Northeast Tree Tenders looking for Spring planting applications

This article ran in Wednesday’s Metro as part of our partnership with the daily newspaper.

If you’re in the Northeast the Saturday before Thanksgiving, you’re likely to find about 60 people walking the streets. Carrying eight-foot trees.

Northeast Tree Tenders organizes volunteers twice a year for plantings, during which time they plant 50 to 60 trees throughout the region that they go back and prune throughout the year.

What started in 2008 as a high school project for Hasan Malik is quickly growing to a full-fledged business.

“First it was 23 trees, and the next four [plantings] after that were 50 to 70,” Malik said of Tree Tenders’ beginnings.

Now a civil engineering student at Temple University, Malik spent his senior year at Masterman High School developing the concept. The group is now taking applications — due Aug. 30 — for what will be its fourth spring planting in 2011.

How to get a tree

You can apply for a tree using the form on the Tree Tenders website, or by calling Hasan Malik at 215-694-9607.

All applications must be for public enjoyment, visible from the street on the front or side of a house/business.

The request goes to the Fairmount Park Commission, who inspects the site with an arborist to determine if a tree can be planted, and what kind of tree will do best in that environment.

Northeast Tree Tenders plants twice a year in the spring and fall.

Malik and about five organizers reach out to volunteers for help planting and pruning. But what they’re really short on is tree applications. Northeast Tree Tenders has maxed out the number of tree-needing home and business owners who can be reached through newspaper ads and civic meetings. With the spring 2011 deadline approaching, the group is only about a quarter of the way to its 60 application goal.

Bill Dobbins, now a certified tree tender after joining the group from the start, said Thursday, “As of this week, we only have 12 requests. We’re going to extend the deadline [from Aug. 15] to try to reach 60 trees.”

Based on assessments by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Fairmount Park Commission, the Tree Tenders will plant an appropriately sized tree on the front or side of an approved applicant’s home. The group purchases the trees and handles the planting and upkeep, but asks for a $15 donation from the applicant to cover costs like delivery and food for volunteers.

Though Northeast Tree Tenders focuses on the lower Northeast — where there are fewer existing trees — volunteers have planted all over the Northeast, Malik said, totaling 270 trees thus far.

Of the volunteers, who gather for meetings and planting at Malik’s Al-Furqan Mosque at Cottman Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard, Malik said, “It really brings together a whole lot of different people.”

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