Blog Stories Trees for Shade: Plan now to plant this Fall

Trees for Shade: Plan now to plant this Fall

By Lydia Hallay, June 29, 2022

They say the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago; the second best time? This-coming fall.

As average summer temperatures continue to rise in the Pacific Northwest, the importance trees and other plants play in cooling our urban landscape cannot be overstated- particularly in areas of the city that do not already benefit from established tree canopies.

Every five years since 2000, the city of Portland has counted the number of trees in the city. The most recent count (2020) found that, for the first time since data collection has begun, the number of trees in our city has declined by nearly 800 acres. That’s a decline approximately equal to the number of trees in Mt. Tabor Park.

The largest area of loss during that five year period was in residential areas, particularly in East Portland neighborhoods that already suffer from a lack of shade. While city code requires a permit for removing street trees (and private property trees beyond a certain size), and replacement of any trees that are taken down, the data indicates that many people are choosing not to replace the trees they remove.

So what difference do trees make for the livability of our neighborhoods- both now and in the future? During the 2021 “heat dome,” scientists from Portland State University (PSU) measured average temperatures in different parts of the city to determine the impact shade trees had in mitigating heat. In the relatively¬† unprotected East Portland neighborhood of Lents, for example (where my partner and I live), the temperature was clocked at 125 degrees; conversely, shady Northwest Portland stayed a relatively cool 99 degrees.

While this information might prompt some to seek out neighborhoods with established canopies already- it’s important to remember that, with some planning and just a few years time, we can greatly improve tree canopies in neighborhoods that currently lack them- and that benefits all of us.

When my partner and I first moved into our Lents home just six years ago, the yard was a barren hellscape of torn up grass and weeds. We’ve since planted more than 15 trees on/around the property- some large, some small- and over 150 species of flowering plants. In just a few years time, our yard feels like a completely different place. While there are many intangible benefits we enjoy as a result of these plantings, one thing is certain: our home and yard stay much cooler during the summer than they used to.

Summer isn’t a good time to plant a tree- but it’s an excellent time to decide where to plant a tree. West and southern-facing areas of your home will often benefit greatly from a deciduous tree that lets sunlight (and warmth) through in winter, but leafs out to provide shade (and cools the air) during the hottest time of year.

While fall is the best time to plant a tree, it’s not always the best time to research options- especially if you’re shopping for a deciduous variety that drops its leaves. The best time to start your search is often in summer, when you’ve got a chance to evaluate your site during the harshest time of year- and you can see for yourself how dense the shade of a particular tree will be over time.

The city of Portland’s Department of Urban Forestry is a wonderful resource for researching trees for your space, as are local nurseries like Cistus, which specializes in species that are well adapted to our changing climate.

Do you have areas of your back or front yard that remain unused during July-September because they’re just too sunny and hot for large parts of the day? Planting tree nearby can provide dappled protection that, in just a short amount of time, can bring an unused space to life. If you’re thinking of listing your home for sale, consider adding trees to the landscape as part of your preparation strategy. Trees add curb appeal, ambiance, and value to properties that lack them.

Want to nerd out on trees? Looking to add a tree that will improve the curb appeal of your home and provide much needed shade to our urban canopy? Give me a holler! I love putting my landscape design background to use for clients.

Lydia Hallay

Broker | OR

She / They

Buying or selling a home is often one of the biggest (and most stressful) decisions you'll ever make. I'm here to make your experience as seamless (and fun) as possible. Looking to buy? Whether you're a design-minded dreamer looking for that mid-century unicorn, an investor on the hunt for a fixer to tear into, or a first-time buyer in need of a gentle guide - I'm a skilled negotiator with an eye for design and a knack for finding homes with "good bones." I'm on a mission to ensure you feel empowered and cared for throughout the home-buying process. Ready to sell? Inventory is higher than it's been in years and buyers have lots to choose from. With a background in landscape/interior design and construction/project management, I've got the tools it takes to make your house shine. When it comes to catching buyer attention, I go beyond the traditional (ex. open houses, RMLS, etc.)- incorporating social media and outside-the-box strategy to build the hype. When it's time to negotiate, my years of experience bargaining union contracts mean I'm calm under pressure and know what it takes to get to YES. I'm a people person, music nerd, avid gardener, and seed-sower/organizer. I'll hustle hard on your behalf with patience, a good listening ear, and a goofy sense of humor. My pronouns are she/they; I identify as queer, anti-racist, and anti-fascist (and, I always have more to learn about how to be a good human). Since coming to Portland in 2005, I've witnessed many iterations of the city. I'm bullish on the future here- and excited about all our region has to offer. Good food, proximity to nature, an incredible local music scene, and an inclusive community are just a handful of the reasons I love this area. Ready to make some magic happen? Feel free to shoot me a text/email, or give me an old fashioned ring. I'm excited to meet you!  
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