It has been more than 140 years since the first Arbor Day was observed in Nebraska. It has since become a national observance that takes place on the last Friday in April in most states and recognizes the importance of trees as well as tree selection, planting, and care. A properly selected and planted tree can add beauty and energy efficiency to the landscape. A poorly selected and planted tree can become high maintenance, dangerous, and short-lived. The Energy Education Council has advice to help you select the tree that is best for the planting situation.
“This is an excellent time of year for tree planting,” said Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council. “With some research and preparation, your tree will be a healthy and beautiful addition to your home for years to come.”
One of the first considerations is the purpose of the tree. Will the tree be needed for shade, a windbreak, or beauty? These considerations will affect what tree is suitable for you, and where it should be planted. Dense evergreens provide a good wind block, while leafy deciduous trees provide shade in the summer.
No matter what purpose the trees will serve, it is always best to choose native trees. They require less maintenance and will live longer. You can get more information about native growing trees from a regional university Extension office or a state department of natural resources. In addition, the Arbor Day Foundation has a free tree wizard tool that will help you select the best tree for your needs. It is available at www.arborday.org/shopping/trees/treewizard/intro.cfm.
The next step is to decide where you will plant the tree. For a windbreak, plant trees to the north, northwest, and west. For shade, plant trees to the east and west of the home. Remember that fast-growing trees are more brittle and likely to be damaged in a storm. Plant these trees farther from your home to protect your home from damage.
For areas prone to wildfires, there are additional considerations to help keep homes and communities safe. It is recommended that you limit the flammable vegetation and material around homes for at least 30 feet on all sides. Contact the local fire department for more information.
Also be sure to select planting locations that will not interfere with your utility lines or power poles. Power outages or interruptions occur when trees and branches come into contact with overhead lines. Electrical arcing and sparking from a wire to a nearby branch can cause fires.
Tall-growing trees with a mature height of greater than 40 feet should be planted 50 feet away to avoid future pruning. A mature height of less than 25 feet is recommended for trees planted near power lines. Keep in mind that trees should never be planted directly under power lines, near poles, or too close to electrical equipment.
Before planting, take proper precautions to stay safe. Be sure to call 8-1-1, the national “Call Before You Dig” number, a few business days before you want to plant. It is a free service that gets your public underground utilities located and marked, so you can dig safely away from them.
For more tips on energy efficiency and safety, visit EnergyEdcouncil.org.