There are more than 4.5 million acres of forest in Vermont, roughly 78% of the state.  Those trees are doing a lot of work – protecting our waters, storing carbon, influencing our weather, and providing a variety of wood products.  Though we don’t always realize it, our backyard and lakeshore trees are doing much of that same work on a smaller scale.

The Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program notes that a single average-sized tree can intercept more than 2300 gallons of water a year!  A few average sized trees on your property can go a long way toward slowing the flow of stormwater, reducing erosion and soaking up nutrients.  Their leaves help improve your soils and the ability of water to sink in rather than flow off.   They shade your shoreline and littoral zone while providing food and housing for a variety of aquatic creatures.

As you’re paging through your seed catalogs and dreaming of spring, consider whether there is room for a few more trees on your property.  Though young trees do need some extra attention at first, they provide plenty of rewards for many years after planting.  If there’s space for trees, do your homework to make sure you find one with the right characteristics for your location. Some things to think about:

  • how big will it grow?  Plant away from structures and driveways.  As your tree grows, its branches and roots will expand outward too.  Make sure you both have plenty of room.
  • does it produce flowers or fruit?  Flowers and fruit provide food for pollinators and other wildlife.  They will love you for planting their favorite foods.  You, however, might not appreciate the dropping petals and ripe fruit if they are falling on the deck.  Keep everyone happy by planting fruiting and flowering trees a distance from high traffic areas.
  • what’s the soil like?  Trees, like garden vegetables and flower bed plants, have specific needs.  Check to make sure your chosen spot fits the tree you’d like.  While you can add soil amendments, sometimes it’s better to find a tree that prefers the type of soil you’ve got to work with.

From the Vermont Urban and Community Forest Program


Planting a tree is a long-term commitment with many, many benefits for you and for your lake.  There are lots of resources on the internet to help you find that perfect tree.  Locally, the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry website is a great place to start.  Though focused on urban areas, they have a wide variety of resources – a tree selection tool, protection and care, land use planning and a backyard woods program.  They even offer grants to support the planting of trees – sweet!