Benefit and Care of Trees Around your Home

by Catherine Haug, November 14, 2011

Last month I posted Taming Stormwater with Trees; this month I want to talk about use of trees and shrubs around your home. Did you know that trees around your home can increase your property value by 15%, and improve your odds of a sale? Why would this be?

Properly maintained trees and shrubs add to curbside appeal because of their beauty, but they also provide the following benefits:

  • Decrease carbon dioxide (CO2) and increase oxygen (O2) levels in the atmosphere;
  • Improve water quality and reduce erosion;
  • Give songbirds a home, and provide food for all kinds of wildlife;
  • Provide shade in summer and a windbreak in winter, thereby reducing your cooling and heating costs.

Read on for information on: Siting a tree; Planting a tree, and Tree care. 

Siting a tree

To get maximum energy-saving benefit from the shade and windbreak, there are a few guidelines to follow. Evergreen and deciduous trees provide different benefits; carefully select which to plant where, around your home.

  • Deciduous trees provide shade in summer; site them on the west and south sides of your home to reduce cooling costs by provide shade in summer. After all the leaves have dropped in the fall, they reduce cooling costs by allowing the southern sunlight (and heat) to penetrate to your home. (5)
  • Evergreens provide shade year-round, so they are best sited on the north and east sides of your home, to void blocking warming sunlight in winter. This siting has an additional benefit of providing a windbreak from the harsh north and east winds of fall and winter. (5)

Note, however, that you don’t want to site trees too close to your home. Instead, consider:

  • Shrubs, bushes & vines close to your home “reduce the heat reflected from the ground to your walls and windows… and provide year-round insulation by creating a dead-air space next to your home.” (5)

Planting a tree

When to transplant

During the dormant season is the time to transplant trees. In general, fall (after leaf drop) is a great time to plant trees because temperatures are moderate, and there is abundant rainfall, allowing them to grow strong roots (2). However, October rainfall in our area is iffy, so you need to be sure to provide adequate water during dry spells, but also be aware of the danger of frost when timing your watering.

Spring (before budbreak) is also a great time, depending on your region (2). In our area, spring is the best time for transplanting.

How to transplant

According to the Dirt Doctor (3), planting a tree the right way involves six basic steps:

  1. Dig a wide rough-sided hole
  2. Run a “perk test” for drainage
  3. Prepare the root ball
  4. Set the root ball in the hole with backfilled soil
  5. Settle the soil with water
  6. Mulch the surface

Refer to the Dirt Doctor: Tree Planting Detail (3) and Trees are Good: New Tree Planting (2) for more detail.

Tree Care

Once your tree starts growing, you need to give it care, which includes pruning, watering, mulching and protecting it from insects and disease. This is where knowing a good arborist is a must. We have several arborists in the Flathead valley – you can find them in the Yellow Pages. Don’t wait until your tree is dying before taking action!

Insects: Right now we are having severe insect problems, including (but not limited to): birch borer beetle and various bark beetles. There are pheromone tags available to protect your Douglas Fir trees from bark beetles; these should be applied every spring. Note that Douglas Fir bark beetles only breed in felled, injured or diseased trees (4). See Insects & disease problems (2) for more.

Know the signs of poor health: reduction in the tree’s normal growth pattern; signs of insect activity; loose bark; trunk decay; deformed growths; crown dieback; excessive sap. (2)

Mulching helps reduce environmental stress, especially the area under the drip line. But DO NOT mulch right around the trunk of the tree (within 1 – 2 inches of the trunk), as this can kill it. See Proper mulching techniques (2) for more

Fertilization is also important; however most fertilizers are synthetic (chemical) and lawn fertilizers and weed control products may actually harm your trees. Most landscapers in our area now have access to organic fertilizers and weed control.

Pruning should be done with care. “It is often desirable or necessary to remove dead, diseased, or insect-infested branches and to improve tree structure, enhance vigor, or maintain safety. Because each cut has the potential to change the growth of (or cause damage to) a tree, no branch should be removed without a reason.” (2) See Pruning young trees and Pruning mature trees for more (2).


  1. The Value of Trees to a Community
  2. Trees are Good: New Tree PlantingMature tree careProper mulching techniquesPruning young treesPruning mature treesInsects & disease problems
  3. Dirt Doctor: Tree Planting Detail
  4. Bark Beetles: Douglas Fir Beetle
  5. Landscaping for Energy Efficiency
  6. The EssentiaList: Taming Stormwater with Trees


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