Thursday, September 4, 2008

Time to plant a tree

Fall is in the air, and you know what that means: swimming pools closing, kids going back to school, and time to plant a tree!

OK, so that last one is not yet an annual tradition, but it should be: the best times for tree planting in Maryland are October-November or March-April. I’ve heard that fall planting is better than spring, because the tree can devote more of its energy to developing a strong root system since the leaves are not an issue. Another plus is that you may be busy working up the rest of your garden in the spring (if you’re into that kind of thing), therefore you’ll have more time to plant and tend your new tree in the fall.

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” –Anonymous, from Maryland DNR TREE-MENDOUS program.

Why plant a tree?

-Trees are good for watershed health. They absorb runoff, mitigate soil erosion, and lessen the load on storm drains.

-Deciduous trees provide shade from the hot summer sun when you need it most, and then in winter the falling leaves allow the sun to come in. I wish I had a big tree outside my south-facing office window to keep it cooler: on summer days it gets toasty, even with the blinds closed! The green building term for this concept is “passive solar.”

-Trees are good for air quality. For that matter, so are plants in general: humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants do the opposite, and many filter out harmful gases in so doing. See? A nice symbiotic relationship. Go get some houseplants while you’re out getting your tree. (Tangent: houseplants that improve indoor air quality)

-Green is good for you. Think about it, which would you rather have outside your window: a noisy street full of traffic and hard surfaces, or a serene wooded area with lots of green? Which would make you feel more relaxed and happy? Perhaps this is why real estate agents say that trees add value to residential property.

-Read on for more good reasons

Why plant a native tree?

Naturescaping, xeriscaping, biodiversity… these are terms you’ll hear in reference to working WITH the natural plant habitat rather than trying to shape it into what society tells us a landscape should look like. Why enslave yourself to expensive chemicals and extra work to maintain plants that have no business living in your geographic region? Go native and reap the benefits of healthy, low-maintenance plants.

Where to get trees?

The Baltimore County Growing Home campaign is giving out $10 coupons for buying a tree from a participating local nursery or garden center.

Baltimore City’s program is called TreeBaltimore. Also check out the Parks and People fall tree sale (all Maryland natives - thanks Anne!).

Arbor Day Foundation: get 10 free trees and more with a $10 annual membership!

In case you're wondering what inspired this post, yep, I am planning to plant a few trees this fall: Serviceberry and River Birch. Got my $10 coupon, called Miss Utility, I'm all over it.

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