Helen Godfrey's picture
Posted by Helen Godfrey /
Watering Trees on Bayview ave.
I first blogged about Bayview Buckets in December of last year. Back then it was just an idea: persuade merchants along the four-block commercial strip in my neighbourhood to take ownership of the street trees growing out front. We would encourage them to “adopt” the tree by agreeing to water it from May to September.


It's taken quite a while, but as of yesterday morning - which marked the official launch - things have really come together. The project couldn't have got off the ground without the assistance of LEAF, particularly Amanda Gomm and Jessica Piskorowski who have spent much time on the initiative and have given me invaluable advice. 


I could use a drink


Other LEAF volunteers have contributed their time and talent. Hamsha Pathmanathan took a detailed inventory of the trees and Paula Jacob designed an attractive eye-catching window-sign and logo that participating businesses display in their windows indicating they are 'adoptive' tree parents.


We have had the particular support of many businesses from early on.  The local valu-mart donated watering cans (AKA the Bayview buckets!) and several others have promoted our efforts amongst their neighbours. 


Councillor Matlow and the Bayview Buckets Crew


We had two meetings with Josh Matlow, councillor of Ward 22, who gave us his wholehearted support and attended the launch.  LEAF's Matthew Higginson and Sarah Michelle Rafols designed and printed educational signs and safely attached them to 18 trees along the strip (no street trees were harmed in the making of this project). These indicate which species can be found in the area and facts about the urban forest. This will hopefully lead others to get involved – and maybe even some of the students at the local school. My vision is that they monitor the health of the trees, help clean up the litter, and make sure the initiative continues into the future!


I have never felt that my home ended at the sidewalk. My house is part of a larger neighbourhood - part of a community. People like me know the advantages that a healthy tree canopy provides particularly within a big city like Toronto. These trees are increasingly important in light of global warming and a polluted atmosphere. 


Toronto's urban forest


If we succeed in this venture, maybe other areas of the city will be persuaded to do their own version of Bayview Buckets. Is your neighbourhood ready to adopt its street trees?


Find out more about the Adopt-A-Tree Project here.



Hi Helen, I really like your initiative. I've been asking Jessica, at LEAF (I'm also a LEAF grad) if she knew of a street tree watering project and she referred me to you. Your program seems to have got off to a good start. I think the informative signs spark conversation and thought. This past dry summer, I was appalled to see how many shrivelled trees there were in the Bloor Street area between Sherbourne and St George and also the area of the financial district around Bay south of College. I spent some time travelling to other cities this summer and was impressed by how healthy the parks and sidewalk trees were and how integral to the life of the street (benches everywhere) they seemed (Paris!). In my Danforth neighbourhood, the trees are mostly well watered because of a local business association flower planting initiative. These kind of caged-in-concrete trees benefit indirectly when flower baskets are placed below them. I guess my dilemma is that I'm concerned about an area not in my own neighbourhood, The areas I mentioned above where the trees look unhealthy and on the verge of giving up are high traffic, big business commercially rich areas where I would have thought there'd be a landscaper hired to work on the fancy plantings AND the trees. I am wondering how and who you initially approached to see if there was any landscaper in charge already? Or was that clearly not the case. How to approach the need outside of my own direct 'hood? Any suggestions or comments are welcome.

Hi Kathy,

Do you know if there is a BIA in the area you are concerned about? Or a ratepayers association? Failing both, would the councillor for that ward be in support of a volunteer driven initiative to care for the street trees?

In this area, there is no BIA and the ratepayers assoc. decided they were not interested in becoming involved. I determined to move ahead anyway and turned to LEAF for advice on how to proceed. They have mentored and advised through the whole process. I had initially thought of volunteers doing the watering, but Amanda decided that the business owners should be responsible for the trees and that has been the main thrust of the idea for Bayview Buckets (AKA watering cans). This area - the west side of the street - is Ward 22 and the councillor, Josh Matlow has been enthusiastic and supportive of the project.

The educational signs have unfortunately been vandalized. There are only 3 or 4 left. BUT LEAF have given me some more to put up, with the proviso that the store owner takes some responsibility for the sign.

Don't know if this type of initiative would work in the area you are concerned about. This strip of Bayview is neighbourhood shopping, not big business. But do give it a try. Please get in touch If I can help in any way.

Congratulations, Helen, on your initiative! The trees are a really important part of the streetscape. Some of them were looking quite pathetic. Let's hope that next summer they'll be looking better. Is there any plan to feed them? I particularly liked the signs on the trees. It was interesting to have the trees identified by species, with some information about them, and the option to follow up for more information if you have a cellphone. However, by September 8, most of the signs were missing! Was this weather or vandalism? I hadn't noticed the merchant window signs before reading this blog, and I will make a point of noting who has adopted trees, and thanking them.
What an inspiring initiative, I hope it spreads throughout the city. I was living at Ossington and Dundas this summer where I kept a few street trees watered but now that I'm gone I worry about their fate. It seems natural that store keepers should take an interest in maintaining street trees; a healthy canopy makes for a more comfortable and beautiful shopping environment.
Great initiative! Toronto needs more grassroot initiatives like this. Our street need more healthy trees and this is helping Toronto with a step in the right direction. Thank you!
Helen, you're so inspiring! Thank you for your beautiful vision and your courage. I will carry your ideas with me wherever I go. - Chang Liu, Bloor-Lansdowne
Congratulations Helen -- good on you (and LEAF) for persevering! I've forwarded a link to the local BIA in my hood with the suggestion they follow your lead! I love your phrase "My home doesn't stop at the sidewalk" -- and am going to pass it along ;) Best -- Michaelle/Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park's volunteer Adopt a Tree program coordinator
Congratulations and thank you for your hard work!

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