DALY: Certified arborists are a good resource for trees in trouble

I was driving down GA Highway 29 recently and I observed many trees that were dead and dying along the side of the road, a common sight in our area. Over the past few months, the Extension office has received many calls from homeowners concerned about trees on their property with this same problem. In recent years, trees have suffered from the prolonged drought, construction activities, floods and pest problems. Frequently the symptoms of these problems often do not become apparent until months or even years later. Often homeowners need to hire a tree care company to examine the trees in question and perform work on them if necessary. What should you look for when searching for a qualified tree care professional?

Make sure the person who will be doing the initial tree assessments is a certified arborist. These are professionals who have passed an exam and have met certain requirements through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). They have expertise in many facets of tree care including tree health, pest management, assessing storm damage, and proper pruning techniques. Certified arborists can examine your trees, ascertain the health of the trees and provide recommendations for preventative maintenance. Sometimes the tree will have to be removed, especially if it presents a potential danger to people and property.

The company that will perform the tree work needs to present proof of insurance with the name and contact information of the insurance company. They should have the necessary licenses and permits to perform the work. Ask for references, and consider visiting sites where the company has performed work in the past. You should get multiple estimates from different arborists and do not always accept the lowest price. Carefully examine the written specifications of the estimates to determine the best combination of price, the work to be done and professionalism. Most reputable arborists present their clients with a detailed contract explaining when the work will be started and finished as well as who will be responsible for the cleanup. Make sure the contract specifies the total costs. Ask if there are any hidden fees, such as stump grinding, which frequently is an additional cost.

There are some individuals who are consultants only and are not employed by tree care companies. They are a valuable resource for doing tree assessments and can recommend treatments as well as advise you on which companies can provide the best, most cost effective service if needed. For sources of information on tree care and recommendations of certified arborists in your area, go to the Georgia Arborist Association website at www.georgiaarborist.org/.

Appropriate tree care is an important investment because healthy attractive trees can add value to your property. Certified arborists have the knowledge and resources to advise you on the status of your trees and on ways of keeping them in good shape.

Winter is a good time to decide on what to plant in your yard. The Gwinnett County Extension Plant Sale has some excellent plants that are available for sale this winter. Go to the Extension website at www.gwinnettextension.org to download the order form or call the Gwinnett County Extension office for a form to be mailed to you. The deadline for ordering is Friday, March 16, 2012. The order pick-up day will be Thursday, March 29 from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds.

Timothy Daly, MS, Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent, Gwinnett County Extension. He may be contacted by phone at 678-377-4010 or by email at timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.