In some cases, a newly planted tree will lose all its leaves from the shock of being transplanted. It takes approximately six weeks for new leaves to grow. If more than one third of the tree has dead branches, it may need to be replaced.
We will replace any tree that has died within our two-year warranty. Your tree may be removed at any time of year but we will wait to replace it until the spring and fall, which are the ideal seasons for planting.
If you notice a dead tree, or have questions about the health of a tree planted by the Baltimore Trust, you can let us know by reaching out to us at email@example.com.
We will replace any tree that has died due to natural causes within our two year warranty. Generally, it is easiest to tell if a tree is dead in the summer months because it will not have any leaves. Your tree may be removed at any time of year but we will wait to replace it until the spring and fall, which are the best seasons for planting.
We work diligently to identify residents who do not want a tree during the outreach phase of all of our projects. Once a tree has been planted, however, we are unable to accommodate removals, except in rare extenuating occasions. If you would like to decline a tree before it has been planted, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or notify one of our Neighborhood Foresters before installation.
The best way to contact us is at email@example.com. Please provide your name, address, and contact information and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.
Yes. While trees are planted in the public right-of-way, which means they are on city property and under the jurisdiction of the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, we still want to give residents the final decision. (Note: Public right-of-way means the area on, below, or above a public roadway, highway, street, bridge, bicycle lane, or public sidewalk. Land within the right-of-way is reserved for public use. Width varies by location, but a typical residential street has a right-of-way width of approximately 60 feet.)
While we hope that everyone wants to plant some shade in front of their home, we understand that you may not want a new tree at this time. If you would like to decline a tree before it has been planted, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or notify one of our Neighborhood Foresters before installation. You can also use our DECLINE A TREE form to add your address to our “do not plant” list.
2631 Sisson St
Baltimore, MD 21211
The Baltimore Tree Trust is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.