Turf to Trees Program

The Turf to Trees program was created to help alleviate the damaging effects of stormwater runoff by increasing tree coverage throughout the County. Trees help to abate stormwater runoff by:

  • Reducing water through absorption
  • Slowing precipitation through canopy coverage
  • Binding soil to prevent erosion
  • Reducing water through evaporation and transpiration

The program provides trees and planting services to Howard County property owners with lots of 1.5 to 10 acres in size, free of cost.

To qualify for the program, property owners must commit to receiving and maintaining a minimum of 50 trees. The property owner must care for the trees provided by the County including, but not limited to, watering, shelter maintenance and removal, protecting trees from deer and other pests, as well as invasive species remediation.

The County will assess each property to determine eligibility. A planting plan, including planting boundaries and a tree species list, will be created in collaboration with the property owner. An emphasis will be given to creating a contiguous planting, in which the trees are grouped together. However, non-contiguous plantings will be considered to address specific environmental concerns. Perimeter planting (one row of trees around a property) will not be accepted.

Priority will be given to properties with the following

  • Properties with 40% or less tree canopy coverage (the layer of leaves, branches and stems of trees that shelter the ground when viewed from above – Howard County staff can assess this remotely).
  • Properties with environmentally sensitive features such as streams or steep slopes. 
  • Properties in or near the Green Infrastucture Network (County staff can determine if your property is within this area).

Planting requirements

  • A minimum order of 50 trees to be planted on a contiguous 1/4 acre; larger plantings are welcom
  • A minimum density requirement of 50 trees per 1/4 acre, about a 15 square foot spacing  
  • Five to ten species must be ordered to support biodiversity
  • Plantings must be at least 30 feet in width, or two rows of trees deep

Megan L.H. Mills

Fax: 410-313-1631 
Howard County Recreation & Parks 
Natural Resources Division 
7120 Oakland Mills Road 
Columbia, MD 21046

Benefits of Tree Canopy

Trees improve water quality by reducing stormwater runoff, intercepting and storing rain water, increasing infiltration through root systems, reducing soil erosion and filtering pollutants. Trees help us by absorbing chemical pollutants, intercepting particulate matter, creating oxygen and cooling air temperature by turning water in vapor. Trees reduce atmospheric carbon by sequestering CO2 in their roots, trunks, stems and leaves. Trees raise property values by increasing curb appeal, creating privacy, reducing noise pollution and reducing heating and cooling costs by shading buildings and blocking winds.


Trees Available

A species list will be created, with your input, based on your goals for your new forest as well as what will thrive in the conditions of your property. All species chosen must be native to Maryland. Below are examples of native trees that we plant. We strive to obtain trees which are over 5 feet in height and at least 1” caliper, but substitutions may need to be made based on availability.  


  • Red Maple, Acer rubrum

  • River Birch, Betula nigra

  • Swamp White Oak, Quercus bicolor

  • American Elm, Ulmus Americana

  • Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis

  • Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis

  • Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana

  • Smooth Alder, Alnus serrulata

  • Easter Redbud, Cercis Canadensis

  • Chestnut Oak, Quercus prinus

  • Tulip Poplar, Lirodendron tulipifera

  • Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia

  • Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida

  • Willow Oak, Quercus phellos

  • Northern Red Oak, Quercus rubra

  • Black gum, Nyssa sylvatica

  • Loblolly, Pinus taeda
    And more…



How to Apply

Contact Megan Mills prior to submitting your application to confirm that your property qualifies. We are currently on a waitlist. We will take your information and contact you prior to the planting season we can accommodate your planting. Planting season is early spring and late fall, weather dependent. 

To apply for the program, please fill out and submit the Application and Homeowner agreement below via email (preferred), fax or mail. The Tree Request Form and Right of Entry will be needed once a planting plan is in place. 

Application and Agreement

Tree Request Form

Right of Entry 

Tree Placement Guidelines


Stream ReLeaf Program

The mission of the Stream Releaf program is to create and enhance riparian forest buffers (protective strips of trees, shrubs and other vegetation's along a stream) to improve water quality and wildlife habitat throughout Howard County. 

The Co