Tree care is more than you think

Jeff Meagher teaches you about quality care for your trees

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Will topping my tree harm it?

Topping is probably the most harmful tree pruning practice there is. However, despite more than 25 years of explaining its harmful effects, topping remains an all to common practice.

“Topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree branches to stubs or lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal role. Other names for topping include “heading,” “tipping,” “hat-racking,” and “rounding over.”

The most common reason that people give for topping their trees is that they are trying to reduce the size of the tree.  However, even though topping my temporary recuse the size, the the long run it creates a much larger and more hazardous tree than was there before.  When a tree is topped, often times more than fifty percent and i many cases one-hundred percent of the trees foliage is removed.  Since the foliage is the evergy factory of a tree, when it is all cut off the tree goes into shock.

As a result of the shock the tree is going to do whatever it takes to keep alive and will use it stored energy to react and push out new foliage as soon as possible.  When the new folliage appears it is most often in the form of many water sprouts right below where the topping cut was made.  Since the tree needs leaves fast to produce energy, these water sprouts are skinny and grow very fast, without any good attachement to to tree.

When this happens, the tree becomes much less aesthetically pleasing, and because of the amount of those water sprouts and their poor attachment to the tree, they have a high likelihood of breaking out and hurting someone, or causing property damage.  In the case where the tree doesn’t have adequate reserves stored, the tree isn’t able to survive the shock and the tree will the die and have to be removed.

Lastly, topping offers a great opportunity to attack the tree, or for the tree to become very susceptible to decay.  When the tree is already in shock from the topping, and has many large open wounds, it is doing everything it can just to stay alive.  If bugs move in, or decay starts to take place the tree will have to energy to fight of such things

Remember, DO NOT top trees.  If they are to large for your liking contact a certified arborist and see what they can do for you.



There is a large branch stuck in my tree, what should I do?

Well the wind storm has passed and either your tree made it through damage free, or it did not.  Most of you will be in the first category, however a few of you may have walked outside, looked up into your tree, only to find a large branch that broke out and is now stuck in your tree.  For most people this is a very scary realization, and it should be.  These kinds of situations are very dangerous and can be very overwhelming for most homeowners to deal with, especially if they feel their family and/or property is in danger.

If you find yourself in a situation like this the first thing you should do is make sure that you don’t enter underneath your tree, and make sure to keep all others including pets clear as well.  Next you should call a professional.  In most cases, such as in my other blogs I would say that professional simply should be an ISA certified arborist, however in this case they need to be an ISA certified arborist trained for hazard situations as well.

Large limbs commonly refereed to as hangers or widow makers (yes it is as it sounds, they are that dangerous) are something that not all ISA certified arborists are qualified and/or equipped to handle.  Hangers pose a serious threat and often require advance rigging techniques involving many ropes, pulleys , and cuts to safely remove the hanger from the tree.  In these situations it is also important to understand the strength and health of the tree, which is why once again you should contract with a certified arborist for the job, no just someone with the equipment who claims they know what they are doing.

When consulting with a potential arborist to contract the job to be sure that they are experience/equipped to handle the situation, as well as that they are licensed, bonded, and insured.  These situations are very risky and there is a lot that is not in the arborists control so you want to make sure that if something does go wrong you have a professional who has the proper coverage so you and your property will be covered.

Lastly, be sure not to attempt to remove the hanger yourself.  As I stated earlier these situations are very dangerous and highly unpredictable.  They require lots of knowledge and experience to know how to handle them safely, as well as a vast array of equipment and personnel.  As tempting as it may be to pull out your chainsaw, and climb up on a ladder, DO NOT DO IT!  I hear about someone doing this for tasks much more simple than removing a hanger, almost weekly and it always ends the same, they had to go to the hospital.  No matter what an certified Arborist charges to remove the hanger it will most certainly be cheaper than a hospital bill for chainsaw lacerations and broken bones.  On top of that you will have the peace of mind knowing that the job will be done safely and effectively.

So if you ever find yourself in this unfortunate circumstance, don’t view it as such a bad thing, be happy that you get to see in my neon yellow helmet at your doorstep ready to safely mitigate the problem.

Until next time,


Photo Credit: Here, Here, Here

WIll my tree break in the wind?

As promised in my last blog post Should I be worried about my tree blowing over in the wind, today were going to talk about tree failure/breakage due to wind.  Unfortunately this is a much more likely thing to happen than your tree blowing over, and often times is a much more hazardous thing as well.  When the tree can not take the forces generated by the wind it can fail in many places, and is very hard to predict where those places will be.

That being said, one place that you can look for signs of failure is at branch unions or what is commonly refereed to as a crotch.  A strong crotch is usually “U” shaped, and in exclusive meaning the bark in the middle of it is pushed upwards and looks like a stegosaurus spine.  This is in contrast to a weak crotch that is usually “V” shaped and in inclusive, meaning the bark goes inward making a very small groove.

The next thing that you can look for is if your tree is in proper shape or if it needs to be pruned.  When there are branches that hang way outside the main shape of the tree they are more likely to get caught by the wind and break off, so they may be candidates for removal.  Next, if the tree has lots of dead wood, that needs to be removed as dead wood is more likely to break out than live wood, and dead wood also  can decay creating a weak are in the tree that can fail in the wind.

Contrary to popular belief, one thing you don’t want to do is heavily thin (not to be confused with crown clean) your trees thinking that it will allow the wind to pass through them better.  Trees rely on interior branches for support, so that the tree may move as a whole instead of individual branches getting blown around.  When a tree is heavily thinned a process called harmonic resonance is much more likely to take place.

Harmonic resonance occurs when the wind blows on a branch then backs off allowing the branch to spring back, then blows on it again, and the whole process repeats.  It is like a kid on a sing, each time you push, the kid goes out, and comes back a little further than they did the time before, without you pushing them any harder.  On the sing, eventually the kid will jump out and off, however in a tree this will take place until either the wind stops or the tree branch fails.

However outside of conifers trees that grow in the open will reach horizontally until they fail under their own weight, as well as being more susceptible to wind damage. A crown reduction that redistributes the crown from outside to the inside,  and closer to the tree’s center of gravity can produce better aerodynamic symmetry, thus increasing the trees resistance to extreme winds and snow loads.

When the weather hits and the winds begin to blow, keep an eye on trees and be sure to contact your local certified arborist if you are at all concerned about your trees integrity.


Photo Credit Here and Here

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Should I be worried about my tree falling over in the wind?

Well after many months of waiting Mother Nature may finally deliver and winter may be arriving.  The National Weather Service is calling for snow in the middle of the week and has issued a high wind warning for tomorrow Sunday the fifteenth.  As the wind starts to blow, and the trees begin to sway, the question in many people’s minds becomes will my trees blow over in the strong winds.

Although not unheard of, trees blowing over as a result of the wind is not a very common thing and is usually associated to something else as well.  One thing that can make a tree more susceptible to blowing over in the wind is if the soil that surrounds it suddenly becomes super saturated.  When this happens the roots can no longer get the same holding power from the soil that it has become accustomed to, and can no longer take the wind that it usually can.

When we talk about this happening, it is not something like a hose getting left on, soil that get saturated enough for this to happen are the result of many days of heavy rain, or a burst water pipe or something of that nature.  The signs will be very obvious because the soil will be soft, squishy and often mudy all around the base of the tree.

Another sign to look for when worried about a tree falling over is the lifting of the soil and roots around the tree as the tree blowing in the wind.  This condition, “soil breathing” as I call it, is a tell tale sign of root failure and means that the soil that the roots are in has been separated  from the soil around it and then becomes much more likely of falling.  Outside of these few signs, there are not many signals that you tree might blow over, and really isn’t that likely, although not impossible.  What is more likely to happen in the wind is tree failure in the canopy or worse yet a scaffold failure in major branch structure, but we’ll talk about that more in depth tomorrow.

No matter what happens, if you are concerned at all about your tree be sure to contact a certified arborist near you.


Photo Credit Here and Here

Isnt tree climbing dangerous?

As a tree climber this is a question that I am constantly asked from both people who watch me climb as well as by people who simply hear in social settings that I am a tree climber.  As much as I would love to have some elaborate answer to this there isn’t one.  The answer is simple, yes, it is dangerous.  No matter which way you spin it, this job contains some inherent risk, anytime your running a chain saw, climbing in a tree, or running a chain saw in a tree, you are putting yourself at risk.

However, something that I like to point out to people is that driving down the road is also dangerous.  Now I am sure that your thinking, well of course it is, but no where near as dangerous as hanging off the side of a tree with a chain saw is.  You would be correct with this response but my point is that there are lots of things in life that come with danger.  Maybe not as dangerous as tree climbing, but they are still dangerous and you continue to do them.

Tree climbing is the way i make my living and something that i love dearly.  Sure it is dangerous, but when done properly it is not nearly as dangerous as one would think.  In this business there are many people who like to cut corners and would put that themselves at incredibly more risk than needed simply because they are lazy.  Tree climbing can be a safe thing to do if proper safety precautions are followed.

When I am in a tree, or have one of my guys up in a tree I am a stickler for safety.  I stress that safety is the number one thing and that there is no excuse to do anything that is unsafe.  As a quality tree care professional I maintain the highest safety standards without sacrificing the quality of the tree care.

So the next time that you see someone working up and a tree and think that he must be crazy and not care about his life to be up there remember that yes it is dangerous, but when done properly it can be much safer than you would guess.


How much does it cost to remove a tree?

This is one of the most common questions that I get asked from people.  It doesn’t matter whether I have seen the tree or not people want me to tell them how much it cost to remove a tree.  However there is no clear answer to this, and there never will be.  Every tree is different, and therefore each one of them will cost a different amount to remove.

There are many things that go into removing a tree and all of them will directly effect the amount that it cost to have it done.  Things like how big is the tree, is the tree alive or dead, where the tree is in relationship to buildings, how much of it over hangs the building, if it will have to be climbed and pieced apart, will a crane be needed, can stuff be dropped straight to the round or will it all have to be lowered down on ropes, and what the access is to the tree among many other things all will be determinate of how much it will cost to have it removed.

In the urban environment trees often are planted in very tight spots, and are allowed to grow very large right next to, and over things such as your house or other buildings.  When this is the case, a climber will have to climb up into the tree then use chainsaws and ropes to precisely take the tree apart piece by piece.  There is a lot of skill and experience involved with this type of removal, and always inherent risk to all involved in the removal process as well is to the valuable structures below.

Although tree removal can be a costly thing, when looking to have a tree removed focusing on price alone is a poor choice. As I just stated, when removing a tree there is a lot on the line.  This being the case, it is imperative that you hires someone who is very qualified to do the work. Sure there are guys who you can find in the classifieds who claim they can do the work, and will do it for a lower cost then a legitimate tree care company, but most of the time they carry no insurance, and they don’t have the skills that are truely required to do the work.

If your serious about having a tree removed, contact your local certified arborist and have them come out an take a look at it.  Ask them to see copies of their insurance, and ask them if they can provide you with references to some clients who they have done tree removals from in the past.  If they can not provide either of these two things you should surly walk away.  If a tree is overhanging your house endangering both your house and your family, do you really think that during its removal is the time to save a few dollars? No.  Tree removal is a very dangerous operation requiring lots of skill and experience, so make sure that you find a qualified company.

Good luck, and once you have found a qualified company to remove that tree, be sure to have your cameras ready when they come to take it down, its like nothing you have ever seen before.



Should I water my trees in the winter?

With the warm temperatures and lack of snow here in Northern Nevada it is hard to believe its winter.  As I’m sure most of you are, I continue to hope for snow and wish things would return to the record setting snowfall that we experienced a year ago.  Last year it seemed that we got snow almost every other day, so one would naturally assume that with a winter like that you wouldn’t need to water your trees at all.

However, even before the snow melted the calls started coming in from clients who were experiencing sick trees.  At first we didn’t think anything about all the calls, and didn’t put two and two together, but before long the arborists on staff began to connect the dots; all the sick trees were as a result of a lack of water all winter.  We found that many people never even thought about watering their trees especially with all the snow they watched fall all winter.

Now here we are a year later, and there is not only no snow here in Reno, but there isn’t any snow to speak of in the mountains either.  Combine that with the warm temperatures of late and not manually watering your trees for many months and you are sure to have some tree problems come spring.

A good rule of thumb that we like to tell our clients is that every fall when you shut off all the automatic watering systems in your yard, start watering your trees with a hose on all the holidays.  During the winter time it seems that we get a holiday anywhere from every two to four weeks, and it happens to be a good schedule for watering your trees.  As far as for how long and how high to have the hose up the, that is going to very from tree to tree.  The bigger the tree the more water it is going to need.  The harder, and more clay like the soil around your tree is, the slower and longer you should water you trees.  The softer, and more sandy the soil around your tree, the shorter and faster you can leave the hose on.

Also, during the winter it is best to water your trees in the late mornings and afternoons.  During this time the soil has warmed up enough so that it can absorb the water and gives the water enough time to sink in so that it doesn’t freeze once the cold air of the night returns.  If you are having trouble getting the water to absorb into the soil, consider getting yourself a ross root feeder to get the water down deep.  Lastly, If you have any questions about the health of your tree or how much to water it make sure to contact a certified arborist near your.

Take care and remember your trees even when its cold outside.


Why are you cutting down that tree?

As an arborist working in an urban environment, this is a questio0n that I have become very accustomed to answering.  People love trees, and are never very happy to see them cut down.  I understand this; trees provide a lot of benefits such as shade and beauty, however, they can also cause a lot of problems and even become very hazardous.

I believe that tree removal should be the last resort, but in many circumstances it is a necessary part of urban forestry.  Trees can damage property, they can out-grow the spot they were planted in, and like people trees eventually will come to the end of their life and when they do they often become hazardous.  When all other options have been pursued with no success, it is time for a tree to be removed.

During a tree removal I often experience people who are very unhappy that the tree is being removed.  However, usually once I take the time to talk with someone who is unhappy about the removal, they realize that there was a good reason to cut the tree down.  In this area there are typically only two reason that we remove a tree: the tree is dead, or it was planted in the wrong place for that tree.Both of these reasons are easily avoidable with a little awareness and the proper care.

So the next time you are thinking about where you are going to plant a tree, or if you are concerned about the health of you tree contact a certified arborist sooner rather than later.  The sooner you address your tree problem, whether that is a sick tree that needs help, or a tree that needs to be pruned for whatever reason it may need it, the sooner you take care of it the better, and a certified arborist in your area is your best resource to take care of those problems as soon as possible.

What tree should I plant in my yard?

This past weekend I was in Santa Cruz California spending a few hours at the ocean before heading home after being in San Jose for a hockey game.  Now most people would have been focused on the ocean, and the shops, however for myself, I was focused on the trees.  This happens to me no matter where I go, I just can’t stop looking at the trees, especially not the big ones right on the coast.  As an arborist I am constantly evaluating trees, looking at their health, species, care, ect.  In doing this there was something that really stuck out to me; there were no dead trees anywhere, and didn’t see one tree that was in a bad placement.  Now I didn’t come anywhere close to walking around the whole town, but as a professional who deals with these two problems on a day-to-day basis, I found this to be very odd.

I have though alot about this today, and I can attribute the lack of dead trees to the fact that the environment we were in is about the best it can be for trees, being that they get lots of water and nutrients and there is usually lots of space for them to grow; but that lack of trees in bad places blew my mind.  Here in Reno, trees in the wrong place are all over the place.  When the housing boom was going off trees were getting put in the worst places they could just because they wanted to add value to the houses and no one contacted an arborist about what to place where.

When considering what tree to place where, the best thing you can do is contact a certified arborist and have them come out and take a look at the spot your trying to plant a tree in.  They can help you to get the best tree for the job; something that will last a long time without causing problems.  However, here are a few things too keep in mind for yourself when selecting a tree.

The first thing you want to consider is what your space limitations are.  As you might imagine, you aren’t going to plant the same tree in every spot, and there are options of all size trees out there.  Next you want to consider your climate and soil type.  A tree that does well in the wet, rich soil of the Pacific Northwest isn’t going to do well in the dry sandy/clay soil that we have here in Northern Nevada, especially with howt dry our area can be (IE this year).  And lastly keep in mind what kind of tree you want aesthetically.  This one is all about personal preference.  Do you like leaves?  Maybe you would prefer needles?  Do you like tall skinny trees, or more of a wide shorter tree?

No matter what you do, consider these few things then start looking at some trees.  Once you have some tree ideas in mind, go ahead and contact a certified arborist.  They may have some more ideas for you and will be able to tell you if the tree of your choice is right for the spot you picked.  If your not sure why you need a certified arborist click the link below to look at my previous post.

Good Luck,


Should I hire a certified arborist to care for my trees?

Should I hire a certified arborist to care for my trees?

Although we don’t have any snow here in Northern Nevada, its winter time and your trees are probably the furthest thing from your mind.  However eventually you walk out your door and something will catch your eye.  It may be after the next wind storm when you notice a large branch that has broken off and is now stuck in another branch overhanging you house, or maybe it will be a month from now when your tree is still hanging onto its leaves are you are worried that something might be wrong with it.  When that happens you will be poised with the decision of whether or not to hire a certified arborist to help you with your tree care needs.

Certified Arborists are individuals who have achieved a level of knowledge in the art and science of tree care through experience and by passing a comprehensive examination developed by some of the nation’s leading experts on tree care. Certified Arborists must also continue their education to maintain their certification and adhere to a Code of Ethics. Therefore, they are more likely to be up to date on the latest techniques in arboriculture.

Quality tree care is something that can provide substantial returns and is something that should not be taken lightly.  A properly maintained tree can add substantial value to you property and bring a lifetime of happiness to many.  However, a tree that is neglected or worse yet, incorrectly cared for can become a very serious hazard as well as an unsightly eyesore.  When you hire a certified arborist you can guarantee that your tree care will be of the latest techniques and developments as well as done in the safest way possible. Tree care can be a very dangerous job and should only be preformed by those trained to work under such conditions, something that a certified arborist is likely to be.

A certified arborist is well versed in all types of tree care.  They know how to properly prune trees, and what type of pruning should be done to each tree.  They know how to safely and efficiently climb into trees and use ropes and other equipment to carefully remove trees piece by piece whether they are clear of obstacles or hanging over something very valuable such as your house.  They are experienced in the planting and establishment of new trees and will chose the correct tree for the placement and the environment that you are looking to plant a tree in.  However, their biggest skill is their knowledge of tree health and their ability to diagnose your tree problems.  Unlike a doctor working on a patient, an arborist isn’t able to talk to the trees to find out what is wrong with them.  Instead they must rely on knowledge and experience to look for signs that might lead them to the answer of the trees problems.

If there was something wrong with you or a member of your family you would look to a professional doctor, just the same if something is wrong with your trees you should hire a certified arborist.  They have the most current information on quality tree care, and are guaranteed to be will educated in tree care.  So the next time you have a tree care need be sure to visit the ISA website and find yourself a certified arborist in your local area.

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