Today is Arbor Day here in the U.S., a day to stop and appreciate the oxygen-producing, air-filtration systems that grow all over your yard, the countryside, and the world. Without trees, humans could not survive on this planet. They are some of our earliest hideaways, favorite jungle gyms, and familiar friends. But like any old friend, sometimes we can get frustrated by their very presence. They drop leaves all over the yard and we are left to clean them up. Their roots can invisibly wrap themselves around our pipes and their limbs can suddenly come crashing through our windows or onto our cars. Depending on where you live and what types of trees grow in your yard, you might face a whole host of issues from your arbor amigos.
Arbor Day Blues
Lots of websites and groups advocate planting a tree on Arbor Day, but it's not that simple. Trees live for hundreds of years, so you have to think about the future when you plant that Arbor Day tree. Did you research the species of tree that you are planting? Does it naturally occur in your region? How much water will it require, and is this going to be supplied by the weather, or will you have to add additional watering apparatuses? What about the root system? Do the roots grow mostly downward, or do they spread out, like many trees native to arid climates? Will wind and erosion be an issue? If wind is prevalent in your region, are there enough established plants and trees surrounding your planting space to protect your new tree from damage? If your tree is not native to your region, will planting it help or hinder your local eco-system by adding to it the correct (or incorrect) pollen, insects, berries, etc.? Will it survive the harsher aspects of your climate (i.e. snow, extreme heat, high wind, little rainfall, etc.)? These are all questions you should ask yourself when planting an Arbor Day tree so that your addition will positively add to your local eco-system.
Okay, I've Done My Research, What's Next?
Once you've decided on your tree, the next step in planting that Arbor Day foliage is to decide where to plant. This part can be tricky. Most HOAs require that any visible changes you make to your property be in keeping with the neighborhood aesthetic. This might mean that they prefer that you plant a specific species of tree, or that you don't plant in specific areas of your yard. You also want to be cognizant of what's going on underground- where are your water and gas plumbing lines? Will your new tree be a hazard to these existing lines, and if so, can they be re-routed or will you have to eschew planting in their path? What about the other plants in your yard? Will their root systems be disrupted by the roots of the new tree? Once you've figured this out, you can get that shovel out and start planting!
Will My Arbor Day Good Deed Affect My Pool?
You might be wondering this very thing right now. You've got a gorgeous pool that you've invested a lot of time and money into, and the last thing you want is to have all that work flushed down the drain by the presence of a new plant with wandering roots. The accepted consensus is that wandering roots can and will disrupt your pool. From cracks and leaks to broken water lines, you definitely need to do your due diligence when choosing to plant a tree close to your pool. If you live in an arid climate, like we discussed earlier, oftentimes, the native flora tend to have roots that are shallow and spread out wide from the base of the tree. This allows the tree (or whatever type of plant) to have the most opportunities to collect falling rain. If you live in a mountainous area, often the roots will go as far down as they can to give stability to the tree during times of high wind, erosion due to rain, and heavy amounts of snow resting against it, all while maintaining its position on an extreme slope. Ever notice how a lot of the trees that are native to North Texas tend to grow lower to the ground and have strong root systems? That's because the trees have adapted to the high winds and thick clay soil that we see here. Evolution at its finest, my friends!
So how does this translate to your pool? Well for starters, you want to know your roots, so to speak. If you've chosen a tree that likes to spread out, like a Eucalyptus, plant it far back from, well, basically anything underground and important. Depending on the scale of the tree, a good recommendation is at least 8 feet from the edge of your pool. Most properties have a "setback", or a minimum distance from the property line upon which structures may be built. Planting is allowed within the setback, but depending on the size of your property, your pool may be right on this edge, and often it's an average of 5 feet from the property line (every city has their own rules, though, so make sure to check with your city, your builder, or refer to your property plan). Planting a tree within the boundaries of the setback might be a little too close for comfort for your pool equipment and plumbing, so perhaps stick to shrubs and flowers and other smaller plants who's roots will not worm their way into the side of your pool. Pine and nut trees tend to have roots that grow down (known as taproots), so planting those near the pool would be a better choice for your pool. Just don't forget that pines have needles year-round- which means that your skimmer will also be working year-round.
I'm Building a Pool, But I Love My Existing Trees
Fret not, my friend! If you are building a pool right now, but you have a few established trees that you just can't bring yourself to part with, talk to your builder! We've had many clients who've had a favorite tree or bush (or even one with a gorgeous grapevine) that they just didn't want to remove. We understand this completely. After all, tending to a plant is a daily task and requires focused care. It's difficult to put so much work into something just to tear it down and start over. Most likely, your builder will understand that you have an affinity to this plant and will help you come up with options to preserve it. You can relocate the tree to another area of the yard, or you can build around it, in the hopes that any major digging won't adversely affect the root system in an irreparable way. As most pool builders work with an array of subcontractors, the likelihood is very high that your builder knows the right person to help you preserve your precious plant.
Now that you've considered all the options, get out there and plant that tree! And have a very Happy Arbor Day!