Top 10 Most Commonly Asked Tree Questions
Why do we need to trim trees,
why not just let nature take its course?
Trees in a forest are in a different setting than the ones growing over our bedrooms. We trim trees in the urban/suburban environment because they live in close proximity to people, and we want to keep them there. That means they have different stresses placed on them and so we trim to remove deadwood or damaged limbs that can become a hosting place for diseases and insects, thereby extending the life of the trees. We trim to help prevent storm damage and enhance human safety. We trim to help trees develop healthy structure. We trim to clear away from buildings, pathways and drives. We trim to clear a vista. We trim to decongest other trees or plants so one or both will still live. We trim to help enhance the beauty and long term health of our tree friends. (ref: Tree Trimming, Ornamental Trimming, Shrub Trimming, Storm Damage Prevention Abstracts)
Do my trees and shrubs need to be sprayed?
As a general rule, trees really do NOT require regular spraying to remain healthy. Shot holes and a little insect chewing on your trees is normal natural and healthy. In nature there is a beautiful give and take that happens between the trees and the insect and even the fungal and bacterial communities. When we spray to control a particular insect we cannot help but affect other non-target insects that may be beneficial. So when we spray, we view it as a last resort to insure tree health and as part of a whole tree health program. We make sure we know what we are spraying for and that the damage warrants treatment, we insure that the material and application is such that we have the minimum amount of collateral damage, and we time the spray so that it is the most effective and efficient. Certain fungal disease sprays are one of the last resort situations that requires regular treatments to save the life of trees. (ref: Spraying Abstract)
Do I need to water my trees?
Yes, when it is hot outside a mature tree can evapo-transpire over 100 gallons of water a day! Trees have amazing water holding capacities but when they are loosing so many gallons we need to supplement their water to prevent the devastating and sometimes fatal effects of drought damage. When trees live in lawns it is very stressful for them and they compete with the turf for water, air and space to grow. When you water a tree it is different than watering your lawn, which in our culture is done way too often and not thoroughly enough. Trees need to be watered very heavily and then allowed to dry out in between waterings. (ref: Watering Abstract)
When I water my grass,
aren’t my trees getting water?
The answer is yes, and no. There is a war going on under our feet when we enjoy our quiet landscapes on a summer day. Every square foot of soil can only support a limited amount of green leafy plant growth. We sometimes must make the choice which green leafy growth will survive or our plants will decide for us and we may not like their choice. When it comes to trees and turf it is always a good idea to try to separate the two root zones for maximum health of each species. When you water the lawn the grass is usually the winner over the tree roots because it is “faster to the draw”. Trees need long drinks of water for 18 to 24 hours and we usually only water our lawns for too short a time, too frequently. By doing this we drive life giving oxygen out of the soil and everyone suffers because both tree and grass roots come closer and closer to the surface and so become less and less drought tolerant. (ref: Watering Abstract, Mulching Abstract)
Will putting in a sprinkling system help my trees?
NO! Simply put, in over forty years of caring for trees we have never seen a sprinkling system that helped tree health. Most of the time, they are set to water too frequently and for not long enough periods. They are almost always installed by people who know nothing about horticulture and so the trenches that are dug to install underground piping do terrible damage to existing mature trees, sometimes causing fatal downward spirals in health. Then, when the sprinkling heads are installed they often spray leaves and needles causing fatal fungal disease problems that could have been totally prevented. If watering is a big problem try using above ground leaky hose for those hard to reach areas. Don’t spend good money to kill or injure your trees. (ref: Watering Abstract, Fungal Disease Abstracts)
Will building an addition to my home,
garage or driveway injure my trees?
Most likely yes! One of the most commonly held and damaging misconceptions about trees is that their roots go deep into the soil. This is simply not true, especially in the Chicago area’s heavy clay soils. Most tree roots reside in the top 6” of soil! Our embattled Oak population is one of the hardest hit by construction damage as generally Oaks do not fair well when their root zone areas suffer compaction, smothering from equipment traffic and changes in drainage from grade alterations. When planning any kind of construction around your trees, contact a certified arborist that specializes in construction damage prevention and tree preservation before you call an architect or builder. It will go such a long way in insuring that your trees survive the construction with their lives in tact. It is almost impossible to repair construction damage once it has occurred and really relatively easy to prevent. (ref: Tree Preservation Abstract, Mulching Abstract, Paclobutrazol-Tree Growth Regulator Abstract)
Do I need to have a support wire
on my tree when it is planted?
Probably not, but if it is absolutely needed, be sure to insure that it is removed after one year. We see countless trees die every year because these wires are installed at planting and forgotten. They then manage to “strangle” the plant in a very short time cutting off the trees’ vascular system which is located just beneath the bark. If a tree cannot stand on its own after one year there are other problems that should be addressed. (ref: Cabling and Bracing Abstract)
Can I put a clothes line or dog run on my tree?
Yes, but install it properly, so it will not do long term damage. Every year we do post-mortems on trees that died because someone put a dog leash around the base or a clothes line around the trunk or a mechanical support for the tree around a large branch. Trees are living organisms that are ALWAYS growing. The living tissue of a tree is a very delicate thin layer located just beneath the bark so an encircling wire, rope, twine or cable will have devastating results if left on more than one year. Use screw eyes or lags to install these things on your trees, even though it feels more harmful, it really is not. (ref: Cabling and Bracing Abstract)
Do my trees and shrubs need feeding?
You cannot feed your trees. Trees are very clever: they manufacture their own food from the sun’s energy, water and minerals from the soil in a process called photosynthesis. That is one of those things we learned in school but need reminding of occasionally. We do fertilize trees sometimes when they have essential minerals missing. This happens most often when they are taken out of their natural nutrient cycle, and some trees are more sensitive to this than others. Our Oaks and Hickories are especially needing more help with fertilizer when they live in a lawn setting. Mulching is one of the best things we can do for our trees because it keeps them in their natural nutrient cycle, preserves moisture and eliminates competition from grass. (ref: Fertilizing Abstract, Mulching Abstract)
What is the single most beneficial thing
I could do to help my trees?
We love answering this question because it is so easy: mulch under them! Applying an organic mulch layer really is the single most effective preventative care that you can provide for your trees. It is more effective than trimming, fertilizing or spraying. It separates lawn from trees preventing damage from lawn mowers and weed whips; it moderates soil temperatures; it decreases soil compaction; it increases water holding capacity; and it increases roots, and and that’s just part of the story! Best of all, it is one of the least expensive treatments you can do. (ref: Mulching Abstract)