Twelve tips for happy trees

Written by Kat O’Lone

International Day of Forests has been celebrated on March 21 since 2013, which makes it one of the “youngest” international days established by the United Nations. The goal is to raise public and governmental awareness of trees and forests to benefit future generations.

The theme for this year’s celebration is Forest & Health and calls for giving, not just taking. Healthy native trees in abundance create happy people and a more vibrant planet. Forests purify the water, clean the air, capture carbon to fight climate change, provide food and life-saving medicines, and improve our well-being.

But what can we do to safeguard these precious natural resources?

Miss Bonnie and I asked for advice from our local tree and shrub experts at Leaf&Limb. They gave us 12 tips for happy, healthy trees. Here they are:

1. BEFORE you plant a tree, make sure the species is suited to grow in that location and will have enough space (soil and air) to reach its mature size without impediment.

2. When you plant, make sure the root collar, which is the base of the trunk that spreads into roots, is AT or ABOVE the surrounding grade.

3. When pruning, always have a goal in mind. Pruning without one is like building a house with no plan. Good structure is the most important goal because structure is strength.

4. When pruning, always make cuts outside of the branch collar so it can properly “heal”.

5. Use native or near-native tree species when planting, as they are often more disease and drought-resistant and better contributors to the local ecosystem.

6. Avoid piling mulch on the root collar. Doing so creates the so-called “mulch volcano” and can be harmful to the plant.

7. Leave the leaves! Leaf litter is part of a tree’s life cycle. It is nature’s way of recycling essential nutrients to build soil and tree health. Leaf litter also serves as food and protection for many creatures such as moths, bumble bees, toads, birds, and butterflies, to name just a few. Miss Bonnie also uses leaf litter for nesting material, as do other squirrels.

8. Think twice before using traditional chemical fertilizers. These products can give your plants an immediate boost but can be very harmful to your trees, soil, and ecosystem, in the long term.

9. Avoid using pesticides. Any treatment should be targeted to a specific pest and should use the most ecosystem-friendly approach possible.

10. Focus on soil health as it is the foundation for healthy trees and shrubs. If you want to improve the soil, make sure it does not get compacted and has plenty of space for water and air. Each year, add organic matter like leaf compost, mulch, or wood chips. Avoid destroying soil biology and structure with chemicals or by revolving the ground.

11. Let the insects eat too! Some damage to a tree is NORMAL. There is a point when insects go from being a normal part of the ecosystem to being a threat to your plant. This is called a threshold and unless the insect damage has crossed that point, you don’t need to treat it.

12. Lastly, when in doubt about what to do, look at the trees in the forest. How are they growing and thriving? Use your observations to experiment, and have fun!

Huge thanks to Basil Camu and Leaf&Limb treecologists for sharing these great tips for healthy trees.

Did you know the International Day of Forests coincides with other global observances?

March 21 is also World Poetry Day. Poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming simple words and rhythms into powerful tools for dialogue and peace.

World Wood Day is also celebrated on this day. It was established by the International Wood Culture Society to recognize the importance of wood usage in our daily life and to promote harmonious coexistence between people and nature.

March 21 also marks the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere which is traditionally associated with new beginnings and the revival of Nature.

What is happening on March 21 where you live? How will you be celebrating International Day of Forests? Let us know in the comments below.



1 Comment

  1. Anrich Bester

    Nice article, Kat!


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