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Our cities need more trees. This is becoming more and more obvious. That is why there are already a number of cities that are giving away trees to their citizens.

When cities give away trees to citizens, they have a number of advantages: the trees are on private property and are also cared for privately. This can save cities a lot of effort. And even more important: In many cities, the public squares and streets are already planted with trees - or unsuitable for tree planting. Finding new locations for trees is becoming increasingly difficult in many cities.

And even if the trees are on private sites, the general public can benefit from the important ones positive effects benefit from trees. The demand from citizens is often very high: Many people want to make their environment more ecological, beautiful and sustainable.

So the city gives away trees and the citizens plant them in their garden. Sounds like a wonderful idea. Nevertheless, there are a few things to consider.

For many trees, the city ecosystem is a challenge

The well-known German dendrologist Andreas Roloff writes that trees in cities have on average only 25% of the life expectancy of their conspecifics in the forests.

Here are the main stressors for trees in cities:

  • The soils are often compacted or even sealed. The trees can therefore not ideally develop their root area.
  • In cities, the temperature is higher than in rural areas.
  • In cities, trees are exposed to more pollution.
  • Some street trees are loaded with road salt.
  • In forests, trees can protect each other from heat and wind. There is even Studiesshowing that certain trees in forests support each other with water and nutrients. Trees in cities, on the other hand, often stand alone and are more dependent on themselves.
  • More information on the topic "Increasing problems for urban trees" can also be found in this Articles.

It is important in tree donation campaigns that young trees in particular suffer from these stressors. In the first few years at a new location, trees are particularly sensitive to drought. the Garden Office Manager Conference GALK writes in her Position paper for watering trees, that young trees suffer root loss through clearing in the tree nursery, which limits the water absorption capacity of a young tree. The GALK writes that young trees in particular must be adequately supplied with water from April to the end of August.

Conditions at a new location can leave their mark on a tree for many years. It is important that only healthy and well-developed trees can provide the many positive benefits.

Street and park trees are usually planted and cared for by professional gardeners. If a city gives away trees to private individuals, they are cared for and planted by hobby gardeners. Many of these citizens have little experience in tree care. Irrigation is particularly important. A lot of good for the trees can be done here with little effort.

Key for city trees: the right watering

Young trees in urban areas are usually dependent on human help. In order for them to take root and grow in their new location, they need a lot of water in the first few years. These young trees do not yet have a strong root system and cannot yet reach the deeper layers.

So that the many young trees in the city can grow well, they need good irrigation. The GALK recommends in its Position paper: "For tree plantings (...) we specify a watering of 10 to 75 liters of water per young tree from the 100th day without precipitation."

So that the young trees get 75 to 100 liters of water, irrigation bags are suitable for the following reasons:

  • Depending on the model, a bag contains 75 or 100 liters of water. According to GALK, this corresponds to the ideal amount for a young tree.
  • The water can be easily measured: when the bag is full, there are 75 or 100 liters in the bag.
  • The bag can be filled up quickly and then releases the water drop by drop for up to nine hours. The soil can therefore absorb the water very well. The water can also seep into deeper layers of the earth, where the roots can also absorb it.
  • Irrigation bags help to save water through efficient irrigation. The water arrives exactly where it is needed.
  • The water evaporates less. It's either still in the bag or in the ground, which works like a small layer of mulch through the bag.

The operations manager of the Späth'schen tree nurseries in Berlin also recommends tree watering bags. Here is a video of him:

You can also find more information on the subject of irrigation in this Articles.

If the young trees are watered without a watering bag, there is a high risk that they will not get enough water, especially in the hot summer months. It would be a shame if the trees could not develop their full potential!

More recognition of the fundraiser with personalized watering bags

Another advantage for cities is that they can design the bags with pictures and text. If there is an irrigation bag on a tree, it shows that this tree was donated or supported by a specific project. This can increase the awareness of this project and the identification with the city green.

An example of personalizing irrigation bags

Tree and watering sponsorships

A growing number of cities and municipalities are also introducing tree and watering sponsorships. You can find more information on this topic here..

Cities and municipalities motivate citizens to take part in tree care.

  • They provide casting aids
  • They give out vouchers for water
  • They provide assistance on the correct handling of tree watering

Are you also interested in tree sponsorships? We support cities, communities and private individuals who want to work to preserve our trees. We are happy to support you with our experience and our network.

Andrew Hunkeler
Graduated social and cultural anthropologist with a focus on sustainable and participatory green space design in cities.
More about the author
My vision is to bring together: people and trees, nature and culture, population and urban authorities.
If you have any questions, suggestions, interesting stories or exciting knowledge on this topic, please write to me: 
andreas@baumbad.de. I'm looking forward to your message! 

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