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A tree grows in Gilford

Hayden McLaughlin of Belknap Landscape shows a crowd of GHS Environmental Club students the ropes, when it comes to planting elms last Thursday, in honor of Earth Day. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
April 28, 2010
To honor Mother Nature on Earth Day, Belknap Landscape Company partnered with Gilford High School Environmental Club students to plant an American elm tree.

The elm tree, between 5 and 7 years old, now stands behind the Gilford Fire Station. The tree was recently donated to the town and planted Thursday. It is also known as the "Liberty Tree" memorial.

Hayden McLaughlin and his crew from Belknap Landscape showed Environmental Club students how to cultivate the root system of an elm with an air canon and properly plant it in the ground. This process allows for root "flair" to come out before the planting process, explained McLaughlin.

He pointed to the roots on the tree after much of the dirt was blown away and said that more inadequate and harmful roots will eventually "choke" themselves and die off, allowing the healthier ones to flourish.

"This is part of the challenge in this industry," explained Hayden. "We are almost forced to do this type of procedure to inspect the roots (and make corrective adjustments to the root system)."

GHS science teacher Polly Rouhan said students in the Environmental Club want to continue on with their elm and plant tending knowledge long after Earth Day has passed, since they are now the caretakers for the elm tree in the school courtyard. That tree was a gift from the Class of 2008.

Club members also joined in on beautification on school grounds and became tree-care apprentices. With McLaughlin's help, the students learned how to care for elms and other plants.

McLaughlin has also spoken to the students about different plants in the area, how to measure them and how to assess their ability to thrive in certain environments, said Rouhan. She said the students can apply their new knowledge and observations to their own elm tree, which could use some more tending to.

"This fall, we planted an elm over two weekends. Now it is spring, and it is looking good, but some areas still need to be finished," said Rouhan. "They are not just planting a tree they are learning how to do it, and it is getting them interested in agriculture."

She said the memorial tree at school and a few various bushes have proved to be a challenge to care for, since no one was an expert on the matter beforehand.

"So, through this planting and training, hopefully it will help in the long run and taking care of the trees at school," said Rouhan.

She said the students prepared for Earth Day well in advance, attendeding the NH Student Environmental Summit hosted by St. Paul's in Concord, which gave club members a few fresh ideas. All week long, students sold reusable water bottles and tote bags during lunch hours and collected used cell phones to recycle. The person who turned in the most cell phones won a t-shirt.

Rouhan said the Environmental Club focuses on recycling throughout the school year.

"We do all the recycling at the high school, and a weekly collecting of paper and bottles. This is a busy group, and they are going up and beyond their duties," said Rouhan. "This is for a very good cause; we need to take care of our earth."

The GHS environmental club is also a member of the Northeast Resource Recovery Association and plans to attend their convention in Manchester, where they will be provided with materials for a compost bin drive. Compost bins can be used to enhance gardens with nutrients and keep trash out of the waste stream. Rain barrels will also be available to conserve water for gardens.

Garnett Hill
Garnett Hill
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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