Certified Arborists are a valuable resource in assessing trees in trouble

By Tim Daly
Gwinnett County Extension Agent
Why does a tree suddenly begin to wilt and die? Why does just one tree suffer while others remain healthy? Could an insect or a disease problem be afflicting the trees on your property? Or could an environmental stressor be the cause? In recent years, trees have been under high stress levels due to the prolonged drought, construction activities, floods and pest problems. Sometimes the symptoms of these maladies do not become apparent until months or years after the affliction begins.
If any trees are on your property are of concern, how should you go about addressing the problem? First, carefully examine the tree(s) in question to see if there are any large dead branches, mushrooms growing out from the base of the tree, if the trunk is strongly leaning over in one direction, or if any construction activity around the tree’s critical root zone has recently occurred. If you observe any of these problems, consider hiring a Certified Arborist, a professional who has passed a special exam and met certain requirements through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), to do a thorough assessment of the tree. These persons are well trained in tree health, pest management, soil fertility, assessing storm damage, cabling and bracing, and proper pruning techniques.
An arborist can examine and ascertain the potential risks of trees on your property and provide recommendations, if necessary, for certain treatments such as pruning parts of the tree to maintain its health and vigor. Pruning may include thinning out branches, removing dead ones and those that could potentially cause damage to property or harm to people. If the tree has any unsafe branches or bad branch angles, the tree professional might install cables to hold them in place. Cabling involves using heavy gauge stainless steel cable and eye bolts to secure limbs and trunks. The arborist may recommend a fertilization regime to increase the tree’s vigor and stop any decline. Trees are often fertilized by injecting liquid fertilizers into holes that are drilled in the soil around the tree. Sometimes the complete removal of the tree is warranted if nothing can be done to save it, especially if the tree is a potential danger. Arborists can also provide recommendations for preventative maintenance to maximize the health of the trees on your property.
What should you look for when searching for a qualified arborist and tree care company? First, make sure the person who will be doing the tree assessments is a certified arborist through the ISA. Also, they need to present to you proof of insurance with the name and contact information of the insurance company. The company needs to have the necessary licenses and permits in order to perform the work. Ask for references, and consider visiting sites where the company has performed work on in the past. You should get multiple estimates from different arborists, and do not always accept the lowest price. Carefully examine the written specifications of the estimates to determine the best combination of price, work to be done, skill, and professionalism. Most reputable arborists present their clients with a detailed contract explaining when the work will be started and finished as well as who will be responsible for the cleanup. Also make sure the contract specifies the total costs and ask if there are any hidden fees, such as stump grinding, which often is an additional cost.
Trees are assets that add value to one’s property and should be cared for properly. With the help of certified arborists, homeowner’s trees will remain healthy and safe through proper fertility management and pruning. There are some individuals who are just Certified Arborists and are not employed by tree care companies.
They are also a valuable resource for doing tree assessments and can recommend treatments as well as advise you on which companies can provide the best, most cost effective service if needed.
The International Society of Arboriculture (www.isa-arbor.org), the Georgia Arborist Association (www.georgiaarborist.org/), and Gwinnett County Extension are all excellent sources of information on tree care and can provide recommendations of certified arborists in your area.
Timothy Daly, MS, Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent, Gwinnett County Extension. He may be contacted by phone at 678-377-4010 or by email at timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.

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