"MY TREE'S TOO BIG" & 3 Solutions
Since tree topping is not an acceptable alternative for dealing with trees,
homeowners --- and, more importantly, communities --- need to understand
and consider the alternatives. Topping creates unsightly and
sometimes hazardous rotten trees. It stimulates rapid, messy regrowth
which can become a maintenance nightmare. Topping doesn't work to
keep trees small. It only works to turn property assets into legal,
financial and aesthetic liabilities. If your tree is too big,
consider the following alternatives.
If your tree is truly in the way, remove it and use a stump grinder
or treat the stump to keep it from regrowing. A tree in the
wrong place is a weed. We kill cabbages and cattle for food,
trees for lumber, and dandelions because they are in the "wrong"
place. Trees are no different. It's better for your property
value and kinder to the tree to remove it than to try to keep it
in an unnaturally short form.
You may care to plant a tree which is genetically programmed to be
"small" now, and plan to cut down that big tree later. City Arborists,
power companies, and nurseries can help you select the best "small"
tree for your area. Examples of small trees (30 feet and under)
are crabapples, snowdrop (Styrax j.), Japanese maple and some types
of magnolias and dogwoods.
2. PRUNE THE TREE
Although the goal of proper pruning is never to reduce the height of
an ornamental (means not a fruit tree) tree, a good arborist
(tree pruner) can prune in such a way that many problems seem to
magically disappear. Good selective pruning will reduce the
bulk of a tree, letting in more light and allowing wind to pass
through the tree. Reducing wind resistance by "taking out the
sail" will make your tree safer. Also, good pruning does not
stimulate regrowth and will "stay done" longer than topping or overthinning.
Arborists often remove lower limbs which directly interfere with the
roof, foot traffic, or vehicle traffic. This is called limbing-up
or skirting. Selective pruning channels growth in more
advantageous directions. It does not try to stop growth.
Selective pruning according to International Society of Arboriculture
standards (ISA) or National Arborist Association (NAA) standards
will make your tree seem less oppressive, cleaner, more distinct
and more beautiful.
A good arborist not only knows what kind of cuts to make
(thinning cuts, not heading or topping cuts); he or she also knows
when to quit. Trees vary as to the degree of thinning they
can take. A pine tree can be thinned out and layered
dramatically; a cherry tree won't take much. If you prune too
heavily, the tree either succumbs to death in a drought or it
suckers back like crazy the next year. Take care in selecting
an arborist to find one that will do what he can to please the
customer without damaging the tree.
3. BE AN ARBORPHILIAS (LOVER OF TREES) --- NOT AN
ARBOPHOBIC (FEARFUL OF BIG TREES).
Many people have a tree topped or removed because they are afraid
it is "too big" and will fall over. Trees do sometimes fall
over or drop limbs, but never because they are "too big." If
you have safety concerns, have a qualified arborist do a hazard
Signs of potentially hazardous trees include mushroms or white
sheeting on the trunks; cracks; earlier topping cuts; excessive
dead wood; heavy cone set; large hollows; and cut or disturbed
root systems. If your tree truly is hazardous, it should be
Most people rely on their feelings to tell them if their tree is too big.
This is not an accurate or objective measure of safety. Find out the
type of species of your tree and how big you can expect it to get. You
might find out that the one you have is just an adolescent. Or perhaps
it has "maxed out" and you have the biggest and best in the neighborhood.
Tree lovers measure the greatness of a tree by its size and age, as
well as its species. The bigger and older the tree, the better. Trees
are big by their very nature; they are, in fact, "the most massive,
tallest longest-lived organisms on the planet." It's what they do.
In addition to enhancing your property value, trees clean the
air of particulate pollution; cool and freshen the air; make
oxygen out of nasty old CO and CO2, contribute shade; break strong
winds; break heavy rain downpours; serve as habitat for songbirds
that control insect populations and remind you that spring is here;
serve as habitat for kids; and add beauty and grandeur to the
community. Not a bad deal for the price of a little leaf
raking. Appreciating your tree may make its size a source
of pride, not concern.
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