Shade Trees: The Unsung Heroes of Native Gardening

Perennials are the stars of most gardens, and no wonder! They provide a variety of shapes and colors throughout the spring, summer, and fall while also supporting essential native wildlife. But what about trees? Specifically, large shade trees, which are often overlooked in favor of small, brightly-colored perennials. Shade trees, however, are the unsung heroes of backyard gardens. The benefits of shade trees cannot be overstated – keep reading to see why you should plant a tree in your yard this fall season!

Ecological Benefits

  • Trees are a primary tool in the fight against climate change. One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide.
  • Large trees provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, supplying essential food sources and shelter. Even older and decaying trees provide an important role: cavities are used by cavity-dwelling birds and mammals, and fallen limbs and leaves fertilize the soil.
  • Many tree species (including Oak, Cherry, Plum, Birch, and Maple) are Keystone Species, meaning they are host plants to enormous numbers of Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth caterpillars) which in turn provide food for birds and mammals. These Keystone Species are the backbone of strong, biodiverse food webs.
  • Trees helps to maintain essential groundwater supplies. They absorb and filter water runoff that is often tainted by excess nutrients and pollutants. Tree roots prevent erosion, stabilizing soil and keeping waterways clean.

Health Benefits

  • Stressed? Go look at some trees! Visual exposure to trees can assist in stress recovery within 5 minutes, reducing both blood pressure and muscle tension.
  • Most of us know that trees produce the oxygen we need to breathe while also absorbing carbon dioxide. But did you know they also improve air quality by absorbing other air pollutants? Urban forests are even credited with reduced asthma rates.

Economic Benefits

  • No one likes paying high energy bills, and shade trees have a natural cooling effect. Trees planted next to homes can reduce cooling costs by up to 12%.
  • Looking to increase the resale value of your home? Plant some trees! Large, established trees in yards can increase your property value up to 10%.

Why Plant Your Tree in Fall?

  • Planting in fall instead of spring gives your tree a whole extra season to grow deep, strong roots before the heat of summer.
  • With cooler nights and increased rainfall, fall is less stressful on young trees.
  • Weeds are also beginning to go dormant in the fall, meaning your tree won’t have to compete with them for resources.
  • It’s more pleasant to plant in the fall! Avoid the heat of late spring and summer by planting your tree in the cooler fall months.

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