"Each generation takes the earth as trustees" - J. Sterling Morton
Arbor Day is almost here. This year, it falls on April 29th. If you’re as excited as we are here at Joshua Tree, you can visit Arbor Day’s official website and follow the official countdown…
Or, just mark it on your calendar and make it a point to take some deep breaths of fresh air, and give thanks to the gorgeous trees who play a large role in making those oxygenated inhalations possible. A world without trees would be no world at all – or at least no “world as we know it.”
Give Arbor Day More Than Just a Passing Thought
Did you know Arbor Day was started by a single individual? A man named J. Sterling Morton understood the value of trees and had an abiding appreciation of what they meant to our environment – not to mention the quality of life for we humans.
After moving from tree-rich Michigan to the virtually tree-less plains of Nebraska, Mr. Morton and his wife wasted no time planting their property with trees, shrubs and flowering plants.
Not only did the Morton family appreciate the beauty of mature shade trees, they also understood the trees’ value to the land– especially in an agricultural region of the nation. J.Sterling Morton was in awe of all that trees contributed, including:
- Cool shade
- Wind buffering
- Soil stabilizing
- Natural mulch in the form of wood chips and fallen leaves
As a journalist, he had the opportunity to spread both his knowledge, as well as his enthusiasm, to his fellow, pioneering settlers.
Eventually, Morton decided trees were worth honoring in the form of a recognized holiday. The first Arbor Day was celebrated on April 10, 1872. Among other things, the first Arbor Day was a competition, with prizes and awards given to individuals and counties that planted the most trees. When all was said and done, historians estimate that dedicated Nebraskans planted as many as one-million trees that day!
Throughout the 1870s, multiple states followed suit and set aside specific dates to legally honor Arbor Day. By the 1880s, the tradition was also a popular one in the schools.
Celebrate Arbor Day at Local Bethlehem Area Schools
This school-day tradition continues into the 21st century. On the last Friday in April (the most common day set aside as Arbor Day in the U.S.) you’ll find many a school child working on tree-oriented craft projects and planting new trees on their campuses.
In fact, the Joshua Tree team will be hosting an Arbor Day event at a local Bethlehem, PA school this year. It has become one of our favorite annual traditions. First, we talk to the students about the importance and benefits of the trees that surround us in our community. Then, we figure that as long as we’re there, we might as well engage in a bit of tree climbing with the students (safety first, of course!). As you can imagine, this is always one of the highlights for the students.
If you’re feeling inspired, or want to honor the importance of trees in your life, why not head down to your local nursery and pick out a tree to plant at home. Celebrate the end of a beautiful spring day by gathering your family together, and plant a lasting Arbor Day reminder. Maybe you can bury a family time capsule to make the event even more special – with a designated open date of 2036 or whatever interim makes the most sense for your family.
Tips For Planting an Arbor Day Tree
Use the following tree planting tips to give your tree the best chance of growing healthy and strong.
- Use the tree’s label description, including the final height/canopy width, to pick a spot that best suits its needs. Consider access to sun, water drainage, and its proximity to utility lines, your roof top, the neighbor's roof top, fences and outbuildings, etc.
- Lay down a tarp to capture the soil you remove from the ground, which will make it easy to clean things up when you’re done. Now, dig a hole that is 2- to 3-times larger than the tree’s root ball’s circumference, and two-inches shallower than the distance from the tree’s root flare to the bottom of the root ball. Make sure to leave a little loosened soil at the bottom of the hole to make it easier for newly transplanted roots to settle in.
- Place the root ball in the prepared hole and have your family or a friend help you to put the tree’s “best face forward.” Remove the wire basket from the root ball and use a hand cultivar or similar tool to gently free up the soil and roots at the bottom of the ball. Make sure the tree is as upright as possible.
- Add a Superphosphate and 3-4-3 fertilizer into the soil you’ve shoveled on the tarp. Follow the directions on the package so you add the right amount for the tree you’re planting. Mix it up real good and begin shoveling the mixture into the hole. Make sure that you do not cover the root flare.
- Use your shovel and the remaining soil to form a 6-inch curb around the perimeter of the hole. Fill the crater with water and let it completely absorb and pack down a bit. Then, knock the loose curb of dirt onto the surface and smooth it all out.
Finally, use your favorite mulching material (maybe some recent lawn clippings and post-winter leaf debris?) to cover the soil up to about 3-inches, maintaining a nice margin of space between the interior edge of the mulch and the bark/root flare. Water your Arbor Day tree every day for six weeks (unless it rains, of course) and it will begin to thrive.Happy Arbor Day from Joshua Tree. Are you planning to plant a tree this Arbor Day? Post a picture on our Facebook page so we can join in on the fun.