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Can You Prune Your Trees in the Spring?

According to the calendar, spring officially begins next week. But you might already be seeing some signs of spring in your own yard, and you’re ready to get things spruced up and looking cheerful. So, if you’re wondering about pruning trees in the spring, read on to discover what you should and should not attempt at this time of year.

Generally, it is better to prune most trees during the winter, when they are leafless. That’s because their growth cycle is dormant, and deep pruning can be performed without harming the tree. But there are certain exceptions to this rule.

Safety. If a limb is broken or overgrown to the point that it is hazardous, it needs to come down regardless of season. Otherwise it could pose a falling danger to nearby structures or even people.

Shaping. If a tree is looking overgrown and messy, you can trim it back by about ten percent. Avoid taking off more than that, though, or you could damage the tree or limit leaves and buds this season.

New trees. If you’re planting a new tree, go ahead and prune away any dead or damaged branches. This helps to ensure a stable and attractive form as the young sapling grows.

Certain species are more easily pruned in late spring or early summer. Maple, walnut, and birch trees tend to ooze sap and make a mess if you try to prune them in the winter. Pruning trees in the spring, after they have all of their leaves, will reduce this problem. But again, this only applies to the aforementioned species.

If the above situations don’t apply, then hold off on pruning trees in the spring. Many species will be left vulnerable to pests and diseases if you trim them right now, and you will also reduce leafing and flowering.

Or, you can give us a call and we’ll be happy to advise you on the best times to trim back excess branches, shape your trees, and improve health and safety.

What is Crown Reduction, and Why is it Necessary?

We tend to think of homes with established yards and mature trees as “low maintenance”. And they certainly are, in most cases, especially when compared to the time and effort required to establish landscaping for a new construction home. But low maintenance doesn’t mean “no” maintenance! From time to time, even mature trees will need some care and attention.

In particular, older trees may begin to look overgrown, messy, or misshapen over time. At this point, crown reduction might be required, to improve both the appearance and health of your tree.

What is crown reduction? Crown reduction refers to a specialized tree trimming procedure, in which we cut down primary branches and foliage around the top of the tree (the “crown”). This might sound simple, but it’s actually a very technical horticultural technique. It requires the removal of a significant amount of branches, but the “right” ones should be carefully identified by an expert first. Crown reduction does result in shortening of the tree, and can seem severe when you see how much is pruned away! But it’s all done very carefully and with a lot of forethought.

Why is crown reduction performed? Crown reduction, along with thinning, will improve your tree’s stability and encourage healthier growth in the future. It also reduces the amount of dead wood in the center of the tree, allowing more sunlight to penetrate through the branches. This improves the health of your tree, and you will appreciate the cleaner aesthetic appearance as well. Safety is another consideration, since cluttered branches and dead wood can create hazards from falling debris.

Because crown reduction requires climbing, potentially dangerous equipment, specialized techniques, and professional judgement, we definitely recommend against trying this procedure yourself. Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to come out and evaluate your trees’ needs. Then we can make recommendations to improve the look and health of your trees, while performing this complicated procedure safely.

Do My Trees Pose a Danger?

We all love our trees, but at times they can actually pose a danger to life and property. Falling branches (or the entire tree coming down) can be an obvious problem. Even if they don’t fall on you or your house, power lines are another important consideration.

There is also the risk of dead, dried-out trees creating a fire hazard, and trees growing too close to the house can damage your foundation and help introduce pests like termites to your home.

Obviously, checking your trees periodically for signs of potential danger is a good idea. Use this simple checklist, and give us a call to discuss your concerns.

  • Can I see any rotten wood or cavities running along the trunk or main branches of the tree?
  • What about cracks or splits in the trunk, or where larger branches attach to it?
  • Are mushrooms growing near the base of the tree?
  • Do I see any large, dead branches?
  • Are there detached branches hung up in the tree?
  • Do many branches attach at the same point on the trunk?
  • Have nearby trees died from disease, or fallen for any reason?
  • Is the trunk leaning at a concerning angle?
  • Have the roots of the tree been damaged by installing hardscape, lowering the soil level, or digging for any reason?
  • Do the leaves look unusual? Is their color or condition different from expected?
  • Has the tree been heavily pruned or topped?
  • Do I see anything else that leads me to believe this tree is unhealthy?

The above checklist serves well as a preliminary checklist for homeowners. But if you haven’t had your trees assessed by a professional in some time, we would advise you to take that step as well. Sometimes trees begin to pose a danger before the more obvious signs present themselves. Give us a call, and we can check the health of your trees, make recommendations for improvements, and help with pruning or removal when necessary.

Getting Your Trees Ready for Spring

With spring arriving soon, many homeowners are feeling excited about planting new flowers and shrubs. But as you begin to plan your spring gardening projects, don’t forget to care for the plants you already have. While trees typically aren’t too needy, there are a few brief steps you should take to protect their health as seasons change.

Inspect your trees. Generally speaking, we don’t have the sort of weather here in Southern California, that typically leads to declining tree health over the winter. But spring is a good time to check your trees regardless. Observe things like limbs that seem frail, signs of fungus or rot, trees that are leaning, or those that have grown too close to the house or other structures.

Perform necessary tree trimming. Pruning should usually be performed in the dormant season (winter) for healthiest results. However, damaged limbs can be removed now. Spring is also an excellent time to observe your trees for signs of aging or disease, because those limbs won’t produce leaf buds. Dead or dying areas can be pruned back.

Mulch your trees. As spring arrives, hot weather won’t be far off. Mulching around the bottoms of your trees can help to preserve soil temperature and retain moisture, protecting each one during hot weather. Mulch also mimics the nutritional substance your trees would gain naturally in the forest, from organic substances that would normally accumulate on the soil around the bottoms of each trunk.

Fertilize. Spring will bring your trees’ growing season, as they leaf out and (in some species) produce flowers and fruit. They need energy for these activities, which you can provide via the right fertilizer. Plus, healthy trees resist disease and pests much more readily. Choose a slow-release fertilizer that will feed them all season.

If you have questions about caring for your trees as spring arrives, please give us a call. And remember, if you do choose to engage in any tree trimming, safety is of utmost importance. We can perform that for you, or remove any trees that have grown too close to your house, porch, garage, or other structures.


Why Do You Need to Fertilize Trees and Shrubs?

Keeping your trees and shrubs healthy will ensure the beauty of your yard, and help them to leaf out and flower attractively in the spring. Healthy trees and shrubs are also less prone to limb breakage, disease, or total loss. Having said that, you might wonder why trees and shrubs occasionally need deep fertilization. Don’t established root systems ensure adequate nutrition for these larger plants?

In general, it should work that way. But over the years, numerous events can damage the roots of trees and shrubs, and they might need a bit more care and revitalization.

Removal of debris. In a natural setting, decaying leaf litter or grass clippings would provide nutrients to the soil. But since we tend to clean up materials like those in our yards, trees and shrubs don’t necessarily receive the nutrition they might otherwise.

Construction. Sometimes, construction of new structures around your home can disrupt a tree’s root system. This is especially true for swimming pool installations, which require digging deep into the ground. Keep in mind that tree root systems extend far beyond the base of most trees, so you don’t even have to dig next to the tree in order to disturb its roots.

Soil compaction. Repeatedly driving over an area will deprive the soil of necessary gas exchange. This might be a problem for you, if you routinely park an extra car in the yard, for example.

Drought and heat. Severe weather patterns can distress smaller plants in one season; over time, larger shrubs and trees can be impacted as well.

At times, it is necessary to deeply fertilize trees and shrubs with a slow-release treatment that will nourish the tree for about a year. Your chosen fertilizer should be high in nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. This type of fertilizer will not only feed trees and shrubs, but also encourage the development of underground mycorrhizae (beneficial fungi which help trees stay healthy).

Ideally, you would apply a deep fertilization treatment before stress and illness damage your trees. But if you do find that it’s too late, and trees appear damaged, give us a call right away. We can help you assess each tree’s health status, and make recommendations for pruning or removal when necessary.

3 Basics of Tree Care to Remember

Most people enjoy the look of trees on their property, and we certainly all enjoy the shade that they provide. But when it comes to tree care, most people assume that established trees won’t need any work, or they simply aren’t sure of what to do.  While it’s true that some adult trees are more low-maintenance than others, most trees need at least basic care in these three areas.

Fertilization. Fertilization mostly applies to younger trees, but could apply to adult trees depending upon the species and climate. If you aren’t sure of how to feed and water your tree, ask a professional for guidance. Like people, properly nourished trees are healthier, grow better, and are more resistant to disease.

Disease prevention and pest control. More trees die of diseases and pest infestations than of old age. Take the time to learn about the specific species of tree(s) on your property, and the types of diseases or pests that tend to prey upon them. As with human diseases, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But if you do need to cure a problem, consult with a professional to discover which treatments will work best on your tree.

Occasionally, a tree cannot be saved when it has become too damaged by disease or a pest problem. These trees will need to come down, because they can be a falling risk when weakened. You also want to avoid the disease spreading any further to nearby trees.

Proper tree trimming. Much like you need an occasional haircut or shave, trees need their growth managed as well! We trim trees for several important reasons, such as reducing falling risk of overgrown limbs, and managing diseases in the early stages. Tree trimming can also thin out limbs, helping the tree to receive more light and air. This will keep it healthier and more attractive in the long run.

For more information on tree care, particularly tree trimming or tree removal, give us a call. We can help you evaluate your trees, and make recommendations for improvement in both health and aesthetics.


The Root of the Problem

When it comes to trees, and the problems they can cause, there is more than meets the eye. The part that you can see – the trunk, limbs, and leaves or needles – is only part of the entire tree. Quite a bit of it exists underground, via an extensive root structure that we rarely even think about. But we should be thinking about those roots, because they’re incredibly strong and resilient, and can sometimes cause major damage. Here are a few things to consider, with regard to tree roots.

Proximity to your home. Even if you feel unconcerned about a particular tree’s likelihood of falling on your home, its roots can still cause a problem for you. In some cases tree roots have grown around the foundation of houses, and can cause damage when planted too closely to the main structure.

Proximity to sidewalks, driveways, and patios. The same type of damage can also occur to other concrete structures, like sidewalks, driveways, patios, and so on. While repairing or replacing these structures is not nearly as time-consuming or expensive as repairing damage to your home’s foundation, it’s still no walk in the park. Avoid planting trees close to hardscape, and keep an eye on larger existing trees. If you’re concerned, we can check it out and evaluate whether a particular tree’s roots are likely to cause a concern.

Growth impacting pipes, septic tanks, and sewer lines. Occasionally, tree roots can grow into underground pipes and do major damage to water lines, septic lines, or your sewer system. You might suspect a leak, or even smell something suspicious in your yard. Always contact a plumbing expert immediately if you suspect this type of problem, and of course give us a call regarding the tree.

Total collapse can be catastrophic. In the event that a weakened tree eventually falls, you have more to worry about than which direction it lands. Trees often pull up their entire root systems when they finally collapse, meaning a large chunk of your yard can be ripped up. These situations are time-consuming, messy, and expensive to clean up. And of course, patios, driveways, and walkways can be damaged in the process. It’s always better to evaluate a tree’s health and stability, and have it removed before it falls on its own.

If you have any questions regarding potential damage from tree roots, or tree trimming in general, please give us a call. We can check out your situation and make a recommendation that protects both your safety and your home and yard.

9 Most Common Tree Diseases

Healthy trees are safe trees, and they add beauty to your yard. But when they become diseased, they can be weakened, are prone to limb breakage, and might even fall (perhaps in the worst way). Since tree diseases pose not only a danger to the tree, but to your home and family, learning to spot the signs of a problem is essential. Luckily, it’s also quite easy in most cases.

The following nine tree diseases are some of the most common ones. An expert is required to accurately diagnose your problem, but this brief guide can give you an idea of the most obvious signs of a problem.

Fire blight. This has nothing to do with an actual fire, but if your trees look charred or burned, they might have contracted this bacterial disease.

Gall. This fungus usually grows on the trunk or branches of mature trees, and often looks like a tumor.

Cankers. These show up as whitish growth’s along the trunk.

Leaf rust. You might notice orange or reddish (rust colored) spotting on leaves.

Leaf spot. Small, round spots of discoloration on leaves are often caused by a parasitic fungi or bacteria. If the spots are plentiful they might grow together into larger patches.

Japanese beetles. These aren’t actually a disease, but an infestation of Japanese beetles can wreak havoc on your trees. They eat leaves, which will weaken your trees. Their feeding will leave you with lacy leaves, with only the veins remaining, and of course you will probably see the beetles themselves.

Powdery mildew. Leaves that appear dusty or white indicate a fungal disease called powdery mildew.

Bagworms. These caterpillars make spindle-shaped bags, 1.5 to 2 inches in length, that hang from the twigs of trees and shrubs. While they look like harmless little pinecones, a large infestation of bagworm larvae can strip the needles of evergreen trees and the leaves of some deciduous species.

Witch’s broom. This deformity will be found in your tree branches, and looks like a dense mass of shoots coming from a single point. Essentially, it looks like a broom. It’s caused by stress from pests or diseases, so technically it’s just a sign that we need to figure out what else is afflicting your tree.

This brief guide can help you understand what might be going on with your trees. However, we urge you not to diagnose problems yourself, because a wrong diagnosis could lead to a wrong or ineffective treatment. Give us a call, and we can help you determine whether your tree can be saved. If it does need to come down, we can get that job done for you swiftly and safely, and sometimes spread of the disease (to your other trees) can be prevented.


How to Care for a Young Tree

When it comes to properly caring for your trees, they aren’t a lot different from humans! Young humans need more intensive care in the first years of their lives, and once health is well established, most of us just need routine care. Then, once we get older, we might start to have more health problems.

So, as with humans, you might already know that your older trees are more prone disease or damage. Likewise, younger trees need a bit more care and attention to get them started on the right track. But if you follow these steps carefully, you will enjoy a healthy tree for many years to come, and only routine maintenance will be needed.

So, how do you get a young tree started?

The first step is to plant the tree in the right place. Most will appreciate a sunny spot in the yard, not too close to larger trees that will pose an obstacle to growth. And of course, you want to consider the tree’s predicted adult size, and avoid planting it where the roots will disturb foundations, sidewalks, patios or driveways. Consider, also, that you don’t want limbs touching your house or hanging over your roof one day.

Water. Once planted, remember to offer the tree individualized care based on its species. It will probably need frequent watering until its roots are well established. Watch for signs of pooling underneath the tree, which can indicate over-watering.

Keep it clean. Regularly clean up debris around your young tree, such as excess leaves, fallen limbs, or dropped fruit. As you clean around your tree, observe its trunk and limbs for signs of disease. When caught early in a young tree’s life, many tree diseases can be reversed.

Mulch. A good layer of mulch (about three to four inches thick) around the bottom of the tree will help to retain moisture from watering, and prevent competition from grass and weeds. However, you should pull the mulch away from the trunk of the tree, to prevent excess heat and moisture from harming it.

Pruning. Finally, remember to correctly prune your young tree on a regular basis. Removing dead or sickly limbs can keep your tree healthy, and help it grow into an aesthetically pleasing shape.

We can help with that last part. Give us a call, and we can advise you on the correct times of year to prune young trees, and help you tree stay healthy as it grows.



What to Do About a Rotting Tree

Most of us love our trees. They shade your home, add beauty to your yard, and command respect as old, towering life forms that seem to watch over us. Naturally, it’s normal to feel concern when you notice rot developing on a tree’s trunk. You might hope that you can save the tree somehow… But is that possible?

Keep in mind that a tree’s trunk is basically like the stem on a flower. You can imagine that a damaged stem would present a serious problem for the flower, and a tree is no different. While it is sometimes possible to cut damaged limbs, and save the tree as a whole, a rotting trunk indicates a more serious problem. The tree likely won’t be able to “heal”.

Typically, rot affects older specimens, and can extend deep into the inside of the trunk. Therefore, once you notice rot on the outside of the trunk, the problem has usually significantly damaged the tree by that point. This can present a serious structural problem as the base of the tree continues to weaken, and now you’re at risk of the whole thing falling… perhaps on your home, car, or even a family member.

Having said that, we have seen cases in which the problem is minor, and it is occasionally possible for a tree to heal. The best course of action at this point is to have your tree examined by a professional. We can help you determine whether water, fertilization, and pruning can boost your tree’s health and possibly save it. Or, we can give you an honest assessment of the likelihood that these measures will fail. If we find that your tree is significantly damaged and weakened, for safety’s sake it is usually better to take it down.

If you’ve noticed rot on a tree’s trunk, give us a call right away. We can give you an assessment and help you decide upon the safest course of action. If the tree held sentimental value for you, it is possible to utilize some parts of the trunk in various landscaping projects around the yard. Or, you might prefer to grind the stump and plant something new in its place.


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