AMES, Iowa – Healthy, properly planted trees can have a tremendously positive impact on urban environments. Trees provide monetary benefits like higher housing values and lower energy usage in homes while also helping lower crime rates in communities that have a higher volume of urban trees.
“Trees help foster a sense of community,” said Gabbi Edwards, urban forestry specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “Parks are utilized more if they have a lot of trees and landscaping. This adds value and enhances the natural resources available in that area.”
Edwards is the newest member of the ISU Extension and Outreach Natural Resource Ecology Management team, working to provide programming and information to the public through ISU Extension and Outreach county offices. She specializes in proper planting and pruning of trees, as well as how to select the right tree for an area.
“Tree pruning and maintenance should be done on an annual basis to promote good health,” Edwards said. “Once a tree is established it must be worked with yearly to trim back dead or diseased material to help promote proper crown and root growth.”
Programs across the state work to provide healthy trees to communities, such as the Trees for Kids and Trees for Teens programs through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The program provides hands-on learning opportunities to connect youth with nature through tree planting on school grounds and other public areas.
“This offers a great opportunity for communities and school districts to get up to 200 free trees they can use,” Edwards said. “Normally 200 tree seedlings would cost a large sum of money, but to have the DNR do this for free opens the door for more communities or school districts to receive trees.”
Assuring the trees are planted properly is key to their future success. The "Community Tree Planting and Care Guide" (HORT 3054) is an ISU Extension and Outreach publication that discusses proper techniques for selecting, planting and caring for trees.
Edwards also works with diseases such as Bur Oak Blight and emerald ash borer, providing seminars to help the public learn about the diseases and how to mitigate their affects.
“Some diseases and insects target unhealthy trees, so keeping trees pruned helps them resist those diseases and insects,” Edwards said.
As emerald ash borer continues to pose a threat across the state, ISU Extension and Outreach specialists have released an updated version of publication PM 2084, "Emerald Ash Borer Management Options." The publication is also available in Spanish (PM 2084S).