Short version: please get out and water your street trees now, especially the newly planted ones!
Longer version: It is possible to grow up in an area with no trees, but not recommended.
To clap eyes on an actual tree when I was a kid growing up in an industrial northern city in England in the 50s, a special trip to a park or a drive to the countryside was required.
Possibly the result of a tree-starved childhood, I’ve never taken my Vancouver arboreal neighbours for granted, and now I’m quite worried about them.
There are always promising-sounding City of Vancouver initiatives to improve our “urban forest.” I’m not even sure if the “30% tree cover by 2050” thing is still a goal — but it looks to me, especially in my neighbourhood, that we’re going the wrong way.
In our part of Hasting-Sunrise, it looks as if the tree canopy is disappearing far faster than it’s being added to.
Some of tree loss is just some species reaching the end of their life cycles; in other cases development choices have been made in favour of things other than trees. Climate change is taking a visible toll, and has been for several years
When I’m out with the dog and photographing crows, I’ve also been recording gaps in the street tree population where trees have fallen, removed and never replaced. I passed my list on the City tree planting department, pestered them occasionally, but mostly waited patiently for a couple of years for it to be our neighbourhood’s turn for replanting.
I did a little happy dance in January when we returned from a trip to see new trees planted on our block. I was especially thrilled that they’d gone in so early in the year with, I thought, a chance to get established before it got hot.
By May, we’d had so much hot dry weather that the young Katsuras were starting to look stressed. I started carrying buckets of water to a couple of the closest ones, but all of the newly planted trees, for blocks around look very dry and singularly unhappy.
I seem to recall that in times gone by City crews would leave little notices on the trees asking people to water those planted in front of their houses. I also thought they used to put water bags on the young trees, but nothing like that currently.
I do know, I saw a LOT of water bags on trees in neighbouring Burnaby this week so they’re making Vancouver look bad in the urban forest stakes. Just trying to drum up a little inter-municipality competitive spirit here!
I think the City crew has been by once or twice to water the sad saplings, but it’s definitely not sufficient; word needs to get out the tree-loving citizenry of Vancouver to get out their watering cans, buckets and hoses.
We’re hearing a lot, at the moment, about the very real drought conditions and water restrictions, but the latter don’t apply to tree watering.
Apart from being expensive to plant in the first place, a tree is an investment in our community with massive payoffs for decades to come. The shade from a mature tree on a scorching day is a gift. The sight of birds in the trees and the sound of wind in the branches are soul lifting. The carbon capture, filtering of pollution and rainwater absorption are less poetic but no less valuable and vital for the future.
I’ve been hoping the City would put out a press release on how to help our precious street trees, but I haven’t seen it covered anywhere so far, so this is my own version.
Hey, local Vancouver media, let’s do a story on the city trees and how to keep them alive!!
In the meantime, definitely limit your lawn watering! Keep those showers short and sweet! Turn the tap off while you brush your teeth!
But do spare some H2O for the trees.
Recommended is a good soak with a hose or slow watering with a few of buckets of water twice a week, in early morning or evening, to avoid evaporation.
And, while you’re out there with the hose, fill up a bowl of water for the birds, who are also struggling in the drought.*
Last thing: write to or call your local government and city staff to let them know if you’re concerned about the trees in your neighbourhood. Our elected officials need to know we care about our urban forest in order for it to be a priority!
* How to keep bird feeders and water bowls clean:
Change the water at least twice a day and disinfect the bowl regularly to protect against disease.Wash the bowl and soak with solutions of either bleach or white vinegar. If using bleach, make a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water and leave for 15 minutes. If using vinegar, use 1 part vinegar to 1 part water and leave for one hour. Rinse the bowl well and allow to dry before refilling with water. It’s best to have few inexpensive containers on hand so some can be in use while others are being cleaned.