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Bartlett Tree Experts

Frequently Asked Questions

Topic: Tree Care Tips

1. Question: We have a tree in our backyard that was planted ten years ago and has a diameter of 8". Our dog has chewed on the tree and left a number of marks in the bark. In one place, he chewed through the bark. Do I need to treat those areas and/or wrap the trunk?
Answer: In general, wound "dressings" such as tree paint, wraps, etc. are no longer recommended. There may be other recommendations I would make based on the extent of the damage. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.
 
2. Question: I have an old redwood tree that is over 100' tall. I was going to put a planter at the base of the tree. My neighbor told me that if I put the planter at the base of this tree I will probably kill it. The planter was going to be three blocks high and I was going to put dirt from the blocks to the trunk of the tree. Is my neighbor right?
Answer: Your neighbor is correct. Adding fill soil to the base of trees can result in decay/disease in the basal portion of the plant that can result in decline, death, or even windthrow. Redwood trees are more tolerant of soil fills and more disease resistant than most species. Nevertheless, we don't advocate soil fills on any woody plant because of potential health and structural impacts.
 
3. Question: At what time of year should healthy, mature Japanese Maples be pruned?
Answer: Care should be taken when pruning mature trees of all kinds. We recommend a certified and experienced arborist inspect the tree before making recommendations.
 
4. Question: I planted a paulonia twig about a year ago and it has grown to about 7'. Suddenly, the large leaves started showing holes from some insects eating them, as well as large brown areas on the edges of the leaves.

I sprayed the with Specticide Immunox, but am not sure that helped. Most of the leaves have fallen off. The only ones remaining are limp and look as though they too will fall shortly. None of the leaves on or off the tree are crisp like autumn leaves.

What could be the problem and what can I do about it?
Answer: The leaves are falling due to drought and early fall color. I would not worry about condition of leaves or insects at this time. I would ensure that watering is adequate.
 
5. Question: We have three apple, one pear, and one peach tree that are about 12 years old. We have never sprayed them, nor have we pruned them correctly. As a result, our yield is pretty bad. I doubt I can afford your services, but would like to know about spraying and pruning costs.
Answer: We do offer both fruit tree pruning and a fruit tree management program. We can stop by and give you a free estimate so you can evaluate pricing and the scope of our services. Click here to schedule your consultation.
 
6. Question: How badly can trees be damaged by a lawn mower?
Answer: Trees often are wounded by careless use of garden equipment such as lawn mowers and trimmers. These injuries cut through important vascular tissue just underneath the bark, which can lead to decay and possibly death of the tree if infection occurs. With young trees, this type of damage can be devastating, but with older trees, the tree stands a greater chance of survival. We always recommend a bed of mulch around the tree ideally to the canopy drip line that eliminates the need to strim or mow close to the tree's base.
 
7. Question: What's the best way to control aphids on my lime tree?
Answer: Recently an insecticide was given full government approval for the control of sucking insects such as aphids on trees to include lime, sycamore, birch, etc. The name of the insecticide is Admire that is applied as a soil drench once a year between the months October-November or February-March. Results with this product have been outstanding with growing season-long control provided. Importantly the insecticide is not moved into the sap, flowers or nectar so the impact on beneficial insects such as bees is negligible. In addition, Admire is bound by organic matter in the soil so is not washed into ground water or nearby streams or rivers. As Admire is systemic then once absorbed by the roots it is moved throughout the whole of the tree crown. Admire will also provide control of a range of other problematic insects such as scale, leaf miners, white fly, woolly aphid, etc. Consult your local Bartlett Tree Expert Representative for further advice.
 
8. Question: Over the past few years my apple tree has stopped producing a good crop of apples. The few apples that are produced go brown and rotten on the trees.
Answer: It sounds like your apples are suffering from Brown Rot caused by the fungus Monilinia fruitigena. This is a common and widespread disease of apples. To control the problem you will need to prune out all the mummified fruits, along with a small section of the spur. Pick up all diseased windfalls and dispose of, as the fungal spores that will infect next year’s fruit overwinter on this material. Fungicide sprays will help considerably however to achieve any degree of control you will need to spray just before, during and just after flowering and in addition when you start to see the small fruitlet apples emerging. Timing is critical. If fungicide sprays commence two to three weeks after flowering then there will be no major reduction in the number of diseased apples.
 
9. Question: Can you please advise a safe distance to plant a willow tree from electric transformers and sewage lines?
Answer: As one of the most conductive trees on the planet, willows should have no part of the tree ever touching live power. The willow also is high on water content. For these reasons, planting should be at least 35 feet (11 meters) from the estimated drip-line.
 
10. Question: I have a large oak tree in my back yard. The previous homeowners had a wooden octagonal bench built around the base of the tree and filled in with soil that is about two feet high. Several years have passed, the oak has grown, and the bench has become dilapidated and must be removed or replaced. If we remove it, along with the soil around it which has surrounded the tree for many years, will there be irreparable damage to the tree/bark? Should we remove the bench, but leave the soil in place? I would like to get an expert opinion on this.
Answer: If the tree was originally there and then the soil was added around the tree, the it is highly recommended to remove all the soil back to the original soil level of the tree. The root collar or flare should be visible when you are finished removing all the soil. Excess soil piled around the trunk of the tree can and will lead to decay and rot at the tree trunk.
 
11. Question: How do I take care of an hibiscus tree?
Answer: Most need to be in warm areas and brought inside during the cold weather. Outside, they need to be protected and get full sun. Late spring is the best time to prune them. Deadwood needs to be cleaned out immediately because they are prone to cankers and if they get too big, the roots are not able to hold the plant up. Rose of Sharon are in this family and can produce prolific amounts of seeds.
 
12. Question: Last year a large Bartlett tree in my backyard was knocked down in a storm. I had it cut down to ground level and hauled away by a tree service. Since then, several saplings have emerged from the trunk. Some are about 10 feet tall. I would like to know what I should do to help one or more of the saplings grow and flourish. Should I cut/prune all but the tallest, healthiest one?
Answer: It is not recommended to allow trunk or stump sprouts to grow into trees. They tend to be weakly attached to the stump and would be prone to failing during a storm. They are also more susceptible basal rot.
 
13. Question: How do I save an old, borer-ridden Apricot tree?
Answer: The apricot may require a combination of soil treatment(s), support systems, and pest management to restore its health. There is a life-span for these trees in the landscape. The best way to evaluate the issue is on-site, so please feel free to contact us for a consultation by clicking here.
 
14. Question: Is it possible to graft spruce to the top of where my neighbor topped two spruce trees? I would like to hire someone to do that so they will continue to grow taller. Otherwise, I will have to cut them down and start all over again. Also, is it possible to transplant a tall (20 or 30 foot) spruce tree?
Answer: Small (1/4" diameter) branches can be sucessfully grafted on to larger spruce trees if there are live branches available for grafting. If live branches exists, it would be better to train one to become a new leader (stem). If there are few live branches left on the topped trees, removal and replanting is best. Tall (20-30ft) spruce trees can be transplanted but this is very expensive and large transplants recover and resume normal growht very slowly. Large transplants must be carefully monitored and tended to ensure sucess. I generally recommend planting 6-8 foot trees to ensure good transplant survival.
 
15. Question: There is a twin trunk which has been pruned properly over the years but recently has started to lean towards the house. I took out a dead twin two years ago, some 60 plus feet tall. How do I gauge it's health? The roots were severely damaged years ago.
Answer: If the angle of the lean of the tree appears to be changing, the tree could be in the process of failing structurally. This is not uncommon following root damage. Decay organisms can invade damaged roots that can structurally weaken the tree causing it to fall.

There are several methods to determine if the angle of lean is changing. You should contact a consulting arborist who is qualified to evaluate the tree and determine if removal is warranted or if other treatments could reduce the risk of failure to acceptable levels.
 
16. Question: The leaves on my magnolia are starting to go yellow yet the surrounding trees look fine. What could cause this?
Answer: One of two possibilities exists. First, magnolia are extremely sensitive to iron and manganese deficiencies in the soil. A soil analysis will confirm if the soil is deficient and the rate and concentration of iron/manganese fertiliser to apply can be calculated. This in turn will alleviate your problem. Second, magnolia trees prefer to grow on acid soils with a low pH. If the pH of your soil has increased then this will also result in the yellowing symptoms you have described. As before, a soil analysis will confirm if this is the problem and remedial measures can be applied.
 
17. Question: Are Hawthorn berries poisonous?
Answer: We know certain tree berries such as yew and laburnum are poisonous to humans, however, little is known about how poisonous hawthorn and other tree berries such as rowan and crab apples are. Given the fact that you can buy rowanberry jam and make wine from hawthorn berries and crab apples it is highly unlikely that they are very poisonous. In support of this there has never been as far as I know any reported case of hawthorn berry poisoning in humans that has resulted in death. Consequently, eating a small amount of these berries would probably have no long lasting effects on human health. Consumption of higher amounts of hawthorn berries may, however, result in a severe stomach upset.
 
18. Question: I planted six young trees in early March. Despite watering them regularly they have all started to wilt and the leaves are starting to turn yellow.
Answer: The symptoms you have described sound like Phytophthora root rot attack. Symptoms of which include sudden wilting, smaller yellow foliage that eventually turns brown, dead bark and plant death. Control of this disease relies heavily on either improving the vigour of the tree by the use of mycorrhiza, irrigation, mulching and fertilising or removing the dying tree or shrub and planting with a more root rot resistant species. Consult your local Bartlett arborist for further advice.
 
19. Question: When is the best time to plant trees?
Answer: Basically it depends on the type of tree you buy. Bare-rooted stock tends to be cheaper than containerised trees and losses after planting tend to be 10-20% higher. The following tips, however, should ensure high survival rates after planting. Plant during the dormant winter months (November-February). If you plant barerooted stock as the buds are starting to swell or when leaves are emerging expect high death rates. During planting incorporate a slow release nitrogen based fertiliser into the soil, mulch (very important) and water during the first growing season. Planting container grown trees is a little different. Because of the protection of a container of earth around the roots any time of year is acceptable except if a severe frost is forecast or the ground is frozen. Even then add a slow release nitrogen fertiliser, mulch and water if required for the first growing season.
 
20. Question: My neighbor has a tree planted very near to our property line. The tree is completely in their yard, but the roots from it are running across my yard and really tearing up my lawn. My question is, if I were to dig up the roots that are on my property and the tree eventually dies, would I be held responsible for having to cut it down and potentially replacing it?
Answer: This is really a legal question, and not an arboricultural question. It is generally understood that a property owner has the right to prune and or treat the portions of a tree that are on his/her property, as long as those treatments do not cause any adverse conditions. If pruning the roots on your side of the property line cause stress or decline of the tree, you could be help liable.

There are degrees to which tree roots can be pruned and not negatively affect a tree, or a minimal amount of soil could be spread over roots, and seeded.

As I said in the beginning, this is a legal question, and you should consult a qualified real estate attorney.
 
21. Question: Over the past few years I have noticed my autumn flowering cherries have started to look worse each year. The leaves are full of holes and the small twigs are all dead. Do you know what could be causing this and is there any cure?
Answer: If it is any consolation you are not alone. Our research laboratory has received many phone calls regarding this problem. Your trees are under attack from a bacterium known as Pseudomonas syringae, the casual agent of bacterial cherry canker. All autumn flowering species of cherry are highly susceptible to attack from these bacteria. Symptoms include tattered leaves which form the distinctive shot hole symptoms, cankers on trunks, limbs and branches exude gum during late spring and summer while leaves on the terminal portions of cankered limbs and branches may wilt and die in summer or early autumn if girdled by a canker. Control is as follows. Pruning should be carried out in the summer during dry weather, as infection of the branches occurs in autumn and winter. Cankered limbs should be pruned well below any visible cankers with sterilised pruning tools. Foliage can be sprayed with liquid copper oxychloride in September, October and November to protect leaf scars from infection. In addition we also recommend trying to improve tree vitality by appropriate fertilising, mulching and watering during spring and summer.
 
22. Question: I have a pine tree within a few feet of my house. It is now taller than my house. I like the shade it provides, but want to know if the roots are harming the foundation of my house and if I should cut the tree down.
Answer: Large trees seldom cause issues with properly-built building foundations. When roots do "damage" foundations, it usually results from cracks forming in the foundation due to settling and roots then "exploring" the cracks. Roots don't initiate the cracks.

The bigger issue with tall trees immediately adjacent to structures is one of lightning damage. Most lightning damage to homes occurs when tall trees are struck and the electrical charge arcs or "sideflashes" to something more conductive on the house, such as metal gutters. This is relatively common on trees that are taller than the structure and within ten feet of the foundation. So if the tree is very tall and is a species prone to lightning damage, consider speaking with an arborist regarding a lightning protection system for the tree.
 
23. Question: This is the first time we have planted a fig tree. It has about 13 figs on it and I wondered how do I know when to pick them? Also, what do I do to keep the tree from frost in winter?
Answer: Observe how the fig hangs from the tree. You can tell when figs are ripe because they will droop a little on the branch. Unripe figs don't droop. Check how hard or soft the fig is before picking. Ripe figs are soft like a peach. You don't want a fig that is too hard or too mushy. Softly pull on the fig. You can tell that a fig is ripe because ripe figs will fall off the tree easily. Unripe figs are more unyielding and firmly attached to the branch. Pick the fig once you see that it is ripe and not before. Unripe figs, once picked from the tree, will never ripen. Don't store at room temperature or they will rot quickly.

For overwintering, wrap the branches in burlap or a plastic tarp then tie strapping or rope around the tarp to hold it in place. Mulch the root zone with composted leaves, but be sure to remove this excess material in Spring.
 
24. Question: This is the first summer that my semi-dwarf peach tree has had fruit. They are the size of marbles and are on the ground. I was told that the birds are pulling them off. Is this possible?
Answer: That may be possible and netting may help deter this, but fruit can also drop off as a result of drought. We had a very dry and warm April and unusually dry spring, so it may be the trees natural reaction to thin itself. Be sure soil moisture is adequate and mulch to a 2" to 3" depth keeping it away from stem if it isn't already. Always avoid over head watering and apply to soil slowly and deep.
 
25. Question: I have two trees that have mistletoe, one in my front yard and one in my back yard. Are these problematic to the rest of the trees in my yard?
Answer: Mistletoe is a parasite to trees, meaning it steals water and nutrients from its host. Mistletoe can cause crown decline, dieback, and even death. The damage is generally related to the degree of infestation and it is best removed via pruning when possible and if not detrimental to the remaining plant.
 
26. Question: My neighbors are cutting down their large Bradford Pear trees for fear of tree failure. They say that these trees have a 30 year life expectancy and they have been planted approximately 36 years ago. I do not agree and would hate to lose this beautiful tree. Am I wrong to let ours live?
Answer: Most trees have a life expectancy, including Bradford Pears. But these numbers vary greatly due to many different conditions including location, health of tree, soil type, etc. Using the anticipated life expectancy to determine if a tree should be removed isn't the only factor. The tree should be inspected by a certified arborist to look for health issues or structural problems with the tree. Click here to schedule an appointment with one of our professionals.
 
27. Question: This year some black walnut trees started coming up naturally on my property and I decided that I want to keep some of them. Is it too early in the tree's life to trim away the lower branches, or should I wait another year? Also, I live in Wisconsin and wonder what month is ideal for trimming them?
Answer: As far as trimming the lower branches, the rule of thumb is that you would like to have 2/3 canopy to 1/3 trunk. That means, if the tree is 6' tall, you can remove the lower branches so that there is 2' of clearance over the landscape. If the lower branches are impeding mowing or other landscaping, just trim them back so that they are not in the way. The tree will still use these "temporary branches" to add taper (diameter) and strength to the trunk of the tree. Purely from a theoretical standpoint, the best time to prune Black Walnut is in the dormant season. That said, there are no commonly known issues (insect or diseases) with pruning during the growing season. We prune them whenever the saw is sharp. If you need any additional information, please don't hesitate to contact us at Bartlett Tree Experts.
 
28. Question: When limbs have been trimmed from a tree, do you have to paint the tree where the limb was taken from?
Answer: Whoever told you not to bother painting the cuts was correct. Many years ago, it was thought this process would help ward off infections and prevent eventual decay of the cut. But decades of research have been unable to confirm any actual benefit. We only apply this process where we are removing larger caliper limbs in highly visible locations and only to lessen the obviousness of the cutting. Click here if you would like to have your tree pruned by our professionals.
 
29. Question: I purchased two redbud trees late last summer and planted and watered them regularly. As of today, they only have little shoots coming out of the bottom two feet or so. I am wondering if they will have any new growth up on top where we should have leaves by this time. There are no buds or any sign of life there.
Answer: It is very unlikely that the redbuds will resprout in the upper crown. The decline could be due to winter injury/low temperature injury. Newly planted trees are more prone to low temperature injury. Redbud is also sensitive to stem cankers, a disease that the girdle and kill trees. The sprouts from the lower trunk may be trained into a desirable tree but you may consider replanting with a hardier species such as crabapple or hawthorne.
 
30. Question: I would like some info on this "bug." My weeping cherry was eaten by this and my blueberries. I sprayed them with Monterey insect spray. I would like to know where these came from and how to prevent them in the future. We have had blueberries for 40 years and never had a problem with any bug.
Answer: It sounds like winter moth. Weeping cherry trees were hit hard this year. Winter moths feed on most deciduous trees and any shrub that is fruit bearing. This insect was introduced from Canada and has migrated down the coast. It has been in the Boston area for more than 13 years.

Feeding can be a serious problem for trees. Repeated defoliation can cause decline and eventual death. It is too late to treat your plants this year. Treatments should be done early next spring at bud break. Two treatments are required.

The affected plants this year should be fertilized.
 
31. Question: Our huge Sycamore, as well as others in the neighborhood, started to leaf, then we got hit with some really cold weather and the buds appear to have died. There are now only some sparse leaves on our tree. Will this recover or is the tree doomed?
Answer: The bud mortality could be the result of a late frost, but anthracnose disease also commonly causes leaf, shoot, and bud blight in early spring. Anthracnose tends to be severe when spring weather conditions are cool and rainy.

Regardless of the cause, the tree will likely recover. Sycamore trees are very durable and can tolerate defoliation in early spring. Keep the tree irrigated if weather turns dry to help encourage a second set of leaves. Light fertilization may also help promote new growth.
 
32. Question: There is a naturally occurring hole in our mature pecan tree. The hole is roughly 18 inches long and nine inches wide. Does this hole likely make the tree susceptible to falling?
Answer: Decay cavities are fairly common, especially in mature trees, and they usually weaken the structure of the tree to some degree. The size of the decay cavity on proportion to the size of the tree can affect the tree's stability. Additionally, arborists usually look for signs of fungal or insect damage to determine whether a tree with decay should be pruned or removed. Because each tree is different, we recommend having a Bartlett arborist inspect your pecan to determine the risk posed by the decay. Feel free to make an appointment today.
 
33. Question: We have a Holly which has grown into a very large tree (about 25 feet). Despite having a healthy berry crop this winter, it started to lose a huge number of leaves. This has resulted in huge bare spots where you can see straight through the tree. I know this is an exotic species but it was here when we moved to the house and it is an important privacy tree for us. Is there anything we can do? Thank you, Krista De Groot
Answer: This sounds like Holly Leaf and Twig Disease. Sanitation pruning, improving air circulation, soil management, and disease treatment will all help. A certified Arborist should inspect the holly. Click here to schedule an appointment with one of our professionals.
 
34. Question: Can I cut the top of a small two-foot fir tree to make it fill out?
Answer: Removing the terminal/top of a conifer is seldom advisable, especially if you intend to grow the plant to mature size. Removing the terminal will cause multiple stems to develop that are more prone to breakage later in life. If the plant is spindly, it may not be getting enough sun. Firs prefer to grow in very sunny location, so if it is in the shade, consider transplanting it to a sunnier spot.
 
35. Question: We planed the tree in the fall, following instruction from the grower, but there are several branches towards the bottom of the tree showing signs of browning. Is there anything we can do. We have had a very wet winter and spring so I'm worried the water is not draining well. Could this be the problem?
Answer: The browning could be a couple of different scenarios. It could be transplant shock and the plant is getting used to the site. It could also be winter damage. If it is located next to a sidewalk or driveway, it could be salt damage. Finally, if the soil is not draining properly it could have a root rot problem known as phytophthora root rot. We can always better assess a problem in person. You can click here to schedule an appointment today.
 

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