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Arbor day encourages tree planting and care
By Karen Templeton
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippians will celebrate a 137-year-old holiday honoring the beauty and benefits of trees Feb. 13-20.
National Arbor Day, founded in 1872, is observed nationwide and encourages tree planting and care. States observe Arbor Day during their region's tree-planting season. Arbor Day in Mississippi is honored on the second Friday in Feb., and the celebration continues for one week.
“Planting a tree is the best way to honor Arbor Day,” said Rick Olson, Mississippi Forestry Commission's urban and community forestry coordinator. “Trees are vital to Mississippi's economy and provide many benefits to homes and communities.”
Olson explained that trees are sustainable and serve as prime examples of recycling.
“Trees take in carbon dioxide from the air and combine it with minerals to help them grow and flourish,” Olson said. “The trees eventually drop their leaves. The fallen leaves incorporate into the soil and provide moisture and nutrients back to the tree in a sustainable life cycle. They basically stay alive by recycling their own materials.”
Steve Dicke, Mississippi State University Extension forestry professor, said trees can make a tremendous difference in a home's landscape, but selecting the right tree is important.
“People need to consider their home landscapes and what limitations each one might have. For example, homeowners shouldn't plant tall tree species directly under power lines,” Dicke said. “They should select only trees that will do well in Mississippi's climate and soil.”
Olson and Dicke both had practical advice for caring for newly planted trees:
- Water trees two to three times weekly for the first 2 months, then weekly for at least 1 year.
- Mulch area around trees, but keep a 1-inch space between tree trunks and mulch to prevent insect and rot damage.
- Keep lawnmowers and weed eaters away from tree trunks.
“Some people have a tendency to cut off the tops of trees, especially with crape myrtles,” Olson said. “My motto is, ‘topless trees are obscene.' Trim crape myrtles in the tree form and let them grow.”
Professional tree care specialists, called arborists, can provide advice on caring for trees and also provide emergency care and tree pruning and removal services.
“Arborists provide clientele with the best information regarding tree maintenance,” Dicke said. “Many homeowners hire someone without proper certification to prune or remove trees, and that mistake can result in serious problems.”
Dicke explained that certificated arborists carry the liability insurance and the proper credentials to provide quality care.
“A non-licensed person with a chain saw may be able to remove a tree, but clients will be held liable for any injury or property damage that may result. Having a licensed arborist protects trees and provides peace of mind.”
Mississippi does not require tree-care specialists to be licensed or certified, so it is
the homeowner's responsibility to ask for credentials. The Mississippi Forestry Commission maintains up-to-date lists of certified arborists at http://www.mfc.state.ms.us.
Dicke said trees are something to be enjoyed but are also a responsibility.
“With some simple research and expert advice, homeowners can more than provide for the trees in their landscape,” he said.