The Basics of Tree Care

Keeping trees healthy is essential to their survival. This means recognizing wind patterns and planting them where they will be sheltered.

Tree Services

Professional tree services also know how to handle equipment like wood chippers and chainsaws, have liability insurance, and follow standard safety practices. This reassures clients that you’re qualified to do the work they need to be done.

Pruning is the process of removing dead, diseased or damaged branches and shrubs as well as thinning out plants to improve their overall health and structure. It is a key part of tree care that can also help promote better air circulation, reduce moisture levels, discourage pest infestations and enhance beauty in the landscape.

Proper pruning can help prevent damage to your home or property by reducing the risk of falling limbs during stormy weather. It can also remove limbs that are growing too close to power lines or structures, as well as encourage fruit production in trees and shrubs.

Formative pruning is performed on young trees and shrubs to train their growth and shape them. It is important to perform this type of pruning as it can minimize the amount of time and labor needed to maintain a plant in the future.

Removing lateral branches that are competing with the leader helps strengthen it and make it less vulnerable to breakage. It can also be used to correct the growth habit of a tree that has reverted back to a multiple-leader spreading form from its original single-leader growth habit.

Thin out cuts are a more drastic type of pruning that removes a significant portion of a branch from its point of origin. This is commonly used on shrubs like roses to encourage branching and vigor, as well as on shade trees to increase light penetration to the lower canopy.

Summer blooming shrubs should be pruned in late winter or spring before they start producing new growth. This includes azalea, rhododendron, forsythia and lilacs. Hydrangeas, including H. macrophylla and H. serrata, can be pruned right after they bloom as they set their flower buds the year prior to pruning.


When mulching is done properly, it keeps soil moist, cool and adds organic matter. It also suppresses weed growth and promotes a healthy environment for the roots of young trees. It is an important practice for all species of trees but is especially critical for urban and suburban landscapes.

The best types of mulch are those that come from organic material and decompose over time. These include wood chips, pine needles, shredded bark, cocoa hulls and leaves, compost and even sphagnum peat moss. Organic mulches improve the soil structure and fertility by adding organic matter while the process of decay releases nutrients to the growing plant.

However, be careful not to put mulch up too close to the trunk of a tree. This can lead to trunk girdling and damp conditions that are ideal for fungal diseases such as fungi and bacteria. Inner bark tissue, which carries photosynthates from leaves to the rest of the tree is killed by wet conditions. This prevents phloem from transporting sugars to roots and starving the tree of essential carbohydrates.

Non-biodegradable materials such as lava rock, gravel and crushed shells do not boost soil structure or fertility and are not recommended for use under trees or shrubs. These types of mulches may be a good choice for pathways and driveways but are not effective as a soil enhancement under trees and can contribute to compaction problems. Plastic sheet “mulches” should never be used because they suffocate the root zone by blocking oxygen from entering.

Insect Control

Insects can damage trees and shrubs by feeding or spreading diseases. Proper plant care reduces the chance of insect infestations, but fungus and pests can still invade healthy plants. In addition to mulching, pruning and watering, insect control is another important part of tree health care.

Correctly identifying insects is essential to successful pest control. Insect damage to leaves and branches can be easy to miss, but there are many symptoms that indicate an infestation. Piercing sucking insects leave ragged holes in leaves, sap-sucking insects cause discolored or distorted leaves, and chewing insects can defoliate trees. Wood-boring insects can also weaken and kill trees by boring into the inside of the trunk or branches.

Spraying is the most common method of applying insecticides, fungicides and nutrients to trees and shrubs. However, spraying is wasteful because much of the chemical drifts into nearby plants or runs off the surface. In addition, a spray may not reach the interior of the tree where it is needed.

A better option for controlling insects is a systemic insecticide like 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed. Unlike sprays, these products are delivered to the roots and internal parts of the tree, so they are more effective. Additionally, they work over a wider treatment window than sprays because the application takes place when insects are most active and laying eggs. This bottom-up approach is also safer than spraying because it doesn’t release chemicals into the air. This type of insecticide is particularly helpful when protecting against high-value ash trees, which will require systemic protection in 2021 as they have no immunity to the deadly Emerald Ash Borer.

Disease Control

Trees and shrubs require care to keep them healthy and disease-free. A disease problem can develop due to biotic pathogens (fungi, bacteria and viruses) or abiotic factors that damage trees and shrubs.

Many diseases are opportunistic and strike when trees or plants become stressed by environmental conditions or insect pests. Fungi like rusts and mildews often appear on fruit trees and ornamentals after heavy rain or drought, while insect pests leave openings for pathogens to invade.

Diseases can cause a wide variety of symptoms, from mild to severe and disfiguring to fatal. Funguses and viral infections can lead to wilting leaves, shriveled bark or needles, and discolored or misshapen branches. Bacterial diseases like fire blight, bacterial leaf scorch, and canker disease infect various species of trees and lead to decline and death.

Needle cast diseases are a serious problem for many evergreens, including Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens), white fir (Abies concolor), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), hemlock (Tsuga), and cedar (Cedrus). Infected trees suffer from stunted growth, needle drop, and loss of vigor.

A fungal infection of pines called brown spot needle blight causes yellow or brown-tinted needles and brown bands that eventually turn black and die, leading to a bare tree. Fungicide sprays are available to control this disease. Bacterial leaf blight, which affects members of the rose family (Rosaceae), including apples, pears and crabapples, can also infect hawthorns, serviceberries, and quinces. Vaccines are available to protect against this disease.

Tree Removal

Tree removal is an important part of the tree care process. There are times that it becomes necessary to remove a tree because it is in danger of falling over or has become too large for its space. There are also reasons to remove a tree because it is causing damage to property (such as a home, driveway, or sidewalk) or is producing too much shade.

Removing a tree is not an easy job, and it is best left to professionals who have the equipment, skills, and knowledge to do it properly. There are many news stories of untrained people attempting to cut down trees and causing serious damage to themselves, their homes, or property. Using a professional tree service is the safest way to have a tree removed because it uses trained arborists, specialized equipment such as cranes and aerial lifts, and follows safety standards.

A professional tree company will assess the situation before starting to determine if there are any issues with power lines, nearby structures, or other trees that can be damaged by the removal of the tree. The company will then plan out the best way to remove the tree and minimize the impact on the surrounding property.

Fall and struck-by hazards are the leading causes of death and serious injury for workers in the field of arboriculture, including tree care services. These hazards can be caused by falls from trees or from aerial lifts/boom equipment, falling branches or limbs, and falling hand tools. A reputable tree service company will employ a thorough worksite assessment and safe operating procedures to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of their workers. They will also follow ANSI A300 tree pruning standards and provide consumer resources.