Ease Stress with Nature

After a long day, taking a walk may be the last thing on your mind, but maybe it should be the first.  Did you know you can ease stress with nature?  The benefits of surrounding yourself with trees and plants are endless.  Here are some ways to ease stress with nature.

Parks & Rec

If you are feeling overwhelmed, perhaps the answer lies in nature.  Take a walk in your local park, go for a hike on a favorite trail or plan an outing to a farm in Westchester county.  Exposing yourself to the serenity of nature is a great way to relax and reconnect with your inner peace.  A study by researchers at the University of Illinois found that “viewing tree canopy in communities can significantly aid stress recovery.”

 

Spending time in your local Westchester parks is also a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with your community.  The more you explore, the more you may become inspired to take action.  What are some ways you have found peace in a local Westchester park?

 

Plant an Indoor Garden

Give your home or office a touch of greenery with an indoor garden.  An indoor garden is a great way to incorporate a little bit of nature into your everyday life.  Maybe your indoor garden will help you explore the green thumb you never knew you had.

Read Green

Exercise your imagination with a great nature-themed book.  Simply imagining yourself in a natural environment is an awesome tool for relaxation, and reading makes this even easier!  American Forests shared this great list of nature-inspired books from Goodreads.

For more ways to ease stress with nature, check out this article from American Forests.

How Trees Fight Climate Change

Have you ever wondered how trees fight climate change?  Planting trees is a great way to leave a positive imprint on the Earth while helping in the fight against climate change.  Here are how trees fight climate change at your home and in your community.

How Trees Fight Climate Change

We only have one Earth, so we all have to do our part to make sure we minimize our carbon footprint.  Ensuring future generations have a comfortable climate, functional eco-system and enough natural resources to sustain them is vital.  Westchester Tree Life wants you to get involved in the fight against climate change by planting a tree.  By planting a single tree you are giving back to your community.  Learn more from Arbor Day here. 

Combat Climate Change from Your Home

Adding trees to your Westchester residence has many benefits.  The U.S. Department of Energy have reported that planting trees on the south and west sides of your house you can reduce heating and cooling costs.  This is a great way to cut costs while benefiting the environment.  The U.S. Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research has stated that you can save up to 30% of energy use simply by properly placing three trees around your home.  Read more about how trees can help fight climate change at home from the Arbor Day Foundation here.

Local Action:  Fighting Climate Change in Your Community

How can you take action to fight climate change in your community?  Stay knowledgeable about current climate change topics and statistics; if you’re looking to take action, think up a creative, effective way to get involved.  Not sure how to begin?  Try simply by getting a few neighbors together to discuss the benefits of planting some trees in your neighborhood!  The U.S. Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research has stated neighborhoods with well-shaded streets can be up to 6–10° F cooler than neighborhoods without street trees.  Though it seems small, that temperature difference can make a world of difference.  For more ideas and information on fighting climate change in your community, click here.

What is Dendrochronology?

Decode a tree’s life with the help of dendrochronology.  What is dendrochronology?  It’s the dating and study of a tree’s annual rings.

An unusual tree in Confederation Park, Fergus Ontario

Dendrochronology:  The Life of a Tree

via Trees Are Good

There is so much to learn from a tree.  Dendrochronology, or the study of a tree’s rings, can provide useful data from years past.  A tree’s rings can help us understand environmental factors of the past, therefore assisting us with making better decisions for the future.  Scientists and historians alike find the study of a tree’s rings useful for giving historical artifacts a timeline.

Counting the Rings:  A Myth?

You may have head you can find the age of a tree by counting it’s rings.  This is not completely true.  Through numerous studies, dendrochronologists have discovered that counting a tree’s rings can lead to inaccurate conclusions.  When searching for an accurate date, various techniques are required to “cross-date” artifacts and wood samples.  Learn more about gathering information from tree rings with the UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research here.

What Trees Tell Us About Temperature

Trees are a great indicator of the Earth’s past climate and local environmental patterns.  Scientists can even gather information about climate and temperature pre-dating climate documentation with the help of a very mature tree’s rings.  Learn more about dendrochronology with this kid-friendly guide from NASA.

The color and width of tree rings can provide snapshots of past climate conditions; via climatekids.nasa.gov/tree-rings/

Did You Know:  Tree rings grow wider in warm, wet years and appear thin during cold, dry years.  If a tree has weathered stressful conditions like drought, a tree may have very limited growth during those years.

Fun Activity:  Listen to a Tree

Have you ever wondered what tree rings would sound like when played like a record?  You can listen on YouTube here.

How to Protect Your Family from the Worst Tick Season on Record!

Every year as we trudge through tick season our guard is up and we are out to protect ourselves and our pets from these nasty little creatures.  In general, tick season usually runs from early spring, into the summer and winds down in the fall.  However, did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has predicted that 2017 will be one of the worst years on record? This is especially important for dog owners because our pups are at risk for picking up ticks and the potential diseases these critters carry. Let’s take a look at some of the vital information that will get us all through this tick season safely!

There are several contributing factors as to why this season will be so bad. For starters, the northeastern United States had a fairly mild winter which means that more ticks will survived and reproduced.  Also, the animals that ticks rely on for food sources (like mice, deer, squirells etc.)  will be more available. These 2 factors alone are reason enough to see a huge increase in the tick population.

Another reason that gets somewhat overlooked is that there was a mice population surge in 2016.  Rick Ostfeld, an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and Felicia Keesing, an ecologist at Bard College,  have discovered a unique way of predicting cases of Lyme disease in a given year by examining the growing mice population of the previous year. Simply put; the population of mice relates to the number of known Lyme cases because mice are carriers of the disease and ticks feed on the mice which causes a quick spread.

These nasty little predators rely on large forests to survive.  In this day and age more and more people are building their homes on wooded lots which means a lot of our larger wooded areas are seeing the trees disappear. This is a definite contributing factor to ticks discovering more and more mice to prey on.  As people build their homes next to these tick-infested forests, the chances for humans and their pets to get bitten greatly increases and in coming years the problem is only going to get worse.

So what can we do to protect ourselves from this growing epidemic? Those who live near wooded areas, like the northeast United States and Great Lakes areas, as well as ocean areas and other bodies of water should really be paying attention right now. Known cases of Lyme disease have gone up dramatically in the past bunch of years and this year will likely be the worst yet! One of the best ways to protect ourselves, believe it or not, is to open up our eyes! When your dog goes out in the yard or woods or if you go for a walk, be sure to thoroughly check yourself for ticks BEFORE coming back inside. It is so important to remove these vermin outside! let’s not invite them into our houses! Naturally, ask your veterinarian if a Lyme vaccination is right for your dog before administering any prevention products.

 

It is important to remember that ticks are not limited to “the woods”!  If you are outside then you are now exposed to the possibility of picking up a tick. From grassy areas to a single tree to a mouse running through your yard; ticks live outside, period.  They like to camp out on taller vegetation, grass and leave piles and wait for a passing animal to latch on to. You will need to do a full body inspection every day and pay special attention to the ears, face and inner thighs as these are common areas for ticks to lodge. 

Keeping your grass cut lows and keeping vegetation low will help reduce exposure because ticks like to climb high to improve their chances of attaching to an animal. It is very important to talk to a professional on pest control to see what options will best suit your family and yard if you are considering using a pesticide.  On top of applying a tick preventative to your yard you can also look into some topical tick medications that can be applied to the back of your pets’ necks. This may help in killing off ticks that bite your dog and they will fall off by themselves.  There can be potential side effects that you should be aware of so you should research the facts for yourself and talk to your vet about what options work for you and your pets.

So remember, the best action to take in keeping these little problems off of your loved ones is to conduct thorough body searches and carefully comb through the hair.  Doing a little research on what medications are best and safe for your pets can be vital in saving their lives. Be sure to hire LICENSED professionals if you are considering using a treatment on your lawn. This can be very effective if done properly or very harmful if misused. So please contact a professional and get your family protected today!

A Helpful Guide on Planting New Trees!

Now that summer has arrived we are all spending more time outside in our yards! As you walk around you may start to feel like it is time for some new growth on your property. Let’s take a look at planting new trees and how to NOT let the process overwhelm you! By following some simple guidelines you can have new trees growing in your yard! Location and proper care are vital to successful growing, let’s take a look!

So When is the Best Time to Plant?

When thinking about planting new trees there are several factors to keep in mind. To achieve a healthy grow cycle trees are ideally planted during the dormant season (fall and early spring before the buds start). This is important because it allows the new trees to establish strong roots in its new location before the spring rains and high heat of summer force a strong top growth. A sturdy house is built upon a sturdy foundation! You can plant in the warmer seasons if you are using “balled” or container trees but it is vital that these trees receive appropriate care in order for them to thrive. It is very important that they are properly watered if planted in warmer growing conditions. Just be careful with balled/container trees because they lose a large portion of their root system at the nursery which can result in “Transplant Shock”. Transplant shock slows the potential growth of the root system, especially when some of the roots have to be cut due to kinked or entwined roots. To avoid or lessen the transplant shock you should take steps to pick out a prime location and provide constant “follow-up” care to your new tree.]

 

Let’s take a look at some important factors to consider when planting your new trees. First, and foremost: Make sure to identify all underground wiring before you dig ANYWHERE in your yard!

When digging the hole for planting be sure to make it 2-3 times wider than your new tree’s root ball and make the hole is as deep as the actual root ball. It is key to dig a broad hole so the new roots have room to expand and the broken up soil allows for this to happen. Once your hole is ready you should remove the containers or cut away the wire root casing.  Closely inspect the root balls for circling roots and be sure to straighten, cut, or remove them. Expose the trunk flare, if need be.

Wait, “trunk flare”?  What’s this? Trunk flare is where the trunk expands, visibly,  at the base of the tree. This area should be partially visible after the tree has
been planted. Be sure to remove all the excess soil from the top of the root ball prior to planting if the trunk flare is not visible.  If the tree is planted too deep, new roots will have a tough time developing because of a lack of oxygen. Also, in poorly drained
or heavily clayed soils, trees should be planted with the base of the trunk flare 2 to 3 inches above grade. And always remember to lift the tree by the root ball…not the trunk!

 

 

 

Once your new tree is in the hole be sure to quickly straighten it up. It helps to have another set of eyes view this new tree from several different angles and distances to ensure the tree was planted straight. Once the tree is firmly planted it will be very difficult to reposition it. Once you are happy with your new tree’s position you can stake it if needed. Some simple follow-up care will help your tree grow strong and healthy. You should lay mulch around the new growth area because this will help retain the much needed moisture as the new roots begin their exploration. Keep the mulch away from the trunk of the tree to prevent rapid decaying and have your mulch layer be 2-4 inches deep. Keep the mulch 1-2 inches away from the trunk to prevent bark decay.

 

 

Keep the new soil moist but be sure not to over-water. In general it is good to water the new tree 1-2 times per week depending on the amount of rain you receive. A little extra water is a good idea if you are in a hot weather spell. Continue this watering schedule regularly until the fall and then start to taper off because lower temperatures require less frequent watering.  You can prune your new tree but do so sparingly. Remove any damage areas that occurred during planting. Delay necessary corrective pruning until a full season of growth in the new location has occurred. The last step is VERY IMPORTANT: Enjoy your new tree! Yes, that’s the last step! When you have questions regarding your tree, be sure to contact your local ISA Certified Arborist or a tree care or garden center professional for assistance!

 

It’s Time to Start that Compost Pile!

Have you thought about starting a compost pile in your yard but felt a little intimidated by the process? Let’s take a look at how easy this can be and how you can quickly reap the rewards of fresh compost! In general, compost is the breaking down of organic matter into rich soil particles. This amazing process happens naturally on the forest floor but you can accelerate this magic in your garden by mixing specific ingredients in the right conditions.

 

The general idea is to mix four parts “green material” (including grass clippings and kitchen scraps) with one part “brown material” (dry leaves) in small layers. It is also pretty important to keep the compost pile moist but not saturated. The key to keeping the pile moist is having it covered either in a bin or enclosed box. It can easily take up to a couple of months before you start seeing the dark, nutrient enriched composted soil. However, your efforts will be well worth the wait!  The new compost will improve your garden soil providing perfect growing conditions.  If you live in an area with dry/sandy soil it is particularly important to add compost to all of your garden areas.

When thinking about the overall size of your compost pile be sure you are at least at a cubic yard. This will produce enough heat to destroy compiled weed seeds and add speed up the overall composting process. It is pretty important that you keep piles of weeds out of your pile if it is on the smaller size because the weeds may take over.
One of the key elements to a successful compost pile is Oxygen.  It is imperative that you “turn” your pile for this allows air to circulate and helps the overall decomposition process.  You may want to avoid adding large quantities of grass clippings because of the matting factor which may block out the flowing of air. The turning process can be done with a pitch fork and only takes a couple of seconds. 

Overall you need to remember that this is not an overwhelming process. Doing minimal work will certainly improve your garden and flower beds. Remember, oxygen is crucial in the decomposition process so you need to remember to turn your pile regularly. Give it a try and watch how your new nutrient enriched soil makes your gardens flourish!

How to Attract Butterflies to your Yard

With the return of warm weather we are starting to see a familiar and welcoming sight. Little splashes of color that flutter by and add vibrancy to our landscapes. Indeed, the butterflies have returned. Every time we see one of these beautiful specimens we can’t help but smile and feel content for the few moments we share with their presence. So how do we attract more and more butterflies to our yards? Let’s take a look at some key elements.

Naturally, if you were to sit and wait for them you would eventually see one or two. However, if you know what they are looking for and provide the proper trees, flowers, and shrubs for them, you will have your own butterfly sanctuary to enjoy!  For starters, it’s best to start with a variety of flowering/fruit trees and shrubs to attract butterflies to your garden. It is recommended that you choose a mixture of both rapid bloomers and varieties that have a longer bloom time. With the addition of these types of plants you will start to see American ladies, silvery blues, zebra swallowtails, Compton tortoiseshells, and northern pearly eyes . . .just to name a few.

The eastern red-bud tends to bloom in early spring and is one of the earliest bloomers. This leads to the attraction of such specimens as the silvery blue, zebra swallowtails and dreamy duskywings. This would be a great addition to any landscape to help kick off the welcoming of the butterflies. Plus you are helping the environment because its nectar and pollen attract butterflies necessary for healthy orchards and vegetable gardens.

It is very important to know what these beautiful creatures are looking for in order to create an inspiring butterfly sanctuary in your yard. The majestic flutter-bys instill a joy and peacefulness to our everyday. It is a very simple process and takes minimal work to give these beauties what they are looking for . . .and well worth the effort!

 

Three Shade Trees for the Upcoming Summer Heat!

We are about to enter into the summer months in Westchester County! As we start to pull out our summer clothes, we also begin thinking about putting the air conditioners back in the windows. People use various methods to escape the high heat of summer, but there are certainly ways to stay cool without locking ourselves away in our air conditioned houses. Let’s face it, fresh air is an essential part of enjoying summer! Shade trees are definitely the answer for those of us who love the outdoors but need a retreat as the temperatures start to rise. The temperature difference can be quite extreme between standing in direct sunlight and taking a seat beneath nature’s canopies!

When thinking about your landscape design, it is a good idea to incorporate some trees. There are numerous varieties of shade trees that can certainly be very appealing. Typically these are deciduous trees that produce a thick leaf coverage in the warmer months then shed their leaves upon the arrival of the cooler seasons. You can also incorporate some evergreens and tropical trees in your landscape design, depending on your desired look.

Let’s take a look at some of the shade trees that can help to offer a “cool spot in the shade” and also spruce up the overall appearance of your landscape design. This is definitely something to think about as you are designing the layout on your property. Maybe some of these trees are already on your property and now you can see them in a new light!

White Birch

The White Birch Tree, also known as the European birch, can grow up to be 30 to 60 feet tall and features “drooping” branches. These trees have smaller leaves that offer a nice diffused shade.  Birch trees in general are tolerant of most soil and climate conditions. They do, however, like moisture during the dryer summer months. Birch trees grow very fast, which is a plus if you are planning a new layout design while the peeling white bark can stand out in a landscape.

 

Silver Maple

The Silver Maple is the fastest growing of the Maple trees.  Its branches spread out, producing a gorgeous canopy in the hot summer months! They can grow in upwards to 80ft and have a “wingspan” of up to 40ft! It is a very adaptable tree but it does require the most sunlight out of all the maples. The leaves are simple and palmately veined with deep angular notches between the five lobes. These trees are often planted for ornamental purposes because of their rapid growth and ease of propagation and transplanting. They are highly tolerant of urban situations and are frequently planted next to streets.

 

Weeping Willow Tree

Besides their obvious charm and elegance, Weeping Willows also serve as a fortress from the blazing sun during the summer months!  The weeping willow is a medium to large-sized deciduous tree that has the potential to grow up to 60 feet tall. They tend to grow rapidly, but unfortunately have a short lifespan. The beautiful shoots are a yellowish-brown, with very small buds. The leaves are patterned and spirally arranged. They are light green, with finely serrate margins and long tips. A cool summer breeze tends to animate these gorgeous trees and they are a very sought after addition to any landscape design!

So get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather that mother nature is serving up! Plan a picnic or grab your favorite book and find your spot in the shade under your shade tree of choice! Plus, by turning off the air conditioners we are saving money and energy which helps reduce your carbon footprint. Enjoy your summer!

Which Magnolia Tree is Right For You?

With the much anticipated warm weather’s arrival we have been seeing the familiar blooms of Magnolia trees in and around Westchester County. Magnolias (Magnolia spp.) are a diverse group of flowering trees known for their robust and fragrant blossoms.  Although their are many species of Magnolias only a few are commonly used in landscape design. They are, however, among the most popular species for creating a focal point in a landscape.

Magnolia Trees

When it comes to landscape selection there are 3 main types of Magnolias. One species is a Native North American and the other two are Asian in origin. All of these species feature a dark green leaf that grow in excess 10″ in length. The trees have an overall tropical look to them which is part of the reason that they have grown to be so popular over time. Their cone-like seed structure is also a visually appealing feature of the Magnolia which ripens to a bright reddish color come fall.

North American Magnolias

 The Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is definitely the most commonly planted of the three but there are several species of magnolia that are native to the eastern United States as well.  The Southern magnolia is a stately evergreen tree with large white blooms and they are surely equal in beauty to the Asian variety. However the flowers appear several months later than the Asian. One of the many reasons that you see these gorgeous trees everywhere is their unusual ability to grow in both sun and shade environments and are adapted to most soil types (with the exception of overly wet soil conditions).  It is certainly a great idea to enrich the soil with compost while transplanting these trees but they are extremely resilient and will grow just about anywhere! 

Asian Magnolias

This variety of Magnolia became very popular due to their smaller sizes and early spring blooms of gorgeous flowers. Some of the blossoms even appear before the beautiful leaves reach full potential! They quickly became known for their ornamental vale and they were the perfect “patio” tree that can even be grown in large decorative planters. A huge difference between the North American Magnolia and the Asian variety is the Asians need full sun and very rich soil to reach their peek bloom. A huge plus for the Asian variety is that they are practically immune to most pests and typical disease problems! However,  powdery mildew may occasionally infect these beauties. A great way to combat this is to rake the leaves each fall to help keep the disease stay under control.

magnolia-trees

Westchester Garden Guide

What plants, trees and shrubs are you planting this season?  Consider adding some of these  plants, trees and shrubs from our Westchester Garden Guide.

Sweet Woodruff, (Galium odoratum)

Sweet Woodruff Westchester Tree Life

Sweet woodruff is an excellent groundcover; via Pinterest

This fragrant spring woodlander forms a beautiful green carpet.  Sweet Woodruff is a lovely groundcover, ideal for ground beneath trees.  Planting sweet woodruff will give your Westchester garden a finished look.

Jack Frost, (Brunnera macropylla)

westchester-tree-life

Jack Frost via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t let deer ruin your beautifully cultivated Westchester garden!  Jack Frost is a deer resistant groundcover that adds a lovely touch to your property.  Silver veined leaves are topped with blue blossoms, reminiscent of forget-me-nots.  Plant this groundcover in a shady area that needs a pop of color!

Lilac, (Syringa ‘Palibin’)

Lilac Westchester Tree Life

Syringa ‘Palibin’ via Pinterest

The sweet fragrance of a lilac is a staple of spring gardening.  Try planting the Syringa ‘Palibin’, which is more resistant to mildew than other types of lilac.  They have a tendency to have a longer blooming period than large lilacs.

Mount Airy, (Fothergilla)

Mount Airy Westchester

Mount Airy via Wikimedia Commons

The Mount Airy  is the perfect shrub to plant in a compact garden.  Yielding brush-like flowers during spring and gorgeous foliage during fall, Mount Airy brings year-round beauty.