Since 2011, Baltimore Tree Trust has worked to transform the McElderry Park neighborhood with its Trees for Public Health project by lining the streets with hardy, well-cared for trees. At our April 11 planting, enthusiastic volunteers from Baltimore Station, a therapeutic residential treatment program supporting veterans, Coppin State Nursing School, the TreeKeepers Program, and neighbors planted thirty-one trees on Luzerne Avenue and McElderry Street. This gets us well past the half-way mark towards our goal of fully planting up the neighborhood with street trees.
One of those trees was very special: It was dedicated to eight-year old McElderry Park resident Troy Douglas, tragically killed in February while walking past a row-house that exploded from leaking gas. To honor Troy’s life, community member Cheryl Bryant dedicated a tree. She had mentored Troy at William Packer Elementary School, where she is part of AARP's Experience Corps. Cheryl led the group in prayer and remembrance, emphasizing what a great kid Troy was, and how his 100-watt smile could light up a room. Troy’s tree represents “life, strength, and growth” for McElderry Park. As the community mourns Troy’s death, Cheryl sees people pulling together and continuing to grow, like the tree dedicated for Troy.
To kick off the morning, the Tree Trust’s Executive Director Amanda Cunningham taught Baltimore Station resident, Varren, and 29 other volunteers how to properly plant a tree, some for the first time, some for the 14,228th time!
1. To start, dig a tree pit: For Tree Trust plantings, we dig the tree pit in advance. Unlike tree branches, tree roots only grow twelve to eighteen inches deep. But to give the roots room to grow, the hole dug in the tree pit should be wider than the circumference of the root ball.
2. Before you plant, loosen up the tree roots: These trees were grown inside of a special root bag, which keeps the roots strong, but constrains them. So, before you plant the tree, gently loosen up the roots to make sure there’s space to grow.
3. Stand the tree up straight & tall: Roll the tree into its pit, making sure the tree is in the middle of the four foot by eight foot hole, and stands up straight. If it’s crooked, the tree’s growth could be stunted.
4. Be kind to the bark: if you scrape the tree’s bark, it can damage the tree. Be nice!
5. Mulch, mulch, mulch & water, water, water: Once the tree is nestled in the ground, gently pat down the dirt, and layer mulch thinly on top – staying below the sidewalk line. Then, water your tree regularly. Twenty gallons a week is ideal.
Who Volunteers With BTT?
People from all walks of life and tree experience plant with the Baltimore Tree Trust. At this first 2014 planting, we had a great group of vets, nursing students, neighbors, and volunteer TreeKeepers.
And at this kick-off to our spring 2014 planting, Varren and Kelvin, from Baltimore Station’s Baker Street Location – like many others there – planted their very first tree. Varren was impressed at how much there was to learn about tree planting and care. Due to his fastidious nature, his fellow planters joked that he was most qualified to stand their tree up perfectly straight. Varren really “appreciates the effort of what we’re doing with trees”, and from what he learned, joked that now he can plant a tree in his own backyard.
The nursing students from Coppin State were already starting to heal the world – this time with trees. They were a dynamic bunch!
Nearby, dedicated volunteer Gene Desantis planted his 14,228th tree! Gene is an ardent tree lover, and devoted community volunteer. In addition to planting trees, he donates blood and platelets, works at Our Daily Bread food kitchen, and is a caregiver to a 101 year old woman. He helps first time volunteers like Varren.
Across the way, Dennis and two other TreeKeepers in training, Barbara and Hadicha, discovered they all speak fluent Russian, and are chatting as they plant. Dennis worked for the Department of Defense, with a background in languages like Russian, and his planting partner served in the Foreign Service – a great connection. Dennis is excited to attend his first planting, and learn to care for his own community street trees in Old Goucher.
The Tree Trust staff is excited to teach about trees, and connect community members!
Story reported and written by Hilary Anne Ross. Photographs courtesy of Peggy Fox.
Will you come take our TreeKeepers class and/or be our next volunteer at our April 25 Arbor Day planting?