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Celebrating Alaska’s Arbor Day

50th Anniversary nationally
Alaska's Arbor Day celebration is later than the national celebration to give more time for trees to be planted.
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 7:16 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Today is Arbor Day in Alaska, and planting a tree is something simple that can be done in less than an hour and last for several decades.

Arbor Day occurs on the third Monday of the month of May in Alaska, while National Arbor Day occurs on the last Friday in the month of April. Of course, trees in Alaska need just a few more weeks in order to get trees in the ground. Anchorage Horticulturist Luis Lemus to helps commemorate the 50th anniversary nationally by planting a spruce tree at the Community Gardens in Chanshtnu Muldoon Park.

The park features one of the city’s newer community gardens where last year, the city planted dozens of birch trees, all of which are doing well entering their second year. Lemus says that planting a tree is an art and a science, and that to plant a tree properly, a hole must be dug wide enough, but not too deep to bury the trunk of the tree. Lemus says the base of the trunk should be even with the ground.

“It’s very important when you plant a tree that the collar of the tree to be exposed, you know,” Lemus says. “You don’t want to put soil all the way up to the top because that soil that you put right against the trunk of the tree, is going to start producing bacteria and that is going to effect the collar of the tree, and eventually it kills the tree.”

Lemus says that next, place soil and compost in the hole around the newly placed tree.

“We try to tap it in so we don’t leave air pockets inside there,” Lemus said. “That will give more stability to the root system,

Lemus says that next, pack soil around the base of the trunk.

“Then we start leaving a little ring around the collar, and that helps to retain water,” Lemus said. “In about 20, 30 years you can come back here and say ‘I plant this tree’. You know. It’s a beautiful thing to plant a tree. It’s one of my favorite things in life.”

The simple act of planting a tree can have long lasting effects on any type of community. The approximately 45 minutes of work is small in comparison to the benefits that will last several decades.

”To me planting a tree is life,” Lemus said. “It’s life for us, and life for the future. You know. It has a lot of benefits to plant a tree, you know, and those benefits, they produce oxygen for us, they help to clean up the air, you know, retain the humidity, and beautify all cities. So, what else do you want you know. Planting a tree is the most beautiful thing that a person can do.”

Arbor Day originally started 150 years ago, in 1872, in Nebraska. It was made a state holiday there in 1885 with an estimated 1 million trees being planted. The National Arbor Day Foundation which started in 1972 currently has more than 1 million members and has planted more than 350 million trees throughout the world. This year, they pledged to plant up to 150,000 new trees. There are still three to four months in the growing season to plant trees for those who miss the opportunity on Arbor Day. The Arbor Day Foundation also produced a list of 150 Ways to Celebrate Trees.

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