Plant Health Care in Richmond, VA

Take the time to take stock of your trees

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Take the time to take stock of your trees

The hot, dry summer has taken a toll on area trees with premature crown dieback, leaf dropping and limbs falling.

Though trees can add beauty and value, they can also be safety hazards. That’s why it’s important to have a regular inspection or to contact a tree professional if you have concerns.

“The best thing you really can do is to just keep an eye on your trees,” said Brandon Patterson, a certified arborist with Plant Pro Design and Landscape in Greensboro. “Pay attention to the tree’s crown, the top of the tree. If you see signs of dieback — it’s not a leaf drop, but each limb is dying back toward the center of the tree — that can be bad.”

Tree professionals in North Carolina don’t have to be licensed. Homeowners who have concerns about the health of their trees should hire an arborist affiliated with a trade association, such as the Tree Care Industry Association, International Society of Arboriculture or the American Society of Consulting Arborists. Membership in these associations indicates that a company stays on top of the latest techniques and information. A qualified arborist will typically work with the homeowner to find solutions to keep a tree alive whenever possible, rather than suggest removal first.

“People have to be cautious, because a lot of tree companies are just in the business of taking down trees,” said David Lusk, a consulting arborist with Lusk Tree Care Services, Inc. in Winston-Salem. “I’ve seen a lot of trees come down that didn’t necessarily have to come down. We have rules of thumb to go by and those can be helpful, but sometimes that means the premature removal of a pretty good tree.”

Most tree professionals recommend at least a bi-annual inspection for homeowners with mature trees.

“I think that if you have large trees of any type, it’s worth a periodic inspection,” Lusk said. “There’s no way you can predict the severity of storms or if a tree is damaged. But there are some indicators that are pretty obvious to the trained eye.”

Trees can be damaged by a host of things, including weather conditions, pests, herbicides, pesticides, chemical runoff and improper mulching.

“Mulching is vital for tree health,” Patterson said. “Finely shredded bark that is aged is great for trees. It will help keep the ground around it cool, but you never want to build mulch up on the trunk. We call that ‘volcano’ mulching. It will hold moisture in there. It’s actually a bad thing. It can rot out the trunk.”

There are other signs that a tree might be in trouble. Large, broken branches, large cracks, poor leaf development in the crown, discoloration and separation of the bark on the main stem are all indications that it could be time to remove a tree. Ultimately, homeowners are responsible for the condition of their trees and could be held liable if a dangerous tree causes property damage or injures someone.

“If you’re looking for a qualified opinion to determine the stability or potential hazard of a tree, it’s worth paying a consultation visit by a qualified arborist who can help make that determination,” Lusk said.

Tree removal is a technical and dangerous process. It should be done only by an experienced professional who is properly insured and follows American National Standards Institute safety protocol. Costs for removal vary greatly, depending on the size and location of the tree.

“I never can emphasize enough in my years of training and teaching on it, you have to take trees real serious, especially these big, large oaks and poplars,” Patterson said. “You have to look at it in two ways: Is it endangering or is it a serious threat to property or lives. Or if you have situations, like a bug problem or a bad lean, generally I would always push someone to have it removed. Property can be replaced; a life can’t.”


Written by vaphc

August 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Risk, Trees

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