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Another blog on trees? That’s right people! You can never have enough information about trees.

Earlier this month, I took the Tree Stewards training which is a joint program of Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC) and Holden Arboretum. The program is two in-class sessions and then two outside sessions. The in-class session covered the Cleveland Tree Plan, tree biology, urban and community foresty, Ohio tree identification, planting and pruning, tree stress, etc. Our instructors, Colby Sattler from WRLC and Chad Clink from Holden Arboretum, were informative and entertaining. They are quite the dynamic duo when it comes to trees.

While class time was good, there is nothing like getting outside and getting dirty assessing and planting trees. The first outdoor session we assessed trees and were shocked at what we found. These trees had been planted three years ago and a good portion of them were dead. Planted incorrectly – too deep, with the burlap and wire basket still around the root ball. We removed several of the trees and ‘fixed’ the others with the hope that they will survive. By fixing I mean that we dug the tree up and removed the burlap and wire basket. We also exposed the root flare. The root flare is the part of the tree where the trunk of the tree meets the roots (see photo above). This is a crucial part of the tree and needs to be exposed so air can reach it. The roots beyond that need to be in the ground, not around the trunk of the tree. If the root flare is buried by planting the tree too deep or volcano mulching the tree, roots can grow around the base of the tree and choke it.

Take a look around as you go about town, you will find the majority of trees are planted incorrectly – too deep with the mulch volcano’ed up the trunk. This drives me nuts! People pay good money for trees, around $300/tree, only to have them die within a few years. What a waste of time and money. With a little effort and a minimal amount of extra time, you can plant it correctly the first time and add to our tree canopy with a thriving tree that is going to last for years and years. Recently I was at a school in Bay Village and saw brand new trees planted by the entrance to the school. The mulch was volcano’ed up the tree and the landscaper plopped their sign right next to them as if to say – we can waste your money too!

So whose fault is this? Is it on the person hiring the contractor to plant the tree to make sure the contractor knows how to properly plant a tree, or is the fault on the contractor themselves who should know better? It’s a little bit on all of them! What burns me up is the children who walk into school each day past those trees will think that is how you plant a tree. Whether it’s a school, office park, or your own backyard, we must do better by our trees! We must empower ourselves with information and speak out for the trees. Yes, I realize I’m starting to sound like The Lorax here but if more of us did we would have more trees that last. And I don’t think I need to remind people what trees do for us. We all know they provide oxygen. They prevent erosion. They are habitat for many wildlife, pollinators, etc. They shade our houses and reduce our energy bills. The benefits are endless.

So what I’m asking you to do is become a voice for the trees. Take the Tree Stewards class. It’s FREE!! At the very least, go on our facebook site (Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District) and scroll down to April 11th. At the last class, I did a facebook live where I talked about the class and how to properly plant a tree, care for it and help it thrive.

Tree Stewards class is coming up on May 5, 6, 11, and 12. Sign up! Trust me, you will learn a LOT and be endlessly entertained by Colby and Chad. Their love for trees and the work they do is infectious.

Remember Friday, April 29th, is Arbor Day so get out there and plant a tree, hug a tree, be a voice for the trees, and eat some ice cream for the trees. What? You heard me right. On Friday, visit any Mitchell’s Ice Cream location and you will receive a tree seedling (while supplies last and in partnership with WRLC). Customers are encouraged to try one of Mitchell’s tree-inspired treats – Butter Pecan, Geauga Maple Walnut, Toasted Pistachio or Vegan Salted Caramel Pecan.

Please remember that Arbor Day isn't the only day you should care about trees. Just like Earth Day, Arbor Day is EVERY day!

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. "So . . .Catch!" calls the Once-ler. He lets something fall. It's a Truffula seed. It's the last one of all! You're in charge of the last of the Truffula seeds. And Truffula trees are what everyone needs. Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back."
The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

Blog Author: Amy Roskilly, Conservation Education Specialist

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