Arbor Day: A Celebration of Trees

Garden Corner

Arbor Day: A Celebration of Trees

Arbor Day is a nationally celebrated day to encourage planting and caring for trees. This year the day falls on Friday, April 28. (Originally published  4/27/2005 The Reflector Newspaper, Battle Ground, WA.)

The celebration began in 1872 in Nebraska Territory when J. Sterling Morton encouraged citizens to plant trees.

A journalist, Morton had moved to the treeless plains from Detroit, MI and missed trees. Morton began Nebraska’s first newspaper and used it to spread agricultural and tree information to his growing audience.

Morton encouraged tree plantings by individuals, groups and organizations. He became a prominent citizen and eventually was Secretary of the Nebraska Territory. On January 4, 1872, Morton proposed a day to plant trees – Arbor Day, to the state agriculture board.

Arbor Day became a legal holiday on Morton’s birthday April 22, in Nebraska. Today it is celebrated nationwide and internationally. The actual day of celebration varies with the best planting time for each region.

Now is a good time to plant.

Spring is a great time to plant a tree. Plant selection and placement are key to tree survival. Most trees will thrive when planted on a well-drained site, but there are trees that can tolerate ‘wet feet’.

A garden center or nursery employee can help with the requirements of selecting trees.

Tree planting begins with site improvement. Dig the planting hole slightly larger than the root ball. Loosen the soil in the hold with a shovel and add a couple of handfuls of bonemeal. Remove the tree from its pot and loosen roots by cutting through them with a knife.

If the tree is wrapped in burlap, set the burlap-wrapped ball into the hole, cut the twine, fold the burlap back and tuck it under the root ball, and cover with soil allowing the burlap to decompose in the hole.

The tree should be planted no deeper than the soil line. Stakes can be placed around to help it stand straight and keep the wind from loosening it in the new site. Leave plenty of room for growth where the tree is tied to the stake so the tie doesn’t girdle the trunk or branches. Water deeply for the first year – a newly planted tree has a limited root system.

Trees have some affects on climate control. Planting a tree in a strategic location can shade the house in late summer and cool the area by absorbing and deflecting radiant energy produced by the sun.

Trees also intercept rain waiter and store some of it, which reduces run-off and flooding. Their roots help hold soil together to inhibit erosion, and shade streams which cool water.

In short, trees increase quality of life and bring nature and wildlife into urban surroundings.

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