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Tree Care Tips for Tree Service Express, Inc.

Hurricane Season: Look Up Before the Storm

The Atlantic hurricane season is a time when most tropical cyclones are expected to develop across the northern Atlantic Ocean. It is currently defined as the time frame from June 1 through November 30. What plans should prudent consumers take with the trees in their landscape?

Hurricanes and violent storms
“It is important that people who live in East and Gulf coastal areas be prepared,” says Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association. “Even people in the upper Midwest should heed the warning. Right now, get your trees as ready as they can be to survive a major storm. Don’t wait until the storm is headed your way.” One of the greatest dangers to life and property during hurricanes is posed by falling trees and limbs. “Growing trees will ‘catch’ more wind and become heavier, so they are prone to increase mechanical stresses, increasing the chances of failure,” explains Andersen. “Preparing trees for a natural disaster is a must and should be done well in advance of the storm season. To help ease these dangers, have a professional arborist evaluate your trees. Doing this will help you determine potential weaknesses and dangers.”

Look at your trees for the following warning signs:

• Wires in contact with tree branches. Trees may become energized when they are contacted by electric wires.
• Dead or partially attached limbs hung up in the higher branches that could fall and cause damage or injury.
• Cracked stems and branch forks that could cause catastrophic failure of a tree section.
• Hollow or decayed areas on the trunk or main limbs, or mushrooms growing from the bark that indicate a decayed and weakened stem.
• Peeling bark or gaping wounds in the trunk also indicate structural weakness.
• Fallen or uprooted trees putting pressure on other trees beneath them.
• Tight, V-shaped forks, which are much more prone to failure than open U-shaped ones.
• Heaving soil at the tree base is a potential indicator of an unsound root system

Remember, too, that a tree is a living thing, and its integrity and stability change over time, so don’t assume that a tree that has survived nine severe storms will necessarily survive a tenth.

Holes in Trees: Hazardous or Harmless?

Hazardous trees pose a danger to people and property. When storms or high winds hit, limbs – and often whole trees – fall to the ground.

“Many fatal accidents and millions of dollars in property damage can be averted if homeowners heed the warning signs of a hazardous tree,” explains Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP* and staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). “By not paying attention to your trees, you are potentially placing your property, even your life, in jeopardy.”

Tree defect clues
Fortunately, one can often read the clues that indicate a tree is prone to failure. For instance, if a tree has large fungus on trees can indicate tree healthbranches attached with tight, V-shaped forks, those attachment points are often weak and could break or fail during strong weather events. However, those branches can be removed or reduced in length to reduce the risk while maintaining the tree’s aesthetic appearance.

Other warning signs of structural instability include cracks in the trunk or major limbs, hollow and decayed areas or the presence of extensive dead wood. Mushrooms growing from the base of the tree or under its canopy may be a sign of root decay, which could cause the entire tree to fail. Remember to be thorough in your evaluation; the absence of fungus growth does not necessarily mean the tree is healthy.

“It also pays to be highly suspicious of any tree that has had construction activities performed near it – such as cable or utility trenching, addition or removal of soil, digging or heavy equipment movement – anywhere under the spread of its branches,” says Andersen. These activities can cause root death, which in turn, again, could lead to the structural instability of the tree.

Holes in trees
The indicator most people recognize is a hollow in a tree. But even a large hollow does not always imply that a tree holes in trees can be filled for aesthetic reasonshas become hazardous. Nor does it mean the hollow should be filled. Filling of hollow trees, a process called “cavity filling,” was practiced by arborists for many years. However, thanks to recent research, it has been discovered that cavity filling is not needed to support or improve the health of hollow trees.

Tree experts found that cavity filling with cement can damage a tree. According to Andersen, “The column of cement created in the tree by a cavity fill doesn’t move, just like a column on a building, but the tree is always moving. It sways with the wind constantly. The rubbing created by the swaying tree and the solid column of cement can further damage the tree.”

Wood decay fungi that created the hollow tree defect may take advantage of new injuries created by the rubbing. They could invade the remaining healthy tissue of the tree. When cavity filling is desired for aesthetic reasons, synthetic foams can be applied by professional arborists. These materials will bend with the swaying tree, reducing injury. However, there is really no reason to fill a cavity other than for aesthetic reasons; it doesn’t improve the tree’s health and doesn’t offer extra support. If structural support of a tree is required, a professional arborist will recommend alternative options. Cabling, bracing, propping, tree guying or removing the tree are preferred.

What can you do?
Find a professional. A professional arborist can work with you to determine the best course of action to care for and maintain your landscape.

Decay Can Cause Hazardous Defects in Trees

Tree failure is a major cause of residential property damage and the leading cause of power outages nationwide. There are many ways a tree can fail: an ice storm can Hurricane Tree Damageoverload all the branches on a tree, a hurricane or high wind can blow down a tree if its roots are compromised, or a cracked tree can fail under its own weight.

“Homeowners who are worried about trees falling and damaging property should call a professional arborist for an on-site inspection,” advises Tchukki Andersen, CTSP, BCMA*, staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association. Andersen notes that trees are designed to withstand most storms, but all trees can fail – and defective trees fail sooner than healthy trees. A sound tree becomes potentially dangerous when the tree’s woody structure is weakened by one or more defects. During storms, pre-existing defects predispose trees to failure. “To a professional arborist,” notes Andersen, “defects are visible signs that a tree has the potential to fail.”

Broadly defined, there are seven categories of defects: decayed wood, cracks, root problems, weak branch unions, cankers, poor tree architecture and dead trees, treetops, or branches.

Healthy, well-maintained trees growing on suitable sites will be able to minimize the extent of decay and other defects. Trees that are stressed have reduced energy reserves, and therefore have less ability to deal with wounds and decay. Most urban trees survive on construction-altered soils that may be compacted, poorly drained, high in clay, sand or gravel, very alkaline, or littered with construction debris. Additionally, many urban trees are subjected to chemicals such as de-icing salts, herbicides, and fertilizers commonly used in landscape maintenance. Poor tree maintenance is another contributor to stress. These cumulative stresses all take a toll on tree vitality and structural integrity, increasing the risk of failure.

Defects and Decay
Tree RotProfessional arborists have an understanding of the factors that create or accelerate the development of defects in trees. They also understand that some species have growth characteristics that make them prone to certain defects. Not all defective trees can be detected, corrected, or eliminated. Although a professional arborist can readily recognize most defects, there are root problems and some internal defects that are hidden. These trees may require in-depth assessments and specialized diagnostic tools. Homeowners should also keep in mind that defects change with time. A tree that looked fine three years ago may have severe problems today.

By doing regular inspections, arborists can successfully manage the risk of tree failure. Advanced decay and cavities result in less structural strength and reduced stability. Wood decay is an internal process with just a few external indications, such as mushrooms, conks, rotten or punky wood, cavities, hollows, holes, in-rolled cracks, and bulges in the wood. The healthy layer surrounding the decay column is called the shell. If the shell thickness is thin relative to the size of the tree, the shell is likely to fracture, causing the tree to fail.

Internal DecayTree Fungus
A tree can have internal decay and an opening and still be structurally sound provided the shell is thick enough and the opening is not too wide. If a tree is repeatedly wounded by the presence of in-rolled cracks, included bark, canker-rot fungi, or equipment (mowers, plows, and weed whips), decay occurs in every annual ring of wood. These trees should be carefully inspected by a professional arborist because they do not form a sound shell of wood. The tree is likely to fail at or near the location of the crack or wound because a large and ever-expanding column of decay is present there. Again, a professional arborist can evaluate shell thickness and opening width to help determine the tree’s potential for failure.

Before you cut your neighbor's tree

It is a common occurrence: You look out your window and all you see is your neighbor’s tree dropping branches and nuts and bark all over your yard. Or, you can’t see anything at all because of that tree. Or, you are certain that large branches of that tree will eventually fall onto your garage. Before you take the chain saw into your own hands and cut off the offending limbs, you will want to know some tidbits to keep you out of “neighbor jail” – and possibly real jail.

Does a tree’s limbs or trunk crossing the property line give you the right to prune it?
Yes? No? Both Yes and No? It all depends on where you live. Check with your town, city, county and state municipalities for regulations about trees and property lines. In some areas, you are entitled to prune the parts of a tree overhanging your yard as long as the work does not damage the tree.
But why don’t you first ask your neighbor if he, she or they mind if you go ahead and have it pruned? They might actually appreciate it.

Should I just cut it straight up over the property line?
While that might seem to be a good way to shear a boundary hedge, large trees rarely respond well to inter-nodal (random) pruning cuts on their branches. This type of indiscriminate pruning invites diseases and insect pests that could eventually kill the tree entirely. Then you’re at risk of not only non-compliance to a municipal ordinance (see above), but to the ill-feelings this action will certainly develop in your neighbor.

How about if I just have my lawn person cut the tree back?
If you have your heart set on cutting back your neighbor’s overhanging tree branches, your best bet would be to have a qualified tree care provider perform the work. Tree care providers who are members of professional associations, are insured and who have certified personnel performing the work will know the local laws regarding which types of trees can be cut, and to what extent. Plus, they have the right equipment and training to perform the work correctly and safely. Finally, if your neighbor does have concerns, having it done by a professional might put them more at ease.

Steps to take

1-Find out who actually owns the tree and where the property line is. Can you be certain that, just because it appears to be on your side of the fence, the fence is on the actual property line? How many times has that fence line been moved? If the tree is large and mature or particularly valuable, you would benefit from having the property surveyed to make certain of ownership.

2-Have a qualified tree care provider write up work specifications on exactly how the tree should be cut back. It is usually a bit more complex than simply stating, “cut limbs back to property line.” The work order must reference the ANSI A300 tree pruning standards to assure the procedures being proposed take into consideration the tree’s future health. Oh, and check to see that your tree care provider has a copy of their current liability insurance policy on hand. Check their references as well – why not?

3-This is probably the most important step when dealing with trees on a property line: If at all possible, get the tree owner’s written consent to the work being prescribed. Cutting a neighbor’s trees without that neighbor’s knowledge or consent will only lead to un-neighborly disputes that might lead you to court. If the pruning makes a drastic difference in the tree’s appearance or health or your tree care provider needs to access your neighbor’s property, the tree owner must be made aware of this action and sign off on it. Ignoring this step, or telling your tree care professional to “go ahead, it’s OK,” is actually not OK.

Hire a tree care professional

The best advice is to hire a tree care professional with the experience, expertise and equipment to assess and safely prune, remove or otherwise care for your or your neighbors’ trees.

Tree Planting Season: Tips for the Best Success

Waiting for warmer spring weather can be like watching grass grow – a slow, and tortuous process. While you wait for winter to finally melt away, think about the springtime tree planting. One of the first things to consider when selecting any plant for a landscape should be the functional role the plant will play in the overall landscape.

“Selection of trees for planting in a home landscape depends on several factors, including a suitable growing site and any function they are going to serve,” explains Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP* and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). “Will they attract birds to the area? Shade a patio? Screen an unsightly view? Enhance the appearance of the home? Trees can provide contrast and relief from surrounding buildings and create seasonal interest in areas near the home,” says Andersen.

Once you’ve determined what you want your tree to do, consider the following factors when selecting a tree to plant:

Planting Site Evaluation
Available Sunlight – The amount of sunlight a tree receives can limit the kind of tree that can be planted. Consider the tree species and the location in your yard in order to determine if there will be enough (or not too much) available sunlight.

Available Water –Make sure the new planting site will have enough available water for the new tree. Proper watering is the single most important aspect of the maintenance of newly transplanted trees. In the first year or two, it is important to keep the root ball moist but not over-watered.

Room to Grow- Consider any above and below ground space restrictions. Are there overhead electrical wires the tree may grow into? Are there water and power lines underground that could interfere with root growth? Growth of trees will be restricted in less than 20 years if there are less than 200 square feet of open soil around them, including those planted close to buildings or hardscape.

When to Plant
The optimum planting time can vary drastically by region and elevation in the United States. The celebration of Arbor Day in any given state is a good indicator of optimum planting conditions for that region. Spring planting allows tree nurseries to provide a much wider selection of trees, than in the fall. Planting trees in the spring allows more time to establish and grow more over the course of the warmer months in order to best survive the dormant season. Additionally, a qualified tree care provider has the experience and knowledge to help you plant a tree at any time of year provided there is a follow up with an after-care program to ensure the best plant health.

Plant It, Don’t Bury It
Planting the tree too deeply will drastically reduce its healthy lifespan, as well as cause potential hazards as it grows. Planting trees too deeply can fall over in even moderate winds – usually causing damage or injury. Dig the planting hole slightly shallower than the tree root ball and at least twice as wide. This is to allow for flattening and settling of the root ball. The uppermost large woody lateral roots should be planted within one to two inches of the soil surface. You’ll have to poke into the top of the root ball with a stiff wire to find the topmost lateral roots. Place the root ball on a stable subgrade to minimize settling. Water the rootball sufficiently and add a 3 – inch later of composted wood chip mulch over the top.
TCIA hopes you will enjoy the spring with a successful tree and shrub planting in your landscape.

Find a Professional
A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the best trees and shrubs to plant for your existing landscape, and how best to protect them. Homeowners who would like a professional arborist to assess their trees should contact the us.

Hire an ISA Certified Arborist

There are far too many so called "Tree Services" running around really doing major damage to the trees. They do not know how to properly prune trees and cause permanent damage to the trees. They are spreading diseases by using tools that have not been sanitized. Most of them do not carry proper insurance like Workers Compensation Insurance. Florida does not regulate tree services. Anyone can get a license here without verifying credentials or insurances. If they have a license and insurance on their trucks now they are "licensed and insured" but that does not protect you. If they get hurt on your property and do not have WC, they can sue you. If they do not have proper GL insurance and they crash a tree limb into your home, you will be responsible for that as well. Do your homework. Not all tree services are the same, not all insurances are the same and you get what you pay for. If their prices are cheap, there is a reason. They don't have the cost of paying for the right equipment, skilled crew, safety gear and the expensive insurance premiums we have to protect our customers.

Never Top a Tree

Making blunt cuts anywhere on a tree is very stressful for the tree. Topping or Hat-Racking a tree is making blunt cuts across the top of each limb on the tree. These cuts will never heal correctly and will decay, inviting insects which further damage the tree and often carry diseases. The cuts will also sprout many suckers from the tips as the tree attempts to recover. These are not true original branches and have very weak attachment points. They are often then allowed to grow back into a "limb", however, since they have weak attachment points are very dangerous and prone to failure. If a tree needs to be brought down in size a proper height or lateral reduction can be performed. Topping a tree is a big NO-NO, it is bad for the tree, for your property, is hazardous, will stress the tree severely and can often lead to an early death of the tree. ISA Certified Arborists will not top a tree.

Never Lion-Tail a tree

Lion tailing is an improper pruning practice that strips all of the interior growth out of a tree. This does several things that are very stressful for the tree and bad for your property. A. It stimulates a hormone in the tips of the branches and in the roots causing them to grow tall, long and spindly. It also causes the roots to grow in relation to the crown which could cause structural damage to house foundations, streets, sidewalks, etc. B. It starves the tree of energy. The trees get all of their energy from the carbohydrates made in the leaves. By removing all of the interior growth, all of that potential energy is stripped away, stressing the tree and lowering its ability to break down nutrients that come up from the roots. The results are a low energy tree that has a weak immune system and is more prone to diseases and decline. C. Pushing all the growth out to the tips of the branches and causing the limbs to grow long and skinny with the weight at the ends, puts stress on the attachment points of the limbs to the trunk of the tree. In high winds, these are points where the limbs can break off of the tree, severely wounding the tree and potentially damaging property. ISA Certified Arborists will not Lion-Tail a tree.