You read that right. Shade trees.
One of our plans for the spring is to plant a shade tree or two on the southwest side of our home. These trees won’t be very large now, but in several years, they will grow to a reasonable size, providing some nice shade on summer days when our children are about ten years old or so.
Originally, we decided to do this purely for aesthetic reasons. Both Sarah and I grew up in the country in houses surrounded by trees. We sat under them to read on nice spring days. We climbed them. We used tire swings hanging from lower branches.
In short, we loved the trees around us and want trees around us now. We have a few small trees in our yard, but they’re all of the very slow growing variety, so we decided to plant a couple fast-growing varieties to balance it out.
What surprised me is the number of ways in which these shade trees will pay for themselves over the years.
Energy savings A shade tree on the south or west side of your home can trim $25 a year off of your energy bill. It works for the same reason that you feel cooler in the shade in the summertime. Large trees block the sun’s rays from reaching your home, making it easier to cool your home during the hot summer months.
Increased property value A healthy, well-maintained shade tree in the yard provides additional value to your property. The Christian Science Monitor reports that trees add 7% to 25% to a property’s value merely by being present. If you plan to sell in ten years or so (as we do), a fast-growing shade tree can really add to the value of your home.
Increased composting and mulch For us, those fallen leaves are golden. We’re proud composters and leaves compost beautifully, turning fall rakings into spring nutrition for the garden and lawn. Much of the nutrients provided by leaves comes from deep soil, far below the level of grass and garden, so it’s much more than merely recycling the same nutrients.
Reduced mowing area Once the tree is planted and appropriately bordered, the tree reduces the square footage of mowable space in our yard. While the change is a small one, it’s a small one that’s repeated thirty or forty times a year for a decade or so. That adds up to gas, oil, and wear savings on the lawnmower.
Sap Our primary choice for a fast-growing shade tree is a red maple, which has the secondary benefit of producing delicious sap in the early spring before it buds. That sap, when boiled down, becomes amazingly delicious maple syrup, which can be stored for use throughout the year. Although this is more of a “hobby” choice, it will save us from buying syrup for our waffles and pancakes.
These items exclude the tertiary benefits of having a tree in your yard: aesthetic appeal, shade, environmental benefits (trees clean the air), and so on.
Yes, trees add work to the equation. I’ll be out in the yard raking and storing leaves in the fall, which is certainly a time cost, since I could be doing other things. Yet, quite often in the fall, I spend multiple days doing winterization tasks anyway, and as my children grow, these are the types of tasks that easily become family tasks.
If you own your own home, consider planting a tree. It’ll end up being well worth it in the long run.