Truckee Meadows Community Forestry Coalition
The Northern Nevada landscape features a stark contrast between barren desert and snow-capped mountains, urban and rural, and within all of these diverse settings trees are a constant. But in the midst of homeowners caring for smaller plants in gardens and yards, trees are often left to fend for themselves.
This week is Nevada Shade Tree Week, and the Truckee Meadows Community Forestry Coalition and the Truckee Meadows Water Authority are working with homeowners to increase awareness about the care and keeping of perennial arbors.
“We hear often that people don’t water their trees,” said Lora Rose Richards, conservation and community education administrator for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. “But it’s an urban forest, and we live in the desert. Just like other plants, they need to be watered.”
According to Richards, many of the misconceptions stem from a lack of knowledge about the anatomy of trees and their growth.
“We see trees as structural rather than living,” said Rebecca Wikler, outreach specialist for Good Standing Outreach. “Once you learn about them, caring for them seems common sense, but it’s not necessarily intuitive.”
Roots should extend about a foot below the soil, but many homeowners rely on surface sprinklers to nourish their trees, and roots will navigate upward to seek out water. Elevated roots put trees at risk of falling during heavy storms or aggressive winds.
Richards recommends planning an irrigation system that can water all plants. A drip or soaker system will efficiently keep the soil moist without wasting water that can easily evaporate or blow away with the breeze.
“We try to promote water-efficient ways that are still beautiful,” Richards said. “We can grow big, beautiful trees and still conserve.”
TMCFC encourages the idea of “right tree, right place.” Choosing the correct class for your home can make a significant impact. For instance, class I trees are under 30 feet tall and work well for streets with low hanging power lines. A class III tree can require more than 10 feet of space for its roots to expand. Two additional categories, sidewalk and street, refer to trees planted in public city environments.
In Reno, apple trees are abundant, hardy and endure the frost. Pines and evergreens thrive in the mountainous climates. White fir, oak and ash trees are also common and can withstand the harsh and unpredictable weather. TMCFC has knowledgeable arborists on hand to help homeowners pick a tree suitable for their yard, and a comprehensive guide can be found on their website.
Aside from their beauty, trees offer sustenance, shade and air filtering. But often their size and common presence in neighborhoods removes the connection between farmer and plant, and trees can be taken for granted. Richards hopes that homeowners will take a vested interest in their neighborhood foliage.
“Everyone has a tree memory,” Richards said. “There’s a bit of nostalgia, folklore about trees. There’s something very ‘community’ about them.”