Arbor Day 2018 – Join Millions of Tree Enthusiasts

You can contribute to Earth’s beauty, clean air, and clean water by planting a tree.

I love planting trees because they are beautiful and unique—like people. On Arbor Day, have fun and do something worthwhile by planting a tree.

Arbor Day is in its 146th year demonstrating that Julius Sterling Morton’s annual tree planting day idea is ageless and calls us to action just as effectively today as it did on April 10, 1872. On the first Arbor Day, over a million trees were planted in Nebraska and a new tradition began that now encompasses the world.

If you are interested in reading about the history of Arbor Day, the Arbor Day Foundation, or how the oak became the United States national tree, you may enjoy Arbor Day 2013 – Plant a Tree. If you are looking for information about why trees are important, consider reading Arbor Day 2017 – Hug a Tree, Plant a Tree.

Why is Arbor Day a Good Day to Plant a Tree?

The sheer number of organizations hosting tree-planting events on or near Arbor Day makes it easy for you to get involved. Enter the name of your town or county and “Arbor Day” into an Internet search window and then select an activity that appeals to you from the list of results.

In many cases, all you need to do is show up or sign up and then show up. Groups looking for volunteer tree planters will usually provide the trees, tools, and at least one person to direct the work. They may also offer food and entertainment for after the work is done. Arbor Day tree planting activities are a great way to get outside with your family and friends and do something that is good for people and the planet.

Tree-planting projects can be small or large. Perhaps your children’s school is planting trees for shade around the lunch area. Maybe your apartment complex has an area perfect for a lemon tree (get permission from the landlord). A local park may be looking for people to help plant trees to beautify and cool the park. A community that has suffered a fire or flood would probably appreciate extra hands to help replant areas where the trees have been lost. State and national parks are often seeking volunteers to help replace trees that have died from fire, drought, or disease.

Another option, if you have a yard, is to focus your energies on planting trees at home. That is what I do.

Planting, Growing and Protecting Trees at Home

We moved from Southern California to the Central Coast ten years ago. Our yard is mostly wild and receives a lot of furry and winged visitors. About five years ago, my spouse and I began a land restoration project around our home with the mission to encourage native plants and trees, discourage invasive plants, and rebuild the soil’s health so it can retain moisture, prevent erosion, and provide nutrients for the plants and trees.

Planting and protecting trees is an important part of our informal and ever-shifting master plan. Flexibility is key in our yard because many trees and plants volunteer to grow wherever their seeds land. For instance, we leave Monterey pine and oak seedlings and carefully weed whack around them in the dry season. However, brooms and thistles are dug out and put in the green waste bin because if left to their own devices they will take over.

We plant most of our trees either in April around Arbor Day or in December as part of our buy one, plant two Christmas tree tradition. Here are a few tree stories.

Avocado Tree

We planted our first avocado tree seedling sometime in 2012. My avocado loving spouse had grown the seedling from a pit from an avocado we bought at the farmers market. Unsure as to whether deer would eat it or not, we planted it in the small fenced-in area behind our house (a former occupant probably had a dog). In the early days, we periodically hiked up the hill with a watering can to give it a drink. It grew slowly.

In 2013, for Arbor Day we planted a second seedling grown from another farmers market avocado pit. Unfortunately, I had unknowingly selected a location near a vole tunneling project and they dug it up. It could not be revived.

My spouse grew another avocado seedling that we planted in a different location for Arbor Day 2014. About the same time, the first avocado tree received an unwanted haircut from a deer. I recounted this incident in my 2014 Arbor Day post. We hand watered the now shorter tiny tree and the new seedling and weeded around them but the seedling did not make it.

Undaunted my spouse grew a fourth avocado seedling and we planted it in the fenced area where it seemed happy but then dried up and died.

You may be thinking this is not the most inspirational tree planting story but it does have a happy ending. The picture above on the right shows the original avocado seedling now as a small tree. Plus it has been joined by three acorns that volunteered to become oak trees. They all made it through the worst of the drought with occasional watering and seem to be working out how to coexist.

Oak Trees

Oak trees grow among Monterey pine trees in the forest and in our yard. I knew oak trees grew slowly but it seemed like the oak trees in our yard were growing substantially slower than a snail’s pace. The oak tree leaves are leathery with pointy spiked edges so we did not think the deer were eating them and we had never seen deer eating leaves on the trees. The trees did not seem to be diseased so we were puzzled.

Until one day in 2013, I was looking out our home office window and noticed a deer munching on one of the oak trees. Aha, deer do eat oak leaves. We had just never caught them at it.

There are mature oaks trees in our neighborhood and of course, in the forest so clearly if an oak tree can get through adolescence to adulthood it can hold its own with the deer.

Fencing in a few oak trees seemed like a good idea. We bought some 4-foot tall wire fencing and posts at the hardware store, then selected five oak trees in different locations around the yard. My spouse reported that hammering the posts into the ground was excellent upper body exercise. I helped with putting the fencing around the posts and closing it with small pieces of wire (we have to open them each year during weed whacking).

To us, the results were miraculous. Protected from grazing deer the trees grew taller and fuller each year.

In the left photo above, you will see part of Monterey pine tree that died later during the drought. The right photo shows a Monterey pine seedling volunteering near the old tree’s stump.

In 2017, we decided to expand our oak tree protection project by enclosing ten more trees, some less than 12” tall. Several of the original trees had outgrown their circular fencing so we expanded it.

California Buckeye and Islay Cherry Trees

I am trying to learn about native plants and trees so last year we joined the San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and this year we joined the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden. Being surrounded by botanists and native plant gardeners is both daunting and inspiring (I wish I had taken Latin in college).

For Arbor Day 2018, we decided to visit the botanical garden spring plant sale to look for a native tree or two to plant in our yard. I choose a California buckeye tree seedling that is about 24” tall and my spouse opted for a 6” tall Islay cherry tree seedling.

We planted the deer resistant California buckeye seedling in between two protected oak trees and near a tiny coast redwood tree. I am hoping this fast-growing tree will grow quickly and perhaps provide a little shade for the struggling coast redwood I planted two years ago in a spot that is probably too sunny for it.

The Islay cherry seedling found a home next to the stump of a Monterey pine tree that had beautified the area for many decades but died. We hope the old root system will help the Islay cherry with water retention and that it will be company for the Monterey pine seedling growing nearby.

I do not know how long it will take the tree seedlings we have planted to reach maturity or how many years it will take the protected oak trees to grow above deer nibbling height. We may not be living here by then. It does not matter to me because planting and caring for trees is something you do for yourself and the people who come after you.

I hope you will join me and other Arbor Day fans by planting a tree in your yard, participating in a local tree-planting project, or donating a tree for someone else to plant.

Featured Image at Top: Boy sitting beneath a Big Linden Tree Reading a Book – Photo Credit iStock/Solovyova

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Arbor Day 2014 – Plant a Tree in Your Yard

In honor of the 142nd Arbor Day, let’s celebrate trees and plant one. Last year I planted an avocado seedling, we’d grown from a pit, in our yard. Unfortunately, it had a mishap so I’m trying again this year.

Beautiful, Big Chestnut Tree

Trees are beautiful in their own right and good for the environment and people. Tree leaves and needles absorb carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen. They store carbon in their branches and trunks. Roots anchor and feed trees, help the soil retain moisture and prevent erosion. Trees provide shade, food, flowers, wood, and habitat for plants and animals.

Arbor Day Background

Nearly a million trees were planted the first Arbor Day held in Nebraska on April 10, 1872. Julius Sterling Morton, a member of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, who later became the 3rd U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, proposed Arbor Day as a tree-planting holiday to encourage planting trees for their beauty and utility.

Arbor Day spread from Nebraska to other states which adopted their own dates and traditions. At some point, the last Friday in April was settled on for national Arbor Day.

10 Facts about Avocados

  1. Avocados are fruits.
  2. California produces approximately 90% of the U.S. avocado crop.
  3. Avocados ripen about 7 to 10 days after being picked.
  4. About 43% of U.S. households buy avocados.
  5. A mail carrier and horticulturist, Rudolph Hass, created the Hass avocado in 1926.
  6. An avocado tree can grow to a height of over 60 feet.
  7. Avocados are also called alligator pears due to their shape and green bumpy skin.
  8. At about 250 calories each, avocados are chock full of healthy monounsaturated fats, nutrients, and antioxidants.
  9. On average, a single avocado tree produces 150 avocados each year.
  10. Storing part of a leftover avocado with its pit in the fridge will help it stay green and fresh longer.

Growing an Avocado Tree from a Pit

Avocado Pit Growing Root and Seedling in Glass Jar Filled with WaterThe year before last, my spouse, an avocado eating fan, decided to attempt growing an avocado tree from a pit.

The avocado pit was stuck with toothpicks and perched on the rim of a glass jar filled with enough water to slightly submerge the flat end of the pit. The jar was placed on the counter in our kitchen’s sunny bay window next to the dish drainer that never seems to get put away.

After the pit cracked opened several weeks later, it was fun to see first the root and then a tiny sprout being to grow.

When the seedling was about six inches tall, we planted it in our yard inside a chain link fence area installed by a former owner. We live in a forest where deer and other critters roam freely so if you want to grow anything from a rosebush to an avocado tree; it must be within an enclosure.

The little avocado tree grew at a snail’s pace. We occasionally watered it by hand and kept the weeds at bay. After a year and a half or so, it was about 24 inches tall. We were well on our way to making guacamole from our own avocados in ten to fifteen years. Until a few weeks ago, when we accidentally left the fence gate open.

Tiny Avocado Tree in Author's BackyardIn the morning my spouse saw a young doe grazing inside the fenced area and noticed the open gate. The deer was just eating weeds but we decided to close the gate later that day. The next morning, the deer was back, this time having jumped over the fence. She was serenely munching off the top leaves of the tiny avocado tree. That did it. My spouse went outside which startled the deer and she jumped back over the fence.

We’ve seen her since then but not inside the fence. Whew! The avocado tree looks like it will survive the unexpected haircut.

Arbor Day Avocado Tree Seedling Planting – Round One

My spouse thought we should have at least two avocado trees to ensure the avocado flowers would be pollinated and grow avocados. So we grew another seedling to join it’s slightly larger cousin already growing in the yard.

On Arbor Day last year, I carefully selected a location within the chain link fence, not to close to the composters, and about 15 feet from the other tiny avocado tree and the huge Monterey pine tree already occupying the area. I dug a hole, placed the seedling in it, piled the dirt back in, and gave the seedling a drink. I checked on it daily. All went well for about a week.

One afternoon, after emptying the compost pail into the composter I glanced over at the little seedling. It had been dug up and was lying on its side shriveled up. I walked over to investigate. Apparently, I had planted the seedling in the middle of a vole underground highway project intersection. When the tunneling voles reached the tree pit, they viewed it as a construction impediment, dug it up, and pushed it aside.

I tried to revive the seedling by planting it in a new location, but it didn’t make it.

Arbor Day Avocado Tree Seedling Planting – Round Two

Newly Planted Avocado Seedling in Author's BackyardNot deterred, my spouse grew another avocado seedling from a pit. It’s been in a water filled jar for several months and we keep saying we need to plant it but haven’t done so. As Arbor Day approached, I decided it presented an ideal opportunity to not only plant the seedling but redeem my Arbor Day disaster from last year.

The voles have relocated to another part of the yard so I planted the avocado seedling in a similar area to last year. Perhaps in a decade or so our two little avocado trees will grow up and bear fruit. That is if the voles don’t move back in and we remember to keep the fence gate closed.

Call to Action – Plant Your Own Tree

For Arbor Day select a seedling, sapling, or grown tree and plant it in your yard. Don’t have a yard of your own? Help plant a tree at your apartment complex, local school, or a neighborhood park.

“Arbor Day is not like other holidays. Each of those reposes on the past, while Arbor Day proposes for the future.” —Julius Sterling Morton

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