Take care with tree care

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - MICHAEL ALLEN

LOTS of peo­ple like to save money if they can do the job or most of the job them­selves. I re­ceive hun­dreds of calls each year about con­cerns peo­ple have with their trees and shrubs. There are es­sen­tially four ar­eas as­so­ci­ated with trees and shrubs of which peo­ple are con­cerned: (1) what’s wrong with the tree; (2) how to deal with in­sect pests; (3) how to deal with dis­eases; and (4) how to deal with tree struc­tural prob­lems that re­late to dead branches, hol­low cav­i­ties in the tree, and two or more trunks near the base of a tree clus­ter that seem like they want to split apart and come crash­ing down onto a build­ing. Now, not all th­ese is­sues should be tack­led by a prop­erty owner who is not ex­pe­ri­enced in car­ry­ing out po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous tasks. I will pro­vide ex­am­ples. For ex­am­ple, dead or bro­ken limbs in a small tree (no more than 15 feet high) such as an or­na­men­tal flow­er­ing tree or a fruit­ing tree can be pruned off by a handy and ag­ile home­owner with ap­pro­pri­ate sharp tools and a lad­der se­cured by rope to the tree. It is eas­ier to prune in the fall than the sum­mer. You can mark the dead branches in the sum­mer with read­ily vis­i­ble bright-coloured paint spots, and re­move the branches in the fall. But in a taller tree, leave prun­ing to the pro­fes­sion­als. Only if you are an ex­pe­ri­enced tree climber and pruner should you ven­ture higher into taller trees to do the prun­ing. An ex­pe­ri­enced tree climber/pruner knows to prop­erly se­cure them­selves to two sep­a­rate places in the tree. Li­censed ar­borists have the proper climber’s rope and gear, which are es­sen­tial. For most of us, hir­ing a li­censed ar­borist is the safer route. Want to know how you, the home­owner, can safely and ef­fec­tively take care of your trees and shrubs? Ev­ery year, I give adult ed­u­ca­tional cour­ses through the Louis Riel School Di­vi­sion on how own­ers can work with their smaller trees and carry out ba­sic prun­ing us­ing the cor­rect method them­selves. I also show how to prop­erly prune woody shrubs. Trees that have been weak­ened by dis­eases and pests will look ‘sick.’ The leaves may be spotty with orange, brown or black blotches, have no­tice­able holes, or are fall­ing off pre­ma­turely in the sum­mer. Holes in leaves are of­ten caused by cater­pil­lars. If you have no­ticed leaf prob­lems in the past, start­ing this spring spray your trees and wood shrubs with wa­ter as soon as the leaves ap­pear. Do the top and un­der sides of leaves. Do this weekly for two months. Be care­ful that you do not use too much wa­ter pres­sure near de­vel­op­ing flow­ers. Wa­ter spray will knock off eggs and crawl­ing in­sect/ mite nymphs be­fore they ma­ture into se­ri­ous feed­ing pests. Once th­ese young pests hit the ground they are fin­ished, as they need to be in the plant to feed. If you see cater­pil­lars, you can use an en­vi­ron­men­tal spray prod­uct such as BtK. Th­ese treat­ments ap­ply to ever­green conifers (nee­dle leaf shrubs and trees) as well. If you are spray­ing ap­proved chem­i­cals for the prob­lem, be sure to follow the safe han­dling in­struc­tions on the prod­uct’s pack­age. How do you know what is nat­u­ral fall fo­liage colour changes ver­sus when a tree is ex­hibit­ing signs of stress or dis­ease? Is there any­thing a home­owner can do them­selves to iden­tify and erad­i­cate a tree dis­ease once started? I have re­cently pub­lished a book that is a guide for ur­ban prairie prop­erty own­ers and oth­ers on what they can do about tree dis­eases. The guide, in plain lan­guage suit­able for the layper­son, helps you iden­tify the tree and po­ten­tial prob­lems that tree might have and what op­tions you have to con­trol the prob­lem ei­ther by your­self or with the as­sis­tance of a li­censed spray ap­pli­ca­tor. Michael Allen M.Sc.F., RPF (ret.) is a con­sult­ing ur­ban forester, tree di­ag­nos­ti­cian and cer­ti­fied ar­borist. He owns Vibur­num Tree Ex­perts, a Man­i­toba company that pro­vides ob­jec­tive as­sess­ments of the con­di­tion and the care re­quired for trees and shrubs on home and business land­scapes. He is avail­able to visit homes and gar­dens. He can be reached at 204-831-6503 or 204-223-7709, or vibur­numtrees@shaw.ca. His web­site is

tree­ex­perts.mb.ca. Michael’s new book: ‘Dr Tree’s Guide to the Common Dis­eases of Ur­ban Prairie Trees’ is avail­able from the au­thor or from

McNally Robin­son book store.

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