How you can participate in Tampa's award-winning free tree program

If your home could use some protection from the sun or your neighborhood could use more character, the City of Tampa's Tree-mendous Tampa Free Tree Program is available to help.
 
The program was established nearly 20 years ago by the city's Parks and Recreation Department with the goal of improving neighborhoods and Tampa's environment. Over the last three years, the program has planted about 3,000 trees in the rights-of-way in front of or on the side yard of residential properties.
 
Earlier this month, the Tree-mendous program was recognized along with the department's Stay & Play Program by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies for excellence in innovative programming. In a press release, Mayor Bob Buckhorn credited the tree program with transforming Tampa's "once bland urban landscape to a lush and vibrant green canvass that's revitalized (the) city."
 
So, how can a Tampa resident participate in the program? Brad A. Suder, superintendent of Planning, Design and Natural Resources for Tampa's Parks and Recreation Department, explains the first step is to contact the city through an online request. You can also call 813-274-7733, but the city prefers online requests because they are easier to track. The city will then meet with you to assess the planting site and discuss which variety of tree would work best.
 
"There are 12 trees currently available," Suder says. "Six species are appropriate under power lines and in open areas: Crepe Myrtle Natchez, Bottle Brush, Japanese Blueberry, Silver Buttonwood, Loquat, Geiger White. There are six additional species with no overhead height restrictions: Live Oak, Tabebuia Yellow, Tabebuia Purple, Loblolly Pine, Florida Maple, Bald Cypress. They are in 30-gallon containers and are 8-10 feet overall height."
 
You're responsible for watering the new tree the first year after it's planted, and you have to commit to a 90-day watering schedule that entails watering the tree every other day for the first 30 days, watering every other day for the next 30 days, and watering every three days or twice a week for the last 30 days. After the 90-day watering schedule, you'll be expected to water the tree at least once a week.
 
"Once the water commitment is obtained, the request is placed into a future planting schedule," Suder explains. "Currently, the program plants approximately 20 trees per week and is scheduled through the end of February."
 
In the future, Suder says the city hopes to expand the tree species that it offers, as well as the scope of the program. That means businesses and other open spaces could also participate, and watering responsibilities would fall to the department in some cases.
 
For more information, visit the Tree-mendous Tampa Free Tree Program online.

Read more articles by Ashley Reams Mistretta.

Ashley Reams Mistretta is a writer and editor for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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