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Tree planting

Urban forests are valuable assets to cities, providing many ecological benefits including: reduced heating and cooling costs for houses and buildings, rain water interception and filtration, reduced water runoff, reduced soil erosion, river bank stabilization, carbon sequestration, habitat for wildlife, oxygen production, increased property values, and increased aesthetic appeal. Urban trees have also been shown to reduce crime and improve social and psychological well-being.

The City of Winnipeg has a tree planting program to replace trees lost to insects, diseases, or environmental stress on public boulevards and in parks, and also add new trees at suitable sites in these locations. Our goal is to plant the "right tree" in the "right place" to improve our communities.

Urban Forestry Branch tree planting program objectives

  • To replace losses, or anticipated losses, of elms to Dutch Elm Disease (D.E.D), or other tree species for other reasons.
  • To provide and maintain an overall diverse tree canopy by planting trees where there are gaps in the existing urban forest.

Please follow the link on the ReLeaf program page for more information on planting trees on private property.

Spring snow crabapples in schoolyard

Spring snow crabapple

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Requesting a tree

A citizen may request a tree planting on a public boulevard or park property. The City of Winnipeg is not responsible for the planting of trees on private property.

  • To submit a request please contact 311.
  • A service request will be generated.
  • All tree planting requests submitted to the Urban Forestry Branch are inspected to determine suitability.
Tree planting guidelines

The Urban Forestry Branch Tree Planting Guidelines have been developed and updated over time to reflect updates in best practices. In accordance with best practices and "right tree, right place", not every tree that was removed on public property will be replaced. Considerations regarding tree planting sites include the following:

1. Boulevard trees should be spaced an appropriate distance apart. This rule also applies to existing trees on private property in close proximity to potential planting sites on the boulevard. The guidelines for the City of Winnipeg are:

Large trees 10 - 12 meters apart
Medium trees 8 - 10 meters apart
Small trees 7 - 8 meters apart

2. Boulevard trees should not be planted close to any above ground structures. The recommended minimum distance guidelines for the City of Winnipeg are:

Street intersections 6 meters
Light standards 3 meters
Fire hydrants 3 meters
Hydro poles 3 meters
Manholes 3 meters
Private approaches 1.5 meters

3. As a general rule, the City of Winnipeg does not replant trees under overhead wires for the following reasons:

  • Trees and overhead wires can come into conflict as the trees grow, posing safety and service reliability concerns
  • It is dangerous for arborists to prune trees within wires
  • Pruning trees for clearances within wires can result in an unbalanced crown
  • Increased pruning may decrease the tree's life span.

4. No trees are to be planted on boulevards less than 6 feet (2 meters) wide. Bus stops, signs, cross walks, snow storage, and underground utilities are other things to consider when determining if a site is suitable for planting. Trees will not be planted in sump pump discharge zones as excess moisture can drown the tree. Water from sump pump discharge also may be toxic to the tree depending on the mineral content of the discharge.

5. The Urban Forestry Branch is not responsible for tree planting in the following situations:

  • Private Property
  • New development where a tree was planted within the last two years
  • Dutch Elm Disease removal on private property
  • Please see the "Releaf" program information if you are interested in planting a tree on private property.

6. Tree Planting Timelines:

From 3-5 years depending on resources available.

Tree Planting Options (hiring a private contractor):
If you would like to have a tree planted sooner, citizens have the option of hiring a private contractor at their own expense, please see Guidelines for Maintaining City Owned Trees Using a Qualified Contractor.

Planting Notices are distributed to homeowners with information regarding the new tree on the boulevard directly adjacent to their house/property.

Tips to help new trees establish

If a new tree has been planted on your boulevard there are a few things you as a homeowner can do to help the tree establish and reduce transplant shock.

1. Do not alter the planting site
Please do not change the standard planting detail in any way as all components are necessary and essential. The application of wood chips helps prevent the soil from drying out, moderates soil temperatures, reduces competition from turf grass and weeds, reduces tree damage from grass cutting equipment, and helps replenish soil nutrients. It is important to retain the wood chips that are installed. Please do not exchange the wood chips for pebbles or gravel. It is imperative that soil or wood chips not be piled against the trunk. The tree stem needs to be exposed for air exchange. In some cases, soil piled against the trunk can kill the tree. While it may seem desirable to create a flower garden at the base of a new tree, be aware that it presents a change in grade for the tree, creates direct competition for water and nutrients, often causes wet conditions near the base of the trunk resulting in stem decay, and is not advised.

Tree stem with too much mulch surrounding the base

This newly planted tree has too much mulch around the base. This can have a negative effect on the tree by limiting air exchange at the base of the trunk and water availability to the roots. Other effects include: increased insect or rodent feeding on the main stem, stem and root decay and stem-girdling roots.

Tree stem with an appropriate amount of mulch around the base.

This is an appropriate amount of organic mulch. The base of the tree is exposed, and mulch is put around the root zone of the tree to moderate soil temperature, increase soil nutrients, and improve soil structure, maintain moisture, reduce competition from weeds, and protect the trunk from mechanical damage from lawn equipment by reducing growth of turf directly at the trunk.

2. Watering
New trees are watered by the City or the City's contractor during the initial two year establishment period. Some homeowners choose to help by watering the new tree during dry weather. As a general rule of thumb, new trees should receive 1" of water over the root zone once per week during dry weather.
Water from sump discharge is detrimental to the health of the tree. Excess moisture can drown the tree and the quality of water from sump pump can be toxic due to high mineral content. Once a tree is established, watering deeply in hot dry weather near the outer edge of the tree's dripline, not directly at the tree trunk, is helpful to the tree and can help prevent surface roots from developing.

3. Tree Collar
The tree collar (usually made of plastic weeping tile) is intended to protect the fragile bark of new trees from mechanical damage caused by grass trimming or snow removal equipment and rodents. After about five years the collar may be removed.

4. Planting Depth
Trees are installed by either City of Winnipeg staff or a contractor working on the City's behalf. One of the questions we receive often relates to planting depth. In recent years, we have adapted our planting program to reflect more recent research findings on planting depth. Trees that are planted too deep have reduced root / trunk flare, increased girdling roots, and may have stressed, drowned or suffocated roots. There is an overall lower success rate of trees that are transplanted too deep. Our trees are installed in a way that gives them the best chance of a successful transplant. Trees that are planted at a proper depth produce a healthier and stronger root system resulting in healthier trees that live a longer life. Please note again, that the addition of too much mulch around the base of a tree may also increase the planting depth.

Proper planting depth, root flare is visible

Excess soil has been removed from the top of the root ball at the base of this tree prior to planting to allow primary structural roots to be within the first few inches below soil surface. Even though this is a small tree, you can see a natural root flare. This is an example of proper planting depth.

Excess soil surrounding the base of the stem, root flare is not visible

Too much soil has been added around this tree during planting. The root flare is not visible in this case. This is an example of a tree that is planted too deep.

Tree planted too deep, no root flare visible

Note the straight trunk, with no indication of a root flare. This is another example of a tree that has been planted too deep.

Tree planting details and specifications

Please click here for a PDF version of planting details and specifications.

Please click here for a list of acceptable boulevard species and related specifications.

Last update: July 23, 2021

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