One of the greatest pleasures of spring is watching the budding leaves on the trees.
If you always have wanted to plant a tree in your garden, spring is also the best time of the year to do so. Planting a tree is surprisingly easy. Just find the right spot and start digging. The only thing to keep in mind is that a tree grows and will need ample ‘elbow room’ for the crown and roots to spread.
So why should we plant trees around us? Most people know that trees give us oxygen, but did you know that they also increase our property values and that they are scientifically proven to make us healthier and happier?
Without further ado, here are 10 reasons to plant a tree:
- Trees = life
Trees are an essential part of the planet and critical for our survival as a species. They give us oxygen which is vital, as all living things including the trees themselves, need oxygen. As our urban landscape includes more heat-absorbing highways and buildings, we need trees simply to be able to breathe. Trees help break up these heat-islands and can lower the temperature by 5-10 degrees centigrade by letting out water vapour through their leaves. It might not sound like much, but when the thermometer hits 42 and is still rising, you will be grateful. There has to be a reason why we call it the tree of life.
- Trees help the environment
Trees are renewable, biodegradable and recyclable. They clean the air we breathe by filtrating air particles that get stuck on their leaves and bark. In addition to carbon dioxide, trees absorb poisonous gases such as nitrogen oxides, ammoniac, sulphur dioxide and ozone. A grown tree can absorb over 20 kg of polluted air per year, while at the same time releasing nearly ten times as much in oxygen. By the time a tree is 40 years old, it has rid the atmosphere about one ton of carbon dioxide. If you plant a tree, you lighten your carbon footprint and fight climatic changes. So, when you plant a tree, you do the environment and your local community a favour.
- Trees prevent floods and erosion
Water will always find its way to rivers, ponds and oceans, but trees can prevent floods which can occur when there is extreme rainfall. The crowns of the trees cushion the damaging effects of heavy rain and channel the water into the soil, instead of it just running off. A grown spruce can drain more than 4000 litres of rainwater per year, while the roots trap chemicals and poisons which otherwise would end up in the ground water or the ocean. Simultaneously, the root system holds the soil in place and prevents erosion.
- Trees increase property value
According to research that compare properties with and without trees, the planting of trees and greenery can increase property values by 15-20%. Not a bad investment compared to how little care and maintenance trees really need.
Colourful banana tree in Murcia. Photo © Karethe Linaae
A less known advantage of having a well-manicured and tree-filled garden is that neighbourhoods and properties that are left barren and treeless have higher rates of break-ins. Gardens with trees makes properties appear lived-in and less tempting targets for thieves.
When it comes to commercial properties, research show that trees bring more business to commercial areas. A tree-lined avenue will also slow down traffic, which is good for both the merchants and the environment.
- Trees make homes more comfortable, energy saving and beautiful
When we plant a tree, it can function as a wind break, while at the same time offering shade to humans and animals. A few well-placed trees around your property (especially evergreens) can save homeowners up to 25% on energy consumption, by reducing both air-conditioning in summer and heating needs in winter.
Trees can also be a buffer against sound pollution, especially if you live near an airport or a noisy freeway. Furthermore, trees can help save water, as their shade slows down the water evaporation from lawns. Finally, trees can protect us from the sun by reducing UV-B exposure by as much as 50 %. This is good to keep in mind when planning schoolyards and other areas where kids play outside.
And let us not forget the trees aesthetical value. Trees visually mark the passing of time. Deciduous trees offer us a constantly changing beauty, from spring green buds to their colourful fall attire.
- Trees give us food, medicine, protection and employment
Everybody knows that trees produce food. A single apple tree on a tiny garden plot can give 3-400 kgs of apples per year. Spain has an endless variety of fruit producing trees: olives, citrus, pears, plums, apricots, quince, pomegranate, avocado, nuts and tropical fruits. Trees also provide food for animals, birds, bees and other insects. Small rodents can find shelter and some have their homes in trees, just like those that have offered humanity protection throughout the ages.
On addition, trees provide medicine. The medical ingredient in aspirin originated in the bark of the willow tree, and the first malaria medicine, quinine, came from a South American tree called Chinchona. While many traditional medicines have been replaced by synthetic varieties, trees are still an irreplaceable source in developing what we call modern medicine.
Finally, somebody has to pick the fruit, remove the cork-bark, and prune and care for the trees, so they also provide considerable employment. Many may regard the forestry industry as passé, but trees can also represent new economic and professional opportunities for youth who are interested in innovative and ‘green’ professions.
- Trees make us healthier
Trees are excellent for our mental and physical health. Simply seeing trees can improve our mood and reduce fear and depression. Landscapes with trees lower our pulse, reduce our sensations of stress and help us relax. Trees planted near hospitals and other health institutions are proven to help patients with their healing process. Not only to they get better sooner, but also can lead to less complications. Children diagnosed with ADHD have fewer symptoms if they have access to trees and nature. Other studies show that students in classes that are surrounded by trees and greenery concentrate better in class. So, plan a tree and get healthier!
- Trees make us happier
Who needs TV? Hang a bird feeder in a tree near your home and you will have a free birdsong concert all year long. Or lay down in your hammock and let yourself be entertained by all the small critters and insects that spurt or fly to and fro and up and down the tree trunk.
Looking at trees make us happy – just think about how good it feels to go for a walk in the forest! People are more productive if they see trees on their way to work or from their office window. Trees create visually calming green areas. They can cover unsightly walls, hide parking lots, and cover industrial developments and highways.
Close your eyes and breathe in the aroma of a flowering lilac or orange tree. Talk about olfactory therapy! So, plant a tree and it will give you endless joy!
9. Trees are history
From the Viking’s Yggdrasil, to Gallic and Greek tree-gods – trees have represented divine powers throughout history. Many thought that the souls of their ancestors lived in trees. Most civilizations considered trees as sacred or magical, and some still have a special meaning, like the Guernica tree in Northern Spain. A tree can be a landmark with special historical, religious or mythical significance. They are important in all cultures. Lebanon has a tree in their country flag, while universities, football teams and national parks all over the world chose to use a tree as their symbol.
Trees can feature in our most vivid childhood memories. We recall the first time we climbed to the top of a tree, fond a nest, fell down, or cut our initials into the bark. Trees can house our memories.
- Trees are the future
Trees can live for several centuries, hence planting a tree is an investment in the future. A tree can be a measure of time, not only because it has growth rings, but because we ourselves age with the trees we surround ourselves with. If we plan a tree in the memory of someone, we will always have a visual reminder of them. It might start out as a tiny Charlie Brown-like twig, but when we no longer here, the tree will still remain to bring joy to and create memories for future generations.