Here is the weekly crop of Master Gardener tips from Nebraska Extension in the Panhandle. These tips are relevant to local lawn and garden issues in the High Plains and follow research-based recommendations. This week’s tips come from Elaine Pile, Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, and each focuses on the roles that trees can play in home landscapes.
Trees help control yard temperatures: Trees can alter the temperature of outdoor living spaces, making them cooler and more usable during the summer. Mid-summer afternoon sun produces small shade patterns due to the sun’s high location and casts shade to the north and northeast. Plant large deciduous shade trees on the south or southwest sides of your home to cool it and reduce your summer energy costs.
Choosing shade trees: If you are looking for a shade tree for the south or southwest side of your home, choose trees with wide upright or vase-shaped growth habits. This type tree will maximize shade coverage during the summer. Avoid trees with evergreen foliage or persistent leaves that tend to stay on the tree through winter. Examples of large shade trees that grow well here are Kentucky coffeetree, honeylocust, bur oak and hackberry.
Trees to improve landscape visuals: Do you want to improve the visual quality of your landscape? Trees provide size, form, texture and color and create framework for your entire landscape. Select trees suited for a space even as they continue to grow. Plant trees at a minimum distance of half the mature canopy width away from your home. Avoid placing trees too close to your home to prevent roof damage and gutters filling with plant debris.
Trees give landscape scale, harmony: You can use trees to create a sense of scale on your property and help blend your home into the landscape. Trees should be planted near your home and also incorporated into the landscape away from the house. Planting away from the house, and in groupings of trees and other landscape plants, helps your home blend into the surrounding landscape and avoids making the house appear too dominant.
Using trees to create outdoor “rooms”: Would you like to create outdoor rooms in your landscape? Ceilings can be created by enclosing the overhead space with tree canopies. Canopy heights 12 feet or lower create intimate outdoor rooms. Canopies greater than 12 feet create an open feeling. Create walls by using small trees with upright form and relatively dense foliage. Small trees placed close to the living area define space, provide screening and allow outward views.