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Planting Yard Trees

Yard trees add character and beauty to Seattle’s neighborhoods.  Did you know that 67% of the land area in Seattle is privately owned and maintained? The City of Seattle counts on residents to help grow Seattle’s precious urban forest by planting and caring for trees around their homes.

Planting a tree within your yard does not require a permit, however you will need a permit from the Department of Transportation if you are planting a tree along the street.

Why Plant a Yard Tree?

Plant a living legacy: Planting a tree now is an investment in your property and your neighborhood. Large, mature trees add character and interest to your yard that may not be fully realized for many years to come. Your young oak tree may someday be the site of a treasured tree house!

Create a wildlife sanctuary in your own backyard: Our urban forest is critical to the survival of Seattle’s wildlife. Mature yard trees provide nesting sites for birds, shelter from predators, and food sources for a wide variety of birds and small mammals.

Increase your home’s value: Studies have found that healthy, mature trees can increase the value of your home by providing attractive landscaping (Donovan & Butry, 2008).

Cool your home in summer: A well-placed large tree on west and northwest sides of your house can provide summer shade that can help cool your house. Consider also planting trees for shade to cool a hot asphalt driveway or your patio. Learn more.

Create a visual screen: A tree can provide a nice visual screen from the road or your neighbor’s house. Select a fast-growing evergreen conifer that will keep its leaves year-round, such as our native western redcedar or the beautiful oriental spruce. More evergreen conifer ideas.

Yard Tree Planting Considerations

Know what’s underground—Call 811. Before you plant your tree, call 811 at least 2 days before digging to make sure your planting site will not interfere with any underground utility lines. Utility companies will come out to mark any underground utilities in the immediate area, including gas, communication, electric, and water lines. The utility company does not mark the location of your sewer line. Before deciding on your planting site, use this tool to look up the location of your sider sewer. Select a planting location that is at least 5 feet away from this line.

Take advantage of your yard’s space –Get the biggest return on your investment by planting a large deciduous or evergreen conifer tree that will create habitat for birds, provide shade on hot days, and help protect our environment by filtering out more air pollutants and soaking up more rainwater. If you have the space in your yard, consider planting a large tree that will provide you and your neighbors the most benefits. Remember to plant your tree at least 15-20 feet away from your house. Tree ideas: conifers for sun, conifers for shade, SDOT’s street tree list.

Tree care—Consider how you will care for your tree once it is planted. Your new yard tree will need to be watered once a week for at least the first 3 summers after planting. If you are planting a deciduous tree (a tree that loses its leaves in fall), you will also probably need to rake the leaves. Learn more about the care your young tree needs.

Links & Resources

Tree and Planting Site Selection - Further recommendations for selecting the right tree for the right space in your yard.
Young Tree Care
Tree removal on private property
Free trees through Trees for Neighborhoods - Through Trees for Neighborhoods, residents are eligible to apply for up to 4 free trees for their yards.
How to Plant a Tree

Contact treesforneighborhoods@seattle.gov or (206) 684-3979 for questions about yard trees.

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