Saturday, September 22, 2012

Restore Mass Ave Treekeeper's Diary

September 2012 

By Lina Cortas

What’s that group of people wearing florescent yellow jackets hunched over under a tree during rush hour doing?

We’re the RMA Treekeepers. 
Restore Mass Ave. 
Yes, we’re volunteers. 
We work in two-hour sessions, sometimes on weekend mornings, or on weekday evenings, whenever we can. We’re re-greening Massachusetts Avenue.  

We want to re-establish a tree canopy by planting two rows of shade trees on each side of the avenue and making sure they are cared for so they survive and grow tall and big and beautiful.

Our assignment is simple:   Weed, loosen-up compacted dirt around the base of the tree to allow water and air to penetrate deeper into the ground, remove mulch volcanoes, sometimes water, clean-up, and call it a day. 

And we chat as we go about our work.

Sarah, Chris, Gary and the famous RMA red wagon.

What do we talk about?  Trees. 

What kind of tree­­—Oak, Linden, Elm.  Yes, there are varieties of elm that are resistant to Dutch elm disease.   Different tree species are planted to avoid the problems of monoculture.  We’re learning tree names as we go. 

OK, we start weeding.  A lot of crab grass.  Dandelion, too.  We create a weed-free box around the tree. 

Then there’s the mulch volcano that someone who thought they were helping the tree piled up around its base.  We rake that away only to find dirt piled around the base. 

So we dig the dirt (which we call soil) to get to the flare—the point where the roots start to spread away from the trunk.  As we dig, we discuss the properties of soil:  is it too clayey, too sandy, does it have enough organic matter, how do we improve it.  And why are the tree roots so close to the surface. 

Some trees are planted way too low.  More digging and the opportunity to try the various tools­—spade, digging fork, garden rake, pick axe, mini pick axe, trowel.  Everyone has a favorite. 

Time to water or place a 25 gal watering bag around the tree.Why 25 gal—because that’s what a young newly planted tree needs per week for the first few years to get established in the ground. 

Working in the evenings, 6-8 PM, we witness the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Mass Ave—cars and buses and their fumes.Pedestrians and people at bus stops breathing those fumes.If only there were a few more trees to clean the air.And a little more shade.
I show how far we had to dig to expose the flare of this black gum tree.

On weekends it’s a different crowd.Many joggers. Bikers. Tourists and locals promenading and enjoying this historic site, some strolling to or from the farmer’s market.The air may be cleaner but a little more shade, a little more green would make it so much more pleasant.  

We cared for around 50 trees so far this season.  We dragged our sturdy little red cart piled with tools up and down the avenue.  We proudly placed our Restore Mass Ave sign on the sidewalk and attacked the weeds.

We got to know the trees. 

1 comment:

  1. Trees has many environmental and as well as social benefits. Tree Care.