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The Flower Show

Tree Checkers Program Keeps Trees Happy and Healthy

August 05, 2021

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By Will Sulahian

Trees are an essential part of our ecosystem, and in urban environments like Philadelphia, they are necessary to help improve residents’ health and well-being and reduce heat and greenhouse gases. A rule of thumb for healthy tree canopy is 30% tree coverage. Philadelphia’s tree canopy averages about 20% but can be as low as 2.5% in areas, leading to higher temperatures and health issues that arise with heat. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s solution is its Tree Tenders program, which allows anyone to learn about tree planting and get involved by planting trees with other members of the community. The Tree Tenders programs is beneficial in increasing the tree canopy, but PHS’s work does not stop after planting -- PHS Tree Tenders continue their tree care with maintenance of newly planted trees via the Tree Checkers Program. 

Yearly Check Up 

Planting trees with the Tree Tenders program is a big investment for the community, and it’s important to make sure that newly planted trees are healthy. The PHS Tree Checkers program is an extension of Tree Tenders, and helps young trees thrive while allowing for more social connections between established Tree Tenders. Each summer, Tree Tenders groups who planted in the last two planting sessions check in on their new trees. For summer 2021, trees planted in fall 2020 and spring 2021 are being examined. “Young trees are most vulnerable in the first year after they’ve been planted. Checking in on trees at this time is a great way to see how they’re doing and resolve any issues that have come up,” says Tim Ifill, Associate Director of Trees at PHS.  

Sometimes new trees do not survive and need to be replaced, and the Tree Checkers Program catches these trees early and marks them for replacement at the next planting. The good news is one-year survival rates for Tree Tenders trees are over 90%, and the program does help struggling trees grow healthier. For example, some trees need more regular watering, while others need their planting pits cleared of weeds and trash. 

“Young trees are most vulnerable in the first year after they’ve been planted. Checking in on trees at this time is a great way to see how they’re doing and resolve any issues that have come up”

Tim Ifill, Associate Director of Trees at PHS

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Report Card 

Did you know that trees get report cards too? When Tree Checkers examine and measure their trees, they keep track of important information that can be passed on to homeowners taking care of them. If trees have not been watered enough or require frequent cleaning, the report card can act as a reminder. PHS trees are also planted with two stakes to protect them from wind and car doors, and the report card can tell caretakers when to remove them. Outside of reminders, the tree report cards are used to measure any tree damage as well as how “full” the tree growth looks.  

Social Connections

The Tree Checkers program supports trees after planting, but it also allows previous Tree Tenders groups to reconvene and continue their social connections. To help increase the tree canopy in Philadelphia and meet other planters, consider becoming a Tree Tenders member today. 

Learn more about PHS Tree Tenders