Happy Arbor Day

My dad with an 150-year-old European beech at Lawnfield, the home of President Garfield in Mentor, Ohio.

Honoring The Giving Trees

By Debra Knapke

In her March 27th post, Teresa offered a wonderful selection of books for children.  One was The Giving Tree. Shel Silverstein’s story is simple: a tree gives her all to the one she loves.

We annually celebrate trees on Arbor Day; the last Friday in April. The Arbor Day Foundation is the caretaker of this event, and it has announced a bold and wonderful initiative called Time for Trees. In four years’ time the Arbor Day Foundation intends to “Plant 100 million trees in forests and communities around the globe. Inspire 5 million tree planters to help carry the mission forward.” This timing coincides with the 150th anniversary of the first Arbor Day.

But we don’t always value our trees and sometimes, incautious decisions are made.

In a community where generations have loved and worked with nature there are those who do not fully understand the consequences of removing trees. Several weeks ago in Mansfield, Ohio, the Richland County Commissioners stated that the ten tuliptrees and one pin oak that have graced the front of the Richland County Administration building for decades were hazards, allowed birds to roost, and were in the way of a the installation of a new monument.

They were removed. There are plans to replace the trees. It will take years for the new trees to mature, but it is heartening to know that trees will come back to frame the municipal building.

Mansfield Municipal Building with the tulip trees and pin oak

In honor of trees, I offer this short ode:

The Giving Tree – a short list of the reasons we owe trees our love and respect

Trees shelter us; they are nature’s sunscreen.

Trees cool us: three trees correctly placed around a house can lower utility bills up to 20%.

Trees draw pollution out of the air: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter released by the burning of fossil fuels.

Tree roots, and the soil systems that surround them, purify water.

Trees provide storm water control by slowing water and diverting wind; thereby slowing erosion.

Trees store carbon; lots of carbon.

Trees – and all plants – perform photosynthesis where they combine, water, sunlight and carbon and make sugar. Without this amazing process, life would not exist as we know it.

Trees offer food to all life: while they are living, bark, branches, roots, leaves, fruit, and seeds feed bacteria, fungi, insects, birds, mammals… us. When trees fall and go back to the Earth, they nurse new communities of life.

When trees are numerous in a community, mental health is increased and crime is reduced.

The older the tree, the bigger its diameter and canopy, the more a tree gives to us and others. Young ones – just as with animals – reach maturity slowly and offer these benefits at a much lower degree.

Trees are beautiful… awe-inspiring.

May you be blessed with trees in your lives.

Illustration from Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

Spring Garden Chores

Plan Your Work And Play For Spring

Spring usually goes from: “It’s never, never, never going to arrive” to “I’m weeks behind schedule” in 17 nano seconds or less. Gardeners are body-slammed from the tedium of winter house arrest into a frantic, aching rush tackling endless chores.  

But don’t panic. We are here to help with suggestions based on our experience of tasks that are best done sooner than later. One of the first things you should decide is what to-dos can wait for later in the season. Pick your battles wisely. For instance, if it’s too wet, cold or the schedule too packed, skip some of those early vegetables and plant them in late summer for fall harvest. Here are other ideas.

Michael’s suggestions 

  • Take photos of borders and beds to see what areas need filling when bulb planting time arrives. Memories fade almost as quickly as the snowdrops and hyacinths.
  • Apply weed preventer to reduce tedious work in pavements, beds and borders. Organic and nonorganic products are available, but nothing is 100 percent effective. Unless arctic conditions are expected to persist for weeks, I  start in late winter with the brick patio and walk. These face south and warm quickly. The gravel drive is next and then beds and borders. Following label instructions, apply just before rain and save watering the products in. Record-setting precip last year — much in the form of gulley-washing downpours — mean more frequent treatment. (Caveat – preventers don’t distinguish between desired self-sown flowers and weed seeds.)
  • Drop everything and schedule an escape to a nearby state park, botanic garden or stretch of lovely country driving. Spend a few hours or better a day  savoring the joy of spring fever. What a waste of time, you’re probably thinking. If poet William Wordsworth had spent that fateful spring day planting potatoes and cabbages instead of “wandering lonely as a cloud” among the “host of golden daffodils, all he would have had was a crossed-off to-do list. Instead, we have his timeless ode to spring and some of it glorious flowers. Your spirit needs lifted just as much as his. Hit the road.

Debra’s suggestions:

  • Now is the time to weed. Spring rains soften the soil which allows annual and perennial weeds to be removed; roots and all. Weeding can be a morning meditative practice. It is also an opportunity to roam your gardens with a cup of tea in one hand and a weed bucket in the other. Just make sure the weeds go into the bucket and not your tea.
  • Start your seeds for melons, squash, kohlrabi, and cabbages inside. Direct seed into the garden crops that like cooler soils: peas, lettuces, mesclun mixes, tatsoi, mizuna, kale, collards, dill, and cilantro. Transplant the tomato and chili seedlings that you started in early March into larger pots.
  • Visit the garden center to shop for cold-loving herbaceous plants like pansies and violas, primroses, and snapdragons.  These spring beauties add early color to borders and containers.  Even try mixing them with edibles like lettuce and kale for your spring containers.  Cuttings of willow and yellow-twig dogwood add further interest.
  • Watch for the early ground bees. Their small burrows are easy to step on and crush
  • Sit for a moment or three and marvel at the life that is emerging from the ground. And remember to breathe…

Teresa’s suggestions

  • Rework tired beds.  On a cool overcast day, dig everything from the bed and place the plants on a tarp in the shade.  Divide overgrown plants, toss unhealthy ones, move some to other beds or give others away. Work compost into the bed then replant the existing plants and add others as needed.
  • Edge beds while the ground is soft.  A clean edge adds definition to borders and helps control weeds. See Michael’s post on edging.
  • Prune dead, damaged and diseased branches from shrubs. After spring-flowering shrubs bloom, they can be pruned for size and shape. Also, remove suckers from crabapples and the base of trees like magnolias.
  • Remove invasive plants from natural areas, perhaps a wooded area at the back of your property.  Look for bush honeysuckle, garlic mustard, multi-flora rose, lesser celandine and autumn olive – all aggressive plants that crowd out other valuable plants and wildflowers. For tips, see http://ohiodnr.gov/invasiveplants or join an invasive plant volunteer work day at a local park.

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