Choosing a tree for your yard: things to consider

June 23, 2015

From providing shade to helping with water conservation, trees offer a wealth of benefits, in addition to adding to the natural beauty of your yard. Read on for advice on choosing the perfect tree for your garden.

Choosing a tree for your yard: things to consider

Why plant trees?

There countless good reasons for planting trees in your garden. Here are just a few of them.

  • Trees help to prevent erosion.
  • They take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen.
  • They act as filters for undesirable nutrients and pesticides, improving water quality.
  • Trees are nature's air conditioners. If positioned well, they can reduce summer temperatures by up to 10°C (50°F). A deciduous tree on the sunny side of your house will filter hot winds and provide shade in summer. In cooler months, when the leaves drop, it will let in warmth and reduce frost.

Plant for the future

The lifespan of a tree depends on its species, growing conditions and climate. Trees can live for centuries or they can start to decline within 7–10 years, so it's worth considering the future when you are deciding what to plant.

  • To find out which trees are likely to grow well in your area, look at mature trees in nearby gardens, parks or street plantings.
  • Research the maximum height and habit of the tree you want to plant. Check books, read plant labels and ask a local nursery to point out a mature tree of the sort you're thinking of planting.
  • Avoid potential disputes with your neighbours by avoiding trees with invasive root systems. These can block drains and cause severe structural damage to your own house as well as your neighbour's.
  • Don't plant trees that can become environmental weeds. Ask your local municipality for a list of what is acceptable and what to avoid.
  • Keep paths, paved areas, gutters and drains clear of leaves and debris from your tree.
  • Replace old or damaged drainage pipes with plastic pipes that will not be damaged by tree roots.
  • Seek local municipality permission before removing or heavily pruning a tree. Most trees are protected by tree preservation orders.
  • Each winter, check deciduous trees while they are leafless for signs of borer, invading climbing plants or broken limbs.
  • Watch for signs of weakness such as dieback. Dead twigs at the tips of branches indicate problems with the tree's root system.
  • To enjoy the benefits of trees while reducing the risks, always plant them at least 3–5 metres (10–16 feet) from your house and drains.

Living with a mature tree

A mature tree is a valuable commodity, both in dollar terms and in its beneficial effect on the environment. If you have one in your garden, cherish it!

  • Think carefully if you're considering replacing an old tree with a new, young tree. It will be many years before the young tree can give the same value to the environment that its predecessor provided.
  • Water mature trees in times of drought. And don't forget the ones out on the sidewalk.
  • Regularly inspect mature trees for signs of damage and remove encroaching growth from climbing plants, weeds and groundcover plants. If you notice problems, call a qualified tree surgeon for advice.
  • Seek professional advice before pruning an older tree – it is less likely to tolerate pruning errors and removing large branches can endanger both tree and pruner. It may be better to thin the canopy.

Whether you have just a single sapling in your garden or a veritable forest for a yard, remember to enjoy your trees to fullest and give them the care that they need to thrive.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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