Getting the most from your trees

“Tree owners need to know what they’ve got before they can manage it.”

Treecall ConsultingJust as in those TV programmes where guests check their attics to see if they have a valuable heirloom lying there, tree owners need to consider the value of their trees.  Maybe you’ve got a veteran tree that’s been around for centuries or a rare specimen gracing your front lawn.  What if your trees are harbouring cracks, cavities and defects that you should know about?

Trees are always the responsibility of the owners, though they are often not considered until there is a problem or an accident has happened.  A tree survey will identify problems and recommend timely action to minimise or remove risk, which avoids stress and worry for everybody concerned.

Trees are large features that can provide character, scale and atmosphere to a site.  They also have the capacity to damage and injure so they need just as much attention as other fixtures and structures on the premises.

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Tree risk assessments should be carried out periodically by all businesses that own trees to ensure that employees, visitors and the public are not being put in danger.  Here safety is the most important criterion.

Management surveys go beyond the immediate health and safety issues and consider other factors, such as the expected life span of trees, formative or aesthetic pruning, and getting the right tree in the right place for the future.

The value of regular, programmed inspections increases over time as the reports will be able to show trends in tree health and condition and pick out problems before they become significant.  The written reports are also valuable in demonstrating that a prudent approach to tree risk management is in force, so liabilities in the case of accidents can be minimised.

In a nutshell

  • In a garden the owner, can get to know how trees change in a way that an arboricultural consultant cannot in a single visit
  • Check trees out on a regular basis.  Make this annual where possible and don’t forget to do a quick check after storms, floods or other extreme events
  • Take lots of photos over time as they are more easily compared than written notes.
  • Record your findings.  The records will build up into a valuable store of knowledge about the trees, their value and the liabilities they represent.
  • Make sure any tree that could be an unacceptable risk is inspected by Treecall Consulting.
  • Supplement non-technical assessments with periodic visits from Treecall Consulting.  Make sure you get a written report for each visit.
  • Carry out any identified safety work as soon as practicable.
  • Get to know the local Council tree officer if possible.

What to look for

  • During the first few inspections you are learning to recognise your trees as they are.  Assuming the trees are healthy you will be developing an understanding of how the tree should look.
  • Subsequently, inspections will mainly focus on any changes from previous observations.
  • Look at the three parts of the tree; roots, trunk and branches.
  • Note any changes to the soil, the presence of fungi or damage to roots.
  • Look at the base of the tree.  Are there any signs of damage, instability or disease?
  • On the rest of the stem consider how things have changed from the previous inspection.
  • In the crown look at where the branches fork away from the trunk.  Are there any weak points, dead sections of bark, cracks or other unexplained signs?
  • The branches should look healthy and undamaged and the foliage should be typical in size, colour and shape for that tree species.  Any changes to the expected healthy pattern, or previous inspection should be noted.
  • Check for the presence of large lumps of deadwood.  These should be removed if there is a real chance of them damaging people or property.  If the deadwood will fall into inaccessible areas don’t prune it as it is a valuable ecological resource.
  • Once the inspection is complete there are three main options for action;
    1. Carry out all work needed for health and safety reasons.
    2. Call in Treecall Consulting to look at suspect or problem trees for further advice.
    3. Relax and enjoy the trees, knowing that there are no major problems to address.

Article written by Steve Cox on November 16, 2009