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Bradford West Gwillimbury

Bradford West Gwillimbury > Trees

​​​​​​Care and Maintenance of Trees in BWG

On this page, you can learn more about how to care for trees on your property and the boulevard in front of your home, as well as the Town of BWG's Tree Canopy and Natural Vegetation Protection program.

Gypsy moth caterpillars are making their presence known this year. See the FAQ section below​ for more information​.

​Select a topic for more information:

How the Town of BWG cares for trees and natural vegetation

As the Town of BWG grows, so does our inventory of parks, boulevards and other green spaces. The Town passed a Tree Canopy and Natural Vegetation Protection Policy in September 2019, which provides guidelines for the maintenance, enhancement and protection of these natural resources, including the care of both public and private trees within the Town.

New development tends to remove trees and to replace permeable surfaces like soil with impermeable surfaces like roads, buildings and driveways. To compensate, the Town of BWG asks developers to plant new trees, including the boulevard trees that will be assumed by the Town when the subdivision is assumed. The Town of BWG also has a yearly tree planting program for parks and boulevards.

Newly planted trees in urban areas have a lower survival rate than trees in forested areas and they grow more slowly, so it can take a long time before they contribute as much to the environment as a mature tree; therefore, it’s important that we protect older trees in our community. One of the ways we do this is by educating the public on how to care for trees and on the importance of not removing mature trees unless absolutely necessary. This page provides information on how you can help.​

Why trees are important to us and the environment

Healthy trees are critical to our environment and our community because they:
  • absorb air pollution

  • offset climate change impacts by absorbing greenhouse gases

  • prevent soil erosion by holding soil in place

  • protect the water cycle by filtering polluted storm water before it enters the groundwater system or lakes and rivers

  • provide habitat for local wildlife

  • shade us and our homes, protecting us from dangerous UV rays and keeping us cool, thus saving money and energy on air conditioning

  • keep our town beautiful for residents and visitors!​

How to care for newly planted trees

Newly planted trees need a lot of water in their first year to grow and become established. ​Lack of water is the number one reason new trees die.

If a new tree has been planted on the Town boulevard in front of your property, we kindly ask for your help to keep it healthy. We welcome watering assistance from residents for Town trees on public property.​

There are two ways you can water the tree:

  1. Water slowly and often, with a deep soaking. Put the hose on a trickle or low water flow, and place the hose inside the tree saucer about 6 inches to 1 foot from the stem. Leave it there for an hour. Or pour 5 buckets of water slowly on the tree saucer. Do this twice a week until the first frost. In hot dry weather, this may need to be done every day.

  2. ​Depending on the time of year, you may notice a green plastic bag around the trunk, such as in the image at right​. This bag stores water and allows it to trickle slowly down to the roots. If this bag is empty, please add water to fill it.

More watering tips:
  • It's okay for soil to be dry as deep as 10 cm (four inches) below ground; if it is dry below that, then it needs watering.

  • If the edges of the leaves start to turn brown and crisp, the tree needs more water.

  • Roots can be dry after a light rain.

  • Water the trees through the fall until the leaves drop.

  • Water in the evening so it soaks in instead of evaporating.​

Did you know …?

  • Regular watering allows the roots to grow and the tree to establish.

  • Urban areas such as boulevards are a challenging place for trees to grow – that’s why they need help getting established.

  • New trees requires a long, slow soak to ensure that water penetrates the soil to the roots.

  • During periods of long drought, older trees may need watering too. They can be watered every one to two weeks using the hose or bucket.

  • A tree doesn’t reach its most productive stage of carbon storage for about 10 years, and many trees don’t live that long. Together we can help trees live longer!​

General care tips for trees

  • Tree roots need oxygen to help the tree grow and be healthy, and they can suffocate if too much material is placed over them. Do not place more than 3 or 4 inches of material (such as soil or mulch) over top of the roots.
  • Avoid getting close to the tree trunk with tools such as lawn mowers, shovels and weed whackers to prevent the trunk from being cut by accident.

  • Do not place hard surfaces such as paving inside the tree canopy; this will damage the roots and can start to kill the tree slowly. Contact the Town should you wish to expand your driveway.​

  • Do not prune or remove the top stem or branches of the tree; this can change its structure and make it hazardous or unhealthy. Contact the Town to prune a boulevard tree.

  • Small sucker stems that grow right out from the lower trunk can be removed. These small stems can be cut off and will help the tree to grow using its upper larger branches only.

FAQs about trees on Town property

Invasive species and infestations:

I have noticed that some of the large Ash trees around Town are not healthy.

An insect called the Emerald Ash Borer has been attacking Ash trees in southern Ontario for several years. The Town has a program to review and treat its Ash trees though injections into the trunks to try and protect them from the insect. The most recent treatment occurred in 2020. Other Ash trees that have suffered too much canopy loss and cannot recover are being removed.

What is the Town doing about the Gypsy ​Moth​ caterpillars that eat tree leaves?

​​The Town has looked into Gypsy Moth infestation and consulted professional Arborists. The Gypsy Moth population generally remains low; however, favorable conditions can cause a population explosion, usually every 7 to 10 years. This is part of a natural environmental cycle, and over-population will cause the numbers to die down within a few years. Affected trees are typically hardwoods such as Oak, Poplar and Birch trees. Trees will generally recover from leaf loss the following spring.

The Town does not plan to treat for the Gypsy Moth caterpillar. To treat it on your property, consult a professional. One suggested method is to place loose duct tape with glue facing in or burlap bands around the trunk to prevent the caterpillars from crawling up tree trunks and into tree canopies where they feed on the foliage.

Click here for more information on Gypsy Moths and what actions you can take as a homeowner.

Trees in need of attention:

A tree on Town property (boulevard or municipal right-of-way) appears to need treatment or may be dead.

Contact the Town (contact information is at right) and we will look at the tree and determine if it needs to be treated or removed. Please note that if a tree is removed, the stump will remain until it can be removed in the fall, and the tree will be replaced in the fall or following spring.

A tree on Town property has small branches or suckers coming out of the main stem.

You can remove small suckers (less than 1 inch or 2.5 cm in diameter) that are no more than 5 feet or 1.4 m off the ground by cutting them off right at the main stem with small pruning snippers. Click the image at right for larger pictures of suckers. 

If the branches are larger or higher up, contact the Town to arrange for removal.

A tree on Town property has some dead branches and may be dying.

Branches can die for many reasons and the tree may still be healthy. Only contact the Town for a tree health assessment if there are many dead branches, if the main stem leader branch is dead or if the dead branches are more than 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter and removal may be required for safety.

A tree on Town property needs pruning.

Contact the Town and we​ will arrange for the tree to be pruned. Do not prune the tree yourself as it could be unsafe or injure the tree if not done correctly.

A tree on Town property has growths on the leaves that look like tubes or balls.

Leaf "galls" are tissue growths resulting from damage by insects, mites, fungus or bacteria. Click the image at right for larger pictures of galls. 

This is usually an aesthetic issue only - the tree does not require treatment and should come back with new leaves the following year. The Town does not treat for galls, even if it is a recurring issue, as it usually has minor impact on the overall health of the tree.

A tree on Town property has leaves that are turning brown and appear wilted.

Check the soil under the tree 3 days after the last rain or watering. If it is dry then the tree may be too dry and require more water. If the soil is moist then the tree may have had too much water. Likely the tree will recover with new leaves the following spring.

A tree on Town property has caterpillars on it.

The tree should come back with new leaves the following year. The Town does not treat for caterpillars as they are part of the natural cycle and the tree will typically survive.

A tree on Town property is healthy but has roots growing across my lawn at the ground surface. I am worried that the roots will start to lift my driveway or get into my foundation.

Contact the Town and we​ will assess the situation. Certain tree species such as Honey locust or Norway Maple have a growth habit where their roots grow close to or above the surface. Most tree roots from these species stay within the top 12 to 18 inches (0.3 to 0.45 m) of the ground surface, where they grow to seek water, nutrients and oxygen, and they do not grow downwards to lift paving or grow into foundations. The roots of certain species such as Willows are more likely to grow into moist areas such as broken pipes, but the Town does not plant these types of species on municipal boulevards.

It is late spring and other trees on the street have leaves but the Town tree in front of my house does not yet have leaves.

Some tree species are later to leaf-out than other trees. Wait until the end of June to see if the leaves appear. One common example of a tree that produces leaves later in the season is the Honey locust (Gleditsia species) - you can click the image at right to see a larger picture.

A tree on Town property does not appear to be growing.

Trees can undergo shock when they are dug at the nursery and transplanted to a new location. It may take up to three years for a tree to settle in and start growing. Adding a few inches of mulch or compost under the tree can help it to be healthy and grow.

Landscaping near Town trees:

I am not sure if the tree adjacent to my property belongs to the Town.

Contact the Town and we can confirm ownership of the tree. Town trees should not be removed, pruned or otherwise injured by residents; these actions can result in a fine.

As a rule of thumb, trees that are planted on the boulevard between the sidewalk and curb belong to the Town. Town-owned property extends for several feet up your front lawn (known as the municipal right-of-way) so trees that have been planted in this area by the Town or a developer may belong to the Town. (You can get a general idea of where this boundary is by locating the water shut-off valve, which is usually in the driveway or lawn.)​

​I would like to add decorations around the Town tree such as stones and other plants.

​The Town does not encourage this practice on public property. Adding extra material and plants can damage the tree by suffocating or cutting roots. 

Property owners should also be aware that if work needs to be done to the tree or around the tree on the boulevard, the material that has been added can be damaged or removed by the Town or its contractors, and the Town will not pay to replace it.

I want to widen my driveway but there is a boulevard tree near by.

Driveways cannot be widened without a permit, so contact the Town first to inquire about getting one​. The Town will review the situation and advise if a permit can be issued, and consult on issues such as nearby trees.

I would like to add more soil and mulch around the Town tree.

Additional soil and/or mulch can be added; however, do not add more than a total depth of 3 to 4 inches or 7.5-10 cm of material over the tree roots. The roots are near the ground surface and need water, nutrients and oxygen. Too much material over the roots can suffocate them and hurt the tree’s health. 

Do not create a mulch ‘volcano’ around the tree (the image at right shows what NOT to do).

Replacement/new boulevard trees:

When will a replacement tree be installed on the Town property?

New trees are typically planted in the fall as the cool weather helps the tree to survive. Please note that if a tree has been removed, the stump may remain until it can be removed in the fall, and a new tree will be planted in the fall before the ground freezes or in the spring after the ground thaws.

Will I be notified of the date when a new replacement tree will be installed on the Town property near my home?

No. Due to the number of tree planting projects that occur, the Town does not have the resources to notify residents individually when they plant trees on Town property.

Can I choose what tree will be planted on the Town property near my home?

No. The Town has a list of preferred species that have been chosen by a trained professional Arborist. The Town does not have the resources to coordinate individual choices by residents for trees on Town property.

There is a tree that is overhanging the Hydro wires and may cause an issue with the wires.

Contact your Hydro provider, which in most cases is Alectra (1-833-253-2872), and advise them of the situation. They have specialized training to prune the trees near wires in a safe manner. The Town cannot undertake this type of pruning.

I do not have a boulevard tree at my address.

There are some properties where it is not possible to plant a tree. In some cases there is a streetlight pole that is too close and could interfere with a tree once it matures, and in others there may be above-ground or below-ground utilities that prevent a tree from being installed.

Other issues or support required:

I have called the Town about a tree on the boulevard that needs attention but nothing has been done.

The Town will respond to all calls or emails as soon as possible. In the case of new development areas where the Town has not yet assumed ownership of a street, it is up to the Developer to remove and replace the tree, or to treat it with pruning. In this case, the Town cannot undertake work on the tree but will contact the Developer and alert them to the situation.

Where the Town has the legal right to do so (not on un-assumed or private property), work will be undertaken within a reasonable period of time in the correct season, typically within six weeks of ​notification.​​

My neighbour's tree branches are growing into my property and I would like these branches pruned back.

This is a private matter between you and your neighbour, as long as it is occurring between two private properties and not on Town property. You should contact your neighbour and discuss how to best resolve the issue.​

Links for more information