Alabama Power helps make Arbor Week perfect for tree planting

Alabama Power helps make Arbor Week perfect for tree planting
During February, Alabama Power has given away thousands of trees to residents in communities across the state. Company arborists and foresters have given advice about how to properly plant trees to ensure healthy growth, including safe placement in relation to power lines. Ethan James, a utility arborist in Alabama Power's Southern Division, is among many employees serving at events across Alabama, interacting with customers and the public to provide trees, advice and planting information to their communities and beyond. (Ethan James/Alabama Power)

With spring nipping at winter’s heels and Southern days growing longer, it’s the perfect time to plant trees.

Arbor Week in Alabama comes after some cities received up to 8 inches of rain, meaning that soil is soft and well-primed for seedlings, said Doug Sheffield, utility arborist supervisor at Alabama Power’s Eastern Division Office in Anniston.

Hundreds of residents are planting seedlings provided by Alabama Power and forestry and conservation groups in honor of Arbor Week, celebrated in Alabama during the last full week of February.

More than 150 people lined up on Feb. 22 at Jacksonville Square to meet Sheffield and his team of arborists, who handed out several kinds of trees, including native species such as dogwoods.

“As foresters and arborists, we love trees and are committed to maintaining a healthy environment,” said Sheffield, whose team of experts gave away saplings for three hours. “We do a lot of educational efforts, giving people advice on planting certain types of trees in the right places.”

While giving away more than 3,000 trees at Jacksonville Square, the team shared how to create a sustainable urban environment through tree planting. The project helped Jacksonville maintain its “Tree City” designation.

“We’re trying to get the message out about planning the right tree in the right place,” said Sheffield, who has worked at Alabama Power for 15 years. “People see this little tree and don’t consider how much it will spread across their yard, or whether it will drop acorns everywhere, as a fall hazard.

“Trees will be self-sustaining if they’re put in the right place,” he said. “Right now is a good time for planting because after the rain, it’s better for the tree.” Trees gain needed nutrients from wet soil and spread their roots more easily.

While many homeowners consider trees as being an upgrade that may increase the value of their property, It’s important to think about what you expect from a tree, Sheffield said.

For instance, consider whether you want to provide shade for your home; hide heat pumps or air conditioners; or to create privacy. Residents who desire a “windscreen” to help shield the home from the elements would do best to select evergreen trees, Sheffield said.

Contributing to communities with education, sound advice and trees

Starting in mid-February, company foresters and arborists held tree giveaways throughout the state. In Alabama Power’s Western Division, Utility Arborist Supervisor Jeffrey Poston and his team distributed 5,000 seedlings in Jasper on Feb. 15 and in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 16.

Utility Arborist Ethan James, a member of the Autauga Forestry and Wildlife Stewardship Council, helped give away more than 1,000 trees at Pratt Park in Prattville, and another 400 trees to residents at the city of Clanton Courthouse Feb. 19. Utility Arborist Phillip Lambert gave trees to Southeast Division residents on Feb. 29, and Josh Smalley distributed trees to Montgomery residents on Feb. 16.

“Alabama Power donates trees every year, and this is my fifth year to do it,” James said. “We do several tree giveaways across Southern and Southeast divisions, from Clanton to Eufaula.

“This is a good way to give back to our communities,” James added. “A lot of people think we only cutback trees, but we do so much more. We tell them to consider planting the trees a safe distance from utility rights-of-way. It helps the homeowner in the long run.”

On Saturday, Feb. 23, Vegetation Manager Scott Roddy shared valuable tree-planting information at the Chelsea Community Center, handing out Alabama Power’s “Right Tree Right Place” brochures. Roddy, a member of the Chelsea Tree Commission, advised residents about best practices for planting native trees.

Shon Walters and his team of arborists will be at Aldridge Gardens on Saturday morning, March 2, to discuss tree-planting strategies with Hoover residents.

“We want to give back to the community by providing planting tips to help ensure they have a successful planting,” said Walters, utility arborist supervisor, Power Delivery Distribution – Birmingham.

In Mobile, Eric Garrett and his three-member team of arborists will greet the public at the annual Creek Fest at Tricentennial Park on May 11. During the four-hour celebration, the team will give away 500 azalea bushes, answering questions and giving advice about how to care for the plants.

“This will be a day of outreach to educate the public,” said Garrett, utility arborist supervisor in Saraland. “We want to interact with folks and help our customers.”

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