Volunteers and Watertown City Planner Michael DeMarco (holding stakes) plant a bare root dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) in Cosgrove-Sherman St. Park.

Reported by Michael DeMarco, Planner for the City of Watertown and ISA Certified Arborist

October 20, 2018 marked the City of Watertown’s 17th Annual Fall Tree Planting event co-sponsored by the City and Tree Watertown, the City’s street tree advisory board. This year’s event was held at Cosgrove–Sherman St. Park. Historically, this large green space has been used as a sanitary and stormwater sewer corridor, but it is technically categorized as a municipal park. 

Bare root trees await planting in Cosgrove-Sherman St. Park. The bare roots are dipped in hydrogel and bagged to prevent root desiccation.

Fifty-one eager volunteers helped to define this space as a park by planting thirty-five 1.5-inch caliper bare root trees, consisting of over 20 species. Species diversity is an important aspect not only of this project but of all tree planting as the City of Watertown braces for the inevitable wave of Emerald Ash Borer. Diversification of our tree asset is the first step at minimizing the effects of the next invasive pest.

Since 2001, the annual fall volunteer tree planting event has furthered the goals of Tree Watertown by helping to increase canopy levels in the City and educating community members about the benefits of planting trees. This year, interested community members as well as students from Watertown City School District and Immaculate Heart Central (IHC) Schools planted trees alongside City Council members, City staff, and Tree Watertown volunteers. DEC Region 6 Forester and Council Board Member Glen Roberts led the assembled group in a planting demonstration and gave technical assistance throughout the project.

DEC Region 6 Forester Glen Roberts gives a tree planting lesson for volunteers.

Tree Watertown volunteer and IHC Senior Exchange Student Zhengjie Zhu said, “We are part of nature and we need to protect it and fight against global warming. And also, it’s fun!” Fellow volunteer Margaret Butler, a sophomore at IHC, said, “”Tree planting gives me a good feeling. I know I’m giving back to my community.” And Watertown High School Environmental Club Vice President Sophia Tuliau added, “The annual tree planting project is a great way for our club to be involved in our community and to actively help our local environment.”

Assembled volunteers from Tree Watertown, Watertown City School District, and Immaculate Heart Central Schools.

To ensure maximum survival, the bare root trees were delivered and stored the day before planting in a large Quonset hut at the City’s Parks and Recreation maintenance office at Watertown’s historic Olmsted-designed Thompson Park. DPW Buildings and Grounds assisted in preparing each planting site by removing sod and supplying fresh top soil. DPW also organized a watering truck and supply trailer for the event that consisted of 250 gallons of water, bagged mulch, weed-whacker base protectors, support stakes, and support ties.

Planting plan for the fall Watertown event, showing a wide variety of species used.

Each spring, the City hires a seasonal urban forestry assistant to water and mulch trees planted within the past few years. Trees planted as part of this 2018 project will be added to the summer 2019 watering and mulching schedule, outfitted with a 20-gallon hydration bag, and watered once a week from late May through the end of August. The same trees will be watered 6 or 7 times during the summer of 2020, and re-mulched every 2 to 3 years. All newly planted City of Watertown trees receive this schedule of care.

Bare root trees, planted!

Since 1997, bare root trees have been planted throughout the City and continue to be crucial to the success of our fall and spring volunteer tree planting events as well as the annual spring DPW tree planting efforts. Because of their light weight and portability, bare root stock allows volunteers to participate with shovels—no machinery necessary. This direct involvement with tree planting helps to sustain volunteer numbers.

Over the years, the City of Watertown has sourced bare root trees from both Chestnut Ridge Nursery and Schichtel’s Nursery, both located in Springville, NY. Trees for this project were purchased through a grant provided by the Northern New York Community Foundation’s Whitney-Walker Tree Funds. This grant opportunity is awarded to groups dedicated to planting trees in northern New York. The City of Watertown-Tree Watertown partnership has been a recipient of this grant since 2008.