For most soil and water conservation districts throughout the U.S., especially here in Ohio, the highlight of a winter newsletter or January update is the spring tree sale.
While I can’t speak for all, most of us look forward to this event: connecting with friends we don’t see during crop planting season, hope that spring is on its way and picking out what new tree species might interest our audience and support conservation in our county. I’m slightly biased, working for a soil and water conservation district and being the son of a forester, but I have just as much fun picking out trees as I do flowers and plants for the annual beds in the spring.
When it comes to trees for conservation there are so many benefits. I’ll only touch on a few, but you could come up with many more, find one that piques your interest and dive deeper.
One of our first and foremost concerns is keeping soil where it is and managing as much water as possible. Trees do both. Broad, deep root systems hold on to soil. Through years of growth the roots are also supplemented by the falling leaves and a hearty soil biome, developing a deep forest soil. Not only do forest soils enrich the plants and animals but are a fantastic sponge for our ever-changing rainfall.
On top of the basic soil and water conservation aspects, many other creatures benefit from a diversity of trees and shrubs. I am a deer and turkey hunter, so these are two easy targets when looking at wildlife benefits, but let’s not forget the other birds, mammals and insects that thrive in around and under trees. With different species of trees, you can play to one species of your favorite wildlife or go like I tend to and build in some diversity.
With a diverse woodlot (or backyard) we are also supporting many pollinator species as well. Not every tree has beautiful ornamental blooms, but just about every tree flowers. Walk under a large oak early in the spring and sit to just enjoy the “buzz” above. Trees provide an early source of food for a huge variety of pollinators, filling the gap between warm spring days and summer’s annual flowers. Whether it is a beautiful spring redbud, dogwood or tulip polar, oaks a plenty or the sweet smell of locust flowers, trees are that early flower garden.
Let’s not forget timber. I get to work a county with a significant timber, logging and woodworking economic base, so oak, walnut, maple and poplar are not uncommon trees for conversation. But if you are looking to plant for timber, remember this is a long game. Not for you so much as your children or grandchildren. It is a fantastic asset to pass forward but too takes planning. Benefiting many along the way.
There are a host of fantastic resources out there to figure out what the “right” tree is for you and your situation; state foresters, extension agents, nurseries and let’s not forget you soil and water conservation district.
Check out the available information before you order. Maybe even do some soil testing. Not every tree will grow in every site but consider a diverse planting if you want to achieve multiple goals.
We all encourage you to take a few minutes, check out your local tree sales, and consider what you might want to achieve with some trees.
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