Wednesday 30 April 2008

It's Raining Landscapers!

The title of this article brings humor to a subject that is truly not funny, and may even prove fatal.

Arborists are tree care professionals with years of practical experience and extensive education that makes them experts in their fields. Having credentials alone is not enough to allow you to practice legally in most jurisdictions. State and Provincial licences prevent the lay person from pruning or treating tree diseases in most locals.

Furthermore working with trees can be extremely dangerous. Workers compensation plans are aware of the risk involved and charge higher premiums to tree care companies as a result. As a comparison landscapers typically pay 6% to 10% of every dollar in wages to their compensation plans. Tree care professionals are required to pay 30% of every dollar in wages to be properly covered for workers compensation. Liability and damage insurance are also much higher for legitimate tree care companies. Knowing these risks professionals make sure they have in house safety programs for tree climbers and tree care workers.

The International Society of Arboriculture offers training for all levels of tree care workers from the person on the ground to the most experienced climber. Professional tree care companies use these programs to insure worker safety and maintain there ability to get affordable insurance.

When you consider that statistical research has proven that in an accidental fall situation 50% of all people falling from 6 feet will die, training and proper insurance are a necessity.

Aside from the noted safety issues Arborists are tree care professionals that have the most up to date information on tree care. This ensures that you are getting todays best practices and treatments for your home's valuable assets, your landscape trees.

I work with professional landscapers everyday. Many of them have great knowledge of plants and shrubs. The best ones know their limits and know when to call in tree care professionals to complement their work on the landscape. The experienced professionals know that when your working off the ground you need to be licensed and insured. Some have learned this the hard way after damaging property or injuring themselves or their workers.

You may think you are saving a few cents hiring uninsured unqualified companies or workers. When they injure themselves on your property and seek legal redress, you won't be hiring a lawyer from the temp agency.

I have included a collage of a news item and hand bill advertisements that one commonly sees. This guy was lucky. I didn't include a different news item of a landscaper that was taking down a large tree with unskilled help. The worker was pulling the tree over with a rope he had wrapped around his arm. The tree fell the wrong way violently pulling the worker into an adjacent tree, his baseball cap offered no protection as his head was slammed against the tree. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital. A high price was paid by this worker for his lack of experience.

For your tree care contact a tree care professional, an ISA certified arborist.

Sunday 27 April 2008

Winter Injury

photo MSU

For the avid plants person spring is the most thrilling and heartbreaking time of the year.

It is at this time that we get to see which of our old friends has made it through winters harsh blast.

While some trees and shrubs may look as though they are headed to the great hereafter, caution is always the rule at this time of year. More than one plant, having been given last rites, has literally come back from the roots on the compost heap! Take caution before writing a survivor off.

To understand how plants succumb to the ravages of winter we must have a basic understanding of plant physiology. Leaves are incredibly useful plant organs are notoriously fragile when it comes to freezing. Hardy trees and shrubs generally lose these most tender parts in preparation for winter. Those that don't lose their leaves have thick waxy cuticles, or skins, that prevent dessication. Dying out over winter has led to the demise of many a plant. You don't need a microscope to see how thick and durable a spruce or pine needle is, just hold it in you fingers and break it.

If you failed to water your evergreens last year they may be looking a little burnt out at this time.

Check to see if the buds are swelling and pinch the bark to see if its supple and alive. If you scrape back the bark with your finger nail you may see green, it may not be the end for this tree, wait a few weeks and see what happens.

Arborvitaes, junipers and other scale leafed evergreens may look scorched at this time of year, again wait a few weeks before you throw these babies out with the bath water. In most cases simple preparation in the fall could have prevented some if not all of these types of injuries.

Watering well until freeze up is a good strategy. Antidesicants, waxy sprays applied in the fall, are good for established plants that can have problems as well as fall planted evergreens that have yet to establish.

Late summer fertilization of evergreens is not recommended as it may delay the onset of dormancy and leave trees and shrubs susceptible to winter injury. Wait until trees are in the process of becoming dormant before fall fertilizing.

As for the trees and shrubs that are suffering from the effects of last winter? They should be watered well and monitored for signs of improvement. A small amount of fertilizer or better still an organic soil enhancer like pulverized liquid sea kelp can help with root growth and speed recovery.

Don't over water trees that have been winter injured but don't let them dry out completely either.

Use your finger to see if the soil in the root zone is dry. Be patient you may save an old friend from the compost heap.

Saturday 26 April 2008

For Strong Winds

While it's true that “things will change, come what may”, it is a good idea to think about what you can do to prevent wind damage in the first place.

Knowing the resistance to wind damage of the trees your planting is a great place to start.

The following list of trees arranged from the least wind damage resistant trees to the most resistant.











This list should be used as a guideline and if you decide to plant trees that are more prone to wind damage you can take steps to reduce the chance of damage.

When planting spruce plant in groups, single trees are more likely to wind throw. Spruce and pine trees need to be periodically thinned and dead wooded to open up their crowns and allow for air movement.

Trees like cherry and silver maple have hard brittle wood. Care should be taken to grow trees with good form free from co-dominate stems. These trees can be trained to have stronger structure and thinned to reduce crown density.

All trees benefit from having well drained sites. This should be arranged before planting.

Changes in drainage on your property or adjacent properties can have negative effects on your trees root systems.

Changes to grade or any injury to the roots of a tree will increase the chances of failure during strong winds. Construction on existing properties must take into consideration the effects on the root systems of mature trees. It take surprisingly little traffic to injure the roots of large trees.

Mature trees should be inspected for dangerous rot and large dead branches on a seasonal basis. Large dead branches should be removed promptly to prevent unexpected failure. Keeping the trees crown clean allows you to spot new dead branches and monitor the tree for signs of decline. Take the time to look at your trees before the wind sets you landscape back years! If your not sure what to look for contact your certified arborist.