Questions, Answers and Myths

Myth: Trees should be topped so they don’t get too big.

Fact: Many people top trees because they fear a tree will get too big and drop limbs on their houses or vehicles. In reality, a tree which has been topped is much more likely to break apart and drop limbs than a tree which has retained its natural shape. There is no such thing as a tree that is “too big”. Trees only get as large as they are genetically capable of getting.

Myth: Topping is necessary to stimulate growth.

Fact: Topping does stimulate growth, but the resulting rapid, weak growth is less desirable than normal growth experienced by a properly pruned tree. This type of damage also increases the chance that the tree will have insect and disease problems.

Myth: Topping trees is cheaper.

Fact: Topping may appear cheaper than pruning, but in reality it is quite expensive, and a waste of money. A poorly pruned tree will need more work sooner than a properly pruned tree. The true costs of topping include increased risk from dangerous and potentially hazardous trees, future maintenance to correct the damage, and loss of aesthetic value.

Myth: Anyone can prune trees.

Fact: Tree pruning is both an art and a science. After you are done pruning a tree, it should barely look like it has been pruned. If you don’t feel confident to prune small trees or if you need large trees pruned, consult an arborist! While topping is a problem which has plagued the tree care industry for years, it is also an opportunity to educate the public about the concepts of proper pruning and tree care.

Question: Why should I fertilize my trees and shrubs? We don’t fertilize the forests.

Answer: Most of the trees and shrubs the professional arborist comes in contact with do not have the advantage of natural existing sources of nitrogen. Generally speaking landscapes in the urban forest are swept clean of litter and debris that transform into decaying and usable forms of nitrogen. In a healthy forests floor, a continuous level of 2.5 to 3.5 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet per annum is normal.

Question: I don’t want to force a lot of unnecessary growth on my trees and shrubs.

Answer: A balance fertilizer formula (3:1:1 ratio) with slow release non-leaching nitrogen applied at a proper “maintenance level”, should not force more growth than normal per species treated.

Question: We fertilize the lawn. Won’t that take care of it?

Answer: Trees growing along or in the turf areas are subject to “Turf Competition”. Turf grasses are very active and utilize most of the nutrients before they have a chance to reach the root system of your trees.

Question: When is the best time to fertilize and how is it applied?

Answer: For a majority of plant material in the Northwest fall is the most optimum timing for fertilization. In fall the soil moisture will be increased and the root systems will begin to grow and develop. However, certain plants may require multiple applications throughout the year, our experts at Elwood’s Tree Service can help you in this area. Method of application for most trees and shrubs would be a liquid fertilizer mix applied by pressurized injection (Deep Root Fertilization). Shallow rooted in bed areas may be drenched. Vertical mulching (drill and fill) can be utilized in certain situations.