A Tree Grows in Brooklyn … and your Backyard

I’m a book girl. One of my first stops in Portland is Powell’s Books.  I lose hours and most of my paycheck in local bookstores like Skylight Books, where recommendations by the bookish staff convince me to buy books I might have overlooked. Growing up, our refrigerator was a bare space, uncluttered by Christmas cards or family photos. However, one lone magnet held both the important info of the family doctor and the quote: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” (Cicero)

It was true of my literature-loving household, even the kitchen was filled with words, cookbooks and recipe cards, but also our current library books, set aside, face down, spine bent or broken, to save the spot to return to after dinner, the only time we were not allowed to read.

Cicero is also attributed the wise words: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  Into this outdoor reading room, I’d add a tree for shade.  I’m house-sitting this week, and my friends’ back yard is a hill of green growth, with a hammock perfect for a lazy, late afternoon with a book.


Do you have a shady spot in your garden?  Even though April’s Arbor Day has passed, you can still plant a tree in late summer.  According to Urban Forestry Specialist Aaron Kiesz of South Dakota’s Department of Conservation and Forestry, your best bet might be a containerized tree, planted in a pot, and sold up to one or two years later.  Or, better yet, a balled and burlapped tree, dug out of the ground and replanted in your plot of land, an immediate fix for those looking for a shady reading spot.

Kiesz notes the importance of supplemental watering and using an organic mulch upon first planting your tree. “Water once a day for the first 2-3 weeks and once or twice a week thereafter for the next couple years will help your tree establish itself and ensure good quality growth. Organic mulch prevents grass from competing with the tree for water and nutrients. …Mulch should be placed around the trunk at least as far out as the branches reach. Keep the mulch 6 inches from the base of the tree and only 2 – 3 inches deep.”

Check out the Arbor Day Foundation page here for detailed instructions of how to plant your balled & burlapped tree.

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do. I feel as if this tree knows everything I ever think of when I sit here. When I come back to it, I never have to remind it of anything; I begin just where I left off.” – Willa Cather (O Pioneers!)

“She was made up of more, too. She was the books she read in the library. She was the flower in the brown bowl. Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard.” – Betty Smith (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn)

What book will you take outside to read?  Send us photos of your favorite reading tree via Twitter: @RebeccaSnavely and @TheCityFarm!

reading under tree

(Photo courtesy: ThisOldYard.net)