It's that time of year again when the state Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Parks and Forestry provides 60,000 free tree seedlings to residents throughout New Jersey.

DEP spokeswoman Caryn Shinske says during the annual program, residents are eligible to receive bundles of five free tree seedlings starting Saturday, March 30 until Sunday, May 5.

There are 118 distribution sites across 19 counties. A person does not have to be a resident of a specific county to get seedlings.

The free tree seedling program began in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy damaged and destroyed thousands of trees across the state. Since then, 500,000 tree seedlings have been handed out to residents.  It's a way to not only replenish the supply of trees, but it also improves the environment.

Shinske said trees block wind, reduce water and air pollution, provide habitat for wildlife and they fight climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide.

There are 37 species of tree seedlings that are being distributed during this program. Shinkse said communities will receive species of seedling bundles that grow well in that particular region.

For example, in the northern part of the state, residents may receive persimmon or black oak tree seedlings. Communities along the shore may receive bayberry or beach plum, which are shrubs that are commonly found on dunes and in other coastal areas. Towns in the southern region, may get Atlantic white cedar or other species that have adapted to the area.

If a person lives in an urban area, they will receive hearty tree species that are able to deal with limited growing space, temperature extremes and widely ranging amounts of rainfall.

Seedling tips

Tree seedlings stand at only 1 to 2 feet tall but with proper care they will thrive.

  • Plant seedlings promptly to ensure they take root and thrive.
  • Avoid planting them near overhead utility lines and structures.
  • Moisten roots before planting.
  • Dig a hole two or three times larger than the roots when spread apart.
  • Add loose soil gently, then add more soil and pack down firmly.
  • Add water to firm the soil if necessary.
  • Place wood-chip mulch around the base of the seedling.
  • Water the seedling regularly but don't over-water.

To find out what counties and municipalities are participating in the free tree seedling program, said visit www.nj.gov/dep/treerecovery. New Jersey residents get five free seedlings. But they can buy additional tree seedlings in packets of 50 starting at $18.

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