Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

What is an Urban Forest?

An urban forest is the result of the careful management and planning of diverse tree populations in an urban setting for the purpose of improving an urban environment. The forest plays a critical role in a city’s infrastructure similar to those of road ways and sidewalks. The City of Lafayette has inventoried over 22,000 trees planted in public spaces—those areas between the sidewalk and the street and our city parks.

What are the benefits from urban trees?

Urban forests bring many environmental and economic benefits to cities

. Among these are energy benefits in the form of reduced air conditioning and reduced heating by shading buildings. Economic benefits associated with urban trees are increased land, property, and rental value. Well-maintained trees and landscaped business districts have been shown to encourage consumer purchases and attract increased residential, commercial and public investments. Urban forests improve air quality, absorb rainwater to decrease storm water runoff, improve biodiversity and sequester carbon. Finally, urban forests can provide city residents with a sense of psychological well being simply by virtue of the trees’ natural beauty.

What if a tree near my property needs pruned?

By city ordinance, the maintenance of healthy, live trees is the responsibility of the property owner of which they are adjacent to.

Chapter 8.06 - Trees and Shrubs

This can be confusing for property owners. The trees are planted on land owned by the city—the right of way—but just like sidewalks in the City of Lafayette, the responsibility of maintaining or pruning trees belongs to the property owner. Pruning only needs to take place on young trees every 3 years and then only every 7-9 years on mature trees. There are proper ways to prune a tree. In the City of Lafayette, topping or removing the upper most portion of a tree is not allowed. In general, only 25% of the crown of any tree should be removed during any pruning session. Limbs over a sidewalk should be a minimum of 10 feet above and limbs over a city street should be a minimum of 15 feet. For more information on tree pruning, click here.

I want to prune my tree but I don’t know how?

If you have a young tree, say 25 feet or less in height it is relatively easy to prune with the proper equipment. Any tree above 25 feet is best pruned by a professional arborist. If your tree is above 25 feet in height, you will need a right of way permit. Permits can be obtained at the city engineer’s office located on the 2nd floor of city hall, 20 N 6th Street or by clicking here. If you need a list of licensed tree workers in the city, click here.

The image below shows the proper way to make a pruning cut:

3-cut pruning

I want to plant a tree. Does the city plant trees?

The city has annual programs where specific neighborhoods receive new trees in conjunction with a new sidewalk for a small fee from the adjacent property owner. In addition, depending on each year’s budget, there may be a small fund available on a first come first serve basis for planting trees. However, if a property owner wants to plant a tree in the right of way outside of these programs, a permit must be obtained via the city engineer’s office. There are specific trees that work well in specific locations and the city forester must approve each tree selection. For more information on planting trees, click here.

Should I water my tree? And if so, how much water does my tree need?

In general, trees that have been in the ground for longer than 3 growing seasons do not need additional water other than rainfall. If a minimum of 1 inch of rain per week is not available, supplemental irrigation is needed. A good rule is to provide water at the rate of 1-2 gallons for every inch of trunk diameter measured at 6 inches above the root crown from mid-May through October depending on the weather. For example, if you have a 3 inch caliper tree, that tree needs 21-42 gallons of water per week spread over the week. It is important to water the ROOT ZONE of the tree and not the TRUNK. The root zone is the area extending out and away from the trunk of the tree.

What is the proper way to MULCH a tree?—THINK WIDER NOT HIGHER!

Mulching a tree should start 4”-6” away from the trunk of the tree and extend out to the drip line (the extent of the branches reaching out). On mature trees, at a minimum, mulch should extend 3-4 feet out in each direction from the trunk and only be 2-3 inches thick. Think WIDER NOT HIGHER with mulch….no mulch volcanoes! Mulch volcanoes invite pests and diseases and can cause false roots to develop therefore making an unstable tree. Click here for diagram on proper mulching.

Mulch volcano


What is the proper way to PLANT a tree?

Planting a tree too deep is the number one mistake made when putting a tree in the ground. It is best to start with a 1.5 to 2” caliper (diameter) tree. They are easier to plant and survival rate is stronger with a smaller tree. IMPORTANT! There can be utilities located below the grass space between the sidewalk and the street. Utility locates should be performed before each tree planting. The following are instructions on how to plant a tree:

1. Planting holes must be hand dug if utilities are within 24 inches of the plant hole.

2. Planting holes should be three (3) times the diameter of the root ball and the walls should be dug so that they are vertical or sloping outward in heavy soils and the side of the planting shall be scarified.

3. Before placing tree into the dug hole, open burlap and find the root flare and one to two structural roots, this might require removing soil from the top of the root ball. Check to see that the planting hole has been dug to the proper depth and no more.

4. Position the tree as close to the planting hole as possible. Remove all string, twine, burlap and wires cages. All packing materials shall be removed in their entirety from balled and burlapped tree and removed from the site.

5. If containerized, remove the container. If the root flare is not visible, remove enough of the soil on top of the root ball to expose the flare and 1-2 structural roots. Vertically root prune each side of the ball and the bottom of the ball about 1-2”.

6. Plant tree only as deep as the root ball, the root flare must be out of the ground so that tree is not planted too deeply—generally 1” above grade.

7. Existing soil shall be used to backfill the planting hole to the proper grade. Backfill in layers carefully not to compact the soil. Water the tree once the hole is half way filled.

8. 2-3 inches of wood mulch (preferably pine, cedar or hemlock) should be placed at the base of the tree in the shape of a tree well no less than four feet in diameter. Do no cover the top of the root ball with soil. Mulch should not be in contact within 4”-6” of the trunk. Water the tree again once the mulch is in place.

Click here for an illustration on tree planting.

What is the proper way to STAKE a tree?

Young trees usually need to be staked for the first year after planting. After that, the stake should be removed as the tree NEEDS to move with the wind in order to develop its wood and become a strong, stable tree.

Click here for an illustration on tree staking.

The sidewalk is heaving near the tree planted in the right of way. What should I do?

Call the city engineers office and talk with the city forester or one of the public works inspectors. These situations are evaluated on a case by case basis. 765-807-1050