This article was originally published in the Early Summer 2017 issue of Cottage Life magazine.
Planting a tree is one small action that will last for generations. If you’re thinking of planting one this spring or summer, here’s what you need to know. We’ve also included the 12 trees of Canada.
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 boreris 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).
Meet the 12 trees of Canada:
Western red cedar, B.C.
This tree grows all along the West Coast, is vital to Aboriginal life and culture, and is considered one of the most valuable species in B.C. “Tree of life”? Absolutely.
Lodgepole pine, Alberta
The most abundant tree in the Rockies, it was used to make railway ties for tracks connecting the province to the rest of Canada. Aboriginal peoples use this pine for lodges.
White birch, Saskatchewan
It grows across most of the province. Its bark — pliable, chalky white, and paper-like — was used in canoe-making, hence the alternative names“paper birch” and “canoe birch.”
White spruce, Manitoba
The species can survive in almost any climatic and environmental area of the province. Roots were once used in canoe-making; now its wood is used commercially for paddles.
Eastern white pine, Ontario
Eastern white pine is the tallest tree in the province and, in colonial times, was used to make masts for the British Royal Navy ships. It was also good for coffins. (Morbid!)
Yellow birch, Quebec
Abundant in the southern region, it plays a key role in the furniture industry. Yellow birch can be tapped for syrup, and its wood is used for everything from doors to toothpicks.
Balsam fir, New Brunswick
Short-lived, the species is vital to the pulp and paper industry, grows in a wide variety of conditions, and makes up 97 per cent of the province’s Christmas tree trade.
Red spruce, Nova Scotia
Red spruce was used in shipbuilding; pioneers steeped the twigs in water to cure scurvy. The tree represents “strength and versatility,” says the official proclamation.
Red oak, P.E.I.
The species was nearly milled out of existence on the island because the wood was so popular with furniture makers. Now, red oaks are found mostly in patches across the province.
Black spruce, Newfoundland & Labrador
Black spruce is the most common tree in the province, appears on the Labrador flag, and is a top tree in the pulp and paper industry.
Subalpine fir, Yukon
It’s a hardy one, with short, stiff branches that stand up to snow loads. First Nations use its needles to make tea as a cold remedy and have treated lung problems with its sap.
Heavy and decay-resistant, tamarack wood is turned into everything from posts and poles to dogsled runners and boat ribs. Unlike most conifers, tamarack loses its needles in the fall.