Bap! Bap! Bap! goes the sound of a roofer stapling down roofing underlayment. Screeeeeetch! Goes the sound of bulldozer tracks as an excavator begins breaking new ground on a project. Orange! Orange! Orange! In every direction, marks another road closure or detour. These are the sights and sounds familiar to anyone living or visiting Kootenai county right now. Some might say this is a sign of progress and prosperity, others an end to an old way of life. Either way, it is our current reality.
This increase in road improvement, construction and development can be a challenge when it encounters tree preservation. Let us be honest, there is a time and place when a tree must simply go due to its location. That said, many projects happen around established trees that must be preserved due to ordinances or by specific design for aesthetic purposes. This can be a challenge for everyone from the architect, builder and all the sub-contractors. Unfortunately, a consulting Arborist is rarely required or called until well into a project. Usually it is not until some digging has occurred and a large root cut from a desired “save” tree that we get a call. The typical scenario that I often show up to involves a group of men in hard hats staring down a hole with questions such as, “Well, do you think the tree will make it?” “Could it fall over?” Can you get out here tomorrow and get it down?” And finally, “Someone get the owner on the phone!”
I laugh quietly to myself as I wrote the above as I have been in that situation so many times. That said, I think construction impact to trees is a relevant topic to discuss, given our current building/development climate. As an example, take trees along 95 in front of Parker Subaru, Mike White Ford and Robideaux Motors. Notice the strange browning of the leaves all on the same spot of each tree? This is exhaust or engine heat damage from the equipment used to rebuild the bike trail along 95. This damage is superficial compared to other construction impact but is an excellent example that trees cannot move out of the way and it is up to us to protect them as much as possible.
More next week and as always, for further questions, quotes or consultations, give us a call today!
Last week we opened the new topic of construction vs tree preservation. Most people will agree that for new roads, businesses and homes to be constructed, trees may need to be removed. However, the removal of established trees can invoke strong emotions in people. As a tree person, I can understand these sentiments. I just wish a little more concern and passion could be focused on the tree or trees that are to be saved on construction projects. So often I see trees saved but then very little done to truly preserve them during the work. Some are so severely mistreated it ultimately becomes a tree removal within a short time. To me this seems entirely counterproductive and a bewilderment as to why it was ever desired to be saved. Why not have removed the tree or trees, made the entire project easier, less expensive and just replanted new ones?
I think the answer is twofold. The first I have kind of hinted at already is short term memory. Once a tree or group of trees has been slated for preservation during a construction project, everyone involved is experiencing a series of feel good emotions. The follow through and attention to these trees during the project and even years after however wanes. As the trees decline, slowly die and are removed, people have forgotten the beginning objective of preservation. Second, I think here in our area, there is a lack of basic understanding of tree preservation. For instance, what are the components of a tree preservation plan? How is the plan enforced and followed through? Additionally, how long will the trees be monitored for follow up care after construction is completed? There also appears to be limited understanding of tree biology, construction impact and some basic actions that can be done to negate tree impact during construction by contractors.
My desire is to share some of these key factors that can benefit all individuals involved including the trees. This is a large topic with many facets so stay tuned and as always, for further questions, quotes and consultations, give us a call today!
I frequently tell people that a tree is an investment of time. Sometimes a very long time! The pleasure we receive from park trees such as their shade and aesthetic beauty, are in part thanks to past generations who invested time decades ago when they planted them. To me, that is why it is so important to do as much as possible to protect and preserve established trees and always be planting new ones.
Concerning preservation, a good Consulting Arborist should become involved in the early planning stages if a project has established trees that are desired to be saved. I am always amazed that architectural plans can even be drawn up without one. A site visit with a consulting arborist should happen when the first paint marks and footing stakes are put down. This gives everyone involved clarity of the preservation objectives and any potential issues prior to all construction. It is here that the plans can be adjusted; building design changed, and yes even the choice made to remove the tree. What often becomes the reality however from not having this conversation prior to all groundbreaking is this. An arborist gets a call about what to do on a construction job well under way. When the Arborist arrives, the stressed Project Foremen shows him a set of plans with a circle drawn on it representing the tree in question. The plans show the tree to be ten foot away from the corner of the building. The guy sitting on the excavator with a frustrated look is explaining that the stem wall is to be ten-foot-deep requiring him to a start digging closer to the tree than the plans show. He is very rightly concerned about hitting and damaging the trees roots. Further he is requesting three large limbs to be cut off the tree from over the dig area so he can maneuver the arm of his excavator. Everyone turns to the Arborist with the same question. “What do we do?” To say the least, the answer is usually highly unpopular.
In closing, the first step is simple. Involve an Arborist into the planning process! More next week on the three key following steps. As Always, for further questions, quotes and consultations, give us a call today
Last week we addressed the importance of involving a consulting Arborist in the early planning stages on a project involving establish trees to be saved. The next step is to make the actual plan to protect the trees. Most contractors and excavators understand the basic concept is to stay away from the trees to be saved but how far away is enough? A common answer is to keep out of the dripline. (The circumference of the imagined line from the furthest branch tips down to the ground) This is a great rule of thumb for an average tree on flat ground. This does not apply to groups of trees, leaning trees, trees growing on a slope, etc. Many important absorbing roots extend well past the dripline. Again, for the sake of the trees, it would be best to involve an arborist to determine the critical root zone. This area is called the Tree Protection Zone and should be clearly established with a highly visible four-foot-tall fence as a minimal height. It should be sturdy and marked with warning signs prohibiting any construction inside the fence during the extent of the project. Often, I witness the use of that flimsy orange plastic fencing that is synonymous with construction projects. No one takes it seriously and within short order it is backed over and tossed aside. In the end it becomes the tree everyone parks under for the shade. The thought I guess is that parking under it protects it right? Well from the perspective of not backing into the trunk yes, but the soil compaction from daily parking on the roots can be very damaging to the tree. For this reason, the Tree Protection Zone must be well established and protected. I suggest pictures be taken the day the Tree Protection Zone is erected, and six inches of mulch such as wood chips be laid down outside the Tree Protection Zone as additional protection.
In the following weeks we will address pre-construction pruning to both limbs, roots and, what to do when digging close to the Tree Protection Zone must happen and aftercare of the trees. As Always, for further questions, quotes and consultations, give us a call today!
In the past few weeks we have established two basic steps that should be done in preparation to protect trees that are to be preserved on a construction site. First, involve a consulting Arborist in the beginning planning stages. Second, establish a Tree Protection Zone. This week I would like to talk about what the process should be when construction happens near the Tree Protection Zone. This could be digging in preparation for a foundation or the trenching necessary for utilities. The reason for concern as I mentioned last week is that many tree roots grow well past the dripline and the Tree Protection Zone fence will often be at or near the dripline. I have been involved in projects where I supervised any digging near “save” trees. That option may not be a part of every project work plan, but some basic principles can easily be followed by any excavation crew. Start digging by hand with a shovel first to discover what kind of roots may be encountered. If some small two- and three-inch diameter roots are found, cut them cleanly with a pair of loppers. Avoid machine digging at all expense as they can tear and pull the encountered roots damaging them far back into the Tree Protection Zone. Once you have hand dug and cleanly severed any encountered roots in the root plate zone, which is usually about 10-18 inches below grade, using a machine to continue is usually safe. I highly suggest a person with a shovel watching closely, however. Also be keenly aware of which way the equipment’s exhaust is pointed. Exhaust can easily burn a trees foliage
Next week I will address soil compaction, how to avoid it and close with the final step of this series, follow up care of the trees after a project is finished.
Thank you for your patience in advance as we work our fall backlog list!
On many construction projects there are often trees that are not anywhere near the actual area of construction. Do to limited space however; building material storage, equipment and crew parking may end up happening all around them. These trees can easily be impacted from these seemly innocent activities. While they look fine above the ground, their root zone can greatly suffer from soil compaction. As odd as it may seem, even foot traffic can cause soil compaction. Healthy soil is composed of 60 % solids such as rock, sand, clay, loam etc. The rest is pore space consisting of liquids and gases. This pore space is important for soil to breath or exchange gas as well as infiltrate water. Compaction greatly reduces pore space in soil. Less pore space means diminished amounts of water and oxygen for tree roots to grow. Imagine a trees root system that grew many years in an empty lot, its roots growing at a healthy rate in the soil. Suddenly a large multi family unit building is being constructed nearby. Now pickups, construction equipment and literally a ton of foot traffic is crossing the root plate of this tree ten to twelve hours a day. We have all seen it. The once supple soil is now hard, rutted and there are mud puddles everywhere. The puddles are the real sign that the ground is severely compacted and pore space is so significantly reduced that the water is unable to penetrate or even seep in. This tree will undergo some serious decline in the future growing seasons if some measures are not performed to improve the health of the soil. While reversing soil compaction is a separate topic, I want to offer a simple and inexpensive solution that can be done as a preventive. Lay down some landscape fabric and then apply six to eight inches of wood chips. This will distribute the weight of work trucks, equipment and foot traffic. It is much less labor intensive and inexpensive compared to reversing soil compaction and dealing with its impact to trees down the road.
A few final tips next week! As always, thank you for following and if you have further questions, need a quote or consultation, give us a call today!
As a final tip on this series about constructions impact to trees, I wanted to address the practice of washing off tools and the concrete chute of the cement truck on the job. Most of the time it is done in an area of no consequence. Other times however it is done near the root zone of existing trees or a swale where a tree or trees may be planted. I am assuming the thought is that the water would be good for the trees or where they may be planted. While water is, the runny mixture of concrete washout is not! It is very alkaline, to the point of being caustic. At a minimal, it can inhibit tree growth if not entirely kill a tree.
Finally, the last part of a tree preservation plan is the follow up care. This may be soil and tree treatments such as aeration, vertical mulching, fertilization, systemic insecticides, foliar fungicides and most importantly, monitoring. Monitoring may be for a year or much longer. The objective to this monitoring program is to track the trees vigor and growth after the project is over. Through frequent monitoring, an Arborist can check for stress symptoms. The earlier these are observed, the quicker necessary adjustments and or treatments can be performed to alleviate the root cause of the stress.
I hope you have enjoyed this series, but it is time to get back to the relevant and current issues of this fall. In the next few weeks we will address the impact to trees from that early October snow as well as those pesky little gnats that are in the air all over town.
As always, for further questions, quotes and consultations, give us a call today