Mature, healthy trees provide us with beauty, shade and color. We’re incredibly lucky to have a plentiful supply of them in Atlanta, as their presence enriches the character of our homes and neighborhoods, not to mention all the health benefits they provide
for the environment and each of us. Yet trees are often taken for granted. Under increased environmental stress, especially if roots have been weakened due to Atlanta’s past drought and recent flooding or construction on your property, your trees’ health can decline, causing them to die and become hazardous without proper attention. Here, we’ve provided expert advice to protect both your tall friends and your home, as well as tips on what to do should a tree fall and how to replenish Mother Nature’s supply after the fact.
Quality tree care is an overall program—a combination of horticultural and arboricultural practices. Whether you are remodeling your home, adding new trees to a landscape or maintaining the ones already there, simple maintenance can extend the lifespan of trees. Kevin Carnes, ISA-certified arborist with Arborguard Tree Specialists, provides the following key steps to keep your trees in good condition:
1. Proper watering. Trees in Atlanta require about 1 inch of water a week, which is the approximate amount of average rainfall. Without rain, trees suffer. Use sprinklers or drip-type irrigation systems to water them.
2. Proper pruning. Pruning is best left to a professional, but is an excellent treatment to improve health, structure and safety. Research has shown that trees that are
properly pruned withstand severe-storm damage better than trees that were not.
3. Annual checkups. Have trees inspected by a professional certified arborist for safety and health about once a year. “Symptoms to look out for are chewing insects, mushroom-type growth at the base, oozing from the trunk, wilting leaves and loose or decaying bark,” Carnes says.
Trees can fall due to structural damage to the trunk caused by high winds, but usually the cause is a weakened root system from drought or other environmental factors. “A tree often takes several years to become weak enough to fall, so the ‘root cause’ may be weather or construction-related work from 2 to 4 years ago,” says Deborah Harrison, co-owner of Habersham Gardens.
If a tree falls on your property, Harrison advises to first receive permission from your insurance company to have the tree removed. Then, contact a reputable tree service and require a certificate of insurance to protect you in case of damage. If you don’t know a good tree service, contact the Metro Atlanta Landscape and Turf Association (MALTA) for a recommendation.
If a tree on your property falls on your neighbor’s home or property, the general rule is that, even if it causes injury to a person or damage to property, you will not be liable so long as you are not negligent. “In the Atlanta area, case law has generally established that if your tree falls on your neighbor’s property, all the damages are his responsibility unless he could prove he had previously notified you of his concern about the safety of that tree,” says Bob Delbridge, vice president of the Georgia Arborists’ Association and owner of 404-CUT-TREE. To avoid this situation, however, it’s a good idea for homeowners to periodically inspect the trees on their property or have them examined by an expert to determine whether they are safe to continue to stand.
Cost of removal depends on several factors, including the size of the tree, location of the fallen tree, ability of large equipment to access the location and if it is on or off
the house or other structures. “Removal can be as low as $500 in perfect cases and as high as $3,000 for tricky or difficult-access situations. You must remember, pricing is dependent upon the number of man hours necessary to perform the work, the number of equipment hours and the amount of tree debris to be hauled away,” Harrison says.
Benefits of replacement trees include all the reasons for having trees to begin with. “For instance, oxygen generation, CO2 filtration from the atmosphere, temperature dampening, soil anchoring and humus generation,” Delbridge says. “The owner should make an assessment whether the same criteria exists after the tree has fallen as was the case when it was planted. For instance, the tree canopy may be too dense to support another large tree—perhaps an understory tree might make more sense now.”
Three of the most common trees growing in Atlanta are pine, maple and oak. For shady areas, Kevin Caldwell, president of Caldwell Tree Care, recommends understory trees (small trees, shrubs and vines that grow under taller trees and usually stay short even if they are very old), such as the dogwood, but notes there are several factors involved in selecting the right tree including soil conditions, so seek professional advice. For sunny areas, Caldwell suggests overstory trees (tall trees that grow to be very large) like oaks, which work well in the sun if there is enough space available for them.
“Choose a tree with a strong trunk and definite leader. The leader is the main branch going to the top of the tree in the center. Trees that have competing leaders will tend to split later in life,” says Lyn Cohen, owner of Georgia GardenScapes. She adds, “Be sure the bark of the tree is not injured, and that the roots are not overgrown or wrapping tightly around the pot.” Also, do not plant a new tree directly on top of an old tree, if at all possible.
The preferable time of year to plant a tree is between October and April—cooler months,” Caldwell says.
According to Eric Emad of the International Society of Arboriculture, “Studies have estimated that trees may account for up to 15 percent of the value of a residential property. For example, a $200,000 house on a lot with three mature trees might owe as much as $30,000 of its value to the trees.
Who to Call
“Whenever you need any work done on your trees, be it a removal or pruning, be sure to employ an ISA-certified arborist,” says Kevin Caldwell, president of Caldwell Tree Care. The ISA (International Association of Arboriculture) Certified Arborist credential identifies professional arborists who have a minimum of 3 years of full-time experience working in the professional tree-care industry and who have passed an extensive examination covering all facets of arboriculture.
Think about four-season interest when choosing shrubs and trees. Witchhazel, daphne odora, Lenten roses, Japanese pieris, winter honeysuckle, forsythia, leucothoe and blueberries are a few of the many choices available that will give you color, flower, fruit and fragrance during many seasons of the year.
—Mary Kay Woodworth, executive director, Metro Atlanta Landscape and Turf Association (MALTA)
How times have changed! AnythingGreen.com is a Web site that ships trees, such as the popular Leyland Cypress and the Thuja Green Giant, to your doorstep. The trees ship in their pots inside special packing containers and sell for about $2 to $18 each, depending upon their size and maturity at the time of shipping (usually they range from 18 inches to 3 feet in height). Customers can choose from one of three sizes when placing their orders online.
The following sites provide more information about tree health and safety:
Thanks to Trees
❤ Trees keep our air supply fresh by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.
❤ In 1 year, an acre of trees can absorb as much carbon as is produced by a car driven up to 8,700 miles.
❤ Trees provide shade and shelter, reducing yearly heating and cooling costs worldwide by $2.1 billion.
❤ Trees lower air temperature by evaporating water from their leaves.
❤ Trees cut down noise pollution by acting as sound barriers.
❤ Tree roots stabilize the soil and prevent erosion.
❤ Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rainwater, as well as protecting aquifers and watersheds.
❤ Trees provide protection from the downward fall of rain, as well as reduce storm run-off and the possibility of flooding.
❤ Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife.
❤ Trees located along streets act as a glare and reflection control.
❤ Trees renew our air supply by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.
❤ The amount of oxygen produced by an acre of trees per year equals the amount consumed by 18 people annually. One tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year.
❤ One acre of trees removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
❤ Shade trees can make buildings up to 20 degrees cooler in the summer.
—International Society of Arboriculture, www.treesaregood.org