Arborists are tree care professionals who can help with the selection, maintenance, care and removal of trees and shrubs in residential, commercial and public landscapes. They are trained in all aspects of woody plant health and care, including diagnosis and treatment of diseases, insect infestations and environmental problems. They can safely climb up into tall trees to prune limbs, and will cut, chip and remove all of the brush. They can recommend watering, fertilizing, pesticide applications and other cultural programs to help maintain the long-term health and beauty of landscapes. Arborists are licensed by the State of Connecticut, and are required to stay up-to-date with the rapid advances of tree biology, care and treatment.
A certified arborist will know how and when to prune trees. It may seem like a simple task, but incorrect procedures will only compromise the health of the tree. Additionally, an arborist has the knowledge to identify the type of pruning method necessary to enhance the appearance, overall health, and safety of the trees.
Professional pruning entails the following:
- Training young trees to help them develop a strong structure
- Pruning the limbs to make way for light penetration and to increase airflow through the canopy
- Removing damaged branches and limbs
- Removing limbs that may obstruct other structures and potentially wound the tree
- Removing dead, diseased, or weak limbs
- Creating a better structure to boost the robustness of the tree against harsh winds or storms
- Removing excessive weight at the ends of the branches
- Creating a better shape in a damaged tree
In addition to the education, certification, and experience requirements outlined in this article, the job requires physical fortitude, manual dexterity, and a love of the outdoors. The work of an arborist is physically demanding and may require operating dangerous machinery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), grounds maintenance workers, including arborists, have a higher rate of illnesses and injuries than the average occupation. Keep reading for an overview of how to get certified as an arborist, make yourself competitive, and gain experience in the field.
Benefits of Hiring an Arborist
Trees add value to your property and the health of your community. Beautiful, healthy trees are an investment with substantial returns in community and ecological benefits. Conversely, poorly maintained trees can be a significant liability, even a hazard.
Tree work performed incorrectly not only poses a risk to the tree itself but also endangers the person performing the work. Tree work should only be performed by those trained and equipped to work safely and properly.
An arborist is a specialist in the art and science of caring for individual trees. An ISA Certified Arborist is trained to understand the needs of trees and provide the care and maintenance necessary to enhance a tree’s health, beauty, and structural soundness.
ISA Certified Arborists help maintain the investment in your trees by providing a variety of services from planting, pruning, plant health care, and removal to appraisals, expert witness, and emergency tree care.
An ISA Certified Arborist knows how and when to prune trees to maintain or improve their overall health, appearance, and safety. Your trees may need pruning to:
- Train young trees to develop strong structure
- Thin limbs to increase light penetration and air flow through the canopy
- Remove damaged branches and limbs
- Remove limbs that interfere with structures or rub together causing wounds
- Remove dead, diseased, or weak limbs
- Create better structure to reduce the potential for storm damage
- Remove excessive weight at the ends of branches
- Create better shape in a damaged tree
Arborists can recommend the right tree for the right place as well as how to properly plant trees. The wrong tree in the wrong location nearly always results in future problems from limited growing space, insects, diseases, or poor growth. Large tree planting requires special equipment and skills. An ISA Certified Arborist can consult on proper planting depth and overall care to help ensure mature trees recover from the move.
Plant Health Care
Preventive care and maintenance ensure a tree’s sound structure and overall good health. Proper care will help the tree better defend itself against insects, diseases, and problems associated with site conditions (particularly in urban settings) that can be stressful to trees. Arborists prescribe health maintenance measures such as:
- A preventive health and safety assessment or evaluation
- Integrated Pest Managment, including spray or injection programs, manage insects or diseases
- Aeration to improve root growth and alleviate compaction
- Corrective pruning
- Fertilization and soil amendment
- Seasonal irrigation
Emergency Tree Services
Severe weather and storms may cause limbs or entire trees to fall, potentially impacting people, other trees, buildings and structures, or cars. Downed trees are tremendously heavy, which makes them dangerous to remove or trim. An arborist can assist in performing the job in a safe manner while reducing further risk of damage to people or property.
In addition, extreme care must be taken around trees and limbs entangled in utility lines during a storm or other event. When in contact with live utility wires, trees can carry electricity and be extremely dangerous. When power lines are involved with downed and/or damaged trees, you should always call your local power provider first.
Tree removal is a last resort; however, circumstances often warrant removal. Many ISA Certified Arborists also hold a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ). These individuals are uniquely qualified to conduct a risk assessment and provide mitigation options, including removal. Arborists have the skills and equipment to safely and efficiently remove trees. Removal may be indicated when a tree is:
- Assessed as irreparably hazardous by a qualified arborist
- Being replaced by a more suitable specimen
- Crowding or harming other trees
- Dead or dying
- Hazardous with conditions impossible to mitigate by other means
- Located improperly in a construction or development site
Arborists provide a variety of other tree care services as well, including:
- Tree risk assessment
- Installation of lightning protection systems
- Protection plans for existing trees on development and construction sites
- Stump grinding
- Cabling or bracing for added support to branches with weak attachment
What are the typical practices of an arborist?
An arborist’s work may involve working with large and complex trees to ensure they are safe, healthy and meet the needs of property owners or community standards.
Trees in urban landscape settings are often subject to disturbances, whether human or natural, both above and below the ground. However, there is a vast difference between professional arborists who abide by the correct practices and techniques, and inadequately trained tree workers whose job is to trim trees, not realising that they may be disfiguring, damaging, weakening, or even killing the tree.
Arborists can provide appropriate solutions such as pruning trees for health, structure or aesthetic reasons, but there should be a specific purpose in mind. This is because every cut is a wound and every leaf lost is the removal of some of the tree’s photosynthetic potential.
They also perform “crown raising” to permit people to walk under trees, or “crown reduction” to keep trees away from fences, buildings and wires. The methods and timing of treatment depend on the purpose of the work and the species of the tree. Best practices, therefore, involve a knowledge of both botany and the local environment.
Arborists also assist in diagnosing, treating and preventing phytopathology or parasitism, preventing or interrupting predation, and removing vegetation deemed as hazardous.
While some aspects of their work is done in an office, much of it is undertaken using specialised vehicles to access trees, or by tree climbers who use ropes, harnesses and other relevant equipment.
What Legal Issues Are Involved?
Depending on the location, there are several legal issues surrounding the practices of arborists, including public safety issues, boundary issues, and the community value of heritage trees.
Arborists frequently consult the facts for tree disputes between property owners. This includes the areas of ownership, the obstruction of views, nuisance problems, and the impacts of root systems crossing boundaries. They may also be asked to assess the value of a tree for insurance purposes if the tree has been destroyed, damaged, vandalised, or stolen.
In cities with tree preservation laws, an arborist’s evaluation may be required before a property owner can remove a tree, or to ensure the protection of trees in development plans and during construction operations.
Who Do Arborists Assist?
Arborists are engaged by a variety of individuals, business, and institutions, including:
- Schools and educational institutions—services include enhancing aesthetics and dealing with tree-related safety risks like hanging branches, falling deadwood, raised roots and stumps and impacts to buildings and school surroundings.
- Builders, landscapers and property developers—services include tree care and management services for landscaping and construction services, and assessment of the health and condition of trees.
- Residents—services include trimming hedges, removing damaged or diseased trees, and advice on keeping trees healthy and well cared for.
- Body corporates—services include ensuring all common areas like gardens are well maintained and pose no risks to occupants.
- Governments and local councils—services include tree report services, and advice on local laws and vegetation protection orders. They may also offer diagnostic services like soil analysis, moisture testing, pH testing, microbiology, tree value appraisals, hazard assessments, disease and decay detection, and tree maintenance plans.
How Much Does An Arborist Cost?
The cost of hiring a tree surgeon is one of the main aspects why some people don’t take proper care of their trees. In recent years, hiring a tree surgeon is more affordable than ever due to different payment plans and services available. For instance, if you cannot afford a standard one-off fee, you can opt for a pay as you go model depending on the services you are looking for.
It may seem easy to equip yourself with a chainsaw and call yourself a tree surgeon, but arboriculture is in fact a highly skilled profession which requires years of training in specialist subject and equipment.
There are many factors that can determine the amount of money you can pay an arborist. Here are some of the factors:
Size and Location
As a general rule of thumb, large trees cost more to trim because they have more branches, need more equipment and time to trim due to their height. On the other hand, small trees that have fewer branches will cost less, especially if they are located in a place that’s easily accessible.
Trees that are located near power lines or buildings will likely cost more because they need more time and effort to rope each branch down. To ensure that safety precautions are adhered to, the climber ties a rope around each branch and then lower the branch slowly to the ground after it has been cut. This process takes much time and effort, thus a higher cost.
Number of Trees
When getting a quote, ensure you include the number of trees and their species so that you receive an accurate quote. The more the trees, the higher the cost and vice versa. The type of tree to be trimmed can determine the cost because some are bushy, others tall while others are just short and easy to trim. If you don’t want any surprises, include all this information when getting a quote.
The health of a tree is also a factor which affects the decision to hire an arborist. For instance, a tree that has endured a lighting strike might not be as strong as a healthy tree. Therefore, it requires extra support, e.g. with a cable to guarantee the safety of the arborist as well as other people nearby.
Diseases and illnesses
Some of the diseases and illnesses that can affect your tree and increase the cost of maintenance and trimming include:
- Fungi/mushrooms – since fungi cannot synthesise their own food, they weaken the tree by draining the vital nutrients of the tree
- Abiotic damage – this can be caused by a number of factors including hail, strong winds and long cold or dry spells. Some signs of abiotic damage include damaged limbs and dehydrated leaves
- Moist crack – if your tree has a moist crack, it is a sign that the tree might be dying internally and it needs to be assessed by an arborist
- Pests – although there are beneficial insects, some insects can transmit diseases from one tree to another causing death, rot or even develop fungi
Professional tree surgeons provide a quote after doing an initial survey to determine the scale of work and the costs needed throughout the process. It is important to understand that additional costs might be incurred for hiring needed machinery or removing waste wood after trimming. To avoid such costs, you can discuss with the arborist in advance for a better deal.