Simple ways to protect your tree on windy days

The Pacific Northwest is experiencing a historic windstorm event in September, 2020. These winds can cause serious damage to both young and established trees. When the winds pick up, you can take some simple steps to prevent damage to your tree friend.

What should I do to protect my trees from wind?

Watering your trees on windy days can help reduce or prevent damage to leaves.

1. Wind causes leaves to dry out more quickly. That’s why it’s important to make sure tree roots have access to water in the soil to replenish the water lost through their leaves. If trees don’t have enough access to water in the soil, the leaves can dry out, and potentially cause dieback.

  • Newly planted trees (1-5 years since planting): Make sure to give young trees a nice, deep soaking of the root zone with about 10-15 gallons of water. That’s three large buckets of water, slowly added to the soil. Make sure you soak all of the soil within two feet of the trunk, and imagine you are trying to reach the roots about a foot deep in the soil.
  • Established trees (5+ years): This is a great job for a soaker hose or sprinkler, slowly moistening the soil around the edge of the canopy of the tree. Some mature trees are already experiencing drought stress, so it’s extra important to give them an extra drink during windy periods.

2. You can try to protect the leaves with windbreak.

If it’s possible to establish a windbreak, or to attach a frost cloth securely to your tree’s canopy, this can protect your tree from harsh winds. Friends of Trees cautions against this simply because young trees don’t have established root systems, and a fabric covering might act as a wind sail. You may just end up sending your tree on an unintended journey across your yard. Use your best judgement.

 

Wind can cause water to exit leaves too quickly, causing damage to the leaves or canopy dieback on this Seven Son Flower tree.

Why does my tree lose water through its leaves?

Water loss through leaves is due to a process called transpiration, which is essentially the process that occurs after your tree takes up water from the soil, uses it for photosynthesis, and then releases it back into the air. The US Geological Survey explains it this way:

“The typical plant, including any found in a landscape, absorbs water from the soil through its roots. That water is then used for metabolic and physiologic functions. The water eventually is released to the atmosphere as vapor via the plant’s stomata — tiny, closeable, pore-like structures on the surfaces of leaves.”

That water (H2O), of course, plays an important role in photosynthesis while inside the plant, reacting with carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce some delicious sugars for the plant to eat (C6H12O6) and some complimentary fresh oxygen (O2) for us!

So, why does the wind cause tree leaves to dry out more quickly?

Because water likes to distribute itself evenly, it will tend to move from a moist location to a drier location. If the inside of the leaf is moist, and the outside air is also moist, water won’t feel the need to jump ship.

But, as Wikipedia explains, “wind blows away much of this water vapor near the leaf surface…speeding up the diffusion of water molecules into the surrounding air.” The wind moves the moisture away from the leaf, encouraging more water to exit the leaf and re-moisten the surrounding air.

So, keep an eye out for dry/windy weather in the forecast, and make sure your trees and plants are prepared. And give special attention to evergreens in windy/dry periods during the winter, as these trees with year-round leaves and needles will transpire year-round as well.

Fruit Tree Care

Have you recently planted a fruit tree? Wonder how to care for it? Presenting Fruit Tree Care 101, by Neighborhood Tree Team member and fruit tree expert Andrew Land:

Welcome to the wonderful world of home orchardry! It will not be long before you are enjoying the fruits of your labor in the form of delicious apples, pears, Asian pears, pawpaws, persimmons, and figs (the species FOT plants, but this information can apply to all fruit trees). Not only will you eventually be enjoying a steady supply of fruit, but you are also enjoying all of the economic, environmental, and social benefits that trees provide.

Fruit trees in general have some unique maintenance needs in terms of pruning, harvesting, and pest/disease management. Simply left alone, fruit trees may become more of a burden than an asset. Luckily, there are several great resources in our region to help get you and your new fruit tree(s) off to a strong start.

If you don’t already know the fundamentals of how to be an orchardist, the Home Orchard Society is a great resource for fruit tree care through its website and workshops. Additionally, the Oregon State University Cooperative Extension allows you to “ask an expert” your fruit tree questions, and if you’re north of the Columbia River the WSU Extension website has some great resources on a variety of fruit-related topics. Finally, Portland Fruit Tree Project is also a fantastic resource.

Your fruit tree will need annual pruning to ensure a regular crop and unlike a shade tree, fruit trees should be pruned the first few years they’re in the ground to establish strong architecture before the onset of fruit. We’ve distilled some of the basics of pruning into a concise basics of fruit tree pruning flier that you can print and take with you out to the garden. If you’re inspired to go more in depth or have additional questions, here’s a more in-depth fruit tree pruning basics video from an OSU Master Gardener & Clackamas College.

Beyond that, keep in mind that on your new fruit tree you should be able to make all of your cuts with bypass-style hand pruners (at left in this image) that have two blades as scissors do. Please note that anvil-type pruners are not intended to be used on live wood.

Properly planting and caring for a fruit tree is a commitment, but one that is definitely worth the effort. Questions? Feel free to email me and I’ll do what I can to help.

Pictured above: Asian pear tree in glorious bloom.

Trees & Health Symposium in Gresham on Nov 13

Volunteers at a Friends of Trees planting in Gresham's Nadaka Park
Volunteers at a Friends of Trees planting in Gresham’s Nadaka Park

We all know that trees provide benefits to people and the communities they live in.

But do you know how to care for trees to help them thrive, and how you can add to Gresham’s tree canopy at home or in your neighborhood?

The Gresham Trees and Health Symposium will feature a mix of speakers, film, discussion, tree care booths, light refreshments, and a summary of the City’s Green Gresham, Healthy Gresham tree project in Rockwood.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
6:00 – 8:00 PM, Rockwood Boys & Girls Club

More information and registration information is here, thank you to our co-hosts Multnomah County and City of Gresham!

Tree care – we do that too!

Congratulations, you helped plant 50,000 trees and native shrubs last season! Now what? Good thing Friends of Trees isn’t just a tree planting organization–tree care is also on the list because we want the trees we plant to survive and grow and thrive.

It works.The survival rate for urban trees planted the Friends of Trees way, together, with guided post-planting care from our Tree Team, is 97% (based on Portland street trees planted last season). For the subset of trees we’ve been monitoring for nine years since planting it’s an 88% survival rate.

Our trees planted in natural areas also have strong survival rates, especially given some very challenging conditions; for example, some planting sites are not accessible for watering; some plants get eaten by wildlife; humans sometimes trample or vandalize; etc. Some studies indicate that an acceptable minimum survival rate for riparian area restoration plantings is 50%, so our survival rates of 81% in year one and 70% after three years are particularly impressive.

How do we help trees thrive?

We water. We prune. We mulch. We visit and assess. We do this for the street and yard trees planted through our Neighborhood Trees program as well as for the native trees and shrubs planted in our Green Space program.

As part of our Neighborhood Trees post-planting care, we:

  • continually share information with tree-recipients about how much water, mulch and pruning trees need;
  • deliver and apply free mulch soon after trees are planted;
  • offer a summer watering service for a reasonable fee;
  • have a Summer Inspector program where trained volunteers visit all newly planted trees twice in the first summer after planting to inspect for tree health, leaving tree care info for the tree recipient.
  • have a longer term monitoring program where we visit subsets of trees planted anywhere from two to 10 years ago, to track health and growth;
  • prune trees throughout the year (except for a few weeks in the spring and fall  when trees are budding or dropping leaves). We rotate neighborhoods each year and focus most of our work on low income, low canopy and/or historically under-served communities.

Did we mention we prune? Last season we pruned more than 1,600 street trees, which is vital toward proper growth and really helps them survive wind, snow, and ice storms.

Our Green Space program also cares for the new trees and shrubs planted in natural areas, and we do this for up to 10 years after planting. The team is often joined by employee volunteer groups who help with summer maintenance tasks such as watering, mulching, and weeding (also called “day-lighting” since we’re clearing space around new plantings to provide for more light and air, and to reduce competition with weeds). We also assess for survival and replant when necessary.

Volunteers help with this! We train volunteers to inspect and prune trees, and volunteers are crucial to effectively mulching thousands of new trees at tree care events.

All told, we care for and monitor more than 54,000 trees a year!

We’re spreading the good word about trees.

We spend much of the summer spreading the word. Our Volunteer & Outreach Team, aided by dedicated Tree Team Ambassadors, attend events, festivals and fairs; plus, we have a crew of Canvassers who go door to door in priority neighborhoods. We strive to reach historically under-served, low-canopy neighborhoods with information about how to volunteer with us and how to get a tree from us. Interested in being a part of this? We’d love for you to join us.

Bingo! Fun with Friends of Trees

We love our volunteers, for so many reasons. Of course, reason #1 is that volunteers are key to getting 50,000+ trees and native shrubs in the ground every season. Another reason? Fun Bingo responses! At our recent volunteer appreciation party Friends of Trees Bingo featured factoids about FOT, trees and volunteering–and some of those answers were pretty fun. Check it out (“real” answers provided, too):

What is a tree’s favorite beer?

Lager | Root Beer | Rain-here/Rain-eer/Rainier 

Is there a correct answer? This is actually a great opportunity to share important information about the water needs of newly planted trees: 15 gallons a week during the dry summer months for the first few years a tree is in the ground. This requirement has changed as our climate has warmed up, so be sure to water those thirsty trees! Find more tree care tidbits here.

Find someone who first started volunteering this season

Me! | Barry | Carmen

We LOVE that you, Barry, Carmen and so many other community members came out and volunteered with us this season! We hear all the time that a Friends of Trees planting event is the first time someone volunteered for anything; we also hear that one of our events is often the first time someone planted anything. What’s even better: So many first-time volunteers and first-time planters come back again and again for more. This is so special, and just what our community needs. Haven’t yet volunteered with Friends of Trees? Explore how.

What’s a tip for working with kids on a tree planing crew?

Plant the kid in the first hole | Have them look for worms | Snacks | Worms | Snacks

Friends of Trees engages more than 2,000 young people every season, through planting events and school-based partnerships. Our education programming for youth from elementary to high school combines classroom curriculum with field work, helping to grow the next Tree Team generation. Learn more about young people getting their hands dirty through planting trees.

 

What is the most common genus of tree planted in most major cities, including Portland?

Acer (Maple)

OK, so pretty much everyone had the correct answer without even a pun. But this is a great way to remind folks about the importance of planting a diverse variety of trees: Tree diversity helps protect against species-specific pests and diseases, which in turn helps ensure a healthy canopy. Tree diversity also supports a wide range of pollinators and other beneficial insects, and so much more, which is why Friends of Trees strives to provide a diverse tree selection list everywhere we plant. Interested in getting a tree from Friends of Trees? Here’s the first step.

 

Name two FOT planting partners

City of Tualatin | Verde | POIC | PGE | City of Portland | Portland Trail Blazers

We received lots of correct answers and maybe this wasn’t the most humorous category. But we want to use this apparently easy Bingo answer to share that partnerships are just as necessary to our mission as volunteers, and we have so many partnerships. The photo above represents a few:

  • The planting is in Portland’s Cully neighborhood, where our planting partner Verde is based.
  • All Neighborhood Trees planting events in Portland neighborhoods are in partnership with the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services.
  • Pictured in the photo are planters representing a couple of partners: Deward (2nd from left) is a POIC student and FOT Crew Leader, and Julieta (far right) is from David Douglas High School. Our POIC partnership involves student development, education and job training through students training and serving as FOT Crew Leaders; and, for more than six years DDHS students have volunteered at our outer-southeast Portland tree-planting events. (also pictured: Crew Leader Carmen, 1st on the left, and FOT staffers Manuel and Pablo, 3rd and 4th from left)

Further, sponsors such as the Portland Trail Blazers are also crucial to the success of our program, since their support is key to bridging funding gaps. In fact, Trail Blazers was the most common response to this question — #ripcity! (read about our 3s For Trees partnership below). We’d love for your business to join us as a sponsor!

There is so much more to know about trees and Friends of Trees, hone up here!