Explaining Tree Care

I was recently asked, completely out of the blue, to write an article for a new business magazine, explaining what the tree industry was about.

Now, this was a huge thing for me, for a start, no one’s ever asked me to do anything like that before and I really didn’t want to cock it up. To me, the tree work industry has a massive communication/public relations problem. We’re really good at telling each other how wonderful we are but diabolical at putting that across to anyone else. Most of the industries’ advertising is geared toward’s scaring the general public into using us rather than explaining the benefits of proper tree care and how we can really help.

So for everyone that hasn’t seen the magazine, here’s my attempt at explaining tree care. Hopefully, I’ve highlighted what the professional Tree care industry is capable of.

Think of Tree work in the UK and the most common image or thought that pops into the mind are an individual climbing up a tree with a chainsaw, hacking lumps off to go through a chipper or the image of a forestry logger in a plaid shirt scything down huge redwood after huge redwood for the sawmill.

Arboriculture, to use the correct phrase, is the planting, cultivation and management of Individual trees and woody plants usually in the urban environment. The more commonly heard catch-all phrase of “Tree Surgery” only covers a small but highly visual and largely unregulated aspect of what we do, and qualified, educated tree men don’t use the phrase “lopping and topping”.

A competent arboriculturist should have a good understanding of plant biology, physiology, biomechanics, and agronomy usually obtained by some form of formal education and not just rely on the practical chainsaw short courses, which don’t cover any of these key areas.

We’re the industry that tries to maintain and manage the urban tree population, to prevent the issues that can arise from inappropriate tree planting, pruning and retention, that hears the oft-repeated phrases, “I like trees but”, “what if it falls down and smashes my house” and last but not least “that tree’s roots are breaking my foundations and drains”. We are the industry that should give an honest answer and doesn’t just rely on breaking out the chainsaws and chippers and hacking lumps off like some Victorian surgeon.

It is entirely feasible and safe to retain trees near buildings, streets, and roads with the vast majority not needing to be pruned when mature. In truth, the vast majority of mature tree pruning is more to create an aesthetically pleasing tree to our eyes rather than what’s good for the tree. Any pruning cut will leave an open entry point for pathogens that can harm the long-term health and viability of trees, so pruning should be kept to a bare minimum.

As trees are a material consideration in the planning process, the feasibility of their retention with the justification of their removal on potential developments should be documented in line with the guidance set out in BS5837:2012. Foundations of properties can then be designed and installed appropriately to allow for both the soil conditions and the presence of trees both past and present allowed for to prevent issues from arising.

If trees are causing an issue pruning or felling isn’t the only solution. Tree moving or transplanting is a much-underused but viable option in the UK. Tree spades mounted on either a lorry or some form of wheeled loader can dig under the tree, root plate and all, picking it up and moving it to a more suitable position, either on your property or elsewhere, and despite commonly held myths, there is no limit as to how big a tree can be transplanted. Tree transplanting also has the added benefit of providing an instant effect on development projects, no more waiting for small saplings to establish and add shade and screening to sites.

When trees show signs of decline a good arboriculturist should be able to identify the issue, be it biotic or abiotic or if you prefer an issue caused by a living organism or an issue caused by non-living agents such as water, nutrient and aeration deficiencies and offer sensible solutions and cures to these issues. A tree is no different to any other plant and many of the methods that we use to keep the grass green and healthy. Aeration using a geo-injector/terravent can reduce compaction and introduce beneficial organic compounds to the soil helping your trees recover and thrive for years to come.