HURON – The best time to plant a tree, as the saying goes, is yesterday.
To observe Arbor Day, Huron third-graders have once again been given the opportunity to plant a tree to make their tomorrows brighter.
Seasoned experts John Hinners, a retired state forester, and LaRon Klock, director of the city parks and recreation department, spent time in classrooms in the public and private schools Friday to distribute Black Hills spruce trees and talk about how to plant and care for them.
Arbor Day is celebrated at varying times of the year depending on the climate. In South Dakota, it’s always the last Friday of April.
In his presentations in the classrooms – where a total of 300 seedlings were distributed – Hinners explained how wide and deep a hole should be dug when planting a tree.
He told them to look for a black collar, called the root collar, on the tree trunk and to plant the tree so that collar is roughly at ground level.
“If you plant it too deep, your tree is going to die,” he said.
“Once you get the tree planted, you’re going to have to water it and take care of it,” Hinners said.
New trees should be watered once a week. He suggested they run the garden hose to the tree and turn the water on to a slow trickle for about half an hour.
“Once it’s planted, the other thing that you have to do is give it some protection from what I call the three deadly “D’”s,” he said.
And they would be?
In a few minutes, the kids had guessed them.
Deer love to use the trees to clean the velvet off their antlers. They also like to eat them.
“Dogs tend to be really tough on these trees because they like to use them for fire hydrants,” Hinners said.
The last “D” is dad. But Hinners qualified that.
“I’m not picking on dads, all right? Actually, the person I’m looking for is whoever is running the lawn mower,” he said.
“The No. 1 killer of little trees in South Dakota is called the lawn mower blade. You mow this tree off, it’s not coming back,” Hinners said.
To protect their trees from the No. 1 killer, he recommended they place a cardboard milk or juice container around them.
A plastic carton will make it too hot for the tree, and tin cans and tires are no good, either.
“Don’t put a tire around it,” Hinners said. “Tires are excellent, they go around those trees quite nicely. But they’re a wonderful place for mosquitoes to breed.”
Also, it tough to remove a tin can or tire once the tree grows much larger.
Hinners and Klock showed photos of the 40-foot Colorado blue spruce donated by Bob and Cheryl Krutzfeldt of Huron that was decorated and displayed in the state Capitol this past Christmas.
Thirty years ago, their daughter, Linda, brought the tree home from an Arbor Day program in her Washington School third-grade classroom.
In early November, it was cut down and transported to Pierre for the holidays.
“If you take care of this little tree,” Hinners said to today’s third-graders, “maybe some day your tree can be in the state Capitol.”