In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
April, 2010
Regional Report

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Plant a tree to celebrate Arbor Day.

Arbor Day

Arbor Day is an American tradition. The first Arbor Day took place on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska. Julius Morton, Secretary of Agriculture to President Grover Cleveland, had worked diligently throughout his career to improve agricultural practices in the United States. He felt that the landscape of the plains states would benefit from a wide-scale planting of trees to provide shade, protection from the wind, and erosion control.

On the first Arbor Day more than one million trees were planted. The idea of celebrating the planting of trees was so popular that it spread to Kansas, Tennessee, Minnesota and Ohio, which initiated their own Arbor Day celebrations. Today, all 50 states celebrate Arbor Day, although some of the more northern states celebrate in May due to the weather.

Other countries around the world are also involved in the re-greening of our earth. Australia, India, Japan, Israel, Yugoslavia, Iceland and Korea have come on board with their own versions of Arbor Day with names like "The Tree-Loving Week" and "The Students Afforestation Day."

Planting a tree is always a good idea, but finding a suitable location where a tree can live comfortably for its entire life may be a bit of a challenge. The first thing to consider is overhead wires that might conflict with the canopy. There is a row of sad-looking palm trees on Edgewood Road in San Carlos that were planted under power lines. The trees are tall enough now to interfere with the wires. Who do you think wins this kind of competition? - certainly not the trees. The same thing has happened in Menlo Park along Valparaiso where beautiful oaks were planted in line with the telephone poles. So make sure to select a site that has adequate overhead clearance.

As trees grow, they need room to spread. Their roots will grow underground to approximately the same size as the canopy, so make sure there are no underground utilities in the prospective planting zone. The roots of thirsty willow trees are notorious for finding sewer and water lines, eventually creating havoc with the plumbing.

A planting site in full sun is usually preferred, however some trees will thrive in shady locations such as some maples, dogwoods and redbuds. It's very important to select a tree to suit the site. Do your homework prior to purchasing a tree.

Size is a very important factor. It is generally not advisable to plant a redwood that will eventually grow to 300 feet in a small yard. I have seen redwoods planted close together to provide privacy along a fence line. The problem is that the trees don't have room to spread and eventually shade each other out. A crowded tree is susceptible to disease, so provide plenty of room to grow.

Planting a tree to commemorate a birth or an anniversary is one way to enrich the world we live in. A tree, properly planted and cared for, will provide shelter for wildlife well into the next century, and possibly beyond. Celebrate Arbor Day and give a tree a home.


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