The art of tree trimming
By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer
Whether it’s a little TLC or a lot of CTW (clear the way), there are many avenues to take when it comes to taking care of or dealing with tree issues on your property.
There are also many local businesses that specialize in helping out when the do-it-yourself option is simply not wise or safe.
Eric Reese, the owner of Halo Tree Service in Shelby Township, said trimming is the most common tree-maintenance procedure.
“For the most part, every tree needs trimming,” said Reese. “Without proper trimming, well, you will end up with a whole lot of dead sticks in your yard, come that next storm.”
Landscape trees require a high level of care to maintain their safety and aesthetics, so trimming should be done with an understanding of how a tree responds to each cut. Improper trimming can cause permanent damage to the tree or shorten the tree’s life. This is why homeowners and property owners should hire a professional company for such a project.
“Ideally, a tree should be trimmed every five years,” said Reese, whose company has been keeping the tri-county area’s landscaping looking clean for the past three years. “It can become dangerous if a tree is neglected for too long.
“Some tree branches can get slits where water can accumulate, which can cause the tree to rot, and they will eventually fall off the tree at that next high wind,” he said. “These large branches can fall on cars, houses, cause a lot of damage and injure people. Or sometimes trees can uproot entirely because you don’t know how the roots are seeded in the ground.”
Reese said a DIY approach to trimming is not a good idea; in fact, it’s very unsafe without the proper equipment and tools.
“On the outside, it could look healthy, but on the inside, it could be rotting,” he said.
And that’s also why it’s important to call an expert, especially if trimming or pruning is being done to create firewood, which could spread tree infections, like carpenter ants and termites, to other areas.
Reese, whose company has been in business since 1997, said some common reasons for trimming are to remove dead branches, to remove crowded or rubbing limbs, and to eliminate hazards.
Trees can also be trimmed to increase light and air penetration to the inside of the tree’s crown or to the landscape below, said Rick Mlynarek, the owner of M.D.L. Tree Service in Clinton Township.
He said accomplishing that may mean removing a tree altogether.
“We do a lot of tree removal, and the reasons for removal could be because the tree is too close to the house, there is dead rot in spots or because the property owner wants more sunlight on a garden or less shade on their house,” he said. “Everybody is different.”
Reese said routine trimming or thinning does not necessarily improve a tree’s health because trees produce a thick crown of leaves to produce sugar that is used as energy for continued growth and development. Removal of foliage through trimming can reduce growth and stored energy reserves.
When is the best time to prune?
Both Halo and M.D.L. see a significant increase in business during this time of year, when healthy trees begin to bud.
Mlynarek said June is his company’s most steady month, when homeowners — often new homeowners — find that some tree placement just isn’t all that beautiful.
“Some people don’t like trees, and some people love trees,” he said. “There are many reasons why someone wants a tree removed, but a lot of time, it’s because the tree is dead.”
Most tree removal or routine trimming to remove weak, diseased or dead limbs can be accomplished at any time during the year; trimming during the winter has little effect on the tree’s health.
But a tree’s growth is increased and tree-wound closure is fastest when trimming is done before the spring.
Once, and if, a tree is removed, Mlynarek said the next step is stump grinding: a method of ridding the property of the remaining stump and turning it into shavings or mulch. He said the entire tree removal process, for a 35-foot tree, averages around two hours.
Reese said some homeowners ask for ideas as to how to use the stump as part of their landscaping, but most of the time, the stumps are easily ground away and covered to keep light from entering the ground where the root could eventually spring to life again. He said simple seeding will turn the spot into grass in nearly no time.
“It’s not too expensive, and I do recommend it,” Reese said. “For some people, that stump is an eyesore.”