Trees please

Posted by on August 23, 2012


First appeared on Tarheel Gardening.

When building your garden, look for the beauty beyond the buds. Proper landscaping can help you conserve energy. A well-placed tree can cool the heat from the sun in the summer and lessen heat loss in the winter.

It used to be that homes were built with temperature control in mind. Before air conditioning, ceilings inside were high to let the heat rise; and large, magnificent trees were planted to canopy the roof in the summer and let in light during the winter.

Most of us don’t think to plant trees for any reason other than that they are pretty and nice. You may have a shade tree you sit under on a hot summer afternoon. I’ll bet on a day like today, when the temperatures are hovering around a hundred, you are overjoyed at the shade it provides.

Traditionally, trees were planted for energy conservation. But today trees are planted out front out of habit, not necessarily for energy conservation purposes. This tradition is a good place to go back to, though. If you are going to have trees anyway, why not place them where they can make a difference inside as well? But don’t stop there. Plant for conservation (on the east and west sides) and for the beauty a tree brings.

East- or west-facing windows are particularly bad because they heat up horribly in the summer through solar radiation. South-facing glass is better and can help heat a home in winter. Adding plants around the home will help regulate the sun’s effect during different seasons.

Create summer shade by locating plants along the sunny borders of the home. Shade south-facing roof and wall surfaces that will receive the most direct sunlight during midday, when the sun is higher in the sky. Also place plants to shade walls that generally face east or west. These walls receive direct sunlight in the morning (for the east) and afternoon (for the west). The eastern morning sun is not as harsh as the western afternoon sun, but keeping the home from heating up too much early in the morning will better control the temperature throughout the day.

By planting deciduous trees in the arc of the sun, you protect the home on the eastern, southeastern, southern, southwestern, and western sides. Carefully select shade trees based on the mature height and structure of the trees so they will be properly spaced and provide desired shade. A two-story home will need a taller tree than a single-story ranch. The branch structure of a tree makes a difference in its cooling effect in summer and its ability to let in sunshine in winter. Placement of trees will also depend on the shape of the tree crown: V-shaped, pyramidal, round, oval, columnar, and so on. Summer shade for a south-facing roof generally depends on having overhanging tree crowns; without this, shadows will not be cast at midday.


To learn more, check out this video. This fall is the perfect time to plant a tree. Will you be planting a tree this year?


One response to “Trees please”

  1. I lived in a house with two large live oaks in the back yard…on the north side of the house! I never understood why they didn’t plant them on the side to shade the house from the hot afternoon Florida sun.

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