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Life as a Brady Street Tree

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One of the nice things about Brady Street is the inclusion of plants and trees in the streetscape. It adds a lot to the area’s overall aesthetics. Brady Street can be a bustling place, and it’s nice to have the trees and flower planters to brighten things up and soften the harshness of the city streets. It makes the street a place for people to meet. The cages around the trees are a good place to lock bikes. Yet for all the things the plants and trees give us, life as a Brady Street tree is not easy. “It’s a hard environment,” said Jim Searles, owner of Brady Street Pharmacy. “There’s a lot of heat reflecting off the street and sidewalks, and a lot of pollution from the cars, combined with the clay soil in the planters. The combination is not good.” The clay soil is a problem. Instead of replacing the poor soil with something better, Searles says it seems as if the city would rather just replace the trees every few years. “We’re on our fourth or fifth set of trees here.” Because of cutbacks to city budgets, many of the trees on Brady Street go unwatered by anybody but Mother Nature. Therefore it’s vitally important that storeowners take care of the trees in front of their businesses. Searles invested in some new trees himself in the spring of 2004, and makes sure not only to water them but also to fertilize them. He recommends a fertilizer mixture with fish emulsion. With standard fertilizers you can burn the trees if you use too much, and if you use too little, it won’t help. But using this mixture once a month gives the tree that spike for what is missing, what they need. Mike Zehren, who takes care of the trees at the pharmacy agrees and shows me an example of one of the trees that was near-dead that has come back to life with a little attention. “It’s as good as you can expect it to be, coming from where it was,” he says. Zehren also conducted his own survey of the trees on the street, and discovered that nearly one-third of them are stressed and don’t get watered by anyone. So when the weather gets hot, and it hasn’t rained for days, don’t forget that the trees that shade the sidewalk for your customers in front of your business could use a little help.