The last few days of frigid temperatures and snow can make us feel like winter’s hold on Denver will never ease. Yet, here we are, less than a month from Daylight Savings Time and just over a month until the Spring Equinox. As spring arrives, we have an opportunity to do something truly transformational. We can plant a tree. You may be wondering why planting a tree is transformational. Let’s consider what trees provide to people, the economy, and the environment.
When you plant a tree, you are doing something that is both altruistic and self-serving. Your tree may give you joy, wellbeing, aesthetic beauty, shade, a higher home value, and/or lower heating/cooling bills. But your tree is likely to have much greater positive effects on your neighborhood and community such as lower crime rates, greater economic development, better air quality, lower temperatures in summer, higher water quality, and more wildlife including critical pollinators.
North Denver has heat islands which are areas where the temperatures are warmer than surrounding areas. Because of so much construction to meet the needs of our growing population we’ve paved over many areas. Summer temperatures in these paved sections can be 12 degrees hotter than in neighborhoods with canopies of trees. Denver’s goal is to increase the overall tree canopy from 13% to 20% to help prevent heat related illnesses and deaths, especially among our poorer neighbors. Knowing all this, who wouldn’t want to plant a tree this spring?!
Now that you’re sold on the value of trees, you may be wondering where to start. There are so many species to choose from. How will you know what tree is best for where you want to plant? What will you need to do to care for your new tree? What are proper planting techniques?
Colorado State University offers a lot of resources as part of their forestry program, including this guide to selecting, planting, and caring for trees along the Front Range: https://static.colostate.edu/client-files/csfs/pdfs/trees_for_frontrange.pdf. Local nurseries will also have advice regarding the type of tree that may be right for you.
Once you know what tree you would like, there are programs available in Denver for lower cost trees or free trees to replace your aging tree. The Park People’s Denver Diggs Trees offers low-cost yard trees ($35 per tree due to sponsors of their program) in most North-West Denver neighborhoods. If you are experiencing economic hardship or are located in one of their target neighborhoods, you may be able to get a free or $10 tree. North Denver communities like Chaffee Park, Clayton, Cole, East Colfax, Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, Five Points, Green Valley Ranch, Jefferson Park, Montbello, Northeast Park Hill, Skyland, West Colfax and Whittier may qualify for the less expensive rate.
To learn more and apply visit: https://theparkpeople.org/What-We-Do/Denver-Digs-Trees/Apply-for-Trees. Do it soon as their tree distribution is scheduled for April. If you have an Ash tree that needs to be replaced, you may be eligible for a free tree replacement at: https://beasmartash.org/what-can-i-do/apply-for-a-tree/
Now it’s time to plant your tree. Most nurseries will give you instructions for how to do this. You can also learn more at: https://theparkpeople.org/What-We-Do/Denver-Digs-Trees/Tree-Planting-Guide
And lastly, consider how best to care for your tree so that it grows healthy and big for years of enjoyment, ecosystem services, and economic benefits. Again, The Park People provide important guidance at: https://theparkpeople.org/What-We-Do/Denver-Digs-Trees/Tree-Care-Guide
While this may seem like a lot to take in, it is actually relatively easy and there are lots of people to help you along the way. The investment you make this Spring by planting a tree will return 10-fold over the next few years and more so as your tree matures. You will have done something transformational for yourself and your community. If you need another reason, you can also dedicate your tree to someone special in your life as a way to honor or memorialize them.
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