I teach a Grade 10 Environmental Science program called E-Block (Environmental Block) where I have the opportunity to teach a group of Grade 10 students all afternoon (2 credits). This gives us time to manage our school’s property, do park clean-ups, and plant trees and shrubs!
Several years ago, the ice-storm did a lot of damage to our trees. The south side of our school’s soccer field used to be all Manitoba maples, growing out at a 45 degree angle. These all snapped off in the ice storm. We took advantage of nature’s way of removing this non-native tree and we planted the entire forest edge with native trees and shrubs from LEAF. Dogwoods were primarily planted in the swampy area, and they have flourished. The serviceberry and elderberry shrubs are over 6 feet tall now. We collected wildflower seeds from other areas and distributed them throughout the area too.
The old logs from the Manitoba Maples were laid down to create an edge between the forest and field, in fear that city lawn mowers or others would damage our newly planted shrubs. The natural barrier worked perfectly! It’s great to see how the area has visually improved, but also how it’s now a more diverse habitat, rather than the mono-culture of Manitoba maples and buckthorns that used to be there. We were looking for 2 hardy trees to plant along the forest edge too, that could handle the heat and poor quality soil, and ideally stand out with vibrant fall colours. A staff member at LEAF suggested a few species that would work, including the Freeman maple. When I showed the Freeman maple to my class, they voted to go with that option, primarily because of my name of course!
As a teacher, what I like best is the educational materials LEAF provides! I use the on-line resources and also the tree planting instructions with each of my classes. The species information on the LEAF site allows my students to learn more about the trees too. Tree and shrub planting with students can be more challenging too, and we haven’t had great success when we got bare-root trees or ones that were dug out and wrapped. The trees and shrubs from LEAF are solid and in pots. It allows us to be able to take our time with planting and to do it right.
Interested in planting on your school property? For public and Catholic schools in Toronto and York Region looking to green their properties, Evergreen offers on-site technical advice and other resources to ensure projects are successful. Once planting plans are complete, schools can contact LEAF to order trees and shrubs. For schools outside of these boards, visit Evergreen’s website to learn more about their School Ground Greening programs.
Ben Freeman is a LEAF Backyard Tree Planting Program client.
LEAF offers a subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program for private property. The program is supported by The City of Toronto, The Regional Municipality of York, The City of Markham, The Town of Newmarket, The Town of Ajax, Ontario Power Generation and Toronto Hydro. For details on how you can participate, visit http://yourleaf.org.