FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


General Information

Getting a Tree

Planting Your Tree

Caring For Your Tree

Volunteering/Jobs

Education/Outreach Programs




GENERAL INFORMATION


Is Our City Forest part of the City of San Jose?

No. Our City Forest is a non-profit organization, but we do work closely with the city government in helping to maintain a healthy urban forest. This includes planting and caring for trees throughout San Jose, and obtaining city planting permits for residents.


How does OCF get funding?

Our funding comes from federal, state, and city grants, and also a large portion from individual donations.


Where is OCF located?

1590 Las Plumas Avenue, San Jose, CA 95133. Click here for a map and detailed directions.


GETTING A TREE


Am I eligible for a tree from OCF?

Trees are available for San Jose public spaces such as neighborhood parking strips, schools, and parks. Based on our funding and grant restrictions, availability of trees may vary by location and/or date. Eligibility is also determined depending on the available space, restrictions such as utilities, and if there is a willing steward to care for the trees. Our City Forest encourages all interested parties to apply - click here to download an application. An OCF representative will contact you about your application as soon as possible. If you have already received a tree from OCF and need a replacement, our policy is slightly different, please contact us for more information.


How do I get a tree from OCF?

Complete a Tree Grant Application. To receive a tree, signatures are required from both the property owner and the tree steward (may be the same person). If you have received a permit from the city, please attach a copy of it to your application.  Turn in applications by mail (1590 Las Plumas Avenue, San Jose, CA 95133), email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or fax 408-998-1078.


Note that the availability of trees is subject to change based on our funding and grant restrictions.  Please submit your application and a representative of OCF will contact you as soon as possible.


Do I need a permit to plant a tree in my parking strip?

Yes. If you do not already have a planting permit from the city, Our City Forest will obtain one for you.


Can I get a tree for my private yard from OCF?

Yes!  Just visit our Get A Tree page for information about how to do so!


How does OCF choose the appropriate species for my space?

Species selection is a joint effort between the resident, the OCF arborist and the city. Several factors are considered including the space available, resident preference, pre-existing trees on the street, overhead clearance and availability. Some trees that are great for lawns and parks are not suitable for a parkstrip area.


What kind of trees does OCF have?

Our City Forest is funded to provide the largest shade tree for the space available. We order our trees from wholesale nurseries. Some species are not always readily available, but our staff can help you to find a suitable alternative. See our list of Recommended Street Trees for San Jose.


How long will it take to get my tree?

Once we receive your application, it may take between 1 week to 1 month to receive your tree. This depends on your availability and the schedule of our staff. Also, applications that require permits will take 2-4 weeks longer than those that already include one.


Does OCF deliver trees?

Tree delivery varies depending on the planting event. For school, park and neighborhood plantings, trees will be delivered. OCF will deliver and plant trees for seniors and disabled residents, but all other residents that are not part of a neighborhood planting project must pick up their tree at a planting demonstration. Contact OCF at (408) 99-TREES to arrange to pick up your tree.


Does OCF only plant in the spring?

Trees are planted throughout the year, except in the drought-prone months of July and August.


Does OCF work with cities outside of San Jose?

We occasionally assist with tree planting on a fee for service basis.


How do I get trees for my entire neighborhood?

Each resident in a neighborhood that is interested in receiving a tree must fill out a tree grant application. If there are at least 15 trees requested in a neighborhood, OCF will assist in organizing a neighborhood planting project, by obtaining planting permits, ordering, purchasing, and delivering trees and providing technical expertise at the planting event. Please call our office for more detailed information.


PLANTING YOUR TREE

 

Does OCF provide auguring or concrete removal?

This varies by project and is usually reserved for large events. Please call our office to determine if your project qualifies. (Auguring or concrete removal is not typically provided for individual residents that are not part of a neighborhood project).


Does OCF remove stumps?

No. We do not have the funding to provide this service. However, we can provide you with a list of qualified companies. The stump must be ground 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep to prepare the site. 


How do I plant a tree?

Attend a Tree Planting Demonstration to learn how to plant a tree to Our City Forest standards. This is required before receiving your tree from us.  Step-by-step guidelines are also available here. OCF will assess planting sites approximately one week after the tree is planted. If the tree is not planted properly, we may ask that the tree be dug out and replanted. Note: For residents planting their own trees, the City of San Jose permits residents to plant their tree adjacent to the green or white “T” painted on the curb. Failure to do this could result in a fine from the city, or the resident will need to request a new permit for that spot.


Do I need a root barrier?

Root barriers are no longer required by the city. The most effective way to prevent roots from breaking up your sidewalk is to select the proper species, plant the tree properly, and care for the tree by deep root watering (watering 1 or 2 times a week at a very slow flow rate).


Can OCF plant my tree for me?

Planting assistance is available for seniors and disabled residents. We ask all other residents to attend our tree planting demonstration, so that they will be able to plant their own tree.


CARING FOR YOUR TREE


How often should I water my tree after planting?

Water your tree a minimum of ten gallons weekly, and more often on very hot dry summer days. This can be done by using a 5-gallon bucket twice a week. Watering in the winter will depend on rainfall, irrigation, your species of tree, and soil type. It is important to check the soil moisture a few inches down to see if you are watering too much or too little, and adjust accordingly. Please see our recommended watering instructions here.


How do I prevent roots from raising my sidewalk?

Relying on sprinklers or other topical irrigation will increase the chances of raised roots. Since roots follow water, watering the tree at a low trickle for a longer period of time will encourage the roots to grow downward.


My tree looks sick. How do I know if it is dead?

Please contact Our City Forest if your tree is unhealthy. To check if your tree is still alive, scratch a small part of the bark to see if it is green underneath. If it is green, it is still alive, if it is brown, it is dead (at least in that area of the tree). Keep in mind that many trees are deciduous and lose their leaves in the fall/winter. Also, in many cases watering too little or too much is the cause of poor health for newly planted trees. Check the soil at least 3 or 4 inches down to test soil moisture. See more on watering or diseases.


Can I put rocks, ground cover, or bricks around the tree?

This is strongly discouraged, as it will inhibit growth of the tree. Also, part of the stewardship agreement is to keep the watering basin around each tree maintained and free of competing vegetation. OCF recommends placing mulch around the tree. Leave 2-3 inches bare around the trunk of the tree to limit moisture in this area.


Should I use fertilizer?

Using fertilizer is not recommended because it inhibits the tree from establishing itself in the landscape. However, a layer of mulch is recommended, 2-3 inches from the trunk.


I want to prune my tree. Can I do it myself?

It is illegal to prune or remove San Jose street trees without a permit. Please call 408-277-2760 to request a no cost permit from the City of San Jose (link). For small trees, OCF can provide pruning information, recommendations, and instructions. For large trees, you may need to hire a certified arborist. See here for more on pruning.


Why is topping bad?

Topped trees are unattractive and more prone to disease and infestation, leading to an earlier death. Also, when a tree is topped, a hormone imbalance causes the tree to send out new shoots quickly to make up for the loss of foliage. Connections of new shoots are weak and surrounded by rot, increasing the chance of branches breaking and creating a serious liability. The new growth has poor form and will require more cost and energy to maintain than if you allow the tree to grow naturally. For more information see here.


Can OCF cut down/remove my tree?

No. Residents must obtain a permit from the city to remove a tree from the parking strip. Call the City Arborist office at 408-794-1901 for more information. See here for more on tree removal.


The tree OCF provided to me died. Can I get another tree?

Usually we can only provide trees once per site, based on our grant specifications. OCF may be able to provide a replacement tree at wholesale cost (apply for a tree here). Please call our office at (408) 99-TREES for more information.


How do I know when to take the stake out?

Stakes typically need to be removed 2-4 years after the tree is planted, depending on the species. Gently shake the trunk of the tree near the base of the trunk. If the root-ball doesn’t move in the soil, we recommend that you remove the stake. Please return stakes to Our City Forest. Call (408) 99-TREES if you would like instructions for removal or are unable to remove the stake yourself.


Can I keep the Reddy stake?

Stakes provided by OCF are property of OCF. Please return stakes to OCF for reuse. Call (408) 99-TREES if you need assistance.


What if I move away?

To receive a tree from OCF, the tree steward must agree to care for the tree for a period of three years. If a resident is planning to sell the home, the new owner may request a tree.


VOLUNTEERING


I am interested in volunteering. What opportunities are available?

Call (408) 998-7337 x123 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to speak with our volunteer coordinators. Opportunities are also listed on our website calendar.


Do I need any experience to volunteer?

No. You do not need experience for any of our volunteer opportunities. Free training courses are offered for our Tree Amigo, Planet Tree and Green & Healthy  programs.


What are the time requirements for volunteering?

There are not any time requirements for general volunteers. To be a Tree Amigo  we ask for a commitment of 3 hours per month.


What is a Tree Amigo?

Tree Amigos are trained volunteers who are the heart and soul of Our City Forest. After completing an 18-hr training course, Tree Amigos coach volunteers, conduct planting demonstrations, coordinate tree plantings, and represent OCF at outreach events. Courses are held quarterly. Please call (408) 998-7337 x123 for a schedule of the next class and to sign up.

What should I bring with me when volunteering at an event?

Please see the Volunteer FAQ here.


OUTREACH PROGRAMS


How do I book a Planet Tree presentation?

Our City Forest provides presentations to levels K-college at no cost to the school. Please call (408) 998-7337 ext.123 at least two weeks in advance to book a presentation. Bilingual materials and presenters are available. More information is available here.


How do I invite OCF to a community event?

To spread the word about the importance of the urban forest and about our full range of services, Our City Forest is happy to attend community outreach events and to present at neighborhood meetings. If interested, please contact Our City Forest at (408) 998-7337 ext. 123.


When are Tree Tours?

Take a walking tour through various locations in San Jose and learn about our city's beautiful trees. Please call (408) 998-7337 ext.108 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get more information.

Contact Us

(408) 998-7337
1590 Las Plumas Ave
San Jose, CA 95133
Nursery: 1000 Spring St.