My Free Tree (and How You Can Get One Too)

by on September 17, 2013 · 3 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, San Diego

City of San Diego property owners are eligible for free tree plantings.

10By John P. Anderson

Back in April I wrote about a program ran by the Urban Corps of San Diego that plants free trees in front yards for property owners in San Diego. At the time I was living in an apartment and unable to partake of the green goodness but have since moved into a house – I can vote now! – and one of the first things I did upon moving in was contact the Urban Corps to get as many free trees as possible.

My yard already had a number of trees, all palms unfortunately, so although I applied for “as many as possible” on the application form I was only able to get one tree planted in my yard. Yes, that is actually an option on the application form. I applied for my tree on May 8th and it was planted, complete with support posts, on July 19th. The Urban Corps team evaluated my yard, marked the appropriate spot for the tree, called to check for utilities, then brought the tree (approximately 7.5 feet tall), dug the hole, and planted it. My cost: zero. Work required on my part: none. My responsibility: to water the tree occasionally. Sounds like a good deal to me.

The tree added to my yard is a Hong Kong Orchid (Bauhinia purpurea). Per the City of San Diego Street Tree Selection Guide this is a small canopy form tree that grows to a 15′ – 25′ spread. It is deciduous and flowering as well. They are relatively common along streets in San Diego and memorable for the large purple blooms they produce. Although I would have preferred to have a native, drought-tolerant plant any tree is better than no tree. If I had it over again I would make sure to note my preference for native trees on my application form when submitting since I didn’t have any contact with Urban Corps after submitting my application until the tree was in the ground.

Currently the Urban Forestry program of the Urban Corps is only open to City of San Diego residents so readers in La Mesa are out of luck for the time being. But for anyone owning a property from Barrio Logan to Rancho Bernardo or Pacific Beach you most likely qualify. The application is very simple and takes less than 2 minutes to complete.

Many thanks to the City of San Diego for sponsoring this wonderful program and to Urban Corps of San Diego for the effort and execution. Two months after planting my tree is doing great and I’m looking forward to enjoying the shade and beauty for many, many years to come. I invite other San Diegans to take advantage of this program and help to make our city better and healthier one tree at a time. All it takes is two minutes of your time.

Link to application:

Go here for photos of the Urban Corps crew and their planting of trees.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar GeekinOB September 17, 2013 at 11:10 am

SO COOL, I’m gonna call about this tonight. Thanks for sharing!


avatar burt September 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm

A native drought tolerant plant? There may be many plants, but not too many trees that fit that description. Torrey Pines, various oaks, what others? I’m asking.


avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman September 17, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I forwarded this good story to two tree-needy people and I looked at the City’s very interesting approved tree list — that Western Redbud is gorgeous! Also my old fave, the Toyon is there — a drought-tolerant native whose red berries attract birds.

Some good friends who are natives of the Upper Midwest just celebrated 50 years of wedded harmony and for a present I gave them trees to be planted in Superior National Forest through the Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska.

Wonderful hopeful programs.


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