Arbor Day: 5 Things to Consider When Planting A Tree

The Gardenist

For many states, Arbor day is the last Friday of April, but there are plenty of places where the annual tree planting day has either passed already or is right now (I'm looking at you, Southern States, California, and New Mexico). So in preparation for National Plant a Tree Day, I thought I would share a few thoughts about tree planting. It should go without saying (but I will say it anyway) that the tree you are planting today is going to get considerably bigger than it is now.....know that and plan for it. Years quickly pass and before you think it will happen, a tree planted too close to your house will become a pruning nightmare and a foundation upending ordeal. There are lots of reasons to plant a tree. Here are some of the less obvious things to consider.

Plant for Energy Efficiency: Think about where the sun hits your home. A well placed tree can reduce home heating and cooling costs. Deciduous trees placed to the southeast, south and southwest areas of your house can provide considerable shade and natural cooling during the summer. In the winter these same trees will lose their leaves and the sun will shine through to warm the house. Planting evergreen trees to the North and Northwest of your home can help to block winter winds by changing wind patterns over or around the building. These effects have been shown to reduce energy costs by 30 percent or more.

Plant for Safety:
It is never a great idea to conceal the main entry points of your home. Putting a tree or large shrub in a position that blocks the front door not only sends an uninviting message to your guests, but it also invites the wrong sort of visitor — that is, the kind that will take advantage of the opportunity provided by all the concealment and break into your home.

Plant for Aesthetics: Just like in flower arranging, architecture, or most design disciplines, scale, color and shape are important considerations. There is a big difference between an oak tree and an apple tree. (Small and prunable vs huge and imposing, obvious flowers vs obvious acorns, open habit vs dense, different shapes, etc.) Every tree has its characteristics, and you should choose based on the fullest set of facts, considering how it will enhance your landscape.

Plant for an ecosystem: Trees invite other creatures. Song birds, squirrels, and a whole host of tiny creatures will inhabit a tree which provides a healthy home for urban (and suburban) wildlife. But the ecosystem goes beyond just the wildlife. Tree roots prevent runoff and erosion by holding soil; soil filters water and runoff. More trees means that regional water quality improves.

Plant for Stress Relief: Did you know that studies have shown that 5 minutes of looking at a tree reduces your blood pressure and muscle tension? So plant your tree where you can see it when you need to.

and finally:
Plant for Posterity. There are only a few of us that will be remembered, beyond our families, years after we are gone. And only a few of us will create things that are cherished by future generations. I've been trying to convey to my children that their adored pop idols are remarkably fleeting and so are the things that they have and do — but by planting a tree, anyone can make an enduring mark. It is the easiest and most beautiful way to give something enjoyable and beneficial to our current world and also to the future people that will live here.

When I think about tree planting in these terms, I find I suddenly become consumed with thoughts of tree variety (I don't want my mark to be run of the mill), quality, and ability to thrive in the place I put it. Like a good winter coat, the investment seems worth it.

Learn more: Find out when you local Arbor is celebrated.

(Image: Shutterstock)

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