After this particularly rough winter, I find myself outside and enjoying the sun every chance I get. But heading further into summer, basking in the sun becomes uncomfortable (and unhealthy) after more than a few minutes. Soon the shade of a mature tree is welcome. Whether gardening, hiking, or reading there is an added serenity to the outdoors when you are under the shade of trees.
If you’re looking around your own property and realize there are few, if any, shade trees, or maybe those you have are limited to the borders of the property, I strongly suggest adding a few trees closer to the house. Shade trees provide us with many benefits. Below are a few of the many reasons to plant a shade tree on your property this year:
- Beauty and aesthetics- Trees provide strong structure with soft beauty. Native trees, in particular, define this area through different seasons. Spring buds and flowers, lush summer foliage, brilliant fall color, and architectural interest through the winter. Personally, I love the way shade trees frame a house, putting them in context with the surrounding landscape.
- Energy efficiency in buildings- According to Landscape for Life™, a program by the Sustainable Sites Initiative, homes can see up to a 40% savings on heating and cooling costs by using shade trees along the south and west sides of a home. In the summer months, homes are shaded, reducing cooling costs and in winter months, when the leaves drop, the sun reaches through the branches, warming the home. Shading air conditioning units also helps to reach that potential 40% in energy savings. Even in my little Philadelphia row-home, the Zelkova planted five feet off the south side of my house keeps the temperature so cool that we have yet to use the air conditioning this year! (Source)
- Clean air- It’s no secret that trees take in and sequester carbon dioxide and release fresh oxygen for us to breathe. The bigger the tree, the bigger the benefits!
- Stormwater management- Trees are fantastic at absorbing water through their roots, but trees also help slow and prevent stormwater runoff. Look around after a small rain event- the lawn and pavement under tree canopies isn’t even wet. Foliage coverage from large trees plays a significant role in reducing stormwater runoff. Tree roots then help stabilize the soil, reducing soil erosion. And in the Spring 2014 publication of ‘Save the Bay’, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says that “planting trees along streams is one of the least expensive ways to improve local farms and water quality”.
- Habitat– Of course trees provide habitat for birds, squirrels, and chipmunks, but have you ever thought about the habitat trees provide for our local insects? A well-known study conducted by Dr. Doug Tallamy, an entomologist with the University of Delaware, indicates that Oaks support more than 500 species of caterpillars, which in turn feed our bird populations. Rounding out the top five positions are species of Cherries, Willows, Birches, and Poplars. Plant these shade tree species and you’re sure to attract birds as well! Additionally, if you have a shade tree close to your home, you can watch the wildlife from a second story window.
- Natural screens– Shade trees, in combination with fences and shrubs, can provide excellent tall screens on properties with little land. The narrow trunk takes up little space, allowing kids, pets, and adults alike to enjoy the yard below, while tall canopies screen second story windows. This is my preferred method of screening versus a boring row of Arborvitae.
- Protect driveways and streets from degradation- Shading asphalt not only creates a more comfortable place to walk and park, but according to the Center for Urban Forest Research, shaded asphalt degrades slower than sun-exposed asphalt since the temperature of the asphalt stays cooler, resulting in cost savings for the owner of the asphalt path. (Source)
- Increase property value– Not only will shade trees make your home a more enjoyable place to live, it will also make it more attractive to others. ArborDay.org cites that homes valued at $250,000 and up surrounded by mature trees have a ‘strong to moderate’ salability as perceived by 98% of realtors. Cited on the same page, mature trees can also have an individual appraisal of $1,000 to $10,000. (Source)
I could go on and on, but I have a feeling we all have our own reasons for loving shade trees. Tell us some of your favorite benefits of shade trees on Facebook and then find a place to plant one this year!