National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April every year. This year, 2022, marks 50 years the Arbor Day Foundation has commemorated Arbor Day by planting nearly 500 million trees. Several states observe Arbor Day when it’s an excellent time to plant trees locally. Florida’s Arbor Day is commemorated on the third Friday of the month. My recommendation? Plant trees to celebrate Arbor Day!
Congratulations to all our Tree Cities! Several communities in Florida have done the work, filled the applications, and are designated as Tree Cities USA®. Florida communities include Vero Beach, Port St. Lucie, Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, Ft Pierce, and Sebastian. The Tree City USA® program has been recognized as an essential part of greening up cities and towns across America since 1976. To qualify, cities must meet four core standards. These are; have a tree Board or department responsible for caring for the city’s trees, enact a tree care ordinance, establish a Community Forestry Program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita, and produce a yearly budget Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
However, you do not have to live in a tree city to green your space. The benefits of trees are well known, but here are a few things to remind us why trees are essential. Trees clean the air; roadside trees reduce nearby indoor air pollution by as much as 50%. The U.S. Forest Service reports forested watersheds to provide quality drinking water to more than 180 million Americans. An important one for us here in Florida, trees provide cooling. The EPA reports that trees lower the surface temperatures of surrounding surfaces by as much as 20 – 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s true, trees are good. Right plant, right place is more than a cliché; it is good advice, and if a native species fit, even better. Like all plants, selecting a tree that matches the growing conditions and space available in an area is the key to long-term success.
However, just as important as selecting a matching species to location this Arbor Day is planting the tree correctly. There has been a round of articles and memes circulating on the internet about planting trees in square holes. Though many good internet sites provide excellent, qualified, and researched gardening information, this is not one of them. Be sure the gardening information you are reading online is from a qualified source such as a university, public garden, government, or Extension program.
Planting a tree correctly does take a bit of work. A few of my favorite resources for directions, images, and recommendations for planting trees are here:
Planting Trees in Landscape – Dr. Ed Gillman, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida
Planting a Tree – Trees are Good
Planting and Establishing Trees – IFAS
Take the tree out of the pot or take off the burlap. Remove any circling roots and as much as 2 inches of the outside of the rootball. Dig the hole right, as much as 2 – 5 times the diameter of the root ball or container and no deeper than the root ball. The goal is to plant so that the tree’s roots end up level with the ground and do not sink. Water while backfilling the hole to remove air pockets. Water well until established, as much as a year after planting, and you will have an Arbor Day memento for generations to come. It’s simple, plant trees to celebrate Arbor Day.
This column first appeared in the Treasure Coast Newspapers.
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