Street trees: What to plant and where

Do you love street trees?

But hate what some do to sidewalks?

Then this blog is for you. Street trees provide tremendous benefits to people who walk, especially in a region with summers as hot as ours. But if they’re located too close to the sidewalk, they also create Uplifted sidewalk caused by bulging roots on oversized street treeproblems.

If you live in Atlanta, you’re familiar with bulging tree roots and uplifted sidewalks. Setting trees further back from the sidewalk can keep this problem from getting even worse. Doing so also promotes healthy tree growth.

Fall is a the best time of the year to plant trees and shrubs, so your chance to make a difference is now.

If your neighbors are about to plant trees near a sidewalk, please ask them to think about how big they will be ten years down the road. Otherwise, you’ll later wish you had.

Wonder what street trees to plant?

The best trees for road frontage areas include crape myrtles, dogwoods, maples, redbuds and serviceberries. Trees to avoid include fruit and nut trees, mulberries, and oaks. Athens-Clark County’s Technical Guide to Tree Conservation is a terrific resource.

Other helpful tips:

  • Avoid planting in areas too narrow to support healthy tree growth. The closer you plant a tree to the street, the worse for trees, people, sidewalks and streets
  • Consider installing root barriers between the sidewalk and trees to prevent roots from breaking and heaving pavers, sidewalks, curbs and roads.
  • Provide at least 8 feet of vertical clear space above sidewalks so people will avoid running into low-hanging branches. When needed, prune lower branches.

The same goes for shrubsOversized shrubs block sidewalk

If you know people who are planting shrubs—especially prickly ones–ask them to set them far enough back from the sidewalk to keep them out of people’s way.

A newly-planted bush may seem fine during its first few years. But later, it may force people to walk single file or avoid the sidewalk altogether.

People who walk need at least 6 inches of elbow room, so keep that in mind as well.

Spread the word

Please spread the word to friends and neighbors. E-newsletters and social media are both great ways to reach out.

Thank you for protecting our street trees, sidewalks and everyone who walks.