Saturday, April 6, 2013

How to Treat Trees

Trees don't heal...

My summer job of mowing foreclosed lawns has started up. It is not bad job; and I have lots of leeway to take on my more preferred work of designing and installing sustainable landscapes.

The mowing gives me a great chance to get out and see what the rest of the world is doing in their gardens, both the good and the bad. In the case of the poor tree in the photo above, it is definitely bad.

Most people don't think of anything of tying or wrapping something around a tree. They assume because the tree seems tough, it will take it without a problem. But as you see, that is not always the case. In fact, it is rarely true. Even a temporary string put around a tree can cause damage to a thin barked tree if there is any movement.

Lots of damage is done by things that are on the tree for more than a day or two. I can't count the number of times I have tried to pull tree variety tags off of a tree and found that the tree has already grown around the tag. I have no choice but to leave parts of the tags still stuck in the tree. I have had the same problem with professional grade tree ties. These two items are made to be used with trees for a limited period of time, but need to be removed when that time is up.

Now, I am sure there is someone out there that is worried that I am telling them to quit using their hammock between their two favorite trees. And I am not--as long as they have a system to prevent damage and the trees can handle the stress created. This also applies to tree houses.

I can't go into the details of each and every way to protect a tree because there are many systems that are marketed to prevent problems. But here are a list of things to pay attention to:

  • If you are wrapping or tying something around the trunk or a limb, make sure it spreads the pressure across the widest area possible.
  • Wraps and ties are for temporary use only, know when to take them off. The maximum time for any of them is one year, this includes ties for staking trees down. If you don't feel the tree is ready to take the tie off, call in a reliable tree professional to help.
  • If you are going to drill into a tree or puncture its bark in any way, make sure you get something that has a long reputation for safe use with living trees.
  • Be carful getting advice from your hardware store, lawn man, or nursery. Each of these is an expert in their own area, but rarely do they have the long term experience with old trees to give the best advice.
  • The best place to start is with an ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified arborist. Unfortunately, not all of them are as reliable as they should be, so don't be afraid to ask several sources for help, even those outside of the ISA.
And lastly, remember that a good tree is likely to outlive you, so it deserves the same time, expertise, and money that you expect to give anything that is worth keeping for a long time.

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