Why annual tree service is critical in Southeast
Many southern cities take pride in their mature shade trees and well-established arboreal canopy. It's impossible to imagine Atlanta or Birmingham, Ala., or Raleigh, N.C., without the graceful, arching trees that line many of the main thoroughfares.
Charlotte, N.C., too, has an affinity for mature hardwoods. The Queen City's legacy canopy of willow oaks reaches back to the early 1900s. Through the decades, the city's trees have been stressed by urban development and pollution - from 1983 to 2003, Charlotte lost more than one-third of its tree cover to development.
Publication of the alarming canopy decline, coupled with the devastating loss of trees from Hurricane Hugo in 1988, raised public awareness of the need to care for and protect trees. Yet annual tree maintenance often is ignored. It's easy to take healthy trees for granted. So, to better understand why it matters, we consulted an expert.
"It's better to be proactive when it comes to tree care," says Tim Young, owner of A-rated Tim Young Tree Service in Charlotte. "It takes more money to correct a problem than it does to prevent one."
He says the larger the trees, the more seriously you should think about their care. "They add to your property's value," Young says. "Using an experienced arborist is key to protecting the health and the aesthetic appeal of your trees."
These words rang true for Angie's List member Susan Martin of Charlotte. She and her husband called Young to trim a couple of trees on their heavily wooded half-acre lot. "I'm not real knowledgeable about trees," Martin says. "Tim looked at the trees we thought needed work, then showed us other tree problems and explained why they should be dealt with. He never pushed or pressured - just gave us options and showed how we could save money in the long run."
Traditionally, tree trimming is a winter task, when a tree's growth activity is concentrated in the root zone. Young says that in the temperate Southeast region it can be done just about anytime. He explains his approach to trimming in terms of natural growing conditions. "In their native environment, trees grow up clustered in groups as protection from wind and weather extremes.
"In an urban environment, where trees stand alone, you need to work in the upper half of the tree's interior branches, making openings to allow high winds to pass through," he says. "Often customers want trees limbed way up, but I encourage them to leave some lower branches to share the wind load." Young also advises that some sucker growth be left on branches to avoid sunscald.
The Martins decided to take Young's recommendations and had the additional work done. "Tim came to oversee the work and to make sure we were satisfied," Martin says. "Everything was done well."
Young is also adamant about clearing mulch from a tree's root collar, the area where the trunk meets the flare of the roots. He says more than 20 percent of fallen trees he removes have rotted at or below the root collar because mulch and soil have covered this area.
Ellen Goff is a freelance horticulture writer and photographer. She's passionate about plants, water quality and protecting the environment. Aside from working with words and pictures, she stays busy with her home landscape and its inhabitants along the shores of Lake Wylie, S.C.