Now’s time to bring back trees
It's interesting timing, said Pat Albert, a member of the Tonganoxie City Council.
"We get our Tree City USA designation on Monday night at the council meeting and have a tornado on Thursday," Albert said.
And what a tornado it was, especially as far as trees are concerned.
"On the west side of town it's probably going to be at least a 50 percent loss, maybe more," Albert said. "From Delaware Street on west it's pretty dramatic."
The hardest-hit area is from U.S. Highway 24-40 west, Albert said.
"It's difficult to find a tree in that area that doesn't have significant damage," he said.
Sy Nyhart, Leavenworth County extension agent, observed the damage in person the day after the storm.
"The city of Tonganoxie certainly lost some good old magnificent trees," Nyhart said.
If anyone is considering planting new trees, Nyhart said the time is either right away before the weather heats up, or in the fall.
"If you do plant now, the trees will require regular, consistent watering," Nyhart said. "It probably would be better to wait until fall."
When it does come time to getting a tree, Nyhart said, bigger isn't necessarily better.
"There are a lot of places out there that would like to sell you a big tree to give you instant shade," he said. "But the problem is that in order to move a tree that big, you have to have a really big tree spade or prune a lot of the roots off."
This, Nyhart said, could throw a tree into a shock that it may take the tree several years to recover from.
"I recommend planting something not more than six to eight feet tall," Nyhart said. "It won't give shade right now, but it should take off and grow right away."
To give it a boost, Nyhart said a light fertilizer might help, but warned that too much fertilizer could burn the tree's roots.
As far as what to plant, Nyhart said there are three broad categories of shade trees: small, 10 to 30 feet tall; medium, 30 to 70 feet tall; and large, more than 70 feet tall.
Trees specifically recommended for Leavenworth County include:
Small: Flowering crabapple trees. Good varieties for this area are spring snow, sargent's, prairie fire and centurian.
Other small trees might include the amur maple, eastern redbud and cockspur hawthorne.
Medium: White ash in the autumn purple or rose hill varieties; river birch in which the Heritage does well here, ginkgo (Nyhart recommends the male, not female, ginkgo tree), hackberry, goldenrain, little leaf linden, hybrid honey locusts, including the shademaster and skyline varieties which will provide some of the fastest shade, red maples including red sunset and October glory, sugar maple, green mountain variety, English oak, which is a slower growing tree, and American sweetgum, a showy tree with red leaves in the autumn.
Large: Bur oak, which is a native tree in Kansas, red oak and London plane, which is similar to a sycamore but less disease prone.
And now that we've covered all this, I must admit, as one who lost two trees to the tornado, that on Saturday afternoon I made a trip to a tree nursery, taking advantage of my newly converted convertible of sorts (the rear window of my car having been shattered by a falling limb) to haul home a red oak and a red maple to plant.
After the storm's destruction, it was a good feeling, almost a healing feeling, to be able to put the tree in the ground and to bank on the faith that with water, weather and time, these trees. too, would help bring back shade to this one small stretch of a Tonganoxie street.