Arborist Journal

Winter storms cause tremendous harm and severe damage to trees.  Trees uprooted or broken in half are an easy call for removal.  But what about a tree that suffers some major to minor damage?  How can a tree owner tell it is structurally safe or physically sound?  A mature tree that has been in the family for decades cannot be replaced.  It is worth a consultation with a Qualified Arborist.

Minor damage where smaller twigs and branches are broken or injured, typically result in little or short term injury to the tree.  All that may be required is a feeding to upgrade health, some medicine to fight infection and a cleanup (pruning) of broken branches and wounds to restore health.

Major damage such as large broken limbs, a large percentage of the tree damaged, split crotches, bark removal, twisting, splitting or splintering of limbs and trunk, or any combination of the above can be detrimental to the long term health of the tree.  When a tree is severely damaged, the first thing to determine is whether or not it is safe.  Secondly, economics and third is if it is worth saving.  This is when a professional such as a Registered Consulting Arborist (RCA), Board Certified Master Arborist (BCMA) or Certified Arborist should be consulted to help answers these questions.

Getting a site visit and diagnosis from a professional sooner than later may provide more options to save a tree versus a removal.  Tree health recovery is generally a systematic method developed over time, utilizing years of experience and the industry’s most advanced techniques that have proven successful more often than not.

If it is determined that a tree is not worth saving, then removing it as soon as possible is highly recommended. The longer it sits, the more risky it becomes.  As the risk increases, so does the required skill level of a crew to remove it, and therefore increases the cost of removal.

In cases of tree damage that the Arborist and tree owner has agreed to save the tree, the most successful route is to provide treatment for the trees.  Think of them as you would your pets.  They need to be fed with quality nutrition, given the proper amount of water, and groomed (pruned) on an annual basis.  Most importantly when your tree is ill, consult with a Qualified Arborist to address the cause.


Fall Planting and Pruning

If you are one of those people who are semi-organic then listen.  I believe it is best to plant early in the fall, for many reasons but one in particular and that is it allows more time for growth.  Although it is cooler and the leaves are falling off or have fallen off, roots are still functioning.  Soil temperatures are still conducive at 50 degrees for root growth and function.  However, it seldom if ever reaches that temperature.  Rain frequency increases as well along with a reduction in temperature, intense sunlight and prevailing winds.  All of these factors combined allow for the best environment for the longest period of time before the heat comes on.  In addition you should have the tree fed (fertilized), with a 3-1-1 an organic slow release fertilizer like Arbor Green Pro.  The lower the salt index, the friendlier it is for roots.

A properly planted tree or shrub will result in a more vigorous and healthy plant.  A plant that can tolerate more adverse conditions and require less management than one planted incorrectly.

The steps in planting should begin with knowing the yard or area you will be planting.  Find out where the soils are deep or shallow and how they drain with or without irrigation.  Then determine the amount of sunlight and shade during the day and through the growing season.  Select a species that fits the parameters above and that will fit in this area (space) to accommodate both growth and character.

i.e.:  Live Oaks are wider growing than taller.  Red Oaks are taller growing than wider.

Whether the tree is ball & burlap or container grown, always observe the plants appearance.  Is the foliage free of spots, lesions and discoloration?  Is the branching desirable and characteristic?  Next, observe root flares.  They should be exposed, and free of any soil build-up.

In our soils, soil amendments (peat moss, potting soil, etc.) should be avoided, the less soil interfaces the easier and faster roots become established.  If soil types can be matched, the tree will benefit by becoming established much quicker.

At the time of putting the tree in the ground, the largest consideration should be to keep root flares exposed and above soil level, 2” – 3”, this will allow for breathing and settling.  Cut away the top half of the basket, and remove nylon strings, avoid loose backfill and air pockets then water accordingly. Mulch the tree but keep off of the root flare.

Now that you have the tree in the ground correctly your next challenge is how to take care of it. Trees are pets too, as my blog states.  They need water, food (fertilizing), pest control, pruning and a good doctor, like me, when they get sick.

Irrigation systems are made for turf and flowers, not trees unless there is something like a bubbler or drip specifically designated for the tree on a separate station.  In dry periods deep watering is necessary.  The base line recommendations are for every inch in diameter, 10-15 gallons of water is required.  Do not go beyond 4 days in the summer in the absence of rain and several days in the winter as well.

Certified Arborists are the only professionals qualified to prune trees.  Everyone else may think they know how, but we see the damage done every day.  Trees require proper pruning annually, these are called pruning cycles, they are to remove structural imperfections like bifurcations, inclusions, interfering limbs etc.  Trees can grow healthy and strong and live a long life with pruning cycles.  Proper care is the ticket.

Trees Need to Eat

Homeowners generally take care of their trees the way they think is the best.  It may be the correct way, but most likely not.  Just because we have had trees in our lives and they have grown, it is your perception that they are in good health.  Generally, this simply is not true.  Trees grow…. that’s what they do.  If they didn’t then they are dying.  To be specific, the primary growth at the tips is the good growth.  This is the growth that will sustain the tree for the season.  Trees that are static or have growth in other areas of the tree are not in good health.  In fact, this is an indicator that the tree is suffering, declining or even dying.

If you do nothing to your trees they may grow.  Even if you just water, you can see a difference.  But if you feed your trees, you will see a BIG difference!  What you can take from this is some care no matter how little or how much, can make a difference that you can actually see.  However, you need to be careful as there is a right way and a wrong way of caring for trees.  Watering, feeding, pruning and treating.  Feeding which is actually fertilizing has been researched for years and we have actually found out how trees take up nutrients.  There are fertilizers out there that replicate this.  These are the best, as they mimic the same conditions out in a forest and last a long time.  It can only be done successfully by a professional, experienced Arborist who has the knowledge and equipment designed to apply it.

You as the tree owner can unknowingly do more harm than good.  That is why you should consult a Certified Arborist who specializes in Tree Health Care.  Any care is a helpful, but proper care will not only give your tree good health, but will add resiliency.

Trees vs. Grass

Live Oaks(Quercus virginiana) have a genetic characteristic of growing wide, not very tall.  The Texas Champion Live Oak has a spread of 150′ and a height of 44′ to give a general view of what a mature Live Oak looks like. Most Live Oaks, if not all, in the Dallas area are of this type.

Homeowners generally space them out to be one on each side of the front entry.  Most city codes require 2 trees at 4″ DBH (Diameter at Breast Height) in every lot.  If planted in the middle of the yard on each side of the entrance of a standard 100′ lot, the trees growing with just the irrigation and no other practices such as fertilization and pruning would grow into each other in less than 20 years.  If they were appropriately pruned in accordance with pruning/growth cycles and properly fertilized, it would happen much sooner.

Actual property example:  There are 19 live oaks in the front yard of this property spaced less than 40 feet apart, which means that in less than 15 years they are into each other.

When planted, most are installed in a landscape accompanied by grass, generally Bermuda grass. Bermuda grass is a creeper grass that requires sunlight all day long, irrigating and fertilizing with a high nitrogen fertilizer.  When it does not receive these requirements it stresses and thins, making it easily susceptible to secondary infections.   As the tree, the dominant organism in the landscape grows and responds to pruning, it dictates the environment underneath it, absorbing moisture/nutrients and sunlight.

Trees are pruned for health and structural benefits, thinning in addition to this to create an environment conducive for grass growth and or maintenance is counterproductive and harms tree health. Thinning the tree to provide enough sunlight for grass throughout the day is hopeful at best and harmful at least. As Arborists, we understand trees will respond in growth when pruned, it is our responsibility to train that growth in such a way that encourages it in a positive direction and compliments its genetics.

Trees live longer and they increase in size and value.  They work up a relationship for the present and next generation of homeowner.


Tree Wound Care

Trees that have had bark damaged, ripped, torn or removed entirely due to vehicles, mowers or even weather events can now be helped.  The sooner we can address the damage, of course, the more successful we will be. This is what needs to be done:


Advanced Tree & Shrub Care will bring the following:

  • Cut Guard, biological plant wound dressing
  • Lanolin/ roofing felt/ mallet / chisels/ wound scraper
  • TREESENTIALS” treatment via soil injection

We will remove bark tissue that is deemed irreparable and damaged sapwood that is splintered or beveled to provide a surface condition conducive with cambium regeneration.  Apply medicaments to the surface and reattach any damaged tissue and cover with the roofing felt.  We will then inject our TREESENTIALS treatment with the appropriate dosage based on size of organism and condition.  The felt should remain on tree for 1 year and we would check on the progress during that period.

Checkups are provided to monitor progress and watch for manifestations of secondary infections.  Our success rate has been very high, over 85% and the work itself is economical, with typically only a couple hours of work required depending on the amount of damage.

An added benefit would be to have an appraisal done on the tree for insurance purposes.  Insurance companies will only accept appraisals from a verifiable expert such as a Registered Consulting Arborist.


Insects on Trees

To a tree owner, they are not even noticeable.  But to an Arborist, they are a glaring presence!  The pressure put on a tree from the feeding and damage insects inflict is incredible.  In the spring time numerous insects emerge and begin feeding.  Some right on the bud and others on the roots and trunk.  As the tree forms leaves, another wave appears.  Some chewing, some sucking and as the twig expands again another wave of piercing, sucking and chewing insects attack.  While all along there are insects that have not stopped feeding on the tree and damaging it in other parts like the sap and heartwood.

Trees cannot just pull up and leave for a better life.  They have to deal with what is handed them and I can tell you it is quite challenging.  This is the norm.  Then you have weather events, another layer of stresses that predispose trees to additional insect attack and increased pressure on the health of the trees.  Ice, wind, lightning, hail and drought are just a few, but add insects into the equation and it takes a large toll. Some trees can fight off these stresses successfully if they are healthy enough.  Most are not and even in the healthiest of trees, it affects the level or degree of health.

When insects are controlled this pressure is reduced and trees respond incredibly.  “Trees just want to grow” and when they are pressured from the feeding of insects, they have to redirect their energy in fighting off and repairing damage instead of growing.

Not any Arborist can perform these functions, only an Arborist who specializes in Tree Health Care, a sort of veterinarian of trees, a Arborinarian.  An Arborinarian can diagnose, treat trees for disease and injuries as well as perform tree surgery (pruning / trimming).

We can treat trees for many disorders both short and long term depending on severity.  With the technology today we can supply trees with food and medicine, which are long lasting, safe and economical.  We will insure the trees good health, aesthetic value and ability to grow stronger.


Spraying Trees

Spraying trees is usually associated with applying pesticides to the foliage.  Old school, although it still is a practice it should be one that is rare.  For the simple fact there are economically more effective techniques that last longer and affect a larger range of damaging insects.

Insects not only damage trees structurally, but they affect the general level of the tree’s health.  Insects are persistent, non-deterred, purpose filled critters with a voracious appetite for tree tissue and cause harm.  There is a bug for every part of the tree at every different part of the season that at times overlap but not always up until the first freeze with exceptions.  So with the new chemistry and techniques, systemic medicines are a better tool.  They deliver a specific dosage that is long lasting, catching many damaging insects that can jump from one tree to the next and very well vector many destructive diseases with them.

Avoiding the beneficial insects entirely thus allowing them to feed uninhibitedly. Spraying has its place in treatment for certain pests but it’s a tool we like to see replaced.


Would you go to a shoe salesman to have your feet worked on?  Think about it.  Do you care about your trees?  Really, do you care?  Is your perception of your trees that they are some static ornament in your yard?  Have you ever thought that maybe they are an organism that needs you to take care of them?  Have there been times you’ve said to yourself ” boy, they look bad”?  Have you done anything about it?  What would it be like if you didn’t have any trees?  Lots of questions.

And like the shoe salesman, who is qualified to answer the questions about what may look good or what they have in stock, he is not the source to consult about correcting growth problems or fractures.   Neither is your landscaper when it comes to your trees.  While your landscaper may have an opinion about your trees aesthetically, he is not the one to consult about your trees health or how to correct it.

Every cut in a tree has an impact, be it structurally or health related.  Call your Certified Arborist who specializes in tree health care, and who will treat your living organism the way it deserves.


Trees are dead and dying all over the place.  Some died early last year, some over the winter and some are continuing to die.  What we are seeing in the trees themselves is trunk and limb bleeding, splitting of bark down to sapwood, dead branches sporadically throughout canopy (flagging), and fungus at base of tree.  What this means is that the drought of last year, severe indeed, predisposed trees to secondary infections.  Trees that are dead and ones that are severely affected should be removed and properly disposed of, especially if there are other healthy trees in the area.  Disinfection of tools between use on trees is essential, as well.  This will reduce the chance of the infection jumping from infected trees to healthier trees.  On larger specimens a preventive treatment is available.  Call your Board Certified Master Arborist who specializes in tree health care for a proper diagnosis and treatment recommendation.


I believe it is best to plant early in the fall, for many reasons but one in particular and that is it allows more time for growth.  Although it is getting cooler and the leaves are falling off or have fallen off, roots are still functioning.  Soil temperatures are still conducive at 50 degrees for root growth and function, it seldom if ever reaches that temperature.  Rain frequency increases as well along with a reduction in temperature, intense sunlight and prevailing winds.  All of these factors combined allow for the best environment for the longest period of time before the heat comes on.  In addition you should have the tree fertilized, but be careful there are only a few fertilizers that will work.  Those are the actual tree fertilizers (3-1-1), that are organic and slow release like Arbor Green Pro.  The lower the salt index the more friendly it is to the roots.  These fertilizers require professionals with the proper equipment to perform the service because of the difficulty of handling and applying it to the root zone.  It is both economical, affordable and long lasting.


« Previous Entries