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A look at the top 10 challenges annually facing arborists | Dennis Tompkins

Buried somewhere in the list of challenges and hopes for the New Year are a few issues that we face in our landscapes.

To highlight some of these, the following Top 10 list has been developed from situations I often encounter. Many are repeated year after year to the dismay of arborists.

But first, what will be the impact of the recent prolonged cold temperatures on certain plants, trees and shrubs in our landscapes?

Most of our native trees and shrubs can withstand freezing conditions. However, the more exotic plants, like those with palm-like leaves, will either be damaged or killed by extended cold temperatures.

Plants or small trees that are planted in pots or containers may have been damaged or killed. While they might normally withstand such conditions, they lacked the insulating soil that normally protects the roots when planted in the ground.

As spring approaches, the damaged tissue on the tips of branches and twigs will begin to darken and shrivel up. New growth will not emerge as usual. Then decisions must be made to either bury the victim or attempt to apply gardener first aid.

If new growth begins to develop below the damaged portion of a plant, the dead part can be removed for aesthetic appearances. Eventually, the tree or shrub may recover its former shape with some patient TLC.

One tip is to make a cut above a bud or emerging growth that is pointed in the direction you wish the new growth to develop. Eventually, additional trimming may be required of new sprouts that have been stimulated as the plant attempts to recover from the damage.

Top 10 issues:

No. 10: Beware of the husband or lawn service that threatens your small trees and shrubs with hedge trimmers. They may be appropriate if a “sculpted” appearance is desirable. But certain popular shrubs as rhododendrons, azaleas and small trees likeJapanese maples should be hand pruned to maintain a more natural shape.

No. 9: The winter storm season is upon us. If a tree has fallen during a severe wind, it is wise to determine whether a root rot was involved. If so, nearby trees may also be infected since these diseases can travel by root to root contact. Fallen trees should be checked by a qualified, experienced professional.

No. 8: Be respectful of neighbors that wish to preserve their trees when view issues arise.

No. 7: If tree problems arise with a neighbor, try for a peaceful settlement without involving attorneys and lawsuits. Cool heads can lead to win-win solutions.

No. 6: If worried about your own or a neighbor’s trees, have a hazard evaluation done by a professional. If a dangerous situation is discovered, the investment will have been worthwhile to remove the risk and contribute to everyone’s safety and peace of mind.

No. 5: If a doorbell “arborist” encourages tree removals or windsailing a tree, consider a second opinion from a certified professional. Do not be afraid to question credentials and whether a commission is to be paid on the amount quoted for the job. If so, does he truly have your best interests at heart?

No. 4: Do not top trees. Unfortunately, many trees are unnecessarily butchered. The results are ugly, create maintenance nightmares and can shorten a tree’s life. Overpruning usually stimulates sprouting as trees attempt to replace the removed leaves that served as the food manufacturing plant.

No. 3: When considering using pesticides later in the spring, have a problem properly identified, select a legal and effective treatment and apply it at the right time. Overuse can lead to polluting the local environment. Follow the labeled instructions.

No. 2: The best tree pruning jobs are those that appear as if very little has been done. Butcher jobs are all too obvious – especially when the tortured skeletons of trees are revealed during the fall and winter.

Finally, No. 1: A big thank you to all the readers who hopefully have learned a bit from the columns. I look forward to another year of informing you about tree issues. Feel free to continue to contact me with your questions.

Dennis Tompkins is a Certified Arborist, Certified Hazard Tree Assessor and Master Gardener from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. He provides small tree pruning, pest diagnosis, hazard tree evaluations, tree appraisals and other services for homeowners and businesses. Contact him at 253 863-7469 or email at dlt@blarg.net. Website: evergreen-arborist.com.

 

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