Fall marks the start of what urban forestry organizations refer to as tree-planting season. Newly-planted trees need time to acclimatize to their new environment, and moderate temperatures and the onset of the rainy season helps them do that, so they can survive the cold of winter and the heat of summer.
On October 26, Urban Releaf joined with the Berkeley Project – a student volunteer group committed to community sustainability – for a tree-planting in North Oakland, near the intersection of Stanford and Market streets. The event was part of National NeighborWoods month and also sponsored by the Alliance for Community Trees.
At 10 am in the morning, about 25 volunteers with the Berkeley Project assembled in a parking lot at Stanford and Market. Soon after, Urban Releaf project manager Kevin Jefferson and staffers Akeem Davis, Kwame Davis, Jamal Davis, Timothy Hudson, and Armahn Chandler pulled up in two trucks laden with 10 Aristocrat trees, shovels, stakes, and other equipment needed for the tree planting. Jefferson addressed the group, explaining what they were about to do, and how to do it.
The Berkeley Project folks split up into two teams. One team headed South on Stanford; the other went North. Each of the locations was about two-three blocks from the meet-up point. The Berkeley students were in for a workout; the ground on the sidewalk where the trees needed to go was hard-packed from years of being exposed to dense heat with little shade and not a lot of rain.
Nevertheless, they got into it, taking turns digging holes and scooping out the dirt. The volunteers were soon joined by Solange Gould, a South Berkeley resident and her teenage son, Peter, who brought a pickaxe to help cleave the hardened dirt. More assistance came from a neighborhood man who lived adjacent to the northernmost tree-planting location, who lent his water hose to the volunteers, so they could soften up the ground. One of the Berkeley Project folks went into a frenzy, splashing mud everywhere as he dug out the hole. Meanwhile, on the South side, Armahn Chandler helped out by hefting the pickaxe, delivering mighty strokes which chopped up the soil into more manageable chunks.
Once the holes were dug, the trees were removed from their plastic pots, before being lifted into the soil. Timothy Hudson helped with this part, explaining that removing the potted trees wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Once the trees were in the holes, the stakes had to be planted. Here again, the Urban Releaf staffers used a stake-pounding tool to drive the stakes into the ground. Next came the binding of the trees to the stakes, with cloth ties and a heavy-duty industrial stapler. After that, the loose soil was placed back into the hole, until the trees and stakes were firmly anchored to the ground. The final step was what Jefferson called litter abatement, i.e. cleaning up any trash on the sidewalk.
The entire tree-planting took about three hours. While the exercise wasn’t competitive, it was an opportunity for team-building and figuring out the best way to work together to accomplish a goal. All the Berkeley Project volunteers walked away with smiles on their faces, as did young Peter Gould. He’d just had his first lesson in urban forestry, an experience which will stay with him for the rest of his life.