Trees

Healthy trees are an important contributor to Sooke’s identity and high quality of life. They provide energy-saving shade and cooling, furnish habitat for wildlife, and enhance aesthetics and property values. This page helps to answer questions and provide resources for residents in caring for trees.

Tree Planting & Carbon Sequestration

What is carbon sequestration?

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere in a solid or dissolved form. There are many ways carbon sequestration can happen, one of which is through the biological function of trees as well as other land plants and ocean plants.

How do trees sequester carbon?

Plants take in carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis, which gives them their energy to survive. When a tree takes in carbon dioxide and uses it during photosynthesis, some of the carbon becomes stored – or sequestered – in the wood and leaves and roots of the tree. Some of the carbon is transferred to the soil below the tree when leaves fall and decompose, and some of the carbon is released back into the atmosphere. If a mature tree is left undisturbed, it could sequester an estimated 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year (USDA). A mature, healthy forest can sequester carbon and provide numerous other benefits to the ecosystem, such as cooling, moisture retention, and protection of biodiversity. In an urban environment, street trees can provide similar benefits by keeping our neighbourhoods cool, increasing the soil’s ability to retain water and providing habitat for birds and other animals. Furthermore, trees in urban environments significantly improve mental health and reduce stress.

Continuing reading to learn about planting and caring for trees – and how you can make a difference.

Tree Planting & Care

Selecting a Tree

Choosing a tree should be a well-thought decision. Proper selection can provide you with years of enjoyment. It can also increase your property value.

Some questions to consider in selecting and planting a tree include:

  • What space is available?
  • Where are your underground pipes?
  • What trees can be planted in shade?
  • What’s growing well in my neighbourhood?
  • How much watering does the tree require?

Tree selection also has an impact on helping Sooke become a more wildfire resilient community. Selection impacts wildfire intensity and spread (i.e. rank of the fire) and the type being ground, surface, or a crown fire. For example, Deciduous trees are more fire-resistive than conifers. Conifers are highly flammable, contribute to high intensity crown fires and should be kept to our forests and natural landscapes.

Highly flammable plant characteristics include highly aromatic leaves or needles, accumulations of fine, dry, dead materials, gummy resins, or oils, loose, papery, or flaky bark, the age, health, and volume of the plant. Examples of plants to avoid around your home, properties and urban centers include cedar, juniper, pines, tall grass, spruce, fountain grass, yew, broom, holly, gorse, and pampas grass. Note: any plant that is unhealthy, sick or diseased, regardless of if it is fire-resistive or not will pose a greater fire risk.

Resource: Great Plant Picks: Unbeatable Plants for the Maritime Northwest Garden

Planting a Tree

The ideal time to plant your tree is during the dormant season. In Sooke, that is generally November through March. Proper care before, during and after planting is important to minimize transplant shock.

FireSmart Tip! Homeowners should not plant trees within the non-combustible zone being 1.5 meters surrounding the structure.

Mulching

Mulching

Mulch is valuable for your tree’s health and care, for many reasons:

  • Moderates soil temperatures;
  • Conserves moisture;
  • Suppresses weeds;
  • Prevents soil compaction;
  • Enriches the soil;
  • Reduces lawn mower damage.

FireSmart Tip! Avoid bark mulch, pine needle, and other plant-based mulches that aren’t fire-resistive. These mulches are susceptible to ignitions from travelling wildfire embers and are highly flammable. Consider using gravel mulch, rock mulch, or a combination of plant mulch and decorative rock mulch to reduce your risk.

Watering

Watering

During the summer months, watering trees regularly when they are establishing themselves (during the first 3-5 years of planting) is important to keep them healthy.

Young trees (up to 5 years old) need sufficient water during dry periods to survive and develop into healthy specimens. Lack of water results in underdeveloped trees or trees vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Tree Watering Tips

  • Water trees during cooler times of the day so the trees will soak up more water.
  • Give enough water to soak into the roots by watering the base of your tree at least twice per week for 15-minutes, or about 20 litres, each watering. Water slowly to give the water time to soak into the ground and reach the roots. If you rush, the water will flow away from the tree along the ground’s surface.
  • Maintain a circle around the base of the tree (but not touching the tree trunk) with wood chips, grass clippings or compost to help keep the soil moist and reduce damage by mowers or weed whackers.
  • Water even if it rains. The small amount of rain we get in the summer is not enough for our trees; they still need our help (especially if they are young trees).
  • Please water even during sprinkling restrictions. Hand watering newly planted trees is exempt from water restrictions or bans, so keep watering your trees all summer long!

Tree Watering Bags

You will find watering bags on many newly planted trees in Sooke and in parks during the warmer months. If there is a bag on a tree near your house, please fill it up twice a week. Watering bags are also available for purchase at many local garden centres to use on your own trees!

Pruning

Pruning

Regular pruning and removing any dead wood helps to maintain the health of your tree. We recommend following ISA guidelines or use a ISA certified arborist.

FireSmart Tip! Pruning lower tree limbs 2 meters from the ground and practicing tree spacing of at least 3 meters apart will reduce fire intensity and spread. You can prune dead branches at any time of year, but it is best to prune coniferous trees in the late winter when they are dormant. You’ll want to prune branches close to the tree trunk, but not so close that you damage the main trunk and bark of the tree. Never remove more than one-third of the canopy of a tree, doing so may harm the tree.


Trees and Storms

  • Stay safe – look for downed power lines and keep a safe distance.
    • Contact BC Hydro at 1-800-BCHYDRO (1-800-224-9376) if trees or branches interfering with power lines
  • Property owners are responsible for removing trees or branches on their private property.
  • Damaged public trees (e.g., from a park or on a boulevard) can be reported to the District of Sooke Park at 250.642.1634.

Trees & High Voltage Wires

Never attempt to prune a tree that has grown into high voltage wires. BC Hydro prunes trees under high voltage power lines on a regular schedule. If a tree or tree branch is leaning on a high voltage wire, call BC Hydro immediately for assistance: 1-800-224-9376.