22. TREE PLANTING, RETENSION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Most trees you purchase as a container, or a balled-and-burlap tree have been dug from tree nurseries where 90 percent of their roots have been damaged or removed. The larger the tree, the more root damage probably happened. While we all want a beautiful, large tree in our landscape as soon as possible, it's best to purchase younger and smaller trees. These trees will recover faster from the transplanting process and will start growing again sooner than larger trees.
Also, select trees whose roots are firmly attached to the root ball. If you can rock the trunk in a balled and burlap root ball independently of that root ball, look for another tree.
Bringing it Home
Once you have the tree of your dreams, bring it home and water the root ball or container well. Plant your tree in a location where it will thrive based on its sun and soil water drainage needs. Don't plant under or near overhead utility wires. Dig the hole 3 times the diameter of the root ball wide and as deep as it is in the container. Don't loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole or the tree may settle too deeply.
When ready to plant, remove the burlap and wire cage or take the tree out of the container. Look at the base of the trunk. The root flare is a spot where the roots flare out from the trunk. In most nursery grown trees, this area is often buried in soil. That's not good. Buried root flares cause slow growth and invite diseases to attack the trunk. The tree's root flare should be visible at the base of the tree, so gently remove the soil from the top of the root ball until you see the flare.
Then examine the roots. You might even wash off some of the soil to get a better look. Any roots that are circling the trunk should be cut and redirected away from the trunk. Years down the road, these roots will eventually strangle the tree once they grow large.
Place the tree in the hole, keeping the root flare exposed. Back fill with native soil unless it's very poor soil, then mix in some topsoil and mycorrhizae fungus to help with new root growth. Water in well and keep well-watered the first year. One of the best ways to keep new trees consistently watered is to use a gator bag. Fill these bags a few times a week and let the water drip out from the bottom emitters. This keeps the soil evenly moist. There's no need for staking or fertilizing the tree the first year.
Yearly Care of Your Trees
Most trees growing in the right location on decent fertility soils won't need fertilizer and once established, shouldn't need supplemental watering. Many people like to mulch the trees annually in spring. This needs to be done carefully.
When applying bark mulch, remove the old mulch first and compost it. Apply a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of fresh mulch. Don't mulch over the root flare and avoid volcano mulching. Volcano mulching is when year after year mulch is piled around the trunk and smothers the root flare and roots. Eventually diseases get into the trunk and your prized tree, that's maybe years old now, will die. It's even a good idea to plant ground covers under your tree instead of mulch to protect the trunk from lawn mowers and string trimmer damage.
US cities are losing 36 million trees a year. If you're looking for a reason to care about tree loss, this summer's 2019 - record-breaking heat waves might be it. Trees can lower summer daytime temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a recent study.
But tree cover in US cities is shrinking. A study published last year by the US Forest Service found that we lost 36 million trees annually from urban and rural communities over a five-year period. That's a 1 percent drop from 2009 to 2014.
If we continue on this path, "cities will become warmer, more polluted and generally unhealthier for inhabitants," said David Nowak, a senior US Forest Service scientist and co-author of the study. Nowak says there are many reasons our tree canopy is declining, including hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, insects and disease. But the one reason for tree loss that humans can control is sensible development.
The most effective way to tackle climate change is to plant one trillion trees. "We see the tree cover being swapped out for impervious cover, which means when we look at the photographs, what was there is now replaced with a parking lot or a building," Nowak said. More than 80% of the US population lives in urban areas, and most Americans live in forested regions along the East and West coasts, Nowak says.
"Every time we put a road down, we put a building and we cut a tree or add a tree, it not only affects that site, but it also affects the region." The study placed a value on tree loss based on trees' role in air pollution removal and energy conservation.
Why you should be forest bathing (and we don't mean shampoo)
The lost value amounted to $96 million a year. Nowak lists 10 benefits trees provide to society: Heat reduction: Trees provide shade for homes, office buildings, parks and roadways, cooling surface temperatures. They also take in and evaporate water, cooling the air around them. "Just walk in the shade of a tree on a hot day. You can't get that from grass," Nowak said. To get the full temperature benefit, tree canopy cover should exceed 40% of the area to be cooled, according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "A single city block would need to be nearly half-covered by a leafy green network of branches and leaves," the authors wrote.
Air pollution reduction: Trees absorb carbon and remove pollutants from the atmosphere. Energy emissions reduction: Trees reduce energy costs by $4 billion a year, according to Nowak's study. "The shading of those trees on buildings reduce your air conditioning costs. Take those trees away; now your buildings are heating up, you're running your air conditioning more, and you're burning more fuel from the power plants, so the pollution and emissions go up."
Water quality improvement: Trees act as water filters, taking in dirty surface water and absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil. Flooding reduction: Trees reduce flooding by absorbing water and reducing runoff into streams. Noise reduction: Trees can deflect sound, one reason you'll see them lining highways, along fences and between roads and neighborhoods. They can also add sound through birds chirping and wind blowing through leaves, noises that have shown psychological benefits.
Protection from UV radiation: Trees absorb 96% of ultraviolet radiation, Nowak says. Improved aesthetics: Ask any real estate agent, architect or city planner: Trees and leaf cover improve the looks and value of any property.
Improved human health: Many studies have found connections between exposure to nature and better mental and physical health. Some hospitals have added tree views and plantings for patients as a result of these studies. Doctors are even prescribing walks in nature for children and families due to evidence that nature exposure lowers blood pressure and stress hormones. And studies have associated living near green areas with lower death rates.
Wildlife habitat: Birds rely on trees for shelter, food and nesting. Worldwide, forests provide for a huge diversity of animal life.
Nowak says there's a downside to trees too, such as pollen allergies or large falling branches in storms, "and people don't like raking leaves." But, he says, there are ways cities and counties can manage trees to help communities thrive. "You can't just say 'we're not going to have forests.' We might as well manage and work with the trees." "You don't want a tree in the middle of a baseball field. It's very difficult to play sports if you have trees in the way. Or trees in the middle of freeways."
Nowak says we can design and manage tree canopies in our cities to help "affect the air, to affect the water, to affect our well-being."
Urban forests especially need our help to replace fallen trees. Unlike rural areas, it is very difficult for trees to repopulate themselves in a city environment with so much pavement and asphalt.
"A lot of our native trees can't actually find a place to drop an acorn so they can regenerate," explains Greg Levine, co-executive director for Trees Atlanta. "That's why the community has to go in and actually plant a tree because the areas just aren't natural anymore."
Organizations like Trees Atlanta and their volunteers plan most of their year to care for these young trees until they're mature enough to thrive on their own. "We try to prune trees for 10 years to make sure they get a good healthy structure." Levine adds. "We also add mulch around trees to help keep the moisture in the ground, so the tree doesn't dry up. We have to have a lot of patience with planting trees around pavement, making sure that they can rise to the challenge."
Protect what you have: Nowak says the first step is caring for the trees on your own property. "We think we pay for our house, and so we must maintain it. But because we don't pay for nature, we don't need to. And that's not necessarily true."
Prune the dead limbs out of your trees: If they're small enough, do it yourself or hire a company. The risk of limbs damaging your house is significantly lowered when there's tree upkeep, Nowak said.
Notice where your trees may be in trouble: Often, you can observe when something's wrong, such as when branches are losing leaves and breaking or when mushrooms are growing at the base or on the trees. You can also hire an arborist or tree canopy expert to assess the health of your trees on an annual basis. Or you can contact your local agricultural extension office for advice.
Don't remove old trees if it's not necessary: Instead, try taking smaller actions like removing branches. "It takes a long time for these big trees to get big: 50 to 100 years. And once they're established, they can live a long time. But taking a big tree out and saying, 'we'll replant,' there's no guarantee small trees will make it, and it will take a very long time to grow."
Allow trees to grow on your property: Although everyone's aesthetic is different, it's the cheap way to get cooler yards and lower energy bills. It's also an inexpensive approach to flood and noise control.
Nowak says he laughs when his neighbors wonder why their property doesn't have more trees, because "I hear people running their lawn mowers." Fallen seeds need a chance to implant, and constant mowing prevents that. If you don't like where a seedling is growing, you can dig it up and plant it or a new tree where you like.
Educate yourself about trees and get involved: Many cities have tree ordinances that seek to protect very old, significant trees. You can get involved by attending city council meetings. You can also help your city plant trees by joining local nonprofit groups.
Volunteer or donate to tree planting and research organizations:
The Arbor Day Foundation
National Forest Foundation
FORESTS NEAR MY HOME
I live in Northern New England where the forests are dominated by sugar maples, American beeches, yellow birches and Eastern Hemlock. There are many wildflowers, shrubs and ferns as an understory to the forest. Close to where I live near Lake Champlain are some unique species that normally grow to the south.
I live minutes away to Red Rocks Park with its diversity of natural communities. The park overlooks the lake. What makes it special. First off, there is the moderating effect of the lake in the summer. This allows for more southerly species of oaks, hickories and hophornbeam. Yet, in winter, the cold air coming off the lake can be brutal.
The soils in Red Rocks Park are calcium rich because the lake was formed from ancient sea floors that contained compressed shells of ancient sea life. The shells form the calcium rich limestones shales that support trees that thrive on these soils. Thus red rocks is unique compared to other parts of Vermont
Wood Whys – Explorations of Forests and Forestry Michael Snyder. Bondcliff Books This collection of 63 essays by the commissioner of Vermont Department of Parks and Recreation, addresses questions posed by landowners. The essays tackle questions such as What makes the best firewood? Why are paper birches so white? Why do tree species produce bumper crops of seeds? Snyder responds with science and common sense. This is the kind of paperback book you want to carry into the forest.