Why would you want to plant trees on your property? The real question is why wouldn’t you? The benefits of including trees in your landscaping plans cover everything from improving the environment and saving energy to reducing soil erosion, adding to the overall aesthetic appeal of the property, and even helping create a happier, calmer atmosphere.
Let’s start with the most obvious reason: helping the environment. Trees are sometimes referred to as “the lungs of the earth,” which is actually a pretty apt comparison, as they breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. I think we can all agree that oxygen is rather important . . .
Carbon dioxide, however, isn’t the only greenhouse gas that trees assist in eliminating. They also absorb nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. According to the US Forest Service, just ONE tree can remove around 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. That translates to enough oxygen to sustain two people! So you can see just how important these plants are to our very existence on Earth.
Trees also reduce urban runoff and control erosion by storing water, filtering groundwater, and breaking up the force of rain as it falls. According to the USDA, 100 mature trees will reduce runoff from rainfall by up to 100,000 gallons. For those who don’t fully understand the damage caused by storm water runoff, here’s a quick rundown of what it means. When rain falls on roads, parking lots, rooftops, and other paved surfaces that cannot absorb the water, it has to go somewhere. It ends up being carried to local streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands, which may sound fine, except for the fact that it happens so quickly and in such abundance that it causes flooding, erosion, and the destruction of important animal habitats within the waterways. This runoff also picks up and carries pollutants from the paved surfaces: sediment, oil and grease, trash, pesticides, bacteria, metals, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc. which come from construction sites, illegal dumping areas, and the fertilization of lawns and fields, just to name a few. The significance of polluted water sources is then quite easy to see and understand.
Next, we have to consider the influence trees have when it comes to cooling the air and saving energy. The transpiration process (the passage of water from the roots through the vascular system to the atmosphere) actually releases moisture into the air, which has a cooling effect. This is even without bringing into the equation the energy saved due to provided shade. The US Department of Agriculture gives a pretty amazing statistic in relation to shade and energy use: a young, healthy tree can offer a net cooling effect comparable to that of 10 room-size air conditioners operating for 20 hours per day. In fact, it’s been discovered that planting a new tree on the western side of your house can reduce your energy bill by approximately 3 percent in 5 years and up to 12 percent in 15 years. That is huge! Those of us who have lived in houses or apartments surrounded by trees are far less surprised by this information, but it’s still quite impressive.
And as far as energy conservation is concerned, trees can also act as a barrier against cold winter winds when placed on the north and northwest sides of your home, thus reducing your heating bill even further. Obviously, it will take a few years before saplings reach a size that can indeed impact things like your energy consumption, but it is a relatively low-cost (and beautiful!) investment that is very much worth the wait.
Cities provide a wonderful example of just how significant the presence of trees and other vegetation can be in just about every aspect of life. If enough trees are planted along streets and around buildings and homes, the overall microclimate improves, reducing the total amount of energy needed to heat and cool. Vegetation can actually help decrease the overall high temperature of a city, something that is an enormous problem in some areas, such as the southern United States or anywhere else with an extremely warm climate. Trees also absorb sounds, which reduces noise pollution–in some cases, up to 10 decibels. Anyone who lives near a freeway or busy road can appreciate this.
Well, we’ve discussed some of the environmental and economical advantages to planting trees, but now let’s touch on a couple other things, some of which are probably pretty obvious, others perhaps not.
First, trees are beautiful! Evergreens stay lush and gorgeous all year long, deciduous trees often offer a variety of foliage colors throughout the seasons and then eye-catching silhouettes during the winter months, after their leaves have fallen, and of course, flowering trees fill the landscape with beautiful blooms and a variety of delightful fragrances. Additionally, they provide habitat for a variety of birds and other wildlife.
I’m sure you’re well aware of all that. However, did you know that just being around trees actually reduces stress and makes people feel better? Trees in a neighborhood or business district improve the physical and mental health of those living and working there. It’s even been found that workers who can see trees and other vegetation from their offices suffer fewer illnesses than whose who cannot. That may sound a little odd to some, I completely understand. I have personal experience in that area, and I wouldn’t give up my view of my trees and plants for anything!
And don’t underestimate the importance of trees right where you live. Research has shown that communities with trees attract more visitors and buyers than those without, thus increasing property values.
So, all of this really comes down to my original question: Why wouldn’t you plant trees on your property?
For tips and gardening ideas concerning trees (and a variety of other plants), please visit Jackson & Perkins tree page (link at the beginning of the article) or our sister company, Wayside Gardens.