Say “Yes” to Tree Care
By Jennifer Hitchcock, M.S.
Independent ISA Certified Arborist
Being an arborist in several states I have observed different ways people approach tree care. Up North in the Midwest and Northeast tree care is imperative. You have more people living close together and no power after a storm in winter is devastating. Most people have a professional certified arborist evaluate their trees on a yearly basis. Residents can make minor changes in their tree program, see results, and change accordingly as trees respond according to their environment each year. More than ever weather is not predictable. It’s changing. We have seen warmer winters up North and cooler winters down South. With the mix of rain and snow and wind patterns it ends up in more storm damage in unlikely places.
The Central Florida landscapes have several trees that are short lived. The first rule of tree care is to know what type of tree(s) is on your property. Larger trees of concern are mostly oak varieties; Laurel, Live, Water, and Shumard oaks. In our natural areas you will see more live oaks which are the best bet in a storm due to its genetics of developing strong wood and branching structure. At one point in our rapid population growth about 50 years ago many laurel oaks were planted. They are faster growing and developed shade in 10 years or less. Unfortunately, these are the majority of our street trees and landscape trees we see now having problems in storms and poor competitive leader growth in its canopy. Many branches come off in a storm if the tree does to not have a primary central leader. In the end no or improper pruning can develop more decay from injury after a storm.
It is important residents start looking at maintenance for trees the same as their house. Maintenance is required for trees. If we can look at our Northern cities as an example, hiring a professional certified ISA (International Society Arboriculture) arborist either working as an independent consultant or hired with a tree care provider is the best way to prevent damage. You can prune younger trees to develop a good structure for a well developed long-term tree in an urban landscape and maintain larger trees for specific needs including storms. The best compliment a qualified arborist can receive is “my tree doesn’t look touched” after a proper pruning takes place. The idea of taking out large limbs to show proof of pruning is unacceptable. Trees cannot grow back limbs and becomes very stressful in removing large amounts of branches which provide food for the tree.
How often should we prune? A general rule for Younger trees is every 1-3 years. They need directional pruning or subordinate pruning to develop great structure. Older trees are about every 5 years in maintenance of pruning to sustain health. It happens way too often when a storm comes through and affects one person and not the other. We don’t know when a storm can hit or if it will do any damage. However, after a storm shade is lost and most likely the damage has permanent repercussions in putting the tree into a disadvantage of shortening its lifespan. How can we prevent damage? Evaluate your trees. Hire the right tree company with certified arborists on staff. Ask about their experience. Not everyone with a chainsaw that can climb trees make good cuts. Don’t thin your trees just for the scare from a storm; hire an arborist to know how to prune for hurricane preparedness depending on the type of tree you have. The location of the cut and how you cut a tree makes or breaks whether the tree does well in a storm or will live a long time. Topping is a no-no. If you don’t prune correctly your tree can still endure damage under abnormal winds.
How about public trees in the right-of-way belonging to the city or county? City of Orlando has a great group of arborists that offer to evaluate trees on your private property or maintain/remove trees in public areas between sidewalks and streets. Although the city or county knows about specific trees on “watch”, residents can call in when a tree looks hazardous.
There are many benefits of knowing what type of tree you have and its current conditions. Friends and family say I never stop working. If you start appreciating trees and looking “up” more often (like when walking on the sidewalk or parking your car on the street) most likely you would recognize what trees not to stand or park under and which trees you would sit under to have a picnic.