The Tree Division of Arlington’s DPW selects and plants all street trees. If residents want to plant a tree on their own property, the Arbor Day website presents many things to consider when choosing a tree for your own yard. Here you will find the questions to ask yourself that will guide you towards making the right choice for your particular situation.
For a list of recommended trees for Arlington, click here.
HOW TO PLANT A TREE
The Arbor Day website offers instructions and videos on how to plant a bare-root, containerized, or balled-and-burlapped tree. Note that the trunk flare should be just visible above the ground after planting. If your tree is balled-and-burlapped, you will need to undo the burlap before you can see the flare. Also, you will likely need to remove the top few inches of soil around the trunk before the flare is visible. The same may be true for a container-grown tree.
Any nylon wrappings or plastic or wire cages should be completely removed once the tree is in the hole. If the root ball is hard to maneuver or is in danger of collapsing, natural burlap may be left in place around the lower half of the root ball. Burlap should be cut away from the top half of the root ball so that roots can grow out freely into the soil. After planting, be sure to remove from the tree all ties and tags that might ultimately constrict the trunk or limbs as they grow.
Videos relating to tree planting:
A newly planted tree should be watered at least once a week, and more frequently when the weather is hot. Slow, deep watering (5-10 gallons at a time) is best, to allow the water to soak in. The goal is to keep the soil just moist at all times.
Trees with watering bags: Refill the pouch in the bag via the small slit in the top of the watering bag once a week during the growing season (May-Nov). These bags slowly release water onto the tree roots.
Trees without watering bags: Deliver 4 gallons of water to the tree’s roots 2x per week.
In very dry, hot weather, a new tree will need watering more often.
For the next 2-3 years, weekly watering should continue during the growing season.
The growing season ends when the soil is frozen.
Once your tree is established, little care is needed beyond light pruning to remove winter damage, and, as the tree ages, some corrective pruning to shape its growth. An occasional application of compost over the root zone is all that is typically needed in the way of fertilizer. If you decide to hire someone to do pruning work for you, we recommend hiring a Massachusetts Certified Arborist.
PRUNING + REMOVAL
Residents should contact the DPW via its Request Answer Center to report street trees that are dead or dying, as well as dead limbs that pose a hazard to sidewalks, roadways, or privately owned structures. Trimming and removal work takes place year-round, depending on weather conditions.
Tree removal is generally a three-stage process, and the work may be spread over several days.
Step 1: The crew removes upper limbs, down to the main trunk.
Step 2: The main trunk is cut into lengths and removed.
Step 3: The stump is ground.
Healthy street trees cannot be cut down – either at the request of residents or the Tree Warden – without a hearing. The date and time of this hearing is publicized on a placard affixed to the tree, in the legal notices section of the Arlington Advocate, and on the DPW web site. Anyone who objects to the removal must protest by writing to the Tree Warden or by appearing at the scheduled hearing. The removal request will be turned down if there are any objections. In this case, the resident who wants the tree cut down can file an appeal with the Select Board.
Residents who ask for removal of a healthy street tree are legally responsible for all costs associated with this process, including notification, conducting the hearing, removing the tree, other fees, and planting a replacement in a nearby location.
Trees that are planted on private property are the responsibility of the property owner. If trees are in need of pruning or removal, it is advisable to contact a certified arborist.
TREE PROTECTION METHODS
Trees require careful protection during construction or landscape projects. Install tree protection around trees according to the recommended tree protection methods for the duration of construction. This will help prevent damage to branches and roots. For construction projects, guidelines for protecting trees are available here.
Protect Trees from Mowers and String-trimmers
These can inflict serious wounds on tree trunks. Maintain a 2-to 3-inch depth of mulch within 1-3 feet of the trunk to prevent damage. Be sure to keep the mulch away from the flare of the trunk, so that it does not touch the tree’s bark. Don’t mound it around the trunk—mulch volcanoes can kill trees! Click here for additional information about growing trees in turf.
Minimizing De-Icing Salts
Minimize the use of de-icing salts near trees. In winter, trees planted near streets and sidewalks can be damaged by excessive use of de-icing salts. An alternative material to use is sand, which will improve traction on snow- and ice-covered surfaces.
TREE PESTS AND DISEASES
The urban environment can be stressful for trees, some varieties being more susceptible than others. Once weakened by stress, trees are more likely to succumb to disease and insect damage. Below are listed some of the more common pests in our area with links to Fact Sheets (and pictures) on the UMass Extension Green Info website. For a more complete listing, click here.
Invasive plants disrupt healthy ecosystems by crowding out and causing the loss of native plant and animal species. The resulting loss of biodiversity compromises the health of the ecosystem.
The Norway Maple is an example of an invasive tree. It was widely planted as a tough shade and street tree. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that its invasive potential was recognized. Norway Maples produce copious seeds that can germinate and grow strongly even in the shade under an established tree canopy. Their roots are shallow and very dense root system, and they cast a very deep shade. They leaf out early and lose their leaves later than native trees, giving them a longer growing season that provides them a competitive advantage. Many native wildflowers, as well as shrubs and trees, can’t grow in the changed environment that Norway Maples create and so get crowded out.
INVASIVE TREES IN MASSACHUSETTS
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has recognized the need to control invasive plants. The Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List, includes the following invasive tree species:
Amur cork-tree (Phellodendron amurense)
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
European buckthorn, glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus)
Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
Sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)
Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
When choosing an arborist to work on your trees, make sure that the contractor is a Massachusetts Certified Arborist and is bonded and insured. Below is a partial list of certified, bonded, and insured arborists who work regularly in Arlington. This list of contractors is provided as a courtesy to homeowners in need of tree work. Arborists are not endorsed in any way by the Town of Arlington or the Tree Committee. Names of qualified arborists can easily be added to the list. Interested companies should contact the Arlington Tree Committee at ArlTreeCmte@gmail.com.
Here is a partial list of local arborists:
Arborcare Tree Service, Woburn, 781-648-1100
Barrett Tree Service East, Inc., Medford, 617-616-5281
Bartlett Tree Experts, Waltham, 781-330-0909
Cambridge Landscape Co., Cambridge, 617-661-8591
Capizzi & Co, 820 Main Street, Acton, 978-263-3726
Davey Tree Expert Company, Norwood, 781-769-9117
Hartney Greymont Inc., Needham, 781-444-1227
Mead Brothers Tree Service, Bedford, 781-275-7787
Northern Boston Tree Service, Arlington, 617-663-8888
Homeowners can also obtain information about local arborists from: