“If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?”. Although this is a common adage and of course a well known thought experiment, the sound of a falling tree, is never sweet to the ears.
The benefits of trees is common knowledge and it is our duty to protect and maintain the trees in our neighbourhoods and playgrounds.
Tree Management refers to the cultivation, data collection and maintenance of trees. In order to maximize a tree’s benefits, routine maintenance is essential. According to the International Association of Arboriculture, “The costs associated with removing a large tree and planting a young tree can outweigh the costs of regular tree maintenance practices such as a tree inspection, pruning, and mulching.”
Tree Hazards and Risks
The key aspect of tree management is the timely identification of hazards and risks. For example, mature trees are more likely to drop branches or cause root conflicts on the sites they inhabit. Natural events like storms or earthquakes, effects of construction work near a tree are some ways that trees can be hazardous.
It is important to regularly observe if the trees in the playground have any symptoms of decline. Be alert for smaller and fewer leaves, dieback in the crown of the tree, and premature fall colour.
Certain trees are more prone to attack by certain diseases and pests. Despite our best efforts, they may be weak or show a decline. It is therefore in the best interest of the tree and property owner to consult an arborist regularly for a professional assessment of the trees on the property.
What is an arborist?
An arborist or tree surgeon is a professional who practices arboriculture. Arboriculture is the cultivation, management, and study of individual trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennial woody plants. It generally involves a focus on the health and safety of individual plants and trees, rather than managing forests (the domains of forestry and silviculture) or harvesting wood.
When to call an arborist?
Trees are subject to high stresses and disturbances in urban settings – both above and below ground. Professional care improves their chances of survival. Services like pruning trees for health and good structure, aesthetic trimming, and “crown reduction” to keep trees away from wires, fences and buildings can be provided by Arborists. Arborists are trained to understand and implement the treatment based on the species of tree and the purpose of the work.
What to know before hiring an arborist?
Here are a few points to know before you hire an arborist:
1. Frequency of Pruning
While trimming and pruning enhances the natural beauty of a landscape they also hold the risk of permanently damaging a tree. Trees grow organically, and develop based on the surroundings, over pruning can hinder the natural growth of the tree.
Most trees can be pruned periodically to ensure proper leaf density and to contain new growth. There are some trees that grow slower than others and do not need frequent pruning. Pay attention to how quickly your tree grows before beginning a pruning cycle.
2. Dead Branches
One must be well informed and methodical about pruning. Dead, diseased and broken branches along with branches that might be interfering with wires and cables must be removed on priority. Dead or diseased branches are a clear symptom of an unhealthy tree, and a sign to call the arborist.
3. Fungi, mushrooms or mold
If you notice fungi or mushroom growing in your tree branches, this may be a sign of a larger problem. The decomposition process may have begun if mushrooms have taken over the inside of the tree. If this is the case, the chances of saving the tree are slim, and felling the tree would be advisable for the safety of people as well as other trees.
4. Discounts and off season pricing
Spring and Summer are busy months for trees and arborists. If the trees do not have urgent pruning issues or disease, consider calling your arborist in winters when you can get a discount or some off-season pricing.
Dangers of do-it-yourself pruning
Tree management requires a lot of knowledge and skill. While pruning might seem easy, it requires a lot of skill.
“The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) reviewed 45 civilian tree care-related accidents reported by the media in 2013. Of these accidents, 28 (62 percent) were fatal.” http://www.sjnewsonline.com/article/20140415/NEWS/140419480
Accurate assessment and study of the weight, location and other forces are required and can affect how the tree will react. A knowledgeable arborist will make sure of the safety of the tree and surroundings before pruning and trimming.
Young trees require care and protection from the elements and need to adjust in new environments. It is stated that “String trimmers and other lawn equipment are leading causes of tree mortality in the urban landscape. A common misconception is that tree guards will protect against lawn equipment. The fact is, even with protection, these lawn-care tools can decimate a tree guard and subsequently girdle trees of all ages. It’s best to keep lawn equipment as far away from desirable plants and trees as possible.” While there are many ways to protect trees, we have listed down a few basic ones.
Along avenues, or planned wooded areas in the playground, it will be economical to consider group fencing while the plants are still taking roots and developing.
A tree guard is a device that protects individual trees (esp. young trees and saplings) from animal and mechanical injury. They are commonly seen in parks and gardens and larger properties with planned landscaping.
“Tree shelter” is a generic name for a solid (or mesh) tube that is placed over a seedling to provide favorable environmental conditions for seedling growth.
Choosing between Tree guards and Tree Shelters
According to hortweek.com, a horticulture website, “if you are looking to buy tree shelters or guards, it is also worth remembering that shelters have the additional benefit of promoting growth by acting like a mini-greenhouse – reducing draughts and giving a slight lift to the interior temperature. There is also a lower risk of herbicide damage and, because they are more visible, of being hit by machinery.”
Other Tree Protection
While the arborist will be able to suggest the appropriate guards and protection, here are few more you can look up to understand more about tree management and protection.
- Plastic/HDPE mesh guards
- Mesh guards on a roll
- Weld mesh wire guards
- Guards with spray shields
- Strimmer/brushcutter guards
- Vole guards
- Metal tree protectors
- Shrub shelters
- Photodegradable and/or biodegradable guards/shelters
Lastly, when choosing tree protection, risks and length of protection should be identified. If protection is only required in the short term, one could consider photodegradable products because they will save collection and disposal later.
While minor trimming is acceptable, the regulations and laws for tree protection differ in various regions of Australia. It is important for property managers, owners and arborists to be updated on these and ensure the protection of trees and safety of the visitors at the playground.