Florida’s Arbor Day was the third Friday in January. If you missed it this year, it’s not too late to celebrate! The spirit of Arbor Day continues, and National Arbor Day isn’t until April 29 this year, giving you plenty of time to plan and plant.
History of Arbor Day
In 1854, J. Sterling Morton and his wife moved to the territory of Nebraska. Along with fellow community members, they noticed and grieved how few trees were in Nebraska compared to the land they had left back east. To remedy this, the couple bought 160 acres of bare land and began planting.
Morton’s love for nature led to his serving on the Nebraska Board of Agriculture, where he proposed a day set aside for Nebraskans to plant trees where they lived and worked. And so, April 10, 1872, became the first Arbor Day, which was hugely successful—roughly 1 million trees were planted across the state. Arbor Day was proclaimed a legal state holiday in 1885, and today, it is a national holiday that is also recognized around the world.
Florida began celebrating Arbor Day in 1886, and there are currently 176 Tree City USA communities in the state. This official designation is given to communities that meet specific criteria put forth by the Arbor Day Foundation. If you live in one of these communities, there must be a tree board or department in place and an official Arbor Day celebration, so connecting with these events is a great way to participate. A simple web search will provide contact info for the closest such community.
The spirit of Arbor Day is looking with hope to the future of the environment. Celebrating this event can take many forms, including these ideas:
- Plant trees! This simple act benefits a whole community, not just one individual.
- Talk a walk. As you do, look around and appreciate the beauty of the trees in your area.
- Involve the little ones. Nature-based crafts or drawing trees will plant seeds of love and respect for the natural world.
- Support Arbor Day organizations. Local groups to national organizations all need support to run; consider how you might join their mission.
Tree Care Tips
Here in Florida, now is the ideal time for planting bare-root plants. Trees that are small and dormant are best. If you prefer palms, wait until the weather warms up.
Start the process of pruning your shade trees but hold off on flowering trees until after they bloom in the spring. Dead branches, seedpods, and suckers can be removed from any tree. If they need it, you can trim your palms now, too.
If you do plant trees in the spirit of Arbor Day, keep these things in mind:
- New plantings need to be watered by hand for several months to ensure they get the necessary irrigation. After this period, reduce watering to every other day.
- Mulching over the root system is important to keep weeds down and irrigation even.
Fertilizers should be scattered around new trees 2-3 times per year for the first 3-5 years.