Attack of the Evil Pear Tree
A particular type of ornamental tree is very popular with developers in the Sacramento area: the Bradford Pear. The Bradford is inexpensive and grows quickly, giving a "treed" look to new homes but the tree is a disaster for home owners. Bradford Pears are notorious for falling apart. The trees are naturally bad, poorly constructed, and prone to major limb failure. Relatively mild winds can break apart a Bradford Pear. Unlike most trees, Bradfords tend to fail at the crotches of their larger limbs, which means they can't be pruned back to health. A major break allows the importation of disease and denies the tree needed foliage. The Bradford may be immediately good for the developer but it is a homeowner's long term disappointment.
The answer to a Bradford Pear is to replace it with one of several sturdy, reliable, beautiful ornamentals that are well-suited to the Sacramento area. Price differences between the Bradford and other ornamentals are negligible. Certainly, a few dollars per tree matters to developers but that's rarely a problem for a homeowner shopping for a tree or two. The longer you keep a Bradford Pear, the more growth-time you are denying the replacement tree. Don't waste years on a bad tree. If your Bradford is freshly out of the nursery bucket, you can shovel it out yourself and choose a nice tree from your supplier. Of course, any tree big enough to fall on top of a person, building, or fence will require professional removal. The sooner you act, the less money you'll spend and the less disruption to your yard.
I wish all our friends and valued customers a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.
How much would it cost?
Naturally, we all want to know how much something will cost before we're willing to commit to a purchase. Our office staff typically gets a couple of calls each day asking for "a ballpark estimate" for tree services. The problem is that no two trees are identical and neither are any two job sites. The pricing for tree work depends on several factors.
Location of the work site: Driving time adds cost to any job. Some sites will require access to waste collection facilities.
Specific work to be performed: Trimming a tree is like a haircut, it really depends on how much needs to be removed.
Type of tree: A nice mature Red Oak may be quite a bit larger and heavier but a Monkey Puzzle can cut the climber and crew into bloody ribbons.
Size of tree: Trees are like people, the tallest ones are not always the largest. The amount of brush, distance the climber must ascend, and the girth of the wood to be handled, all matter in the estimate.
Health of the tree: A dead tree that has been left standing for awhile may be extraordinarily dangerous for a climber. The wood can shatter like glass and without warning. Old dead trees may require some bracing or the use of a bucket truck.
Disposal method of wood and brush: Getting the wood off the property is time consuming and can involve disposal fees. Chipped brush also requires dumping and may take multiple trips away from the job site, depending on the size of the job.
Stump grinding: Stump removal can be done through chemical application or the use of a stump grinder. Grinder time depends on the type of wood, girth of the stump, and the amount of surface roots. Chemical treatments are similarly calculated but don't involve the removal of grindings.
Drop zone under the tree: Whatever is removed from a tree must be dropped or lowered by rope. Any obstacle that requires special protection or prevents the crew from moving under the tree will increase cost.
Access to equipment from the tree: Cut brush has to be taken to the chipper and wood must be carried to the truck. Distance matters not only for time but for the endurance of the ground crew. In some cases, a small front-end loader can be used if there is sufficient access.
Likelihood of customer property damage: Fragile items under a tree or nearby windows involve risk and must be part of the estimate.
Weather: We work in all weather but extreme heat and heavy rain will delay job completion.
Requirement for specialized equipment: Cranes, loaders, stump grinders, bucket trucks, chemical applicators, and log trailers may increase cost. In some cases, their judicious use may decrease cost by limiting man-hours.
Permits required: Most jurisdictions require owners to get a permit before removing certain trees. In some cases, the permit application must be done by the tree service.
Customer's desired timeline: Odd hours require special scheduling and a lack of notice may require the rescheduling of pending work.
Electrical lines and water mains: Electricity kills climbers every year. Tree companies must consider potential damage to utilities and danger to employees before beginning any work.
Current workload: Work that fits into a company's schedule will be less expensive than work which disrupts other commitments.
Considering the above, no reputable tree service can give an accurate phone quote. The good news is that no reputable tree service will charge a fee for a written estimate.
There are several things a potential customer can do to lower service costs:
Be responsible to clear the work area from around the tree to the street. If a tree company must transplant your bushes, move your mediation garden, carry your furniture, cover your pool, remove your sprinkler heads, pick up your dog manure, roll up your hose, remove your bird houses, lift your statuary, or remove your fence, the job is going to be more expensive.
Keep the wood. Tell the estimator the amount and piece-size you are willing to keep. Check with friends who need firewood or call local churches and charities who may collect the wood for free. The less wood the tree company must handle and transport, the less you will pay.
Keep stump grindings for mulch. Grindings are simply a wood and top soil mix, usually suitable for flowerbeds.
Be flexible in scheduling work. Let the company schedule your job with other work in your area, saving you from bearing the entire travel cost of a truck and crew.
Get your own permit if possible. Estimators want to sell and compete jobs rather than file paperwork for potential jobs.
Be willing to talk candidly with your estimator. If the quoted price is more than you are willing to pay, ask for alternatives. In many cases, customers can reduce the amount of money spent on tree work with a little preparation.
If you have any questions, advice is always free: 1 (800) CUT-TREE.
Do your trees drip sticky stuff?
Many homeowners complain during the warmer months of trees dripping "sap." Unfortunately, its probably not sap. Sap is likely to drip only after the tree has been cut. Typically, evergreens and mulberry trees are the worst offenders for dripping sap after cutting or pruning. The glue-like liquid of which many many Sacramento-area homeowners complain is a sugary water substance produced by insects. The excreta is called honeydew and the insects are aphids. Aphids can weaken trees and make them more susceptible to disease but it is the summer production of honeydew that makes them such a destructive pest. Honeydew can destroy car paint, discolor sidewalks, stain fabric, and attach to shoes and outerwear. Afflicted trees are easily spotted from a distance because they will appear to have wet shiny leaves during the dry summer months.
The cure for aphids is a licensed chemical application injected into the earth around the tree. February and March are the best time of year for application. In the event the homeowner misses the window for routine treatment, a licensed applicator can treat for aphids by using an additional treatment that accelerates the tree's absorption of the preventative. In those case, results can be seen within 7-10 days. The earlier treatment protocol is naturally a bit less expensive.
Consumers should be aware that argi-chemical treatments require a specially licensed applicator. The possession of the necessary aphid chemical treatments are restricted by law. Regrettably, many vendors skirt the law by using either colored water or hardware store insecticides. Verify that your applicator is licensed to dispense treatments.
Drought Water Priorities
Trees need an inordinate amount of water. A good-sized tree may draw a few hundred gallons of water on a hot day. As you look across any Sacramento lawn, you'll notice the absence of standing water; the fight for water is below the surface. Grass, shrubbery, and trees are fighting for every drop of common ground water. Grass will grow back, shrubs tend to be durable and are, at least, easily replaceable. Trees are not. Your fifty year old oak can be fully replaced but not in your lifetime. In terms of illness, disease, and life-cycle, trees are more like mammals than they are like grass. Past a certain point of decline, a tree cannot be restored. The answer is prioritizing water.
Clear grass and other plants from the base of your tree. The more cleared earth you can afford the tree, the better the tree's chances for an adequate water supply. Obviously, you can't reasonably remove all the grass from under the canopy but clear a 24" ring around the base of the tree. Large trees will benefit from greater cleared space. Position sprinklers to water the earth around the tree (within the tree's drip-line) instead of the lawn. Water needs to be under the tree but not on trunk. Even twenty minutes of light watering every other day can make a difference for most trees. Freshly planted trees require a bit more water.
Fortunately, trees are tough and tend to be long-lived, which means they have excellent survivability. We're going to continue to lose trees during this drought but we're losing more than we must. Prioritizing your outdoor water-use may be the extra bit of help your favorite tree needs to get through dry times.
If you have any questions give us call; advice is always free and we're happy to help.
Stacy W. Barker
Stacy is the owner of Bud's