Tree Care

Tree & Plant Health

Tree care is a broad term and practice. There are many services that can be performed to help preserve and protect trees. It is an arborists duty to make proper and accurate assessments of trees that are evaluated. Just as a doctor diagnoses a patient, proper tree diagnoses is critical to getting possible treatments or maintenance correct.

Tree Care Assessment

Tree care ought to be looked at as a whole, and should be evaluated by keeping many factors in mind. For example, environmental aspects should be considered when evaluating trees. A trees location should be considered. A trees species is important to consider when looking at disease, insect susceptibilities, or structural branch integrity. Soil conditions need to be looked at. A trees physical appearance, trunk, roots, and canopy health should be sharply assessed by an arborist. When a tree goes into decline or dies, it is generally due to a environmental stress to the tree.

Tree Care Procedures

Tree Pruning Methods

The deep root fertilizing method for most trees is the best. This is done by mixing a quality fertilizer together with water and using an auger inserted into the ground to apply the feed into the root system. The amount of fertilizer used will depend on the available ground surface area available, the more open area for the root system to grow the better. The applier will insert the auger into the ground in a circular pattern all around the drip line of a tree. Approximate distances are to start at about 8′ away from the trunk, and every 2-3 feet apply the auger into the ground and feed.

Tree Support Systems

Cabling & Bracing

These are excellent choices for maintaining longevity or even restoring a tree canopy. Large tree limbs that lean heavily are usually candidates for possible cabling. Double crotches sometimes get whats called included bark, or a weakening of the union of a crotch where bark develops inside not allowing further strengthening of interior xylem within the union. This creates a potential issue with the limbs that can now potentially break out. Many times when a weak union or double crotch is present, a cable can be installed to strengthen the weakened crotch where the pressure is. Cables are drilled into the tree on two sides with eye bolts connectors and pulled tight. This is usually done in the upper 2/3’s of the tree canopy for better leverage. Cables can help a tree branch structure maintain and increase longevity of the tree. The only downside is steel is conducive and can attractive lightning, but many times the good outweighs the bad in trees like Maples that are not as tall. Poplar trees are better candidates for pruning since they are very tall and lightning could be an issue. Before a cable is installed, pruning of major deadwood should always be performed also.

Lightning Protection Systems

Not very common, but sometimes used in heavy traffic areas such as parks and golf courses. Copper wires are installed throughout the canopy as conductors to catch the electricity from a lightning strike. The copper runs down the trunk and away from the tree into the ground approximately 20′ away from the trunk. The idea is that the lightning strike catches the copper and runs down the line into the ground thus avoiding damage to the tree. Tree lightning protection systems cost depends on the size of a tree but can range from $2,000 to $4,000.

Root Management

Vertical Mulching

Vertical mulching is one of the very best things you can do for the root systems of a tree that is located in compacted soil. More and more, soil is compacted in urban forestry. New construction, sidewalks, street trees, parks, all around us our soil is being compacted by many things. In the forest, soil has the appropriate air and pour space, but this is generally not the case in the city. The process includes drilling holes to loosen the soil where the root system is, thus providing somewhere for the feeder roots to go for oxygen and soil amendment. All that’s needed to do this service is a drill bit with auger, soil amendment with topsoil, a shovel and wheel barrel. One of my favorite tree care practices for dealing with compacted soils.

Root Collar Excavation

Easiest if done when a tree is young. Using some gardening tools or small shovels, scrape back the base of the tree where the trunk meets the ground to look under the soil and expose the roots. Girdling Roots can choke a tree causing it to die. These roots can be cut and fixed if a tree is young enough.


This can also helps trees along with grass roots by allowing oxygen into the soil. Again, a maintenance technique for compacted soil, or soil that needs oxygen.

Mulch Rings around trees

Another common maintenance practice among landscapes mostly to keep lawn mowers away from the root system and trunk of a tree. Mulch also maintains moisture, to help trees absorb water easier.

Tree Preservation

Many times trees when a construction job is about to begin, trees in close proximity of the work need to be preserved. Generally there are detailed plans written up by a certified arborist specifying the plan for preservation. Usually this includes the following 2 services:

    • Root Pruning – the process of cutting a trees roots cleanly before heavy equipment such as excavators are used on a construction site that can cause damage by pulling and tearing roots and possibly killing a tree. Root pruning is done or directed by a certified arborist. The root pruning should be done as far as possible away from the critical root zone or drip line of a tree. A wheel saw with sharp teeth trench the ground and create a clean cut of the roots so they can properly seal. Sometimes, hand pruning will be needed for smaller feeder roots to provide nice clean cuts. Topsoil and Mulch are placed back on the area exposed from the prune.
    • Tree protection fencing – Once the root pruning is complete, just outside the line of the root prune, a tree protection fence is installed. There are specifications for type of fencing to be used, and signs are made up that show it is a tree preserve or protected area so the heavy equipment stays away.

As you can see, there are many methods of caring for our beloved urban trees. None of these services are needed in the forest, where environment conditions, soil conditions, amendment, and nutrients are plentiful. It is our urban forestry where these services are needed. Where people and trees are, tree maintenance and care is needed. For the most part, trees are so very hearty and vigorous they can pretty much take care of themselves, even in rough conditions.