Tree Talk

No matter what your goal – adding shade and beauty to your property, attracting wildlife or fighting climate change – planting more trees is a good idea.

March 20, 2023 | | Country Living 101

Of all the pleasures of spring, spotting a tree’s emerging leaf buds is among the best. Those first tiny hints of colour prove that winter is indeed in the rearview mirror and that a canopy of leaves will grace the landscape once again. And if you’re wishing for more of this wonder and promise on your property, put tree planting on your agenda.

Whether you’ve got acres of land or a small urban yard, planting trees comes with a long list of potential benefits. Trees can add beauty and shade to a garden, support biodiversity, attract wildlife, prevent soil erosion, protect rivers, provide barriers against blowing snow and, ultimately, help offset climate change by sequestering carbon.

Illustration by Ruth Ann Pearce.

Here’s a quick guide to the species to look for and incentive programs that encourage us to get planting.

How to choose

Planting a tree is a long-term investment, so it’s important to choose one that will thrive in your local soil conditions, one reason experts recommend native species. Though nurseries are a great resource, consider contacting your local municipal office or conservation authority for advice. Many offer tried-and-true varieties of seedlings and saplings at a discount.

Mike Dunmore runs the town of Mono’s heritage tree and seedling program, which has been selling native species, including maple, birch, oak and pine to Mono residents at affordable prices for more than 20 years. “We sell 18 native species that grow naturally in Mono,” Dunmore says, adding that these species can handle severe weather and have evolved with the local ecosystem, making them resistant to pests.

The Maple Leaves Forever Foundation, by comparison, focuses exclusively on native Canadian maples. It was founded in 1997 by Mulmur resident Ken Jewett, who recently won a Forests Ontario award for supporting the planting of more than 130,000 maples. “Not only do maples grow well in the area,” says MLF’s executive director Deb Pella Keen, “but maple trees are a symbol of national pride and identity, and an icon of southern Ontario.”

Finding support

Many incentive programs help landowners pay for and plant trees, especially on rural properties. Like the Mono program, the Town of Caledon’s tree seedling program is very wallet friendly: a bundle of 10 white pine seedlings, for example, is just $8.50, and a larger potted tree, such as a silver maple, is $12.20. Wellington County’s Green Legacy Program distributes free seedlings to residents and may provide volunteers to help plant larger orders of 500 seedlings or more. Check with your municipality about ordering deadlines.

If you’re fond of maples, Maple Leaves Forever partners with nurseries, including Triple J Tree Farm in Creemore and Not So Hollow Farm in Mulmur, and offers a 25 per cent rebate to landowners for planting along rural roadsides, hedgerows, property boundaries and laneways.

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  • Conservation authorities such as Credit Valley Conservation offer subsidies that cover up to 100 per cent of the costs and will also help plant seedlings and potted stock. “Now is a great time to plant because there are a lot of resources out there. And we want to help you get that funding,” explains Lisa Brusse, manager of landowner engagement and stewardship at CVC, which also offers alternative programs for promoting biodiversity on rural properties. “Planting trees is one of the best things people can do for the environment. But sometimes there are barriers – financial or knowledge barriers,” says Brusse. “We want to help people so they can manage their property in a way that contributes to environmental health.”

    Reforestation on a large scale has financial benefits too. If your plans qualify for Ontario’s Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program, you’ll enjoy a property tax credit. If you have at least half an acre of open land and plan to plant at least 500 seedlings, you may qualify for Forests Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program, which can cover up to 90 per cent of your costs and assist with planting.

    Prepping to plant

    Proper planting begins with proper planning, says James Godbold, owner of Mulmur’s Hill’N Dale Landscaping. “It’s beneficial to have a plan that will help you achieve your long-term vision for your landscape.” This includes knowing your planting zone, and the size and canopy of your chosen trees at full maturity. Are they, for example, for a windbreak or focal point? Do you want to attract birds or create great fall colours?

    Spring and fall are the best seasons to start digging. Followup care and maintenance are crucial, adds Godbold. He recommends websites such as Landscape Ontario for planting and aftercare instructions to give your new trees the best chance of reaching maturity.

    About the Author More by Emily Dickson

    Emily Dickson is a writer and editor living in Orangeville.

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