Be careful when hiring tree trimmer

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2011

Recent ice and snow has many people with trees on their property concerned about potential damage.
If the weather patterns continue, it’s a sure bet Rowan will have more ice. It’s important to remove damaged limbs and branches now to prevent further injury to the tree or to surrounding property. Weak or declining trees are usually the first to succumb to ice and wind.
A qualified arborist, or in some cases, landscape maintenance professional, can be crucial in helping the homeowner to assess damage and remove damaged branches or limbs.
Listed below are steps to consider in selecting a qualified arborist.
• Check the telephone directory listings under tree, tree service or tree care. Established arborists or tree maintenance companies will be listed in the advertisement section.
• Beware of “door knockers.” Often, unscrupulous tree care people frighten homeowners into unnecessary pruning. The elderly are first to fall prey to these people. Door knockers usually arrive after a severe storm, seeking a chance to earn quick money. Reputable businesses have all the business they can handle without going door-to-door.
• Never be rushed into making a quick decision by a bargain. It takes many years to grow a tree. Take your time when deciding about trimming or removal. Also, never pay for tree work in advance.
• Ask the tree service for proof of insurance. Make sure that there is proof for liability for personal and property damage.
• References from friends and neighbors are the best method of assessing an arborist’s work. Take time to examine their work. Experience and reputation are positive signs of a qualified person.
• Have more than one arborist or landscape professional assess the job and give an estimate. Don’t expect them to match other bids. Two or more opinions will be worth the extra effort.
• A knowledgeable arborist rarely recommends topping shade trees. Shade trees are topped only when the crown is seriously injured, threatening life, property or the tree itself. Beware of arborists eager to remove a live tree. Removal of a live tree should be the last resort.
• Qualified arborists offer a full range of services. Pruning, fertilization, insect and disease control and lightning protection are some of the services. The arborist should be a certified public pesticide operator, licensed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, if pesticides are to be used.
Paranoid tree owners often choose to eliminate the danger posed by trees by severely topping or “dehorning” large shade trees. Topping shade trees is NOT a recommended practice. Severely pruned trees often go into shock, and they are slow to recover, especially when stressed from droughts or construction. Extreme pruning or topping weakens shade trees, attracting secondary insects that feed on the declining tree. Recovery of a declining shade tree is extremely rare.
Darrell Blackwelder is director of the Rowan Cooperative Extension Service.