Wetherby Park Tree Planting


Photos by Alice Linhart

Wetherby Park is a 24.3-acre south side Iowa City neighborhood oasis. As of Saturday, Oct. 2, the park is home to 42 new trees including three conifers and 39 deciduous trees up to 12-feet in height.

Nearly 50 Master Gardener and neighborhood residents came out for this community service project.

Tyler Baird, Iowa City Parks Superintendent, explained the planting would replace many of the trees destroyed by last year’s derecho. Grant funds supported the project that will eventually provide more challenges for disc golfers using the park’s 9-hole disc golf course. A diversity of trees were selected for the project: Bald cypress, Black Gum, Buckeye, Catalpa, Espresso Kentucky Coffee tree, Hophornbeam, Hornbeam, Turkish Filbert, White pine and Yellowwood.

DNR Forester Mark Vitosh provided the volunteers instructions for tree planting in near-drought conditions. He reinforced the importance of tree diversity to avoid the massive destruction brought on by diseases such as Dutch elm disease and the emerald ash borer. Currently, about 17 percent of Iowa’s trees are ash. If a new disease attacks maple trees the state stands to lose more than 40 percent of its total tree population. Mr. Vitosh and Mr. Baird strongly encourage homeowners to select a diversity of trees to plant in their landscape.

Due to the dry, hard soil conditions, Iowa City Park employees pre-dug planting holes using an auger. Volunteers, working in teams of four to five, followed Mr. Vitosh’s instructions and were assisted by Park crews to fully prepare roots of each tree, setting the new trees at a proper depth, trimming any damaged branches and completed the planting with 3-inch wood chip mulching around the base. City crews then completed each planting by adding a protective collar, staking for support and watering. Park crews installed a tree watering bag that will be used throughout the fall and the first year. Water bags are removed during winter months to extend their useful life.

This community tree-planting project serves as an early start to commemorate the Johnson County Master Gardeners’ 40th anniversary in 2022. Stay tuned—throughout 2022 we will be conducting service projects to celebrate this milestone!