It’s no mystery that trees are an important asset to a landscape. There are many benefits to having trees around, but have you ever wondered why we need arborists? Why are arborists needed for our landscapes when trees grow naturally and without help in nature? To answer that question, we need to look at the differences between urban settings and natural forests.
One of the biggest differences between landscapes and our forests is the soil. In forests, leaves and other organic matter are continuously decaying and providing nutrients to the soil. However, in landscapes, leaves are usually raked away, and turf causes competition for water and nutrients. Mulch is beneficial for landscape trees in providing a layer of organic matter and retaining moisture for the tree’s roots. A certified arborist can test your soil’s pH to determine what tree would do best in your yard and if any amendments need to be added to your soil.
Have you ever noticed that trees in forests tend to look different from the trees in our yards? The branching structure of trees varies on the sunlight provided to them. While trees in yards usually have plenty of sunlight, they are more likely to spread out with a wider canopy. Since trees in wooded areas grow closer together, they compete for sunlight and grow taller and thinner. Their branches reach for the sunlight so photosynthesis can make the food they need to survive.
Houses, utilities, fences, sidewalks and driveways, and other structures are also things that trees in an urban setting must compete. A certified arborist will be able to advise you on the right location and the right tree for your yard. Other trees do not shield trees in the landscape in severe weather, and a weak branching structure can cause damage to not only the tree but also your property. An arborist can help you select a tree with a preferred structure and maintain that structure with pruning.
In the landscape, we can select trees that are aesthetically pleasing to us. Still, it is important to hire a certified arborist who will know the tree’s pest susceptibility and requirements to survive. An arborist will consider several factors when selecting the right tree for your space, including sunlight exposure, soil preference, surrounding structures, pest susceptibility, branching structure, and maintenance needs.
Different Types of Tree Care Professionals
There are many terms describing different types of tree care professionals, which can cause considerable confusion for a homeowner or property manager who requires a tree care provider. The information below will hopefully provide some clarity on the topic.
Arborist vs. Forester
Arborists care for individual trees while foresters manage populations of trees. For example, a forester may be responsible for managing a forest or woodlot to produce timber or other wood products. The forester will decide when and how to plant and harvest trees to meet their management objectives. Urban foresters manage the population of public trees in a community to maximize the benefits provided by trees while minimizing the inherent risk posed by living in close proximity to these trees. A municipal forester would be an urban forester working for a particular town or city managing the public tree resources in that municipality. This would include trees in parks and other public green spaces and street trees and trees growing in other municipal rights-of-way.
An arborist is generally focused on caring for individual trees, often on private property. Arborists can be divided into two broad categories; Practicing Arborists and Consulting Arborists. A practising arborist, aka, commercial arborist, is the type of tree care provider that many people first consider when they hear the word arborist. A practising arborist may offer such tree care services as pruning, planting, removal, pesticide application, and fertilization.
It is worth noting that the terms “arborist” and “tree expert” are not always regulated at the State or Municipal level. In New Jersey, any person who chooses to work with trees may currently call themselves an “arborist” or “tree expert” and advertise their company as “XYZ Tree Expert Company.” This has led to unqualified individuals performing tree work using unsafe work practices that have resulted in injuries, as well as incorrect pruning and care techniques that have damaged or destroyed many trees in our State. New Jersey recently passed the “Tree Experts and Tree Care Operators Licensing Act” to address these issues. The Act will transform the current “NJ Certified Tree Expert” designation into a licensed credential soon.
ISA Certified Arborists
The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) oversees the “ISA Certified Tree Worker,” “ISA Certified Arborist,” and “ISA Board Certified Master Arborist” credentials. An ISA Certified Tree Worker has demonstrated that he or she possesses the skill and knowledge required to safely work on a tree crew performing general tree care tasks.
An ISA Certified Arborist has met certain education and skill requirements and passed an examination to demonstrate that he or she possesses a solid working knowledge of all aspects of arboriculture, including Planting, Pruning, Soil Management, Species Identification, Safe Work Practices, Tree Biology, Diagnosis and Treatment, Tree Protection, and Tree Risk Management.
The ISA Board Certified Master Arborist (BCMA) is the highest level of certification offered by the ISA. This credential recognizes individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their profession. In addition to passing an extensive scenario-based examination, candidates must abide by a Code of Ethics. Fewer than two percent of all ISA Certified Arborists currently hold the BCMA certification.
In addition to a certification of arborists, the ISA also qualifies arborists in specific areas. For example, an arborist named ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualified (TRAQ) has demonstrated knowledge in the standardized and systematic assessment of tree risk.
Consulting arborists differ from practising arborists in that they are, as their name implies, primarily consultants. Consulting arborists make tree care recommendations to improve the health and safety of trees. Many homeowners and property managers retain a consulting arborist when they require an independent expert opinion regarding tree care issues. A practising arborist may also make tree care recommendations, often as part of a “free estimate.” Still, since the practising arborist is often also offering to perform the recommended work, some may view this arrangement as a potential conflict of interest.
In addition to providing general tree care recommendations, consulting arborists may offer tree value appraisals, tree risk assessments, expert witness testimony, and litigation support services for attorneys, insurance companies, homeowners, and property managers.
10 Ways To Keep Trees Healthy
Trees are the most valuable and hardest working parts of our landscape. They shade our homes and neighbourhoods, cutting energy costs. They increase property values, reduce air pollution and soil erosion, and provide habitat for wildlife. Plus, they add beauty and a calming presence to our everyday lives.
Since they are such a peaceful, serene part of the background, it’s easy to forget that trees require our care to thrive. Proper tree maintenance is essential to their continued growth and ongoing health. With that in mind, here are ten tips to keep your trees healthy:
- Plant the right tree. This is the first and one of the most important steps in making sure you get years of enjoyment from any tree. Choose a well adapted species adapted to your climate and the specific conditions of soil, light and space at the planting site. For more information on the best trees for your region, visit your local nursery or local Cooperative Extension System office.
- Remove stakes early. A tree that is allowed to sway in the wind develops a stronger trunk. If a new tree can’t stand on its own, use a two-stake system (one on either side of the root ball) with a loose, flexible tie in between to support the trunk. Remove the stakes as soon as the tree can stand alone, hopefully after one year.
- Keep the grass away. Grass growing up against the trunk competes with the tree for air, water and nutrients (and usually wins the competition). Young trees, in particular, often develop poorly when the grass is allowed to grow right up against their trunks. For best results, maintain a grass-free, mulched area around the trunk instead.
- Water properly. Young trees need regular watering, but even mature trees need to be watered during periods of drought. Water deeply to saturate the entire root zone (2-3 feet deep for mature trees) to just outside the drip line (an imaginary line from the outside of the tree canopy down to soil level). Allow the soil to partially dry before watering again. Don’t count on lawn sprinklers to do the job for you. They rarely wet deep enough and can result in shallowly rooted trees. Soil basins or drip irrigation are better options.
- Fertilize when needed. Don’t assume trees need to be fed on an annual basis. Young trees may need occasional fertilizing until established, but mature trees often don’t need to be fed at all. Feed only if trees are growing poorly or have yellowing foliage. A soil test will confirm exactly which nutrients are needed.
- Mulch. Apply 2-3 inches of organic mulch, such as pine straw or compost, under the canopy of the tree. Mulch cools the soil, conserves moisture, improves soil texture and reduces weeds. Replenish often. Here are some helpful tips for mulching.
- Prune properly. Pruning enhances the structure and strength of your trees, making thinning cuts (removing entire limbs at their origin) as opposed to heading cuts (cutting along the length of a branch or hat-racking). For large trees, consult a certified arborist. Pruning correctly and pruning at the right time can make all the difference.
- Protect the roots. Cars and heavy equipment should never be allowed to drive over the root areas of trees. The compact soil, reducing available oxygen and can kill roots. Nor should you remove or add soil beneath tree canopies without consulting a certified arborist. Changing grades can also harm roots and weaken trees, often killing them or making them more susceptible to storm damage.
- Protect the trunk. Bumping into trees with lawnmowers or whipping the trunks with weed-eaters damages the bark and trunk, weakening the tree structurally while inviting insects and disease. Young trees are particularly susceptible but can be protected with plastic wraps available at nurseries and garden centres. Better yet, maintain a 2- to 3-foot wide grass-free, mulched ring around the tree.
- Control pests. Insect pests like adult Japanese Beetles, Adelgids and Caterpillars can seriously damage or weaken trees. Try an application of BioAdvanced™ 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & FeedII*. It protects against insects for up to 1 year, plus feeds. Choose from either Concentrates or Granules. With both, there’s no spraying! Simply apply it around the base of your tree for systemic protection from the roots to the tip of every leaf.
Why Preserve Trees?
By their very nature, trees and green space provide benefits and add value to developments. The ability of trees to improve and maintain the quality of water, soil, and air and to remove pollutants from the air is well known. Trees also provide shade and help lower temperatures during hot weather. Trees enrich people’s lives and beautify landscapes. Preserving trees has positive effects on the image and attractiveness of developments and enhances developers’ reputations and profits.
Preserving trees in developments increases a project’s attractiveness, monetary value, and marketability by providing aesthetic and functional values. Lots, where trees are preserved, can be sold more quickly and at higher prices.
Research has shown that mature trees increase the worth of a property by up to 12 per cent. Developers who understand these values realize that it is in their best interest to encourage the preservation of trees and green spaces.
Developers can take advantage of different opportunities when considering the preservation of trees. Individual historic, landmark and ornamental trees are all good choices for preservation, as are native trees in groves and woodlots. Opportunities differ from one development to another, but many recommendations for preserving trees remain the same.
Various people, such as arborists, engineers, architects, planners, and municipal officials, may become involved in preserving trees. Properly preserving trees in development takes time, good design, communication, and money. However, the results are worth the effort. This publication provides helpful information to those who want to preserve trees but know little about tree preservation techniques. Tree preservation starts with a basic understanding of the health of trees and the soils that support trees.