Trees in the front yard

When a tree is healthy and well-maintained, few landscape features can match it. However, an unhealthy, poorly-maintained tree can be an eyesore, or even a liability. It is in your best interest to keep the trees on your property in good shape, but because most homeowners are not aware of the issues that can harm their trees (or the solutions to those issues), hiring a tree service is usually the most appropriate path to a healthy, attractive tree.

Understanding Arborist Services

While “tree service” and “arborist services” are closely related, they are not completely interchangeable. Both tree services and arborist services are useful in maintaining a healthy tree, but arborist services go a step further. In many areas, you must carry a license to perform tree service; in others, anyone capable of cutting down a tree can run a tree service company. On the other hand, arborist services are always headed by a certified, educated arborist or “tree doctor”. Arborist services are often able to identify, prevent, or treat problems that your average tree service may not be able to handle. Because the gap between tree service and arborist services is sometimes a bit of a gray area, here are a few common tree-related tasks along with the most appropriate professional for each job.

Tree Limb Removal

Here, you have a task that is straightforward and isn’t likely to have any serious repercussions, but is too risky or difficult for most homeowners to perform themselves.
Because of these factors, tree limb removal is a perfect task for a tree service company. Since most calls for tree limb removal are made because the limb in question is either posing a threat to the property underneath it or creating a nuisance by blocking views or rubbing up against the house, there is little confusion as to what needs to be done. While arborist services are never inappropriate when dealing with trees, there is probably little need for the added education and credentials an arborist brings when dealing with tree limb removal.

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Tree Stump Removal

Much like tree limb removal, tree stump removal is not a task where the added certification of an arborist is a necessity. Tree stump removal is certainly a tricky project, however, and is not something most homeowners will want to attempt themselves. The specialized stump grinding tools used by tree service companies are far more effective than any do-it-yourself method; though some homeowners have had some success with burning out stumps or pulling them out with a truck and chains, professional tree stump removal is typically faster and more effective, especially when dealing with large diameter stumps.

Treatment and Prevention of Disease and Insect Infestation

Here is where arborist services are a cut above the rest. While your average tree service company will certainly be able to provide some helpful hints concerning disease, insect, and fungal control, the added education of a certified arborist is most effective when dealing with such issues. Arborist services are not miracle workers, however! The best way to keep your trees healthy is to identify problems early or prevent them all together; taking advantage of arborist services before a problem is allowed to take hold is often the key to keeping insects, fungus, and disease from going beyond the point of no return.

Though newly planted trees will typically require more attention than well established ones, it’s never a bad idea to have older trees examined by an arborist every year or two. Often, disease, insect, and fungus activity comes in waves that change from year to year. In much the same way that medical doctors notice different viruses affecting the human population more strongly some years, your local arborist will have information on what risks are more threatening to your trees annually. This knowledge, along with their extensive training, makes regular check-ups from certified arborist services a key factor in preventing tree problems and maintaining a healthy landscape.

Finding Certified Arborist Services

Most tree service companies with a certified arborist on staff will not keep it a secret! In addition to asking the tree service companies you contact whether an arborist is on staff, you may also want to ask which, if any, national associations the company is a member of. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), the National Arborist Association (NAA), and the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA) are among the major professional organizations of which a tree or shrub service might have a membership. They keep their members updated on the latest knowledge and expertise in the field, which translates into better care and healthier trees for you!

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  1. Justin Knox, May 10:

    Thank you for the help. I have a tree that needs to be removed because it is getting too close to my house. I had not even heard of certified arborists before. Do you think I need to look for a service that is already certified?

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