NJ Urban Trees

Ornamental Plum Tree
Photo of an ornamental plum tree in desperate need of pruning, Newark, NJ
Ornamental Plum Tree
Photo of a nicely pruned ornamental plum tree in Newark, NJ
Dedicated Newark residents practicing their pruning knowledge
Rules of Pruning:
  1. Use the right size tool for the cut
  2. Always use sharp & clean pruning tools
  3. Prune in late fall to early spring – after the leaves and before the buds, except when pruning dead, dying, or damaged branches
  4. Prune when you are happy

Water Your Trees!

It hasn’t rained in South Jersey for 29 days, and there’s only a 50/50 chance that we may get some “scattered thunderstorms” in three days. After a snowy and wet winter which already abused newly planted trees, this drought will inevitably finish-off already stressed trees. UNLESS folks start watering their trees.

This past spring the NJ Tree Foundation planted over 1,300 large shade trees across the state. On average, each of those trees cost $350.00 to plant (cost of tree, shipping, staff time, etc). That is quite an investment. When I pay $350.00 for something, it’s a big deal and that something better be around for awhile. Which is why the NJ Tree Foundation does community-based forestry. Residents must want, and agree to care for, their newly planted tree. Otherwise, we are throwing money out the window.

So, back to watering. In the summer months, water your tree one-to-two times per week. Put a hose at the base of the tree, set it on a trickle and let it run for half-an-hour. Or, spend $20.00 on a tree watering bag. These are the best inventions for watering trees. The bag has tiny holes in the bottom that allows 20 gallons of water to S L O W L Y seep into the rootball. That is the key to watering trees and plants – a slow and thorough soaking of the roots.

Prevailing Wage & Tree Planting in NJ

I was reviewing some bid specs the other day. A good piece of work that would keep my planting crew working past the tree planting season, and bring in some much needed dollars to the Tree Foundation. And then I saw…”contractor must pay employees prevailing wage”…

Prevailing wage for a landscaper in NJ is…drum roll please…$51.60 per hour! Really. You must pay a laborer $30.85/hr. + $20.75/hr. fringe if that worker does not receive fringe benefits. My tree planting crew works 8-10 weeks at best. They are hired from Logan Hall in Newark, NJ – a halfway house (don’t imagine a large Victorian home. Logan Hall is an institution where men are housed 6 to a room). We hire a new crew each spring and each fall. This is a re-entry program for men under parole supervision. And yet, if I want to bid on this contract (and many other contracts in NJ) I must pay these men $51.60/hr. Besides sports figures and CEOs, who makes that kind of money? And don’t forget, our tax dollars are paying for this outrageous wage. So, instead of a park maintenance job costing the county $10,000, it will cost five times that amount!

The Tree Foundation pays the tree planting crew the same wage that other landscapers pay their crews. Because we are a non-profit, we do not get the tax breaks or training stipends that a for-profit company can take advantage of for hiring a man with a criminal record. So, why do we do it? Because it works. Because the men work hard for us and leave parole with money in their pockets. They can get an apartment, buy groceries, and find a job with the money they have made working for the Tree Foundation. It is the right thing to do. And I get to meet some interesting characters.

By bidding on a contract that insists I pay each crewman $51.60/hour, am I not feeding from the same trough that has bankrupt New Jersey? I would love to hear your thoughts.