Trees with two tops
There is a fairly common phenomenon among some species of our Northern California trees that requires homeowner attention. Occasionally a tree will divide as it grows and develop two competing tops. These co-dominates are a serious problem because the tree is not naturally prepared to support the additional weight and the crotch where the co-dominates meet tends to be significantly weaker than a healthy straight, single spar trunk. Co-dominates are a major reason that professional arborists will refuse to top trees; cutting the tops off of trees often prompts the growth of co-dominate tops. Wind, rain, heat (causing increased water intake), and drought are often more than co-dominates can withstand. The answer is to remove one of the tops, preserving the most viable of the two. Co-dominates can most often be remedied up to the time they fail. After failure, tree removal tends to be the only safe alternative. Many people reasonably assume that however the tree grows is fine because its a natural manifestation. There's truth to that when talking about trees in the wild, where the premature death of a tree has no real impact on the forest. But losing the tree that shades your home and took over eighty years to grow is another matter. Having a 2,000 lb. piece of wood drop through your roof also removes some of the charm of a natural act. Failure will likely occur without noticeable warning. Some trees have several vertical spars but that does not mean they have co-dominate tops. Ask a certified arborist. At Bud's, written, no-obligation estimates are free, and our neighbors are always welcome to call the office for information.
We have finally gotten some rain in the valley. The saturation point has apparently been reached with a remarkable number of home owners reporting falling trees. The soil isn't holding the roots. Everyone with a large tree in reach of their home needs to pay attention for rising roots or increased lean angle. We'll likely have a few weeks of falling trees until the earth processes the water and the rains drops off.
Stumps grinding can be done almost anywhere provided the stump grinder can fit through gates and passageways, the stump is not surrounded by hardscape, and safety concerns can be addressed. Unfortunately, there are many places a stump grinder can't reach. In those cases, a licensed chemical applicator may be able to destroy the stump with chemical injections. Obviously the rotting process takes time and there are concerns about which treatments can be used around certain plant life but a licensed arboriculture applicator will be able to assess that for each client.
If you have a fireplace consider saving some money on tree work by agreeing to keep fireplace sized wood. Tree companies must pay to have wood debris processed. So the less wood they have to handle the less they will charge. Also, getting firewood early in the year allows the wood to naturally dry before next winter. Save money twice by reducing the cost of a tree removal and not having to buy expensive dry firewood next fall.
Bud's Tree Service has now been in business for 48 years. We're still growing and that is largely due to word-of-mouth advertising from our satisfied customers. Bud knew how to treat customers; many of you have been with us for a very long time. Thank you.
We've had some fairly reliable rain during the last few weeks and the soil has begun to do a pretty decent job of absorbing the increase. That's good because it means we don't have standing water trying to get through hard-packed earth. Unfortunately we're finding quite a few trees succumbing to soft earth and beginning to uproot. In some cases they just fall over. Once a mature tree moves there is no practical alternative to removal. A large, destabilized tree can't be corrected through surgical cuts (we're being asked this more often). Consider that once a tree hits the tipping point it's coming down. Examine your large trees by placing a carpenter's square or empty picture frame on a stable viewing surface and check the stance of your tree. Repeat that process as rains increase and note any increase in lean. Obviously a lot of trees naturally lean; our interest is in finding trees that are increasing their lean over a short period of time. If it was always obvious and always came after clear warnings, nobody would ever have a tree fall through the roof of their house. But it happens. As I have said many times in this blog, all reputable tree companies give free estimates. Find one with at least one on-staff, certified arborist and give them a call if you have any questions. You don't need your estimator to be a certified arborist but you need an experienced tree estimator under the daily supervision of a certified arborist. Ask. Bud's has been answering arboricultural questions for our neighbors since 1968. You're welcome to call the office: (916) 373-3980 or 1 (800) CUT-TREE.
We have been busy with these small recent rains. Many people are rightly concerned about the coming El Nino storms. January is traditionally a slower time for the industry because people have just gone through Christmas expenses are paying taxes. While this January is not as slow as we normally expect, we have dropped off from the rush of the last three months. This lull will continue, I expect, until the first week of February. If you've been debating about getting tree work scheduled--this is your time. Start with calling for an estimate or using our web site contact form.
A reminder about keeping costs down on tree work. The less the company has to do, the less they will charge you. If you have a friend who wants firewood, tell your estimator that you'll keep the wood. Some churches will pick up the wood to give to those who can't afford it. Wood removal is being increasingly expensive because of all the foolishness surrounding recycling laws. What we once dumped for free, we now have to transport further and pay to leave. If you have the ability to deal with your own wood (not everybody does), you can save a lot of tree removal expense. Most companies will be happy to cut the wood to manageable lengths. If you require them to cut it into firewood for you, the savings will disappear because of the time involved for the tree crew. So find somebody with the means to split his own wood and the means to remove it, and you'll significantly reduce your tree removal costs.
The recent rainfall in the Sacramento Valley has given us a preview to what the El Nino storms may produce in terms of tree damage. We've been busy. Weight reduction on trees, prior to the onset of storms can save the trees from falling, splitting, or losing major branches. Prudence requires homeowners take the least costly path and prepare their trees prior to the arrival of real storms this winter. There is no doubt that we will lose some grand old trees but some of those trees can be saved by early action. The cost of a weight reduction, even on a large tree, is incidental when compared to the cost of removing a tree which is leaning on a house.
Heavy rains are tough on trees during drought conditions because the earth isn't able to process the water as effectively as during normal saturation periods. When water stands or dirt washes away, trees lose support. When even moderate wind follows, trees can move. If you're seeing deep gorges around surface roots, contact a certified arborist now.
El Nino needn't be a greater disaster. We've seen strong storms before and the difference is always in the preparation. Please remember that once the storms get going all area tree service companies will be fully engaged with emergency work. Costs rise when equipment and crews are worked at all hours in less than ideal conditions. If you have trees of any size that may not have been tended for awhile, this is the time to make arrangements. I do understand people want immediate service when problems arise and I want to accommodate all our clients as efficiently as possible, but we will probably be stretched to the limit and have to schedule work with substantial delays when the storms begin. We're already busy now. Please take a look at your trees. There is no charge for our estimates and we're always happy to give advice.
At the top of this page is our new logo. We've always had the image of a tree with our name over it. Our new logo will pay specific tribute to our founder, Bud Phipps, and give us a more recognizable presence in the surrounding neighborhoods. We've been at this since 1968, and we're still that same family-owned business. It was just time for a new logo.
El Nino Update
We are fully into the preparation period for the anticipated El Nino storms. Most successful tree services in the greater Sacramento area are booked-out for at least a couple of weeks. To accommodate our customers, Bud's Tri-County Tree Services is supplementing our traditional tree crews with a smaller team focused on building clearance and pruning. The results are that we are able to service most customers within 10 working days. Because we do our own stump grinding and chemical treatments we've been able to avoid stretching common residential jobs out over several days. Unfortunately, there is a problem looming ahead for tree service providers and customers alike. Once the trees begin to fall and limbs begin to break, emergency work will naturally limit and delay the performance of non-emergency and routine tree service. Those who are concerned about their trees should speak with an arborist or experienced arboriculture estimator now. At least with Bud's (and any reputable tree service), estimates are free, even written estimates. Find a company you're comfortable with and have them take at look the trees you're most concerned could be a threat to you or your home. You can still affordably contract for any work you approve a week or two in advance. That option is going to disappear once the storms hit. When trees or large limbs fall through roofs (and they will) the cost of routine work will dramatically increase because the crews and equipment will have to work extended winter hours. The two week delay will become a five week delay in some cases. Tree work is done by skilled and semi-skilled labor. Tree companies cannot hire quickly nor can they access all employees from the general labor force. It takes about six years to produce a competent tree climber, for example. In other words, Northern California tree companies are going to have to pay a lot of overtime and maintenance costs in order to meet the El Nino demand. Prudent clients will avoid greater costs and long delays by contracting for preventative tree work as soon as possible.
Bud's wishes all our neighbors a very happy Thanksgiving.
We are forecasted to have an El Nino winter. Meaning a lot of rain and wind over a short period of time . Trees do best with moderation. Too hot, and trees can overdrink and lose limbs from water weight. Too wet, and trees can float before the ground is able to process the water which means roots are unable to anchor trees. El Nino will drop trees, that's a certainty. Most of those trees will fall harmlessly away from homes. Some won't. The next few weeks are the time to prepare trees for excessive rains. Remember, we've been in a drought, so a lot of water quickly poured on dry, baked soil is likely to be initially slow to absorb. We can't prevent all trees from falling due to excessive rainfall and wind but many can be saved. Here's four simple things homeowners can do to improve a tree's survivability:
Thinning an overgrown canopy to prevent a sail effect during high winds.
Weight reduction to prevent limb loss due to water weight and wind force.
Mulching and fertilization (as needed) to encourage proper root growth on very young trees.
Removal of dead and dying trees. Dead or nearly dead trees are bowling pins to an El Nino storm.
Earlier this year we experienced a forecasted storm. Many homeowners tried to engage a tree company at the last minute without much success. Now is the time. Don't pay emergency rates for something that could have been prevented during fair weather. Once a tree becomes imbalanced, that's it. A trim or weight reduction could save you thousands of dollars. That's not an exaggeration. Just prior to storms, most reputable tree companies will be either preparing commercial properties or doing last minute work for previously scheduled residential clients. At Bud's we staff an emergency crew or two depending on the forecast. But even then we prioritize for life threatening, home endangering work. In other words, we get the tree on the ground and move on, often finishing up after the storm. When sending a climber into an unstable tree during high wind, rain, and darkness, we pay them more. Likewise the ground crew. It's an overtime that can kill or maim even the safest workers. Obviously, the customer pays for that. I would much prefer to make less money and have our clients spend less money to the welfare of all involved. If you're not sure what your tree needs, call us. Our estimators often tell people good news--the tree doesn't require work. When preventative or correction action is needed, we can save you money through advanced scheduling among other things. Since our estimator visits are free, you have nothing to lose. Please give some thought to El Nino while the skies are still blue and let's have a safe winter.
1 800 CUT-TREE or (916) 373-3980
Living trees tend to rot from the inside outward. Which means that a dying tree may not exhibit early outward signs of decay. Owners can spot decay by looking for a few common indicators: fungal fruiting, mushrooms, swollen knots, cavities, and scarring. Decayed wood can't be renewed but the process can be slowed in some cases and in certain circumstances, eliminated, if the rot is isolated and limited. An arborist can determine if cutting or chemical treatment would be advantageous. The goal is the protection of life and property. Rot, when left alone can mean tons of timber are suspended over a home by a few inches of supporting wood. Look for signs of dying in your larger trees. if you have questions, give us a call.
Ninja Tree Attacks
Summertime in Sacramento is open season on humans for trees. All year, trees wait for summer with the hope of smashing a human being. The manner in which hunting season on humans works is simple. A tree absorbs and circulates hundreds of gallons of ground water each day. Hotter days will result in the intake of more water. Some trees, particularly those that have been allowed to overgrow, will not be able to hold limbs which are full of water. So limbs break, which is where you come in. A major limb can crush a roof, much less Sacramento's most common biped. In order to survive this annual thinning of our herd we humans must become cunning prey. Have yours tree professionally thinned according to ISA standards by someone qualified to do the work, use mulch (or our free wood chips) to conserve ground water, and move furniture and vehicles from under large trees until the end of summer. Hot dry summers are desirable hunting conditions for sporting trees. Be wary!
Oaks are tough, hardy trees. A well established oak can weather some pretty hard times and even recover from a decent amount of damage. Like other trees, oaks are susceptible to disease and insect manifestation. Species of wasps, flies, and moths can attack foliage. Oaks also have their share of blight inducing diseases. Similar to humans, oaks can be treated and fully recover in most cases. Timing is everything. A single proper arborist's cut can prevent infestation entering through a broken limb. The good news is tree stewardship which is preventive and remedial tends to be much less expensive and much less intrusive. If you have an oak with discolored leaves, deformities, or parasitic growth, seek help now. We deal with a lot of trees, and a nice tree is a nice tree, but an oak is a treasure. Oaks are grand. A mature oak provides shade, protection, value, wildlife, and a couple hundred years of unique living history to what may otherwise be an unremarkable planned property. Let's be mindful of these trees, particularly during a drought.
I've previously mentioned in this blog that tree failure is part of the natural process and is only a concern to us when the tree is near people and property. Lightning strikes forests and the damage works itself out in some form over time. In a Sacramento backyard its entirely a different matter. A lightning strike like the one featured on our Lightning versus Redwood page, destroys the tree, but most strikes are survivable. Likewise, drought kills, but most trees will survive. Homeowners trying to shape trees into something they are not by chopping off lower limbs kills a lot of trees but many survive. The point is tree owners can dramatically increase the odds of a particular tree surviving a destructive episode through proper care.
One of the primary remedies for major tree damage is structural pruning, meaning the intentional remove of significant limbs to control decay, disease, and pest infestation, while planning a direction for stable new growth. If you have a two hundred year old oak tree in your yard, you enjoy benefits and value that you can never replace in your lifetime. Planning to redirect or assist healthy growth may extend the life of a tree for another hundred years. Another area of possible relief may be prioritizing and organizing the landscape. To the trees, plants, and grass that inhabit your yard, its a jungle out there. The fight for limited ground water and nutrients is real, especially during drought. Fortunately, there's a great deal that can be done, and fairly inexpensively, to retain ground water. Mulch, properly used, can save 70% of ground water from evaporation. Take a look at our Free Wood Chips page for more mulch information. The homeowner has strategies available to save trees. Don't buy a home with a $20,000 tree and then sell the home with a bare yard and a stump--trees have major value, otherwise developers wouldn't spend a fortune planting those filthy Bradford Pears all over Sacramento. (Read the Bradford Pear blog entry.)
Proper trimming, crown shaping and reduction, weight reduction, limb cut-back, and thinning, can help pull a lot of trees through a hard, drought summer. Don't wait until your trees are brown to get help. Like animals, a dead tree can't be brought back. The signs are usually quite apparent, long before death occurs. Call an arborist.
Stacy W. Barker
Stacy is the owner of Bud's