Sunday, April 27, 2014

Healthy Trees, Happy Earth

We often don't realize how beneficial trees are to our surroundings.  They give us back our investment 10 fold in a variety of ways. However, what we often overlook is that there are many activities that take place around trees that can potentially cause adverse impacts. These can include lawn mowers, installation of any underground utilities, including irrigation systems, constructing a new sidewalk, driveway, patio, or street, or even adding on another room to your home.  If you have an injured tree it can cost a lot of money to have it removed, not to mention a significant and probably undesirable change to their landscape.

It's up to you to try to protect your tree. Construction activities are one of the primary causes of preventable tree damage. Do your part to protect your investment from these type of hazards. 

Here are the most common mistakes people make when working around trees;

• Cutting into the roots – Tree roots need to be protected from damage from construction activities. Installing cable television wires or other underground utilities, sidewalk repair, curb construction, and other similar activities can have negative impacts on the root system. The result of trenching through a root system is a decline in the tree's ability to sustain itself.

• Paving too much of the tree's dripline – Tree roots need access to oxygen and water. If too much of the dripline (the area where the tree's crown extends outward from the trunk) is paved, the tree will suffer.

• Re-grading – Because tree roots need oxygen, changing the grade, or ground level around a tree, is very detrimental since the compaction of added soil levels put the roots further from the surface. If you are re-grading a lawn or landscaped area, don't pile up excess soil around the tree.

If you can work around your trees and successfully avoid these three adverse impacts, your tree should remain a healthy part of your landscape for years to come.

Trees "R" Us, Inc. is a professional tree service in the Chicagoland area.  We service the north shore, north suburbs and northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Trees "R" Us, Inc. has 4 certified arborists on staff ready to assess your plants and tree care needs in a timely manner.  Our services include tree trimming, pruning, stump grinding, emergency tree services, tree removal, cabling and bracing, fertilization and plant health care.

Trees "R" Us, Inc. can be contacted at 847-913-9069 or through our online forms at


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Earth Day and Arbor Day - How are You Doing Your Part?

It's going to be a great week! Earth Day and Arbor Day are this week. Show your commitment to supporting the environment, Earth and nature this week. There are so many ways to show your support and commitment that it is hard to narrow it down to a manageable list for just one blog post. So here are just a few of our favorite things you can do to show Mother Nature just how much you care and lessen your footprint on the Earth. A healthy ecosystem is a key factor in making sure our Earth is a safe and abundant for generations to come. And remember, even small actions can have a big impact, especially when you are not the only one doing them, so share this with your friends and family.
  • Pick up litter
  • Recycle
  • Turn off the water when you brush your teeth
  • Switch to online bill payments
  • Use public transportation
  • Turn down your water heater
  • Install energy efficient lights. 
  • Get people to take action with you
  • Plant a tree
  • Take a hike with a group of friends
  • Adopt and care for street trees
  • Buy tree seedlings to give away to others
  • Upcycle your tree clippings
Got anything to add to the list? Please write them in the comments! We'd love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading,

Jenni Willis
Trees "R" Us, Inc.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

12 Tips to Get Your Tree Planted the Right Way

Do the Right Thing: Planting Your Tree

Have you thought about the type of tree you're planting and the environment you're planting it in? Knowing how to get the trees into the ground is not as easy as it looks and in many cases will require the help of a professional tree service.

If you are going to attempt the tree planting yourself, then follow these 12 planting tips and remember to seek the advice of a professional if you stumble along the way.


1. Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and slightly shallower than the root ball. This technique puts the aerated backfill soil where the new roots will grow and leaves a base of naturally firm soil for the root ball to rest on, which won't settle when watered. Some cities may require that you use a root barrier to prevent roots from pushing up the sidewalk or a cage to keep gophers out. If this is the case in your city, the size and shape of the device will determine the dimensions of the hole.

2. Avoid the clay-pot syndrome. Roughen the sides and bottom of your planting hole with a pick or shovel so that root tips can penetrate the native soil. Smooth walls are like cement to root tips.

3. If you are using potted trees, be gentle but firm when removing the container. Making sure to protect the foliage, lay the tree on its side with the container end near the planting hole. Hit the bottom and sides of the container until the root ball is loosened. If the container is metal, use cutters to snip it from top to bottom.

4. Check the root ball for circling roots. If circling roots are left in place, they will continue to enlarge in that pattern after the tree has been planted. Gently separate them, shorten exceptionally long roots, and guide them downward or outward. If roots are severely circled or kinked near the trunk, get another plant. Remember that the tiny root tips that absorb water and minerals for the tree die off quickly when exposed to light and air, so don't waste time.

5. Don't cover the root crown with soil. If soil is added above the crown, which is the place where the roots end and the trunk begins, it will lead to rot at the base of the trunk. Aim to have the top of the root ball about to 1/2 to 1 inch above the surrounding soil surface, making sure not to cover it with soil unless roots are exposed. Check the height of the root crown by laying a straight piece of wood across the top of the hole. Adjust the height by lifting the tree out of the hole (lift it by the root ball, not by the trunk) and adjusting the soil level in the planting hole.

6. Orient the tree while you have the chance. If the tree has a preferred side, turn it toward a prominent viewpoint (such as your kitchen window). If it's lopsided, turn the side with more foliage toward the prevailing wind. This will encourage the other side to catch up. In sunny, arid climates, orient the tree so that the best-shaded side of the trunk faces southwest. Sunburn can kill the cambium, weakening the tree and disfiguring the trunk and bark. When turning the tree, lift it from the base of the root ball, not from the base of the trunk.

7. Sight it upright! Once the tree is in the hole, stand back and make sure it's standing upright. Tilt the root ball until the tree is straight, then backfill firmly under and around the root ball.

8. Give your soil a boost. Though the latest trend in tree planting is not to add amendment to the backfill soil, there are instances when it can be useful. If your native soil is hard to work with (heavy clay) or retains little moisture (very sandy), you can treat it to some organic amendment. The amendment won't be a permanent solution to soil deficiencies, but it will help retain water and air in the soil around the root ball for the first few vital years. If adding soil amendment, always mix it with soil from the planting site; about one part amendment to three parts native soil is a good proportion for backfill soil. Some professionals also recommend putting slow release fertilizer tablets in the hole at this time.

9. Tamp the soil as you backfill. Using the heel of your foot, press down firmly to collapse any large air pockets in the soil. This will help stabilize the tree in the hole. Don't wait until the planting is finished; press down every few shovels of soil. Yes, you can tamp too much; excessive pressure (especially in clay soils) will reduce the soil porosity, which is essential for healthy root growth. As usual with trees (and most living things), practice moderation.

10. Get it wet! Build a temporary watering basin around the root hall to encourage water penetration. A tree that has a dry root ball can stand in a moist backfill without absorbing water! Water thoroughly after planting.

11. Stake well! Remove the square wooden nursery stake after planting. Stake the tree loosely for protection or support if needed. If the stem can't stand up on its own, stake it so that it stands upright. Plan to remove stakes as soon as the tree can support itself, in six to twelve months.

12. Mulch it! Cover the entire planting area, except a small circle at the base of the trunk, to a depth of 2 to 4 inches with bark, wood chips, old sawdust, pine needles, leaves, or gravel. Mulch keeps the topsoil temperate for root growth, reduces surface evaporation of water, provides nutrients to feed the tree, and slows weed and grass growth around the tree's base. For plantings along a street or sidewalk, concrete or decomposed granite will act as mulch, but you must allow an open area for air and water exchange.

For more tree planting and tree care tips, follow our blog and check out our Facebook page:

Thanks for reading,

Jenni Willis,
President and CEO
Trees "R" Us, Inc.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

5 Must-Do Tree Care Tips for April

April is the ideal time to get on top of your tree care. After the long hard winter, your trees likely have been neglected and it is time to pay them more attention to gear up for the summer months ahead. 

Here are 5 simple, but essential tree care tips. Remember, your trees are an investment. So, keep them healthy and they will pay you back ten-fold. 

Tip 1. Planting and Moving

• If you live in one of the colder regions of the US, then early in the month, you should still be able to move and plant evergreen trees and shrubs, barring any unusual hot spells and providing the soil is not waterlogged from rapid snow melts or rainfall. These trees and shrubs are will do well when moved or planted after they are actively growing and when there is less risk of cold temperatures or long cold snaps. In warmer regions of the US, we recommend waiting until the fall. In April in the warmer regions the weather will soon turn warm and dry, so the plants will have trouble establishing hence effecting their overall health and change of survival.

• In colder regions of the US, you can also still plant container-grown deciduous hedging plants, shrubs, trees and climbers. We recommend the use of stakes and rabbit guards. Use these at the time of planting to prevent damage to the rootball and bark. As the weather becomes warmer and often times dryer too, watering and establishment could become problematic. If you can, we suggest waiting until the fall to plant. October is a great month for those in the colder regions to plant. 

Tip #2 - Mulch and Fertilizer

• Now is a great time to mulch rose and shrub beds with 2-3 inches of organic matter. This will help retain moisture during dry spells, reduce weed build-up and over time improve soil structure. Pay particular attention to your rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, Be meticulous with your mulch around these plants as flowering is impaired if they are allowed to dry out during late summer.

• Don't forget to fertilize as well. Feed trees, shrubs and hedges with a balanced fertilizer, sprinkling it over the root area before hoeing into the soil surface. This will particularly benefit young, weak, damaged or heavily pruned plants.

Tip #3 - Pruning and Training

• If not completed last month or before, winter-stemmed shrubs such as Salix and Cornus can still be cut back at the beginning of the month. Prune back hard all the previous year's growth to within 1/2 to 3/4  inch of the framework.

• Other shrubs that are routinely cut back hard in spring, to keep their larger or more brightly colored juvenile foliage – such as smokebushes (Cotinus) and elders (Sambucus), can be cut back this month. You can leave a couple of branches un-pruned if you are reluctant to lose all the height gained last year.

• Delay pruning spring-flowering shrubs such as forsythia and Chaenomeles until after they have finished flowering, otherwise this year's display will be lost.

• Remove any frost damaged shoots from evergreens damaged by earlier cold weather.

• Remove any reverted green shoots on hardy variegated evergreens, to prevent reversion taking over.

• Lightly cut back lavenders to prevent them getting too leggy and woody. Treat Helichrysum (curry plant) and Santolina (cotton lavender) similarly.

• Loosen any tree ties that are digging into the bark, or could do so soon as the trunk girth expands.

• Twining climbers (such as honeysuckle and clematis) need regular tying in and twining around their supports.

• Tie in climbing and rambling roses as near to horizontal as possible. This will restrict sap flow, causing more sideshoots to grow along the length of stem, and so producing more flowers.

Tip #4 - Propagation

• Check hardwood cuttings taken last year. They may need planting out or potting on.

• Take cuttings of your favourite conifers.

• Layering is a good way to propagate climbers and lax-stemmed shrubs. Layers should root by next spring, especially if attention to watering is given during dry weather. Examples to try include Philadelphus, Forsythia, Hydrangea and Lonicera.

Tip #5 - Watch for Pests and Diseases

• Bracket fungus on trees is more visible at this time of year. If the tree is in poor health it is worth calling in a tree surgeon for a professional opinion.

• Phytophthora root rots can cause die back on mature trees and shrubs. Wet winter weather and poorly drained soils are likely to encourage this problem on susceptible woody plants.

• Check for damage or cankers on deciduous trees.

• Be aware that insects emerge as temperatures rise. Caterpillars, aphids, and other fly pests may all become problematic during mild spells. Early infestations can often be managed by hand removal, making insecticides unnecessary.

• Put rabbit guards around newly planted trees and shrubs to protect the bark.

• Avoid planting new roses in areas where roses were previously growing otherwise the new plants may suffer from replant disease.

• Inspect sick-looking box and holly trees for signs of blight.

Follow these simple steps and you'll be giving your trees and shrubs the best start to the 2014 growing season. Stay tuned for more tips and check back in May for our list of May tree care tips. Until then, take special care of your trees!

Thanks for reading,
Jenni Willis
President and CEO
Trees R Us, Inc.