Think of arborists as professional tree doctors. They’re trained in the specifics of full-life tree care, everything from germination to tree removal. Hiring a tree company that employees arborists who are native to your specific area is always a good idea—they’ll likely harbor extensive knowledge on which trees are best suited for your climate and how to care for them.
Local arborists should also be knowledgeable about any pests or diseases common in your area and know how to address them. So, what jobs require an arborist and how do you choose the best specialist for the job?
Pruning is the selective removal of branches, roots, and buds. The craft is essential to a tree’s health and requires both an extensive knowledge of trees as well as a good set of tools. Having sharp, clean tools is crucial to safe and successful pruning.
When hiring a tree company, ask the arborist about his or her tool care. How often are tools sharpened? How do they clean tools between jobs? How do they prevent disease spreading through pruning tools? Dull or rusty tools could be a sign of an arborist to avoid. Also, make sure you understand the differences between pruning methods:
- Vista Pruning: eliminates the branches obstructing your million-dollar view while keeping most of the tree intact.
- Crown Reduction: common in fruit tree care, crown reduction increases the amount and quality of fruit produced by removing around ⅓ of a tree’s growth. A shorter tree also makes harvesting easier.
- Directional Pruning: shaping a tree through directional pruning is common practice for ornamental trees. Directional pruning creates structural integrity as well as visual aesthetics.
- Tree Trimming: restores sick trees by removing dead or diseased branches, and makes sure branch weight is evenly distributed between sides.
- Tree Thinning: increases the amount of light that reaches leaves and helps to avoid damage caused by extreme weather.
Maintenance through pruning helps trees produce leaves, fruit, and flowers efficiently. Pruning maintains the structural integrity of a tree by balancing the weight distribution of branches across a tree’s canopy—heavy branches can rip off, causing damage to a tree’s trunk, other branches, and neighboring trees or structures. At times, a tree’s branches interfere with power lines or homes. Rather than taking down the whole tree, select branches can be removed, leaving much of the canopy intact.
Pruning can also eliminate co-dominant stems, or two or more branches of the same size growing from the same main point. Though a tree with co-dominant stems can remain healthy, weakly-attached branches can eventually rip from a trunk. If both parts of a co-dominant stem are firmly attached, pruning will be necessary to balance weight distribution.
Clearing dead or dying wood eliminates branches that may be at risk of falling. If a disease is caught early and affects just a few branches, those branches can be skillfully removed to prevent further spreading. An arborist can correctly identify disease and recommend the best solution.
A skilled arborist will prune a fruit tree within a week or two of transplanting. This helps a freshly-planted tree focus its energy on developing strong roots and prevent transplant shock.
With fewer branches, leaves, and flowers to care for, a tree can expend most of its energy on its root system. Once a fruit tree has matured, removing excess foliage further directs energy, this time to fruit production. Weak branches on a mature tree can break under the weight of fruit and should also be removed.
Since all good things must come to an end, arborists are also skilled in tree removal. The most common reasons a tree must be removed are:
- a tree falls due to poor health or during a storm
- poorly-pruned limbs snap under their own weight
- a lot is being cleared for construction
- a tree has grown too large and is interfering with structures
- a tree is largely dead and at risk of falling
If a tree removal is not an emergency, it’s best to undertake the job during the tree’s dormant season (usually during the winter). In temperate climates like Oregon, the ground will likely be thawed enough throughout the winter to allow for removal. In colder states such as Montana and Wisconsin, winter tree removal may not be an ideal option. Some companies calculate removal fees based on tree height while others factor in accessibility, proximity to structures and other trees, as well as what equipment will be needed to get the job done. Emergency tree removal can pose elevated risk and will likely cost more per job.
When shopping for an arborist, look for a full-service tree company. By hiring an arborist that not only responsibly takes down a tree, but removes it from your property, you forego having to search for (and pay for) another company to provide the secondary service. Make sure your tree company has the skills and equipment to undertake stump grinding (likely to be a part of the removal process) as well.
Wooded Lot Management
Wooded lots top the list of many home buyers’ requirements, but without the proper maintenance, a serene wooded lot can quickly become a mess of tangled trees. Though it may conjure images of clear-cut forests, selective logging is like pruning for an entire forest. Removing dead or dying trees eliminates the risk of trees falling on one another and snapping branches from healthy trees. As a bonus, selling logged wood from your property can help supplement the cost of the job.
Whether you’re looking to clear part of a lot to make room for new home construction or have a wooded lot that could use some thinning, logging is dangerous work and should be carried out by someone with the right equipment and know-how to get the job done carefully.
Aim to hire a tree company that covers all aspects of woodland management. Controlled burning, forest thinning, and reforestation are all important parts of the process and an arborist is the only person suited for the job.