Drought-proof your trees
We can't prevent drought from killing trees but we can greatly reduce tree loss on private property--without extra water. A recent College of DuPage study field tested controlled groups of trees. The gist of the study was that young trees which had the grass removed from the trunks and had the surrounding bare earth covered with 3" of mulch retained 70% more ground water, nearly doubling growth rate, size, and root development. Regardless of the tree, ground water retention from the use of mulch is a definitive improvement. Clearing the grass from the base of your tree and using 3" of mulch may save your trees despite the California drought and the coming Sacramento summer.
Mulch is available at almost any home improvement or gardening store. We offer free wood chips which make excellent mulch, and we deliver. Check out our wood chip offer.
Large branches will occasionally fail. Severe heat and wind can facilitate the dropping of a large branch. It may reasonably seem that a broken branch will heal itself, the reality is that wounds from breakage tend to allow the importation of destructive insects and tree disease. The answer is a proper cut. A simple cut, done correctly, can encourage quick healing, prevent access by insects and limit the possibility of disease. Small limbs break and heal without much need for human intervention. If you have a broken limb, give us a call. We're always happy to answer questions and even our on-scene, written estimates are free. Most tree problems can be prevented with a little cost-effective action.
Hard times for Redwoods
Drought is tough on every living thing but a sustained drought is a death sentence for redwoods. Big trees, particularly in hot weather, move hundreds of gallons of water in a very short period of time. Trees are only still on the outside. The current water shortage is outlasting some very old redwoods. Aside from the regrettable loss of these magnificent creations is the very real problem of danger to humans and habitats. A dry tree dies and a dead tree falls over. Big limbs fail. It is imperative that everyone living within the reach of a redwood be attentive to the health of the tree. Redwoods are evergreen; a brown redwood is a bad sign. During this time of year, we expect to see healthy redwoods with a thick canopy. Spindly green growth insufficient for the size of the limbs is an indicator of serious problems. Not every tree will have to be removed, some can be treated. But whether a tree must be removed, lightened, or treated, timeliness is extremely important. Let's check our trees before the coming hot weather accelerates problems.
Here's some answers to a few recent client questions and concerns:
1. There is a treatment that can prevent fruit on trees. Many owners find a seasonal fruit dump more than they can handle. A licensed applicator can provide the service very reasonably, as well as other treatments.
2. No one should be paying a company for cable and post maintenance on established trees. Young trees from the bucket often require tying until they are able to support themselves but that's different from this foolishness.The scam goes like this: a tree gets planted and has cables unnecessarily installed on it. The company tells the owner not to touch the cables but to call them for adjustments, otherwise the tree will grow crooked. Unless a tree is left in strong constant wind (a coastal cliff, maybe) the tree is going to go straight toward the sun. Don't plant trees where they have to grow around the shadow of a building or other trees. Any certified arborist knows which trees need more direct sunlight and which ones don't. Please don't get taken in by shady tree-guys and their shakedown planting scams.
3. Some roots can removed and some can't. A lot depends on the type of tree. Generally speaking major roots need to be left alone. Smaller trees may send surface roots toward concrete but not have the "muscle" to cause any damage. Get a knowledgeable opinion. Remember, estimates should always be free.
4. There is a general reasoning behind determining whether your tree needs pruning. Again, it varies by type. You need some corrective pruning if you have dead limbs, limbs that touch, or limbs which are likely to interfere with the growth of other limbs. Also, if your tree is touching a structure or wire, some corrective action may be needed. Sometimes we want to thin a tree's canopy to allow more light to the interior growth, though most often that tends to be cosmetic, too. Before your trees leaf-out this year, go take a look at the limbs. A fat, rich canopy doesn't necessarily indicate overgrowth.
5. Stump grinding tends to greatly vary from one job to another for several reasons. The harder the wood, the tougher the grind which includes species as well as individual condition. Height and width matter and roots play a major part in determining cost. Above all, it matters whether the customer wants the grindings removed. Grindings are dirt mixed with wood (mulch). If the company has to dispose of the grindings the stump grinding will likely double in cost. If the stump costs $100 the removal will probably cost $100. Be advised that some stumps will leave an enormous pile of grindings while others will barely fill their own hole. If you want to save money keep the grinding for your flower bed but be prepared for anywhere from a shovel-full to a few wheelbarrows of dirt and wood. A good estimator can give you an educated guess.
This is a good time to prepare for corrective tree pruning and chemical applications. Its also a good time to find out whether you actually need any work during the coming year. Problems that are addressed early can save you thousands of dollars.
Of course, I would prefer there were no bad tree services and customers had complete confidence in our industry. On the other hand, bad tree services make me money. Its true. We've been hired to clean up fallen trees left by companies who never returned to finish the job because the wood was bigger than they could handle and the customer paid them in advance of completion. It's not uncommon for non-arborist, unlicensed "tree guys" to butcher a tree on a commercial property and get the owner in trouble with the local municipality. I mean, seriously, there's work to be had due to incompetence and deceit. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of danger and civil liability to customers who hire the wrong tree company. So, you know you've called the wrong tree service when...
1. They have no California State Contractor License number and cannot be located on the state's web site.
2. Their large commercial trucks have no commercial registration number on the doors.
3. They cannot present proof of workers compensation insurance (somebody's insurance is going to pay).
4. No written estimate with letterhead is available.
5. Routine written estimates are not completely free of charge if you decline the work.
6. No International Society of Arboriculture certified arborists are employed with the company.
7. They are willing to "top" trees without extraordinary circumstances, "carrot top" palms, or remove major roots or branches without specific arborist supervision.
8. Workers don't have safety equipment.
9. They can't take checks or credit cards.
10. The climber who is to perform the work cannot explain to you the reasoning behind his methods.
11. They don't routinely answer or return phone calls.
12. They require some payment prior to the completion of all work.
13. Nobody has ever heard of them in a city known for its trees.
Bud's has been a Sacramento neighbor since 1968 and we've never refused to answer a question or give free advice. There's no reason to be uninformed and put yourself at risk. Trees are a joy but they can, in some limited circumstances be a genuine hazard. I'd like to have your business but there's nearly a dozen good tree companies in the tri-county area. Please investigate before you engage a company. Bad tree work is not like bad lawn care; once its done, its done.
One of my absolute favorite trees is the Red Oak. A mature Red Oak is most often what we envision when we think of a large mature tree. The problem is time; plant a Red Oak today and your great-grandchildren will be sitting under it about one hundred years from now. Fortunately, an immature example is still desirable for its height and foliage but it won't be that "centerpiece" for many years. Is it worth planting an oak or sycamore? Absolutely, but you're pleasure will be increased through the additional planting of some smaller, quicker growing trees and a few bright, fast growing ornamentals. These smaller trees will fill the void while your majestic tree grows and provide build contrast and size perspective as your big tree moves toward adolescence.
Mapping your tree planting is extremely important. Concrete is a major concern. Species, soil, nutrients, and water supply shape root growth. In a fight between a medium-sized tree and a sidewalk, the sidewalk will lose. Also, like animals, trees will struggle for dominance. Trees must be planted as if they were fully grown. I know that sounds remarkably obvious (though hopefully not patronizing) but the truth is most people can't bring themselves to allow the planting distances necessary for most trees. It is hard to imagine that a wobbly stick planted in your backyard today can damage your house's foundation in twenty years. Generally speaking, many trees need about 6' from concrete, 10' from foundations and 20' from power lines. Some little ornamentals are fine near concrete. On the other hand, some big trees, like the Red Oak have canopies that can shade an entire house and a good portion of the front and backyards. Ask a certified arborist before you plant. Nothing is as frustrating and disappointing to the home gardener as losing a young tree due to bad planning.
Few things can materially increase the value of a residential property like trees. Mastering your trees is a source of lasting enjoyment with long-lasting value. Plot before you plant.
Be a pro-active homebuyer
Very recently, I gave an estimate to a customer who had just purchased a home. The customer requested the estimate because she thought a large tree in her small yard didn't look quite right. Unfortunately, she was correct; the tree had major decay and structural problems. The customer had inquired about the tree prior to purchasing the property. The seller's agent claimed to have no knowledge of any problems with the tree and I'm sure that was truly the case. Nonetheless, the tree now has to be removed at the homeowner's expense. Whether she has any recourse against the seller remains to be seen but the immediate expense and danger are presently those of the new homeowner.
Inheriting other people's tree problems is fairly common in home buying. Agents, sellers, and buyers typically don't have the knowledge to inspect trees. Oddly, a roof has to be inspected for leaks to satisfy a mortgage company but no inspection is required for the thing that can crush the roof and kill the occupants.
If you're considering a home purchase that involves nearby trees, contact an arborist. For about $150 you can have a tree inspected prior to purchase. The cost savings could reach into the thousands. By getting an arborist report prior to purchase you may be able to negotiate with the seller for any necessary tree work. If no work is required, you'll have some peace of mind for very little expense. Remember, when homeowners arrive at the decision to sell they tend to stop taking care of their trees.
Think before you buy.
Many homeowners suffer from the problems caused by encroaching tree roots. Roots can displace sidewalks to earth quake levels. Worse, they can lift the foundation of a house. Trees are the largest living things on the planet and I suppose they're probably the strongest. We often receive calls from customers who were shocked to find that their municipality holds them accountable for a broken sidewalk caused by a city owned tree. In some cases, a homeowner will be held accountable for sidewalk damage by their own tree but not be permitted to remove the offending the tree. Tree removal may require your jurisdiction's consent depending on size and type. The point is, a wandering tree root can cost you a great deal of money and increase your civil liability.
So why not cut them? Some trees permit the removal of certain roots; others will not. Trees vary by genus as well as individual. Cutting a root may kill a tree fairly quickly. For instance, you may chop a root to prevent further damage to your driveway and the next year be faced with the cost of a crane removal of the entire tree which then threatens to fall on your house. In that case, it may have been wiser to give the tree 10" of driveway. A certified arborist can tell you (without cost) whether your tree needs removal or can withstand loss of a root. In some cases, long term root growth can be influenced by the supply of water and nutrients. In all cases, the sooner the problem is addressed the better the results. Waiting to deal with a large root until it has lifted your garage four inches is not a prudent course of action. Look at your roots now, they're giving you clues on where they intend to grow.
If you're planning to live in your house for many years and you want to plant a good-sized tree, please call the office and we'll happy to recommend planting distances to minimize the likelihood of your tree ever causing structural damage. In the meantime, please don't cut roots.
Trees in the wild need nothing from us. They thrive or fail on their own. As with animals, stronger trees will dominate weaker trees in the battle for nutrients and sunlight. Nature sorts that out without human input. But take one of the largest living things on earth and let it tower and sway next to your house and instantly human input seems prudent. Removing a tree is less expensive than replacing a house but there are several things that can be done to preserve the tree (and the house) while saving a great deal of money. Planning is key. Calling an arborist one day before a major storm should not be a homeowner's tree care plan.
Here's a few things we can do to save you money and minimize risk to people and property:
1. Soil injections to eliminate destructive pests and overcome any shortcomings in a tree's diet. These are relatively inexpensive, quick, and can be done early in the year in most cases. Make certain that your applicator is licensed. The chemicals used are controlled items and not available to vendors without special training and licensing. Unfortunately, this is often an area where fraud is committed through the substitution of products. You can always ask to see a licensing certificate.
2. Weight reduction. Trees can overgrow, gaining more weight on limbs than they can support. The loss of a major limb may be the death of a tree. Of course, in the forest this happens all the time but we don't want our nice lawn trees to start dropping wood in the backyard. A trained climber under the general guidance of a certified arborist can reduce weight on an overgrown tree without inhibiting the tree's ability to drink, eat, and breathe. Weight reduction needs vary but tend to be good for 2-5 years. There are exceptions, of course. During droughts and extreme heat, trees will take on a lot of water quickly. Water is heavy and constantly running inside of a healthy tree. Trees fail in the Sacramento area during severe heat because of weight/water intake. A little preventive maintenance can save the homeowner a lot of money and present a much nicer looking tree.
3. Limb cutbacks are needed when wood has grown in such a manner as to be beyond what the crotch of that limb can hold, endangers another limb, or threatens utility lines or buildings. A broken limb will invite disease. A properly cut limb can prevent premature failure and the expense of removal.
4. Arborist consultation. Have an arborist inspect your tree. Most trees don't need fertilization but some must have it. A certified arborist can advise you in selecting necessary preventive care. Many times, owners need less work than they think. Ask for an annual tree care plan for your individual trees. A little money spent throughout the year can save you up to several thousand dollars of emergency work. Hundreds can save thousands with trees but the work has to be done before the crisis occurs.
Trees are like nothing else we own. Once they are gone, that's it. We can replace the car and the gazebo but your favorite tree is like no other. A beautiful oak tree, towering in your backyard cannot be replaced in three or four lifetimes. In most cases, a little care will keep a tree sound and healthy for generations. It just takes a little planning.
Happy New Year.
Bud Phipps (1938-2014)
The founder of Bud's Tri-County Tree Service and the man who served as a father to me for much of my youth, Bud Phipps, passed away yesterday at 76 years old. Bud was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Many of our friends will remember Bud. We still have customers that Bud first served back in the early seventies. Though retired to Oregon, Bud came down every few months to help with a couple of his old accounts. He remained active throughout his life, even up to to his recent hospitalization.
Bud Phipps will be sorely missed.
We wish all our friends, a very Merry Christmas and a joyful 2015.
Stacy W. Barker
Stacy is the owner of Bud's