‘Right Plant, Right Place’ Equals Healthy Trees & Healthier Property Values

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Shade trees are important in Southern landscapes. Not only do they provide a cool spot to rest in the heat of summer, shade trees often increase property values because of their beauty and can decrease energy costs for your home or business if planted strategically.

Consider these statistics from the Arbor Day Foundation:

• The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. U.S. Department of Agriculture
• Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating. USDA Forest Service
• A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000. Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers
• In one study, 83% of realtors believe that mature trees have a ‘strong or moderate impact’ on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98%. Arbor National Mortgage & American Forests
• Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent. Management Information Services/ICMA

According to the UGA Extension Service, tree selection should be guided by a basic principle: “right plant – right place.” In other words, before planting a tree, you should make an effort to match the area and soil conditions to the expected growth of the tree selection.

A common mistake is to plant trees too close to structures or too close to other trees. All tree species have an average height and width they are expected to reach when mature. Trees also have an anticipated time to reach maturity. Use this information as you make your choices. While it is common to be eager to achieve the desired shade and look of a mature tree, nature controls the outcome of a tree’s growth, and this is one time when we have to plan strategically and exercise patience.

Before planting, UGA Extension says to consider the above-ground environmental factors that most influence tree performance, including intensity and duration of sunlight, precipitation, proximity of power lines or other structures, and neighboring property lines. Also consider below-ground factors such as soil drainage, soil fertility, and underground obstacles that might impede root growth, as well as structures like sidewalks and swimming pools that might be affected by root growth. A tree’s root growth is determined by a lot of factors, but the International Society of Arboriculture says the traditional rules of thumb have been to expect a tree’s root system to be primarily in the top foot of soil and to extend out about 1.5 times the height of the tree. Your County Extension Office can assist you with soil testing, soil test analysis, and other information to help you make an informed decision about planting trees.

Planting a tree is not the final step. Trees require care as they are growing to remain healthy and strong. A tree can shift from asset to liability when branches, trunks, or roots suffer an injury and threaten to cause property or personal damage. Insects and disease are also potential threats to valuable trees.

There are several steps you can take to ensure that your established trees will thrive for years to come. Use this five-step checklist from Lance Walheim, lawn and garden care expert for Bayer Advanced, to help achieve optimal tree health:

1. Renew Mulch. Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your trees – and one of the easier garden chores to tackle. Two-to-three inches of organic mulch conserves water, reduces compaction and helps control weeds. It is best placed in a ring that extends outward from the trunk at least 3-6 feet.

2. Be Cautious with Water. Make sure you don’t overwater. Unless there have been prolonged dry spells or exceptionally warm weather, most established trees may not need water until mid-to-late spring. Overwatering, especially in spring, can weaken trees and promote disease.

3. Protect Trunks. Make sure lawn mowers and weed eaters do not damage tree trunks by wrapping them with trunk protectors (sold in nurseries and garden centers) or surrounding the tree with a grass-free, mulched area.

4. Prune. Because pruning permanently changes a tree’s structure and appearance, you want to prune intentionally. Light pruning of small trees can improve structure and appearance, but be mindful of branch diameters to help guide your cuts. For more information on how to prune trees without damaging them, visit BayerAdvanced.com.

5. Protect and Feed. Each tree has its own fertilizer needs, so use tools like soil tests and physical examinations to determine if your tree is in need of an energy boost. Each tree species also attracts its own special pests. Damage from insects such as borers, aphids, scale insects, whiteflies, and other bugs can take a toll on a tree, so know the symptoms of tree damage and take steps to protect your tree as soon as you notice a problem.

As your yard awakens this spring, applying these tree care best practices can help keep your trees healthy and happy for many years to come.

What are your tree care tips? Which species do you most prefer in a home landscape for shade and savings? Share your tips in the comments. And as always, if you are considering selling your home, contact one of our Duffey Realty REALTORs today for help in listing your home, including setting an asking price that considers all the wonderful aspects of your home, including trees and landscaping.