When is the best time to plant a tree?

There’s an old proverb that says the answer is “20 years ago,” and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the second-best time is right now!

The DNR is encouraging people to grab a shovel and a tree and join in planting 50 million trees by 2030 as part of the 1T.org Trillion Trees campaign. Whether you have a family forest plot handed down through generations or a small city lot, a new tree (or trees!) can make a big difference to your quality of life.

“Trees provide cooling shade in towns and cities,” said Kevin Sayers, Urban and Community Forest program lead for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “Trees in any setting help provide clean air and water, prevent erosion and provide homes for wildlife.”

The Mi Trees campaign is part of a global effort to plant more trees to help communities adapt to the world’s changing climate. Michiganders do love the state’s forests, which cover 20 million acres, about half of the state’s entire area. Nearly 4 million acres of that total is state forest managed by the DNR.

In a 2016 survey conducted by the Forest Resources Division, more than nine out of 10 people agreed that forests are part of Michigan’s unique public heritage. Survey respondents also said they want to make sure that Michigan takes good care of its forests so they will be abundant, healthy and green far into the future.

That’s where you can lend a hand.

Plan before you plant!

Look for every opportunity you can to plant a tree and help it thrive. However, to make sure you have trees you can enjoy for years to come, keep several things in mind when planting:

  • Season. Spring and fall are best for planting trees.
  • Location. Make sure to consider the size your tree will be when it is fully grown, and plant an appropriate distance from buildings and away from above- and below-ground utilities. Before putting a spade in the ground, be sure to Call 811 Before You Dig!
  • These tips from the Arbor Day Foundation can help with tree selection and planting.
  • Some trees will not grow well in sandy soil. Others don’t like spots that get too damp. Make sure to choose a tree that will thrive in your climate and soil type.
  • Consider planting native trees and shrubs, which provide food and cover for wildlife.
  • Record it! Once you plant a tree, you can help the DNR meet its tree-planting goal by logging your tree on the interactive online map.

“We want to populate this map with lots of dots,” said Sayers. “Michigan is known for lush forests and plenty of urban landscapes rich with towering trees. Let’s boost that reputation even further. Help the DNR ‘plant it forward’ to ensure a future of healthier air and water and greener communities for all residents.”