Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
August, 2004
Regional Report

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A quality shade tree only gets better with time, adding value to the property and providing a break from the summer sun.

Plant Some Shade In Your Landscape

You've heard the saying, "The best time to plant a tree is 40 years ago. The second best time is today." A tree can significantly enhance the value of your home and property. A well-placed shade tree can make a significant difference in summer cooling bills by shading the southern and western exposures of your home. If you are sitting in a sun-parched patio wishing you had a little shade, now is the time to decide to remedy this situation because fall and winter -- our prime tree planting seasons -- are just around the corner.

When you want a shade tree you want it NOW. There is a strong lure to look for something that grows FAST. This is the dark side calling, and you must resist! As with life in general, fast and easy is usually a recipe for long-term problems. Shade trees are indeed a long-term investment, or they certainly can be. There is no such thing as a perfect tree, but there are definitely superior choices for your area. Every species has its good and bad points.

In general, a species that grows very rapidly will not be long lived. Species that grow at slow to moderate rates tend to make better landscape trees. Don't think, however, that you'll have to wait forever for these species to make a nice-sized tree. Give me a quality species, a bag of fertilizer, and a water hose, and I can have you a large, beautiful tree in a jiffy!

So Many Choices
Consider the features of a tree when making your decision. A few, like Chinese elm, have beautiful exfoliating bark for winter interest. Others provide some fall color. Contact your county extension office and speak with a local arboretum or forester to get more suggestions and advice about which trees would best fit your needs and particular soil conditions.

Fall through winter is an excellent time to plant a shade tree. The earlier you get trees planted, the more time they will have to begin the long process of establishing a strong root system to get ready for the hot summer months ahead.

A shade tree is an investment in your home. It makes sense to select the species that best fits your site and interests. It pays to plant it right and provide good care during the first few years. Do it right for your own sake, and for the next generation too.

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