Tree giveaway at Jack Brooks Regional Airport

Tree giveaway at Jack Brooks Regional Airport

I hope that you have been saving up some plastic bags and other small waterproof containers. Why? It is almost time for the much-anticipated annual Tree Give Away, a project of the Jefferson County Master Gardeners. Prepare to make the short trip over to the Jefferson County Master Garden Test Garden at Jack Brooks Regional Airport on Friday, Feb. 19, from 8-11 a.m. to get your own trees.

Look for Glenn Watz (Culinary Tours, and head of the tree project), Tony Lucenti (Master Gardener extraordinaire) and Toni Clark (consummate traveler, gardener and community volunteer). They will oversee giving away around 4,000 trees. Last year the group gave away 7,000 trees, but this year’s supplies were slightly affected by an attack of feral hogs on baby acorns. Yes, the feral hogs slipped in through a flawed area in a fence and had a grand time with the newly planted acorns.

But I digress. 

Jeffrey Earl and the most generous folks at Campbell Global Forestry Group in Silsbee (the company is based in Portland, Oregon) began helping us “green up our area” years ago after the hurricanes left us thousands of trees short. A few years ago, they started the project with a tree giveaway in the Golden Triangle and across the border in Louisiana. The project was so well received that it continues to this day.

You can expect to get a few bare-root seedlings that are 18-36 inches in height. The varieties that Campbell is providing us with this year are hardwood oaks: Shumard Oak, Nuttall Oak and Cherrybark Oak. These seedlings look small now but they will grow quickly to be very large, so keep that in mind when deciding where to plant.

The Arbor Day Foundation says the very best way to handle planting bare-root trees is to immediately place your sapling into water or dampened paper towels for the ride home. When you get home, soak the roots in water 3-6 hours. Do not allow the roots to dry out.

Dig a hole wider than seems necessary so that the roots can grow outward without crowding. Remove any grass within a 4-foot circular area. To aid root growth, loosen soil in an area up to 3 feet in diameter. Plant the tree at the same depth it stood in the nursery, with plenty of room for the roots. Partially fill the hole, firming the soil around the lower roots.

Don’t add soil amendments such as peat or bark. Don’t use fertilizer, potting soil or chemical on your new trees. Shovel in the remaining soil; it should be firm but not tightly packed. Make a simple water-holding basin around the tree. Give the tree plenty of water. After the water has soaked in, spread a two-inch layer of mulch around the tree base, but not touching the trunk. The soil and mulch around the trees should be kept moist but not soggy. During dry weather, generously water the tree every 7 days during the first year.

I’m just thinking … if you don’t have a place in your own yard to plant an oak tree, why don’t you find a place in our community that could use some trees and plant there? These oaks live hundreds of years and provide shade and beauty. Remember the children’s book “The Giving Tree”? I can’t think of anything else that we could do today that would still be affecting our beautiful part of Texas in 200 years.


Joette Reger can be reached by e-mail at joreger [at] msn [dot] com and on Facebook at “Gardengate with Joette Reger.”