Healthy Trees are Tampa’s Sentinels

Their care and management is important.

Trees in our view

Life without trees—a desert, barren landscape that looks and feels dead.

Can you imagine a whole planet like this?

Instead, we need to keep an eye on our trees.

Their abundance suggests a kind of bounty—a gift freely given, and essential. The deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in the fall) are the ones that release oxygen. The U. S. Department of the Interior spends hundreds of thousands of tax dollars every year to maintain our national forests—not just for family picnics, but to prevent the topsoil from eroding, keep the water table high and  provide shelter for wild animals and birds.

Our tall companions support whole cultures

For over 1.6 billion people in the world trees supply food, medicine  and clothing, not to mention the industries that depend on them for a livelihood. For instance, the fact that 60 million people depend on forests for employment recalls  the work our National Park Service does to preserve the green bowers that many of us visit during the summer months. We have lots of tree photos, with children in front of them, to remember the occasion.

Trees have jobs

“Save the forests!” is not an empty mantra. Their beauty not-so-aside, trees are hard workers. They perform like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up the poisonous oxides that pollute the air. They also act as a warehouse, storing huge quantities of carbon dioxide to the tune of 200% of the amount found in our atmosphere. Storing the carbon dioxide actually facilitates climate transitions. It’s called “carbon offsetting” and the amount contributed by tropical forests has an estimated value of up to $140 billion a year.

We surround ourselves with them

Wealthy sheiks spend a good part of their fortunes importing trees. The attraction has to be the changes they bring about in the environment—the life they represent and the life they shelter.

The first thing Dad does when we move into a house in the all but treeless suburbs (because trees were inconvenient barriers to contractors) is to plant a few trees. By the time the kids are grown, the house is finally shaded. Small clue:  Sycamores. Leaves look a wee bit like maple. Interesting bark as well.

Those of us, lucky enough to be living in a pine forest, do a little complaining when the needles and cones start collecting on roofs and lawns. When summer’s sun starts its relentless beat, though, we’re singing a different tune.

An even exchange

Shade trees are important to everyone living in the south—important enough to take good care of them while they’re doing  a great job of taking care of us.  We can keep them watered when the rains don’t show up. We can lop off a dead branch or two close to the ground. However, if you happen to have some trees with a little age on them—valuable members of the community, so to speak—you’ll be wise to look after these proud citizens with the help of a tree service.

Here’s what to do

When “keep an eye on our trees” was mentioned, it meant :

  • look up into the branches to see if all is well up there
  • watch for patches of mold or fungus on the trunk or limbs
  • watch for filmy-looking material wrapped around leaves
  • keep looking at the branches that fall to see if they are really dead or if they look diseased
  • watch that vines aren’t taking over the trunk; they can kill a tree
  • watch that tree limbs aren’t growing into power lines

This is when you call the tree service

  • If any of the first three items listed above occurs, you’ll want them diagnosed and treated.
  • If the last two are happening, you’ll want some pruning and leaf removal.
  • The tree service can also do a soil analysis if you think a dying tree is too young to die.
  • If there’s a stump in the way of the new swimming pool, they’ll remove it.
  • They’ll also come out when a storm has done some damage and clean up the tree debris for you.
  • One of their specialties is insect and disease control.
  • If you plan to plant new trees, it’s a good idea to get their advice. Trees are a little dainty, to start with, until they get a sturdy root system under them.
  • If you’ve just moved onto a tree-laden property, you might give a tree service a call and get useful advice about how to care for them from the get-go.

The next answer is:  Here’s how to select a tree service

There are a lot of guys running around in big trucks with big saws and block & tackle gear in the back. Neither piece of equipment comes with a tree service certification. Be warned:  they can also show online shots of themselves sitting in a cherry picker. Means nothing—could be a brother-in-law’s. Uncertified folks can do a lot of damage.

The Tree Care Industry Association gives us the following tips when contacting a tree service:

  • Ask to see verification of current certification before you allow work to begin.
  • Compare estimates.
  • Insist on securing a signed contract that outlines the services to be performed, the time period in which they will be performed and the cost.
  • Don’t pay for any services until they are completed.
  • Ask that tree spikes not be used unless necessary.

Take care of your trees; they take care of you.

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