Hundreds of early morning shoppers at the Pearl Farmers Market queued up for the City of San Antonio and Alamo Forest Partnership’s Jammin’ Jams Fruit Tree Adoption 2016 on Saturday morning. A record 1,250 fruit trees were given away between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m when the last fig tree was carted off.
The City’s Parks and Recreation Department gave away 190 trees when the event was first staged at the Pearl seven years ago, and each year the city forester. city arborist and a crew of volunteers from the Bexar County Master Gardeners and other organizations bring more fruit trees. Each year more people show up to adopt a tree.
“It started out as a way to improve community food security and add to the tree canopy,” said City Arborist Mark Bird. “People save $40 or so when we give them a tree, but we call it an adoption. If you adopt something you take it home and love it.”
October through February is the ideal time for tree planting in San Antonio, which is why we now celebrate Texas Arbor Day on the first Saturday in November. Most of the country celebrates it on the last Friday in April, not a good tree planting time locally. San Antonians have retiring state Rep. Joe Farias (D-118) to thank for moving Arbor Day to the start of the Texas tree planting season. Farias authored HB419 in the 2013 Texas Legislature, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry.
The Pearl parking lot was jammed with a long line of people instead of parked cars Saturday morning as city staffers and volunteers handed out the fruit trees, which typically cost about double the price of hardwoods such as live oak, cedar elm and pecan.
People had their choice Saturdays morning: orange, lemon, lime, pear, plum, peach, apricot, fig, persimmon, pomegranate, apple, even tangerine. I brought home a 5-foot tall fig tree, mature enough to begin fruiting in its first full year in our garden once it is planted in full sun.
City funding for the program comes from the tree mitigation fund. The January 2016 update to City tree ordinances can be read here. As the city arborist, Bird oversees the various tree, landscaping and buffer ordinances in the Development Services department.
City Forester Ross Hosea works in the Parks & Recreation department and oversees urban forestry in the city, including education and outreach programs.
Mark Peterson, a conservation project coordinator with the San Antonio Water System, worked the microphone Saturday morning, pulling in farmers market-goers to the tree giveaway like a circus barker. Peterson, a longtime naturalist and forester, is the author and editor of the popular online blog Garden Style San Antonio, which offers practical, seasonal advice for maintaining trees and native landscaping in the city. Click on the link and scroll down to subscribe to the free newsletter and to obtain SAWS rebate coupons.
Tree lovers interested in contributing some labor to growing the city’s tree canopy can sign up as volunteers at the San Antonio River Authority’s Mission Reach Tree Planting events that will be held on Saturday, Feb. 6, and Saturday, March 5. Contact SARA’s Yvi Serbones at (210) 302-3244 or firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Lee Marlowe, the River Authority’s sustainable landscape ecologist who oversaw the original planting and care of the Mission Reach Restoration Project, will deliver a free talk, “River Romance: Beauty and Restoration,“at the San Antonio Garden Center at 3310 N. New Braunfels Ave. at Funston Place this Wednesday at 10 a.m.
If you want to get even closer to nature, sign up for the Saturday, Feb. 20 Basura Bash, the 21st annual citywide waterways cleanup. San Antonio has no shortage of creeks in its watershed, and alas, no shortage of litter that needs to be collected to clean and restore the landscape.
*Top Image: Hundreds gathered starting at 7:30 am for the Jammin’ Jams Fruit and Nut Tree Adoption. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone