In an industry where there are a lot of fly-by-nights (especially after storms), I like to know that I am hiring a professional to take care of my trees.
Besides the potential for damage to the long-term health of the tree(s), there are risks for damage to personal property and for injury to individuals performing tree work. Since the idea of an uninsured individual running a chainsaw on my property makes me shudder, when I needed a tree removed a few years ago I hired an arborist who was insured and certified by the Kansas Arborists Association.
For commercial arborists, certification with the Kansas association requires completion of an approved training course, a minimum of two years experience in the field, profession to a code of ethics and possession of insurance. To maintain certification, arborists must attend periodic approved trainings.
In addition to commercial arborists, KAA certifies municipal and governmental/education arborists. Another agency, the International Society of Arboriculture, also certifies professionals in the tree care industry.
In Lawrence, any person engaging in the business of cutting, trimming, pruning, removing, spraying or otherwise treating trees is also required to obtain a tree trimmer license with the city.
One local certified arborist, Newton Mulford of Mulford's Tree Service, recommends interviewing two to three tree care companies before making a decision about hiring someone for tree work.
"Any reputable people will be glad to show you their insurance and license information," Mulford says. "You will also get a feel for how competent they are."
One of Mulford's employees is also certified by the KAA, and his other employees are trained according to current recommendations in the tree care industry.
Dan Parker-Timms of Shamrock Tree Service agrees with Mulford about the importance of credentials and talking to more than one company.
"A good arborist will be most concerned with taking care of the tree in the best way possible and making an accurate assessment of any issues that need to be dealt with," Parker-Timms says. "Since many trees will outlive us, we need to think twenty to thirty years down the road."
Mulford thinks about long-term effects, too. He takes pride in seeing how trees grow after he or his crew prune them to improve structure and tree health. He says, "A lot of times we work on the same tree several times over the years, and not always for the same owners."
Both arborists prefer to climb trees for pruning work, but occasionally a tree can be in such bad shape that it is dangerous for even a trained professional with the proper equipment to work in it. In those situations, Mulford uses a bucket truck and Parker-Timms rents an aerial lift.
"Climbing forces you to very closely examine the tree for structural defects because you put yourself at risk," Parker-Timms says.
Winter is a good time for pruning because workers can see the tree structure better while leaves are gone. Pruning while trees are dormant is also usually less stressful for the trees.
Another tip Mulford offers for good tree health is to water your trees on warm days over the winter when the soil is dry. Evergreens especially need water because their needles can desiccate in cold winter winds, but all trees will benefit from the supplemental moisture.
- Jennifer Smith is the Douglas County Extension Agent-Horticulture, a certified arborist, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Kansas Arborist Association. She can be reached at 843-7058.