Yesterday, I had the good fortune to be working in our small woodland on an absolutely perfect spring day. If I would have sat still long enough, I’m convinced I could have watched the redbud at the edge of our yard flower. It had bare branches in the morning and by afternoon gorgeous purple blooms had emerged.
But I had garlic mustard to pull, multiflora rose and honeysuckle bushes to whack, and trees to plant, so I spent most of the day looking down.
Planting ritual. Planting trees is an annual ritual at our house, usually as a result of the tree seedling sale we sponsor at the Holmes SWCD, and many SWCDs across the state sponsor as well. I’ve never been able to resist buying at least one packet through our tree sale.
Friday, April 30, is Arbor Day, which celebrates trees and planting trees. Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District has planted a tree for Arbor Day at a different school in Holmes County since 1989.
We have planted a tree at each school in the county, and are currently starting a second round and will celebrate at Killbuck Elementary School this year. Former board member Dave Woodring has helped with a good many of those plantings and continues to do so.
Every year I’m impressed by how much the students know about trees and their importance. They know that trees give off oxygen, provide homes for wildlife, keep soil in place, and are turned into products that we use every day.
Each student is given a seedling to take home and plant. I’m sure some of the seedlings don’t even make it off the bus, but we have had many people comment to us that their student’s seedling from years ago is now a sizable tree thriving in the backyard.
In recent years, Arbor Day has been overshadowed by Earth Day, which falls on April 22 and seems to have more celebrity star power. In fact, my planner has Administrative Professionals Day and Earth Day noted but not Arbor Day.
But trees are still as important as they were 138 years ago, when Arbor Day was first celebrated.
According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, the beginning of Arbor Day started back in 1854, when a pioneer named J. Sterling Morton moved from Detroit to the Nebraska territory. He and his wife were nature lovers, and quickly planted their homestead to trees and flowers.
Morton was a journalist and soon became editor of Nebraska’s finest newspaper. Given that forum, he spread his enthusiasm for trees and their usefulness in preventing soil erosion and shade from the hot sun. He encouraged individuals and civic organizations to join together to plant trees.
Morton became secretary of the Nebraska Territory, and proposed a tree planting holiday called Arbor Day to the state board of agriculture. That first holiday was April 10, 1872. Prizes were offered to counties and individuals for planting the largest number of trees on that day.
It was estimated that more than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.
Thirteen years later, in 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday in Nebraska and was celebrated on April 22, Morton’s birthday. That was a grand occasion complete with a parade of more than 1,000 people and rousing speeches.
It’s hard to think that planting trees could create that much excitement, but we have to remember it was before technology made the outdoors boring.
It’s also telling that one of the earliest holidays celebrated trees, before there was a day of recognition for everything conceivable like there is now (do an Internet search for “awareness days” to see what I’m talking about).
In Ohio, 87 percent of forests are privately owned, so how individuals manage these renewable resources has a huge impact on our environment. Landowners like you make the difference.
Many SWCDs in the state are actively involved in woodland management and timber harvest plans. At a minimum, SWCDs can steer you in the right direction if you have questions about planting trees, managing woodland, or conservation in your backyard.
As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.