Jem

Jem

November 16, 2022

The Amazing Arctic Willow

The arctic brings to mind visions of barren, white, ice-laden tundras and intense snow storms, nary a leaf in sight. A harsh landscape with minimal resources for survival - but still a vibrant ecosystem called home by organisms big and small, including arctic hares, polar bears, flowers, and even trees! 

Although trees in the arctic don’t reach heights as grand as elsewhere in the world, they are still there, providing the same benefits to the land and its inhabitants as they do anywhere else. Their roots help precent erosion, their branches provide shelter for wildlife, and their leaves carry nutrients that are essential for certain animals’ survival. Tree species in the arctic include alder, birch, juniper, and willows. 

Arctic willows are the hardiest of the bunch, growing in the broadest range of environmental conditions. The tree is incredibly adaptable, tolerating droughts, urban pollution, occasional flooding, and any soil type - a hardcore survivor. In the harshest conditions, the tree might only grow up to six inches tall, cementing its status as a dwarf species. When conditions are right, however, the tree can grow up to 5 feet tall with a spread of 7 feet. Its amazing adaptability has enabled the tree to become the northernmost woody plant in the world, with its natural habitat extending far above the tree line all the way to the north coast of Greenland. You can also find the tree growing in the wild further south in the Sierra Nevadas and in the Rocky Mountains.

While the tree’s natural habitat doesn’t extend into the Utah valleys, the Arctic willow can be used in home landscaping in the northern areas of Utah. Its low profile and dense branches make it a perfect addition to live wind barriers to protect homes from winter winds.

In addition to its utility in home landscaping, the Arctic willow has been used in several ways by the Inuit and Gwich’in for generations. The plant has been used for medicinal purposes, such as relieving toothaches, curing indigestion, and as a poultice on wounds. It is also a valuable food source for those living in the Bathurst Inlet area. Especially as a source for vitamin C which, as you can imagine, is hard to come by in the arctic. One young leaf from the Arctic Willow contains 7 - 10 times more vitamin C than an orange! The soft insides of young shoots are also an essential source of fiber. The tree is also an essential food source for the Arctic woolly bear moth, whose larvae depend entirely on Arctic willows as their primary food source.

Trees are essential components of ecosystems, even in the harsh ecosystems like the arctic. Without them, our planet couldn’t support the vibrant, thriving life that exists today. To learn more about the benefits of trees in our urban ecosystem, click here.

Trees are essential pieces of our community spaces. They improve our lives by cleaning our air, cleaning our water, providing shade, lowering temperatures in the summer, and lowering our utility bills in the winter by blocking wind. They are, of course, also beautiful - standing tall, adding to the rich scenery of our community. However, distribution of trees within communities is often inequitable. Neighborhoods with greater socioeconomic advantages are lined with them, while tree coverage is often sparse in poorer neighborhoods. These poorer neighborhoods are left without the benefits that trees can provide.

On average, wealthier neighborhoods have 15% more tree coverage. In the Summer, wealthier neighborhoods are on average 3ºF cooler than poor neighborhoods, making them much more comfortable places to live, work, and play. All year round, these neighborhoods also benefit from cleaner air and a more vibrant urban landscape. Children in wealthier neighborhoods have more areas where they can play safely and they are far less likely to develop childhood asthma, thanks to the protection offered by vegetative diversity.

This inequitable distribution of trees is in part a result of redlining, an effort in the early- to mid-1900s to curb investments and economic growth in certain urban areas due to their racial makeup. Redlining has resulted in decades of ongoing disadvantage, leaving generations of people within these communities with the responsibility of playing catch-up without much-needed support.

As shown by the Tree Equity Score mapping tool created by the national nonprofit American Forests, Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods with the greatest need for support in getting more trees planted are mostly on the west side. This aligns with Salt Lake City’s history of redlining - the majority of redlined neighborhoods were located on the west side of the city. The same is found in Ogden - neighborhoods in the northwest portion of the city are both the ones the are in most need of trees and were historically redlined.

These inequities are the reason for TreeUtah’s dedication to environmental justice. We want to plant trees where they’re needed most, so these underserved communities can experience the same benefits trees have brought to wealthier neighborhoods for decades. Why plant trees where they’re already plentiful when so many streets in our community are bare? We are proud to do our part in creating an equity-conscious, tree-filled community in service of the present and future generations in every corner of Utah.

To get involved, check out our events page for volunteer opportunities. Our busiest planting seasons are in the Spring (March-May) and Fall (August-November).

August 15, 2022

How to Plant Trees

Planting Seedlings

  1. Dig a hole large enough to allow the root system to spread out without folding over on itself. If planting containerized seedlings, gently massage and spread apart the root “ball” before planting.
  2. Place the seedling in the hole and be sure to double check that the root system has enough room to spread out and the hole is not too deep or too shallow. The correct depth is achieved when the transition point from stem to root is at the level of the ground.
  3. Keep the seedling in the correct position and backfill the planting hole, and pack down the soil around the tree.

 

Planting Landscape Trees

Properly planting trees is the first step towards protecting their long-term survival. Follow these steps to properly plant landscape trees.

Measuring for Planting

  1. Using a shovel handle, measure the width and depth of the root ball of the tree you are planting.
  2. Remove any grass/weeds in a circle that is 2-3 times the width of the root ball.
  3. Dig the planting hole as a shallow bowl that is the width of the circle and the depth of the tree’s root ball.
  4. Remove any tags from the trees branches and gently place it in the planting hole.
  5. Gently take the tree out of the container or remove the wire basket and burlap, taking care to keep the root ball together.
  6. Find the root flare of the tree (on obvious bulge where the tree transitions from stem to root) and make sure there is no soil above it. Some nursery grown trees will have as much as 3-4 inches of soil above the root flare.
  7. Re-measure the planting hole to be sure that the root flare is at or just above the level of the ground.
  8. Backfill around the tree until the planting hole is filled in. Pack down the soil as you fill in the planting hole.
  9. Give the tree 10-20 gallons of water to help pack down the soil and remove air pockets in the planting hole.
  10. Follow the next tree care tip to properly mulch the newly planted tree.


Final Planting

Video Guide

 

August 15, 2022

Tree Care Tips

Watering

TreeUtah encourages you to be water aware. Since summers in Utah are hot and dry, it is important to make sure your trees are getting enough water. Due to differing elevations, microclimates, and tree species, it is not possible to recommend an exact amount of water that any given tree needs, but follow the guidelines below to be sure your trees have the water they need.

Infrequent, deep watering is more beneficial than frequent, shallow watering. Unestablished trees should be watered 1-2 times per week to a depth of 2-4.” Deep watering ensures that the tree roots grow deeper in the soil, which allows them to be more drought-tolerant later in the tree’s life.

How to Check if Trees Need Water

Over-watering a tree can be just as harmful as under-watering, so be sure to check before watering. Use a garden trowel or even your hand to create a small, narrow trench near the trunk of the tree. The trench should be 2-4″ deep. If the soil is moist to the touch, the tree doesn’t need water. If the soil is dry, give the tree water.

Watering Newly Planted and Non-Established Trees

The first 2 years of a tree’s life is critical for survival. The tree is establishing its root system in the soil and is sensitive to stressors like heat and drought. Water a newly planted tree immediately after planting and routinely check the soil moisture often to be sure the tree has enough water for the next 2 growing seasons. After the tree is established, it will have an easier time adjusting to heat and drought conditions.

Gator Bags

Another easy way to be sure your unestablished tree has enough water is to use a gator bag. This is a zip-up bag that goes around the trunk of the young tree. Fill the bag with water and it will slowly drip out of the bag to water the tree. The bag will need to be filled about once every 5-7 days.

gatorbag

 

Mulching

One of the easiest ways to increase the chances of survival for a newly planted tree is to place mulch around it. Continuing to refresh the mulch as the tree grows will help the tree grow to its full potential.

mulching

What Does Mulch Do?

Well-placed mulch around a tree has numerous benefits for the health of the tree including:

  • A layer of mulch will help retain water in the soil.
  • By covering the soil, mulch will prevent soil compaction, which can harm the tree’s roots.
  • Mulch also regulates the temperature of the soil, protecting the roots from sudden changes in temperature.
  • A tree with a circle of mulch around it will have less competition from weeds, grass, and be better protected from lawn mowers and weed whackers.

How to Properly Mulch a Tree

After planting a new tree or to benefit an established tree, follow the guidelines below to protect it with mulch:

  • Make sure there is no grass or weeds within a circle around the trunk of the tree. The diameter of the circle will vary from 3-10 feet depending on the size of the tree, but must be a minimum of 3 feet. Increase the diameter of the circle by 1 foot for every inch of tree caliper.
  • Spread mulch around the circle to a depth of 3-4 inches.
  • Pull mulch away from the trunk so it is not touching the trunk.

proper mulch

July 13, 2022

Jem Ashton

Office Administrator