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5 Ways to Keep Your Trees Tip Top

Some tips on how to help minimize your tree troubles and keep Altadena looking lovely.

Ever wonder how to care for that aged oak in the front yard? Or when to trim that swaying spruce? Here are some tips on how to help minimize your tree troubles and keep our city looking lovely. 

Local arborist Terry Chesbro, who is based in South Pasadena and has worked all the San Gabriel Valley for more than 35 years, gives insight on caring for trees: 

1. Trim Wisely 

Ultimately, every tree is different. Any ISA certified arborist will tell you: Each should be pruned based on personal factors such as history and structure.  

But don’t overdo it. While dead and diseased branches definitely need to go, “If a tree is virgin, all I recommend usually is thinning about 10 to 20 percent—thinning without over-stressing the tree,” says Chesbro.

Oaks in their natural environment, for example, “can be just deadwooded and maybe thinned a little now and then,” he continued.

2. Avoid Topping!

Chesbro says many of thetrees that fell during November's windstorm were because of topping, which is essentially when too much of a branch is removed—often done to reduce size.

“It is extremely bad for the tree, because the cut that is left never heals over,” says Chesbro, adding, “The re-growth is weaker than the original top.”

And in that case, he does recommend maintenance: “You can’t just leave that tree to its own devices, because the likelihood of it being damaged is very high.”

The ISA offers this article for pruning young trees and these tips for pruning mature ones. 

3. Plant for the Worst

It's best to plant a variety of trees based on location and species. 

There are some tree species that stand up to strong winds much better than others. “Particularly deciduous trees—trees that lose their leaves—are usually safer, because the wind usually happens in the fall and winter,” notes Chesbro. 

(All trees are susceptible to disease. Here's a link that will help you determine if one of your trees is damaged.) 

4. Cut Back on Watering 

As Patch blogger Barbara Eisenstein put it: “Trees fail because we baby them. We over water them, so they don't have to develop deep, broad, supporting roots to get water.”

It's ideal to let trees—especially native ones—dry for about two to three weeks after a watering, says Chesbro. 

When watering your lawn frequently for short periods of time, “the abundance of water makes a thick heavy crown and … a weak root system, which is a recipe for blowing over,” he warns. 

5. Feed Your Tree

Use mulch to reduce loss of soil moisture and protect the tree roots. 

“As the chips or the mulch decays, it puts nutrients back into the ground,”Chesbro says.

And leaves are good! “They should be left in the beds and doing their job.”

Do you have a particularly well-cared-for or lovely tree?  Show us a photo by clicking the 'Upload a Photo or Video' button in photo section above right.

True Freedom February 27, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Many low budget, inexperienced tree trimmers were out and about after the storm drumming up business. I have never seen so many trees butchered to the point they will surely die. I've heard it said that nothing grows out slower than a bad haircut.. well, a bad tree trim certainly takes longer. Please use knowledgeable trimmers for healthy.. and visually appealing trees. I've used both Steven's Tree and Finch, and can recommend them both.

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