New city trees: A question of depth – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

New city trees: A question of depth

Written February 15th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

One of the newly planted trees on the north side of Third Avenue last week.

On a walk through the changing streetscape of downtown Albany, I wondered about the holes around the newly planted trees. Then I heard from someone who knows about trees, telling me that these were planted too deep. Turns out they were, and the city says the contractor will make it right.

The email I got came from Dick Conolly, the retired superintendent of Albany parks. “I can’t help but notice how crazy deep the new downtown streets have been planted,” he wrote. “I also realize I am quickly becoming a dinosaur, but I can’t find such deep planting recommended in the literature.”

Conolly referred me to online material of experts explaining how trees should be planted. One of the guidelines: The top of the root ball should be level with the ground.

When I put the question to people involved with the $8.5 million downtown streetscape project, of which the roughly 215 new lindens, zelkovas and other trees are a small part, City Engineer Staci Belcastro replied, “We agree that the trees on Second Avenue were not planted correctly. A couple of weeks ago we notified the general contractor, Emery & Sons, that this was the case. Emery & Sons is working with their subcontractor, who will re-install the trees that were not planted correctly.”

She added that the replanting should be happening fairly soon.

While most of the problem was on Second, Lori Schumacher of Public Works told me some trees on other streets will need to be replanted too.

What’s the big deal about this? Conolly made the point that the benefits of an urban forest come from shade trees over 30 years old, and trees planted too deep have an average life of only seven to 10 years.

If it takes 30 years, some of us won’t be around to enjoy the full benefits of the downtown street trees. But somebody will be. And for their sake, it’s good that this planting will be redone. (hh)

Looks like it won’t be long before this specimen on Third will have leaves.

11 responses to “New city trees: A question of depth”

  1. Debbie Ferguson says:

    Another thing to slow the finishing of this disaster.

  2. Mary Brock says:

    What next! I can’t believe it. I have had a few discussions with a city official about the taking out all the trees in the first place. Was assured they know what they are doing; that the old trees were ruining the sidewalks. Now, they can’t even hire a contractor who can correctly plant trees! City Hall is beginning to resemble the incompetence at The White House.

  3. Richard Vannice says:

    Was the sub contractor qualified in the planting of trees or was it someone who just obtained the required species and stuck them in the ground? Who is standing the extra cost and is there going to be any survival guarantee? There is bound to be some loss in the first two to three years.

  4. Donald Wirth says:

    Trees should be transplanted at the depth they were originally or could kill them. The bark transitions.

  5. Grace Peterson says:

    Now we’re getting into areas where I know something–plants! Yes the trees need to be planted at the same depth as they come in the pot or burlap–with soil just at the crown. If I saw this I would have been aghast. This is a big OOPS for the contractors!

  6. centrist says:

    Just remember a few things, folks.
    The project went to the qualified bidder with the lowest price. If the planting depth wasn’t specd, the replant is an extra, at city cost. Otherwise, the comtractor eats the cost.
    The council is accountable for the project. Others, at various ranks and authority, are responsible for getting things done.
    If you expect perfect performance, be prepared to pay for it.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Not exactly correct. Most contracts carry a clause to the effect that
      ‘all work must be performed in a professional and workmanlike manner’ because the vendors present themselves as professionals for the job hired.

      They screw it up, they have to fix it. That’s why there are “holdbacks” in contracts.

      • centrist says:

        In my industrial experience, found that phrasing to be unenforcible when details of installation are in dispute.
        The “everybody knows” position never has the force of specification.
        I have used that phrasing in regard to housekeeping and safety.

  7. Jenny brausch says:

    Not only are the trees too deep but they have a better chance of survival if the planting hole is dug two to three times as wide as the root ball as this OSU Extension article explains: http://extension.Oregon
    It’s widely known in the landscape industry that this is the proper way to plant a tree.

  8. Omizais says:

    Ha! 30 yrs! Lol they’ll never make it! Albany loves to plant trees and then a few years later take them out and put them new ones again


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