This article was originally published in the Early Summer 2017 issue of Cottage Life magazine.
Get your shovel ready! We challenge every cottager in Canada to plant a native tree to celebrate our country’s birthday. It’s one small action that will last for generations.
Here’s how to do it:
Choose one (wisely)
“Step outside, and take a look around at what’s growing,” says Katherine Witherspoon, a program manager with Tree Canada. “That’s an indication of what will do well.” You’ll want something native and non-invasive. (Native trees provide habitat and food sources for wildlife.) Got a few species in mind? Hit the books—well, hit the Internet—to investigate any potential disease or pest threats to your top choices. Your goal is to plant a tree that will have the greatest chance of succeeding in today’s climate change-y world. “I would not recommend, for example, planting an ash somewhere where the emerald ash borer is a huge threat,” says Witherspoon.
Location, location, location
Right tree, right place, say the experts. You’ve picked the right tree. The right place is at least two metres from buildings, driveways, septic systems, and overhead structures. Avoid planting in an area with poor drainage or anywhere that might interfere with a future reno; expect a tree’s root system to reach at least as far as its canopy. “And don’t plant a tree where it will block your view when it’s fully grown,” says Robin Hastings, an arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts in Delta, B.C. You’re not getting a hamster. You’re not even digging an outhouse pit. Trees last a long time.
Put that baby in the ground!
Size-wise, you can plant anything from a tiny seedling to a fully grown tree. Don’t plant during weather extremes—the hottest part of summer or right before the cold hits. For a small sapling—what you’ll typically get from a nursery—dig a hole “no deeper than the tree’s pot, but about two or three times as wide,” says Hastings. Plant deep enough so the roots are covered and the tree is snug in the soil (no air pockets).
Find native tree sources for your cottage at Ontario’s greenleafchallenge.ca. Share your story on social media: #GrowItForward.