Caring for Boston's urban forest
Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borer is in Boston. Learn how the City of Boston is protecting our ash trees and what you can do to help.
Caring for street treesStreet trees
Public shade trees
Trees add to the well-being of our communities by:
- moderating our local climate
- filtering air pollutants
- storing stormwater and reducing run-off
- adding to the diversity of species by providing a stable habitat, and
- connecting us to larger ecosystems.
The Parks Department handles public shade trees. We prune trees and take care of disease control, removals, and repairs. We work on trees throughout Boston’s 22 neighborhoods in the fall and spring.
We plant new trees based on resident requests. You can do your part by mulching and watering your street tree, and reporting any issues to the Park Line at 617-635-7275.
Watering street trees
We welcome the help of residents and community groups to care for Boston's street trees. You should give a new street tree 20 gallons of water once a week, or run a low-pressure hose at the base of the tree for 20 minutes. A tree needs about 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter. Boston's new street trees are typically two inches in thickness.
During really hot weather, a tree will need 30 gallons of water each week in two separate waterings: 15 gallons one day and 15 gallons a few days later.
Tips for pouring the water:
- Please pour slowly at the base of the tree and in the tree pit.
- Cultivating or digging up the top three inches of the pit can help the water get to where it needs to go.
- A three-inch layer of mulch will help the soil stay moist and prevent weeds.
Mulching street trees
You can add a three-inch layer of loose, coarse mulch at least three inches from the tree trunk. However, mulching the wrong way can lead to several tree problems:
- root rot (soil becomes waterlogged, leading to low levels of oxygen)
- disease (deep, moist layers of mulch attract diseases and insects), and
- water stress (a thick layer of mulch can stop the flow of water to the root).
Please read “Mulch Out, Not Up” for more information.
Tree care tips
The first signs of wilting leaves appear in the afternoon, when the weather is hottest and driest, and may disappear at night. Wilting will happen to some plants with enough moisture on hot, dry days. So, wait until the morning before watering.
Leaves changing from green to red and yellow can show a lack of water.WEEDING AND CLEANING
Weeding removes competition for nutrients and allows trees to better survive in a tough urban setting. Removing weeds also makes the tree look better and removes ground clutter. Please also remove any trash or animal waste from around trees.
Planting small annuals, perennials, and bulbs can actually help trees, but please don’t plant any species that will grow too large. Also, never add more than two inches of soil to the pit. Adding too much soil around the tree can actually suffocate the roots.
Never plant ivy, vines, woody shrubs, or evergreens. These can interfere with the proper growth and health of street trees. If you have any questions about what you can plant, please call 617-635-7275.INVASIVE SPECIES
The Parks Department arborists are always on the lookout for invasive species, the most recent being the Emerald Ash Borer first spotted in Massachusetts in 2012. For more information on this forest pest, please go to these pages hosted by the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation and UMass Amherst:
Programs and initiatives
Preparing for climate change