Arbor Day first took place over 140 years ago on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska. The holiday was created by Nebraska journalist J. Sterling Morton who believed the rolling plains of Nebraska would benefit greatly from the wide-scale planting of trees. On that first Arbor Day in 1872, more than one million trees were planted in accordance with Morton's vision.
Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Today, the holiday is celebrated and observed on the last Friday of April, serving as a great reminder for homeowners to take stock of the trees on their property and to plan for the future of their landscapes.
Facts about Trees and Your Home
- The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. - U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce A/C needs by 30 percent and can save 20-50 percent in energy used for heating. - USDA Forest Service
- A mature tree can often have an appraised value between $1,000 and $10,000. - Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers
- If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years, the savings will be nearly 12%. - Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research
Tips to Choosing the Best Tree
Start out by defining the purpose for your new tree. Do you need foliage for aesthetics, privacy, shade/energy reduction, windbreak or street-lining trees?
You will also need to consider the limitations of your planting site, including weather and the height and spread of mature trees. For example, planting a tree with great mature height under utility lines will eventually lead to mutilated trees. Consider the following when it comes to choosing a tree according to proper placement:
- Large evergreens on the south side of a home will block warming winter sunlight but placed on the north side, provide a great windbreak from northern winter winds.
- A treeless landscape on the north side of a home can leave it vulnerable to cool winds.
- Typically, flowering trees don't grow tall enough to clash with overhead lines.
- Large deciduous trees planted on the southeast, southwest and west are great for cooling shade in the summer but still allow winter sun to warm the home.
The Arbor Day Foundation has a tool, the Tree Wizard, that allows users to enter information pertinent to their homes, such as zip code, type of tree desired, soil type, sun exposure, height, growth rate, etc., to find the best tree for the desired planting area.
Planting and Caring for a Healthy Tree
Planting a tree isn't particularly difficult tool-wise but planting it right and properly caring for a young tree requires some attention. Typically you can purchase trees three different ways, bare-root, balled-and-burlapped, or container-grown, which all must be planted differently to ensure a successfully growing tree. No matter which method you use to plant your trees, make sure to:
- Water sufficiently after planting.
- Spread a 2-3 inch-deep layer of mulch over the soil around the plant to create a protective zone and help maintain moisture.
- Stake, if necessary. If staking a newly planted tree, only do so for the first year or two, so the tree can develop a sturdy trunk and root system.
- Prune out any dead or diseased branches to keep the tree aesthetically pleasing and to prevent the disease from spreading. Also remove branches that cross or rub against one another.
- Give young trees an inch or so of water a week, especially during a dry period. Some experts say autumn is the most important time to water evergreens to protect them from harsh winters.