Plants - Trees and Shrubs

The politics of gardening: Our love of trees

Katharine Fletcher

Felling a beloved neighbourhood tree triggers important reflections

Factors to consider before planting a tree
All species possess special requirements, benefits, and vulnerabilities. Research before purchasing, preparing the site, and planting the tree.

1. Hardiness zones: Canada is divided into eight growing zones. Browse Agriculture Canada’s website to find yours.

2. Evergreen or deciduous: The former keep their needles (leaves) all year while the latter drop them in autumn.

3. Shade or full sun: Trees need light. What’s your site like?

4. Soil conditions: Some trees thrive in acidic soil, others require alkaline soil. Test your soil—and identify what trees are thriving nearby. (Tip: ask your neighbours and build community rapport!)

5. Siting issues: Don’t plant too close to any built structure, be it your home, garage, fence, carport, sidewalk, laneway, weeping beds/septic tank, dog kennel or overhead wires.

6. Food factors: Want to harvest a crop—or provide food for wildlife?

7. Natives: Like Colallilo advised, choose indigenous, local trees over introduced and potentially invasive species. Browse the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s website for ideas.

8. Healthy = safe: Avoid saplings with defects such as damaged branches or trunks. A healthy root ball is important.

9. Human health: Many people are allergic to pollen. Avoid species such as Russian olives and poplars.

10. Municipal bylaws: Check out potential legal issues before purchasing.

What tree to plant?
Check for species’ characteristics on the Canadian Biodiversity Website and the Tree Canada site.

Growing legacy
Who knew there were so many considerations when selecting a tree? Research, talk to your family and neighbours, then install what will not only be a soulmate, but also a neighbourhood legacy.

Katharine Fletcher is an author and freelance writer who enjoys organic gardening at Spiritwood, her 100-acre farm north of Quyon, Quebec.


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