Four Tree care practices to avoid

By Mike Lorenc, Conservation Garden Park

We can’t all be landscape experts. There inevitably comes a time when we decide that we must hire a professional. Hiring a pro to do something in our yards can be tricky—and since we don’t know how to do the task, we also don’t know if it’s being done correctly. Making mistakes with trees and shrubs can be destructive. The “industry standards” aren’t necessarily great guidelines as many procedures performed by professionals are unnecessary, expensive, or done simply done incorrectly.

To clarify, there are two definitions of a professional: those who are paid to do a specific job, and those who have the training and certification to do the job correctly. Just because you’re paying someone doesn’t mean they’re truly professional. Those certifications are important! Arborists certified by the International Association of Arboriculture (IAS) have been trained, tested, and given the knowledge of best practices (not just industry standard practices), and if they don’t follow those best practices the association can take away their certification. The difference between these two categories in quality is enormous, as often industry standard practices can also be the wrong approach.

Here are some things to consider when hiring a professional to look at your trees:

Tree topping is hurting your trees.

Tree topping has become one the most common type of pruning we see. It has become so common that it now looks normal, but it’s one the most destructive things you can do to a tree. The simplest explanation of tree topping is the cutting of branches in the middle, rather than where it meets the trunk or another branch; see photo. A qualified arborist would never do this. If this type of pruning appears on literature or a website of someone you are thinking of hiring, look elsewhere.

Deep root fertilizing is a waste of money.

This service is offered by many companies—even those with certified arborists. But this is completely unnecessary. Most of a tree’s feeder roots are only about 10 inches underground, which isn’t very deep. Any method that pushes fertilizer deeper than 10 inches can’t even be used by a tree because it is too deep. Putting fertilizer on the surface before it rains is sufficient.

Disease treatments are generally ineffective.

Like most living things, trees can suffer from virus or bacterial infections. Unfortunately, once a tree is infected there is no practical cure. No trunk injection or spray will fix it, so don’t waste the money. Instead spend the money on a new tree that will serve you well.

Fruit tree spraying must be done at the right time.

Spraying fruit trees for pests is a good way to protect your harvest. But it is also widely misunderstood, sometimes even by those paid to do it. Generally, fruit trees should only be sprayed at a specific time of year timed to kill the specific pest that attacks that tree. Any other time and not only will it not work, you’ve now sprayed unnecessarily and endangered pollinators.

To learn more about the best landscape plants and practices for your Utah yard, visit the Conservation Garden Park.  8275 South 1300 West, West Jordan, Utah.