Celebrate Earth Day - plant some trees!

It seems that the calendar is becoming filled with "Days" – as well as "Weeks" and "Months" – that are designated to celebrate even the most obscure events. But there is one very important event we all need to remember: Earth Day, celebrated on April 22 every year.

Earth Day is the brainchild of Earth Day Network, a nonprofit organization that coordinates activities worldwide. The network is still headed by Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes, organizers of the first Earth Day held in 1970.

>From my point of view (and probably from yours too, since you're reading this column) one of the most important Earth Day activities is known as Global Tree Planting.

According to a report at the Earth Day website – earthday.net – the world has lost almost half of the forests that once covered the earth's surface. In one five-year period (1990-95), the earth was losing forests at a rate equivalent to 33 soccer fields per minute.

Trees, of course, provide us with more than just hardwood floors and the paper upon which your newspaper is printed. The Earth Day website reminds us of the essential role that trees play in all our lives:

Like natural air conditioners, trees rid the air of excess carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen. In fact some mature trees can create enough oxygen in a day to support a family of four.

Tree roots act as water filters for groundwater, trapping pollutants and contaminants.

Trees hold soil in place, preventing soil erosion. Trees also help to prevent flooding, drawing water from the soil and allowing rainwater to soak in more slowly.

Stormwater management in urban and suburban communities is improved by the presence of increased tree canopies.

You can no doubt add to the list with benefits of your own.

How can we do our part to give Mother Earth a helping hand? It might seem like a daunting task if we view it as trying to replenish 33 soccer fields in the space of 60 seconds. But we CAN make a difference.

Regardless of the size of your land, you can add at least one tree. How about ten? Or a hundred? If it seems overwhelming, start with just a small number of trees and take it slowly.

Planting trees really isn't difficult. You need to pick trees that will thrive in the area where you live. (Contact me personally if you're not sure what to plant.)

Pick a suitable location with room for roots and branches to reach full size without impeding structures or overhead wires. Then dig a hole about three times the size of the root ball. (If you're planting bareroot, of course, your hole will be considerably smaller!) Place your tree in the center of the hole, then put a 3 - 6 inch deep "donut" of mulch around the tree but not piled against the trunk. Initially, you'll want to water every week and keep an eye out for insect damage and disease. Different varieties require slightly different treatment and the nursery should give you more specific planting and care instructions. But again, I'm happy to give you my advice if you wish to contact me.

You can find links to the Earth Day website at www.landsteward.org as well as several other links that you should find helpful. Let's make every day an Earth Day and start planting trees!

QUESTION: I saw your column on ground cover and found it very interesting. We recently built a home on 2.5 acres and I am now in the landscaping mode. We have a lot of large oak trees on property that butts up to 800 acres of forest I want to accent the oaks and really make it a showplace. Any suggestions for groundcover, shrubs or plants to go around the oaks? - L.E., Floral City, FL.

ANSWER: I suggest you consider Vinca (trailing periwinkle for planting around the trees, and Ajuga should work well, as both grow quite rapidly and spread out nicely. Avoid ivy anywhere near your oaks as it will climb up the trunks and drain nutrients from the trees! I like the idea of planting beds to connect the trees. Try planting some ferns such as Lady Fern or Maidenhair Fern. You'll enjoy the cool colors that are fresh and snappy. If you missed the groundcover column, it's archived in The Plant Man.