Shade trees

Permaculturalist Ryan Wood offers advice Saturday on where to plant shade trees at an APS workshop at Rio Vista Recreation Center in Peoria. APS customers can receive up to three free trees through the APS Shade Tree Program

to cut down on their energy bills.

Nick Cote/Daily News-Sun

A pilot program through APS provides homeowners up to three shade trees to plant on their property in an effort to keep the sun’s rays from beating down on houses and help reduce energy use.

Arizona Public Service officials say solutions to reduce heat in Valley homes, including the installation of weather-proof windows, shade screens and exterior insulation, can often be costly and burdensome.

But the utility’s new shade tree program, which provides qualified customers with up to three free desert-adaptable trees, is a no-cost solution that saves homeowners $50 annually on energy bills and can also provide a home to wildlife, said Sharon Connelly, APS marketing program manager.

APS provided a free shade tree workshop Saturday at Rio Vista Recreation Center in Peoria. Demonstrators explainined the program’s benefits, ideal locations for planting, and tree maintenance and pruning methods.

Connelly said the program was launched in May with the cooperation of the Arizona Corporation Commission, which has told utility companies to offer energy-efficient programs to offset rising monthly utility costs.

Connelly said Saturday’s workshop was the second step for those interested in the program. APS previously requested basic information and the address of each participant who registered online so volunteers could provide a Google map of the homeowner’s property and explain where the ideal location would be for the shade trees.

Ryan Wood, a volunteer with the Valley Permaculture Alliance, said poor planning can result in problems down the road for homeowners.

Wood explained to about 160 homeowners that shadow patterns change throughout the year based on the Earth’s gravitational pull and might adversely affect a seemingly ideal location.

Wood said the ideal location for planting shade trees — mesquite, palo verde, desert willow and acacias — should be a minimum 15 feet from a home, either on the western, eastern or southern exposure.

In addition, Wood said holes should be dug 3 feet away from all utility lines and homeowners should only dig to the “root hole” to prevent the trees from sinking. Arizona Blue Stake can be hired to look for all utility and gas lines on homeowners’ property before digging takes place.

The permaculturist also said he believes tree trunks — and trees in general — become stronger and can grow larger in diameter when they’re not staked. Wood said he also doesn’t believe in pruning during a tree’s first two years of life.

Because it is too hot to plant shade trees now, Connelly said participants will be contacted next month or in October about picking up their trees.

APS will conduct its next shade tree workshop in the Northwest Valley at 10 a.m. Oct. 17 at the Property Owners and Residents Association, 13815 Camino del Sol, Sun City West.

Visit for information about the shade tree program.

Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or

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