Green Living: Arbor Day – Picking the Right Tree

Arbor Day is this Friday and it’s time to start thinking about the tree you want to plant. After all, you don’t want to pick a random sapling, plant it and find out a few years later that it’s going to be 60 feet tall – and you planted it under a power line. So let’s look at some of the big things you’ll need to think about before Arbor Day.

– The Climate and Soil –
Trees are tough, but they do have their limits. It’s important to learn about your local climate and soil type, so you can choose the best tree.

Hardiness Zone: Trees can only tolerate certain temperature ranges, or “Hardiness Zones.” To find out what zone you live in, click here and enter your zip code.

Soil Type: A healthy tree needs the right soil. There are three major types of soil – loamy, sandy, and clay – as well as different levels of drainage and acidity/alkalinity. You should determine what type of soil you have by running these tests, courtesy of Colleeen Vanderlinden.

Sun Exposure: How much sun do you get in your area and how much of your yard gets full exposure to that sunlight? Trees have different solar needs, so what you should plant in a shady lot can be very different than what you’d plant in a sunny one.

– Your Yard –
When planting a tree near your home, there are some important factors to consider.

Utility Lines: We’ve all seen those poor, pathetic trees that the utility company trimmed because the branches grew too close to the power-lines. If your yard has utility lines, plan your trees accordingly. This guide will show you the appropriate zones when it comes to keeping your trees safe from the power company. (It’s also a good idea to find out where your underground utilities are, so you don’t end up planting a tree right on top of a line).

The House: Avoid planting trees too close to you home. They can fill your gutters with leaves, interfere with plumbing and pipes and damage your roof. One guide from Utah State Univeristy Forestry recommends planting trees at least half the width of their mature crown (the largest the tree’s canopy will get when mature) away from the home. Others recommend planting the tree at least three quarters of the tree’s mature height away from the home.

The Sidewalk: Don’t plant fruit trees or trees that will develop thick, large roots next to sidewalks. We all know that fruit trees make for nasty sidewalks and roots make for broken ones.

– The Tree –
Now that you know more about your local climate and soil types and have considered your yard, it’s time to pick the tree. The Arbor Day Foundation has a great online tool that will let you enter the information you’ve gathered so it can find the best trees for you. You can also head over to a nursery or visit a landscaper and ask for their opinion.

In the end, you’ll undoubtedly be presented with many, many options (there are a lot great trees out there after all) – so here’s the fun part. Pick the one you’ll love the most and get ready for a great addition to your yard!

Thanks to Colleen Vanderlinden, the Arbor Day Foundation, Utah State University, and Breathing Places for the great information.

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