Share with a friend that you know needs tree care!
Share with a friend that you know needs tree care!
We are members of the TREE CARE INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION (TCIA) since 2010, which means you can rest and have the peace of mind you deserve when placing that tree work in the hands of true dedicated professionals.
From the TCIA website:
“TCIA Accreditation gives the commercial tree care company a means of evaluating itself against industry standards and best business practices, pinpointing both areas of excellence and areas where improvement is needed. By working on problem areas, businesses can improve their bottom-line numbers while motivating employees to be safer and more efficient.
TCIA Accreditation also helps commercial tree care companies create and maintain industry-standard, safety-training programs. As a result, industry safety improves and accident rates become lower for accredited companies and the industry as a whole.
TCIA Accreditation gives consumers a practical, viable means to identify tree care companies that are trustworthy in their business, arboriculture, and safety practices. Government agencies will also have a means of easily recognizing companies that meet industry standards for safety and quality performance.“
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Visit today using your smartphone! Same URL address, different destination based on your device. It’s that simple.
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While soil often has sufficient levels of essential plant nutrients such as iron, zinc and other trace nutrients, the soil pH needs to be considered as well. If too high, it makes these essential plant nutrients unavailable. Deep Root Fertilization provides a way for trees to receive the nutrients they need.
There are many kinds of fertilizers. We recommend and use an extended- release nitrogen that breaks down slowly and provides sustained plant nutrition over as long as nine months. This also prevents fertilizer burn, and reduces the labor costs of multiple applications. If you do not use a slow release fertilizer you will usually need to fertilize several times per year. Typically we recommend Root Feeding, or injecting fertilizer into the ground throughout the root system. The best time to do this is usually February – March. If your trees are struggling from nutrient deficiencies, it often makes sense to fertilize them again in the Fall. In our mild winter climate, trees experience a longer growing season than in colder climates. Fertilizing in the fall can lead to more vigorous root growth throughout the cooler months. This enables trees to get a better start on their spring growth.
So, if you have not fertilized your trees this year, or if you did not use a slow release fertilizer, or have concerns about the health of any of your trees, please call us to assess your trees and provide you with fertilization recommendations.
Trees provide significant benefits to our homes and cities, but when trees fall and injure people or damage property, they are liabilities.
Understanding and addressing the risks associated with trees makes your property safer and prolongs the life of the tree.
Trees are an important part of our world. They offer a wide range of benefits to the environment and provide tremendous beauty.
However, trees may be dangerous. Trees or parts of trees may fall and cause injury to people or damage to property.
It is important to assess trees for risk. While every tree has the potential to fall, only a small number actually hit something or someone — a target.
There is no such thing as a completely “safe” tree.
It is an owner’s responsibility to provide for the safety of trees on his or her property. This brochure provides some tips for identifying the common defects associated with tree risk. However, evaluating the seriousness of these defects is best done by a professional arborist. Regular tree care will help identify trees with unacceptable levels of risk. Once the risk is identified, steps may be taken to reduce the likelihood of the tree falling and injuring someone.
Trees and Utility Lines
Trees that fall into utility lines have additional serious consequences. Not only can they injure people or property near the line, but hitting
a line may cause power outages or surges, fires, and other damage. Downed lines still conducting electricity are especially dangerous.
A tree with a potential to fall into a utility line is a very serious situation.
Tree Risk Checklist
Consider these questions:
• Are there large, dead branches in the tree?
• Are there detached branches hanging in the tree?
• Does the tree have cavities or rotten wood along the trunk or in major branches?
• Are mushrooms present at the base of the tree?
• Are there cracks or splits in the trunk or where branches are attached?
• Have any branches fallen from the tree?
• Have adjacent trees fallen over or died?
• Has the trunk developed a strong lean?
• Do many of the major branches arise from one point on the trunk?
• Have the roots been broken off, injured, or damaged by lowering the soil level, installing pavement, repairing sidewalks, or digging trenches?
• Has the site recently been changed by construction, raising the soil level, or installing lawns?
• Have the leaves prematurely developed an unusual color or size?
• Have trees in adjacent wooded areas been removed?
• Has the tree been topped or otherwise heavily pruned?
Defects in Urban Trees
The following are defects or signs of possible defects in urban trees:
1. Regrowth from topping, line clearance, or other pruning
2. Electrical line adjacent to tree
3. Broken or partially attached branches
4. Open cavity in trunk or branch
5. Dead or dying branches
6. Branches arising from a single point on the trunk
7. Decay and rot present in old wounds
8. Recent change in grade or soil level, or other construction
If you identify any of the above issues in your tree, contact us. We will provide a free estimate and consultation.
We want to specially thank all of our customers who actually made this possible! It is our honor to serve you and continue this high level of service we provide to all of you! Thanks for a great 2011 and we at ABOVE AN BEYOND TREE SERVICE look for an even better 2012! Happy new year friends!
Wood Energy Economics and Heating Security
Comparing Firewood to Conventional Heating Fuels
Fuelwood is unlike any other mainstream heating fuel, in that users are engaged physically and mentally in its consumption, and for many, in its production as well. Users of oil, gas and electric heating are typically involved only in paying energy bills and adjusting thermostats. As a result, any cost comparison of wood with other fuels is likely to be inaccurate, if not misleading, because it cannot account for either the labour costs or the intangible benefits of wood heating.
Householders considering a switch to wood heating would find it useful to know how much money they might save compared to the use of conventional fuels, in the same way that other major purchases are evaluated. The problem with this approach is that the cost-benefit analysis of wood heating is not easily reduced to a simple matter of money. Considering the rising prices of conventional fuels, it is probably accurate to say that households located outside major urban centres where there is significant forest cover could save money using firewood on a strictly heat-energy-per-dollar basis. But how can the other less tangible costs be evaluated? These costs might include:
- the space required to store a winter’s supply of firewood outside the house and space inside the house for a few day’s supply
- the physical strength and stamina required to split, move and stack firewood
- the time consumed in managing the fuel supply, tending the fire and dealing with regular maintenance tasks like ash removal
- the impact of the inevitable ‘mess’ of wood chips, bark and wood ash on the time consumed by household cleaning
The intangible benefits are equally difficult to evaluate in monetary terms.
- the satisfaction one feels in having mastered home heating largely by personal labour and ingenuity
- the sense of security both in terms of energy price stability and in the ability to remain comfortable in the home during electrical power interruptions
- the beauty and ambience created by a fire burning behind clear glass doors
- the special kind of warmth given off by a wood stove located in the main living area (this may be debatable in terms of physics, but it is mentioned by most users of wood fuel as an important benefit)
Several online sites offer fuel cost comparison methods. The calculations are fairly complex, accounting for local fuel pricing, housing type, climate zone, fuel type, appliance type and efficiency. However, a good indication of the imprecision of these calculation methods is that only whole-house heating to an even temperature throughout can be considered. This type of calculation cannot accommodate a wood stove used as a partial or complete heating replacement for a central furnace using conventional fuel. Compared to central heating, the use of a wood stove for space heating, especially if it is located in the main living area, can mean a reduction in heat energy needed by up to 25 percent, regardless of the cost of either fuel.
How Wood Heating Strengthens the Local Economy
Let’s look at some real-world examples of how people save money by heating with wood. Some families buy their firewood already split so their work only involves stacking it to dry. They might spend $250 for each cord (4’x4’x8’), the equivalent of almost $440 in fuel oil at $2.75 a gallon. That family’s savings wouldn’t be large, but they would gain all the tangible and intangible benefits of wood heating.
Small-scale harvesting and processing equipmentSomeone working in his woodlot, harvesting trees and processing them into firewood can save most of the cost of heating using other methods. For him the cost of a winter’s firewood is two week’s work and a few gallons of gas for the saw, splitter and pickup truck. Harvesting and processing the household’s heating fuel can save two or three thousand dollars every year.
What if dozens of households in a small town decided to save money by heating with wood instead of oil? Each of the twenty households would have a few hundred to a few thousands of dollars more to spend around town this year. Every dollar saved through wood heating is another dollar of spending that strengthens the local economy.
Rural areas tend to have large ‘trade deficits’ on consumer goods and most commodities. Their ‘exports’ are usually based on their natural resources such as mining, agricultural and forest products. Revenue from external sources is commonly in the form of tourism and recreation expenditures by non-residents. Overall, as population, industry and political decision-making concentrates in large cities, rural areas have not fared well economically.
A household that produces its own fuelwood supply saves $2,000 or more each year, an amount that can be used to reduce expenses in a household of marginal income, or that can be spent on other goods and services like home improvements. This household trades its own labour for big savings in household operating expenses.
A woodlot owner who produces and sells firewood provides employment and income to the area. If that same producer practices effective management, the quality and value of the woodlot are enhanced at the same time. When a local household buys its winter fuel supply from a neighbour, that transaction has a multiplying effect by keeping the money circulating within the community, increasing local incomes and job creation.
Local economic activity, including jobs and incomes, is increased through the use of fuelwood as a substitute for fuels purchased from outside the community. In a time of uncertainty about the future price and security of supply of conventional energy sources, fuelwood provides some price stability for residents of rural areas, as well as a sense of security because, if necessary, each household could produce its own fuel supply with a relatively small outlay of cash.
Energy Return on Energy Invested
Looking at the energy cost of energy
Economists focus on the money cost of energy, but the energy costs of energy can provide better insights into environmental costs and the underlying reasons for the money cost. For this reason, the energy return on energy invested (EROEI) should be included in any appraisal of the quality, impacts and appropriateness of various energy sources. Here is a sample EROEI analysis for fuelwood compared to other energy sources. Note that the value of labour is not included in the calculation.
- hardwood fuel example: 24 million btu per cord of sugar maple
- 1 gallon of gasoline: 115,000 btu
- average round trip for fuel delivery: 50 miles
- fuel consumption of pick up truck: 15 mpg
- two round trips per cord = 6.7 gallons
- chainsaw fuel per cord: 0.5 gallon
- log splitter fuel per cord: 1 gallon
Total fossil fuel consumption: 8.2 gallons/cord x 115,000 = 943,000 btu
Calculation: Energy content per cord: 24 M btu divided by fossil fuel input: 943,000 btu.
Energy return on energy invested: 25:1
An EROEI of 25:1 may not be worst case for fuelwood, but it is close for rural areas. Harvesting from their own woodlot, some people probably produce firewood at an EROEI of 30 to 40:1.
For comparison, back in the heyday of oil, when discoveries were peaking and consumption was just ramping up, one barrel invested would yield about 100 barrels for sale, a cheap energy bonanza if there ever was one. Today, gushers are a thing of the past, most of the biggest oil fields are in decline and the ‘new’ oil fields are tiny and found under oceans. The EROEI of oil and gas has now fallen to 10:1 to 20:1, depending on age, type and location of the field. So-called unconventional oil such as the bitumen extracted from the Canadian tar sands has an EROEI of as low as 1.5:1 to a high of 4:1, depending on how the calculation is done and who does the calculating.
The green bars are the minimum EROEI and the baige parts are the observed range.
The chart at right was developed by Professor Charles Hall and his colleague John Day. Note that firewood is asigned an EROEI of around 30:1, which is a similar result to the analysis done for this paper.
Wood, in the form of natural firewood, compares favorably with other fuels regarding the amount of net energy realized after processing and transportation. This bodes well for a degree of price stability for fuelwood in the future. Price stability is not likely for the fossil fuels because as the easily accessible deposits are consumed the EROEI rises dramatically, as does the retail price.
What if everyone heated with wood?
This beautiful graphic was created for RSF-ICC, a fireplace and chimney company. Used with permission.Critics of wood heating like to say that if everyone decided to heat with wood, the air would be polluted and every forest in the country would be mowed down to produce firewood. Maybe, but the whole idea is pretty silly, considering that wood is a lousy urban energy source and is best used locally. Even the most ardent defenders of wood heating would never promote it as a universal energy source.
Large parts of the country are relatively thinly populated and have highly productive forests. These are the regions where wood heating makes sense. Foresters have said that wood heating could easily double or more in many regions without putting undue stress on the forest resource. Our forests do need to be managed sustainably, but the methods are well known and can be summarized in a single sentence: Uneven-aged selective harvesting, thinning of dense stands and removal of poorer quality trees, while leaving seed trees of all present species and ages, and some standing dead trees to provide wildlife habitat.
Many woodlots in farm country can offer a striking model of sustainable forestry. The careful work by generations of farmers and other woodlot owners, visible in healthy, productive woodlots that have provided generations of owners with their heating fuel and other products, provides the stewardship model that others can follow.
And while many woodlot owners understand and practice sustainable forest management, others exploit the resource for short-term profit. Unfortunately, some farmers have maximized short term profit by clear cutting their woodlots and converting the land to cash crop production. Some companies and individuals have made a practice of buying large parcels of unused forest land, stripping them of all the commercial trees and then reselling the depleted parcels. These profiteers do meet the definition of woodlot owners, but they do not maintain ties to the lands they buy and sell.
A healthy, well-managed woodlot can provide firewood and other products indefinately.It has long been said that a healthy, well-managed woodlot can yield half a cord of wood per acre per year forever – one full cord being a pile eight feet long, four feet wide and four feet high – and that a ten acre woodlot could sustainably produce enough firewood each year to heat a house. Although that guideline is old and not very precise, it still holds true. In fact, it takes a lot less than five cords of wood, and therefore less than a ten acre woodlot, to heat a new energy-efficient house using a modern wood stove. There is some evidence that carefully designed and built houses can be heated with as little as 1.5 cords of firewood.
Despite its considerable advantages, fuelwood is not a good solution for all households to the problems of high home heating costs and global warming. Fuelwood is not a suitable energy source in all locations, such as densely-populated urban areas, because its air emissions tend to be higher than other options, and the air is already burdened with pollution from industry and transportation. A winter’s supply of wood takes up a lot of space, and the price of firewood in urban areas is normally too high to achieve savings. Successful heating with wood also requires a level of physical fitness and the learning of a special set of skills. Clearly, wood heating is not for everyone.
Advanced Wood Burners Cut the Smoke
The new wood burning technology found in EPA certified stoves goes a long way toward solving all three wood smoke problems: airshed contamination, nuisance wood smoke and indoor air pollution. These advanced stoves, inserts, fireplaces and furnaces cut wood smoke by up to ninety percent compared to older so-called ‘airtight’ stoves, and also spill less smoke into the indoor air because fires don’t tend to smoulder in them, the condition that most contributes to smoky indoor air.
Smoke emissions from older conventional wood stoves average at least 25 grams per hour of operation, while the emissions from older wood-fired outdoor boilers range from 50 g/h to well over 100 g/h. In contrast, the EPA regulation limits emissions of certified wood stoves to no more than 7.5 g/h. However, since the regulation was first established in 1988, the average emissions of certified stoves have declined steadily due to advances in technology and competition among manufacturers. Today, most current wood stove models emit only 2 to 4 g/h.
Although the EPA emissions limits are stated as solid particles (particulates) collected on filters, other detailed testing has shown that the emission of the scary-sounding polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons like fluorene and benzo (a) pyrene, as well as volatile organic compounds like benzene and xylene are all far lower in the exhaust from advanced wood heating equipment than from old style wood burners.
Despite what some anti-wood heating activists have claimed, the technology is effective in reducing pollution. The reduction in smoke emissions has been a significant technological breakthrough in wood burning and is noticeable at the top of the chimney where no visible smoke is seen.
Advanced equipment is more efficient too
Just as noticeable to users, however, is the increase in efficiency that results from burning and not wasting the energy-rich smoke. Conventional wood stoves range in efficiency from a low of about 35 percent for a cast iron box stove or furnace to a high of as much as 55 percent for a 1970s era ‘airtight’. Most older outdoor boilers are less than 50% efficient. In contrast, EPA certified wood stoves average around 70 percent and none are less than 60 percent efficient. The new breed of emissions certified outdoor boilers are also much more efficient.
The difference in efficiency between conventional wood burning equipment and the advanced low-emission models is so significant that users can immediately see the difference when they upgrade and begin using a new stove. The reduction in fuelwood consumption by up to one-third is significant for each household that uses the new technology, but it also has the potential to increase the number of houses that can be heated based on the sustainable harvesting of a given area of forested land. Another significant factor that reduces a wood-heated household’s impact on the forest resource is the lower heat energy requirements of modern housing. Together, the increase in wood burning appliance efficiency and improvements in housing energy conservation can roughly double the number of dwellings that can be heated by the yield from a given woodlot compared to just 25 years ago.
An outdoor boiler firing up.Community-wide smoke problems are uncommon in areas where level topography does not produce the same number or severity of winter inversions that trap smoke close to the ground. While community level smoke problems are relatively rare, nuisance smoke caused by thoughtless neighbours has been identified as a problem in dozens of towns. One technology in particular has been the focus of many complaints. Outdoor wood-fired boilers (OWB), which look like metal garden sheds and send hot water to one or more buildings through buried pipes, have become notorious for the dense smoke they produce. Small towns have enacted bylaws restricting the installation of outdoor boilers by either banning them from residential areas or placing limits on their proximity to property lines.
The source of the problem is that central heating furnaces and boilers, including OWBs, were exempt from the original EPA emission rules back in 1988 on the basis that there were too few of them to bother regulating. Well, that was then. Now OWBs are very popular and as a result a new smoke emissions test for OWBs has been approved and certified models are now on the market. On paper the new breed of OWBs look much better than the older, smokier versions. Time will tell if they are clean burning enough to satisfy regulators and reduce public complaints.
Defects in Urban Trees
The following are defects or signs of possible defects in urban trees (see figure):
- regrowth from topping, line clearance, or other pruning
- electrical line adjacent to tree
- broken or partially attached branch
- open cavity in trunk or branch
- dead or dying branches
- branches arising from a single point on the trunk
- decay and rot present in old wounds
- recent change in grade or soil level, or other construction
Defects in Rural Trees
The following are defects or signs of possible defects in rural trees (see figure):
- recent site construction, grading and tree removal, clearing of forests for development
- previous tree failures in the local area
- tree leaning near a target
- forked trunk; branches and stems equal in size
- wet areas with shallow soil
Managing Tree Hazards
An arborist can help you manage the trees on your property and can provide treatments that may help make your tree safer, reducing the risk associated with hazardous trees. An arborist familiar with hazard tree evaluation may suggest one or more of the following:
- Remove the target. While a home or a nearby power line cannot be moved, it is possible to move picnic tables, cars, landscape features, or other possible targets to prevent them from being hit by a falling tree.
- Prune the tree. Remove the defective branches of the tree. Because inappropriate pruning may weaken a tree, pruning work is best done by an ISA Certified Arborist.
- Cable and brace the tree. Provide physical support for weak branches and stems to increase their strength and stability.
- Provide routine care. Mature trees need routine care in the form of water, fertilizer (in some cases), mulch, and pruning as dictated by the season and their structure.
- Remove the tree. Some hazardous trees are best removed. If possible, plant a new tree in an appropriate place as a replacement.
Recognizing and reducing tree hazards not only increases the safety of your property and that of your neighbors but also improve the tree’s health and may increase its longevity!
Ensuring Quality Care for Your Tree
Trees are assets to your home and community and deserve the best possible care. If you answered “yes” to any of the questions in the tree hazard checklist or see any of the defects contained in the illustrations, your tree should be examined by an ISA Certified Arborist. Contact Above and Beyond if you need help with your trees.
Recognizing Tree Hazards
Trees provide significant benefits to our homes and cities, but when trees fall and injure people or damage property, they are liabilities. Taking care of tree hazards makes your property safer and prolongs the life of the tree.
Trees are an important part of our world. They offer a wide range of benefits to the environment and provide tremendous beauty.
However, trees may be dangerous. Trees or parts of trees may fall and cause injury to people or damage to property. We call trees in such situations hazardous, to signify the risk involved with their presence. While every tree has the potential to fall, only a small number actually hit something or someone.
It is an owner’s responsibility to provide for the safety of trees on his or her property. This brochure provides some tips for identifying the common defects associated with tree hazards. However, evaluating the seriousness of these defects is best done by a professional arborist. Regular tree care will help identify hazardous trees and the risk they present. Once the hazard is recognized, steps may be taken to reduce the likelihood of the tree falling and injuring someone.
Hazardous Trees and Utility Lines
Trees that fall into utility lines have additional serious consequences. Not only can they injure people or property near the line, but hitting a line may cause power outages, surges, fires, and other damage. Downed lines still conducting electricity are especially dangerous. A tree with a potential to fall into a utility line is a very serious situation.
Tree Hazard Checklist
Consider these questions:
- Are there large dead branches in the tree?
- Are there detached branches hanging in the tree?
- Does the tree have cavities or rotten wood along the trunk or in major branches?
- Are mushrooms present at the base of the tree?
- Are there cracks or splits in the trunk or where branches are attached?
- Have any branches fallen from the tree?
- Have adjacent trees fallen over or died?
- Has the trunk developed a strong lean?
- Do many of the major branches arise from one point on the trunk?
- Have the roots been broken off, injured, or damaged by lowering the soil level, installing pavement, repairing sidewalks, or digging trenches?
- Has the site recently been changed by construction, raising the soil level, or installing lawns?
- Have the leaves prematurely developed an unusual color or size?
- Have trees in adjacent wooded areas been removed?
- Has the tree been topped or otherwise heavily pruned?
to be continued….
Three things are required for a disease to develop:
- the presence of a pathogen (the disease-causing agent)
- plant susceptibility to that particular pathogen
- an environment suitable for disease development
Plants vary in susceptibility to pathogens. Many disease-prevention programs focus on the use of pathogen-resistant plant varieties. Even if the pathogen is present and a susceptible plant host is available, the proper environmental conditions must be present over the correct period of time for the pathogen to infect the plant.
Diseases can be classified into two broad categories: those caused by infectious or living agents (diseases) and those caused by noninfectious or nonliving agents (disorders).
Examples of infectious agents include fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Noninfectious diseases, which account for 70 to 90 percent of all plant problems in urban areas, can be caused by such factors as nutrient deficiencies, temperature extremes, vandalism, pollutants, and fluctuations in moisture. Noninfectious disorders often produce symptoms similar to those caused by infectious diseases; therefore, it is essential to distinguish between the two in order to give proper treatment.
Some insects can cause injury and damage to trees and shrubs. By defoliating trees or sucking their sap, insects can retard plant growth. By boring into the trunk and branches, they interfere with sap flow and weaken the tree structure. Insects may alsocarry some plant diseases. In many cases, however, the insect problem is secondary to problems brought on by a stress disorder or pathogen.
It is important to remember that most insects are beneficial rather than destructive. They help with pollination or act as predators of more harmful species. Therefore, killing all insects without regard to their kind and function can actually be detrimental to tree health.
Insects may be divided into three categories according to their method of feeding: chewing, sucking, or boring. Insects from each group have characteristic patterns of damage that will help you determine the culprit and the proper treatment. Always consult a tree care expert if you have any doubt about the nature of the insect problem or the proper treatment
Chewing insects eat plant tissue such as leaves, flowers, buds, and twigs. Indications of damage by these insects is often seen by uneven or broken margins on the leaves, skeletonization of the leaves, and leaf mining. Chewing insects can be beetle adults or larvae, moth larvae (caterpillars), and many other groups of insects. The damage they cause (leaf notching, leaf mining, leaf skeletonizing, etc.) will help in identifying the pest insect.
Sucking insects insert their beak (proboscis) into the tissues of leaves, twigs, branches, flowers, or fruit and then feed on the plant’s juices. Some examples of sucking insects are aphids, mealy bugs, thrips, and leafhoppers. Damage caused by these pests is often indicated by discoloration, drooping, wilting, leaf spots (stippling), honeydew, or general lack of vigor in the affected plant.
Boring insects spend time feeding somewhere beneath the bark of a tree as larvae. Some borers kill twigs and leaders when adults feed or when eggs hatch into larvae that bore into the stem and develop into adults. Other borers, known as bark beetles, mate at or near the bark surface, and adults lay eggs in tunnels beneath the bark.
The treatment method used for a particular insect or disease problem will depend on the species involved, the extent of the problem, and a variety of other factors specific to the situation and local regulations. Always consult a professional if you have any doubt about the nature of the problem or proper treatment.
Insects & Disease Problems
Insects and diseases can threaten tree health. As soon as you notice any abnormality in your tree’s appearance, you should begin a careful examination of the problem. By identifying the specific symptoms of damage and understanding their causes, you may be able to diagnose the problem and select an appropriate treatment.
Basic elements that influence plant health include sufficient water and light, and a proper balance of nutrients. Too much or too little of any of these environmental conditions may cause plant stress.
Environmental stress weakens plants and makes them more susceptible to insect and disease attack.
Trees deal with environmental stresses, such as shading and competition for water and nutrients in their native environment, by adjusting their growth and development patterns to reflect the availability of the resources. Although trees are adapted to living in stressful conditions in nature, many times the stresses they experience in the landscape are more than they can handle and may make them more susceptible to insects and diseases.
Correct diagnosis of plant health problems requires a careful examination of the situation.
- Accurately identify the plant. Because many insects and diseases are plant-specific, this information can quickly limit the number of suspected diseases and disorders.
- Look for a pattern of abnormality. It may be helpful to compare the affected plant with other plants on the site, especially those of the same species. Differences in color or growth may present clues as to the source of the problem. Nonuniform damage patterns may indicate insects or diseases. Uniform damage over a large area (perhaps several plant species) usually indicates disorders caused by such factors as physical injury, poor drainage, or weather.
- Carefully examine the landscape. The history of the property and adjacent land may reveal many problems. The number of species affected may also help distinguish between infectious pathogens that are more plant-specific as compared to chemical or environmental factors that affect many different species. Most living pathogens take a relatively long time to spread throughout an area, so if a large percentage of plants becomes diseased virtually overnight, a pathogen is probably not involved.
- Examine the roots. Note their color: brown or black roots may signal problems. Brown roots often indicate dry soil conditions or the presence of toxic chemicals. Black roots usually reflect overly wet soil or the presence of root-rotting organisms.
- Check the trunk and branches. Examine the trunk thoroughly for wounds because they provide entrances for pathogens and wood-rotting organisms. Wounds can be caused by weather, fire, lawn mowers, and rodents, as well as a variety of other environmental and mechanical factors. Large defects may indicate a potentially hazardous tree.
- Note the position and appearance of affected leaves. Dead leaves at the top of the tree are usually the result of environmental or mechanical root stress. Twisted or curled leaves may indicate viral infection, insect feeding, or exposure to herbicides. The size and color of the foliage may tell a great deal about the plant’s condition. Make note of these and any other abnormalities.
To be continued…..
Topping Creates Hazards
The survival mechanism that causes a tree to produce multiple shoots below each topping cut comes at great expense to the tree. These shoots develop from buds near the surface of the old branches. Unlike normal branches that develop in a socket of overlapping wood tissues, these new shoots are anchored only in the outermost layers of the parent branches.
The new shoots grow quickly, as much as 20 feet in one year, in some species. Unfortunately, the shoots are prone to breaking, especially during windy conditions. The irony is that while the goal was to reduce the tree’s height to make it safer, it has been made more hazardous than before.
Topping Makes Trees Ugly
The natural branching structure of a tree is a biological wonder. Trees form a variety of shapes and growth habits, all with the same goal of presenting their leaves to the sun. Topping removes the ends of the branches, often leaving ugly stubs. Topping destroys the natural form of a tree.
Without leaves (up to 6 months of the year in temperate climates), a topped tree appears disfigured and mutilated. With leaves, it is a dense ball of foliage, lacking its simple grace. A tree that has been topped can never fully regain its natural form.
Topping Is Expensive
The cost of topping a tree is not limited to what the perpetrator is paid. If the tree survives, it will require pruning again within a few years. It will either need to be reduced again or storm damage will have to be cleaned up. If the tree dies, it will have to be removed.
Topping is a high-maintenance pruning practice, with some hidden costs. One is the reduction in property value. Healthy, well-maintained trees can add 10 to 20 percent to the value of a property. Disfigured, topped trees are considered an impending expense.
Another possible cost of topped trees is potential liability. Topped trees are prone to breaking and can be hazardous. Because topping is considered an unacceptable pruning practice, any damage caused by branch failure of a topped tree may lead to a finding of negligence in a court of law.
Alternatives to Topping
Sometimes a tree must be reduced in height or spread. Providing clearance for utility lines is an example. There are recommended techniques for doing so. If practical, branches should be removed back to their point of origin. If a branch must be shortened, it should be cut back to a lateral that is large enough to assume the terminal role. A rule of thumb is to cut back to a lateral that is at least one-third the diameter of the limb being removed.
This method of branch reduction helps to preserve the natural form of the tree. However, if large cuts are involved, the tree may not be able to close over and compartmentalize the wounds. Sometimes the best solution is to remove the tree and replace it with a species that is more appropriate for the site.
Why Topping Hurts Trees
Topping is perhaps the most harmful tree pruning practice known. Yet, despite more than 25 years of literature and seminars explaining its harmful effects, topping remains a common practice. This brochure explains why topping is not an acceptable pruning technique and offers better alternatives.
What is Topping?
Topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree branches to stubs or lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal role. Other names for topping include “heading,” “tipping,” “hat-racking,” and “rounding over.”
The most common reason given for topping is to reduce the size of a tree. Home owners often feel that their trees have become too large for their property. People fear that tall trees may pose a hazard. Topping, however, is not a viable method of height reduction and certainly does not reduce the hazard. In fact, topping will make a tree more hazardous in the long term.
Topping Stresses Trees
Topping often removes 50 to 100 percent of the leaf-bearing crown of a tree. Because leaves are the food factories of a tree, removing them can temporarily starve a tree. The severity of the pruning triggers a sort of survival mechanism. The tree activates latent buds, forcing the rapid growth of multiple shoots below each cut. The tree needs to put out a new crop of leaves as soon as possible. If a tree does not have the stored energy reserves to do so, it will be seriously weakened and may die.
A stressed tree is more vulnerable to insect and disease infestations. Large, open pruning wounds expose the sapwood and heartwood to attacks. The tree may lack sufficient energy to chemically defend the wounds against invasion, and some insects are actually attracted to the chemical signals trees release.
Topping Causes Decay
The preferred location to make a pruning cut is just beyond the branch collar at the branch’s point of attachment. The tree is biologically equipped to close such a wound, provided the tree is healthy enough and the wound is not too large. Cuts made along a limb between lateral branches create stubs with wounds that the tree may not be able to close. The exposed wood tissues begin to decay. Normally, a tree will “wall off,” or compartmentalize, the decaying tissues, but few trees can defend the multiple severe wounds caused by topping. The decay organisms are given a free path to move down through the branches.
Topping Can Lead to Sunburn
Branches within a tree’s crown produce thousands of leaves to absorb sunlight. When the leaves are removed, the remaining branches and trunk are suddenly exposed to high levels of light and heat. The result may be sunburn of the tissues beneath the bark, which can lead to cankers, bark splitting, and death of some branches.
to be continued in part 2…
In our first part for this series, we reviewed why pruning is needed and how to make proper cuts in mature trees. Let’s continue with other techniques.
Specific types of pruning may be necessary to maintain a mature tree in a healthy, safe, and attractive condition.
Cleaning is the removal of dead, dying, diseased, crowded, weakly attached, and low-vigor branches from the crown of a tree.
Thinning is the selective removal of branches to increase light penetration and air movement through the crown. Thinning opens the foliage of a tree, reduces weight on heavy limbs, and helps retain the tree’s natural shape.
Raising removes the lower branches from a tree in order to provide clearance for buildings, vehicles, pedestrians, and vistas.
Reduction reduces the size of a tree, often for clear- ance for utility lines. Reducing the height or spread of a tree is best accomplished by pruning back the leaders and branch terminals to lateral branches that are large enough to assume the terminal roles (at least one-third the diameter of the cut stem). Compared to topping, reduction helps maintain the form and structural integrity of the tree.
How Much Should Be Pruned?
The amount of live tissue that should be removed depends on the tree size, species, and age, as well as the pruning objectives. Younger trees tolerate the removal of a higher percentage of living tissue better than mature trees do. An important principle to remember is that a tree can recover from several small pruning wounds faster than from one large wound.
A common mistake is to remove too much inner foliage and small branches. It is important to maintain an even distribution of foliage along large limbs and in the lower portion of the crown. Overthinning reduces the tree’s sugar production capacity and can create tip-heavy limbs that are prone to failure.
Mature trees should require little routine pruning. A widely accepted rule of thumb is never to remove more than one-quarter of a tree’s leaf-bearing crown. In a mature tree, pruning even that much could have negative effects. Removing even a single, large-diameter limb can create a wound that the tree may not be able to close. The older and larger a tree becomes, the less energy it has in reserve to close wounds and defend against decay or insect attack. The pruning of large mature trees is usually limited to removal of dead or potentially hazardous limbs.
Wound dressings were once thought to accelerate wound closure, protect against insects and diseases, and reduce decay. However, research has shown that dressings do not reduce decay or speed closure and rarely prevent insect or disease infestations. Most experts recommend that wound dressings not be used. If a dressing must be used for cosmetic purposes, then only a thin coating of a nontoxic material should be applied.
Pruning Mature Trees
Pruning is the most common tree maintenance procedure. Although forest trees grow quite well with only nature’s pruning, landscape trees require a higher level of care to maintain their safety and aesthetics. Pruning should be done with an understanding of how the tree responds to each cut. Improper pruning can cause damage that will last for the life of the tree, or worse, shorten the tree’s life.
Reasons for Pruning
Because each cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree, no branch should be removed without a reason. Common reasons for pruning are to remove dead branches, to remove crowded or rubbing limbs, and to eliminate hazards. Trees may also be pruned to increase light and air penetration to the inside of the tree’s crown or to the landscape below. In most cases, mature trees are pruned as a corrective or preventive measure.
Routine thinning does not necessarily improve the health of a tree. Trees produce a dense crown of leaves to manufacture the sugar used as energy for growth and development. Removal of foliage through pruning can reduce growth and stored energy reserves. Heavy pruning can be a significant health stress for the tree.
Yet if people and trees are to coexist in an urban or suburban environment, then we sometimes have to modify the trees. City environments do not mimic natural forest conditions. Safety is a major concern. Also, we want trees to complement other landscape plantings and lawns. Proper pruning, with an understanding of tree biology, can maintain good tree health and structure while enhancing the aesthetic and economic values of our landscapes.
When to Prune
Most routine pruning to remove weak, diseased, or dead limbs can be accomplished at any time during the year with little effect on the tree. As a rule, growth is maximized and wound closure is fastest if pruning takes place before the spring growth flush. Some trees, such as maples and birches, tend to “bleed” if pruned early in the spring. It may be unsightly, but it is of little consequence to the tree.
A few tree diseases, such as oak wilt, can be spread when pruning wounds allow spores access into the tree. Susceptible trees should not be pruned during active transmission periods.
Heavy pruning just after the spring growth flush should be avoided. At that time, trees have just expended a great deal of energy to produce foliage and early shoot growth. Removal of a large percentage of foliage at that time can stress the tree.
Making Proper Pruning Cuts
Pruning cuts should be made just outside the branch collar. The branch collar contains trunk or parent branch tissue and should not be damaged or removed. If the trunk collar has grown out on a dead limb to be removed, make the cut just beyond the collar. Do not cut the collar.
If a large limb is to be removed, its weight should first be reduced. This is done by making an undercut about 12 to 18 inches from the limb’s point of attachment. Make a second cut from the top, directly above or a few inches farther out on the limb. Doing so removes the limb, leaving the 12- to 18-inch stub. Remove the stub by cutting back to the branch collar. This technique reduces the possibility of tearing the bark.
to be continued…
In our previous article, we discussed part 1 for this series, including some key points about this essential technique, and the tools to get it done right. Let’s continue with more…
For most young trees, maintain a single dominant leader growing upward. Do not prune back the tip of this leader. Do not allow secondary branches to outgrow the leader. Sometimes a tree will develop double leaders known as co-dominant stems. Co-dominant stems can lead to structural weaknesses, so it is best to remove one of the stems while the tree is young.
The lateral branches growing on the sides contribute to the development of a sturdy well-tapered trunk. It is important to leave some of these lateral branches in place, even though they may be pruned out later. These branches, known as temporary branches, also help protect the trunk from sun and mechanical injury. Temporary branches should be kept short enough not to be an obstruction or compete with selected permanent branches.
Permanent Branch Selection
Nursery trees often have low branches that may make the tree appear well-proportioned when young, but low branches are seldom appropriate for large-growing trees in an urban environment. How a young tree is trained depends on its primary function in the landscape. For example, street trees must be pruned so that they allow at least 16 feet of clearance for traffic. Most landscape trees require only about 8 feet of clearance.
The height of the lowest permanent branch is determined by the tree’s intended function and location in the landscape. Trees that are used to screen an unsightly view or provide a wind break may be allowed to branch low to the ground. Most large-growing trees in the landscape must eventually be pruned to allow head clearance.
The spacing of branches, both vertically and radially, in the tree is very important. Branches selected as permanent scaffold branches must be well-spaced along the trunk. Maintain radial balance with branches growing outward in each direction.
A good rule of thumb for the vertical spacing of permanent branches is to maintain a distance equal to 3 percent of the tree’s eventual height. Thus, a tree that will be 50 feet tall should have permanent scaffold branches spaced about 18 inches apart along the trunk. Avoid allowing two scaffold branches to arise one above the other on the same side of the tree.
Some trees have a tendency to develop branches with narrow angles of attachment and tight crotches. As the tree grows, bark can become enclosed deep within the crotch between the branch and the trunk. Such growth is called included bark. Included bark weakens the attachment of the branch to the trunk and can lead to branch failure when the tree matures. You should prune branches with weak attachments while they are young.
Avoid overthinning the interior of the tree. The leaves of each branch must manufacture enough food to keep that branch alive and growing. In addition, each branch must contribute food to grow and feed the trunk and roots. Removal of too many leaves can “starve” the tree, reduce growth, and make the tree unhealthy. A good rule of thumb is to maintain at least half the foliage on branches arising in the lower two-thirds of the tree.
Newly Planted Trees
Pruning of newly planted trees should be limited to corrective pruning. Remove torn or broken branches, and save other pruning measures for the second or third year.
The belief that trees should be pruned when planted to compensate for root loss is misguided. Trees need their leaves and shoot tips to provide food and the substances that stimulate new root production. Unpruned trees establish faster with a stronger root system than trees pruned at the time of planting.
Wound dressings were once thought to accelerate wound closure, protect against insects and diseases, and reduce decay.
However, research has shown that dressings do not reduce decay or speed closure and rarely prevent insect or disease infestations. Most experts recommend that wound dressing not be used. If a dressing must be used for cosmetic purposes, use a thin coating of a material that is not toxic to the plant.
Proper pruning is essential in developing a tree with a strong structure and desirable form. Trees that receive the appropriate pruning measures while they are young will require little corrective pruning when they mature.
Keep these few simple principles in mind before pruning a tree:
- Each cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree. Always have a purpose in mind before making a cut.
- Proper technique is essential. Poor pruning can cause damage that lasts for the life of the tree. Learn where and how to make the cuts before picking up the pruning shears.
- Trees do not heal the way people do. When a tree is wounded, it must grow over and compartmentalize the wound. As a result, the wound is contained within the tree forever.
- Small cuts do less damage to the tree than large cuts. For that reason, proper pruning (training) of young trees is critical. Waiting to prune a tree until it is mature can create the need for large cuts that the tree cannot easily close.
Making The Cut
Where you make a pruning cut is critical to a tree’s response in growth and wound closure. Make pruning cuts just outside the branch collar. Because the branch collar contains trunk or parent branch tissues, the tree will be damaged unnecessarily if you remove or damage it. In fact, if the cut is large, the tree may suffer permanent internal decay from an improper pruning cut.
If a permanent branch is to be shortened, cut it back to a lateral branch or bud. Internodal cuts, or cuts made between buds or branches, may lead to stem decay, sprout production, and misdirected growth.
When pruning trees, it is important to have the right tool for the job. For small trees, most of the cuts can be made with hand pruning shears (secateurs). The scissor-type, or bypass blade hand pruners, are preferred over the anvil type. They make cleaner, more accurate cuts. Cuts larger than one-half inch in diameter should be made with lopping shears or a pruning saw.
Never use hedge shears to prune a tree. Whatever tool you use, make sure it is kept clean and sharp.
Establishing a Strong Scaffold Structure
A good structure of primary scaffold branches should be established while the tree is young. The scaffold branches provide the framework of the mature tree. Properly trained young trees will develop a strong structure that requires less corrective pruning as they mature.
The goal in training young trees is to establish a strong trunk with sturdy, well-spaced branches. The strength of the branch structure depends on the relative sizes of the branches, the branch angles, and the spacing of the limbs. Naturally, those factors vary with the growth habit of the tree. Pin oaks and sweetgums, for example, have a conical shape with a central leader. Elms and live oaks are often wide-spreading without a central leader. Other trees, such as lindens and Bradford pears, are densely branched. Good pruning techniques remove structurally weak branches while maintaining the natural form of the tree.
To be continued…
In our previous article, we discussed what MULCH is, the benefits of it, the different commercial types that may be found and introduced the risk of over-mulching. Let’s expand on this last topic…
Problems Associated with Improper Mulching
- Deep mulch can lead to excess moisture in the root zone, which can stress the plant and cause root rot.
- Piling mulch against the trunk or stems of plants can stress stem tissues and may lead to insect and disease problems.
- Some mulches, especially those containing cut grass, can affect soil pH. Continued use of certain mulches over long periods can lead to micronutrient deficiencies or toxicities.
- Mulch piled high against the trunks of young trees may create habitats for rodents that chew the bark and can girdle the trees.
- Thick blankets of fine mulch can become matted and may prevent the penetration of water and air. In addition, a thick layer of fine mulch can become like potting soil and may support weed growth.
- Anaerobic “sour” mulch may give off pungent odors, and the alcohols and organic acids that build up may be toxic to young plants.
It is clear that the choice of mulch and the method of application can be important to the health of landscape plants. The following are some guidelines to use when applying mulch.
- Inspect plants and soil in the area to be mulched. Determine whether drainage is adequate. Determine whether there are plants that may be affected by the choice of mulch. Most commonly available mulches work well in most landscapes. Some plants may benefit from the use of a slightly acidifying mulch such as pine bark.
- If mulch is already present, check the depth. Do not add mulch if there is a sufficient layer in place. Rake the old mulch to break up any matted layers and to refresh the appearance. Some landscape maintenance companies spray mulch with a water-soluble, vegetable-based dye to improve the appearance.
- If mulch is piled against the stems or tree trunks, pull it back several inches so that the base of the trunk and the root crown are exposed.
- Organic mulches usually are preferred to inorganic materials due to their soil-enhancing properties. If organic mulch is used, it should be well aerated and, preferably, composted. Avoid sour-smelling mulch.
- Composted wood chips can make good mulch, especially when they contain a blend of leaves, bark, and wood. Fresh wood chips also may be used around established trees and shrubs. Avoid using noncomposted wood chips that have been piled deeply without exposure to oxygen.
- For well-drained sites, apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch. If there are drainage problems, a thinner layer should be used. Avoid placing mulch against the tree trunks. Place mulch out to the tree’s drip line or beyond.
If the tree had a say in the matter, its entire root system (which usually extends well beyond the drip line) would be mulched.
Proper Mulching Techniques
Mulches are materials placed over the soil surface to maintain moisture and improve soil conditions. Mulching is one of the most beneficial things a home owner can do for the health of a tree. Mulch can reduce water loss from the soil, minimize weed competition, and improve soil structure. Properly applied, mulch can give landscapes a handsome, well-groomed appearance. Mulch must be applied properly; if it is too deep or if the wrong material is used, it can actually cause significant harm to trees and other landscape plants.
Benefits of Proper Mulching
- Helps maintain soil moisture. Evaporation is reduced, and the need for watering can be minimized.
- Helps control weeds. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch will reduce the germination and growth of weeds.
- Mulch serves as nature’s insulating blanket. Mulch keeps soils warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
- Many types of mulch can improve soil aeration, structure (aggregation of soil particles), and drainage over time.
- Some mulches can improve soil fertility.
- A layer of mulch can inhibit certain plant diseases.
- Mulching around trees helps facilitate maintenance and can reduce the likelihood of damage from “weed whackers” or the dreaded “lawn mower blight.”
- Mulch can give planting beds a uniform, well-cared-for look.
Trees growing in a natural forest environment have their roots anchored in a rich, well-aerated soil full of essential nutrients. The soil is blanketed by leaves and organic materials that replenish nutrients and provide an optimal environment for root growth and mineral uptake. Urban landscapes, however, are typically a much harsher environment with poor soils, little organic matter, and large fluctuations in temperature and moisture. Applying a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch can mimic a more natural environment and improve plant health.
The root system of a tree is not a mirror image of the top. The roots of most trees can extend out a significant distance from the tree trunk. Although the guideline for many maintenance practices is the drip line—the outermost extension of the canopy—the roots can grow many times that distance. In addition, most of the fine, absorbing roots are located within inches of the soil surface. These roots, which are essential for taking up water and minerals, require oxygen to survive. A thin layer of mulch, applied as broadly as practical, can improve the soil structure, oxygen levels, temperature, and moisture availability where these roots grow.
Types of Mulch
Mulches are available commercially in many forms. The two major types of mulch are inorganic and organic. Inorganic mulches include various types of stone, lava rock, pulverized rubber, geotextile fabrics, and other materials. Inorganic mulches do not decompose and do not need to be replenished often. On the other hand, they do not improve soil structure, add organic materials, or provide nutrients. For these reasons, most horticulturists and arborists prefer organic mulches.
Organic mulches include wood chips, pine needles, hardwood and softwood bark, cocoa hulls, leaves, compost mixes, and a variety of other products usually derived from plants. Organic mulches decompose in the landscape at different rates depending on the material and climate. Those that decompose faster must be replenished more often. Because the decomposition process improves soil quality and fertility, many arborists and other landscape professionals consider that characteristic a positive one, despite the added maintenance.
Not Too Much!
As beneficial as mulch is, too much can be harmful. The generally recommended mulching depth is 2 to 4 inches. Unfortunately, many landscapes are falling victim to a plague of overmulching. A new term, “mulch volcanoes,” has emerged to describe mulch that has been piled up around the base of trees. Most organic mulches must be replenished, but the rate of decomposition varies. Some mulches, such as cypress mulch, remain intact for many years. Top dressing with new mulch annually (often for the sake of refreshing the color) creates a buildup to depths that can be unhealthy. Deep mulch can be effective in suppressing weeds and reducing maintenance, but it often causes additional problems.
To be continued…
When you buy a high-quality tree, plant it correctly, and treat it properly, you and your tree will benefit greatly in many ways for many years.
When you buy a low-quality tree, you and your tree will have many costly problems even if you take great care in planting and maintenance.
What Determines Tree Quality?
A high-quality tree has:
- enough sound roots to support healthy growth.
- a trunk free of mechanical wounds and wounds from incorrect pruning.
- a strong form with well-spaced, firmly attached branches.
A low-quality tree has:
- crushed or circling roots in a small root ball or small container.
- a trunk with wounds from mechanical impacts or incorrect pruning.
- a weak form in which multiple stems squeeze against each other or branches squeeze against the trunk.
Any of these problems alone or in combination with the others will greatly reduce the tree’s chances for a long, attractive, healthy, and productive life.
When buying a tree, inspect it carefully to make certain it does not have problems with roots, injuries, or form. Remember the acronym RIF; it will help you remember roots, injuries, and f orm.
Here are some details on potential problems and some other considerations that you should be aware of when buying a tree.
Roots on trees for sale are available as one of three types:
- bare root: no soil; usually on small trees
- root balled: roots in soil held in place by burlap or some other fabric; the root ball may be in a wire basket
- container grown: roots and soil in a container
Bare roots should not be crushed or torn. The ends of the roots should be clean cut. If a few roots are crushed, re-cut them to remove the injured portions. Use sharp tools. Make straight cuts. Do not paint the ends. The cuts should be made immediately before planting and watering.
You should be able to see the basal trunk flare. The flare is the spreading trunk base that connects with the roots. Root balls should be flat on top. Roots in soil in round bags often have many major woody roots cut or torn during the bagging process. Avoid trees with many crushed or torn roots.
The diameter of the root ball should be at least 10 to 12 times the diameter of the trunk as measured 6 inches above the trunk flare.
After placing the root ball in the planting site, cut the ties and carefully pull away the burlap or other fabric. Examine any roots that protrude from the soil. If many roots are obviously crushed or torn, the tree may have severe growth problems. If only a few roots are injured, cut away only the injured portions. Use a sharp tool. Use care not to break the soil ball around the roots.
Cut the wire on wire baskets. Place the basket into the planting site. Cut away at least the top two wires without disturbing the root ball. Inspect exposed roots for injuries. If many roots are injured, the tree may have serious growth problems. If the trunk flare has been buried, gently expose it before planting the tree, taking care not to damage the bark.
Roots should not twist or circle in the container. Remove the root ball from the container. Inspect the exposed larger roots carefully to see whether they are twisting or turning in circles. Circling roots often girdle and kill other roots. If only a few roots are circling, cut them away with a sharp tool.
Trunk flare should be obvious. Be on alert for trees planted too deeply in containers or trees “buried” in fabric bags. As with root-balled stock, you should be able to see the basal trunk flare with container-grown plants. If the trunk flare has been buried, gently expose it before planting the tree, taking care not to damage the bark.
Beware of injuries beneath trunk wraps. Never buy a tree without thoroughly checking the trunk. If the tree is wrapped, remove the wrap and inspect the trunk for wounds, incorrect pruning cuts, and insect injuries. Wrap can be used to protect the trunk during transit but should be removed after planting.
Incorrect pruning cuts are major problems. Incorrect pruning cuts that remove or injure the swollen collar at the base of branches can start many serious tree problems, cankers, decay, and cracks.
Incorrect pruning cuts that leave branch and leader stubs also start disease and defect problems. Do not leave stubs.
A correct pruning cut removes the branch just outside of the collar. A ring, or “doughnut,” of sound tissues then grows around the cut. Do not make cuts flush to the trunk. The closing tissues may form only to the sides of the flush cuts. Trunk tissues above and below flush cut branches often die. When the heat of the sun or the cold of frost occurs, cracks or long, dead streaks may develop above and below the dead spots.
Good, strong form, or architecture, starts with branches evenly spaced along the trunk. The branches should have firm, strong attachments with the trunk.
Squeezed branches signal problems. Weak branch unions occur where the branch and trunk squeeze together. As the squeezing increases during diameter growth, dead spots or cracks often begin to form below where the branch is attached to the trunk. Once this problem starts, the weak branch attachment could lead to branches cracking or breaking during mild to moderate storms.
When several branches are on the same position on the trunk, the likelihood of weak attachments and cracks increases greatly. As the branches grow larger and tighter together, the chances for splitting increase.
Avoid trees with two or more stems squeezing together. As stems squeeze together, cracks often form down the trunk. The cracks could start from squeezed multiple leader stems or where the two trunks come together.
If you desire a tree with multiple trunks, make certain that the trunks are well separated at the ground line.
Remember, trunks expand in diameter as they grow. Two trunks may be slightly separated when small, but as they grow in girth, the trunks will squeeze together.
Look for early signs of vertical trunk cracks. Examine branch unions carefully for small cracks below the unions. Cracks are major starting points for fractures of branches and trunks. The small cracks could be present for many years before a fracture happens. Always keep a close watch for vertical cracks below squeezed branches and squeezed trunks.
If your tree has only a few minor problems, corrective pruning may help. Start corrective pruning one year after planting. Space the pruning over several years.
Remove broken or torn branches at the time of planting. After a year, start corrective pruning by removing the branches that died after planting.
Trees Have Dignity, Too
Most nurseries produce high-quality trees. When you start with a high-quality tree, you are giving that tree a chance to express its dignity for many years. Remember RIF.
Think of tree care as an investment. A healthy tree increases in value with age—paying big dividends, increasing property values, beautifying our surroundings, purifying our air, and saving energy by providing cooling shade from summer’s heat and protection from winter’s wind.
Providing a preventive care program for your landscape plants is like putting money in the bank. Regular maintenance, designed to promote plant health and vigor, ensures their value will continue to grow. Preventing a problem is much less costly and time-consuming than curing one once it has developed. An effective maintenance program, including regular inspections and the necessary follow-up care of mulching, fertilizing, and pruning, can detect problems and correct them before they become damaging or fatal. Considering that many tree species can live as long as 200 to 300 years, including these practices when caring for your home landscape is an investment that will offer enjoyment and value for generations.
Fertilization is another important aspect of mature tree care. Trees require certain nutrients (essential elements) to function and grow. Urban landscape trees can be growing in soils that do not contain sufficient available nutrients for satisfactory growth and development. In these situations, it may be necessary to fertilize to improve plant vigor.
Fertilizing a tree can improve growth; however, if fertilizer is not applied wisely, it may not benefit the tree at all and may even adversely affect the tree. Mature trees making satisfactory growth may not require fertilization. When considering supplemental fertilizer, it is important to know which nutrients are needed and when and how they should be applied.
Soil conditions, especially pH and organic matter content, vary greatly, making the proper selection and use of fertilizer a somewhat complex process. When dealing with a mature tree that provides considerable benefit and value to your landscape, it is worth the time and investment to have the soil tested for nutrient content. Any arborist can arrange to have your soil tested at a soil testing laboratory and can give advice on application rates, timing, and the best blend of fertilizer for each of your trees and other landscape plants.
Mature trees have expansive root systems that extend from 2 to 3 times the size of the leaf canopy. A major portion of actively growing roots is located outside the tree’s drip line. It is important to understand this fact when applying fertilizer to your trees as well as your turf. Many lawn fertilizers contain weed and feed formulations that may be harmful to your trees. When you apply a broadleaf herbicide to your turf, remember that tree roots coexist with turf roots. The same herbicide that kills broadleaf weeds in your lawn is picked up by tree roots and can harm or kill your broadleaf trees if applied incorrectly. Understanding the actual size and extent of a tree’s root system before you fertilize is necessary to determine how much, what type, and where to best apply fertilizer.