How to Find Trees in Chicago Through Local Programs

How to Find Trees in Chicago Through Local Programs

Are you interested in planting trees in your Chicago neighborhood? Not only is tree planting a simple nature-based solution to combat climate change, but it also allows you to make a positive impact on the environment. However, successfully planting a tree requires more than just digging a hole. To ensure the long-term health of the tree, you need the right knowledge and skills. Trees offer numerous benefits to both people and the environment, such as increasing property values, beautifying neighborhoods, absorbing rainwater, and reducing the urban heat island effect. In Chicago, there are several programs available to residents that provide new trees and replacement trees for city blocks. To help you become an active steward of Chicago’s urban forest, we have created this comprehensive guide to finding trees in Chicago through these programs.

Chicago 311

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Chicago residents looking to plant trees in their neighborhood can utilize the city’s 3-1-1 service. The process is straightforward—simply call 3-1-1 or submit a request online with your address. Once approved, the Bureau of Forestry will plant a tree along the public right-of-way in your neighborhood. It’s important to note that there may be a significant time gap between the approval of your request and the actual planting of the tree. To ensure the tree’s survival, it’s crucial to water it regularly. We recommend watering a newly planted tree from spring, when you see leaves growing, until the leaves fall off in the fall. Aim to provide the tree with 10-15 gallons of water per week. Once the tree is established after three years, you can discontinue regular watering unless there is a drought. For a detailed video tutorial on how to water a new tree, check out Openlands Forestry Program Manager Katie Fleming’s guide.

Learn more about how to contact 3-1-1.

Openlands TreePlanters Grants

If you’re looking to plant trees in the City of Chicago and the near south suburbs, the Openlands TreePlanters Grants program is an excellent option. These grants aim to foster resilience by encouraging tree planting and creating a network of neighbors dedicated to caring for the trees. The program’s goal is to facilitate conversations about trees among community members and build a strong tree advocacy community in Chicago’s neighborhoods. To participate, communities are required to organize themselves, identify suitable locations for planting 10-40 trees, engage with neighbors, invite elected officials, and host a successful event focused on learning about the benefits of trees and proper planting and maintenance techniques. Openlands provides education, organization, supplies, expertise, quality control, and the necessary tools, trees, mulch, and training for volunteers on planting day. In return, they ask that you gather your neighbors, commit to working the full event (approximately four hours), and continue caring for the trees for the next few years while they establish themselves.

Learn more about the Openlands TreePlanters Grants.

Chicago Region Trees Initiative Program

As part of the Plant Trees for Communities Initiative by the Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI), individuals are invited to plant at least one tree in every local community in the seven-county Chicago region and in each of the 50 Chicago wards (approximately 340 trees) in 2021. The CRTI program has partnered with the Openlands Forestry team through the TreePlanters Grant to facilitate tree planting. Each tree kit provided by CRTI includes instructions on how to plant, mulch, and water your tree, along with a tree tag and owner’s manual. This program is ideal for individuals with previous tree planting experience and confidence in their ability to manage the entire tree planting process, from planting to watering and mulching over a span of three years. To learn more about this program and how to obtain your free tree, contact Lydia Scott at from the Morton Arboretum.

Learn more about the Plant Trees for Communities program.

Purchase a Tree at the Openlands Native Tree and Plant Sale

For a wider variety of native tree options that may not be available through public tree planting programs, consider visiting the Openlands Native Tree and Plant Sale. This sale offers a diverse selection of native trees that are not typically found in big-box stores or nurseries. It’s an excellent opportunity to find specific native tree varieties that align with your preferences and needs.

Shop the Openlands Native Tree and Plant Sale.

Public vs. Private Planting Rules

If you plan to plant a tree on your own, it’s essential to do so on your private property. Public parkways, such as those handled by the 3-1-1 and TreePlanters Grant programs, require organizations to have the necessary credentials to dig in public areas. However, on your private property, you are allowed to plant trees as long as they are at least one foot away from the sidewalk. To learn the best practices for planting a tree, watch a step-by-step video by Tom Ebeling, Openlands Community Arborist, who provides insightful guidance.

At Tips Tree Planting, we emphasize the significance of maintaining and caring for our urban forest by planting trees. Since 2013, our Forestry team has planted over 9,000 trees across the Chicago region. We appreciate your dedication to becoming a steward of our urban forest and increasing the tree canopy in your neighborhood!

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