How To Incorporate Trees Into Your Urban Landscaping Project

Posted on: 2 May 2016

When you live in the city, you don't always have the same landscaping options as people in more rural neighborhoods. Smaller yards and greater proximity to other people's property mean less room for tree roots and canopies to spread as they grow. However, while your design space is more limited, trees are still important for city neighborhoods – they help buffer noise, reduce pollution and counter the "heat island effect" that often occurs in urban areas. Incorporating trees into your urban landscaping project can have many benefits, but you do need to follow some guidelines to make it work. Here are some things you'll need to do to when you plant a tree in an urban area.

Pick the Right Species

Some trees don't hold up well to urban conditions like heat, pollution and constricted growing spaces, and others are simply too messy and unpleasant. For instance, trees that drop fruit or seed pods can make a mess out of city streets and sidewalks, and the roots of water-seeking trees can work their way into public water and sewer lines.  Choose a classic "street tree" or a species that's been developed for urban areas, for example, varieties of oak or hornbeam. Don't choose fast-growing or attractive species simply for the sake of adding greenery – it has to work with its surroundings when it's fully grown. A tree that gets entangled in power lines or drops fruit on parked cars can be a source of neighborhood discord. Many municipalities have restrictions on the species that can be planted as well as planting locations, so always check with your town before investing in a tree or digging a hole.

Give It a Good Start

Depending on the species, you may need to stake a young tree to give it the best possible start. The stakes and cables that hold it up will look ugly for a year or two, but will help ensure that the tree grows. You may also need to invest in a moisture meter to make sure that the roots don't dry out or become waterlogged, both of which can stress or kill a young tree. Protect the base of the tree with mulch, which will help the roots retain water, and be sure to water it during heat waves or extended dry spells.

Trim It When Needed

City trees will often need regular trimming and pruning to keep them neighborhood-friendly. As the tree grows, branches can start to hang over the sidewalk or street. Be aware that they can scratch cars as they park next to them or hit pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. Branches will also hang lower when the leaves are wet or when snow and ice accumulate on them, so they may need to be trimmed so that they don't interfere with street or sidewalk traffic. Sometimes you'll need to protect the tree from pedestrians who just can't resist reaching up to grab a delicate limb. Pruning the tree correctly will help keep it manageable and also help it maintain an attractive shape as it grows.

Just because you live in an urban area doesn't mean you can't have ornamental or even magnificent trees to enhance your property. However, city trees often require special care. Always check with your municipality to make sure your tree is legal. You can also enlist the help of a tree care professional from a company like Ironwood Earthcare to recommend an appropriate species and to ensure that it's planted correctly. They can also trim or remove branches correctly to avoid harming the tree and to help enhance the neighborhood.