By Andrew Noakes.
As the longest living beings on the planet, trees are hugely beneficial to the natural world and human life. Firstly, and most obvious, they provide oxygen for us to breathe; the importance of this contribution cannot be understated. It is said that the rainforests of the Amazon basin are the “lungs of the planet” with the trees providing over 20% of the world’s oxygen. While ingesting carbon dioxide to make oxygen, trees clean the air, making the atmosphere more liveable for all. Without trees, the earth would not have a viable ecosystem.
Trees are one of the earth’s greatest natural resources, providing us with: food; timber for homes, furnishing, tools, and industry; wood as fuel for heat; and the list goes on… They add stability to soil through their complex root structures; improve water quality by filtering pollutants and slowing the flow of rainfall; provide shelter bands from wind exposure; and reduce noise pollution. They provide much needed protection and shade, reducing sun exposure to humans, plants, and all beings living beneath them. They provide a diverse wildlife habitat, home to animal and bird species, both in their life and in their death. Trees can add high amenity to any landscape.
The huge benefit to our mental health that trees provide cannot be overlooked. Spending time with trees has a calming affect as it swings the Autonomic Nervous System into the parasympathetic, which promotes “rest and digest” over the adrenaline infused “fight or flight” response that the modern world likes to keep us in. The Japanese practice of Shirin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” has been shown to promote a decrease in depression, fatigue and stress - which everyone needs.
Even with all these benefits, the ongoing need for tree care can be overlooked when planning for the needs of one’s garden or landscape. While a shrub, flowering plant, or ground covering can be more readily seen as needing ongoing care, failing to care for your trees can cause great problems including damage to your landscape, property and person. And of course, like any living thing, to fully thrive takes some consideration and effort.
Often trees are planted and just left to grow, without plans for their annual care. While a tree undergoes a set, genetically coded, growth pattern each year that sets it up to thrive, this is influenced by the environment it is in. Ensuring favourable conditions will help fortify the healthy growth of the tree over its lifetime.
Appropriate plant selection is key. It can be hard to imagine a tree at full growth when it is first planted in the garden. This can cause problems with nearby structures, power lines, access to light, and views from your property. Simple practices like formative pruning and mulching go a long way towards ensuring the best long term outcome for your tree.
Juvenile and newly planted trees require a bit of help to get them up and on their way. This can include correct staking, formative pruning, and regular mulching. Mature trees should be monitored for overall health as discussed below.
It is good practice to cast your eyes onto your trees seasonally, and after dramatic weather events (as we experience regularly in the Coromandel); it can be a costly endeavour if not. Look for anything from root plate movement; dead/dying branches and limbs; misshapen or discoloured foliage; evidence of pests, fungus and diseases. If you are concerned about your trees, consult an Arborist. I will be discussing ongoing seasonal and tree health needs in future columns.
Trees have been on this planet for over 200 million years, they know a thing or two. Perhaps it’s time we learn from them.
Next Month… Let’s Talk About Tree Health.
We welcome Andrew and his partner Winona to our editorial team. Andrew will be providing a monthly column for our readers. Andrew Noakes, of NZ Arb Consultancy, is a local Qualified Arborist and TRAQ Certified Assessor with over 30 years experience caring for trees in a variety of situations.
Caption: For the love of trees.