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Local arborist shares what to consider before planting a tree for Earth Day

Before adding trees to your landscape, a local arborist said there are a few important factors to consider.

AUSTIN, Texas — Earth Day is Saturday and it's the perfect time to consider giving Mother Nature some extra love and attention. 

Trees support wildlife and ecosystems and are excellent carbon sinks. They provide shade and have the ability to reduce stress just by being near them. However, before adding trees to your landscape, there are a few important factors to consider.

Kevin Martin, an arborist with Davey Tree in Austin, said when it comes to picking out trees to plant, stick with ones that are native to the area. Also, placement is important. Try to plant trees at least 20 feet away from your house so they don't tear up driveways, sidewalks and front walkways. It's not wise to plant a tree underneath a powerline or over your underground utilities either. 

"Considering the type of tree, if you want to plant an ornamental tree, like a redbud or a rose of Sharon or mountain laurel, those are fine near the house. But anything like an oak and elm, sycamore, anything like that should be at least 20 feet, 30 feet away from the house," Martin said.

According to Martin, the trees' root systems can affect the foundation of houses. Most of Austin's native species, like live oaks and elms, have roots that aren't as invasive as something like like a willow tree.

"If you plant a willow near your house, the roots can sense the vibrations in the pipes underneath the house and, you know, send some runners that way and potentially end up coming out of your toilet," Martin said. "So a lot of oak or an elm, those roots typically are going to hit the house and hit the foundation and do a 90-degree turn. They don't want to go underneath the foundation."

When purchasing trees, picking the structure of the tree is the most important when you go to a nursery. Martin said when he's picking out trees for his clients, he's looking at their structure, the root layer, making sure there are no girdling roots immediately at the foot of the tree.

"A live oak is kind of going to stay short and squatty and get, you know, not 80 feet tall. So when picking the tree, you need to just determine what you would like out of the tree. Obviously the best tree to plant is one that you planted 20 years ago. So everybody wants a big, big tree," Martin said.

Martin's favorite tree is a Lacey oak. He has five of them at his house.

"Very low maintenance, drought tolerant, resistant to oak. Well, not immune, but resistant to oak. Will the acorns provide food to deer? It's a white oak, so deer prefer white oak. I think it's a very beneficial tree to our environment, and again, the low maintenance is key. I'm very, very much a low maintenance arborist," Martin said.

It's recommended when deciding trees to plant in your yard, consult with an arborist. Somebody that's local can help with what you should plant, where it needs to go and determine what you want as the owner of that tree.

Dominique Newland on social media:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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