Fall Tree Planting, Grass Clippings & Tree Programs

How to Plant a Tree

Did you know that fall is a good time to plant a tree? This is because the tree roots will begin to grow into the surrounding soil and start to establish before the stress of the next summer’s heat and drought.

When you decide to plant a tree, consider the site, species of tree, how to plant the tree, and how to care for it its first year.

Site selection is key. Consider the mature height and width of a tree relative to overhead power and utility lines, underground utilities, and distance from your house and other buildings. To determine if the site you are considering is sufficiently clear of gas, water, and sewer lines, contact Miss Utility (Miss Utility of Maryland; 410-710-0052). Miss Utility will mark the location of lines, so you can avoid interfering with them when planting the new tree.

Once you have identified a site, choose a type of tree you wish to plant. Factors to consider when selecting the tree species include soil type, amount of sunlight, and potential height of the tree (i.e., Will it be a canopy or an understory tree?). Native trees are a good choice because they support the biodiversity of our State. The City of College Park has a list of recommended trees for this area on the website, visit: https://www.collegeparkmd.gov/315/Trees.

Before planting, water the tree well. Identify the root flair, which is where the first roots emerge from the trunk. Then loosen the roots and soil around the flair and across the top of the root ball. Dig a hole two to three times the width of the root ball, just deep enough to allow the root flare to be at or just above the ground. Back fill around the root ball with one-part high-quality compost to three parts’ soil. Water the soil and gently compress it by stepping on it. Do not mulch within 5” of the trunk, to avoid fungal diseases. During the first year, water the tree root ball and surrounding soil weekly, increasing the frequency if there is a drought.

From the City's Tree and Landscape Board Committee.

Residents and property owners in College Park may apply to the Tree Canopy Enhancement Program (TCEP), to receive a reimbursement of one hundred and fifty dollars ($150.00) towards the purchase of an approved tree. The application form is available here: https://www.collegeparkmd.gov/DocumentCenter/View/568/Tree-Canopy-Enhancement-Program-editable.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources also offers a $25.00 coupon valid at select nurseries towards the purchase of a native tree. The link to the coupon is dnr.maryland.gov/forests/pages/marylandersplanttrees/introduction.aspx, it can be printed prior to visiting the participating nursery.

For further information on planting and maintaining new trees, please see the following references:

Tree Programs

Trees provide many benefits such as reduction of cooling and heating costs, interception of rainwater, increasing property values and improving air quality. The City offers a few ways to help.

  • REQUESTS FOR STREET TREES. The City has a program that provides for street tree planting in the right-of-way area, which includes the grass strip between the curb and sidewalk. College Park residents interested in requesting a tree can contact Brenda Alexander at 240-487-3590 or balexander@collegeparkmd.gov. The location will be inspected to determine if it is suitable.
  • TREE CANOPY ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM (TCEP). City of College Park property owners can apply for reimbursement of up to $150.00 annually, for approved tree(s) planted on their residential lot.

The completed application should be sent to balexander@collegeparkmd.gov review and approval.

Click here for a link to the guidelines and application.


The City is responsible for tree maintenance in the rights-of-way, City maintained buildings and parks, and on public property. Tree maintenance on private property is the responsibility of the property owner.

Keep Grass Clippings Off the Street

As you take care of your lawn this season, do not sweep or blow grass and leaves into the street. Lawn clippings and debris that are left in the street wash into storm drains and storm sewers, potentially clogging them, which may result in flooding. Debris that washes into storm sewers is transported through local waterways and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay, threatening aquatic life and drinking water quality.

Instead, you can leave the cut grass on the lawn to recycle the nutrients or start a compost pile in your backyard (click here for a brochure from the Maryland Department of Agriculture.) You may also place clippings in paper bags or reusable containers for weekly curbside pickup on the same day as your trash and recycling collection.