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Category ArchiveProper Care

Why Hire an Arborist?

When it comes to tree and shrub care, there are times when you should turn to a professional to evaluate your situation and recommend treatment, if needed, to maintain your plants at their healthiest. Most arborists provide a wide range of services, including tree removal, tree pruning and cutting, stump grinding and removal, and tree health evaluations. Many of these services are not needed on a regular basis and most clients will know when they are needed! But there are times when a tree expert should be called upon for consultation and possible remediation:

  1. Safety – If your area has experienced a storm, or your tree appears to have shifted in some way or another, a tree expert can help determine whether it needs to be cut down or cut back. When safety is a concern, you need to call your professional arborist right away; he can determine whether immediate action must be take to avoid an accident resulting from possible limb or trunk breakage. Once your tree professional evaluates your situation, he can recommend what needs to be done to avoid a potential catastrophe.
  2. Health – If your tree is not looking as healthy as in the past, your may need to contact a professional to determine whether your tree can be saved or needs to be taken down. Warning signs that your tree is no longer healthy may include trunk damage with cracks or missing tree bark, branches that are bare when they should be leafy, and fungus growing on your tree’s trunk or limbs. A tree expert can help determine whether your tree can be saved with professional care or must be taken down.
  3. Neighborliness – If you can see that your tree branches are encroaching on your neighbor’s property, it’s best to act sooner rather than later and have your tree pruned. The simple fact is that if it is your tree, then it is your responsibility to keep it pruned and away from your neighbor’s property, unless they state otherwise. Aside from the simple courtesy of being a good neighbor, you might be liable should a branch or tree fall on your neighbor’s property, potentially causing injury or damage.
  4. New plantings – If you are just starting a tree garden, border, or even simply planting an accent tree, a consultation with an arborist can help determine the best candidates for your property. A professional can help evaluate growing criteria, such as water and sun requirements, as well as aesthetic qualities, such as the leaves, flowers and fruits of various species. Your trees will most likely be with you for a lifetime, so you want to be sure to select ones you will be happy with and that will thrive down the road.

Let’s face it – trees are everywhere and it’s easy to take them for granted. But should your tree have problems and need to be removed, it can be an emotional experience for homeowners. It’s best to do what you can do prevent tree sickness and damage before it occurs by establishing a relationship with a local tree specialist that can advise you concerning potential problems.

Choosing a Tree Service Company in Evanston & Chicago

With the presence of Emerald Ash Borer, the tree industry on Chicago’s north shore has seen an extreme increase in the demand for tree workers. This has prompted many entrepreneurs to purchase trucks and chainsaws to head out and make some quick cash.

The problem is that many of these new companies do not have an understanding of the art and science of tree care. In many cases when they are quoting to remove an Ash tree the home owner will ask to have some other mature trees pruned while the workers are on site.

For now lets put aside the extreme danger of having an untrained tree worker remove a dead tree from your property and focus on the damage that can be done by improper tree maintenance.

Not knowing how and what limbs to remove during pruning can actually do more harm to the tree than good. Improper cuts can lead to decay moving into the main stem of the tree as it is unable to heal correctly. The amount of the tree being removed should also be considered.

Removing more than 1/3 of the trees canopy in a single growing season could stress the tree into failure. Pruning at the wrong time of year can also have a negative impact on tree health. Certain trees can become infected with deadly vascular diseases if not pruned during the dormant season.

We suggest erring on the side of caution and always check the credentials of the company you hire. Ask if they are affiliated with organizations such as the ISA or TCIA. Ask how long they have been practicing tree care and if they have a certified Arborist on staff.

Remember accepting a company based on price could cost you more money down the road or cause the loss of the living assets on your property.

Identifying Hazardous Trees

Every year in all areas of the country falling tree limbs cause countless deaths or result in thousands of dollars in damages. Unfortunately, many of these accidents could have been prevented if the trees in question had been pruned or cut back beforehand. Many homeowners choose to cut these beautiful trees down when it isn’t really necessary because they have heard the horror stories from others who have had an unfortunate accident befall them. They want to protect themselves, but don’t really know how to. So, they decide to eliminate the tree altogether.

Yes, it is true that having a very large tree hovering over your house can be a cause for concern. Even if the tree is in perfect health and flourishing, there is still the concern that weather can play havoc with it. Storms, high winds, accumulated ice on the branches, severe bouts of heavy rain that soften the soil and weaken the roots are just a few of the things that can put you, your home, and surroundings in potential danger. Mother Nature often plays mean tricks, and cannot be depended on. There are several things that you can do to protect both yourself and keep that beautiful tree, but nothing is ever perfectly safe.

If you have concerns, don’t hesitate to call on the services of a certified arborist to help you identify potential hazards. He or she can easily recognize signs that may not be noticeable to the homeowners, and can come up with viable solutions to any the problem. One of the most positive steps you can take, however, is to thoroughly inspect your trees after a storm, change of season, or high winds. There are several things to look for that may give you an idea about whether the tree is a potential accident waiting to happen. Make sure to take a good, hard look at all the trees you own, not just the one that is in close proximity to the house or roof.

Check first to see if the tree is leaning more than it used to, and which direction it is leaning. Does it seem to be closer to the roof than before, or was it always that way? Take note of any broken branches or limbs, especially if you have had severe storms lately. Splits in the trunk can indicate a hazard because the tree has the potential for falling. Does the tree show signs of leaves falling earlier than normal for your area? Are there parts of the tree that already have no leaves? These signs all point to the fact that you really should call a tree care expert to help you out. Prevention is the best way to avoid accidents from hazardous trees. Of course, if the tree is located in an isolated area of your yard, even if it falls it will cause only a little damage. It’s the ones that are close that you really have to worry about.

Inspect the ground under the tree. You may have a root problem that could cause the tree to topple in the gentlest of breezes, even if it has great foliage and looks completely healthy. You can’t see what is happening underground, but you may be able to see root rot or upheaval where the trunk meets the ground. You are going to need a professional opinion if you spy any of these. Fungus can cause considerable trouble if not addressed quickly. Since fungus is usually only seen on dead or decaying wood this is another sign that your tree is in trouble, and it is time to call the professionals.

Do you have a lot of dead branches or limbs on the ground under the tree? This may be another way to identify a hazardous tree. Some branches do fall during storms and high winds, or from the weight of ice in the winter. This is a normal occurrence. If you see branches that are broken or without leaves, there is a very good chance that there are more up in the tree that you can’t see. If you have never had the tree pruned this is especially true and you need to have them taken care of by a tree pruning company before they come crashing down on top of something-like your car!

Take a good look at the bark of the tree. Do you notice any cracks or splits? Are there any areas where the bark is completely missing? If you see a rather long streak of missing bark, the tree was probably struck by lightning at one time or another without you even knowing it. Make sure to do periodical checks afterward to see if the leaves are falling off, a sure sign that the tree may not survive the lightning strike. Another sign of sickness or disease is trails or spots of noticeable sawdust, which means some type of insect is eating the tree and must be eradicated as soon as possible. Good tree care is essential if you want to keep your trees!

No matter what type, or how many trees you have on your property it is very important to keep them pruned and cleaned out from season to season, or after any weather that has caused problems. Trees not only add to the value of your property, but are an essential part of the environment. A professional arborist is the only person who can advise you how to care for your trees and keep your home safe as well as aesthetically pleasing. It’s not only the beauty of the trees, but the necessity of keeping your home and surroundings safe. You never want to wake up some morning to find that your tree has fallen on your roof, or worse yet, that of your neighbor. Prevention is key, so don’t take any chances by neglecting to hire professional care for your trees!

In many instances, the arborist you hire will not usually recommend tree cutting if the tree can be saved. They would much rather save the tree if at all possible, while removing the parts that could be considered hazardous to you. A certified arborist is trained to recognize all signs that indicate the state of your tree, and a legitimate arborist will be frank and honest with you. There are some tree companies out there that recommend cutting down any tree, anytime they are called, but this is more of a money making ploy. An arborist who is certified will look for ways to save the tree before recommending its removal.

Please ask questions of anyone who comes to inspect your tree. If he/she states that the tree has to come down, ask why! Anything less than a knowledgeable answer with evidence supporting it should be considered unreliable. The company is probably just looking to make themselves some quick money. Get another opinion, and don’t worry about what he/she thinks. Your trees are valuable assets to your property and you want to keep them if at all possible. Check with friends or neighbors who have had tree specialists inspect their own trees, and ask for references. Progressive Tree Service is a professional certified arborist.

The Ins and Outs of Stump Removal

Stump removal is not a simple task. If it were a simple task, you would not see tree stumps firmly rooted in your neighbor’s front yards. Many factors contribute to why a tree must be removed, such as the health, placement of the tree, oroverall appearance of the tree. What many people do not realize is that the actual removal of the tree itself is a very straight forward process and is not as technical as stump removal.

After cutting the tree down it is often decided to leave the stump and come back to it later. Cutting down a tree yourself can be a very time consuming and labor intensive process, to the point that when it comes to the stump you may decide to just leave it alone and come back to it next week, next month, or even next year. This may seem like a good idea at the time, but there are many factors that can make this “good idea at the time” decision a daunting one.

When a tree stump remains for an extended period of time the tree will have the potential to re-sprout in multiple places around the edge of the stump or from the roots. Depending on whether the tree was being removed as a permanent decision or if it is expected to recover, this can be either desirable or undesirable result. In addition to potential re-sprouting, stumps also provide a few other potential issues, such as creating safety hazards, becoming redundant eye sores, and taking up valuable space within the property.

Safety Hazards: When cutting down the tree it is common to leave the stump raised to eye level. While this is the less desirable option, it is often the most recommended one. When the stump is able to be seen it reduces the possibility to become a tripping hazard and can also prolong the life of the blades on your lawn mower. The other option is to cut the stump down to become flesh with the soil and grass. In these instances, the stumps create instant tripping hazards and may become responsible for damages to lawn mowers and other lawn care equipment.

Eye Sores: An ideal yard has lush, green grass, and tall, sturdy trees. When thinking of your dream yard the last thing that comes to mind is a lonely old tree stump. As mentioned earlier, stumps also have the potential to re-sprout, which will not only lead to further maintenance of an already unwanted tree, but also cause it to become even more unwantedly noticeable.

Occupying Valuable Space: In addition to being an eye-sore, stumps also take up residency in your yard. They can instantly create additional obstacles and work when it comes to maintaining your lawn. If the stumps was removed in the first place, lawn mowing would be one simple task, but since there is still part of a tree remaining, you also have to pull out the Weed Wacker, and in the hot mid-western summers, who wants to do that?

Some stumps are easier to remove than others and therefore different techniques may be applied. One thing to keep in mind with any of these methods is that they can potentially be costly, ineffective, and time consuming. It all really comes down to the tree roots. If you decide to remove the stump immediately after tree removal, the process will be much more complex and time consuming. If you don’t mind a stump sitting in your yard for a few seasons, then it will be easier to remove yourself. Generally, the age and size of the tree are the best indicators of stump removal difficulty. For example: the older a stump is, the easier it is to remove, while small stumps are also easier to remove than large ones. Some significant factors that contribute to the amount of difficulty of stump removal include the age of the tree, the health of the tree, and the type of tree. For example: a younger, sickly tree will have a less sturdy and stable root system compared to a giant, 100 year-old healthy oak tree. The roots of pine trees tend to be wide, flat and relatively shallow while deciduous tree stumps’ roots tend to be long and deep. Before deciding to remove a stump yourself, you must weigh all of these factors before deciding which removal method will be most successful.

Methods of Stump Removal:

Burning – This is often one of the more simple methods for stump removal that does not require much time to elapse, but it is also one of the more risky methods due to potential ignition of nearby objects and debris. When stump burning is performed close supervision is a necessity. This method is carried out by drilling multiple holes into the stump (about 8 to 10 inches deep) about 1 inch apart from each other. After clearing out all debris from the holes (which must be done properly to ensure proper funneling of product), potassium nitrate is then placed into each hole followed by the addition of hot water. Once the potassium nitrate is dissolved it is then ignited. Once the fire has distinguished itself the stump is then completely dug up and the now existing hole is filled with soil. One thing to keep in mind about this process is that while the stump will be affected by the burning, surrounding close-to-surface root systems may not. As mentioned earlier, this leaves room for re-sprouting within the root system.

Chemical Removal – This method first requires that the stump is trimmed to be as small as possible. Once trimmed, several holes are drilled into the stump (about 10 to 12 inches deep) and the chemical stump remover is poured into the holes. After 4 to 6 weeks the stump will become soft and spongy, which will aid in the hatching and removal of the stump. Again, this method can leave close by root systems unaffected.

By Hand – This method often requires the most labor. Multiple tools may be needed such as a chainsaw, hatchet or axe, rope, shovels, and in some cases a vehicle. The process begins by first trimming the trunk to where only enough for leverage remains. Followed by using the shovel to dig out as much of the stump as possible and reveal underlying roots. The roots are then hacked away and dug out, followed by the attempt of moving and wedging the trunk out of place. In more complicated scenarios it is recommended to chain the stump to a 4-wheel drive vehicle in attempt to budge it out of place. This is a very labor intense and time consuming method. It is also often ineffective due to exposed root systems and little or no chemical intervention.

Stump Grinder: A stump grinder is a power tool that removes tree sumps by a rotating cutting disk that chips away at the base of the stump. Stump Grinders are the most recommended and effective way of removing a stump since they can completely destroy the roots of the trees in just a few seconds. The downside to Stump Grinders is the fact that they are very expensive and may be the size of a small tractor. Smaller Stump Grinders are available, but they are often unable to remove larger stumps successfully. Stump Grinders are available to rent for a decent price, but if you do not have experience using a stump grinder it may quickly go from a good idea to a complicated mission. When deciding to use a Stump Grinder it is highly recommended to have a professional come in to complete the job, such as Progressive Tree Service.

Beware of the Emerald Ash Borer

This pest is something you hope you never have to deal with, that’s how destructive it can be. The Emerald Ash Borer has already destroyed millions of trees, with countless more to come in the next 20 years! For those people who have no idea what it is, here’s a quick description of the EAB. Called “emerald” because of the metallic green color, this very destructive insect is less than ½ inch long, making it extremely hard to detect with the naked eye. How can something so circumspect cause such tremendous damage?

The EAB was first discovered in 2002 in the US in Michigan, but it has been prevalent in China, Russia, Japan and Korea for quite some time. Belief is that it came to the US in shipping container wood from these countries, and further spread though-out the country from firewood that had been infected. Whether or not that is true really makes no difference. Since it has no known natural enemies, it is considered to be an invasive species, and needs to be destroyed before it can eradicate all the ash trees in the US. Since its discovery in 2002, ash trees through-out the upper mid-west extending all the way to NY in the east and as far away as Iowa in the west have been destroyed by the EAB.

The beetle lays eggs on the bark of the ash tree, and in turn the larvae tunnel through the bark and feed on the sapwood of the tree during warmer months. During the winter, the beetle morphs into pupae, and in the spring the adult EAB’s gnaw their way to the surface and make their escape to continue to wreaking havoc on other ash trees. Unless the ash trees are treated millions more will be lost, as well as millions of dollars by areas affected. Even though the process may take years to occur, the loss of ash trees infected is a sure outcome. Healthy ash trees must be treated by an arborist who has the knowledge to recognize any signs of infestation and take measures to prevent the pest.

Unfortunately, complete tree removal is necessary once the ash has become infected before it can spread to surrounding areas, which it will. In essence, the best prevention is to take a proactive stance and have all your ash trees treated by tree care experts. Don’t wait until your trees start showing signs, however, because by then it will be too late. Usually, there are no early signs or symptoms of the tree being diseased, and once there are, the tree is definitely ready to die. Before this happens to you, call a tree expert, who can diagnose any problems, and take steps to eradicate the EAB, which almost always is going to mean complete tree and stump removal.

Some of the more obvious symptoms of EAB infestation are branches that tend to die off anywhere on the tree. The canopy starts to thin out, and the uppermost leaves at the top become discolored or fall off entirely. Sick trees may attempt to grow new branches near the bottom or base of the tree. This is known as Epicormic Sprouting, a term used to describe the effect of stress the tree is undergoing as a result of being attacked. Another obvious tell-tale sign of an infected ash tree are vertical splits in the bark called larvae galleries-areas where the larvae are burrowing and feeding. Woodpeckers feed on the EAB larvae, so if you notice a lot of these birds converging on your ash trees, it’s a sure sign your trees are sick. You will most likely see the woodpeckers up near the top of the tree because this is where the beetle usually first attack.

The damage done by the woodpeckers can be extreme, but is inconsequential when compared to the destruction the EAB causes over time. While the birds can make it so that the tree might have to be pruned, woodpecker damage is both contagious and does not spread throughout the whole colony of ash trees. A good tree trimming company can provide services like pruning or trimming back areas that the woodpeckers have damaged. They can do nothing for a tree that has been infected by the EAB except cut it down and grind up the stumps. Also look for “D” shaped exit holes that will tell you for sure that the beetle and larvae are present, or galleries (trails) that are “S” shaped and are dense with sawdust, and wind in a serpentine pattern. The larvae itself is cream colored, have pincers on the stomach, and are slightly flat. They can reach a size of 1 ½ inches when they finally stop growing, and you can see them feeding under the bark of the tree. You can recognize the adults by the bright green color, but since they are only about the size of a grain of rice they are difficult to spot unless you know exactly what you are looking for.

It is very fortunate that the US Department of Agriculture and Animal Plant Health Inspection Services, (or APHIS) has a national plan that is equipped to deal with this potentially deadly threat to the nations forests. Arborists can receive training on how to effectively deal with diseased trees, as well as how to quarantine areas as much as ½ mile around other existing ash trees. This essentially means that nothing can be moved from the quarantined area, including firewood, logs, or nursery trees. Unfortunately, any tree nurseries operating within the area may not sell any of their young ash trees.

TreeAzin is a chemical that has been developed that can efficiently kill off 95% of the EAB larvae and can reduce the number of eggs that have been laid. Tree service providers must be trained and certified before they can apply the product, and are an important part of eradicating this most dangerous insect. If you have any ash trees on your property get in touch with an arborist or tree care experts and have them come in and inspect your trees. Even if you think that your ash trees are perfectly healthy, there is no actual way to tell unless the tree care company inspects them and gives you the all clear! Keep in mind however, that trees miles away that have been infested can infect your healthy trees at any time and you must take steps to prevent it.

Communities have already lost so many ash trees to this insect that it would be a shame if they did nothing to stop the EAB, especially since there are methods available now to do it. Colorado, for example has instituted an aggressive plan to rid the state of the EAB, and in Minnesota it has become an absolute necessity since the infestation is spreading like wildfire in that state. Although there is no simple or tried and true method to tell the difference between a sick tree and a healthy ash. There are a few methods to detect the EAB, such as pheromone traps that attract the beetles when released. This is one way to draw the beetles away from the ash trees in the area, but at the same time, it is quite expensive to do. Learn all you can about this insect if you happen to have ash trees on your property and you want to keep them healthy!

Why Tree Pruning is Important

Many times throughout my career I have had clients ask why it is necessary to prune mature trees. A common misconception is due to the idea that woodland trees survive just fine without any care, why should anyone pay to have a large, mature tree trimmed?

While it is true that trees survive just fine in their native setting, when we place a tree in the urban environment the stress the tree experiences differs greatly compared to its native surroundings. Trees that are not properly maintained can create some pretty hazardous conditions for you and your property.

Allowing the canopy of your tree to become too dense greatly increases the risk of damage during high winds and severe weather. Large dead limbs can fall at anytime causing harm to anything in its path.

A trained professional inspecting your tree will notice any decay, splits, cracks or weak branch unions that may need attention. Most of the time these flaws can not be seen from the ground and often go unnoticed until it is too late. Urban trees should also be clearance pruned to keep limbs clear from rooflines, drives and sidewalks.

Crown thinning can also benefit the health of your tree and overall landscape by allowing more airflow through the canopy reducing the risk of foliar disease and greater light penetration to the plants and turf below. Maintaining trees is an art and science that takes years to master.  If you have mature trees on your property and are not sure if they are in need of care please don’t hesitate to contact us. One of our trained professionals would be happy to asses your trees and setup a proper tree pruning schedule.

Proper Mulching

Mulch is defined as a layer of substance (organic or inorganic) placed on the surface of the soil around landscape plants. A two to four inch layer of organic mulch such as pine needles, wood chips, or bark that will decompose can actually improve the soil over time. Below are some of the benefits of properly installed mulch.

  • Retains soil moisture, cutting water use by up to 50%
  • Stabilizes soil moisture
  • Stimulates microorganism activity which can improve soil texture.
  • Controls the growth of grass and weeds which can rob the soil of water and nutrients.
  • Moderates soil temperature
  • Controls erosion
  • Improved appearance
  • Keeps mowers and line trimmers away from the trunk avoiding mechanical injury

Wood bark or wood chip mulch is ideal for use around trees and landscape plants. Old research indicated that mulch would tie up soil nutrients as they break down, thus causing deficiencies in plants. Further research has proven that the nitrogen deficiency only exists at the mulch/soil surface, inhibiting weed seed germination while having no impact on established tree roots.

One of the biggest mistakes when mulching is applying too much or creating what we call “volcano mulching”. This is where mulch is piled high against the trunk of the tree causing a volcano like appearance. This can cause the plant to decline or even die as it keeps too much soil moisture against the trunk of the tree allowing rot/decay to move into the main stem of the plant. The stressed tree will become more vulnerable to insects, fungi, and bacteria. The excess mulch will also stop water from reaching the soil under the tree causing drought stress symptoms on the plant. Please contact one of our tree professionals if you think your mulch may have been installed incorrectly or if you would like mulch added to your landscape.

Why We Don’t Top Trees

Some homeowners have the common misconception that trees become more hazardous as they grow taller. The biggest concern is that the tree will fall over in high wind as it continues to gain height. However a tree with a healthy root system that has been properly pruned is much safer than one that has been topped. Below are the main bullet points of why topping harms trees.

  • Shock. By removing large portions of the upper canopy bark and foliage are directly exposed to sunlight. This can cause sun scald to parts of the tree that are usually in shade out of reach of direct sunlight.
  • Starvation. Removing too much of the canopy can actually cause the tree to starve as the tree will not have enough foliage to produce food to sustain the health of the plant.
  • Insects and Disease. The exposed ends of topped limbs are highly vulnerable to insect invasion or fungi spores that can cause decay.
  • Weak Limbs. New branches that grow from a stubbed limb are weakly attached and more liable to break from snow or ice weight.
  • Accelerated Growth. Instead of controlling the height and spread of the tree, topping has the opposite effect. New branches are more numerous and often grow higher than before. This can lead to large limbs failing in high wind or severe weather.
  • Death. Some trees will not recover from the stress of topping. They will start to decline until the tree ends up to be a costly removal.
  • Appearance. A topped tree will looked disfigured. It will never regain the grace and character of its species.

Consult one of our Certified Arborists today to come up with a practical plan to manage the mature trees on your property. It will not only save you money it could prevent the loss of your living assets.