Time to focus on the trees

National Arbor Day is April 28. This is the time for people who enjoy being in the outdoors to be planting or transplanting some species of a tree.

When I was a young teenager, I started developing a hobby of planting and studying trees. As I got older, trees became one of my favorite hobbies and remain so today to some extent.

On Arbor Day, people are encouraged to think about their natural or surrounding environment. This is the time for them to get out of the house and start getting their hands in the dirt.

In most states, Arbor Day comes in on the last Friday in April. In a few states, it is a legal holiday where state offices, historic sites and even some public schools are closed.

The first step in tree selection is to determine the type of tree and the proper location for that tree. Power lines and trees don’t mix. Planting a tree should be considered a long-term investment. Therefore, simply stay away from the utility lines when it comes to choosing a location to plant a tree.

Climate and the type of soil play major roles in tree survival. For example, the Southern Live Oak is an evergreen tree that grows quite well in Florida, Southern Georgia and on the Gulf Coast. This type of tree would naturally have a tough time trying to survive a typical Randolph County winter. A water-hungry willow will not live long if transplanted in one of the Western states where there is very little water.

It is important to make sure the type of tree selected can flourish in the soil and climate conditions of the location. Matching a tree to the site is an important factor with the selection process. Here is where tree planters need to ask themselves –just how big or what is this one-foot seedling going to look like 20, 30 or even 50 years from now.

Another factor to give hard consideration to when it comes to the proper location to planting a tree is what is nearby, including buildings, driveways, sidewalks, streets, water mains and underground septic systems. I have had more than one professional plumber tell me that the roots of maple trees can really damage underground water pipes and septic lines. Maple (any kind) is a tree that spreads out both above and below ground. Once again, the tree planter needs to respect nearby foundations, concrete and underground systems.

Most people know that trees play an important role in climate control. Trees that shed their leaves in the fall will provide excellent shade during the summer. Yet during the late fall, winter and early spring, these trees will allow sunlight and cold air through. Evergreens, on the other hand, that are planted on the north and west sides of a house can reduce winter heating costs by serving as a windbreak.

Drainage is another issue to consider. Young trees will do their best when planted in good-quality loamy soil. Heavy red clay soil will present problems because many species of trees like beeches, red oaks and white firs do poorly in this type of soil and in poorly-drained sites.

In the case of stagnant water, the pooling around the roots can lead to “root rot,” which will eventually kill the tree. I think this is what may have happened to a White Ash tree that I transplanted in South Elkins more than 30 years ago.

Personal taste is another consideration. Here is a factor that “no two people” will completely agree upon. The tree planter should make a list of the many kinds of trees they admire and how they will look in the future.

Here is where an individual may want to consult the internet and then apply their own imagination as to what kind of tree they will want to plant or transplant on Arbor Day.


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