Fall is a wonderful time in Washington as our trees and forests reveal the natural magic of their fall colors. Washington’s native deciduous trees, such as bigleaf maple, cottonwood, aspen, birch and the western larch, specialize in shades of yellow fall colors, whereas our urban forests, planted with many non-native trees, paint our cities and towns with hues of orange, red and purple that stir the human spirit.

Trees in our communities are living, breathing assets that make our cities healthier, cleaner, and more vibrant. A healthy tree canopy scrubs the air of pollutants, absorbs stormwater runoff, attenuates noise, buffers winds, conserves energy, provides wildlife habitat and beautifies the landscape.

For all that trees do for us, it’s only fitting that we return the favor. Washington’s urban forests need our help to keep them healthy and now is a great time to do so.

Plant trees now – you don’t want to miss out on the fall color. Photo: Janet Pearce/DNR

October has been officially proclaimed as Urban and Community Forestry Month by Governor Jay Inslee for the fourth consecutive year. His proclamation encourages all Washingtonians to reflect on the value of community trees and appreciate their many benefits. But of course, actions speak louder than words.

Here are a few suggestions on how you and your family can celebrate Urban and Community Forestry Month and give back to the trees and forests where you live:

  • Remove invasive species – plants such as English ivy, Himalayan blackberry, morning glory, scotchbroom and others are considered invasive because they “invade” natural areas by seeding in and outgrowing native vegetation. Invasive plants are damaging to native ecosystems and should be removed. Consider removing invasive plants from your home landscape or contact your local jurisdiction to find out about volunteer opportunities to remove invasive plants from natural areas near you.
  • Mulch leaves – did you know that leaf litter is part of Mother Nature’s recycling system? It’s true! Fallen leaves add organic material and essential nutrients back to the soil as they break down and decay. Rather than removing and disposing of your leaves, consider composting them for re-use as organic mulch and fertilizer for your garden. Or, mow your lawn more frequently. Mulch as many of them into your lawn as possible before having to rake up and remove the rest.
  • Hire an ISA Certified Arborist – if your trees haven’t been properly pruned in a while then you might want to enlist the services of an ISA Certified Arborist. A certified arborist is well-versed in tree worker safety standards, industry best practices for tree care and the science behind how landscape trees grow and thrive. Properly maintained trees are healthier, more resilient to storm damage and will live longer.
  • Plant trees – autumn is the perfect season to plant trees in Washington state thanks to cool days and the return of rainy weather. Many cities hold tree planting events in the fall or you can simply visit your local nursery and purchase a new tree for your yard. Be sure to size up your planting site first and then select a tree with a mature size and other features that are well-matched to the location.

However you choose to participate in urban and community forestry month, keep us posted, and tag us with #UrbanForestryMonth on twitter.

DNR sponsors Urban and Community Forestry Month in Washington state as part of its effort to provide technical support, advice and encouragement to community forestry programs in cities and towns across the state.

For more tips and ideas, visit DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program which operates with support from the US Forest Service.