Get trees for free via Trees for Neighborhoods program

If you have a bare spot in your yard or a planting strip that begs for something other than grass, take note – the City of Seattle’s Trees for Neighborhoods program is now open. And, unlike in years past, it’s no longer first-come, first-served. Instead, there’s a lottery selection process.

The program helps increase the city’s tree canopy and provides shade and beauty for residents and visitors alike. Applications are being accepted from today, July 18th, through August 10th.

If you’re selected for the Trees for Neighborhoods program, you receive:

  • Free trees (up to 4 per household, lifetime max of 8)
  • A watering bag & mulch for each tree
  • Training on proper planting and care
  • Assistance applying for street tree planting permits
  • Ongoing care reminders and future pruning workshop opportunities

Here’s the info you need to know from the Trees for Neighborhoods program:

  1. Take time to evaluate potential planting sites on your property. Read the planting considerations page. Consider attending a Tree & Site Selection Workshop to learn how to select the right tree for the right spot in your yard. 
  2. Review the 2016 tree list here. Pay attention to the mature size of the trees and their needs for sun. Select trees that will have room to grow to maturity. If you have the space, please consider planting a larger tree to bring greater benefits to your neighborhood.
  3. Apply Online or download the PDF version and mail it in. This year’s application is a lottery; applications will be accepted from July 18th through August 10th. All applications will be processed once the first lottery round closes on August 10th.

If your application is approved, you then sign up to attend a planting and care workshop in the fall to pick-up your trees. Fall is the best time to plant a tree in Seattle because new trees benefit from fall and winter rains.

Help keep our neighborhood green and apply for the program!

City’s reLeaf program offers free trees to residents

The city is offering free trees to Seattle residents for their yards or planting strip next to the street.

Applications are now available for the trees as part of the reLeaf program. There are ten species to choose from and the trees can be planted anywhere in a residential yard.

Here are some rules:

  • Permits are required if planting street trees – reLeaf staff will coordinate acquiring permits. Receiving a permit is not guaranteed. No permit is required for yard trees.
  • You must be present at the planting training to pick up your tree(s). All trees should be planted shortly after receiving them.
  • The number of trees approved for your yard may be fewer than the number requested. Please note that tree availability is not guaranteed.
  • If you do not own your home, you must obtain the permission of the homeowner.

Trees are limited and applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. The application deadline for street trees (for the planting strip next to the street) is September 1. Yard tree applications are due October 24th. Attend a planting and care workshop and pick up your tree(s) on either October 30th at the Carkeek Environmental Learning Center or November 12th at the Garfield Community Center.

For more information and for the application, click here.

Mercer Corridor closures & tree removal underway

Beginning yesterday, Thursday, September 16, the city began lane closures and tree removal in conjunction with the Mercer Corridor project, which we reported on a few weeks ago. Much of the work is taking place along key corridors going to and from Queen Anne, so keep this in mind when planning your morning commute over the next few weeks. From SDOT:

Intermittent lane closures will occur on Fairview Avenue North and will continue for approximately two weeks. The curb lanes on both sides of the street will be closed at two locations. One location is just north of Valley Street between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The other location is between Harrison and Republican streets, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the northbound lane, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the southbound lane. At least one lane on Fairview will remain open in each direction. There will also be temporary sidewalk closures and pedestrian detours.

The lane closures are necessary for the installation of Metro transit poles. King County Metro expects to move the existing overhead trolley lines to the new poles in October to accommodate construction.

Crews also began removing previously-marked trees along Westlake Avenue N, 9th Ave N and Broad Street. These particular trees are being removed temporarily due to their proximity to the Mercer Corridor project work area and will be replaced after construction is completed.

The final design of the east phase of the Mercer Corridor Project includes planting two new trees for every one removed, in accordance with City of Seattle standards, as well as planting more than 10,000 new shrubs and other plants throughout the project area.

For more information, please visit the Mercer Corridor project website.

Deadline to get free street trees is today

Today is the deadline to apply for free street trees from the Department of Neighborhoods. Interested applicants need a minimum of five households to apply for anywhere from 10 to 40 trees per project. Each participating household can also get a fruit tree for their own yard. Check out the application.

The Tree Fund is a simple way for residents to beautify their neighborhood and help the environment, while connecting with their neighbors…Groups of neighbors from at least five households living on a street or block can request from 10 to 40 trees per project. In addition, every participating household can have a fruit tree for their own yard. Information on how to organize your neighborhood, the selections of trees, as well as the application form, can be found at

For questions or additional information, contact Judy Brown, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, at 206.684.0714.

“Topped” trees along W Comstock St. raise concerns among neighbors and city arborist

Reader Susan P. first noticed a row of what she described as “brutally hacked” London Plane trees while walking past W Comstock St. along Queen Anne Ave N on Monday, April 26.

The four tall trees bordering the south side of the Greenwich Apartments at the top of the south face of Queen Anne hill are the victim of “topping,” a term that refers to the practice of “stubbing” or “dehorning” a tree in an attempt to prevent overgrowth.

According to, an organization dedicated to ending the “senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs,” topping trees is an ineffective and misguided practice that actually worsens the health of the tree or shrub.

Topping has become the urban forest’s major threat, dramatically shortening the lifespan of trees and creating hazardous trees in high-traffic areas.

Concerned about the legality of topping, Susan wonders if it was the work of a private party or business. “It couldn’t have been done legally because the City doesn’t allow topping trees,” she wrote.

“This work definitely wasn’t done by the city,” confirmed Seattle Department of Transportation City Arborist Nolan Rundquist. “When work is performed on street trees by a tree firm or a resident, they are required to obtain a permit from the Urban Forestry section of Seattle Transportation. This type of work is something that we never would have issued a permit for.”

According to Rundquist, the trees meet none of the city’s tree pruning specifications, and looks to be the handiwork of a “tree cutter,” who he said are often “more concerned about making a buck than performing work that was beneficial for the tree and community.”

“The work is very unprofessional (in my opinion, of course) – we’ve been trying to get the “topping is bad” message out for the last 30 years,” Rundquist said, referring readers to Plant Amnesty’s “5 Reasons to Stop Topping Trees” list.

We called the manager of the adjacent Greenwich apartment building, Berit McAlister, to see if she knew who was responsible or had heard anything from other tenants or neighbors. McAlister first said she did not know, and then requested we send a formal letter in writing inquiring for more information.

Regardless of who is responsible, however, Rundquist urges community members to actively discourage tree topping. “We’d certainly like to know the name of the company or person who performed the work, so we can contact them and hopefully keep them from destroying any more trees,” he said.

For more information on urban forestry, street tree regulations, pruning tips, or to file a street tree pruning/removal request or hire a permitted contractor, visit SDOT’s website.

(Thanks to Susan for the tip!)