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What To Do if a Tree Damages Your Home

If you’ve maintained your trees, monitored them for diseases and weakness, and trimmed them when necessary, it’s unlikely that a large limb (or a whole tree) will fall onto your home. But because it can happen to anyone, keep this checklist handy just in case. If a tree does damage your home, you’ll know how to proceed.

Get out of the house. Avoiding the area of the home where the tree fell, exit your home calmly and stay out until professionals have assessed the situation. In some cases the structure will be weakened, and the tree could continue falling through. Staying out of the home will prevent injuries.

If electric lines are involved, call 911. Downed power lines are a major fire and electrocution hazard, so you need to notify the appropriate authorities right away.

Then, call your electric company. The electric company will send someone out to turn off power to your home, and repair the lines.

Turn off your gas service and call the gas company. You can skip this step if only a limb fell. But if an entire tree was uprooted, it could have damaged a gas line.

Take photos. Take photos of the damaged areas, but only enter the home after it has been declared safe to do so. For photos of the roof, ask your roofing professional to take care of that step. There is no need to endanger yourself by attempting to climb onto the roof to document the damage. You don’t want to proceed with tree removal until you’re certain that all necessary evidence has been collected.

Call your homeowner’s insurance company. They can tell you  how to proceed with filing a claim. Follow their instructions precisely, to prevent unnecessary delays.

Call a professional tree removal service. We can help you get the tree off of your home, and dispose of it safely. After this step is completed, you might need to consult with a building contractor if your home has sustained structural damage.

What About Trees Around Swimming Pools?

Homeowners often have good reasons for needing to remove a tree from their yards. Sometimes a tree is sickly or diseased, so removing it can save others from the same fate. Or perhaps the tree poses a risk of falling, and hurting people or damaging your home. Occasionally a tree has just become unsightly for one reason or another.

But what about trees around swimming pools? If you’re considering a pool installation, you might wonder if you can plant anything around it. Alternately, you might be considering whether you need to remove trees, either to make room for the pool or to reduce headaches revolving around cleanup.

The main issue to consider is whether a large tree, such as an oak, will eventually grow such an extensive root system that your pool will be damaged. That absolutely can happen with many varieties of larger trees, and you should be careful of planting these varieties near your pool area.

On the other hand, there are other types of trees that make acceptable landscaping near your swimming pool, such as…

Windmill palms. This tropical, hardy evergreen will grow quickly. That can be good news if you’re looking for landscaping options to complement your pool area. It also won’t drop a lot of debris, so you won’t have serious cleanup issues.

Acacias. These evergreens look lovely around a pool, and their roots aren’t drawn to water. So, you won’t have to worry too much about them growing toward your pool as long as you don’t plant the tree too close. Acacias also provide terrific shade, and don’t shed too much.

Spruce or cypress. Because these evergreens grow quickly and provide thick shade, they make a great privacy canopy for your backyard retreat. They also do a great job of blocking noise from neighbors or the road.

These are just some suggestions, but the general idea is that yes, you can plant trees or keep existing ones if you want to install a pool. Just be mindful of their root structures, and how far those tend to grow from the base of the tree, if you want to avoid problems with your pool’s structure. If you do need to remove trees before beginning your project, give us a call and we’ll help you decide which ones need to go.

Tree Trimming Could Save Your Home From Fires

The combination of dry air, high temps, and wind brings “fire season” to California. We all dread it, but it’s a fact of life. Luckily, taking action right now can help to prevent fires from reaching your home. Here’s what you need to know.

What are the greatest risk factors? 

A fire can happen anywhere, but some trees are more susceptible. Scan your yard for the following:

  • Trees with excessive leaf loss or entire branches without leaves
  • Dry, brittle limbs that might be breaking off
  • Frail bark that is dropping from the tree
  • Rot or fungal growth, which weakens trees

These are signs of a dying tree, which poses a greater fire risk than healthier ones. It needs to be removed immediately.

Proper spacing is important, too. 

While dead or dying trees pose the greatest risk, any tree can be susceptible to spreading wildfire. And when they’re packed too closely together, or are growing too close to your home, the risk multiplies. Look for:

  • Proper horizontal spacing; branches from different trees should be at least 10 feet apart from one another, and 10 feet from your home or other structures
  • On a moderate slope, increase that distance to 20 feet
  • On a steep slope, tree limbs should be spaced about 30 feet apart

If limbs are growing closely together, we need to trim them back to reduce the risk of fire quickly spreading. Underbrush and bushes should be thinned, too.

Create defensible space. 

A buffer zone around your home, cleared of thick vegetation, can prevent a fire from overcoming your home. Remove dead or dry vegetation from around the structure, trim back tree branches at least 10 feet from your home, and clear space between bushes, trees, and flammable items. Keep your grass cut to a maximum of four inches, and trim back overgrown tree branches.

The idea is that fires require kindling, and you definitely don’t want an abundance of kindling in your yard or around your home.

Call us, and we’ll make an appointment to come assess your property. If we see areas where tree trimming can prevent spreading wildfires, we can get that job done for you.

Why You Should Never Remove Stumps Yourself

Do-it-yourself (DIY) culture is popular, especially on YouTube, and many DIY projects are completely safe to attempt on your own. Some are even fun! And of course, you can save money by completing necessary chores yourself.

Unfortunately, stump removal is not something most amateurs should attempt. Attempting to DIY your stump issues could be dangerous, for the following reasons…

Roots can extend much farther than you think. When you attempt to remove a stump, you’re going to disturb the roots (and anything they’re attached to). This can translate into damage to underground electrical wires, gas lines, plumbing, a septic tank, and other plants in the yard. Disturbing some of these things can be dangerous, not to mention the expense of repairing them.

The machinery can be tricky. Unless you have experience operating the heavy machinery necessary for stump removal, you could end up in danger without even realizing it. Aside from the danger of operating the equipment itself, the resulting flying debris can hit you or the people around you.

And don’t even think about tying a rope to a pickup truck, and attempting this “old fashioned” method of DIY stump removal! In the best case scenario it just won’t work, but in the worst case scenario you can experience damage to your truck or injury. The rope will be under an incredible amount of tension, and if it breaks, watch out!

It’s probably a lot more work than it looks like. Aside from danger, you might regret a DIY stump removal for another reason. That extensive root system can cause a lot of damage to your yard when it’s pulled up. Many homeowners have gotten halfway through this task and then regretted it, due to the amount of trouble it becomes. You could also end up with an enormous, unsightly hole in your yard, which then becomes an eyesore as you attempt to fill and manage it.

Since DIY stump removal can be dangerous, and an awful lot of trouble, save yourself the time and potential liability. Give us a call about professional stump grinding, and we can help you solve your problem the safe and convenient way.

 

10 Signs That You Need to Trim Your Tree

Tree trimming can improve the curb appeal of your home, but it’s not all about aesthetics. Properly pruning trees at the right time can keep them healthy, extend their lives, and prevent property damage from falling limbs (or the entire tree). If you notice any of these signs in your trees, they are due for a trim.

Cracking. If you notice more than one crack in a tree, particularly if it’s deep, you need to consult an expert right away. This can be a sign of a weakened tree, that might present a fall hazard, and rot can set into the cracked areas quickly.

Crisscrossing branches. When branches grow too closely together, the bark can be damaged and the interior of the branch can be exposed. This can lead to decay if nothing is done.

Sections of dead wood. This might indicate that the tree is dying, and becoming a hazard.

Broken branches. Branches can break for a variety of reasons, but these injuries can lead to further weakening of the tree if it is not pruned appropriately.

Dense greenery. When the branches are so overgrown that it becomes difficult to see through the tree, it desperately needs a pruning. Not only is the tree prone to damage at this point; a good trimming can improve air flow and keep your tree healthy.

Tree canker. If you notice a spot where bark is missing, or where the tree appears sunken, you’re probably looking at a canker. Left untreated, this will lead to decay that can kill the tree.

Branches where they shouldn’t be. Branches that are touching electrical lines obviously need to be trimmed back, so that they don’t fall and create a serious hazard or power outage. Those that are touching your house should be trimmed back, too, to prevent damage to your home’s roof, siding, and windows.

A dead leader branch. The main branches of your tree (extending from the trunk) will compete with one another. If one dies, it should be removed to maintain the tree’s health.

The tree is misshapen. Sometimes trees just grow in an unappealing or abnormal shape. Trimming them can add aesthetic appeal to your yard.

The tree is overgrown. When trees grow too far horizontally, gravity will eventually take its toll. To avoid breaking, falling branches and potential damages, trim back any trees that have grown too far outward.

If you have any questions about these signs a tree needs to be trimmed, just give us a call. We can take a look at your trees and help you decide whether a trim is in order, to protect your safety and the curb appeal of your home.

 

Signs of Drought Stress in Trees

We tend to experience droughts in our area, every few years or so. Luckily we aren’t confronting that situation at the moment, but we’ve just seen the end of a long drought which could return at any time. So it’s always good to know the signs of drought stress in trees, and to learn what you can do about it. This is one of the most common problems in trees, but also one of the most preventable.

If you observe the following symptoms in a tree, drought stress might be to blame:

  • Wilting of the leaves, which usually starts at the top of the tree
  • Leaves turn yellow when they aren’t supposed to (chlorosis)
  • The canopy begins to thin
  • Leaves turn brown starting at the outside, moving inward (marginal necrosis)

Many homeowners believe that since they’ve installed a state-of-the-art irrigation system in their yard, their trees couldn’t possibly experience drought stress. But actually, this isn’t always true. While regular watering is likely to help to some degree, trees in irrigated yards can still experience drought stress, and here’s why:

The system is optimized for grass maintenance. Less than twenty minutes of water release each day might be sufficient for some lawns. However, watering for this length of time is likely to saturate only about the top inch of soil. That’s not long enough to water deep to a tree’s roots.

The system might not even cover your tree. Depending upon the design of your irrigation system, there might not be a discharge head close enough to each tree.

The system can malfunction. Even if it has worked well in the past, sudden signs of drought stress in a tree could be a warning that your irrigation system needs repair. It might be as simple as a clog or disconnected line somewhere.

You’re over-watering. Oddly enough, the signs of over-watering can actually mimic drought stress. If you’re running the irrigation system more than usual lately, and you begin to notice signs of drought stress, you might actually need to reduce your system’s watering time.

Okay, so that last tip might seem a bit confusing. If you’re trying to figure out what’s going on with your tree(s), give us a call. We can take a look, assess damages, and help you decide how to proceed. Hopefully, together we can save your tree.

Signs of Iron Deficiency in Trees

Sometimes, unfortunate circumstances such as disease or damage make tree removal an inevitability. But in many cases homeowners want to save their trees by watching for signs of something going wrong, and treating the problem promptly. Iron deficiency, or chlorosis, is one condition that can be reversed if you spot the signs early enough.

What causes iron deficiency? Iron deficiency is common when soils are alkaline (pH above 7), which is common in the western half of the country. Even when the soil contains plenty of iron, the alkalinity can make the nutrient insoluble and therefore unavailable for the tree’s use. When soils are compacted due to foot traffic or poor drainage, the resulting low oxygen conditions can make the problem even worse.

Which species of tree are prone to iron deficiency? Iron deficiency can strike many types of trees, but we see it most commonly in:

  • Silver maples
  • Red maples and hybrids
  • Pin oaks
  • River birch

Iron deficiency is less common, but can still occur, in:

  • Cottonwood
  • Bald cypress
  • Sweet gum
  • Eastern white pine
  • Swamp white oak

How do you spot iron deficiency? If you spot the following signs in your trees, iron deficiency would be a prime suspect:

  • Leaves turn light green or yellow in early summer
  • Leaves feature dark green veins
  • Leaves turn brown on the edges
  • Leaves fall off after turning brown (before expected in the fall)
  • Limbs begin to die

What happens to trees when they become iron deficient? In short, it kills them. Trees need chlorophyll in order to produce energy and survive. Iron deficiency disrupts this process, and can eventually kill the tree. In the meantime, a sick and malnourished tree is also prone to other types of disease and pests.

What can you do about iron deficiency in trees? Consulting a tree expert is key, to determine the exact methods that will work for your situation. In general, iron deficiency can be combated with the following strategies:

  • Watering during dry spells (but not over-watering, which is also problematic)
  • Mulching two inches deep or less, while avoiding “mulch volcanoes”
  • Amending the soil (but no, simply adding iron often won’t work, because the alkalinity is the real problem)
  • Avoiding fertilization with nitrogen or phosphate

And of course, give us a call if you suspect your tree is suffering from iron deficiency. In its weakened state, it poses a fall hazard. Even if the deficiency can be reversed, we should remove dead limbs to reduce the risk of damage to property and improve the appearance of the tree.

4 Ways to Spot a Dangerous Tree

Many people view trees as giant, gentle spirits that guard our forests and shade our homes. But yes, they can also be dangerous  (not intentionally, of course). Every year, people are hurt or killed by falling trees and branches, and property damages from these incidents can be expensive. Since trees usually give you some clear signs that they are unhealthy or at risk of falling, it’s a good idea to regularly inspect the trees in your yard.

Check the ground around each tree. We know that a tree is supported by its root system, but what happens if the roots are less than healthy? A tree can fall at any time, but an unhealthy foundation makes that more likely. Check the ground where it meets the trunk, and look for fungi (a sign of rotting). Cracked or raised soil around the base of the tree might also indicate a disturbance beneath the surface.

Inspect the trunk. Cracks or cavities in the trunk mean that the entire tree is at risk of splitting. If bark is falling off the trunk in spots, this could indicate that the tree is dying or is under attack by a fungus. In some cases the tree could be saved, but often these signs signal the end of a tree’s natural life. It is becoming frail and is therefore a hazard.

Assess the overall tree. Is it leaning? Are there sections of obvious damage? Can you spot dead branches that seem to be just barely hanging on?

Look up at the canopy. Do you spot dead wood or spots where the branches don’t have leaves? This can be a bad sign.

If you notice anything suspicious going on with your trees, please give us a call. We will come out and inspect them, and help you decide if a diseased or weak tree needs to go (or just needs to be trimmed). It’s always better to remove a risk, than wait and see if it falls on your house, car, or other property.

Tree Trimming Can Aid in Fire Prevention

You might guess that tree trimming can prevent falling limbs and debris, and perhaps spare your home or other structures from damage. But there’s actually another enormous benefit of tree trimming, from both safety and property protection perspectives. Pruning your trees can help to prevent fires, or at least slow their spread.

Some trees are more susceptible to fire, particularly those with:

  • low hanging branches
  • excessive amounts of debris on the ground underneath
  • dry, brittle limbs
  • overgrown branches that are crowded close together

All of those factors basically serve as kindling, helping a small fire to spread and overtake your tree(s). And if that tree is near your home, you could have an even bigger problem.

So, how can tree trimming reduce your risk of a major fire?

Vertical spacing. Branches and vegetation can create a link between the ground and treetops, so that even a small ground fire quickly spreads and overtakes a large area. When we trim trees to reduce this risk, we can remove branches that hang close to the ground, or that hang too closely over nearby shrubs.

Horizontal spacing. When trees become overgrown, their limbs might touch structures such as your house, or the limbs of other trees. Ideally, we would have at least 10 feet of clearance between individual trees’ limbs, and between tree limbs and your home (or garage, tool shed, and so on).  This distance needs to increase with a slope.

A defensible space around your home. In order to discourage the spread of fire close to your home, surround the structure with a “defensible space”. Within about 30 feet of the house, remove all dry and dead vegetation, and trim trees according to the horizontal spacing guidelines above. Within about 100 feet of the home, you should keep grass cut to a maximum of four inches, and create vertical spacing between trees and ground.

A baseline rule is this: Anything that could serve as fuel for a fire should be cleared away from your home, and you should promote sensible spacing between trees with regular tree trimming. For an evaluation of your home’s tree safety, as well as a quote on services, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to take a look.

 

 

6 Reasons to Mulch Around Trees

You’re busy, so it makes sense to skip any unnecessary chores. And considering the heat in July, you probably aren’t feeling too keen on extra yard work anyway. So, you might be wondering whether it’s really necessary to mulch around your trees, or is this simply an aesthetic step that you could skip?

Actually, there are several important reasons that mulching around your trees is a good idea.

Mulch reduces erosion and water evaporation. Retaining more water in the soil around your tree’s roots provides more hydration for the tree, and also cuts down on the frequency of necessary watering.

Mulch helps the soil to retain nutrients. By reducing water runoff and erosion, you can retain more nutrients around your tree’s base. Adding a few inches of mulch will help the soil to provide more potassium, nitrogen, and phosporus to the tree.

Mulch keeps the roots cool in the summer and warm in the winter. A more stable temperature leads to a healthier tree. Of course, summer heat is a particular concern here in California.

Mulch reduces weeds. A layer of mulch will reduce weeds by up to 85 percent. You might prefer the look of a less weedy yard, but this also means you won’t need to weedeat close to the base of your tree.

Protect the base of your tree. And on that note, you should avoid weedeating near your tree, because tree trunks can sustain damage from the equipment. Over time, weakened trunks mean a weakened, sickly tree.

Mulch can nearly double your tree’s growth rate. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that healthy, well-nourished and hydrated trees will grow faster – up to almost twice as fast! That can be a big incentive when you’re trying to get a young tree established in your yard.

As you can see, mulching your trees might be yet another household task you need to perform. But once you’ve taken care of this step, you can actually save yourself time on other chores (frequent watering, weedeating, and so on). And of course, a healthy tree is a strong and stable tree, that is less likely to sustain damage over time.

 

 

 

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