Arbor Day

In the Garden
Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University Master Gardener

     With Arbor Day approaching, it is time to begin planning and shopping.  Planting a tree on Arbor Day is more than a tradition.  It is one of the best ways to help your world.  However, it is not something to be done without planning.  There is a lot to consider.
     The first consideration is who will plant the tree.  Arbor Day plantings are often a group activity.  Many teachers involve students in the act, using the occasion for teaching some science.  It is also a good activity for scouts, 4-H clubs and other organizations.  Tree planting need not be limited to children.  It is a good way for adult groups to share an evening outside.  Perhaps the best planting team is members of different generations of your family.  A tree planted by a family may become a special memory that tends to draw the family together in the future.
     You then need to decide where the tree will be planted.  If you own your home, you may wish to plant a new tree on your property.  Otherwise, you will need to get permission to plant a tree in a public place.  Many parks and forests appreciate having trees planted.  Some schools allow classes to plant trees on school property.  You still have time to make some contacts to find a place for a tree planting.  There are many other factors in siting a tree.  You will want to choose a place where the tree will have room to grow to its full potential.  For this reason, you will need to do some research into the tree you will plant.  Whether you are planting a seedling, a sapling or a larger transplant, you must consider the eventual mature size of the tree.  Always plan on a tree’s reaching the largest potential size.  Many trees have had to be cut down because they out-grew the available space.  I just cut a tree I had planted a few years ago.  It had been mislabeled.  I thought I was planting a small tree that would only reach 15 feet tall, but it was a different species that grew too close to the electric lines.  While you cannot know if something has the wrong label, do your best to avoid planting trees where they will not have room to mature.
      Trees perform many functions, and the function you need determines the type of tree you will plant.  You may want a tree for shade.  Perhaps you wish to start or add to a home orchard.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while I find most trees beautiful, you may be looking for something that has eye-catching flowers or perhaps evergreen foliage to be attractive in the winter.  Many people plant evergreens as windbreaks or to buffer one’s living area from busy street noises.  Trees may be used to block unwanted views or to define approaches.  Trees are invaluable in attracting wildlife.  Trees provide food and shelter for birds and many other members of the animal kingdom.
     Get busy!  You have your homework assignment, but with the internet, it is easy to find information about trees and help finding the best fit for your needs and desires.  Next week, I will tell you some of my personal favorite trees and the reasons I like them.  I will also give you some instructions that will help your tree get off to a good start.  Planting a tree is an activity that will provide consequences for many years.

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