Joe Oszust from Davey's Albany, New York, office shares what signs arborists look for on trees to avoid damage from winter storms and help make sure they stay healthy all winter long. He also shares some of favorite and least favorite trees for the landscape.
In this episode we cover:
To find your local Davey office, check out our find a local office page to search by zip code.
To learn more about what to do if your tree is covered in ice, read our blog, Help! I Have Trees Bent Over by Ice. What do I do?
To learn more about protecting trees from winter storms, read our blog, How to Protect Trees in Winter: Three Proactive Tips.
To learn more about keeping your trees healthy in the winter, read our blog, Tree Care Checklist: How to Keep Trees Healthy this Winter.
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Doug Oster: Welcome to the Davey Tree Expert Company's podcast Talking Trees. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Each episode showcases one of Davey's certified arborists sharing advice with everyone about caring for your trees and landscapes. We'll talk about everything from introduced pests, seasonal tree care, deer damage, how to make your trees thrive, and much, much more. Tune in every Thursday to learn more because here at the Talking Trees podcast, we know trees are the answer. This week, I'm joined by Joe [unintelligible 00:00:34]. He's a sales arborist in Albany, New York. I said it wrong, Joe, the first time I said Albany, right?
Joe: Yes. Not Albany. Albany.
Doug: We're going to talk all about winter safety when it comes to our trees, but first, tell me a little bit about what a sales arborist does.
Joe: Sure. Essentially, we're here to help people with their trees. Most of the time, we have some sort of idea before we go out to the property of maybe what their problem is or what they're looking for. At the end of the day, we're trying to help people with their trees, help people manage risk, help people manage the health of their trees.
Doug: When we're talking about winter safety and our trees, what's the first thing you think of when you're looking at a landscape?
Joe: I try to look at it in two different ways. One is obviously safety first. We're looking at trees that have a higher risk potential for failure, sometimes by species. A good example of that are maybe the white pines that frequently get a lot of damage from snow load, from ice. With those, we like to come in and just reduce some of the end weight, give them a little taper. Then, there's other trees that we're looking at in terms of health, reducing disease and insect problems by removing dead wood, doing thinning, that kind of thing.
Doug: Tell me, from an arborist standpoint, this is a good time of the year to be able to see what's going on with the trees now that the leaves are off?
Joe: Absolutely. This is a great time of year to take a look at the structure of the trees. In fact, I'm doing a lot of appointments now that I initially had gone out to evaluate people's trees and said, "Let's come back here in December or November and take a look at things once the leaves are off and we'll come up with a management plan."
Doug: Let's start off with deadwood. When you see deadwood in a tree, is it always coming off? Is that the idea?
Joe: Yes. For trees that we manage, we really look at the size of the deadwood and the quantity most of the time. We use a size of maybe two inches in diameter. If we start seeing a pretty high quantity of branches that are two inches and larger throughout the tree, then it's probably ripe for pruning. There are other trees that there may be a lot of deadwood, smaller stuff, but in terms of managing safety, that may not be on the top of the priority list.
Doug: Then, when you're looking at the tree, I'm sure that cracks are going to be an issue. That just makes sense to me.
Joe: Yes, some cases, again, it depends on species. Also, depends on where the tree's been growing, things that have happened to the tree. Cracks are not the be-all-end-all of tree risk, but they could possibly mean something. It would be a good time to go out and look at the tree if you're finding cracks like that.
Doug: I always often wonder this, when we do get either freezing rain or freezing rain and snow and the tree has all that stuff on it, tree or shrub, should we leave it be, or are we supposed to knock the snow off or does it depend on how much there is on there?
Joe: It really depends on how much snow there is and it also depends on the species. A good example of a spreading crown on maybe a Japanese maple, if we're getting a lot of ice on there, a lot of snow, it would be good to knock that off. If we have maybe just a big maple or an Oak, one, it's not practical, usually, to knock all of the snow off, but two, most of the time, not an issue.
Doug: Then, how about decay?
Joe: Again, that's a pretty loaded question. A lot of older trees, they are going to have some level of decay in them. It is really a matter of how much there is, where the tree is located. When we talk about tree risk, it's a lot more about the target than it is the tree. A tree with decay that is far removed maybe from the house, well, maybe we clean it up after it falls down, but we find a tree that has significant decay, then maybe it's either time to remove it or depending on the situation, some other kind of mitigation.
Doug: I know from doing this podcast and talking to arborists that you need to see it, but in my case, I'm just giving you what happened in my landscape, I'm looking up at a tree in the fall, and I'm seeing those chicken of the woods mushrooms coming out of, I don't know, a branch union up there. Is that something I should be freaking out about or is that something like just have your arborist come and take a look?
Joe: Wood-decay fungi are always something that should be taken pretty seriously. Like you just said, I think it's really important to just have an arborist come out and really just take a look at it and see what's going on. There are some wood-decay fungi that there's no other mitigation except for removal. Then, there's others, say like the black locus, they typically get a lot of shell fungi, but they're able to withstand that pretty well. It really depends on species and some other factors, but I think most importantly is that you do have an arborist come out and take a look at it.
Doug: Joe, just like you, my local Davey arborist, he came when the leaves were on the trees and said the same thing. Especially with a lot of oaks, we often talk in here how we don't want to touch oaks unless they're dormant, due to oak wilt, but he's doing the same thing. He's coming back now when the leaves are off. It's funny, that's why I asked that question early on because I always thought you need to have the leaves on there to tell what's dead and what's not. Now that I've been doing the podcast and talking to the arborists, now when I do look up, it's pretty obvious what's healthy up there in general and what isn't.
Let's talk a little bit about if you're worried about a tree being blown over, is there any indication ahead of time or is that something you inspect to see or is it just there's no way to know?
Joe: There's some things that we look at that definitely increase the likelihood of failure in terms of whole tree failure. Some of these things could be limited soil volume. We see that a lot in street trees that are growing in medians along streets and trees and trees with root collars where the grade has been changed around them either recently or long in the past, trees that are maybe growing in insights that they're not meant to be growing in, maybe really wet areas where root rock could be a problem. There are definitely some signs that a tree could be in potential trouble for whole tree failure. Again, best thing to do is have an arborist out.
Doug: Yes, certainly, before the winter hits in earnest, here in the east, have an expert come out and look. Joe and I are able to talk in generalities about this, but you got to see the tree. You have questions all the time via the internet or whatever it might be, but you've got to see the tree. Now, I want to ask you a little bit about being an arborist and that good feeling of going out to a property where you've got a homeowner who's sweating it, loves this tree, and then you're able to say, "Oh, I know what we could do. Cut this, this, this, and this and you're going to be good to you go and that tree's going to be fine."
Joe: I wish that every situation was like that and certainly that would be a really great career. Unfortunately, there are sometimes where the client does love the tree, but I have to break that bad news that "Look, the only thing that we can do is remove this." Then, conversely, probably more than the scenario that you just described, a lot of people call up thinking that it's the end of this tree or this tree has come down for one reason or another, but we're able to work out another plan.
Doug: I often asked arborists about their favorites and we'll talk about that. As somebody who works day in and day out with trees, are there certain trees that you just wish people didn't plant, and it's not necessarily because of winter damage, but it's just whether it be invasive or just a hard tree to take care of, anything on your list?
Joe: Sure. Let's go back to the Bradford pear really quick, a perfect example of a tree that you go to the nursery, you buy this wonderful conical-shaped tree and it does great for 10 years until the very narrow crotches that the tree is made of start to fail. Then, just the genetics of the tree, that tree is not naturally a conical tree. It's a very wide-spreading crown that most people don't really realize that. It's a highly invasive tree. We see those populate areas where fields are abandoned, that kind of thing, as a pioneer tree, but that's not the pioneer tree that we want to see taking over. Some of the trees that I really love seeing people plant native are the redbud, the American hornbeam, awesome tree, the witch hazel.
I think when people are looking at trees, it's important to-- What is it that you're looking for in a tree I think is what I try to encourage clients to think about before we make that decision. There's trees that we plant just for that very quick little bit of spring color and then there's other trees that have that spring color but also do something the rest of the year which is how I try to direct people into buying.
Doug: Talk a little bit about the American hornbeam because I put one in. I am in an older oak forest, I'm losing some older trees here and there, and I'm trying to get more diversity into that forest. I love hornbeams. Is the common name, do they call it muscle wood? Is that right or?
Joe: Ironwood. That's also [crosstalk]--
Joe: Yes. As you well know, we try to use scientific names as much as possible because that's where some confusion comes in. Some people also call the hops hornbeam Ironwood, which is a stray of totally different and species and genus. The American hornbeam is very much an understory tree, grows in the understory of forests and on the edge of the forest, maybe on the edge of wetter areas. I can't say enough good things about that tree. The winter interest is really tremendous, really solid tree, really disease and insect resistant, so awesome tree. The counterpart, the European hornbeam, which is much more of a bright, conically-shaped tree, also another great tree.
Doug: Well, you made me feel good because your explanation of the site where that tree should be is right where I have it. I actually did it right, Joe. [laughs]
Joe: That's awesome.
Doug: Anything else on your list as favorites when you're going out to a property? Again, I know I repeat this over and over again, it's right tree right place, but everybody has some favorites and things that don't get planted as much as they should.
Joe: The American dogwood, really great tree. The black gum, really underutilized, really awesome tree. The fall color on that is just so tremendous. Yellowwood, which I think that's their native range, we start to see that out by you and a little bit south but grows very well up in the Northeast, nice fall color, really great flower show, lot of winter interest with its smooth gray bark.
Doug: Well, let me go back to the dogwood, and if you don't mind, talk a little bit about citing that the right way because I think that's important. I see dogwoods struggling out there in the full sun, definitely need a little water shallow rooted.
Joe: Yes. Dogwoods I've found grow really well on an Eastern exposure on a forest border or a little bit in the understory of some taller trees. They don't love to be out in the full sun. They get sun squalled a lot and they just generally don't like that kind of exposure. Eastern exposure, a little bit of shade should do very well. They don't like really wet soil, really well-drained high organic matter.
Doug: Tell me a little bit about your season this year, was it a challenging season? I guess every season's challenging, but was it more challenging than any other season for you?
Joe: I don't think so. There were some insect issues that were a little bit more prevalent this year like the gypsy moth and elongated hemlock scale and hemlock woolly adelgid was pretty big in New York. We evaded any of the big storms that we had last year so we didn't have to deal with any of that stuff, which is so great. We've been able to really just work on doing really great pruning and not taking down trees just because a storm came through so it's been a good season that way.
Doug: Well, as we finish up if you don't mind me asking, tell me a little bit about how you got into this. Why is this job right for you?
Joe: Pretty often people say like, "Oh, you really know a lot about trees," and usually, my comment is, "Well, but it's the only thing I know." [chuckles] If I had to do something else, I'd be in a lot of trouble. I got into this at a very early age of 10 or 12 years old with my uncle, he's passed away quite a while ago, but he definitely got me into the green industry. Like I said, I've never done anything else.
Doug: Tell me a little bit about what you get out of the job.
Joe: Some days I get a big headache. Most days I love working with our guys, they are just really tremendous. We have a lot of really young talented guys that are just like sponges. You can just tell they love what they do. It's really great to work with people like that. It's really great to work with clients, especially ones that they care about their trees. They want to do something right. 99% of the time, love my job.
Doug: [laughs] Well, we all have one of those days where we get a headache. Joe, I want to thank you very much for being part of the show. Good stuff, and thanks for sharing all that great information.
Joe: Thank you, sir. Yes, bye-bye.
Doug: You know the drill. It's a great idea to get an expert to look at your trees and hey, they'll come out for free. Now, tune in every Thursday to the Talking Trees podcast from the Davey Tree Expert Company. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Do me a favor, subscribe to the podcast. I hope you're having as much fun listening as I am hosting the show. Next week, it's all about what to do with that Christmas tree after the holiday. Do not send it to the landfill, we've got lots of other options to talk about. As always, we'd like to remind you on the Talking Trees podcast, trees are the answer.
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