• Photo of woman on one knee at base of gator-bagged tree, weeding

Just Add Water (Weeding and Mulch): Adopt a Tree through Cambridge's Forest Friends Program

Just Add Water (Weeding and Mulch): Adopt a Tree through Cambridge's Forest Friends Program

Sign up to be a Forest Friend! Adopt a tree in your neighborhood - support your neighborhood, support a tree

Here's a question we often ask ourselves: "What can I do to make a difference - a real difference - in this world, by adding oxygen, beneficial hormones, shade, and beauty to my neighborhood, while giving nutrients, quenching thirst, and ensuring comfort and ease to a living being?" Well, here's an answer: Adopt a tree through Cambridge's Department of Public Works (DPW) Forest Friends program.

Of the city's 19,000 public trees, 475 are newly planted (this past spring) saplings, and the plan is to plant 475 more in the fall. And while the city's Forestry Division is devoted and skilled, many of Cambridge's trees - especially its saplings - are struggling. You see our saplings all over the city: thin, young trees, flanked by a post on each side, girded, and encouraged to stand up while rooting. These young trees receive as much watering and attention as possible by an army of student interns, but there is more need - more thirsty, weedy-welled trees - than the interns can cover. Some saplings are now devoid of leaves and have cracking bark. These will be replaced in the fall. The new saplings will need tending, and the saplings that have hung in there need tending, too. This is where we all come in as good neighbors, caring tenderers: This is where we as Forest Friends come in.

(Image below: Woman using watering can to fill newly-placed gator bags from DPW)
Forest Friends, a program of the Department of Public Works (DPW) gives everyone in Cambridge the sacred opportunity to help nurture our city's saplings towards established, heathy futures. The commitment is manageable, requiring watering, weeding, and mulching. Forest Friends are asked not to prune or otherwise treat tree ailments. There's a helpful Tree Care Guide on the Forest Friends page covering all about how to be a Forest Friend. It takes the guesswork out of the tree-friending process. It's easy and quick to sign up to be a Forest Friend. You just go to the website, view the trees in your neighborhood, and register as their Forest Friend. And then, you get started: mulch, weed, water, repeat, as you would with any friendship!

Meet one of Cambridge's newest Forest Friends, and read what she shares about her role in caring for a sapling on nearby Cardinal Medeiros Avenue. Janice Ellison of Michael Way signed up a week ago, and she has jumped in eagerly - watering, mulching, weeding, and obtaining (from the DPW) and installing gator bags. I interviewed Janice (JE) and I hope that what she says will inspire others to become Forest Friends:

(Image below: Janice Ellison, a Forest Friend, with her adopted tree on Cardinal Medeiros Avenue)
HK: Why did you become a Forest Friend?
JE: Taking responsibility for watering one tree, watching out for its health, and keeping weeds and other plants out of its tree well is making me more aware and appreciative of all the trees. I feel connected to something real by giving back regularly to even one tree that cleans the air I breathe, hosts animals and insects, gives shade, and adds
beauty to my neighborhood and city.

HK: Do you have any concerns about how to take care of your adopted tree?
JE: No, the website is very clear about what is involved. And the city provides both mulch and gator bags.

HK: How long do you hope to be a Forest Friend to your adopted tree?
JE: I hadn’t thought of ever stopping. The tree has a longer lifespan than I do.

HK: How did you choose your tree?
JE: I looked for the sapling that is the shortest walk from my house. The nearest trees are well established, and I wanted to pick one that needs the care more.

HK: What would you like people to know that would encourage them to become a Forest Friend?
JE: It feels good to be taking care of a city tree. It is satisfying to pull weeds, and then to see how lovely the tree well looks afterward. Adopting a tree is a way to connect with nature right near home, and the commitment to watering means at least once a week visiting with that tree with the opportunity to deepen that calming, healing connection.

So please do step up to greet and take care of - befriend - a local tree. You'll be rewarded with a healthy, protective tree canopy. And you'll know you are an essential part of the life a thirsty, growing neighbor: Your adopted tree!