Earth Day, Arbor Day, Any Day – Plant Trees!

Apr 22 by in Arbor Day, General, Nature tagged , , , with 5 comments


Of all the months in the calendar, April shines with at least two designated days reminding and encouraging all of us to do our part for the planet: Earth Day and Arbor Day.

And there are countless ways to do our part, from big investments in our home or landscaping, to small changes in our everyday habits. Thousands of people all around the world will participate in trash pick-ups, they’ll commit to reusable bags and water bottles, the’ll take public transportation or get in on a carpool, or maybe plant some trees in their yard or community.

As a certified arborist with the Arbor Day Foundation, I must admit that planting trees is hands-down my favorite way to give back to the planet.

If you’re planting trees this Earth Day or Arbor Day, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

The Right Tree in the Right Place
While the act of planting a tree may only involve an hour or two, the care and management of that tree will last your entire lifetime. It’s worth the time to carefully consider where you will be planting trees. A few extra minutes spent making sure the trees you plant are appropriate for the site and soil conditions will ensure strong, healthy trees for years to come. The Arbor Day Foundation has great tips for planting trees in the right place on their website.

But after the tree is in the ground, the hole is filled with dirt and the shovel is back in the toolshed, what happens then? How can you make sure that the trees you’ve planted enjoy a long, healthy life?

Deep Watering and Mulch
During the first couple of growing seasons your newly-planted tree is expending a lot of energy trying to get its roots established in the soil. Especially during the first few summers of the tree’s life, it will have a difficult time dealing with heat and drought. You can alleviate stress on the tree by providing adequate water and covering the soil with wood chip mulch. Deep watering can help speed the root establishment. Deep watering consists of keeping the soil moist to a depth that includes all the roots and can help speed the root establishment. Then in a few years, good, strong roots will have formed and your tree can withstand droughts on its own because it has a proper root structure.

But Don’t Over-Water
Deep watering is a good thing, but taking it too far and over-watering a newly-planted tree is a common mistake. Moist is different than soggy, and you can judge this by feel. A damp soil that dries for a short period will allow adequate oxygen to permeate the soil.

Ask Your Local Expert
Most people have no formal training when it comes to taking care of their trees. Fortunately, there is plenty of information available and local tree experts ready to help. Local arborists will know your region best and can offer helpful guidance, information, and websites to get your trees off to a healthy start.

On Earth Day, Arbor Day, or any day —- thank you for doing your part for the planet.

Robert Smith is a certified arborist with the Arbor Day Foundation in Lincoln, Nebraska. His great passion for planting and caring for trees on the local, national and international level fuels his service on numerous community tree planting organizations. Robert’s favorite trees are bur oak, dwarf chinkapin oak, and white pine. Ask Robert a tree question

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  • Rick says:

    After my roots have established is there a good rule of thumb for how often I should water. Or does mother nature take over after the first few years?

  • Robert Smith says:

    I normally like to water a tree the first year to ensure establishment, and then rely on Mother Nature to take care of the watering. That said…it is wise to do some deep watering a couple of times a year allowing the gentle trickle of a garden hose to soak down the entire root system of your tree. I like to deep water in late July or August and once more prior to winter in dry years.

  • Robert Smith says:

    Here are some thoughts on watering from my friends Jessica & Becky with the Nebraska Forest Service.

    “Provide supplemental water for the first year or until the tree is established. The amount of water a newly planted tree needs depends on the species planted and soil type. Water the tree at planting and again the next day. After this, use a screwdriver to test the soil. If soil moisture is adequate, it should be fairly easy to push the screwdriver into the ground 6 to 8 inches. If the ground is dry, it will be difficult to push the screwdriver in beyond a couple of inches. Automatic irrigation systems typically provide too much water for a new tree.”

  • Thanks for spreading the knowledge. Planting trees is always a good idea. Thanks for the tips about location and watering.

  • Robert Smith says:

    Yes, I would prefer that Mother Nature takes over the task of watering trees after the first year. Once a tree is established I’ll stop all watering and try to rely on local annual rainfall amounts. However, if there is a severe drought spell I’ll get out the hose, and do some deep watering to ensure the survival of my trees.

    Follow the weekly U. S. Drought Monitor Map to track where a little extra watering might benefit the health of trees.

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