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City of Cambridge

Tree Planting Program

Public Works

Newly planted trees

The Department of Public Works has a variety of programs available for residents interested in adding trees to public spaces around their buildings and homes.  Residents can request a replacement tree if one was removed from an existing well in front of your property, at no expense to the property owner. If there is no space for a tree well on the sidewalk, property owners can request a tree be planted on private property.

Additionally, If there is no tree well at your property and you would like a tree planted, you may be able to have a well installed. Finally,  through the City’s Commemorative Tree Program, trees can be planted to honor a person, significant life event, or other idea.

Tips and FAQs

Requesting a Planting

To request a tree planting,  call the Forestry Division directly at 617.349.4885, fill out a request using Commonwealth Connect or email us.  If a tree was removed from an existing well and you would like a replacement, there is no expense to you.  Leave your name, address, and phone number and you will be contacted about the replacement.

If you wish to have a tree planted where no tree well currently exists, you have a couple of options. The City will come and inspect the area you wanted planted and determine if it is suitable for installing a tree well or if not, you have the option of a Back of Sidewalk planting.  For an application and information call 617.349.6433 and leave your name and address and an application will be mailed to you.

Commemorative Tree Planting

The City of Cambridge Commemorative Tree program provides individuals, groups, clubs or organizations the opportunity to enhance and  beautify the community with trees while providing a lasting means for remembering a loved one or an important event. Administered by the Department of Public Works and coordinated through the Urban Forestry Division, the Commemorative Tree Program helps anyone get a tree planted on City-owned property.

The cost of a Commemorative Tree is $200 and includes a 2-3 inch caliper tree.  Call the City Arborist at 617.349.6433 and leave your name, address, and zip code and you will receive an application for the program in the mail. Please indicate that your request is for the Commemorative Tree Program. The species selection will be made from the recommended species list developed by the City Arborist. Your City Arborist will approve both the site and species selection. Apart from the environmental benefits that trees provide, in one year a mature tree can absorb as much carbon as is produced by a car driven 26,000 miles. Trees can be part of the living memory of our past.

Planting Process

When trees are requested for planting on City property, the City Arborist will schedule an inspection of the site within 30 days. Based on this inspection, a determination will be made as to whether this is a suitable location for a new tree. You will be notified within 15 days of inspection as to whether or not the location is suitable for a new tree, and will discuss possible appropriate tree species.

If the site is not suitable for a new tree, the City Arborist will let you know if there are options available in which a tree is partially or fully planted on your private property and will give you more information about that program. If the site is suitable and a tree well already exists, the Department will add the location to the next available tree planting list, typically within one year from the inspection date and there will be no charge for the tree.

If the site is suitable but no tree well exists, the Department will send you an application for the Client Tree program. You must send the completed application and payment of $140 in order to hold a spot on the planting list. The City will try to accommodate any tree planting request submitted to the city by November 15th during the following Spring planting season.

Any requests after November 15th will be added to the planting list and will be addressed in the next available planting season.

Back of Sidewalk Program

The Back of Sidewalk tree planting program was designed to improve our urban forest through public/private tree planting partnerships.  The term, Back of Sidewalk" refers to the edge of the sidewalk where public way meets private properties.  In the case of this program, the City will plant trees along the back of sidewalk, (up to 20 feet off the public way) on private property of interested, eligible owners.

This program provides the city a means of planting trees where in the past either the sidewalk was too narrow or overhead utilities were in the way.   This program will allow the city to plant trees in more desirable growing conditions, making it likely they will survive and thrive.  A typical sidewalk tree faces harsher conditions along the curb (such as oil or salt from roadway runoff).  Soil conditions at the back of sidewalk are generally more suitable for plant growth.  The improved environment, larger rooting area, and lack of overhead competition will help ensure a healthier tree canopy in Cambridge.

Pedestrians benefit by this program when sidewalks widths are maintained.  The narrow nature of sidewalks in Cambridge make it difficult to  find appropriate places to plant new  trees.  A growing tree not only crowds the sidewalk, but its root system.

Tree Maintenance

When in doubt, call a certified arborist! Or locate one at www.certifiedtreeandlawn.org

Proper planting and watering can help insure that your new tree does the best that it can. A tree is a long term investment that can raise property values, provide decreased heating and cooling costs by shading your home and the area around it and creating wind screens that help protect your home from cold winter winds.

Do all that you can do to protect the trunks of trees from regular maintenance in your landscape. Mower injury and damage from string trimmers can cause a tree to decline 
or die.

Fertilization of trees is sometimes needed. A good way to find out if your soil is deficient of nutrients is to have a soil analysis done and get a recommendation for proper fertilization.

Mulching around the base of trees providing an area two to three feet away from the trunk or more is helpful. Two or Three inches of mulch will help to retain moisture and provide a buffer area between a lawn and the tree trunk. Do not mulch against the trunk of the tree more than one inch as this can promote trunk rot and kill the tree.

Last Updated: 3/5/2017 | Provide feedback on this page

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