Fall is a great time to plant trees to help cool down your summer. Photo by Susan Kalmar

Fall is a great time to plant trees to help cool down your summer. Photo by Susan Kalmar

Get It Growing: Made in the shade (or making the shade, as the case may be)

With this summer’s toasty temperatures, many gardeners are searching for economical ways to cool their homes. Shade trees might be the answer.

Depending on their placement and the shadows they cast, trees can cool homes by as much as 10-15 degrees. They can reduce air conditioning costs and make non-air conditioned homes more comfortable. They can also enhance the beauty of your landscape.

Deciduous trees are a great choice for shade in the Pacific Northwest. Many grow quickly and have wide canopies that cast shadows that cool your home during the warmer days of summer. Their loss of leaves in the fall, however, allows sunlight to reach (and brighten) your home in the darker days of winter (see sidebar for recommended species).

Before selecting a tree, consider its mature size and the place where you want to plant it. A tree that outgrows its space will suffer and possibly damage nearby structures. Consider not only the height of the tree but its spread — that is, the width of its canopy.

For maximum cooling, plant trees on the western and southern side of your home to cast shadows directly onto your home. Placement in other locations can contribute to cooling through reduction of reflected light from concrete sidewalks and patios and shading of dark-colored structures — such as asphalt driveways and brick walls — that re-radiate heat at night.

Do not plant too close to your home or surrounding structures. Plant trees half the width of their mature spread away from your home and at least 3 or 4 feet away from sidewalks and driveways. Avoid planting near overhead wires that could be damaged as the trees grow.

Do not plant trees near your chimney; flying sparks can ignite the branches and lead to a rapidly expanding fire.

Just like other perennials, shade trees need regular watering during establishment (the first two to three years after planting) and thereafter, during periods of drought. When you water, water deeply. Remember that an established tree’s roots are normally in the top 1-2 feet of soil; so 2-3 inches of water each week are needed to penetrate to that depth.

Healthy trees generally do not require much fertilizing. If you notice reduced growth, look for diseases and pests. If none are found, apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring according to instructions on the fertilizer label.

Prune your trees (usually during the dormant season) focusing on plant health. The desired tree shape depends on the species. Regardless of the species, remove dead, dying and diseased branches; branches that rub together; branch stubs; and suckers that arise from the base of the tree. For more information, see “Home Pruning: Reasons to Prune Trees and Shrubs (Home Gardening Series)” (FS182E) available for free at tinyurl.com/HomePrune.

A mature deciduous tree produces lots of leaves that can accumulate around your yard. Although raking is not necessary, a thick layer of leaves can deprive grass of sunlight and air and trap moisture at the soil surface. Raking the leaves or shredding them with a mower will keep any surrounding grass happier.

Remove leaves from gutters to prevent gutter and roof damage. Rake leaves out of sewers and drainage pathways so that water can flow freely.

Although local summers are moderate by many standards, temperatures can soar. Relief can be “made in the shade” of strategically placed deciduous trees. But don’t wait until warmer weather to move forward with this idea. Now (the fall) is the time to plant those trees that could cool your summertime experience.

Jeanette Stehr-Green is a WSU-certified Clallam County Master Gardener.

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Right: Pieces of Civil War veteran Moore Waldron’s headstone can be seen in the right-hand corner of this photograph. Historical preservationist Mick Hersey, left, and the Taylor family of Gig Harbor returned the pieces to the Pioneer Memorial Park of Sequim for their friends the Englands (Moore’s descendants). The Englands read in the Sequim Gazette about the Sequim Garden Club’s preservation efforts at the park and decided to return these pieces for restoration. Moore now will have two markers in the park, as the Veteran’s Administration commissioned a new stone for Waldron in 2017 — an article about which can also be found on the Sequim Gazettte’s website. Moore moved to Sequim with his family in 1905 and died in 1908. Moore had five children and has descendants in Sequim and Pierce County as well as other places. Moore’s great-grandson is the founder of the Waldron Endoscopy Center in Tacoma, according to Cheryl England. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen
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