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County gets more eco friendly by helping residents turn yard into 'forest '

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BALTIMORE COUNTY — In an effort to meet goals set in the Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan, Baltimore County will plan 20 to 145 trees in resident’s backyards free of charge.

Baltimore County is mandated by the State of Maryland to reduce sediment and nutrient loads entering the Chesapeake Bay to improve the health of the Bay and its surrounding watershed. Our role in this mandate, the Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan (Phase II WIP), is to manage and reduce stormwater runoff.

Reforestation is one part of the Phase II WIP and involves three separate actions: riparian buffer reforestation, upland reforestation and urban tree canopy plantings.

The Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (EPS) is interested in working with citizens and communities in Baltimore County to increase tree canopy by offering several tree planting programs. Current programs include Turf to Trees, Backyard Trees and Urban Tree Canopy Expansion.

Turf to Trees

The Turf to Trees program includes rural reforestations of one acre or larger. This area should be open space (lawn or grass) away from utility easements, Forest Conservation Easements, septic, and septic reserves. Approximately 200 trees are planted per acre spaced 15 feet apart. Trees are planted in staggered rows for ease of seasonal mowing. Trees are equipped with stakes and shelters to protect them from deer and pest damage.

Trees are maintained by County-selected contractors for an initial three years of maintenance. Maintenance includes seasonal mowing, vine and invasive species suppression, and stake and shelter upkeep. Maintenance may also include watering during times of heavy drought and the use of pesticides or herbicides. To ensure long-term survival, the County will monitor and may conduct maintenance and replacement plantings, as needed, after the contractor maintenance period.

According to the county’s Environmental Protection and Sustainability department, converting lawn to forest reduces the cost of mowing and adds value to a property. To get started, people can contact EPS using the Reforestation Property Form that can be found on the department’s website at

If interested, the county will schedule a site visit to determine feasibility of planting. Unless requested, homeowners do not need to be present during the scheduled site visit. If conditions are deemed favorable to ensure tree survival, EPS will develop a planting plan and initiate the planting.

Backyard Trees

Backyard Trees is a modified version of the county’s Turf to Trees program for County residents who do not have an acre or more to plant. Twenty (1/10 of an acre) to 145 trees (3/4 of an acre) will be planted and equipped with deer protection by County-selected contractors. Property owners will be responsible for maintaining the trees and reporting their survival to EPS.

For more information and to get started, people can fill out a Backyard Trees Application (PDF), which can be found at and email the application to or mail to Attention Forest Management, 111 West Chesapeake Ave, Room 319, Towson, Maryland 21204.

All applications must be received by July 10 to be considered for a fall planting. The deadline was extended from June 12 to July 10 due to high interest in the program, and all original dates in the Backyard Trees Application will push back at least one more month. This is a pilot program and at this time is only offered for the 2020 calendar year.

Urban Tree Canopy Expansion

The Urban Tree Canopy Expansion Program is for “managed grounds” and urban communities (street trees) where reforestations are not appropriate. This program includes landscape style trees spaced approximately 30 feet apart.

Trees are planted and maintained for one year by County-selected contractors. Each project must include 15 trees or more and EPS only plants canopy trees under this program.

For community-wide projects, EPS works closely with a community representative on outreach. For more information on our Urban Tree Canopy Expansion Program, download the fact sheet for landscape style plantings (PDF) at

Applications to apply to these programs are due July 10 and more information about these programs can be found at Baltimore County’s EPS website.

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