Project Tree Phase One Complete

Photos by Marla Koss Matthew Tisdale and one of his sons plant a fuji apple tree they received at no charge courtesy of this newspaper and the Alameda Backyard Growers.


Now Entering: Phase Two
The pilot year for Project Tree is entering its second phase of development this year, thanks to Alameda Backyard Growers tree-planting guru Marla Koss. Marla and I put together the initial concept for Project Tree last year. The Alameda Sun donated the seed money required to launch the program, which resulted in 34 new trees being planted in the city. 

The new phase will likely involve a change in how trees are distributed, relying on a coupon-type system and involving two nurseries in Alameda: Encinal Nursery and Ploughshares Nursery. Details on how local residents can obtain trees will be worked out soon.

In 2016, Koss oversaw the planting of three fig, four trovita orange, six owara satsuma mandarin, five Blenheim apricot, three Santa Rosa plum, seven purple-leaf plum, four fuji apple and two gala apple trees. The Alameda Boys & Girls Club and Nea Community Learning Center each received multiple trees. 

Recipients happily received Project Tree follow-up visits for guidance with pruning in winter and summer, and culling in spring, with the understanding that they in turn will pass on to others what knowledge they accumulate.

The “Call 811 before you dig” Issue
Through the process of providing local residents with an excuse to dig in their backyards, Koss uncovered some difficulties with the “bureaucratic endeavor” instead calling 811. 

Upon calling the hotline or using the website; homeowners discovered they need receive a number or “ticket” to have a property cleared for planting by all the utility inspectors within 48 hours. The officials allow a 30-day window in which to plant. Some of the Project Tree recipients had no problems getting approval to plant; others experienced a little “Kafkaesque nonsense,” according to Koss. 

The most extreme case involved a homeowner who called a few different times and was told she needed to individually contact: PacBell, Comcast in Hayward, Comcast in Oakland, the City of Alameda, the City of Oakland, construction along with PG&E and EBMUD. 811 officials added that each agency had to respond by 5 p.m. that day.

After eventually preparing to dig, the homeowner found a sewer lateral in an area that was previously cleared by EBMUD.

After all the hassle, the homeowner, an experienced gardener, agreed that she would plant the tree in a 24” pot instead.


Marla Koss Gretchen Doering, the garden director at Alameda Boys & Girls Club plants a persimmon tree, one of eight new plantings at the club’s garden courtesy of Project Tree.


Anyone interested in participating in Project Tree’s phase two as either a tree recipient or donor, is welcome to write me at