I handle a lot of tree questions. I love trees, too. We are always planting and planting trees on the farm to get our grove going and to improve it. It is slow work. I am amazed at how we all treat our trees. They are like a part of our family. I, like many others I know, have planted a tree for each of my children when they were born. They like to look at "their" tree and measure their growth against the growth of the tree. A Honey Locust for the oldest, a pine for the middle and an Autumn Blaze for the strawberry blonde, youngest in the family.
When one of our trees gets sick, or has some type of problems, for many of us, it is like a family member is sick and/or dying, too. The greatest problem that we have with caring for our trees is if we can financially afford to treat them for whatever it is that ails them. It is a tough decision. Gary Johnson, UMN Extension professor, has put together a short checklist of questions to ask before cutting down a favored tree.
The questions to ask yourself are: is the tree healthy? will the tree remain stable if it stays in the landscape? what is the relative value of the tree to you? and what can your budget reasonably handle? There are many problems associated with trees that older, healthy trees can handle without any intervention.
The canopy of the tree will tell you a lot about how well your tree is doing but be careful; just because your silver maples are thick and provide some deep shade, this doesn't mean that your honeylocust is suppose to do the same-they are thinner in the canopy and don't provide as much shade. If a tree has abnormally small leaves for its type, a thin crown, a deficient live crown ration, lots of dieback and defoliates early due to insects or drought-it's in trouble.
Will the tree remain stable? Decay, dysfunctional roots and severed root systems from street widening, construction are all problems that eventually will cause what looks like a healthy tree to come down in high winds.
Most trees will recover from construction activities or anything else that might cut their root spread.
This causes the tree to become unstable and it should come down before it falls on its own.
The value of the tree is probably the one question that I hear the most. Yes, most large trees have a monetary value but most often we are talking about emotional and sentimental value. Trees that are special are hard to let go. As long as the tree does not have a life ending problem, whatever it takes to save it will be done. Cost is generally the next issue.
Trees are an investment. There isn't any doubt about it. Tree doesn't come cheap, especially if it is a large tree and the care is going to be long term. A reality check is needed for comparing treating the tree versus taking the tree down. You may find that the cost of taking a tree down is far more costly then treating for a particular disease or insect.
However, there are times when for the safety of your family and home, it is much more cost prohibitive to take the tree down.
There are effective treatments for many diseases and insects that our trees can get and we don't need to get rid of our ash trees just because Emerald Ash borer is in Minnesota.
It is better to put pencil to paper first and figure out what the most cost effective means are to save your favorite tree. A little research goes a long, long way.
For more information on gardening, you can reach me at Stephanie@starpoint.net