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Winter Protection of Trees and Shrubs

This time of year, many people wonder how they should be preparing their yards for winter. We suggest attending to new plantings, preparing evergreens, be aware of winter burn, and protect any trees, shrubs, or plants that might be subject to animal feasting.

Spreading Mulch

Melissa Spreading Mulch

New plantings are most susceptible to winter desiccation because they don’t have established root systems. Continue to water these new plantings through fall. Watering can be done until frost and is strongly encouraged for new plantings and evergreens. People often overlook the fact that trees and shrubs still transpire (although slowly) through winter. Roots still grow in unfrozen soil, so it is important to tend to them until frost takes over.

 

Evergreens have foliage to support and therefore are also very susceptible to winter burn. Damage is not directly caused by how cold it gets, but rather how quickly the cold comes. Rapid 40 degree swings from day to night can cause the most damage. Photosynthesis and respiration still take place in winter on sunny days through needles and bark, which requires soil moisture. When there is little snow cover, the soil freezes to deeper levels, limiting moisture uptake. Deep snow is more beneficial because it insulates the roots and provides moisture when it melts. Mulch helps insulate the roots as well. We recommend three inches of mulch around trees, but take care to keep the mulch away from the trunk itself. Little snow and excessive dry wind make for the harshest of winters for these trees.

 

Winter burn is the result of plants drying out over winter, but there are other types of damage. Growth that has not hardened off can easily be damaged by early frosts. Buds can be injured during late frosts, causing tattered looking leaves in the spring and early summer. De-icing salt can damage plants along sidewalks and roads. They can dry aerial parts of the plant in the winter, but cause continuing problems later. The residual salt in the soil concentrates when the water table drops during mid-summer droughts. If you know of an area in your yard that routinely gets a good amount of salt indirectly applied to it, a little extra watering in the spring will help. You may also want to consider applying some garden gypsum to help break it up.

 

As animals run out of easily accessible food, they may turn to your trees and shrubs. It is best to fence off areas to deter wildlife from browsing. Also, deep snowbanks can create the perfect cover for rodents to girdle stems. If you can help it, don’t pile up shoveled snow in one area.

 

We never really know what winter will have in store for us. These tips should give you some ideas of what you can do to prepare your yard for whatever might be coming.

 

~Melissa Veloon

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Choosing a Tree Care Company

Matt Climbing Clean UpChoosing any contractor to work on your property is something everyone has experienced. We check credentials for contractors like plumbers, builders, and electricians, but what about tree care contractors? Does anyone think about what to look for in a company that deals with trees? I mean, it’s just trimming a tree, right? Or in some cases, it’s only cutting down a tree, right?

When it comes to needing tree work, most folks use the approach they take for other large projects such as roofing, landscaping, or even putting in new windows. They have a general idea of what they want completed and they get a few estimates. Now, if someone were to adopt any of the above adages such as “It’s just trimming a tree” or “It’s just cutting down a tree,” price might be the only deciding factor. It is no secret that tree work can be very costly, but do those folks really know what they are getting for their money? Is there any way to know if it’s truly a good deal? Here are a few important factors to consider.

 

The Estimate

In order to distinguish a good deal from a bad deal, you must give each estimate a fair shake. Find out exactly what work will be performed so that you can compare. What kind of proposal do you have in front of you? Is it even written down? If one of your estimates for “trimming” a maple tree in the front yard is for $200, and it’s given verbally and agreed upon via handshake, it may not sound like a bad quote. Now compare that to written quote for the same tree, with a detailed outline of what work will be performed. It lists that the company will remove all deadwood 2″ in diameter and larger and prune away from the home to a distance of 8 feet for $800. The quote is either emailed or mailed, and you must sign and return it. How can the two quotes be compared to each other? The first quote might accomplish the same as the second, more expensive quote, but how do you know that? It doesn’t state what will be done. They cannot, for any homeowner’s purposes, be compared. There are a lot of branches in a tree. Which branches need to go, and which branches can stay? How can you trust that the estimate will yield your expected results? You can start by looking into the company’s education.

Education

Education is something that, although lacking in our industry, is getting better. Knowing how to properly prune a tree and what it means for the overall health and vigor of the tree is something that CAN be taught. I often mention credentials, and while certifications aren’t always a fool-proof method of weeding out a true tree care professional, it is a step in the right direction. One good thing to look for is someone who has a full-time, certified arborist on staff. I mention full time because there are companies that may say they have a certified arborist on staff, but only refer to them and pay a yearly or monthly consulting fee. So their certified arborist doesn’t actively work for them; he/she is there to consult, or sign papers when certain contracts require a certified arborist.

A certified arborist is someone who, I hate to say it, passed a test. The test consists of anything and everything tree related: tree biology, biomechanics, climbing techniques, rigging techniques, tree identification, among many other things. As a person who has proven that they know a little bit about the industry, they should have a good idea on how best to care for your trees.  

Another great thing to look for is some sort of degree in Urban Forestry. There are many great programs for bachelor’s and associate’s degrees offered throughout the country. Folks pursuing this degree have a passion for bettering their knowledge-base to become great at what they do.

Professionalism

Professionalism refers to who works for the company, how they carry themselves, and the image they portray.

A few things that can determine professionalism in a tree contractor are things like: personal protective equipment (hard hats, chaps), clean vehicles, how well the job done, how clean the area is after the job is complete, availability for communication, and returned phone calls.

When a company invests in proper PPE (personal protective equipment), it really shows that they value their employees. Valued employees tend to appreciate their jobs, which is reflected in the type of work they do. They show pride in what they do and they constantly seek improvement. This, in turn, gives the client a better value when their services are performed. The same can be said about having clean work vehicles and cleaning up after a job. If a vehicle is maintained well and clean, and a job site is kept neat and tidy, chances are that the employees are taking pride in their job, which often reflects in their work performance as well.

Perhaps one of the most professional things a tree company can do is be available to talk and return phone calls. Tree care is a service industry. Tree companies cater to a customer’s needs, and there is no way they can do that if no one answers the phone, or if they don’t call back when they say they will, if at all. If through the process of obtaining an estimate, the company has either not returned phone calls, or failed to answer the phone at all, it may be a warning sign.

When choosing a tree care company, be sure to consider the thoroughness of the estimate, as well as the company’s education and professionalism. When all three of these elements come together, you are sure to receive quality service.  

~Jonathan Bantle

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Women in the Tree Care Industry

Melissa Treating for Apple Scab

Melissa treating for Apple Scab at the Selner Tree Shrub Care office

There is a certain stigma associated with tree workers: strong, bearded, rough and tumble, and in general, not dainty.  A lot of our clients are surprised to find that when the crew arrives on site, that we usually have at least one woman on the crew.  Folks usually associate tree work with men, and why wouldn’t they? Trees are heavy. Believe me, I’ve tenderized my back lifting many pieces of trees, and I’m no tiny person.  Selner Tree & Shrub Care, LLC employs three full time female arborists.  They are full time employees, and are some of our most valuable employees on staff.

Let’s spearhead the obvious reason most folks are shocked to find a female on the crew: strength.  Forgive me for the generalization, but it’s no secret that women just aren’t built the same as men.  Although there are a few anomalies, women aren’t usually as strong as men when it comes to lifting heavy things.  These ‘things’ in the tree care industry include: their own body weight, heavy pieces of wood, tree branches, and even certain pieces of rigging gear.

The beauty of working for an advanced tree care company in the 21st century is the fact that many of the heavy things that need lifting daily, are often lifted using equipment that is built specifically to do so.  It’s for this reason that there is no need to be built like an ox to be a valuable employee in the tree care industry.  A careful and dainty touch is often required more so than brute force.  When we are removing a tree over a glass sunroom surrounded by landscape beds full of tender perennials, I’ll opt for a softer hand over a bull in a china shop any day. 

Many of our clients are often shocked to hear that most of our female employees also climb.  You heard that right, girls! You can be a professional tree climber too!  I still remember the first time I watched a woman climb a tree professionally.  It was about five years ago at an international tree climbing championship.  I’m not going to lie (honesty is the best policy), that I was skeptical about how the female competitors would stack up to their male counterparts.  After the first female competitor ascended and started through the work climb, I was shocked.  She was absolutely crushing it.  She made many of the male climbers I knew look like silly fish flopping around aimlessly in a tree.  This same feeling was reassured again just a couple weeks ago when I competed in my first tree climbing competition.  I always thought I was an above average tree climber, but the few women that were at that same competition made me look like a toddler just learning to walk.

As a man in the tree care industry, I have no doubt that women can be just as, if not more, valuable than most men doing the same exact job.   

 

~Jonathan Bantle

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