In order educate our customers and the public about tree care and common issues with trees in the landscape, we've compiled a list of answers to some frequently asked questions we receive to help address your inquiries.

Do you have a question about a topic not listed here?  Contact us with your questions.


Q:  My tree was planted a few years ago.  It did fine the first year.  Why does it keep declining now?

A:  Recently planted trees that are planted too deep and mulched too heavily might grow fine for a year or so but eventually the roots suffocate and can't get the air and water they need to grow and proliferate.  Heavy mulching compounds the issue by also suffocating the roots and trunk.  The roots can't expand outward quickly enough to obtain water/nutrients to supply the leaves and the tree dies of thirst.

Q:  When mulching around a tree, the thicker the better, right?

A:  Actually, no.  Thick mulch volcanoes around the trunk cause a myriad of problems.  First, they cover the trunk, which needs air exposure, and can cause rot in the tree.  Secondly the heavy mulch invites unwanted roots that can circle the trunk and eventually choke off the tree as they grow.  Keep mulch 2-4 inches thick and a few inches away from the base of the tree.  The wider, the better!  You want the roots to expand out into the soil, not stay around the base of the tree.  If your mulch ring looks like a brown blanket laid on the ground (rather than a bean bag around the trunk) you've got it right.

Q: What kind of mulch is best?

A: Any organic mulch like hardwood chips, bark, pine straw, leaves, etc. is better for tree health than inorganic mulch such as stone or rubber.  Organic mulches break down in the soil, thus building the soil and improving it for trees and plants.  Also, stone or rock gets hot in the sunny summer (which bakes water out of soil) and very cold in the freezing winter.  Organic mulches act as a thermal blanket to protect roots from temperature extremes and helps conserve water near the roots.  Some folks like cypress mulch because of the lower maintenance and it not breaking down so much; however, therein lies the problem.  It doesn't "break down" in order to "build up" the soil like other organic mulches.  The "breaking down" of the mulch is what "builds up" the soil for your tree!  See Soil Health for more info.

Stone = less maintenance, but also less plant benefits.  Wood = little more maintenance, but much more plant benefits because of it.

Do you want healthy, vigorous trees?  Use an organic mulch that breaks down.  Period.

Q:  What is a girdling root?

A:  A girdling root can be any root that wraps around another root or stem.  They start small, but grow in size, and they bind and act as a tourniquet that cuts off the flow of water/nutrients.  You might see a bulge because of this.  Trees should all have a natural trunk-root flare where the roots extend out into the soil.  If your tree looks like a telephone pole at the base, girdling roots are usually to blame.  A recently planted tree may be too deep and will develop girdling roots. 

Girdling roots are usually an easy fix.  See a little root wrapped over another?  Snip it with a pruners.  If they 'pop', they were already putting pressure on the system.

Q:  If I want a tree planted, can you guys do that?

A:  Absolutely!  We love to plant trees!  We are a full service tree care company.  In addition to planting for you, we can also consult with you about what kind of trees you may want to plant and give you guidance on tree selection and proper maintenance to ensure you have a beautiful tree well into the future.  See Planting & Selection for more info.

Q:  Why does my tree have dead patches on the trunk?

A:  The dead areas of tissue on the trunks of some recently planted trees are what we arborists call sun-scald.  The tree grew in a certain orientation to the hot sun at the nursery, and the bark tissue accounted for that.  When they are transplanted in our landscape they are not always in the same orientation.  This means that new tissues are exposed to hot sun that weren't before, and they get "sunburned".  Newly planted tree trunks should always be wrapped with a material that allows the tree to naturally adjust to the new sun exposure.  After a year or so the wrap can be removed.

Q:  When I prune branches off my trees, I should spray pruning sealer on them, right?

A:  Actually, no.  Studies by the ISA show that many "pruning sealers" show no positive impact on the speed of wound closure.  In fact, any sealants with "petroleum distillates" in the ingredients can even inhibit wound closure by disrupting the trees natural chemical and biological processes that compartmentalize the wound.  Trees have their own natural sealing solution.  Don't bother tampering with it.

Q:  How much do you charge to take a tree down?

A:  That really depends.  Like people, no two trees are alike.  What are you looking for?  Do you just need a tree put on the ground, or do you want a full removal with the debris cleaned up?  A tree felled whole with no potential targets around will have a much different cost than say, a huge tree removal in the backyard leaning over the house and garage that must be pieced apart.  Every tree pruning and removal job is a unique task.  See Pruning & Removals for more info.

Q:  Should my young tree be pruned?

A:  Yes!  Structural pruning of young trees is very important.  Especially if you want the tree to be strong well into the future.  Early pruning for properly structured trees results in less future problems with the tree itself.  Any pruning of branches wounds the tree.  So the sooner, the better, as the cuts are smaller and more easily sealed over.  The job is also less intensive, meaning a small investment now results in less costs and problems later.

Q:  I have an ash tree with a thin outer canopy and a bunch of sprouts in the middle.  Is the boring beetle in there?  Can I save the tree?

A:  If you have an ash tree that is thinning or dying on the upper/outer canopy yet has new lush sprouts around the center then chances are good it is infested with Emerald Ash Borer or EAB.  Because there are many symptoms and signs of EAB when present, your tree needs to be diagnosed.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  How strongly do you feel about keeping the tree?  See Pest Control for more info.

Q:  My pin oak has round growths on the twigs that are very hard.  What are they?  Are they bad?

oak gall

A:  Your pin oak probably has Horned Oak Gall present.  The galls are created by a tiny, stingless wasp that lays eggs in the twig tissue.  These eggs and resulting larvae disrupt the plant hormones as they feed and cause the tree to form a gall of woody tissue around the pest.  They have a very complex life cycle that makes control difficult.  Although common, they aren't necessarily a bad thing for the tree, unless your tree becomes heavily infested and stressed.  They may be suppressed with pesticides, but more important is keeping your tree healthy and vigorous so it can withstand the gall wasp presence.