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Good Morning friend!
Community forest is goal of tree planting, care
April 17, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Kay Grote - City of Gering Parks employee Mark Staman works to trim a giant locust tree in Gardner Park Tuesday afternoon. Seasonal pruning of dead and diseased limbs and removing a small portion of tree canopy is necessary for optimum tree health and growth.

Trees. They not only shade your property and add to its value, they also help cut down on energy consumption and provide a beautiful look to the neighborhoods of the “community forest.”

Amy Siler, Community Forestry Specialist for Western Nebraska, said the Nebraska Forest Service likes to focus on using native trees when people are considering what to plant.

“We encourage that because native trees have proven they can survive in our climate and soil conditions,” she said. “People can also use some other species that are adapted to this area.”

Each year, the Forest Service publishes its ReTree Nebraska’s list of top species to plant. Their tree for 2014 is the Ponderosa pine. It’s native to the area and works well in landscapes. And as it ages, the tree drops its lower branches, making a nice shade tree.

“The Ponderosa pine isn’t a street tree,” Siler said. “But if you need some wind protection on the west side of the house, it’s a good choice.”

For deciduous trees, Bur Oak is a popular choice. While this species isn’t native to the local area, it grows well in the Crawford and McCook areas.

“The burr oak doesn’t grow slowly,” Siler said. “They’re a relatively moderate growth tree and can grow 12 to 18 inches a year. But they have to be planted in soil that isn’t compacted so they have sufficient moisture.”

On constructed home sites, compacted soil is the rule. Siler said some trees can handle compacted soil.

“My best advice is to always talk to your local nursery person about recommendations,” she said. “They know what species belong here and which ones won’t do well. They can also give you tips on exactly where to plant.”

Another species that does well here and is very attractive as it grows is the Kentucky Coffeetree. “It leafs out a bit later in the spring so frost damage is minimal,” Siler said. “They also shed their leaves in early fall so the tree hardens before winter arrives.”

She added the Coffeetree isn’t very attractive in the nursery, kind of like a twig. But once it’s in a landscape and leafs out, it’s quite spectacular.

Some native species produce trees or pods, and some people steer clear of those types of trees. “Those species are very beneficial,” Siler said. “Pods mean the tree actually grew from a seed, so it’s not a clone that’s genetically identical to others. That’s good for the diversity of trees in the area.”

Siler said another species not on the list, but she recommends, is the American Linden. It grows well in the area, has a beautiful form, and produces fragrant flowers in the spring that are great for pollinators.

Other species that aren’t that common but do well here include English Oak, Chinkapin Oak and Miyabe Maple for a small to medium sized tree.

“People also get nervous about planting elm trees because of all the problems we’ve had with them,” Siler said. “But new hybrid elms have shown to be resistant to Dutch Elm disease and they’re performing very well.”

She added that elms are fast growers, but people should plant one of them and then diversify with another species.

Promoting diversity in the community forest is the mission statement for the national Tree City USA program, of which Gering is a member. Gering Parks and Recreation Director Ron Ernst said they actively encourage that people consider a wide variety of trees when they plant.

After a major weather-related die-off of elm trees in the early 1990s, many people replaced them with ash trees. Local ash populations have been challenged by infestations of the Emerald Ash Borer – and Ernst said it won’t look good for the ash tree in the future.

“I think people now understand they need to plant a variety of trees,” he said. “That way, we can minimize the damage from a similar die-off that happened in the ‘90s.”

He added he’s seeing a lot more oaks, lindens, coffeetrees and other species around the community.

For the past several years, Gering has had a tree rebate program in place for trees planted in front yards. The city will rebate 50 percent of the cost of a tree, up to $100. The public can pick up a list of qualifying trees at the city offices or by going online to www.gering.org.

“We made the list to encourage diversity so everyone isn’t planting the same species every year,” Ernst said.
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