When it comes to tree health, trust the experts

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published August 13, 2019

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METRO DETROIT — There are trees everywhere. Yet many people fail to recognize that trees have to be maintained before they become a detriment.

Contrary to popular belief, tree maintenance is a year-round activity — even in a state like Michigan, which has four seasons.

Sometimes homeowners have an issue with a tree drooping too low to the ground. Or perhaps a large tree’s branches in a backyard have become skewed due to a big summer storm, threatening the roof, siding and gutters of a home.

Jeff Moschino, the owner of Northwood Tree Service in Shelby Township, said that keeping up with tree maintenance is akin to keeping up with any other aspect of one’s life.

“I feel like people walk out of their house, look up and go, ‘I want that tree trimmed or removed,’” he said.

While some homeowners may be proficient in tree maintenance, others lack the experience, equipment and general knowledge of safety protocol to make a bad situation better.

As Moschino pointed out, he doesn’t know “too many homeowners who are willing to climb 65 to 70 feet up into a tree” to make the necessary improvements.

He said homeowners, by hiring professional tree trimming companies, can practically “train a tree” to grow a particular way. It is equivalent to tending to a garden or an automobile: The more you pay attention, the better off you are in the long term.

Eric Reese, the owner of Halo Tree Service in Shelby Township, said that “nine times out of 10” tree trimming is utilized to identify the correct limbs that need to go — as well as promoting better health for the tree’s future.

“It’s all over the board” as to why people call professional companies to help with their properties, Reese said.

It can be damage maintenance post-storm or major wind gusts that lead to broken limbs that could negatively affect homes and wallets. Invasive species, like insects or fungi, could weaken a tree so badly that it requires immediate attention. A drought could put a tree and its roots in jeopardy.

“Some people want trees removed for aesthetics, just to make their house appeal better, or if it’s doing damage to the house — the roofs, the shingles, the shutters,” Reese said.

And sometimes these companies can find what human eyes don’t see.

“Once the roots get to a certain point, the tree is so large and the roots begin to swell up in diameter,” he said, which can lead to damage to sidewalks and concrete.

Some people are more “picky” than others, Moschino said. He has had customers who want to know if their trees are healthy and disease-free, while others want storm-proofing done — in which holes in canopies are created to better allow for the flow of wind, leading to fewer broken limbs.

Both experts agreed that trimming in periods of dormancy is likely the best way to proceed, encompassing the months of November through March. That includes crabapples, Japanese maples, magnolias and other flowering trees.

Moschino’s company sees a “steady midsummer and midwinter” flow of business, although business has excelled in all four seasons the last three or four years.

David Lowenstein is a consumer horticulture coordinator at the Michigan State University Extension in Macomb County. His focus is more on insects and integrated pest management, which involves being proactive healthwise — by way of acknowledging weather conditions, droughts, invasive species, cultural controls, chemical controls and sanitation.

For example, Lowenstein said homeowners should know there’s a definite issue before spraying a tree with chemicals. That can be accomplished by looking up pathogens and stressors online, and maybe finding out whether the tree is suffering on a nutritional level.

He added that conditions have become more variable. A drought was prevalent a few years ago, but this spring there was an abundance of precipitation. That increases the potential for pathogen-borne diseases and fungal conditions that can have undesirable effects.

“The reality in a globalized world is the number of invasive species in our state have increased,” he noted, and it requires more vigilance. People may bring invasive species with them accidentally via shipping, RVs or even their luggage.

Invasive species include the gypsy moth, which has been around for a while and appears in cycles. Lowenstein said a pair of invasive species — the spotted lanternfly and Asian longhorned beetle — are already present in a couple of Eastern states and could affect states like Michigan if they head west.