Garden View: The importance of trees

Recently, I asked listeners on my radio show how we could — as individuals — reduce our carbon footprint. Our recent celebration of Earth Day is a good time to remember that we all want to enjoy living in a clean, safe environment we can leave behind for future generations.

To my delight, a listener called in to say that he felt “planting trees was the most important thing we could do.” We discussed the many ways trees are important to us all and how trees fight climate change. Here are some of the important ways trees work for us and our environment.

>> Trees clean the air we breathe. As trees make their food through photosynthesis, which occurs in their leaves, they take in carbon dioxid, break it apart and release oxygen for us to breathe. This is vital to our health and the health of our planet. This is the very CO2 that is the cause of climate change.

>> Trees also clean the air of nasty chemicals (like ammonia and more) and filter the air of dust particles by trapping them in their leaves and bark.

>> Trees cool our homes, lawns, streets and cities. If you serve on a planning committee involving buildings, parking lots and roads, be sure to include lots of trees to provide shade, cool the air and stabilize the soil. Our cities are becoming hotter as the urban forest is reduced, especially on tiny lots with big houses.

>> Trees also shade our homes and reduce our energy bills. Do you have room for a tree?

>> Trees save water. Shade from trees slows water evaporation from lawns. Trees also work to keep rainwater where it falls, slowing it down, letting it run down the trunk and into the soil. This reduces runoff and water pollution. And, when you use tree mulch on your flower beds, it helps the soil retain moisture for plants and cool the soil temperatures around plant roots. This reduces stress on plants, especially in our summer heat, and reduces the amount of water paid out of pocket for irrigation.

>> Trees also stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. This is especially important along river banks. Roots stabilize the soil and pick up moisture and dissolved minerals. Roots do not make food for the tree. That is done in the leaves.

>> These are some of the ways trees work for us. Trees also provide shelter and food for the birds and other wildlife, and fruit and nuts for us. Trees increase our property values, and research shows trees bring more business to an area, reduce violence in neighborhoods, and help heal those in hospitals who have a view of trees.

If you would like to learn how to protect and maintain our trees, the free “Leave the Leaves” workshops, provided by Ed Kuprel, forester for the city of Edinburg, are an excellent way to understand the basics. He also teaches you how to hire the right professionals to care for your trees. The next workshop is from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the city’s Public Works building at 1201 North Doolittle, just off of Richardson Road. Call (956) 388-8210 for more information and learn to take care of our trees.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her garden show at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Radio, or contact her at: