free trees toronto

Toronto is surprising people with freshly planted trees next to their homes

Looking for a bit more tree coverage in front of your home this year? Toronto's got you... maybe even for free.

Apparently, there are several different programs in place aimed at helping the city reach its goal of 40 per cent canopy cover by 2050. With a current canopy of roughy 27 per cent, there's a long way to go, and many trees that must be given homes.

"These programs support partnerships and collaborations with homeowners, landowners and not-for-profit organizations that advance the city's strategic priorities to invest in people and neighbourhoods, and to tackle climate change and build resilience," reads the City of Toronto's website, which highlights a number of tree-related grants, incentives and neighbourhood tree giveaways

So which tree-procurement method is the right one for you? Read on.

Easy tree, not free

The easiest way to get a tree seems to be through a city-backed program called LEAF (Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests), a local non-profit group that offers Toronto residents subsidized backyard tree planting.

The trees are subsidized, but you'll still have to shell out anywhere between $100 and $220 to have one brought to you and installed.

Not a bad price for native decidious trees that are already between five and eight-feet-tall, or native evergreens that are up to four feet, or even shrubs if that's what you prefer — but it's not free.

Free tree, not easy

Those looking to score free greenery can apply to Toronto's Community Canopy program, which is "designed to guide homeowners in planting trees on their private property to maximize all the benefits that trees offer" by providing them with a free tree.

In this case, however, you must first show where on your property the tree will live and, if that's approved, you can pick a tree up from one of two locations in North York or Etobicoke and then plant it yourself.

Too much work for some, perhaps, when they know there are services that will come right to them and expertly plant a tree wherever they want it.

There's a happy medium between these two models though — one that will see the city install a nice tree outside while you don't lift a finger, but that's also completely free of charge.

Easy free trees from Urban Forestry

Okay so, the City of Toronto's Urban Forestry Services regularly plants trees on city-owned street allowances fronting residential properties. You don't techically own the tree, but it is in front of your house and will eventually generate some serious energy savings and woodsy vibes.

"The City of Toronto owns a portion of land between roadways and private property, known as the public road allowance," explains the website. "A property owner can submit a tree planting request for the City-owned road allowance in front of their home or business."

Requests for tree planting are taken throughout the year and you can even request which type of tree you'd like to see in front of your home. Available species are listed here and you can make a request through the city's website or by calling 311.

The easiest possible way to get a tree

In some sweet cases, you don't actually have to ask anyone for a nice new tree: The city will just install one in front of your house and leave a lovely note behind.

"Surprise! We (City of Toronto) installed a tree while you were sleeping," wrote Toronto resident Colin Smillie on Facebook earlier this week, sharing photos of the tree and the note.
free trees toronto

One Toronto resident woke up on Wednesday morning to find a new tree and a nice note in their front yard. Image via Colin Smillie.

"Congratulations!" reads the card. "Urban Forestry has planted a new tree on the city-owned road allowance adjacent to your property. Please help care for this tree for the first two or three years while it becomes established."

Okay so maybe there is some work involved... but the good, wholesome kind that will make you feel happy inside.

People who find themselves with new trees are asked to water them based on which kind of tree they got. Meanwhile, city staff will return to prune, fertilize and stake your tree as needed.

Lead photo by

Colin Smillie

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