Fall brings cooler days, longer nights, and a shifting color to the landscape. It is the perfect time for homeowners to care for their trees. Whether you have a few or a lot of trees; are the DIY type or like to hire out to a professional, you can save yourself some cash and some sweat equity by turning your attention away from your lawn and towards your canopy. Following are a few tips for the discerning dendrophile.
Tree trimming matters
Trees have evolved to co-habitate with other trees. When fighting for sunlight in a canopy, trees regularly prune themselves; shedding those lower inefficient or diseased limbs to the forest floor. They continue this process somewhat even when they stand alone in a yard. Dead limbs in the front yard can be inconvenient to deal with. More inconvenient however is a dead limb still in a tree. Fall storms can be just as furious as in the summer, and most property damage from trees occurs during a storm. Dead or unhealthy limbs can smash car windows, punch holes in roofs, and cause otherwise healthy limbs to shatter under weight when covered in ice.
Fall is great
Caring for your trees yourself can be labor intensive, but fall is perfect for the DIY tree lover. The temps are cooler, making work much more bearable. Calls to tree companies are slowing down as well, so they are often more competitive when giving estimates. Trees also have not yet shed their leaves. This is important. Short of being next to a twelve-foot-high branch, leaf color and/or presence is the easiest way to spot dead or dying tree limbs. It is important to trim this deadwood before the winter storms because ice can add several hundreds of pounds to a limb. Cutting a few branches now can mean the difference between a healthy tree and a tree with splintered branches come spring.
Asses your needs
Property is most important. Branches hanging over structures can cause thousands of dollars in damage to roofs and windows. Most Front yards have trees that hang over driveways; pay special attention to those areas where people tend to park. Fences also are commonly damaged by falling limbs. Dead, overhanging, or excess wood should be trimmed wherever possible. Trees on the back forty are not so important. These should be cleaned every few years for fire safety.
A home or business with a handful of immature trees should be no problem for most people to care for. A large or significantly wooded property however might need more attention than a couple of afternoons can provide.
Make a budget, buy the right equipment
The average homeowner with a few trees can get by with a pole saw and lopper setup (please never from Home Cheapo). Someone with a bigger spread might have cause to purchase a chainsaw or two (ahem…Stihl). A LeFlore or McCurtain county resident with a lot of pines might look into buying a climbing rig and getting some instruction from a professional. Purchasing all of these however may not be right for you. Take this little quiz before you go out and load up on equipment:
- Do you have the time and energy to trim your trees? Factor in cleanup and managing even a small tree can take a whole afternoon.
- Do you have the means to dispose the limbs? Some people have monthly big trash pickup (free). You can also haul tree brush to the dump ($50 per trailer load), or purchase a small wood chipper ($250-$1,200) and get free mulch.
- Do you have the proper safety equipment? Anything more than a little snip here and there will require safety glasses($5), head protection ($7-$100), possibly hearing protection ($2-$50), and hopefully chaps (dignity).
- Do you plan on using your equipment more than once? A terrible quality combination pole saw/lopper is available at the big name hardware stores ($50), or a proper, durable, modular pole saw can be had online or from a locally owned specialty store. This is Latak Arborist Supply for those in Oklahoma City ($35 for an 8′ fiberglass pole, $40 for a saw blade and attatchment, and $40-$80 for a mechanical pruner head).
- Do you need a chainsaw? You will if you are cutting anything more than a few limbs or wood with a diameter larger than 1.5″. The options are myriad and should be covered more comprehensively than I am able in this post. Maybe next post. Suffice it to say that you should spend nothing less than $250 if buying new, and stick to Stihl, Jonesered, and Husqvarna, or Echo if you must be cheap. Please don’t buy electric. Also, chaps ($110) can mean the difference between ripped Levi’s or a severed Femoral.
How did you come out? I bet you need to spend lot more cash than you expected. If the time, effort, or investment seems too daunting, maybe you should:
Hire a professional
We know what’s up. We make clean, proper cuts. We have safety equipment, insurance, and we can do it for probably not much more than you expect to spend when you DIY. Should you choose to go it alone then heed this advice:
If you have a lot of trees then you should inspect and care for them year round. Cut away the deadwood now. Inspect and attend injured limbs after an ice storm. Think about planting trees before spring comes and prune any unwanted or undesirable limbs before new growth in spring. Cut off “suckers” during the summer and make sure to water deeply every week or so during a drought.
We love arborculture 🙂
My name is Jeff and I run Red Arbor Tree Care. Email me with queries of a wooden nature at firstname.lastname@example.org.