Monday, March 25, 2013

Go plant a tree. You'll be glad you did.

Last weekend I planted an apple tree. Maybe that does not sound like much, but give it some thought.
Planting a tree is one simple act that can have lasting impacts for many years to come. Not only does a tree provide the obvious benefits of shade and fruit (in the case of a fruit tree) but it can also provide countless other benefits. Trees convert CO2 into O2 (that's carbon dioxide into oxygen for the non science types out there). That ability by itself should be enough to make us all stop and say "wow" but there's more. Trees purify water, stabilize soil, provide habitat, feed wildlife, increase soil productivity, store carbon, increase property value, reduce temperature fluctuations, create mulch, provide jobs and fight crime.
Provide Jobs and Fight Crime? Yes, it's true. There are more jobs directly related to trees than the fabled auto industry, and it's been proven by the US Forest Service's Urban Forest Program that neighborhoods with trees have less crime than neighborhoods without trees. Trees are literally leafy green job making-crime fighters. Given that resume, if a tree ran for public office I think we'd all be better off!
The benefits of a tree are hard to realize immediately. In the era of instant gratification, planting a tree is a long term investment. It is a forced slow down. It takes many years for a seedling to grow into a tree. Fruit trees take 3 years or more to bear a crop after planting. But, what you may not see right away are the countless little things that tree is doing everyday. From learning to appreciate the seasons by watching the bud - leaf - bloom - fruit cycle, to reminding you to take a moment and water the trees, trees improve the quality of our lives everyday. One of my favorite things about spring is going out to my little orchard and checking the bud swell. How many more days until leaf burst? Until bloom? Until fruit? In the springtime at work, I am lucky enough to get to check on seedlings I've planted in years past. Conducting survival surveys it's called and it's an activity that can leave me excited and inspired, or downtrodden depending on the results. It's a harsh world for a young tree. The environment is full of hazards from deer and elk to drought to insects and disease, even a late frost can spell death for a seedling. The fact that any seedling makes it to tree is a miracle, but they do.  Both planted and naturally regenerated trees are growing everyday, in fact there are more trees growing in our country today than at any other time in recorded history. A fact that is not without it's downside when you consider overcrowding of our forests and fire hazard - but that's a topic for another post.
I have had the unique opportunity to plant thousands of trees in my life. From a childhood on a tree farm where spring planting was a right of passage, to my education and career as a Forester, to a homeowner with an interest in growing my own foods, I seem to be constantly digging holes for trees. And yet I still love it. To me there are few things more satisfying than revisiting a tree I've planted, and seeing it's growth. So my advice to you is: Go plant a tree. You'll be glad you did.
Counting the days until the bloom.


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