Great Advice for Trees Damaged by Winter Storms

Tempted to help out a client with some tree work? Consider this before saying 'yes'
by Ron Hall/Editor-in-Chief
1/31/2014

Has a client ever asked you to perform a service on their property that's not something that you're really qualified to perform?

The person might be a great client and you want to please them, but you're uneasy about doing something that you don't typically and routinely do. Or, perhaps you don't have the proper insurance for the service?

Take tree work for example.

Those of us living and working in the Upper Midwest, the Great Lakes and the U.S. Northeast have been experiencing a bear of a winter - freezing rain, snow, bitter cold, strong winds, plague of frogs (ok, not a plague of frogs) - and our trees have taken a pounding. Some of them need urgent remedial care. As a landscape service provider is this something you should get involved with?

Michigan State University Extension's Bert Cregg shared some excellent tree advice in a recent MSU Extension enewsletter. While it's aimed at property owners, I think it applies equally to landscape and lawn service companies that are NOT trained or insured for tree work.

Writes Cregg, with MSU's Dept. of Horticulture & Forestry:

Everyone has a different comfort level for do-it-yourself projects based on their experience and equipment. My personal rule of thumb is if I can't reach a limb from a ladder or with a pole pruner, I'm leaving it for a professional. Below are some additional factors to consider before tackling the job.

. High hanging limbs or tops are especially dangerous. Old timers called these "widow-makers" for a reason. A limb may have been caught up in a tree for weeks or months, but it doesn't mean it can't come down when you least expect it.

. Do not attempt to remove limbs near utility lines.

. If the tree or limb falls, what is it likely to hit? In a humorous insurance commercial, a homeowner drops a large tree limb on his neighbor's car. I'm pretty sure this situation is a lot less funny in real life.

. Use proper personal protective equipment (PPE). A professional arborist would never do any overhead tree work without a hardhat and eye protection; why would you?

There is no shame in erring on the side of caution. Lots of homeowners have ended up regretting taking on a tree job that went bad; few people regret calling a professional, shares Cregg.

In the case of a landscape or lawn service company, establish a good working relationship with an experienced, trustworthy arborist.

For a property owner, visit the website of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). There's a list of qualified arborists in its searchable Find a Tree Care Service feature. In order to be ISA certified, arborists must pass exams and receive continued training to maintain their certification.