Does it feel like summer stretched far into fall this year? I have been anxiously awaiting the start of tree planting season, and it’s finally here. With it comes rain, cooler weather, and new community engagement opportunities. I run the Adopt-a-Creek program with Keep Austin Beautiful, and as such I encounter a lot of groups who want to leave a legacy of their good deeds. One idea is a bench with a commemorative plaque, another is building a bridge and inscribing the team’s name along the side. Would you like to hear my idea for the best legacy one can leave? Planting a tree!
Trees are truly a human’s best friend. The byproduct of their photosynthesis is the air we breathe, and they serve a vital—if often underappreciated—role in creek health. Tree roots help hold together the soil, preventing erosion and slowing runoff during heavy storms. Furthermore, trees are a gift for the next generation. Watching me plant trees, my husband has often said, “Tabitha, you know that tree is going to be a teenager when you’re 60. You’ll never see it fully grown.” I always reply with a large smile, my heart warmed by the knowledge that I am planting for future Austinites.
One of the best perks of my job is that I get to take part in the yearly Ready, Set, Plant! program, a partnership between Keep Austin Beautiful, the City of Austin, and TreeFolks to plant bountiful numbers of trees along Austin’s creeks. Last season we planted 9,300 native trees at nine locations throughout Austin. This year we feel that we can do even better, so we are coordinating 10 planting days and have prepared 10,500 native saplings. How does such a big undertaking get accomplished? With teamwork and coffee, but mostly teamwork. The very special partnership that makes Ready, Set, Plant! possible is an amazing collaboration of experts in their fields coming together to serve the community.
Keep Austin Beautiful choses planting locations along the well-loved creeks of our Adopt-a-Creek program. Our incredible adopters work all year long in their adopted sections, not only to clean up trash but also to remove invasive species. They use weed wrenches to uproot smaller plants and girdle larger invasive trees, carving a strip of bark from around the tree trunk. Removing invasive species opens up the canopy so that native trees do not have to compete for resources such as sun and water. Once this is accomplished the riparian zone is ideal for seedlings.
We are very lucky to have the expertise of the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department to advise on what we should plant where. An environmental scientist carefully inspects each site before planting, determining if the location is an appropriate Grow Zone or if it is located in a floodplain where tree plantings might cause an adverse reaction. When the sites are deemed suitable, the scientist draws a zone map for the planting day. Specific trees are allocated to specific zones, such as Texas Mountain Laurel in the upland zone, Bald Cypress in the riparian zone, and American Beauty Berry in the shaded canopy areas.
TreeFolks has the very special task of sourcing all of the 10,500 trees that will be planted by the community. This year, there will be over 30 varieties of trees. Tree diversity is really important for our creeks and parks, which is why we have TreeFolks’ knowledgeable ISA Arborisits select the perfect trees for our specific climate.
So, how can you get involved? We base all of these projects around the community. Nothing brings us greater joy than to see the community come together for a good cause in their own back yard. Ready, Set, Plant! events are ongoing through the end of February 2018. Keep an eye on the Keep Austin Beautiful website for dates and for all other volunteer opportunities.