Back in April 1872, citizens of Nebraska City, Nebraska gathered to plant trees in hopes of making the flat, Midwestern plains more inviting to settlers. The trees provided shade, building materials and, of course, beauty. It didn’t take long for the tree-planting event to spread, and in 1885, the state set April 22 as the date of Arbor Day. In other parts of the country, school children planted trees honoring historical events and figures.

Now, Arbor Day is observed on the last Friday in April in most states. However, some states have shifted the date to coincide with better tree-planting weather. For example, Florida celebrates Arbor Day early, on the third Friday in January. Snowy Alaska waits until the third Monday in May. Other countries have similar celebrations.

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The most obvious way to celebrate Arbor Day is to plant a tree, perhaps in commemoration of somebody you love or admire. Some cities and organizations are giving away trees in honor of the holiday, while many communities will host planting events. The Arbor Day Foundation has lots of helpful info on its website, including a map of plant hardiness zones to help you decide which tree is best for your yard. You can put in your zip code and voila, helpful suggestions. If you need planting tips for your trees, whether bare root, containerized or bailed and burlapped, find some planting tips here.

If you want to celebrate Arbor Day all year long, consider joining the Arbor Day Foundation. Membership perks include 10 free trees to plant in your yard or wherever you like, discounts on trees and shrubs in an online tree nursery, a subscription to Arbor Day, a bimonthly newsletter, and The Tree Book, an instruction manual for caring for your trees.

The Arbor Day Foundation also has an entire year’s worth of events planned from Arbor Day 2021 to Arbor Day 2022, which will mark the 150th anniversary of the holiday. You can join 5Ks, biking and golfing events, children’s programming, concerts and more.

There’s something special about watching the trees you plant grow taller and stronger. So take advantage of this special holiday to start growing these critical plants in your own yard or community.

+ Arbor Day Foundation

Image via Olena Sergienko