Trees offer many benefits to the environment. They filter pollutants, including greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, from the air and produce oxygen for people to breathe. They improve air quality, prevent soil erosion and provide habitats for wildlife. Furthermore, the economic benefits that trees provide to the people that live near them often prove beneficial to the environment as well. For example, because trees shade homes in the summer and provide a windbreak in the winter, homes surrounded by trees use less energy for heating and cooling. Planting trees has long been regarded as an eco-friendly act.
Select a Site
Check with local authorities to ascertain if there are any regulations about where trees may be planted. Some areas require, for example, that trees be planted away from public sidewalks, which their roots may disrupt.
Consider the benefits you hope to gain from your tree when selecting a site. For example, if you want a windbreak in the winter, consider planting on the north side of the house.
Think of your neighbors. A tree that blocks the wind on your north side may block winter sunlight for your neighbor. Some trees drop cones, nuts or fruit that may make a mess of your neighbor's property. Be considerate when choosing a site.
Check for existing features such as power lines or sidewalks that may damage or be damaged by your tree. Many utility companies will cut back trees that interfere with overhead power lines. Tree roots can cause sidewalks to lift and crack, or pedestrians may slip on fallen fruit. Also consider the placement of existing trees and whether they are full-grown, and the impact that your tree's shade may have on existing gardens on your and your neighbors' properties.
Select a Tree
Contact your extension office to learn your hardiness zone, if you do not know it already. You should select only trees that will grow in your region.
Consider your soil type and the growing conditions for your area. Is your soil rocky, sandy or acidic? What are typical seasonal conditions? Are drought, extended rainy seasons or extreme temperatures common? Your local extension office can help you select a tree that will thrive under your conditions.
Address any challenges posed by the site you've chosen when you select your tree. For example, trees with deep root systems don't lift sidewalks the way that trees with shallower roots will. Small, compact trees are less likely to interfere with overhead lines.
Choose a healthy tree. If purchasing a bare root tree, the root systems should be extensive. If you are purchasing a potted tree, the roots should not be bound inside of the pot. Balled and burlapped trees should not have a broken rootball or roots circling at the trunk base. Select a tree with multiple, well-distributed branches, healthy bark and no sign of insect infestation, disease or injury.
Plant Your Tree
Contact your utility company before digging to ensure that you won't strike any utility cables.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the roots of your tree. If you have purchased a bare root tree, construct a mound in the center of the hole and arrange the roots on top of it. If the tree arrives potted or balled and burlapped, gently loosen the roots and place the tree in the hole.
Fill the hole with dirt. Wet the soil to remove air pockets. With soil, build a circular rim around the tree. This will help hold water near to the tree while its root system is developing.
Cover the area at the base of the tree with mulch. This will further help the tree retain water and will slow weed growth.
Care for Your Tree
Water your tree during the first two years whenever the weather is hot and dry. Trees need a couple of years to establish extensive root systems and may dry out if not watered. Water until the soil is damp, not soggy. The Arbor Day Foundation recommends 30 seconds with a garden hose. Keep the area around your tree mulched to help it retain water. After two years, it will be able to survive on its own.
Protect against damage by weather, animals and lawn equipment by using tree wrap or a plastic guard to protect the base of the tree.
Remove any dead leaves or branches. Otherwise, while the tree is young, pruning is not generally needed.
About this Author
First published in 2000, Dawn Walls-Thumma has served as an editor for Bartleby and Antithesis Common literary magazines. Her work has been published academically and in creative journals. Walls-Thumma writes about education, gardening, and sustainable living. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and writing from University of Maryland, and is a graduate student in education at American Public University.