Tree Care
9:03pm - 02/Jan/2011
What is tree care?

Plant health care or tree care involves all the different aspects of growing and maintaining healthy woody plants. All plants need certain elements to thrive within its environment. Different species have different requirements, but they must meet the needs of that tree or shrub to thrive. The basic needs consist of light, oxygen and water. Adequate space is also important. The urban environment can be a harsh place to grow trees and shrubs. Trees and shrubs need to be cared for if you expect to get maximum results out of your landscape. A sick or poor quality tree will exist for years, but you may never get the shade or privacy you were hoping for. What happens above ground is dependent on what is happening below ground. A poor root system and poor sterile soil will not support a great tree.

If you want to get the most out of your investment you need to consider the needs of the tree. Typically if a tree is affected by disease or insect problems there is a pre-disposing factor. This means the tree is stressed for some reason and the tree is weak. Pest problems and disease issues will then take advantage of this and move in. Some species are more prone to certain problems then others. As soon as you take a tree out of its natural environment there will be an element of stress. The key is to recreate the environment that tree like to grow. In the best case scenario this is done during the landscape planning. (We will discuss strategies in the tree planting discussion) Keep in mind the certified arborist is usually called after the fact. There are ways to solve landscape problems with tree care practices. If a tree is not getting enough water, irrigation would most likely be the solution. Plant health care starts with a detailed assessment of the trees and shrubs within the landscape. Each species has a specific set of needs, as certified arborists we need to make sure those needs are being met. If a plant for example is not getting enough light the surrounding plants may need to be pruned or removed to create the space needed to get the light.

Compaction is one of the biggest landscape problems. Compaction means the ground or soil has all the air squeezed out of the poor spaces. This is caused by foot traffic in most cases. Just imagine you have a large shade tree in the backyard. The tree is forty years old and the same original soil and grass surround the tree. The kids climb on it and the favorite picnic spot is under it. The continuous foot traffic is compacting the soils. Now because the soils are compacted water will run off versus percolating in to the soil. This is why I recommend watering your trees with a deep root feeder. Gas exchange between the roots of the trees and atmosphere are compromised. This will typically show signs of stress such as a thin crown, small leaves or in some cases dieback. Compaction can be treated through deep root fertilizing or vertical mulching with an air-spade.

Poor soils are also a problem for trees in the urban environment. Lets go back to the tree in the backyard and look at the soils. The same original soil surrounding the tree for forty years. The builder or landscaper most likely installed the minimum amount of soil needed forty years ago. Every year the leaves (organic matter) are scraped away and disposed of. The tree does not have the option to go and find new soil. It has to exist with what was provided. The lack of microbial activity and nutrients within the soils will lead to stress or even decline in some cases. Remember in the forest there is a continuous supply of nutrition. Adding compost, mulch or deep root fertilizing may be needed depending on the situation.
Pests such as insect outbreaks can be a serious problem within the urban forest. Pests tend to come and go depending on weather and temperature patterns. Usually if there is a large number of one species planted close together a pest problem can take place. The European Elm scale outbreak is a perfect example. Responsible pest control can be provided through spraying or injecting in combination with other tree care practices. The Arborest Expert Tree Service Ltd can provide these solutions for your garden.

Space is usually a problem within the urban landscape and typically the wrong tree is in the wrong place. Now that you have invested the time and money into your tree, removing it and replacing it is probably not your first choice. Proactive pruning can avoid the need to remove the tree and start all over again.

Keegan Seward, Certified Arborist, Tree Care Specialist
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