Master Gardener William Moss knows all about trees, and he wants you to know more about them, too. Trees are exceptionally important in the world’s ecosystems.
Consider just a few facts. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the net cooling effect of a young healthy tree is equivalent to 10 air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. The department adds that one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen—enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people. Dr. E. Greg McPherson of the Center for Urban Forest Research notes that if you were to plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in five years your energy bills should would be three percent less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%. The Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers adds that a mature tree can have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000.
Here’s one that’s particularly relevant for homeowners: in one study, says Arbor National Mortgage & American Forests, 83% of realtors believe that mature trees have a “strong or moderate impact” on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98%. That’s probably talking a lot of added value! Management Information Services adds that landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values by as much as 20 percent.
Summing it all up
So the single best thing you could do for your environment and for the value of your property is to plant a tree. Put together an air conditioner, and air purifier, and wildlife habitat and you have what trees do for us every day. And tree planting is not just for Earth Day: you can plant trees nearly year around and it’s simple to do.
Purchasing a tree is a lifelong investment. How well this investment grows will depend on the type of tree that you’ve selected, the planting location, the care you provide when you’re planting it, and your follow-up care and maintenance of the tree afterward and throughout its life.
What to plant
Choosing a tree can be the toughest part of planting. Think first about the space you have available. Large shade trees need to be about 30 feet from any building. Smaller ornamental and fruit trees only need about 10 feet from any structure. Check to be sure that you have proper drainage and that there’s enough light for the tree you select. There are some charts you can find online that will give you choices for your area of the world.
A healthy life for your new tree begins with careful planning. With a little research and if you adopt a simple layout, you can create a landscape to cool your home in summer and cut the winds of winter. A well-planned yard contains trees that grow well in the soil and moisture of your climate and your neighborhood. Make sure that your trees are placed so that you won’t have future collisions with power lines.
Ideally, you should plant your trees during the dormant season. In the northern hemisphere, that means in the fall after the leaves fall or in early spring before buds come out. These times are good for that geographic area because weather conditions are cool; that allows plants to establish roots in the new location before spring rains and summer heat stimulate new top growth. In tropical and subtropical climates where trees grow year round, any time is a good time to plant a tree, assuming sufficient water is available.
How to plant
When starting to plant, you’ll need shovels, mulch, and some friends. Dig the hole twice as wide as the pot, but only as deep as the pot. Then gently place the tree into the hole and fill in half the dirt. Give it a good soaking, and then fill in the rest of the soil and water again.