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Right Tree, Right Place

“Right tree, right place”. This is a quote that has been recited numerous times in our field of work, but how exactly do you implement it? Trees have many requirements that are specific to each species, and one of those requirements is space. In this blog, we discuss growing space and how necessary these requirements are for trees.

A scenario we see all too often are trees that don’t have enough growing space. While the River Birch is often a customer favorite, they are frequently planted too close to a house. The multiple stems of these trees cause the need for a larger space than generally given. Too many times we’ve had to remove these trees due to their lack of space. The Norway Spruce is a large evergreen in our area that is commonly used as privacy on a property line. We’ve been called to prune away these trees from a fence, only for the customer to be told this massive tree species is only half-way done growing. Because a lot of trees are relatively resilient and determined to reach their full potential, fences and structures can be damaged due to a tree’s growth if planted too close.

When trees are planted, we need to consider not only the above-ground space that is need for the tree, but also the room needed underground for the root zone. As we have discussed before in previous blogs, a tree’s roots will grow 2-3 times the width of the canopy. Underground utilities should be considered, as well as sidewalks, other trees, and buildings that could hinder root growth. Along many city streets, trees can be seen planted in tiny planting spaces within the sidewalk with very little room for roots to grow. Street trees tend to be short-lived and this is one of the main causes. Anything that constricts or covers root growth will hinder the tree’s ability to receive and absorb the water and nutrients it needs for survival.

Trees that are encroaching on a property line can be a problem with many homeowners. We have been asked to cut back limbs completely from one side of the tree to keep it away from a property line. We cannot do this because if a tree is pruned this harshly, more than 25% of the tree’s leaf would be removed. This is harmful to the tree and its ability to produce the food it needs through photosynthesis.

Overhead utilities can also cause many problems for trees. When a tree is planted at a young age, overhead power lines are commonly forgotten. When planted under power lines, trees will often suffer severely from over-pruning.