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Plant Trees, Save Energy!

Did you know that properly placed trees can reduce energy costs year round? Trees not only cool the air, naturally, through the process of evapotranspiration, but trees also serve as both sources of shade and wind barriers to reduce the energy demands on your home.

Strategic tree selection and location will get the most energy saving benefits for your home. Assess your energy needs based on your specific environment and the position of your home.

In the Sacramento region, we experience hot, dry summers. Planting a deciduous tree on the west side of a house provides cooling shade in the summer. Shade trees can lower a household's cooling costs by nearly one-third. In winter, after it loses its leaves, the same tree lets in sunlight that cuts heating and lighting bills.

An evergreen on the west side blocks sun all year long, making a home colder and darker in winter. Rather plant evergreens on the north side of your home. Evergreen trees create wind breaks, which block cold winter winds. They ease the load on your home heating system, which saves you energy and money on your heating bill.

The Sacramento region is characterized by our hot, Mediterranean climate. Only four other locations in the world share our particular climate: parts of Australia, South Africa, Central Asia and Chile. In addition to sharing the same summer heat with these areas, we also have a common dry, clay soil. Plants and trees adapted to these dry environments absorb moisture retained in clay soils via tiny root tips and root hairs. Large plants, like mature trees, may not show signs of stress for years. Following are some guidelines to maintaining healthy mature trees in our Mediterranean climate.

Water: Select plants that do not have high water requirements. If you choose plants that need more water, create specific planting areas away from plants that do better in Mediterranean climates. Use only the amount of water that plants require. Overwatering destroys roots and prohibits moisture absorption. Excess water will also create an environment for disease.

Aeration: Allow time between watering to allow soil to dry slightly. Many mature trees and shrubs may only need water on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis during the non-rainy months. Plants absorb water through capillary action, meaning oxygen must be present in the soil for root tips to “suck” up water.

Protection: Do not pile soil, bark chips, rock, or any material around the base of trees. The crown of the tree where the trunk meets the roots should be just above the soil line. Additionally, avoid using string trimmers at the base of trees. Weed trimmers often cause damage to the bark of the tree making the tree susceptible to decay. Trees may stand upright for many years having considerable decay that goes unnoticed. When they “suddenly” fail, it is discovered that decay at the base has been happening for years.

Pruning: Small amounts of pruning over time helps to create a healthy structure and a longer lived tree. Heavy or diseased limbs can fail due to neglectful attention to pruning. Over-pruning and topping are damaging to trees, costly, generally ugly and can create dangerous trees. A tree canopy is designed to make the right amount of carbohydrates needed for health. When over-pruned, roots use up carbohydrates that are not replaced regularly causing the leaf canopy to receive less nutrients and water. Generally trees are pruned during the winter months. Some amount of summer pruning can be desirable to reduce excess limb weight. Some trees may lose branches during the summer when canopies are at their heaviest.

Consistency: Plants do not respond well to change or to being asked to live in inhospitable environments. Watering and pruning amounts and timing make a difference.

Mature trees create harmony in our Mediterranean environment. With the help of Certified Arborists and Consulting Arborists, your mature tree can be an asset to our community. For more helpful information for growing healthy trees in Sacramento, and tips on choosing the right tree, check out the Sacramento Tree Foundation’s website: www.sactree.com.

 

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