White Salmon’s August Tree of the Month: Western Red Cedar

White Salmon's Pioneer Cemetery is home to five western red cedar trees planted in April 2018 as part of the local Rotary's tree planting project.

Have you noticed the five new evergreen trees in Pioneer Cemetery? These five western red cedars, Thuja plicata, were planted in April 2018 with the White Salmon-Bingen Rotary tree planting project that also resulted in five new trees in Rheingarten Park and five western red cedars planted at the Columbia High School campus.

The western red cedar is an important species of the Pacific Northwest. The wood has many uses because of its attractive appearance, durability, lightness, and superior insulation qualities, including canoe building, totem poles, roofing shingles and shakes, exterior finishings, utility poles, fence posts, pilings, paper pulp, and various types of containers.

Cedar leaf oil is often the basis for production of perfumes, insecticides, medicinal preparations, veterinary soaps, shoe polishes, and deodorants. And, the western red cedar is a popular habitat tree. Many residents know that deer will eat it year-round, while elk and rodents can also significantly damage young trees. To prevent damage to saplings, try protective fencing and be sure this moisture-loving tree gets plenty of water!

Did you know that on average a young, landscape tree needs at least 10 gallons of water per week for every inch diameter of the tree trunk? For example, the 1.5-inch diameter western red cedars planted in Pioneer Cemetery are each getting at least 15 gallons of water each week when the White Salmon Public Works Department is filling the tree watering bag at the base of each tree.

When temperatures are consistently reaching the upper 80s and higher, and with desiccating winds, young trees need more water. Thankfully, these western red cedars are being watered twice a week, receiving 30-plus gallons each week.

Ideally, young trees will receive at least one good, deep, soaking per week, which encourages the tree to grow deep, strong roots. Don’t assume your lawn and turf irrigation is watering your trees. Lawn irrigation does not water trees effectively. It generally reaches only the first few inches of soil, encouraging weak surface roots to grow.

When was the last time you watered the young trees in your yard? Please be sure to water your trees and mature bushes during our ongoing drought.

And don’t forget to mulch your trees, with a layer of mulch 1-3 inches thick, spread out under the entire canopy of the tree, and not touching the trunk of the tree. This mulch layer will help regulate the temperature of your trees’ roots and retain moisture.

Want to see some very mature Western Red Cedars and enjoy some shade on a hot day? Take a drive over to Skamania County’s Big Cedars Park.

For more information on the Western Red Cedar, please visit https://plants.usda.gov/plant guide/pdf/cs_thpl.pdf, and for watering tips visit https://www.arborday.org/trees/tips/watering.cfm.

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