Tree Pruning - Why I needed to do it.
Tree pruning and some projects that go with it have been my latest obsession. I was planning on holding off on this project because I have about 86 other projects that I have prioritized ahead of taking care of the huge trees in my yard. If I tell you I bought a house built in 1923, and I think it sat empty for almost 2 years, you can probably understand that I really do have that many projects!! My blog post called Me and My Fixer-Upper will give you the beginning of this story.
One day, I was looking at my back soon-to-be shade garden and a tree branch (or maybe l should call it a limb?) fell off the tree and landed beside me. It was about 4 inches in diameter, 5 feet long and totally rotting. It scared the crap out of me! Not only the fact that I wasn't expecting something to fall right beside me but if it would have landed a few feet over, it would have hit me. I had been joking that I needed to wear a hard hat because the walnuts the squirrels were pelting me with last year hurt. Now the tree branches were falling! Needless to say, getting those weak branches out of my tree became my number one priority.
My process of safely getting my trees pruned.
I have BIG trees. My best guestimate is that they are about 45 feet high. Branches were falling regularly and I was very concerned about one tree in particular. I have a garage that needs some serious structural work, but a huge tree branch was leaning over it. I'll confess that I had hoped a late snowstorm would break the branch and take out that damn garage (yes, I hate that garage!). But no such luck. I decided to have the weight of that tree branch reduced so that when I do spend the big bucks on fixing my garage, the tree doesn't fall on it then. Look at the garage roofline. It's really bowed. Repairing this is somewhere in my top 3 priorities - exactly where depends on the day and what other issues I have going on!
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Why did I hire a certified arborist?
- I didn't want a tree branch to kill me by falling on me! #truefear
- I needed to know that the people I hired knew what they were doing.
- Safety was a huge concern. For my property and also for the people working on the trees (because the trees are soooo tall!)
- I love the trees! But they had not received much (if any) care for years. I wanted them to live for a long time. So, I had to invest in them.
- Needed an expert diagnosis of the health of the trees. One is, sadly, dying. The tree isn't sad, I am!
- Specialized equipment would be needed due to the height of the trees.
- I wanted to know what kind of trees I had! I recognized the maples and the black walnut tree (remember the squirrels who threw walnuts at me!) but didn't know what the others were!
- This would cost money. I wanted a professional with the right knowledge and equipment to make this an efficient, safe, and fair priced project.
Speaking of equipment, this is the Spyder. It was used to lift the arborist up high enough to safely trim and prune the tall trees. Watching this was fascinating!!
How to find a certified arborist?
- Ask people you know who have large trees in their yards. Trees are an investment and they can tell you who they use to take care of their trees.
- Your neighbors! I guarantee you there is a nephew, son-in-law or a best friend who works for an arbor company. Or knows someone.
- Your real estate agent. Wow, they know a lot of people who do a lot of things!!
- There are also local certification agencies. I live in Wisconsin. There is The Wisconsin Arborist Association. More generally geographically, there is also The Tree Care Industry Association. Both websites will let you know who is registered with them.
- Someone you know and have used before - even if it's for a different service! I know, that makes it easy. I've used this company before.
- Be aware of who is doing work in your neighborhood. I'm in an older neighborhood and always see trees being worked on.
The arborist is working on my smallest tree. But, I was able to show you this piece of equipment. Watching this process was way more interesting than anything on TV!
What does an arborist do to a tree?
The overall goals involve the health of the tree and the safety of those around trees.
Specifically, here are some of the main reasons for hiring an arborist. Many of these points are from discussions from people who worked in my yard. I'm sure there are other reasons, but these apply to my situation.
1. Cleaning the crown of the tree to keep the tree healthy. This includes removing dead or dying branches (what I needed!). Also, branches that crossed, even to the point of rubbing against each other.
2. Structural pruning. If branches are growing in directions they shouldn't be, they can get cut off. Also, the crown of my trees was very thick. By doing some structural pruning, the wind would better be able to pass through and there is less stress on the tree to make it fall over.
3. Let the sunlight in and bugs out! My tree canopy was very thick and allowed no sunlight onto my grass in the summer. I wanted a little. Also, my neighbor mentioned that the thick canopy also traps the bugs. I soon learned what that meant! It was a wet fall. That plus my thick tree canopy encouraged many mosquitos to live in my yard!!
As an aside, I did buy a dynatrap and it was a chemical free way to reduce my mosquito population in my yard!
What time of year is good to trim and prune a tree?
- I was told that in Wisconsin, the ideal time to do major pruning on a tree is late winter or early spring. The ground is still frozen and isn't damaged by the equipment and by falling tree branches (although mine were gently dropped).
- In the winter or early spring, without all the leaves, it is much easier for the arborist to see the shape of the tree branches and to get a better idea of the existing structure.
- There is less stress on the tree by doing this work in the winter/early spring.
- Work can and does happen at all times of the year. Especially if there is a safety issue (think utility wires!). Things happen, owners change and work needs to be done on trees.
- Other safety issues also require work to occur at any time of the year. I'm thinking specifically of my garage. There was a large limb that needed to be removed because it was hanging right over my garage (and almost touching it!). If my tree branches wouldn't have started falling near me, at the very least I was going to get that branch that was threatening to fall onto my garage removed prior to repairing the garage.
- The weather may cause a need for arborists to come out to prune damaged areas and also remove damaged and fallen trees. This has to be dealt with when it happens!
My main suggestion on determining when work should be done is to call an arborist and find out what their seasonal recommendation is. Sometimes, they are booked out for months so call and find out. Often this also affects the health and impact on the trees.
What happens when a tree isn't healthy?
Well, I am very sad about my big maple that is in the middle of my yard. It's not doing well. Actually, it's dying. They broke it to me gently.
It is suffering from root girdling. Essentially, the roots are growing around the trunk and strangling the tree. I guess in a way it's slow tree suicide?
The recommendation was to cut it down but I couldn't do it this year (because it still looks OK and I have that nasty thing called a 'budget'). Although I know the tree needs to be cut down, I am now able to plan for it. This tree is big and provided a ton of shade for my backyard. I'm a gardener and have been doing a ton of planting. Now, I need to be careful and not create shade gardens in the shade of this tree. I'm watching to see how the removal of this tree will impact the sun my yard gets. Having this knowledge allows me to plan and save money by not planting perennials that won't tolerate the full sun when this tree is removed. So, although this is disappointing news, I'm glad I know now so that I can incorporate this knowledge into my landscaping plan.
What did the arborist do with all the branches?
The arbor company brought along a chipper. All the branches were fed through it and came out the other end as wood chips. Knowing how much mulch I needed, I asked if they could just dump it in my back yard and leave it for me. Yeah! Free mulch. Lots of it : ) !! Did I tell you it was FREE?
Oh, as an FYI, if you can't tell, I was very happy with the work, service, and price that this company provided! That is why the picture below, with the phone number, is in my blog post.
Here is another look at the wood chipper!
What am I doing now with my trees
Shhhh, don't tell. But, I'm doing some very subtle trimming of some branches. As the trees are leafing out, and the branches are getting heavier, they impede my lawn mowing. Specifically, I've been hit in the face by these branches and I've had to do some odd contortions to get my mower through the grass under the tree branches. This bypass loper (or what I call a branch cutting tool) is awesome! I've used it to cut more than one branch off my dying maple! You'd be very surprised (pleasantly) how easy this branch cutting tool can cut fairly thick branches. I am careful to cut in the way I see the professionals did it earlier this spring.
Oh, as a little tip, if you need wood chips, make sure to ask for them. I used mine as mulch. But that is a story for another post!
And, one other tip. This is an investment (it does cost money!) in your trees, your yard and potentially a safety project. Make sure to get a quote. Everyone I called was happy to come out and give me a detailed quote.
If you thought this outside project was interesting, and you have a few more minutes, take a peek at my kitchen renovation! It was a huge job! Because of a flood, here really wasn't anything (like appliances, or cupboards) in my kitchen when I bought it!
My 1920's kitchen remodel - I bought a house without a kitchen.
Thanks for the info!
Thanks so much for this article! I like the way you laid out the instances where you might need to call in a professional tree service. I also liked your tips on when to prune. Trees can add so much beauty and character to a yard for years to come with proper upkeep.
Very thankful for this wonderful article, it seem like it will really help with what I need to get done. Thank you very much for the post!
Thank you for explaining why you should use an arborist to prune your trees. My trees are needing to be pruned as it hasn't been done in a long time. Maybe I will look into getting an arborist to help me.
I was amazed at how much having my trees professionally trimmed helped my yard! Others had trees come down in the wind but mine were fine!
Good reading material. As a born and bred Floridian I am all about protecting the humans, animals and buildings from hurricanes by keeping my trees "ventilated." The kids took away my chain saw when I turned 70 (thought I'd be chopping wood for all the days of my life) and since then I have relied on the pros. Boy is this a lot easier way to go because they have the equipment and the knowledge to accomplish what is needed without risking their lives to do it.