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Tough Locations for Trees

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Hometown Tree Experts

Even after a tree is selected and installed based on the site conditions of sun, shade, soil drainage, proximity to other trees and shrubs, nutrient availability, desired size, slope, surroundings, adjacent activity and more, it can fail to thrive.

Sometimes that’s because the tree wasn’t chosen well and sometimes it’s because it wasn’t planted well. But even more critical to the tree’s success is where it was planted. A tree’s proper location usually will determine whether it becomes an asset or detriment to the landscape.

Tried and true: RPRP

The gold standard of “Right Plant, Right Place” still reigns supreme.

Most arborists would say failure to mind this guiding principle begins with a lack of consideration for the tree’s size. Many reasons exist for this, including lack of foresight and denial that a certain species will actually get that big or wide. Many property owners are too lazy or self-centered to consider the future of their land and the potential ramifications associated with it.

The next consideration is the square footage of available rooting space required for adequate growth, nutrient absorption and structural and support. Although it’s a gross generalization, the average shade tree requires about 1,000 square feet of unimpeded surface – either covered by turf, mulch or groundcovers – in which to grow. In many locations, this much space isn’t provided.

The desired shape of tree – vase, cylindrical, rounded – also can play a role in RPRP. Some sites allow these forms to grow and develop well, and others don’t. The ones that require the largest available space are often limited on site.

The availability of sunlight is a key consideration when choosing tree species, as many require full sun exposure, while others are tolerant of, or actually prefer, shade. Species such as serviceberry, pagoda dogwood and redbud are often poorly sited as a result of this factor.

Tough sites and why

Unfortunately, many sites are compromised in one way or another. These are the most common tough sites.

Slopes: Gentle slopes are desirable; a 2 to 3 percent drop-off facilitates water movement away from buildings, yet generally allows for water movement downward through the water profile. When the degree of slope is 5 to 10 percent or greater, problems commonly arise in tree performance and landscape maintenance. At least four undesirable outcomes are associated with a severe slope:

  • Decreased infiltration rate: On slopes, natural rainfall and irrigation water isn’t absorbed as quickly as at the top or bottom. Trees growing on the face of the slope often suffer from inadequate moisture in the root zone.
  • Difficulty in mowing: When turf grass is grown on the slope, an increased chance exists for the mower to slip and slide, potentially striking the tree trunk or lower branches, causing damage.
  • Difficulty in application of fertilizers and pesticides: After landscape maintenance products are applied on slopes, there’s a tendency for them to move downward, especially when granular products are used and/or moderate to severe rainfall occurs after application.
  • Difficulty in mulch retention: Over time, mulch pieces tend to drift downward or sideways on slopes, moving away from installed landscape plants.

Hell strips: The thin, narrow and sometimes oddly shaped portions of the landscape often provide an inhospitable location for trees to grow well. The lack of available rooting and absorptive space is the main limiting influence. In northern climes, hell strips (also called tree lawns or devil strips, depending on your region) are often the space between the sidewalk and a street; in these situations, applied salt and sand for winter traction control causes damage and adds to the lack of rooting. In general, the siting of woody plants in these locations should be carefully considered.

Parking lots: Parking lots offer many of the same negative influences as hell strips. Salt, sand, radiating heat – along with the added occasional misfortune of cars, juvenile delinquents and shopping carts running into the trunk – are the major ones. The main differences between the two are that parking lots generally offer a bit more rooting space and a whole lot more interaction with pedestrians.

Middle of turf: Generally, trees and turf don’t mix. In most scenarios, turf requires more water and fertilizer than trees; in a mixed planting, if moderate amounts are applied to keep the turf thriving, excessive amounts of both are received by the trees. As well, in the midst of an island of turf, tree trunks are prone to mower blight, especially by youngsters and turf maintenance professionals who are in a hurry. The key message to deliver to them is to stop the movement of the mower before it reaches the tree, not after.

Next to concrete and rock: These materials have their place in the landscape, but it’s hard to overlook their negative impact on trees. They have a warming effect on the soil, don’t facilitate horizontal root growth as well as organic materials, provide no soil replenishment and are just so-so on moisture retention and weed suppression as compared with organic mulches and materials.

Compacted sites, high traffic spots: Settings where the soil particles are routinely compressed are tough locations for trees. Common locations for compaction of the soil are those that receive high traffic such as parks, campus grounds and shopping malls.

Adjacent to tough sites: Locations that are adjacent to the tough sites of compaction, hell strips, parking lots and other concrete surfaces may appear to be in good shape, or at least have the potential to produce healthy shoots and roots, however they are still adjoining and share a root zone. At best, sites adjacent to poor locations are half and half – half compromised and, hopefully, half conducive in terms of healthy soil, adequate space and overall growing conditions.

Close spacing: Often a scenario where the original property owner didn’t take size into account and planted way too many trees in way too small of a space. Close spacing is really an issue of trees competing for sun, nutrients and water.

Extremes of sunlight reflection: Commonly noticed when one side of a tree – the side that faces an office building – becomes blighted by excessive sunlight that can cause desiccation of the bark, stems and leaves.

Extreme shading: Opposite of sunlight reflection, absence of sunlight can cause etiolation, or a stretching for adequate light to support sturdy shoot growth. Growth that occurs in a heavily shaded location is usually thinner and weaker than when grown under ideal conditions.

So, what to do?

Identification and understanding is the first step in dealing with difficult sites; four other actions are next as making a difference in your landscape:

*First – it’s important to evaluate the status of the tree in question. Inspect for tree hazards and document defects that will influence future actions.

*Second – decide whether to keep the tree in the landscape or remove it. Consider the number of issues that weaken its structural integrity and limit the aesthetic value. If the tree doesn’t contribute toward the goals for the property, perhaps it shouldn’t remain on site.

*Third – if removal is chosen, possible replacement choices for each site can be contemplated. This is especially true for specimens that are not performing well due to an incompatibility with the size, sun, shade, soil and slope specifics of the site. For example, if a large tree is growing where a small one is called for, the potential replacements should be chosen from that group of options. In terms of possible selections for new specimens, local botanic gardens and arboretums are good places to gather information on suitability.

*Fourth – avoid planting in tough locations in the future. Seek advise on the microclimates where trees simply aren’t a good choice. In many scenarios, tall shrubs, groundcovers, perennials, native grasses and other landscape ornamentals are better options.

Tree Stress Management

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Often times, urban trees are vulnerable to pests and diseases because they are highly stressed. Stress can result from a variety of factors including the following:
-paved surfaces that interfere with water absorption
-restricted root spaces
-compacted soils
-competition from dense layers of turf that surround a tree – Note: your trees should have layer of mulch surrounding diameter – call our Hometown Landscape division @ 301-490-5577 to assist with this recommendation.

Trees are also often times planted where they shouldn’t be or can be damaged from construction or heavy equipment. There is no single solution for managing all these issues; however, Hometown Tree Experts could assess this issue to ensure improving the overall health of your trees. Research has shown that proper care can increase the fine root density, helps to reduce water loss during dry and hot periods, and could increase the protective barrier of leaves. The trees are also greener and are better able to deal with stress. Call Hometown Tree Experts for solutions to your possible stress management @ 301-250-1033.

Bacterial Tree Ooze: How To Identify

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Slime spotted on trees is known as bacterial ooze. There are different types of bacterial ooze, and they’re not very well studied. Bacterial ooze can easily go unnoticed. At its most basic they form when a tree gets damaged and subsequently infected with bacteria. In certain circumstances if the bacteria is able to feed on the tree sap and nothing prevents it from multiplying it will eventually form this slime.

Trees, like all plants, have an immune system which should protect them from severe infections like this.  Bacterial ooze happens when the tree is unable to heal a wound and prevent the bacteria from feeding on the sap. Bacterial oozes are often fatal; the ooze that forms will rot the tree as the bacteria ‘eats’ it, ultimately leading to the tree’s death.

Without knowing what bacteria is causing the problem, it’s difficult to know how contagious an ooze might be, but in most cases the ooze itself only forms when specific conditions occur on a tree so shouldn’t spread in a woodland. The bacteria involved are often present in a woodland anyway without causing any problems – the ooze forms when something goes wrong and the bacteria breeds out of control.

Bacterial oozes may be accompanied by other pathogens that further harm the tree. For example, slime flux is a type of bacterial ooze that is a mix of bacteria and yeast. It has quite a distinctive orange/yellow appearance. The yeast and bacteria ferment the tree sap, leading to an unpleasant smell and attracting insects to the ooze.

How we could help

If you spot a tree with bacterial ooze on it, we recommend that you call Hometown Tree Experts to assess. Hometown Tree Experts would assess your tree to ensure that it is indeed safe as the rot may be weakening your tree. This issue may be spreading bacterial oozes to other trees on property so would advise assessment to prevent. If you are able to provide good photos we would appreciate this photo being emailed to us as we’d love to see them!


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Hometown Tree Experts

Pruning is the stock and trade of professional arborists. A well-pruned tree is a thing of beauty, born of skill and knowledge. Done well, pruning enhances tree aesthetics, fosters new growth, and mitigates human and tree hazards.

Make the right cut every time

Pruning can be broken down to a series of tasks, which can then be reduced to actions. The single most important action in proper pruning is making the cut. Perfect the cut first. Cutting as close to the branch bark collar without disturbing it and making clean, even cuts with no rips, tears or splintering on the finished product are vital so use of the proper tools, be it chain saw, handsaw, rope or block are important.

Have a plan

Pruning should always have a stated purpose. Making random cuts on any plant is foolhardy and wasteful. Pruning can accomplish many goals: health, growth, reduction, vista or sight lines, safety, aesthetics and restoration. But how these goals are achieved with the plant’s best interests and longevity in mind may differ greatly. Having a clear plan with priorities, guidelines and goals allows the arborist to envision the finished product, make corrections if needed and work efficiently. Quality control is also much easier when pruning specifics are laid out beforehand and observed.

Use sharp, high-quality tools

Professionals use professional tools. Not only will they last longer and make better cuts, high-quality, sharp tools are safer. Saving $10 or $20 on a handsaw may seem tempting, but how many will you go through making hundreds of cuts a day? How long will a less expensive tool stay sharp?

Good tools stay sharp. Sharp tools cut better and more efficiently, saving time, money and effort. Sharp tools leave behind crisp edges and smooth surfaces. This is the look of a professional. Hinge cuts and drop cuts work much better with sharp tools. Take pride in your work and in the equipment you do it with.

Think of the plant as a whole

Novice pruners often get caught up in the minutia of every cut, every twig, and forget the plant as a whole. If you’re pruning small specimens, step away often and look at the whole plant. If you’re climbing a large tree, have your ground person give you an outside-in perspective.

See if the thinning is even throughout. Check the branch structure: is it good for the species? A Japanese Zelkova has a shape distinct from a George Washington Hawthorn. Have you chosen cuts to accentuate the plant’s natural form? Is the crown high enough to discourage untrained would-be arborists? Details are important, but so is the big picture, and it is often the big picture the client will judge the quality of your work on.

Take time to leave the flowers

Timing is important for some species of trees and shrubs. Plan your pruning cycles around optimum times as appropriate. Also, seek to do structure pruning at times of the year when the structure can be better seen. (Some plants are susceptible to bark peel in the spring.) Take it easy on yourself and the tree. Prune before or after these times.

Don’t forget why many people plant flowering species: for the flowers. Prune to achieve maximum flowering through timing, thinning and other species-appropriate methods.

Seek history

Plants have a history. From the day they sprouted to the moment you approach to care for them, they have been in a constant interaction with their environment. Look for the signs of this and act accordingly. A small tree next to a house may be thinner on one side than the other due to shading. A large tree exposed in an expansive front yard may have experienced storm breaks in the past. Trees may lean due to prevailing winds.

All these factors affect the health and well-being of the plant. The tree is telling you something. A tree that has had extensive storm damage in the past may need a more thorough, careful crown reduction than average. A tree next to a newly installed swimming pool may be stressed, but not showing it yet. Any number of external and internal histories can affect tree health.

Share your knowledge

It is often said in training circles that if you really want to master a skill, teach it. This is especially true of pruning. Vocalizing your actions to another when you prune will engage another aspect of your brain. Not only must you make a decision, you must explain why and how. This opens you to new possibilities in learning and growing.

Teaching new arborists will also remind you of the basics. Many times, going back to the simplest ideas and terms helps ground our advanced knowledge in the foundation it developed from. As with any skill, a firm base of knowledge and actions is required to advance. Teaching somebody else returns us to our roots.

Shift your thinking

Clients ask, “How do you know what to take out?” Arborists in training may ask, “Should I take this one out?” a trained arborist’s response would be: “It is not a matter of if it should go, but one of should it stay.”

When pruning, shift your thinking from “What should I take out?” to “What should I leave behind?” Once a limb is cut and cast off to the brush pile, it ceases to matter to the tree. What matters is what is left behind. Do not wonder how much should be removed. Instead, wonder how much should be left behind. It is this the tree will depend on for its future.


On bright, sunny days, everybody wants the arborist’s job. It’s easy to find fascination when pruning a large, fantastic, flowering tree or shrub. Remember these times and recall them on the dismal days when nothing goes right, the plants look terrible and your mood is foul.

Remember that what you do now will affect the plant until it dies. The work of the arborist must not only embrace the past and infuse the present; it must look to the future. Think of pruning not only as a skill or job to be done, but one to be mastered and perfected on a continual basis. Learn all you can, share it whenever possible and embrace the finer aspects of philosophy, planning and precision.

Why Is Tree Removal Important?

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tree removal

Home and business owners often tend to procrastinate in attending to landscape maintenance projects, especially when it comes to the daunting task of removing trees from any type of property. Not only does the process sound overwhelming and stressful, but most worry that the cost of tree removal will make a serious dent in one’s bank account. Despite playing a major role in green industry and keeping our environment clean, the experts at Hometown Tree Experts stress that removal may be necessary due to Urban Forestry.

It is undeniable the impact that civilization and increases in population have played on the environment. In modern culture, it isn’t uncommon to have valuable homes or businesses built too closely to potentially hazardous trees. Add weather and heavy storms to this equation, and one can wind up dealing with a very messy situation! In a highly urban area such as a city or suburb, these trees can cause serious damage to structures or those inside; each year, many property owners report damages caused by a falling tree during a storm. This is the #1 reason to contact a local professional tree service company that has the expertise, knowledge, equipment and trucks to properly handle a dangerous situation.

Cost of Tree Removal

Tree removal costs can vary greatly depending on the size of the tree and the nature of the total project. Tree accessibility such as proximity to driveway or street is a contributor to cost.  So is canopy spread, proximity to house or structure, how much room to drop the limbs, all incorporate into the cost of a tree removal price. Ultimately, the total tree removal cost really depends on how long the job will take, the difficulty involved, and the equipment needed to complete the task.  Hometown Tree Experts LLC offers FREE ESTIMATES.

If researching estimates for tree removal costs, it is important to make sure that the company is fully insured and licensed. Also, check to see if they have the proper equipment and trucks to handle the job, especially if it is a large tree in a particularly dangerous setting. It is always essential to put safety first, and hiring a fully-insured tree care service that makes this a priority is important.

Prepping trees for winter in the DMV

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Winter tree care and preventative maintenance is crucial for maintaining the health and beauty of your trees.  You can perform five simple steps to help your trees weather the winter conditions.  This includes watering, minimizing salt exposure, mulching, and more.

Step One: Pruning

Pruning is best completed when your trees are in the dormant stage.  Weak limbs, dead branches, or branches and limbs that are impinging on power-lines and property should be pruned.  You’ll protect yourself and your property while maintaining the health and aesthetics of your trees.  Also, you’ll mitigate the risk of weak or over-sized branches becoming dangerously weighted down with snow and ice.

 Step Two: Pre-Winter Watering

You should continue watering your trees until the ground freezes.  Once the ground freezes the root system of your trees will cease to pull in moisture.  Watering until ground freeze will help to ensure your trees have stored enough moisture to survive the winter months.

 Step Three: Mulch

One way to increase the retention of soil moisture is to apply mulch around the base of your trees.

Spread mulch two to three inches thick around the tree base while tapering the thickness outward. leaving about six inches from the tree base clear of mulch is recommended.  Piling mulch against the trunk of the tree can trap excessive amounts of moisture which can lead to disease and fungus growth.

 Step Four:  Tree Wrapping

Wrapping your tree trunks is one way to prevent winter tree damage, especially for younger trees.  Wrapping the trunk of a younger tree can help to protect the tree from frost damage.  Likewise, deer and other animals can wreak havoc on younger trees through nibbling at the bark.

You can wrap the tree trunk with burlap and secure with wire or twine. This can lessen the chances of freeze related cracking.  To protect your tree trunks from animal damage you can encircle the trunks of your trees with chicken wire.

 Step Five: Minimize Salt Exposure

Salt is terrible for your trees.  Minimizing your trees exposure to salt is highly recommended.  Salt extracts moisture from the soil and root system of the tree.  In short, it can put your tree into a drought state even though there is ample snow cover.


If you have any questions, contact us! Hometown Tree Experts is happy to provide complimentary consultations and quotes!

Call us at 301-250-1033

How to avoid costly storm damage

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The question you never want to think about as a homeowner:

Is your tree healthy enough to survive a severe storm? If your tree were to fall, will homeowner’s insurance cover tree loss or tree removal?

Is tree removal covered by home insurance?

Many homeowners and renters’ insurance policies keep you covered if high winds, hail and other types of storms take down trees. Often, policies don’t cover tree claims if the tree falls but doesn’t damage your home or any structures, like a garage or fence.

Either way, there’s usually a clause. If a tree needed to be removed before a storm, you could be looking at an out-of-pocket expense.


How can I avoid costly tree damage insurance claims?

Be proactive with your tree care and schedule regular tree inspections.

If you’re aware of the tree’s risk ahead of time, you have a better chance of preventing damage. Investing in the long term health of your trees will prevent higher costs down the line.


If you think you have a tree that may not survive the winter, please call us at 301-250-1033 for a complimentary consultation and quote to assess your trees.

Protecting your trees from Winter


Did you know that there are a few ways to help keep your trees healthy in the winter? Many human elements can damage your trees.

Image result for snow tree

Heavy snow and ice storms cause damage by bending and breaking branches. Multi-stemmed evergreens, such as yews, arborvitae, and junipers, are often the most prone to damage. To protect these plants from limb breakage prior to winter, tie branches together loosely with strips of cloth or coated twine. Remove in early spring.

The branches of many hardwoods, such as Siberian elm, maples, and birch, may be seriously damaged in ice storms. Improper removal of ice or snow from the tree or shrub might increase damage. Heavy snow should be removed gently before it freezes to limbs and branches. Removing ice encased on branches can cause additional damage and should not be attempted. Instead, allow ice to melt off naturally.


Salts used for deicing pavements can cause damage to trees and shrubs. Symptoms of salt damage appear in spring and early summer and include browning of evergreens, leaf scorch, branch die back, and dead areas in turf. Branches and twigs can be killed from aerial deposits, and roots can be damaged from salt remaining in the soil. Salt will leach through well-drained soils, but damage can be extensive in poorly drained soils. Choose salt-tolerant species for sites where salt stress may be a problem.

Thinking about removing a tree? Here are some things to think about


Some things to consider when you are thinking about tree removal


How healthy is the tree? If 50% of the tree is damaged, it probably should be eliminated. A tree that is in decline can continue to survive for many years but will always have limited or abnormal growth and appearance. Trees that have been damaged by herbicide frequently have misshapen leaves, but frequently can recover.

Is there trunk damage? Vertical cracks, seams, dead branch stubs and large, older wounds suggest internal decay. Severe damage to the main trunk often warrants removal of the tree. If the damaged area is less than 25 percent of the circumference of the trunk, the wound could gradually heal over and no permanent injury should result.

Is the tree hollow? Because the life support tissue, the xylem and phloem, of a tree is on the outer edges of the trunk many trees will live for years with a hollow trunk. The issue is possible compromised trunk strength making the tree dangerous. A guide to help in decision making is if one-third of the interior of the tree is hollow or rotten, it probably should be removed.

Are there large dead branches? Large trees that have had their tops broken or large damaged limbs are a danger to people and property. If less than 25% of branches are damaged, the tree will probably survive. Crossed or rubbing branches should be removed. Narrow branch angles especially of the main trunk are particularly prone to splitting and should be corrected. This is best done when the tree is young. If a narrow crotch is too large to remove the two co-dominant leaders could be cabled to relieve the strain and avoid breakage. This procedure is performed by an arborist.

Has there been excavation near the tree causing root damage? If 50% of the root system is damaged, it probably should be removed.

Is the tree leaning? Leaning trees are more of a hazard than those growing vertically. A sudden lean indicates breakage or weakening of roots and tree should probably be removed immediately. A tree leaning more than 15% from vertical probably should be removed.

What is the environment in which the tree lives? Another important factor in a trees possible need for removal is its environment. Trees growing on rock ledges or near a body of water frequently have shallow root systems. The removal of nearby trees is a common problem after new construction. Trees that are suddenly exposed to sunlight are severely stressed by the sudden change in exposure. Unfortunately, trees that are spared from removal during construction often die 3-5 years later. They succumb to soil compaction, grade changes and the sudden exposure to full sun after being grown in a forest.

Fall: The perfect time to trim your trees


Tree Trimming in Maryland


Fall is the perfect time to trim and remove deadwood from the trees in your yard…maintaining the trees on your property is important to insure longevity of your tree but also to keep them from causing damage to your home. As the leaves start falling it will become obvious which branches have a strain put on them and may need to be removed before ice and snow set in. Weak branches cannot survive the winter or the weight of ice and snow and they tend to buckle and crack. Smaller branches can collect in gutters causing blockages, while larger branches can cause damage to your home. Maintaining your trees will benefit you in the long time as a tree that stays healthy will not need to be removed.

If you cannot trim the branches on your trees safely, please call us for help! We can be reached at 301-250-1033 or info@hometowntreeexperts for a complimentary consultation and quote!