The History Of Arbor Day


Celebrate Arbor Day. Plant a tree!

Arbor Day is a national holiday highlighting the importance of trees. The holiday is celebrated every year on the last Friday in April. The most common way to celebrate Arbor Day is to plant trees.

You may have heard of Arbor Day at school. Observed by all the states by 1907, schoolchildren helped out the most to keep the day alive and growing. Arbor Day programs urged children to plant a tree as a patriotic act, as a good investment for the future, and as a way to beautify the community.

The first American Arbor Day originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska by Julius Sterling Morton. On April 10, 1872, Nebraskans celebrated the first Arbor Day by planting more than a million trees. Morton, a newspaper editor and former governor, saw his dream fulfilled after years of asking Congress to designate a day to encourage the planting of trees.

The idea was globalized by Birdsey Northrop of Connecticut following a visit to Japan in 1883. Northrop delivered an Arbor Day and Village Improvement message. The American Forestry Association elected Northrop as the Chairman of a committee to campaign for a nationwide Arbor Day. Northrop also promoted Arbor Day in Australia, Canada, and Europe.

In 1885, the Nebraskans moved the date to April 22 in honor of Morton's birthday. Today, people celebrate Arbor Day worldwide on the last Friday in April.

When Morton founded Arbor Day in 1872, his idea was simple—set aside a special day for tree planting. And today, that idea is more important than ever.

How To Plant A Tree

Trees can be planted in early spring or in fall and are available in two options: bare-root and in containers. Bare-root trees are common through online and mail-order sources. They are usually less expensive, and there is a greater variety available then containerized trees from a local nursery. When ordered, they are lifted from the ground at the nursery, the soil washed from the roots, then wrapped in moist peat or a similar material to keep them from drying out. Bare-root trees must be planted while dormant in late winter or early spring.

Containerized trees, usually purchased from local nurseries, are fully rooted in a pot and are available for a greater period of time spring through summer. Only the most popular varieties are usually available. Being established, they are easier to grow.

Most trees do best in full sun and need well-drained soil. Plant bare-root trees as soon as possible. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for a few hours before planting. Keep containerized trees well watered until planted. Dig holes twice as wide as the roots to help roots grow easily. The depth of the hole should be as deep, but not deeper, than the roots. Compost can be mixed into the hole if the soil is poor, but don't fertilize new trees. Spread the roots out in the hole and tamp the soil around them firmly. Water thoroughly when first planted, then whenever the top 2 inches of soil are dry.

In early and late spring, each year, you can fertilize established trees...though if they are doing well on their own, fertilizing may not be necessary.