EVERGREEN ARBORIST: Year-end Top 10 list good for New Year, too

This column has addressed many tree issues during the year. To highlight some of the other issues, it seems fitting to create a “Top 10 List” in the spirit of the David Letterman as 2011 draws to a close.

This column has addressed many tree issues during the year. These included a recent warning about the anticipated rough winter conditions in the Pacific Northwest and steps to take in preparation for severe storms.

To highlight some of the other issues, it seems fitting to create a “Top 10 List” in the spirit of the David Letterman as 2011 draws to a close. It has been developed from situations we homeowners often face in our landscapes.

In no particular order of importance, here goes.

Top 10 List

No. 10 If trees have fallen during a severe storm, a root rot may have contributed to the failure. Such diseases usually spread by root to root contact. Downed trees should be checked by a qualified professional to determine if nearby trees are also infected and removal should be considered.

No. 9 Be respectful of neighbors that wish to preserve their trees. View issues are very common. Unfortunately some individuals damage or remove a neighbor’s tree without permission. This usually leads to legal action and damage claims, not to mention strained relations with a neighbor.

No. 8 If other tree problems arise with a neighbor, try for a peaceful settlement without involving attorneys and lawsuits. Cool heads usually lead to win-win solutions.

No. 7 If worried about trees in your own or nearby yards, have a hazard evaluation done by a professional. If a dangerous situation is discovered, the investment will have been worthwhile to remove the risk and to contribute to everyone’s peace of mind.

No. 6 If a doorbell “arborist” encourages tree removals or “windsailing” a tree, consider a second opinion from an independent source. Do not be afraid to question credentials and whether a commission is to be paid on the amount quoted for the job. If so, does he truly have your best interests at heart?

Note that anyone that can spell the word can call themselves an “arborist.” Certified arborists will have a card with an ID number issued by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). Certification requires passage of a comprehensive exam, membership in the ISA and fulfillment of continuing education requirements.

No. 5 Beware of the lawn service employee (or a husband) that threatens your small trees and shrubs with hedge trimmers. Their use may be appropriate if a “sculpted” appearance is desirable. But many shrubs as rhododendrons and azaleas and small trees such as Japanese maples should be hand pruned to maintain a more natural shape.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to fire up a hedge trimmer and to attack a landscape.

Often the results are unattractive, particularly after leaves have fallen. In addition, improperly “shaped” trees and shrubs result in more work than if pruned to retain natural shapes.

No. 4 When considering using pesticides, have a problem properly identified, select a legal and effective treatment and apply it at the right time. Follow the labeled instructions because improper use can lead to polluting the local environment.

WSU Master Gardener clinics are good sources to seek diagnostic help.

Otherwise, an on-site visit by a certified arborist or another professional usually removes any guesswork.

No. 3 Avoid the temptation to top trees. Aggressive trimming is ugly, creates maintenance nightmares and can shorten a tree’s life. Overpruning usually stimulates sprouting as trees attempt to replace the leaves and twigs that acted as the food manufacturing plant.

In other words, topping usually stimulates growth and results in more work than if a tree was properly pruned or thinned.

No. 2 Remember, the best tree pruning jobs are those that appear as if very little has been done. Butcher jobs are all too obvious – especially when the tortured skeletons of trees are revealed during the fall and winter.

No. 1 A big thank you to all the Courier-Herald readers that hopefully have learned a bit from the columns. I look forward to another year of writing about tree issues of interest to homeowners. I also look forward to continue to answer your e-mail and phone questions.

Finally, I wish to encourage readers to support a local green industry by purchasing fragrant, real Christmas tree carefully nurtured by a Pacific Northwest tree farmer.

Merry Christmas to all!

Dennis Tompkins is a Certified Arborist, Certified Hazard Tree Assessor and Master Gardener from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. He provides small tree pruning, pest diagnosis, hazard tree evaluations, tree appraisals and other services for homeowners and businesses. Contact him at 253 863-7469 or e-mail at dlt@blarg.net. Website: evergreen-arborist.com.