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26th Annual Dunbar/Spring (& 3rd Annual West University) Neighborhood Rain, Tree, & Native Food Forest Planting – Tucson, AZ

December 30, 2021

Deadline for placing an order:

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Implementation is planned for this winter, exact dates in early 2022 will be announced once we have the permits.

Since 1996 this program has coordinated neighborhood & community volunteers to plant over 1,600 trees in the public rights-of-ways of the Dunbar/Spring neighborhood, along with thousands of understory plants. These plantings are freely irrigated by rain and stormwater passively harvested within water-harvesting earthworks. All these neighborhood earthworks combined annually harvest over 1 million gallons of stormwater, that previously wastefully drained away.

In 2020 and 2021 we even expanded into the adjoining neighborhood of West University – we plan to do the same in 2022.

These plantings save you and our community water and money; grow shade, cooling, and comfort; help recharge our local groundwater; reduce flooding; sequester carbon; provide wildlife habitat; improve soil fertility; grow food, fiber, fodder, and beauty; build community; and enhance quality of life for everyone.

Let’s keep it going and expanding – invest in, and help steward, the pocket of the community forest adjoining your home, business, school, or organization now!


First – we plant the rain!
Once again, we are working with licensed contractors (John Litzel of Little John Excavating and Jeff Rhody of Dryland Design) to:

• Dig street-side basin(s) [average size is 5 to 8 feet long x 5 feet wide x 1 foot deep] with a backhoe
• Remove excavated soil with backhoe and dump truck
• Deliver and hand-set local Catalina granite rock to stabilize the basin banks and planting terraces. (Those wanting to learn how to set rock and work with, and learn from, the contractor may have this opportunity – contact Brad if this interests you).
• Drill core holes in the street curb to direct street runoff into the street-side basin for a lifetime of free stormwater irrigation and flood control
• Apply organic-matter mulch to basins derived from composted goat pen bedding and manure from neighborhood goats that eat neighborhood prunings
• Handle the permitting
• You’ll also get advice/input on ideal basin placement and plant selection.

Average price (after City Rainwater Harvesting Rebate) is expected to be $500 – $600 per basin. Actual average cost is $1,000 – $1,200 per basin with curb coring, but the rebate covers half the cost up to $500.

This is an amazing deal! The average basin can capture over 4,500 gallons of stormwater per year (assuming average annual rainfall of 11 inches). Trees and other plantings planted with such basins grow to be healthier and  larger, and have faster growth rates than those without such basins. And the basins bottoms and planting terrace can be seeded or planted with beautiful native understory plantings. See here for ideas of understory plantings and their ideal planting location.

This basin creation price is lower than market rates because we are able to get a bulk deal by pooling many installations and permits into one—it pays to collaborate as a community! We coordinate the design services, underground utility markings, permitting, inspection, and contracting so you don’t have to!

Excavation is done by a backhoe and operator, excavated soil is removed from site (unless homeowner wants to use it elsewhere on property), and includes rock, professional rockwork, curb coring, and mulch. The basins have high capacity – resulting in far more free irrigation stormwater, groundwater recharge potential, and more flood control.

You can see an example of Dryland Design’s rockwork at street side basins in front of 236 W. University Blvd. and the northeast corner of 10th Ave and 2nd Street., along with photos below.


Native trees (5-gallon size) cost $30 each.
Understory plants (1-gallon size) cost $12 each.
Native wildflower & restoration seed is $10.
Organic-matter mulch is $10 per basin.
Trees, understory plants, and native wildflower & restoration seed are all planted at the same time. This makes irrigating them all (to get them established) much easier as you are already irrigating, and quickly establishes a living sponge of beautiful, sheltering, wildlife-supporting, vegetation including edible and medicinal species.
The mulch is applied after planting to enhance plant and soil health while increasing water infiltration and decreasing water loss to evaporation.

You are expected to participate in the planting along with other community volunteers – deepen your roots and get to know your plants and neighbors.


The basin creation service can also be used to enlarge or enhance existing (but perhaps undersized) basins.
Price depends upon how much the basin is enlarged or enhanced.

Average cost per 4-inch diameter core hole drilled is $80. A fantastic deal, because once done you get free stormwater for life – as long as you keep the core inlet clear of debris.

Thursday, December 30th, 2021. 

• Email Brad at NeighborhoodForesters@gmail.com to get on the list and get your tree-order form(s), maintenance agreements, and checklist to ensure your site will meet the requirements of this program and the city permit.

• Choose the trees and understory plants you want by filling out and handing in our order form.

• Fill out, sign, and hand in the Maintenance/Stewarding Agreement for every address ordering trees.

Requirements to get the Rain and Tree Planting help of Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood Foresters program:

1. Invasive weeds must be removed from all areas you want to plant rainwater and trees BEFORE the rain and trees are planted.

2. Must have a continuous pedestrian path minimum 5-feet wide, cleared to a height of 7 feet, and having an approved path surface in the public right-of-way adjoining your property.
If you don’t already have this, we can create it for you with the help of our contractors.

Approved pathway materials
that maintain public access and walkability:

• Compacted native soil. Free and already on site!

• Screened organic material (woodchip) mulch no larger than 1/2-inch in particle size.
(Do not apply mulch thicker than a 1-inch depth. Thicker depths bog down small wheels of babycarriages and wheelchairs).
One local mulch supplier is Tank’s Green Stuff.

• Compacted or stabilized ¼ to 3/8-inch minus decomposed granite (DG).
There are natural polymers that can be mixed in with the decomposed granite to better hold it together and stabilize it. DG is available from local landscape material suppliers. (Gary Wittwer, past Landscape Architect, City of Tucson Transportation Department told me this can be installed to be American Disabilities Act (ADA)-accessible

• Pavers/brick, which can be installed within the grade/slope tolerances of the ADA

• Maintained concrete sidewalks (ADA-accessible)

Non-approved, non-accepted path materials that inhibit public access and walkability:
• Loose rock or gravel
• Decomposed granite larger than 3/8-inch in particle size
• Course organic material (woodchip) mulch larger than 1-inch in size; or organic mulch thicker than 1-inch depth.

NOTE: If you would like trees for planting on private property,
• Choose the native trees and understory plants you want by filling out and handing in (with payment) our order form.

Alternatively, you can also visit https://tucsoncleanandbeautiful.org/trees-for-tucson/ or call (520) 791-3109. Native and fruit trees are available (ideally you set up a greywater-harvesting system for these fruit trees first, as they will require more water than native trees as well as regular watering in the hot and dry seasons). Note that the City of Tucson has a greywater-harvesting rebate covering up to half the cost of a greywater system with a rebate cap of $1,000.

Beautiful rock work, by Dryland Design, stabilizing basin banks and planting terraces. Local surface rock – Catalina granite – is used.
Photo: Brad Lancaster


Contractor drilling 4-inch diameter core hole through street curb so street runoff will enter and fill the basin.
Reproduced with permission from “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd Edition” by Brad Lancaster

Curb core complete.
Reproduced with permission from Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd Edition by Brad Lancaster

Rain and plants planted winter 2-2019.
Photo: Brad Lancaster


Flourishing plants 6 months after planting 8-2019.
Photo reproduced with permission from “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd Edition” by Brad Lancaster