How you can help the tree canopy

Minneapolis park workers planted trees a year after the tornado on the North Side.
Minneapolis park workers planted trees a year after the tornado on the North Side.

— Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

Looking to help preserve and improve the Twin Cities' beloved tree canopy? Here's how you can get involved.

In your yard

The trees you have should be watered more than you might think. Helping young trees survive and grow to a shade-giving height is essential to expanding the canopy. The first five years are crucial as roots are established. Even mature trees should be watered weekly during drought periods.

To plant a new tree, choose from your city or the University of Minnesota Extension's list of suggested trees to help diversify the canopy. Newly planted trees should be watered 1-2 times per week during dry times in spring, summer and fall. Trees planted in the last five years should be watered once every 1-2 weeks.

Young trees should be mulched to protect roots from freezing in the winter and drying out in the summer. Watch a DNR video on how to properly mulch a tree. Pruning is another important piece of caring for young trees. The DNR suggests hiring a trained professional to prune trees.

Another helpful resource is the Forest Service's tree owner's manual, with tips on everything from where to plant to how to prune and water — and when to call an arborist.

There are often opportunities to receive affordable trees through the city or county. Find a tree sale near you:

In your neighborhood

Help educate your neighbors on the importance of tree care. Several Twin Cities communities have neighborhood groups of volunteers who are working hard to expand the canopy.

Fall often means opportunities to volunteer to help plant trees. Find a volunteer opportunity with Tree Trust.

Neighborhood groups like Tree Trust, Frogtown Green in St. Paul and Project Sweetie Pie in Minneapolis help advocate for additional trees on neighborhood blocks or community institutions such as the neighborhood school and your local place of worship, which often consult their communities before making land-use changes. Can you drum up support for converting an underused field to a forest? Can you and other tenants in your building inform your landlord about opportunities for free or low-cost trees?

Trees for Urban Neighbors, a resource guide for urban tree planting by Frogtown Green, highlights ways for any community to start their own tree-planting program by using gravel beds, irrigated boxes of gravel that trees can grow roots in.

For policymakers

The Minneapolis Tree Advisory Commission recommends that cities protect trees in all construction projects by requiring tree impact analyses.

They suggest that Minneapolis expand its City Trees program to include not only tree planting but assistance with tree care and free replacement of trees condemned by the city.

Special emphasis could be given to tree planting on Minneapolis Public Housing Authority properties, where canopy cover often lags. Like Minneapolis Public Schools, these sites comprise large segments of public land where the Park Board does not oversee tree care.