Thursday, September 20, 2012

How do trees go from healthy to hazardous?

To continue with my series on healthy trees, I've compiled a list of reasons why your trees may go from healthy and beautiful or hazardous and on the verge of removal.  Here's my top 10 reasons why trees become hazardous.  Here is a list of what NOT to do when it comes to tree planting and care.

1. Lack of Knowledge of Trees
Most people don’t know as much about trees as they think they do. There are still a lot of myths out there about trees, such as how deep root systems go (not very), whether you should use wound paint after pruning (no), or that you should make pruning cuts flush with the trunk of the tree (NOT!). The fact that you are reading this post shows that you’re taking the initiative to learn more about the trees in your yard. Congratulations, you're on your way to healthier trees!

2. Lack of Concern for Trees
Some people don’t care about trees. They think trees get in the way. They don’t realize that we couldn’t even live on this planet if it weren’t for trees. People that lack concern for trees often make mistakes around them that contributes to the decline or death of trees. For example, you need to take care when you remodel or start a construction project at home.  Need a new sidewalk for example? The placement of the sidewalk is crucial if there are nearby trees and the construction work to put in the sidewalk could damage roots, or the trees' root system will eventually damage the sidewalk.  If people who work around trees aren't concerned about the impacts of their work, that is what can happen. If you appreciate the benefits we get from trees, spread the word to others!

3.  Lack of Space for Trees
When someone plants a tree, they often think of the tree in terms of the size it is at that time rather than how big the tree will be when it matures. Very often we find the wrong tree planted in the wrong place, so the tree doesn’t have enough room to grow properly. This competition for space often results in a tree that comes in conflict with sidewalks, utility lines, buildings, or other structures. And the tree often loses. When planting a tree, think ahead!

4.  Automobiles
Cars can do a lot of damage to trees, either by wounding the trunk by running into them, or by compacting the soil by being parked on top of the tree’s root system. People like to park underneath trees on hot summer days because it keeps their car cooler. It doesn’t usually do much for the tree though. Tree roots need good soil, oxygen, and water to survive and grow. Do your tree a favor; keep the cars away from it!

5.  Improper Planting
Trees in the home landscape often get planted incorrectly. Improperly planting a tree gets it started in life on the wrong root. If a tree is planted too deep or too shallow, in poor soil conditions, or without a big enough planting hole, it will never grow into a normal, healthy tree. For example, if you buy a tree with twine string holding the burlap around the root ball, then you must remove it when planting the tree. If not, ultimately, this will strangle the tree and kill it. Proper planting techniques are important to give trees a good start in the landscape.

6.  Lack of Aftercare
Some people think they can just plant a tree and walk away and let the tree grow by itself. Neglect of newly planted trees will cause them to struggle and not grow properly. Mulch, watering, and protection from lawnmowers are important in order for a new tree to survive and thrive. Not every tree needs to be staked, so contact your local arborist for help.  Trees "R" Us, Inc. has 4 arborists on staff to help you with these kinds of issues, so call us. We are here to help you!

7.  Too Little or Too Much Water
Most people associate young dead trees with too little water, but too much water is equally damaging. With excess water roots will suffocate; without water most roots dry out and die. Trees in lawn areas often get too much water because trees and grass have different watering requirements.

8.  Improper Pruning
Tree pruning is both an art and a science, and quite frankly, some people flunked both of those subjects. Flush cuts (picture at left) and excessive pruning are types of mistakes that lead to tree decline and death. Cutting the branch too close removes hormones that the tree needs to seal off the pruning cut. An improperly pruned tree is subject to insect and disease problems and decay formation.

9.  Topping
Topping, the indiscriminate removal of much of a tree’s canopy, is a sure-fire way to create hazardous trees. Topping violates most commonly accepted methods of proper pruning; it is an assault on the health and beauty of your tree, and a topped tree is much more likely to break apart during a storm than a tree with a natural growth pattern.

10.  Construction Damage
Building a new home or an addition, putting in a new driveway or sidewalk, or trenching for utilities are all common construction activities that can put trees at risk. Severing roots, changing the grade of the ground, and other root zone incursions usually lead to the decline and death of mature trees. Although this damage sometimes doesn’t appear until several years after construction, damage to tree roots is the number one killer of trees in the home landscape.

Check back tomorrow for additional information on this series about healthy vs. hazardous trees.

What you do to keep a tree healthy today may prevent it from becoming a hazardous tree tomorrow. So now that you know what it takes to make trees hazardous, you also know what it takes to keep them healthy and safe. The best advice I can give you is leave it to the pros. Have a professional tree service come out at least once a year to assess your trees and plants.  They can help ensure that your plants and trees will remain healthy for the years to come and thereby protect the investment you've made in your trees, in cooling your home, in keeping your family healthy and in having your yard and home look beautiful.

Trees "R" Us, Inc. offers tree and plant health care as well as a highly knowledgeable staff that includes 4 certified arborists.  When you choose Trees "R" Us, Inc. you can rest assured that you've made the right choice for your tree care, tree maintenance, and plant health care needs.  Trees "R" Us, Inc. services the North Shore and the Northwest suburbs of Chicago.  You can contact Trees "R" Us, Inc. via the web at or by phone at 847-913-9069.

Thanks for reading, 

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