Helpful Tips & Articles
The experts at Dad's Tree Service aim to provide the knowledge and experience necessary to properly care for your trees. Check out some helpful tips & articles to promote healthy tree care in Alexandria VA and the surrounding area.
Can you prune trees in winter?
Yes! Many species can be pruned in winter. During the winter structural problems can be more visible, which makes structural pruning quite effective. Not only is it appropriate for many trees to be pruned in the winter, it is also practical. Preventative maintenance (preferably before ice & snow hit) has been shown to reduce ice and snow damage not only to the trees, but also to the structures surrounding them, because weaker & dead limbs can be removed. In addition, many evergreen species favor wintertime pruning.
What can I do about snow and ice?
In the snow, reduce the weight of the elements by gently brushing loose snow off of the tree’s limbs. Also, as mentioned above, proper pruning before the storm strikes can significantly decrease the amount of damage to a tree and its surroundings. BE SURE NOT TO STAND under large limbs weighted down with ice and snow; sudden breakage of these limbs can cause significant harm with little or no warning to the unsuspecting person who suffers the impact of their fall.
Do they need water?
Trees need water in the wintertime just as much as they do in the summertime. However, one must be careful only to water trees when the ground is NOT frozen; otherwise the water may freeze and cause suffocation to your plants.
Does mulch really help?
Proper mulching is quite beneficial to trees, as it increases the available nutrients, improves soil structure, suppresses grass and weeds, and helps to moderate the effect of temperature fluctuations.
Is de-icing salt harmful to my trees and shrubs?
Yes, salt is very harmful to trees (or any plant for that matter), for it restricts the root system from absorbing water, creating a drought-like situation for the tree or plant (despite all of the snow and ice surrounding it). This can eventually lead to the death of the tree (or plant). A more eco-friendly alternative would be to use sand when the ice comes, and save your trees and plants in the meantime!
Can I plant a tree in the summer season?
Although not advised, you can plant your tree(s) in the summer, as long as you are willing to water often. However, one must keep in mind that there is a greater chance the tree will be damaged, or even die, due to the heat. Try to plant in fall or spring in lieu of in the summertime, if you are able.
Because we got so much rain in the spring, do I still have to water my trees in the summer as well?
Absolutely. Summer is the hottest and driest of the seasons, and trees are constantly losing water to the atmosphere. Other plants can compete significantly with your stately assets for a good refreshing “drink”, and the adverse effects of too little water are multiplied during the longer, hotter summer days. Water is the single most limiting essential resource for tree survival and growth.
Trees should be watered once or twice a week in the growing season if there is no significant rainfall that week. Usually, 1-3 inches of water per week should keep a healthy tree in good shape (young trees may require more). Five gallons per square yard is about 1 inch of water. Slow, high volume watering is the best method (ie: using a soaker hose); less is evaporated or used up by surface plants, and therefore, more water gets to your trees’ roots. Regular sprinkler water is quickly used up by surface-area plants.
How can I prepare my trees for the upcoming hurricane season?
Hurricane hazards present themselves in numerous forms, some of which include high winds, flooding, and tornadoes. Many trees that fall or are damaged during a storm could have been identified as hazardous, had they been properly evaluated beforehand. A professional arborist can conduct a storm risk evaluation of your trees, in order to reduce or avoid damage. Diligent tree care before a storm helps minimize related issues and concerns, not to mention the loss of your garden, swing-set, or house!
A Q&A article from Kiplinger’s two years ago addressed this question and it’s a good one. Everyone wants to know: if my neighbor’s tree falls on my house – or – if my tree falls on my neighbor’s car – who is financially responsible?
We can help with your trees; the complexities of insurance and law are outside of our line of service. But in the article mentioned above, “Who Pays If a Tree Falls”, (http://www.kiplinger.com/magazine/archives/who-pays-if-a-tree-falls.html) the expert responding confirmed our experiences on the subject: what comes across a property line is typically the financial responsibility of the owner of that property. This means, if your neighbor’s tree hits your side of the line – it’s up to you and your insurance company to take care of what lands on your side. And in kind – if your tree hits your neighbor’s car, house or property, it then becomes their burden, to the dividing line of the property. (Note: Many insurance companies will not pay damages unless a structure is involved, such as a house, car, fence, etc. But check with your own agent to be sure.)
What and how much the insurance covers varies with the carrier. In matters of litigation, a variety of issues can come in to play. And then again, some folks figure if it is their tree, it’s their tree – paying for it is the thing that seems right to them. Other neighbors think, well, they’ve enjoyed the tree as well when it was standing, accident expenses come with the territory. Some neighbors split the cost to keep the peace. These are personal matters decided on a personal level. When an individual contracts with a tree service, like ours, the person approving the work accepts the full financial responsibility for the scope of the job described and agreed to – any adjustments between parties is a private matter and does not absolve the person authorizing the work from paying all or a portion of the cost of the job.
In our experience the bottom line of financial responsibility when a tree falls is this: generally vertical property lines of responsibility are the determining factor. More detailed questions about liability, insurance and law – well, that would be a blog entry on someone else’s site. Please check out the linked article in this post though, it’s brief and clear. Hope this helps!
In the Northern Virginia area, we are blessed with many mature and lovely trees. Majestic oaks, stately white pines, beautiful flowering dogwoods, crape myrtles, Bradford pears and many more species decorate our parks, communities and residential yards.
Mature trees boost the value of residential homes by 10-20%, and they are often irreplaceable. But what about storm damage? Can’t fallen trees and limbs bring about huge expenses and even greater headaches? The answer to this question is “Yes”. Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply remove all the tree from one’s property to be safe?
Well, in a word, no.
The value of mature trees goes far beyond enhancing property values. Just a few facts, below:
- “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20 – 50 percent in energy used for heating.”—USDA Forest Service
- “A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000.” —Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers
- “The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.”—USDA Forest Service
- “In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.”—Dr. Roger S. Ulrich Texas A&M University
Trees adjust to weather conditions which are typical for their climate. Under normal weather patterns, trees sway in the wind – these movements strengthen the woody material within the stem. It is the aberrant weather and storms that damage or kill trees and brings about property devastation. While there is no way to completely guarantee that a tree will not fall or break up in a storm, there are effective ways a homeowner can minimize potential damage and “weather the storms” with more confidence, while enjoying the many significant benefits of tree ownership.
In abnormal or unusual wind conditions such as hurricanes, tornados or other wind blast, a tree can suffer traumatic limb amputation, can break into pieces, or collapse altogether – especially if rains have heavily saturated the ground with water. There is no controlling where these limbs or trees may fall in those circumstances. However, there are known hazards that a skilled arborist can identify and correct with proper inspection and direct action:
- Identification and removal of dead or dying trees
- Identification and removal of major deadwood (typically 3″ diameter and larger) which is most vulnerable to wind shear
- Structural tree trimming in Springfield VA to give room to your home and other structures from the anticipated sway pattern of limbs close to those edifices.
- Thin and balance as prudent dense or heavily lopsided tree canopies
- Proper pruning minimizes a number of structural problems which left untreated could cause the tree to become vulnerable to infection, infestation or weakening
And there are things the Homeowner can “do-it-yourself” to enhance tree health and safety:
- Pay attention to the water / hydration needs of all your trees. Water from sprinklers gets absorbed quickly by surface foliage and rarely reaches a tree’s roots. Trees need slow, deep watering if precipitation is less than 1-2″ in a week during scalding hot summer, but also if there are prolonged dry periods during the winter (if the ground is not frozen), during the spring growing season, and in the fall if it is dry. Soaker hoses are the best method for deep watering your trees – be careful not to over-water them, however, or you can invite fungus growth. Be generous but prudent.
- Use only proper mulching techniques at the base of your trees – NO MULCH VOLCANOES!
- Have lightning damaged trees assessed promptly to assess for loss of structural integrity. At the very least, these trees will need careful attention to hydration needs, and probably continued observation.
- Have your mature trees assessed at least every 2 years by a professional arborist. Dad’s Tree Service will provide you with a free assessment and estimate of any recommended work.
- Avoid root damage by construction and renovations. Set a “safe-zone”, aka a “no work zone” around trees near any proposed excavations – at least to the drip line of the canopy.
“Hello, I have an ash tree, and it looks…..”
We have received a number of calls concerning ash trees in our service areas. Sadly, the once-eradicated Ash Borer disease has returned and the results of this hazardous infestation are seen in almost every neighborhood in this lovely area we live and serve in.
The adult Emerald Ash Borer is seen from late May through August. It feeds on the leaves of ash trees. The Emerald Ash Borer flies a mile or two miles at a time. It mates, then lay its eggs on or just under the surface of the bark of an ash tree, or in the cracks of its bark. After two to three weeks the larvae come out. These larvae are the source of the greatest damage to ash trees. They burrow into the inner bark in the late summer and fall, and feed on it. This prevents water and nutrients from being delivered to the tree. The larvae are then dormant in the tree until spring, at which time they emerge as adults.
The early signs of Ash Borer infestations can be difficult to spot. Bark splitting and increased attention from woodpeckers on an ash tree could be indicators of the larvae beneath the bark. A very visible sign is canopy die back – when the upper leaves start to wither and die because they aren’t getting nourishment. The appearance of green spouts along major branches, the trunk or at the tree base, can be a sign of distress in the tree, as it tries to regain its normal ability to process its needed nutrients.
Because a recent infestation is hard to spot, many diseased ash trees are not found until it is too late, and the definitive option in those cases is to have a professional take down the tree and dispose of it safely. Don’t waste time – if you have evidence of Emerald Ash Borer, the worst possible outcome is if you do nothing. The borers in your tree will go to your other ash trees and your neighbor’s ash trees. We cannot over emphasize the serious threat this infestation poses to the ash tree population at large. Don’t delay in removal – it is the only cure.
The US Dept. of Agriculture has some guidelines for homeowners to help them recognize a few common hazards in their trees. Hazards can mean that the tree is in decline and could pose a risk to lives and/or property. We discussed some of these below:
Dead trees and major deadwood (typically 3″ diameter and larger) should be removed right away. Dead trees and branches are unpredictable; they can break and fall at any time. Dry and brittle, dead portions do not bend, or sway, in the wind like healthy limbs/trees do. Dead branches and tree tops that are already broken off (“hangers” or “widow makers”) are especially dangerous!
Take immediate action if you see dead trees, branches or hangers. (You can email or call our office for prompt attention.)
A crack is a deep split through the bark, extending into the wood of the tree. Cracks are extremely dangerous because they may indicate that the tree is in a risky state of decline. Notify us if a crack extends deeply into, or completely through the stem of your tree, if you see multiple cracks, crack defects near other trouble areas of the tree, or cracks in overhanging branches.
A tree usually decays from the inside out, eventually forming a cavity, but sound wood is also added to the outside of the tree as it grows. Decay can be found in many trees, but in and of itself, not indicate the tree is failing. Evaluating the safety of a decaying tree is usually best left to trained professional.
Advanced decay, i.e., wood that is soft, spongy, or crumbly, or a cavity where the wood is missing can create a serious hazard. Evidence of fungal activity, including mushrooms, growing on root flares, stems, or branches can be indicators of advanced decay. Mulch volcanoes (see our blog entry on this topic) can also cause decay at the base of your trees, and weaken them enough to topple.
Cankers are caused by wounding or disease; they are areas on the stem or branch of a tree where the bark is sunken or missing. A canker can weaken the affected area, and increase the risk of a break happening in that spot. A tree with a canker that encompasses more than half of the tree’s circumference may be hazardous even if exposed wood appears sound. Also take action if you see a canker connected to a crack or other defect.
Roots are essential to the structural support of your trees. Trees with root problems may blow over in wind storms, or even fall without warning in summer under the weight of the tree’s leaves. There are many things that can produce root problems: severed or paving-over roots; raising or lowering the soil near the tree; construction near the tree; parking or driving vehicles over the roots; or significant root decay or disease.
Soil heaving, dieback (deadwood at the crown of the canopy), and off-color or smaller than normal leaves are symptoms often associated with root problems. Because most defective roots are underground and out of sight, aboveground symptoms may serve as the best warning. Call immediately if your tree is leaning with recent root exposure, soil movement, or soil heaving near the base of the tree. Have us evaluate your tree if there has been damage to the roots, or you see decay.
Poor Tree Structure
Trees can have strange shapes. These can occur from storm damage, unusual growing conditions, improper pruning, and other damage.
A leaning tree may or may not be a hazard. Call our office to have us check your leaning tree for stability and normal growth. If you notice an excessive lean to your tree, or the canopy seems significantly out of balance, have it evaluated promptly.
Evaluating and treating hazard trees is complicated, requiring a certain knowledge and expertise. Never hesitate if you think a tree might be hazardous. Contact our office by email or phone for a free consultation and evaluation.
“My tree has a fungus or some sickness - it has white web-like things all over it!”
In the spring, the silken tents within the forks of major tree branches can alarm homeowners. This time of year, Eastern tent caterpillar populations can be an eyesore & a nuisance. The caterpillars construct a small tent in the fork of branches. The tent serves as a resting place and shelter. The caterpillars leave the tent to feed on leaves, and the tent gets larger as the caterpillars grow. In some cases, patches of trees can be defoliated; defoliation may occur several years in a row. Most trees can survive the loss of foliage and will leaf out again in the summer. Trees in poor condition that are stressed by disease or drought are more susceptible to mortality. Common host trees include plum, apple, cherry, crabapple, and many other broadleaf trees.
In typical residential areas, one of the best methods to control an infestation is to collect and destroy egg masses and larvae in branches. The larvae can be killed by using a 2-3 foot rod to scrape the nest into a bucket of soapy water (make sure to wear gloves!). The best time to remove and destroy larvae and their nests is in the early morning when many caterpillars are still in the tents. If you are unsure about the health of your tree, email us from our contact page, or call our office at 703-799-5844, to have Ron come by for an assessment.
Recently we were asked, “Why TCIA?”
Dad’s Tree Service gained its TCIA membership back in 1999; at that time, the association was known as NAA – the National Arborist Association. It became the Tree Care Industry Association about ten years ago or so.
When we started out, the NAA was known as the foundational mark of legitimacy among tree care companies nationwide. From the beginning, our company has been committed to outstanding service, honest practice, fair rates, and high standards. We believe in being licensed, insured and professional. So it made sense for Dad’s Tree Service to associate ourselves with a reputable association – that being NAA. Now TCIA, the standards of excellence and the resources available to tree care professionals have continued to be reliable and accessible.
TCIA is active in promoting industry standards for quality and safety. Safety is a huge consideration in this line of work – it is tricky business. We conduct regular safety meetings among the crew members, and the TCIA accident reports and standards (along with OSHA standards) form the basis for many of our meetings. Our employees are professionals, educated in TCIA care standards for the actual conduction of our work, and for the maintenance of our gear and equipment.
TCIA is a great resource for industry professionals dedicated to ethical and quality in business practices. They provide safety and educational programs, guidelines for tree care operations & pruning standards. The Tree Care Industry Association also acts as a consumer resource. Dad’s Tree Service is proud to be noted among the members of this quality organization.
"It's no big deal, it should be easy..."
We get calls from time to time in which the caller will attempt to advise us on the best - "easiest" way to remove their trees. No offense, but this is tricky business. TCIA, ISA, OSHA, the workers compensation insurance carrier - all have important things to say about how to safely cut down and remove a tree.
Safety is imperative! One homeowner kept insisting to Dad's Tree Service owner Ron Kronz that "all you have to do is put a rope around it and drop it right there - it's no big deal." Well, Ron said to the man that this could be true - maybe 9 times out of 10, that tree could drop right there. But you can't cut corners. The wrong twist, a crazy turn, any number of things and that tree would wind up right on the house.
We did not get that job. But the contractor who did "do" the job dropped the tree right on the house. The insurance would not pay for this because the contractor was invited by the homeowner to do the work. The contractor was not insured, and did not come back to fix the mess. The tens of thousands of dollars to repair the home were completely the homeowner's responsibility and the home was condemned as uninhabitable until repairs were made. Thank God, no people were hurt. That said, this was a very costly lesson for this homeowner. Cutting corners does not save money - or time - or hassle. Unfortunate. Even so, a solid lesson for others who are considering the best way to remove a tree from their property!
Dad's Tree Service carries full Liability Insurance and Workers Comp; we abide by Safety Standards so we don't have to USE this insurance coverage! Our estimates are Free. Call 703-799-5844 or complete our online request form today and arrange to have Ron come by and leave a written quote at your home for the work you need done.
We sometimes get the question: What is a "mulch volcano" and why is it to be avoided?
Mulch volcanoes are the mounds of mulch piled up around the base of trees, like a cone, deep and high; they look like the name they are called by: volcanoes. It is one of the most harmful - albeit, unbelievably common! - landscaping practices seen in our area.
The mulch volcano can result in significant insult to trees, and lead to tree death. Some believe these piles look attractive, but they perform no useful function, and as mentioned, are actually harmful to your trees.
The purpose of applying mulch around the area of a tree is to preserve soil moisture - especially when there has not been enough rain. Volcano style mulch application doesn't allow rain to get through to the tree roots effectively. So the practice actually worsens the problem of not getting enough water to the root system.
Properly applied, mulch can also help modify the effect of temperature extremes over the root system of a tree. Mulch volcanoes often leave critical areas bare and unprotected. In fact, unhealthy root growth and development may occur as a complication of mulch piled in this way.
The piling up of mulch around the base of your tree can promote fungi growth, and can pre-dispose it to disease development underneath. Vermin may also make their homes at the base of the tree if the mulch is mounded high.
It is not at all uncommon to see a tree completely rotted at the base come down in a wind storm - it has a classic gnawed-off look at the toppled base, and the tree roots are often still fully embedded in the ground.
The proper application of mulch is as follows: 2 to 4 inches in depth over relatively clean, weed-free soils and roots. Keep the mulch at least 4" away from the base of the tree, and extend the mulch covering out in a circular fashion around the tree, to approximately the drip line of the canopy. "Wide not high" is a good rule of thumb!
Let’s get to the best part first. Many studies show that trees increase property value between 7-19%. At least, well-maintained, mature trees do (see Curb Appeal). That might not sound like much. Until you start crunching the numbers, that is. For example, if your home is valued at $300,000, then losing mature trees from your land could cost you $30,000 in property value.
Shade and Insulation
We’ve established that trees can make you money just by standing there (few of us can say the same). But they also impact your energy bill. During the summer, deciduous trees block the sun’s rays. This leaves you in the cool(er) shade and reduces your need to use the AC. Then the leaves fall, and winter comes. The sun’s rays can shine through again, naturally keeping your home warmer.
(Prevent) Soil Erosion
Is your home on a hill? Near a hill? Here's something beautiful about the design of every tree. Its roots create an underground web that prevents shifting in the soil, and redirects water flow. Plus, if you're near a hill, that keeps your home more stable.
Look at any article on boosting curb appeal, and you will see for yourself how crucial landscaping is. There’s nothing attractive about a lawn with a big, neglected tree right in the middle. What about low-hanging limbs over the driveway? Or an overgrown shrub right next to the door? Sigh. Visual clutter rarely looks good. A well-maintained, healthy landscape wins us over any day. And your well-groomed trees are a major part of that!
You’ve made it home after a crazy commute, and can finally recharge. Or can you? Trees reinforce privacy on your property. They ensure that what’s outside can't be viewed inside. Even more importantly, what’s inside isn’t displayed for all the world to see.
Sometimes the answer is right in front of you
Frequently, when we think of ways to improve our lives, we think of artificial, man-made products. We often neglect what’s right in front of us. There’s no question that trees are great for the environment. But they are also integral to your quality of life. Studies show that being around trees reduces stress and promotes our health. Keeping them healthy in return is not only practical, it’s rewarding in unexpected ways. If you’re not sure where to start with your trees, reach out to Dad’s Tree Service! Dad’s will be happy to provide you with a free estimate on the best care for your trees.