Trees for a Healthier Nashville

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Guest Post by Jennifer Smith, Horticulturist, Metro Public Works, Beautification & Environment Commission, Landscape Coordination Program.

Did you know that trees are vital to a healthy Nashville? From clean air to the reduction of temperatures, trees are working for us. For the environment, trees are an effective tool in managing storm water runoff and controlling erosion and they provide wildlife habitat.

Jennifer Smith, of the Metropolitan Nashville Department of Public Works Beautification and Environment Commission and Thomas Solinsky of SoundForest planting trees.
Jennifer Smith of the Metropolitan Nashville Department of Public Works Beautification & Environment Commission, and Thomas Solinsky of SoundForest planting trees with Hands On Nashville in November 2014.

The state of our urban forest has been a focus of the Metro Beautification and Environment Commission’s Landscape Coordination Program and the Metro Tree Advisory Committee. Three completed studies give insight. A 2010 canopy assessment shows that the canopy cover changes from 4.8% in the central district of downtown to 66.7% of the less developed Joelton area. Two tree inventory studies conducted in 2013 illustrate the added value of service the trees are providing.

One study sponsored by the Garden Club of Nashville, NES and Metro Beautification surveyed over 2,000 street trees in the downtown inner loop area between the interstates. The locations of over 700 potential planting locations were also indicated. This report is being used as both a tree management tool and planting guide.

Also in 2013 a sampling assessment conducted by the national nonprofit American Forests for East Nashville’s 11,130 street trees revealed that they alone provide over $1 million in benefits each year, remove over 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide and intercept 37.5 million gallons of storm water. For every dollar invested in these street trees, this study found that we receive $6.91 in benefits.

No other infrastructure provides the range of city services as trees. In addition to their value in cleaning air and water, well-maintained trees can also increase property values and retail sales, reduce hospital recovery time and crime rates, and even improve academic performance.

On Saturday, November 15, more than 25 outstanding community volunteers spent their morning planting 90 trees in East Nashville to support Nashville’s urban forest!
On Saturday, November 15, more than 25 outstanding community volunteers spent their morning planting 90 trees in East Nashville to support Nashville’s urban forest!

For all the benefits trees provide, efforts have been made over the last year to plant trees in the two inventoried areas, downtown and in East Nashville. Plantings by both Metro and volunteer organizations have taken place with trees purchased through community grants.

Nashvillians have upcoming opportunities to participate in community tree plantings. For more information on these volunteer events, visit www.HON.org/trees. No prior experience is necessary as all training is provided onsite by experienced leaders. Whether as a group, a family or an individual, make it a priority to care for your trees and provide them with the water they need to grow and mature.Your care now leaves a lasting legacy for generations to come.

A few simple tips will help trees thrive:

  • In determining the planting location, avoid above-ground and underground utilities.
  • A deciduous tree planted on the southern side of your home will provide shade in the summer and after the leaves fall, sunlight will reach your home.
  • Evergreens on the northern side of your home will protect it from harsh winds.
  • Dig the hole just as deep at the root-ball and twice as wide.
  • The top of the root ball should be 2” above the ground. It will settle over time.
  • Water trees deeply when planting. Continue to water deeply, noting hot and dry weather conditions. After three years, trees should have an established root system.
  • Keep mulch away from the trunk and to a maximum depth of 3 to 4 inches.
  • No “mulch volcanoes” which promote shallow roots. Spread mulch to a diameter of at least 3 feet, protecting the trunk from potential mower and weed eater damage.

In 2013, Nashville was among five cities selected to participate in the inaugural year of American Forests’ Community ReLeaf Program, a three-phase initiative dedicated to the assessment, restoration, and management of urban forests. In partnership with Metro Beautification and Environment Commission and Soundforest.org, Hands On Nashville lead community outreach and tree planting projects based on the recommendations of American Forests’ 2014 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment & Planting Plan.

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