December 20, 2021 /
Jona Elwell

Fall 2021 Season Wrap Up

We asked our Field Manager Nick to share some stats and thoughts on yet another unusual season. Want to support our daily work re-treeing DC? Consider donating $40 to help us reach 40% canopy cover at Hear directly from Field Manager, Nick Smalley what it is like in the field: 

Looking back on the 2266 trees planted this fall and the quality to which they were planted makes me immensely proud to be a part of this team. 72% of our installations were Large Canopy trees! Thinking about the shade, beauty, and ecosystem benefits the trees will bring as they grow is hugely rewarding. But this season I am most proud (this is saying a lot because I love trees and our trees especially) of the growth we have seen on the tree planting crew. We had four crew chiefs, three of whom started as crew members, in their second season. This made for a smooth season as they navigated the city, maneuvering trailers through traffic, down alleys, across fields, while ensuring the crew had the equipment and direction they would need to effectively install trees. We had five new crew members who all came in and hit the ground not just running, but shoveling, picking axing. The new crew members quickly learned their new roles, picked up tricks and techniques from the existing crew, and left no question that this is the strongest the field ops team has been in quite some time.

We are looking forward to the pruning season, and also the continuation of planting through the winter. Our urban foresters have been working hard to secure planting locations for us to install when the weather is cooperating. This will help keep our planting skills sharp and get our spring season off to a great start. I’m really looking forward to working with this tremendous group as we continue to develop skills, learn, and keep planting and caring for our trees.

We planted across all 8 wards, and nearly 50% of trees from this season we planted in Wards 5,7, and 8. Some of the favorite plantings for the crew were Benning Terrace and Highland Dwellings, two housing complexes that are in serious need of shade in the summer. Digging was tough at both sites, but the trees and the benefits that they bring are understood and appreciated by neighbors. Our forester did a great job coordinating with these sites to get the right trees in the right places. We were also back at Congressional Cemetery this year for a big crew planting. Congressional is a great cemetery with some wise old trees. It’s rewarding to return to old sites and add iterations of new canopy trees. Let’s never forget, Congressional is basically the city’s largest dog park, and any day with dogs and trees is a great day! We were also able to plant 70 trees at Trinity College in Brookland. It’s always nice to plant in our backyard and these were well-located species that should thrive for decades!

Returning to Community Tree Planting (CTP) events after a 3-season hiatus really makes our work feel more complete, connecting people to trees through trees. Seeing familiar faces over the summer at care events was great, but to see the red vests all back out at CTPs again this year doing what they do so well – leading volunteers and getting trees in the ground – was fantastic! Everyone on the crew is looking forward to continuing to work with the volunteers at more care events over the winter and hopefully at more CTPs in the spring. Speaking of care events, we have utilized arborist wood chips this year, something that anyone who has spent any time around me knows I am enthusiastic and extremely chatty about. The cycle of the woodchip is a testament to conservation and upcycling! The woodchips come from tree removal or pruning companies in DC, and when they work near our tree holding yard, we save them a trip to a dumping station and gain a great resource. The old trees become the mulch for our new trees! The wood chips have a mix of species and branch sizes which work well to feed the soil microbes, in turn feeding the tree and protecting our soil.

From installing thousands of trees to working again with volunteers to watching the next round of Casey Trees field operations come into their own, this has made the fall of 2021 a special season.