What to do With Your Xmas Tree?

Fortunately, most municipalities now have recycling programs for green waste, making it easier for homeowners to recycle their used Xmas tree.  Recyclers grind or shred trees into a mulch which is then composted and eventually becomes available as a bulk or bagged mulch product.  This is certainly a preferable option than the “old days” when trees were commingled with regular trash and buried in landfill sites.

If you have a large tree, prune off some branches and reduce the overall size to ensure local curbside pickup.  If you have the room on your property, you can do your own recycling via a compost bin, pile or simply leaving the tree in an area where it will slowly decompose on its own.  Leaving a tree whole may also become home to birds and other animals for shelter or nesting site.  Make sure all tinsel and other decorations have been removed from the tree.

If you  have a live tree, it can be re-planted into the outdoor landscape.  Remember, depending on the variety of pine tree, these are typically large growing trees.  Despite the small size now, ten to twenty years down the road, you may have a forty to sixty foot tall tree.  I have seen this issue while consulting on residential sites where a neighbors Xmas tree planted near the property line grew to fifty-five feet, with limbs and roots encroaching into the clients property, damaging concrete improvements and posing an increased safety  risk.  If you are going to re-plant the tree, make sure you have the space for a large pine tree to grow, avoid planting near property lines, driveways, sidewalks and patios.

For more information about Xmas tree recycling, check out this article at:

Making the most of the Christmas Tree

At Yosemite, Infrastructure Out to Benefit Giant Sequoia’s!

Read an article in the Los Angeles Times concerning upcoming changes at Yosemite National Park. There is a proposal to remove public parking, a gift shop and tram operations in an effort to minimize impacts to the Mariposa Grove, a grove of approximately 500 Giant Sequoia trees (Sequoia giganteum).

The Park service recognizes paved surfaces and infrastructure are “compacting the soil, encroaching on sequoia roots and interfering with natural drainage patterns”. Tram service will be limited to the south entry of the park and shuttle buses would take people tot he entrance of the lower grove, where the largest and oldest trees are located. Access to the upper grove would be by foot only. Approximately four acres of paved surfaces would be removed from the grove. A final decision on the proposal will be made by end of the year.

Measured by mass, the giant sequoia is the worlds largest living organism. Californian’s are fortunate to have bragging rights to hosting these ageless giants living on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. They exist in scattered groves typically on federal land.

My dad took me to Sequoia National Park when I was just a young kid, I still vividly remember the awe I felt looking at the General Sherman tree. If you haven’t seen a giant sequoia, you owe yourself and family a trip to Yosemite or Sequoia National Park to see these living legends. Their sheer mass and regal beauty is indescribable. I think this is great news for the future survival of the sequoia grove, which we almost lost due to the recent mammoth fire at Yosemite.

When trees conflicts with infrastructure, tree usually loose out.  It is an encouraging turn of events when trees are recognized more valuable than a parking lot and gift store, hopefully this trend will continue.

Read the article at Redwood Grove Saved

Can a Tree Capture Particulate Matter from the Air?

For years, certified arborists and urban foresters have learned the many benefits of trees. Energy savings are one of the foremost known benefits of trees as they shade building during the summer reducing the need for air conditioning and deciduous tress allow sunlight to reach structures during winter months, solar radiation decreasing the need for winter heating.

Another known benefit for trees are their ability to reduce storm water runoff and erosion, particularly during the winter months. Tree root systems bind soil particles and slow storm runoff from roofs and other impervious surfaces, trees act as bio filters, slowing storm and irrigation water runoff and allowing the water time to slowly percolate into the soil profile rather than run off into the street or storm drain system.  By forcing water to pass through the soil profile, rather than runoff into storm drain systems, the soil mass filters impurities before the water enters into streams, ponds and aquifers.

Birch Tree planting works as filter

A Birch street tree planting used for testing as a green filter to remove particulate matter from the air we breath

Continue reading “Can a Tree Capture Particulate Matter from the Air?” »

Trees and Solar Power – Environmental Conflict or Can the Two Co-Exist?

I attended a recent seminar in San Diego entitled Trees and Solar Power:  Natural Partners, sponsored by the California Urban Forest Council (CAUFC).  It was a very informative seminar, bringing together professionals from the solar and tree industries, as well as city planners, landscape architects, arborists and related professionals.

Even with decades experience as a landscape contractor, certified arborist, professional horticulturist and land development infrastructure project manager, I was not aware of the current solar and arboriculture laws.  For example, the State of California and many other states enacted solar legislation decades ago.  Due to the oil crisis in the 1970’s and 1980’s, there was increased interest in promoting alternative energy sources.  Many states adopted laws to encourage renewable energy technologies, solar being one of them.

In 1978, California enacted the Solar Shade Control Act, in part to protect consumer rights to install and operate solar energy systems on a home or business and to protect consumer rights to access sunlight.  In 2008, the law was amended due to a very public controversy between two Santa Clara County residents being criminally prosecuted and convicted under the Act for allowing their redwood trees to cast shade on a neighbors solar panels.

Based on the Solar Shade Act of 2008, a site plan reflecting the pre-existing conditions at the time a solar system is installed should be a mandatory permit and legal requirement.  As lawsuits increase due to conflicts between trees shading solar collectors, a site plan showing trees in place pre-existing a solar installation will become an important legal instrument.

We derive many benefits from large trees, from their beauty and aesthetics to the shade and passive cooling affect they have on our homes and businesses.  The same is true for deciduous trees in the winter when they drop their leaves, permitting solar radiation to warm our homes.  In a residential setting, large existing trees will invariably cast shading onto a structure.  It is incumbent upon a solar company to analyze shading from the Client and neighboring trees for correct solar panel design and installation.

If a solar company identifies trees as a potential shading  conflict with a rooftop solar installation, a certified arborist and or professional horticulturist should be added to the design team.  Depending on the tree species, growth form, and distance from the structure, there may be several alternatives available to mitigate tree shading without complete tree removal or butchering the tree through indiscriminate topping.

Have a certified arborist or professional horticulturist consult with the solar company to ensure retention of the desired landscape aesthetics combined with the energy savings benefits of rooftop solar.

Read the full article at Trees and Solar-Environmental Conflict or Can the Two Co-Exist?

Love the Beauty of Your City? Thank the Landscape Architects who Made it Happen

I recently read a great article by Delle Willett of the North Park News entitled Landscape Architects:  Artists with the Earth as a Canvas.  The article focused on three local women landscape architects who have made significant contributions to enhancing the aesthetics and functionality to the City of San Diego.

While reading about the history of female landscape architects, I couldn’t help be reflect on my own background and education within the fielof landscape architecture and landscape contracting.  As a college student, my path began at UC Santa Barbara and completed with a Bachelor of Science degree from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

I wrote and article correlating my own academic history with the three landscape architects discussed in the newspaper article.  For men or women interested in the field of landscape architecture, design, planning, horticulture, arboriculture and landscape contracting, or anyone who struggled to find their own passion and career path in college, I think you’ll enjoy the read.

Landscape Architects Making Significant Contributions to City of San Diego

Landscape Architects: Artists with the Earth as a Canvas.

 

 

Pruning For Safety

Most people think of appearances when it comes to pruning. But there’s an important safety factor involved, too. Pruning removes dead limbs and branches and that makes for safer trees. Dead limbs and branches have a nasty tendency to fall off, particularly during high winds. If luck is on your side, there’s no damage – property or bodily. If luck isn’t on your side… Well, let’s just say it’s worth the time to do the pruning.

Examine trees annually to determine whether pruning is needed. In addition to keeping your trees safe and looking good, proper pruning is good for your trees’ health, too. It can add years to the overall life of your trees. Getting rid of dead, diseased, or damaged branches and limbs helps reduce further damage, much like removing gangrenous tissue saves human limbs. Continue reading “Pruning For Safety” »

PTCA Arbor Essence

No, this is not a perfume, rather it is the title for this years PTCA Seminar and Field Day.  PTCA, known as the Professional Tree Care Association of San Diego, is a premier industry association for professionals within the tree care industry.  The association contains a wide diversity of professionals, including representatives from outstanding tree care and tree service companies, ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified arborists, utility arborists, board certified master arborist, ASCA (American Association of Consulting Arborists) RSA’s (Registered Consulting Arborist), and industry professionals from utility companies, San Diego Zoo, golf courses, private industries, landscape contractors, landscape architects, educators and more.

A common thread shared by all of these different professionals and educators is our love of TREES and desire to further improve our understanding of the field of arboriculture!  It is a comforting feeling sitting is a room with hundreds of people sharing our knowledge and experiences with trees, learning new information, meeting old and making new friends.

Each year, the PTCA sponsors the annual Seminar and Field Day.  The first day (today) featured an incredible diversity of speakers and topics, there is something for everyone.  Here is a sampling of todays speakers:

Ms. Leah Rottke, professor at Cuyamaca College spoke about what to plant now for upcoming changes brought about by climate change in Southern California, Ms. Pat Nolan, County Pathologist for San Diego County of Department of Agriculture spoke about invasive diseases  moving into the Urban Forest.  In the morning session, Dr. Tom Scott, Ph.D., Department of Earth Sciences, UC Riverside discussed Management of Oak trees in San Diego County followed by an afternoon discussion about the Gold Spotted Oak Borer research (GSOB) and update.  Mr. Ron Matranga, Board Certified Master Arborist from Atlas Tree Service provided an overview of the ISA Traq (Tree Risk Assessment Qualified) program and Mr.Randall Stamen, Esq., from Riverside, California delivered a sobering lecture about Arboriculture and the law, including tree risk assessment and case studies.  Mr. Brian Bishop of Bishops Tree Service discussed improving the efficiency of tree crews and Dr. John Kabashima, Ph.D., UC County Extension, Orange County gave an entertaining lecture about effective sampling for diagnoses of insect and disease problems.  All of that in ONE day!

Really looking forward to tomorrow, the field day featuring workshops in tree risk assessment and BMP (best management practices), insects and diseases of shade tree diagnoses, pesticide applications for tree demonstrations, safety and tree identification, electrical safety, wood weight calculations, improving efficiency and maximizing safety.  There will be a tree climbing workshop provided in Spanish and English.

If you are a tree, landscape, horticulture, educator, consultant, or expert witness and have not yet attended a PTCA field day, you are missing out on a premier educational and entertaining event.  Members of the ISA, ASCA and urban forest councils, city and jurisdictional representatives, recreational and utility companies all come together in a common bond of learning, teaching and sharing, not to mention fantastic networking opportunities.  Hope to see you at the next PTCA Seminar and Field Day!

Learn more about the PTCA at http://www.ptcasandiego.org

Is Global Warming Affecting Redwood Trees in California?

I read a very interesting article in the L.A. Times concerning possible affects of global warming on both the Giant and Coastal Redwood tree populations in California. There might actually be some good news associated with global warming, recent scientific studies have documented growth spurts in both the coastal redwoods and giant sequoias.

Since the 1970’s, taking corings from trees more than 1,000 years old, scientists claim certain coastal redwoods have experienced the fastest growth ever. “The forests are not experiencing detrimental impacts from climate change” stated Emily Burns, science director at the Save the Redwoods League.

A variety of factors besides climate change could explain the increased growth rates said professor Stephen Sillett of Humboldt State, one of many researchers. Scientists established 16 research plots in old growth redwood and sequoia forests throughout their respective ranges. They took pencil width corings from 78 redwoods, studied the tree rings and developed a chronology dating back year 328. They also took corings from sequoias, analyzed the rings and dated the trees back to 474!

The data revealed redwood trunk growth in recent decades has “shattered” all records. The global warming records and effects on regional precipitation are less clear, indicating highly variable precipitation but overall no significant decline in the recent study areas. One theory is old giant sequoias might be growing faster because rising temperatures have extended the growing season in the Sierra Nevada.

Other theories include redwoods receiving more sun due to reduced fog in coastal climates yet still getting the precipitation they require or getting more sunlight due to a reduction in air pollution in north coastal areas from reduction in wood processing plants.

A great side benefit of the research was discovery of an ancient tree that corings revealed the oldest coastal redwood on record, 2,500 years old, besting the previous record holder by 300 years!!

When is comes to climate change, Professor Sillett added “I’m more worried about humans than I am about redwoods. I think they’re going to hold their own”. Very glad to hear this positive redwood assessment although a bit concerned about the human race.

Click to read the full article Is Climate Change Affecting Redwoods?

Oak Tree Failure Kills Counselor at Camp Tawonga

Camp Tawonga Tree Failure

My son Jake called yesterday very upset, telling me about an oak tree falling and killing a counselor at Camp Tawonga near Yosemite, CA.  My son graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies and Economics from UC Santa Cruz last June and worked the summer at Camp Tawonga.  He loved working there and returned for some part time work last fall.

What was chilling was his description of the exact location where the tree fell, he said he often sat nearby the spot and even sat under the tree!  He knew the counselor, Annais Rittenberg from UC Santa Cruz, where he also took the environmental field course his senior year.  Needless to say, he is shocked by what happened.

As a certified arborist, I provide tree risk assessments, a process of tree investigation and analysis that rates a tree defects and determines the hazard potential of a tree part or whole tree failure.  I have worked with plaintiff and defendant attorneys concerning tree failures and accidents, yet this accident struck very close to home.  I keep thinking about how that easily could have been my son under that oak tree when it failed.

Who knows if this failure could have been predicted?  My son mentioned how the area where the tree was located was irrigated daily throughout the summer, he said the tree trunk split and fell.  Was there root rot, cavities, or decay in the trunk?  Was the crown showing signs of stress?  Would a risk assessment have determined the tree was structurally unstable?  Maybe yes or no, I certainly don’t want to speculate, as I do not know the facts.

Tree failures resulting in human fatalities are very low, yet it only takes one failure to change lives forever.  My heart and sympathies to the family for the terrible loss.

This should serve as a reminder to camps, recreational facilities, golf courses, R.V. parks and manufactured housing communities to inventory and inspect your tree assets on your property, common spaces and even notify homeowners of endangered trees on their private lots or property.  Facility owners who take proactive measures to inspect, inventory, assess and maintain their tree assets increase the chance of detecting and minimizing tree related accidents before they happen.

 

Unsure of What Plants to Select for Your Landscape or Garden?

The Basics on Landscape Design, Tree and Shrub Selection for Southern California Landscapes

 
I am most definitely a native SoCal.  Born in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, educated at UC Santa Barbara and California Polytechnic University, living in San Diego for many decades, I have lived in Southern California my entire life.
 
Yes, we complain when we have hot spells, (last summer was ridiculous), Santa Ana winds, and the fog, but overall, we have the best climate in the world for growing plants.  Whether for ornamental landscapes or vegetable gardening, we a blessed with a climate and environmental conditions that allow us to grow an incredible variety of trees, shrubs, ground covers, turf, vegetables and fruits pretty much 365 days a year.
 
Walk or drive throughout our neighborhoods and check out the incredible plant diversity.  We are very accustomed to the trees and plants that surround us.  However, if you are from the midwest, east coast or other parts of the country or the world, you are most likely amazed at the variety of plant material.  Botanical gardens and arboretums from Santa Barbara to San Diego boast incredible displays of plants from around the world that flourish in our mild Mediterranean climate.
 
We have neighbors recently moved to San Diego from Kansas City.  They purchased a home and want to landscape but are completely baffled about what to plant.  Obviously, the trees and shrubs they were accustomed to in Kansas City were very different from what is available for landscaping in San Diego.  I offered some suggestions to help simplify the plant selection process.
 
There are many approaches one can take to designing and installing an ornamental landscape for their home or place of business.  Using a landscape architect to design a planting and irrigation plan is an excellent choice, however it can be costly.  Landscape contractors can provide design services as part of a design build contract, however you might feel uncomfortable about possible conflict of interest, and whether the contractor is truly knowledgeable about plant material and design.  Then, there are the millions of property owners trying to do it themselves.  This article is for you!

Where to Start?

Don’t get caught up with or distracted by endless design themes and details.  If you have a certain theme in mind, fine, then you most likely already know the kinds of plant material you want to use.  I prefer to design and select plant based on the site environmental conditions matched to the cultural requirements of each plant to be used in the landscape.  What does that mean?

What are Environmental Site Conditions?

The first step in selecting plant material is determining your specific site conditions.  There are many factors that affect plant growth and they are reflected in your site.  Analyze your location and be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Does the site face the north (full shade), east (part shade part sun), west (part sun – full sun), or south, (full sun).  Determining the site sun exposure is one of the most important environmental conditions.
  2. What are the temperature extremes.  Does the site receive cold weather extremes such as frequent frosts, freezes, snow or hail?  Does the site receive intense heat?  Determine the temperature extremes as well as the average seasonal temperature for your location.
  3. Is the site near the coast where it will receive constant salt air and sea breezes?
  4. Is the site windy, contain microclimates, protected by a structure?
  5. Is the soil a heavy, poorly drained clay or lighter, well drained loam, or sand?
  6. Is the soil structure friable and fertile or dry and compacted?
  7. Does the site drain well or is water trapped onsite or on top of a perched water table or spring?
  8. Are there rodent or pest or disease problems?
  9. Are there physical site constraints such as overhead or underground utilities, concrete or masonry improvement?

 
These are just a sampling of typical environmental site conditions that affect plant growth.  The more you know about the site to be landscaped, the better informed you will be in order to make appropriate plant selections.
 
In the next installment, I’ll discuss plant cultural requirements and the importance of selecting plant material with cultural requirements that match the site environmental conditions, a key to successful landscape project!