Giving Back to the Giving Trees
You may be familiar with how a tree can help improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases, and generating life-sustaining oxygen. But trees – whether in your back yard, on the streets of Manchester, or in the White Mountain National Forest – do so much more to enhance and cleanse our environment. From cleaning our air and water, to increasing property values and saving energy, trees are indispensable.
A tree’s leaves, stems, and twigs trap and filter air pollutants, such as dust, ash, pollen, and smoke. Tree roots help keep our waters clean by reducing soil erosion and keeping chemicals and sediments from reaching streams and lakes. The roots, along with the tree’s branches, help recharge groundwater and drinking water by intercepting the rainfall and directing a portion of it downward into the ground. Trees along shorelines shade the water. Cooler water holds more dissolved oxygen than warmer water. This benefits aquatic life.
For home owners, trees can increase property value by up to 15 percent, reduce air conditioning costs by up to 30 percent, and can save 10-50 percent of the energy used for heating. Along with other plantings, trees provide shade and are natural noise, privacy, and wind barriers. Whether residential or commercial, a property well-landscaped with trees or in a wooded setting is more desirable than a barren landscape. What can you do to protect the trees around your home?
Preventing damage to trees is the easiest way to help them. A tree’s bark provides it with protection, nutrients, and water. Repeated little bumps or scrapes can damage a tree’s ability to protect itself from insects and diseases. Protect bark from nails, lawn mowers, trimmers, snowblowers, and plows.
Compacted soil, weed infestation, and root damage also have a negative impact on the health of the tree. Watering and mulching reduces the impact of these stressors on trees. Adult trees benefit from deep watering during dry spells, while young trees require deep watering several times a week. Proper mulching insulates soil, provides nutrients, retains moisture, deters weeds, prevents soil compaction, and reduces lawnmower damage. Remove turf grass under the trees and cover with mulch, to reduce damage to the roots from mowing. This mulched area should be three to ten feet in diameter depending on tree size. A layer of compost, wood chips or two- to four-inch bark pieces should be added within the circle, but not touching the trunk.
To realize maximum benefits from shade trees, place deciduous trees on the south and west sides of buildings. Shade driveways, patios, and sidewalks to minimize the extra heat load from those surfaces. Evergreen trees can serve as windbreaks when placed on the north side of your home to intercept and slow winter winds.
Have a wet area with trees? Don’t cut the trees unless you want the area to be wetter! Trees take up very large amounts of water and by removing them, the water will remain on the land.
Plant trees that are native to your area. Native plants provide food and habitat for wildlife, and are well adapted to virtually all combinations of soil moisture, shade, and other site conditions. When planting trees, take time to determine the characteristics of your property and select plants that are appropriate for the conditions. For a list of native trees, see http://www.crjc.org/pdffiles/Plant%20lists%20Apr06.pdf .
For more information about trees and water quality, please contact the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Shoreland Protection Program at (603) 271-2147. For more information about air quality, please contact DES Air Resources Division at (603) 271-1370. For more information about tree care and benefits in general, contact your County Cooperative Extension Office.
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