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Happy Tree Shopping!

News And Advice From The Leading Thousand Oaks Tree Trimming Company

Spring and summer are ideal times for planting trees, especially in  the mild climate found here in the Conejo Valley. If you’re set to buy and plant a new tree or two, here are some guidelines for picking out a high-quality tree, and for identifying any problems with a tree’s structure or roots — or spotting injuries — before you buy.

It’s worth putting in the effort to pick out a high-quality tree because a healthy tree can increase the value of your home and — on the flip side — a low-quality tree can end up causing undue and costly maintenance issues.

What Does A High-Quality Tree Look Like?

When you’re tree shopping, look for one with:

• Well-spaced, firmly attached branches

• A healthy trunk — no obvious wounds or damage of any kind

• This will be harder to inspect, but if you can, look for a developed root system to support healthy growth

 At the same time, avoid trees with:

• Multiple stems that originate from the same point or branches that grow into each other

• A trunk handled incorrectly or improperly pruning, resulting in obvious wounds

• A limited or crushed root ball, excessively circling roots, an undersized root ball or a tree that’s planted in a container that’s obviously too small

Any of these latter issues are red flags, letting you know the tree has less of a chance for a healthy and productive life.

Form, Injuries and Root Problems

A tree’s form when it is fully grown may not be and probably isn’t the form of the tree that you’re buying when it is smaller. As it grows, you’ll probably trim away the lower branches for a variety of reasons — they may interfere with a walkway or traffic, be in the way as you mow a lawn or simply be shaded out as the tree matures.

Young trees do not naturally have a large number of branches — full branching develops as a tree ages. But in nurseries, trees are sometimes over-pruned to stimulate growth of the crown to make even a young tree attractive. That can cause problems that you may have to cope with down the line.

Arborists call the tree’s shape its “form” or “architecture.” Good form begins with branches that are evenly spaced along the trunk, and each branch should be attached firmly to the trunk. Avoid a tree with branches that are very upright with narrow angles of attachment. If a tree has branches that press against the trunk or other branches, keep on shopping.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a tree that has multiple trunks — and many people like that unusual feature. But if you’re looking for a tree with two or more trunks, make sure they’re well separated at the ground line. Those trunks are going to increase in diameter as they grow and you don’t want them squeezed together.

Corrective pruning is common to encourage a tree to attain the form you’re looking for, and that can begin about a year after planting. Don’t go overboard all at once, though — plan on pruning modestly each year.

When you plant a young tree, keep pruning to a minimum. It’s okay to remove broken or torn branches, but give it time to recover from the stress of transplanting. After a year the branches that need to be pruned should be obvious — they’re the ones that were damages or dies after planting.

Trees in a nursery may have been injured for a variety of legitimate reasons. However, if a tree is wrapped you’ll need to remove the wrap for a thorough inspection. Check it for wounds, incorrect pruning cuts and even damage from insects. And, of course, completely remove any wrapping after you plant the tree.

When we say incorrect pruning cuts, we’re talking about the most common error: making cuts flush to the trunk. A flush cut results in closing tissue that forms only around the sides of the cut, which can in turn mean that trunk tissue above and below the cut dies. You may see the damage over time as cracks or long, dead streaks that develop extending away from the cut. A correct cut, on the other hand, removes a branch just outside of the collar. That way, a ring of sound tissue can grow around the cut.

One of the toughest things to check for is a healthy root system. There are three basic ways that trees are grown in relation to their root system: bare root, balled and burlapped, and in a container. It’s usually fairly easy to check bare root trees — just make sure the roots are not crushed, torn or discolored. Also, look for root ends that are cleanly cut. If you pick a bare root tree that has a minimal number of damaged roots, simply cut the damaged  ones cleanly before you plant the tree.

If you’re checking out trees with roots wrapped in burlap, see if you’re allowed to unwrap the burlap and check out the area where the trunk widens and connects to the roots. The trunk should flare out a bit right where it connects to the roots, and it should be almost flat, not overly rounded. Then check out the root ball itself. It should not be overly compressed. A good rule of thumb to measure compression is to figure that the root ball diameter should be about 10 times as wide as the trunk measured about six inches above the trunk flare.

Finally, if you’re looking at a tree that has been raised in a container, make sure the roots are not overly twisted or completely circling. Especially check out the larger roots. If there are some small or fine roots that have begun circling, that’s okay. Just trim them away when you plant the tree. As you plant, if the larger roots are flexible, straighten them out to stimulate proper growth.

With all that in mind, happy tree shopping!