About Robert Smith

Is a Member Service Specialist and Certified Arborist at the Arbor Day Foundation. In addition to his role at the Foundation he is the President of the Nebraska Arborist Assocation. http://twitter.com/treeplanting Learn more about "Tree Care" at arborday.org

Older Tree Care

Question: I have a few older trees and I am concerned that they may not be safe.  What should I do?

Answer: Winter is a good time for safety inspections of older trees.  Trees with decay or other obvious problems and those in potentially dangerous locations should be inspected by a professional arborist.  You can find arborists in your area who are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture and clicking on  Find an Arborist.

If you do you own visual inspection start at the top or bottom of the tree and work carefully to the other end.

Look for signs of trouble such as:


Broken Branches

Branch Stubs

Limbs that Cross and Rub

Gouges or Unnaturally Loose or Peeling Bark

Bare branches at this time of year make it easier to spot problems.  Winter is also an excellent time to contact a tree care company to do any corrective pruning that will make your tree safer.  Most companies are less busy at this time of year, and in colder climates the frozen soil will help prevent soil compaction by workers or vehicles.  Then, too, insects and diseases are less likely to be attracted to branch cuts during dormancy.

Walnut Tree Thousand Cankers Disease

The spread of this tree diseases continues recently Thousand Cankers Disease was found in Eastern Tennessee.  According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture,  “the risk represents an estimated value loss of $1.37 billion in black walnuts in Tennessee alone. There are an estimated 26 million black walnut trees on Tennessee public and private timberland potentially valued as high as $1.47 billion.”  This of course doesn’t take into consideration of the additional benefits that these trees are providing for us including cleaner air, stormwater reduction, cleaner water, carbon sequestration…

But this is significant news because Thousand Cankers Disease was originally found in Colorado and is currently in the following nine states Washington, Oregon, California, Neveda, Idaho, Utah, Arizonia, New Mexico, and Colorado.   All of these states, as showcased on the map, are outside of the native black walnut range.  Meaning that the impact of this could be millions of trees as there has been no cure for this disease.

Read more…

Conifer Winter Tree Care

Colorado Blue Spruce in Winter

Q: Robert, since winter is quickly approaching can you give readers any general advice about winter tree care focusing on caring for conifers in winter?

The main problem we hear about in winter seems to be bent or broken limbs or trunks on young conifers (pine, evergreens, spruces…).  Don’t give up on these young plants.  As soon as possible after snow or ice bends them down, use rope, strong cord or wire to secure them upright to stakes or sturdy parts of the tree.  Spring growth will usually provide the strength needed to maintain the upright position.  At some point during the first or second summer, you should be able to remove the support system. Read more…

Arborist Question and Answer: Yellow Poplar and Newly Planted Red Maple

I have a couple of questions for you accompanied by a few photographs about a yellow poplar and a maple in my yard.

Q: The first question is about a yellow poplar that was here when we moved in about three years ago. It was in need of a trimming, so I did so that winter, especially to remove a lower branch that was out of place. I know certain varieties of the species tend to grow straight up and produce a pyramidal crown later, but this tree seems pretty mature to have not done that yet. I’m wondering, is there any special pruning or anything I can do to help it spread out and start producing shade? The tree is about 20-25 feet and about 6-7 inches in diameter at the trunk. Read more…

Space Needed for Backyard Orchard

Q:      How much space do I need for a backyard orchard?

Well, this depends on your purpose.  A single, self-pollinating peach tree may satisfy a peach lover.  Or you may be like Stuart Kennedy of Cincinnati who just planted 10 dwarf apple trees because his wife makes great pies and they want to watch their budget in these tough economic times.  Stuart has also added a 2,200 sq. ft. garden, a grape vine and a pear tree as the family tries to move toward growing its own food.

Read more…

Summer Tree Care

Q:  I’ve noticed that sometimes trees drop their twigs and leaves in the summer.  Is this normal for certain species or is this an indication of a problem?

   The terms for what you are seeing are “summer dormancy,” “summer leaf drop,” and “cladoptosis,” the latter meaning “a branch” and “falling.”  By whatever name, what you see is a reaction to stress.   Read more…

Trees That Attract Honeybees

Q: What trees attract honeybees?

 This is a good question, especially in light of the struggle our industrious little friends are having just to exist in our ever-urbanizing world. 

Read more…

Drought-Tolerant Trees in Hot Summer Months

Q: I’ve planted some drought-tolerant species that later died during the hot summer months.

If they are listed as drought-tolerant, shouldn’t this be a guarantee against mortality in the dry period?
Trees listed as drought-tolerant are those that have genetically adapted to sites in their native habitat that regularly experience prolonged dry spells.  However, all newly-planted trees can use some help from us. 

Read more…