Celebrate Arbor Day by Planting Trees Properly - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Celebrate Arbor Day by Planting Trees Properly

It’s Arbor Day and while trees are important to the environment and landscapes every day, they get some special love and attention today.

“Arbor Day allows us to spend a day recognizing all that trees have to offer to us and our community,” says Don Winsett, vice president of national business development for Davey Tree Expert Company, based in Kent, Ohio.

Why Arbor Day Matters

Arbor Day was first celebrated in 1872 and it is estimated more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.

Bartlett Tree Experts celebrating Arbor Day in 2017 at a school tree planting event.
Photo: Bartlett Tree Experts

Since then, the Arbor Day Foundation has gone on to plant more than 350 million trees in neighborhoods, communities, cities and forests. Trees have many benefits including absorbing carbon dioxide, saving water and cooling spaces.

“For us, it is like a national holiday!” Scott Jamieson, vice president of Bartlett Tree Experts, based in Schaumburg, Illinois. “It is a reminder of how important trees are in our lives. Trees seem to bring people hope and comfort. We really saw this during COVID. Trees give a sense of growth, permanence and the future. Arbor Day celebrates that and calls attention to trees and how they play a role in our lives. Image a world without trees! It would be pretty bleak.”  

Bartlett is also a long-time sponsor/partner with the Arbor Day Foundation.

How Do You Celebrate Arbor Day

There is no one right way to celebrate Arbor Day but common options include simply enjoying time surrounded by trees, planting trees, cleaning up green spaces with trees or learning more about the trees near you.

Last year, Bartlett Tree Experts passed out seedlings to people in their cars.
Photo: Bartlett Tree Experts

Davey celebrates Arbor Day by planting a tree. Typically, they choose a place of importance such as a school, church or park, and use it as a way to educate others on the importance of trees. For Bartlett, each office celebrates differently and works to do something locally in their community.

In a non-COVID year, Bartlett will help plant trees for park districts in cities where their offices are located. They’ll also have a short educational program for students at a school and help them plant a tree as well.

“We also have something called the Bartlett Legacy Tree Program where we give seedlings out at Arbor Day events,” Jamieson says. “We give out the trees throughout the growing season at various events and Arbor Day is a great kickoff for our seedling program. Even in a COVID year, 2020, Bartlett gave out 57,000 trees last year.”

Jamieson says they had to get creative to hand out the seedlings last year and was part of a “parade” where cars drove by and they handed people trees.

“Bartlett has given out over 400,000 trees since we started this program,” Jamieson says. “It is amazing how people love to get trees and go home and plant them.”

Best Tree Selecting and Planting Tips

If you have clients calling asking for advice on how to choose the right tree or how to plant one for today, here are some quick tips to share with them.

Mulch should never be piled around a tree like a volcano.
Photo: Bartlett Tree Experts
  • Right tree, right place. Make sure the tree can grow in the climate zone you live in. Also, make sure the tree will receive the right amount of sun or shade. “Is it prone to insect and disease issues?” Jamieson says. “For example, you would not want to plant an ash tree these days in the Midwest as they have been decimated by emerald ash borer.”   
  • Soil test to know the alkalinity levels won’t stunt the growth of the tree.
  • Don’t plant the tree too deep. “Unfortunately, many trees come out of nurseries ‘too deep in the rootball,’” Jamieson says. “This means that early on the tree’s root collar was buried and continued to be buried during cultivating and harvesting. Often the top layer of soil has to come off a rootball to expose the critical root collar on a young tree. There should be a nice taper where the trunk meets the soil, not a telephone pole look, which often is a sign the root collar is too deep.”
  • Water the tree regularly. Over- or under-watering are common mistakes.
  • Don’t smother the tree with mulch, better known as the infamous mulch volcano. “Mulch piled on the trunk of a young tree can trap moisture and create an environment for insects and diseases,” Jamieson says. “Keep the mulch over the root system but not on the trunk. Make sure you see that root flare, root collar.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.