Plant Hardiness Zone map of the United States. (USDA/Oregon State University)
NEW YORK - Planting trees on your property can have a number of benefits, including lowering your energy bills, cleaning the air you breathe, fighting climate change, and of course add some natural beauty to your view.
Although you can buy trees from your local nursery or even from online vendors, U.S. residents can now order a free tree in a gallon pot courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit conservation and educational organization, and Freshpet, a brand of refrigerated pet food.
"Trees around homes not only help reduce the amount of energy a home requires, but they also add to property value, reduce carbon footprint, improve air quality, and more effectively catch stormwater runoff," Freshpet's Kate Crook, vice president of communications, told FOX 5 NY. "Plus, trees aren't only great for the environment, they have benefits for our pets as well. Tree canopies help lower heat levels making much-needed outdoor play for dogs safer, and more enjoyable, too."
Autumn can be a good time to plant a tree, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, because that gives the young tree time to establish its roots before the stresses of the heat and potential drought conditions in the summer.
Before you do any planting — of trees and any other plants — you should know your community's USDA Plant Hardiness Zone, which is determined by its average annual minimum winter temperature. Different plants will thrive in different zones. The New York City area falls generally in Zones 6 and 7.
Screenshots from the Community Canopy program website from the Arbor Day Foundation and Freshpet.
The process to order a free tree from the Arbor Day Foundation and Freshpet program takes about 10 minutes and involves finding your USDA zone.
First, you enter your address. Next, you use an interactive tool to outline your house on a digital map. Then you choose a tree from a selection best suited for your climate zone. The tool also helps you find the optimal location on your property where to plant the tree.
Available trees include Japanese lilac, river birch, northern red oak, sweetbay magnolia, crape myrtle trees, and more.
So why did Freshpet sponsor this program? It's about sustainability, the company said.
"After relaunching our sustainable fresh pet food brand, Nature's Fresh, the next step was empowering people to extend this mission in their own communities," Freshpet's Crook said. "We are thrilled to be partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation to provide people — and their pets — with free trees that can have a real impact."