Almstead Tree & Shrub Care Blog

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lion's Tailing

En route to an early appointment, I couldn’t help but notice this “pruning” job along the way and imagined the request that led up to it:

“We’d like to get more light to the house and raise the tree up so the branches won’t cause any damage if they break off in a storm.”

There’s no doubt that they got what they asked for, of sorts... Unfortunately, in fulfilling the homeowner’s request, the tree has been become more liable to fail than before the job was started.

The practice of removing all but the most extreme limbs is known in the trade as “lion-tailing” and it may cause irreparable damage and drastically alter the trees ability to withstand moderate to heavy winds. The dampening effect the lower limbs once provided is gone and all the weight is now at the very end of the branches. As even moderated wind gusts occur, the top of the tree will sway excessively leveraging the end of the limb against the branch collar, the point of connection below and if it’s at all weakened the limb comes off crashing to whatever waits below.

There are ways to effectively reduce the canopy of a tree to help protect it against high-winds and ways to prune to allow more sunlight into an area; this unfortunately does not fit that bill.

-Bob Bociek, CT

Friday, August 20, 2010

If you build it, will it fall?

We saw many ways trees can fail, in whole or part during the storms encountered this year. Some were unavoidable in the above average winds, many we may have had a hand in creating. Our quest for more and more paved surfaces has had a less than desirable effect on the urban forest and in many cases has created safety issues that may not be easily detected.

Case in point: this tree began the downward spiral when the decision was made to put in a driveway and retaining wall. The original root system was compromised by a cut-and-fill and the support system on the driveway side ultimately became inadequate to support the massive canopy above. When the winds gusted to seventy miles per hour in a direction against the damaged root system below, down it came. Fortunately little more than a play-set and some landscape fixtures suffered any serious damage.

Many of this tree's roots were severed during installation
of the driveway, creating an unsafe situation.
If you see a similar situation in or around your property, it’s best to get a professional opinion before the next storm rears its head.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Beating Heat Stress

As we're sure you know, the weather has been hot this season, and precipitation has been relatively low. (In fact, the heat has escalated to the point of being newsworthy... Horticulturally speaking, the first place many people notice the effects of heat stress is on lawns, which have the good sense to go dormant and wait it out. We definitely recommend a combination of overseeding and core aeration this fall to help rejuvenate your grass as the summer comes to an end. However, lawns are actually faring better than many trees, although the symptoms may not be as obvious.

Arranging a soaker hose to cover the critical root zone
of a tree is a great method for the slow, saturated
watering that's best for trees.
Plants are constantly losing water through tiny holes in their leaves through a process called transpiration, and when it's hot, the rate of that water loss increases. Add to that a lack of adequate rainfall, and the result is often stressed plant material. The problem facing trees is that they're really big, and they do not have the luxury of going dormant in hot summer months, like lawns. Instead, trees have a lot of active leaves, so they lose a lot of water, and their roots are searching to replace that water in some pretty dry ground.

Trees suffering from heat stress face problems with producing new growth, healing over wounds, and fighting against diseases and insects. If they're stressed enough, they eventually run out of energy to support their existing growth and begin to decline (sometimes irreversibly). Newly planted (within the last 2 years) and mature trees are the most at risk for serious decline, and we've seen both this summer. Particular species that seem to be suffering most include Birches, American Dogwoods, and Japanese Maples.

Treegators are bags with tiny holes that slowly
release water into the root zone of a tree. You can
achieve a similar effect by poking holes in the
bottom of buckets or garbage cans, filling them
with water, and placing them under trees.
Signs of heat stress in trees tend to develop toward the top of the canopy first, so they often aren't noticed right away by property owners. They include smaller leaf size, leaf scorch (browning and/or yellowing), wilting, and sometimes loss of foliage (a particularly bad sign). 

So, What's the Solution?
The best way to fight heat stress in trees is through a combination of proper irrigation and organic soil amendments. Proper irrigation means focusing water on saturating the root zone of a tree. Sprinklers, for instance, aren't going to get the job done for trees, but a properly placed soaker hose will. Treegators are great solutions for young trees, which run a high risk of suffering heat stress. With a traditional garden hose, it's also possible to set the flow to a trickle and move the mouth of the hose around to four or five different areas of the root zone over the course of the day.

In terms of soil care, organic amendments increase a tree's drought tolerance without spurring new growth that it can't afford to support (which is the result of synthetic fertilization of heat stressed plants). Also, by using a soil needle injection method for applying soil amendments (as opposed to a soil drench), we can break up compacted ground and introduce better flow of nutrients, air, and water into the root zone.

In addition to Almstead's organic soil care services our arborists are always glad to advise you on irrigation practices, and we also provide watering services for plants out of reach of irrigation. To formulate a heat stress survival plan for your trees (and shrubs, and lawn), please schedule a complimentary consultation with your Almstead arborist.