IN THE GARDEN: Taking the time to care for trees will pay dividends
We have just celebrated Arbor Day, which is designated on April 26 every year. The garden clubs in Alaska however do not recommend planting of trees in spring until late May when the ground is thawed sufficiently.
Trees are an essential component of our environment. When trees are properly planted and cared for, they increase property values with their beauty. They also provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide and pollutants from our air and reduce reflection and glare. Trees work with the environment to moderate the effects of heat and sound reduction. The proper placement of trees can also direct and reduce wind speed in the landscape. Soil erosion is controlled by trees as they function as a giant sponge, holding the water in their roots. This recharges springs, aquifers and streams.
Privacy is another reason we plant trees. While emphasizing pleasant views, they also block out unwanted ones. Trees contribute to the quality of life of people living in more densely populated areas. The aesthetic value of trees makes our life more beautiful and pleasant; their beauty nourishes our spirit and has been said to increase healing in hospitalized patients observing them outside their hospital rooms.
Trees provide natural habitat for birds and wildlife. We benefit greatly from our forests that provide habitat for a large number of wildlife species here in Alaska. Loss of this habitat harms our wildlife.
One of the most important aspects of growing trees successfully has to do with site selection and the reason you want to plant the tree. Do you need a winter wind break, summer cooling site or sound barrier? The larger the tree, the greater the cooling effect.
When planting a tree, you should consider the following considerations. Do not plant near wires or where pedestrians need to walk. The blocking of vision of a driver or a cyclist entering a roadway is a common mistake when planting trees. Many times there isn’t enough thought put into how large a tree can grow, crowding or competition for nutrients.
Overcrowding can also compromise a tree’s ability to receive light and show off, becoming all that it can be. A tree needs sun light to perform the needed photosynthesis that is required by the tree to live. Pick trees that are easily adaptable to our climate and soil conditions. Consider the tree’s mature height and shape and how it will fit into your landscape in the years to come.
Water is a critical factor in a tree’s survival the first year. Continue deep watering for at least five years. You will want to keep string trimmers and lawn mowers away from the tree’s trunk. Prune dead or injured branches immediately. Pruning should be done to shape and maintain size while young. It is not ever recommended to top a tree to reduce height. You should consult an arborist, which is a tree professional for large tree-pruning jobs, removing hazardous trees or treating insect and disease problems. Never prune trees near utility wires. Call your electric utility as they are experts at this job.
It seems to me that simple obvious considerations are not observed all over town in plantings along our roadways and parks, which results in the removal of trees due to unforeseen consequences of lack of care: road view blockage, overgrowth, root spread, street and sidewalk cracks, building foundation damage, and trees growing into fences resulting in disfigurement are just a few problems that have been observed. Another very sad result of lack of follow-up care is the initial tree collars not being removed after the one year recommendation. These collars dig into the trees, resulting in the disfigurement, production of suckers and eventually the death of the trees as they frantically attempt to survive. We have a responsibility to care for these plantings of trees, which includes routine pruning, nutrition requirements and disease prevention and treatment. Roots go out, it is said, one and a half times the height of a tree in search of water and nutrition.
Assistance is available locally for questions on the planting of trees on species, transplanting and maintenance and care from our local nurseries and professional arborists, The Cooperative Extension Service, as well as the State Forestry and Conservation departments are all resources for residents. As you prepare to plant a tree on your property that can last a lifetime, please consider these above suggestions and responsibilities as a caretaker of a tree.