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At Stonaker Tree Service we are here to help you with jobs big and small.  From residential and commercial tree pruning and maintence to large scale excavation projects - we can safely protect and enhance your property.  

By John Stonaker, Jul 12 2019 04:12PM

Many property owners don’t think much about the health of their trees. Shrubs and flowers seem to need more attention and they show damage quickly when they’re suffering. Damage done to trees often doesn’t show for several years – but by then it may be too late to save the tree.

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to tree health. Avoid these mistakes when landscaping around your trees to prevent many problems that could stress and eventually kill your tree.

What not to do under your tree:

1. Don’t allow grass to grow around the base of your tree. Grass competes with the tree for moisture and nutrients, and since it needs to be kept short, lawn mowers and weed whackers can damage the trunk. Small cuts or bumps in the bark can lead to infection and rot. Herbicides sprayed to kill weeds can also damage the tree.

2. Don’t add a raised bed. A bed will compact roots and decrease airflow, and like grass, plants in the bed will compete for nutrients. Most trees will send out roots through mulch searching for air and food, growing up instead of down into the ground. These roots are the first to burn in the summer and freeze in the winter, and may eventually wrap around the trunk, choking it.

3. Don’t add mulch up to the trunk or around the root flare. These areas are susceptible to rot. If you mulch, organic mulch is preferable to rocks. Organic mulch provides nutrients and doesn’t compress the soil like heavy rocks can. Additionally, rocks can cause a change in the pH and nutrients in the soil as minerals in the rocks leach into the soil.

4. Don’t build structures within 10-15 feet of the trunk. Driveways, concrete pool decks, stone patios, and other features compact the soil, crush the roots, and detour needed rain and nutrients away from the tree’s root system.

5. Don’t plant the wrong plants under the tree. Some groundcovers grow well under trees without competing too much with them. Others require too much care, take too many nutrients from the soil, or die because they’re not suited to the environment under a tree.

Do this under your tree:

You may now be thinking, “Then what can I do?” You can mulch under your tree the right way.

Dig out the turf, down about 2-3 inches. Try to remove all visible roots from grass or weeds. By starting with fresh, root-free ground, your mulch barrier will be more effective and attractive. Add no more than 2 inches of organic mulch. Your tree service can recommend the best type for your tree and your climate.

Keep the mulch from covering the root flare or touching the trunk. You can also create a small wall or berm to keep the mulch in and create an aesthetic appearance, but don’t increase the depth of mulch. Replace the mulch as it decomposes in a year or two rather than piling more on top.

If you prefer plants under your tree, your tree service can recommend the best plants for your tree and your landscape. Make sure you get advice from a tree specialist, not a landscaper, unless the landscaper is also a specialist in the health and care of trees.

And of course, don’t forget regular pruning, which is crucial to tree health. Contact us at Stonaker to see how we can help you keep your trees healthy and beautiful for years to come.

By John Stonaker, Jul 12 2019 04:02PM

If you’re planning on a long trip this summer, you’ll need to plan how you will care for your gardens, especially any trees planted in the last two years. Although you may think you can let nature take its course after a year or so, it can take up to two years for a newly planted tree to develop a truly established root system here in Mercer County, NJ.

Transplanting can be stressful for a young tree and it needs extra TLC from you. If you go on vacation, don’t forget to give it the love it craves.

Watering schedule for young trees

During the first two weeks after planting, water your new tree every day. Try not to plan long trips during this time, unless you have someone who can care for the tree while you’re away. Over the next several months, water the tree every 2-3 days. After about three months, you can water weekly.

Factor in the rainfall that you’ve received and only water if there hasn’t been a good soaking rain during that period. Don’t overwater or you will make the tree dependent upon irrigation. Consider the normal rainfall of your area and compensate with additional watering during dry spells. A 2-3” layer of organic mulch will help retain moisture. Do not mulch up to the trunk.

Options for watering trees while you’re away

Choose your method based on the age of your tree and the length of time you’ll be away. There are several options you can choose from to care for your trees while you’re on vacation.

Soaker hoses: Put a soaker hose on a timer that will allow enough water to soak the top 12” to 18”. Avoid shallow watering, which will encourage shallow root growth. Encircle the drip hose around the tree, over the root ball if the tree is very new but away from the trunk to avoid rot. It’s best not to water during the warmer hours of the day, so set your timer accordingly.

Tree bags: These come in tall form and donut form. They will only water for a short time and only close to the trunk, so they’re not a good choice for a long vacation or for a tree whose roots have extended beyond a couple of feet. They also have the added problem of being against the trunk, possibly creating an environment for mildew or rot to set in. They can be used temporarily for short trips on new plantings that need frequent watering of the root ball. Remember to remove them after that to avoid damage to the trunk and overwatering near the root ball, preventing roots from stretching out in search of water.

5-gallon bucket with a spike in the ground: Like the tree bags, these will only water for short times, but they’re not against the trunk and can be placed wherever the roots are, which are advantages over the bags. You can make your own or purchase already made systems, and since they’re open buckets, they will also collect rain.

Enlisting the aid of a friend or garden-sitter: This is probably the best option if you’re going on a long trip. Your sitter will be able to factor in the age of your trees as well as the heat and rain your garden experiences while you’re away and water accordingly.

It’s important to plant varieties of trees that can adapt well to your climate and soil. Plant them on your property where they will grow well and enhance the value and use of your home or business. Contact us at Stonaker to see how we can help you choose the right trees and situate them in the best location for success.

By John Stonaker, Jun 6 2019 03:08PM

Curb appeal is the measure of how attractive your house looks from the road – and it can add tens of thousands of dollars to the selling price, so it’s worth an investment.

If you’re trying to sell your house right now, there are some quick changes you can make to your landscaping to dramatically improve curb appeal. If you’re planning to sell in the future, now is the time to make some changes.

What to keep in mind

Don’t be haphazard about your plantings. Have a plan that takes into consideration the size and shape of your home, the dominant colors on your house, its distance from the street, and any features such as a driveway, walkways, or healthy and attractive existing plantings. Make a map, and think about the feeling you’re trying to create – warm and inviting? Exciting and lively? Calm and peaceful? Many flowers, shrubs, and trees evoke different feelings. Working with an expert or a friend who knows a great deal about plants and landscaping is helpful at this step.

Some quick fixes

If the season is warm, flowers are a quick fix, in the ground or in pots. Bushes and small trees that look attractive right now should be added. For instance, if you’re selling in the winter, you’ll want to focus on evergreens or plants with attractive stem color, such as the Red-Twig Dogwood. A good rule of thumb is to choose bushes that offer seasonal color and year-round interest (that doesn’t clash with your house). Some bushes flower, others have purple or blue-tinged leaves, some offer a striking autumn show.

A few of the bushes that offer instant curb appeal:

• Boxwood

• Heavenly bamboo

• Hydrangea

• Azalea

• Rhododendron

• Knock-out rose

• Purple smoke-bush

• Ogon spirea

• Red-twig dogwood

• Juniper

Some small trees that offer instant curb appeal:

• Dogwood

• Crepe Myrtle

• Small spruce such as “Fastigiata”

• Arborvitae

• Weeping cherry

• Cut-leaf Japanese maple

• Eastern redbud

Keep in mind the needs of the trees and bushes: light, water, zone, root spread. This will ensure that the plants will continue to be healthy for years to come.

Planning for the future

Mature plantings have greater value and only increase with time, so consider planting for the long-run in your new home, or if you have time before you sell your current home.

Some great trees for curb appeal, besides those listed above:

• Maple - sugar maple, silver maple, and red maple all have different characteristics. Maples tend to grow large and will need space and time, though some grow rather quickly

• Magnolia - beautiful flowering trees with mid-size growth

• Red oak - brilliant autumn leaves on this large tree which, like maples, offers great shade

• American holly - year-round color and brilliant red berries in the winter – don’t plant near walkways because of spiky leaves, and allow for mid-size growth, up to 30 feet

• Tulip tree - fast-growing flowering tree can grow quite tall, though usually stays mid-sized

• River birch - striking curly variegated bark makes this a year-round favorite

Work with an experienced tree specialist to help you find the right trees and bushes for your property, considering their size, growth habits, and needs. Then set up a plan for regular maintenance of your trees. The value of your home will increase significantly, whether you need to sell soon or you’re planning for the future.

By John Stonaker, Jun 5 2019 04:43PM

When the hint of green begins to appear on the trees, you know winter is over and spring has come. Not all trees leaf out at the same time – for instance, elm and oak usually don’t produce leaves until late spring or even summer. But most trees begin to show their color when the days begin to warm.

But what if your tree isn’t showing leaves yet? Is it dead or alive? There are a few ways to tell.

Leaves didn’t come back

Weather is a major cause of delayed leaf-out. Deciduous trees require a chilling period over the winter. If the weather became unseasonably warm, it may have triggered your tree to put out buds too early. Maples, fruit trees, and flowering trees are particularly susceptible. When the cold weather suddenly returns, the tree is shocked. Often, fruit or flower buds are killed by the frost and cold, while leaf buds tend to be hardier.

If the weather was particularly hot and dry last summer, the tree might have endured serious stress and is still recovering. Often a tree will “sacrifice” some limbs in order to concentrate its energy on more important areas, like the trunk and roots. The winter cold may have been enough to kill the limbs or branches that had not gotten sufficient nutrients and water during the previous summer.

Obviously, disease or bugs are always a possible cause of delayed leaf-out or dead buds, particularly if the winter was unseasonably mild, preventing a thorough killing off of insects and disease.

Is my tree still alive?

It’s fairly easy to tell if your tree is still alive. First, check the buds. Cut one open. If it’s still green on the inside, your tree is healthy and is just a bit slow in leafing out this year. If the bud is brown, don’t worry – yet.

Next check the branch for life. Carefully scratch the surface of the twig to expose the cadmium layer. If it’s still green, even if the bud is brown, the branch is alive. You may have fewer leaves than usual this year, especially if many buds are brown, but your tree is still alive. If the branch is brown or snaps off easily when you bend it, the branch is dead. Don’t panic. As mentioned, the tree may have allowed some branches to die in order to save others. Check other branches and the trunk itself to see how far the problem extends. If only a few branches are dead, it’s time to prune your tree and provide some TLC to help it regain its strength.

Inspect the tree for any signs of disease or insect infestation. You may want to reach out to a professional to help you determine if there is a serious problem of this kind so that they can properly treat your tree before it’s too late.

If many branches are dead, your tree may be dying. It’s unsafe to have a dying tree near a home or other property. Contact an expert to have your tree removed before damage is done.

How to strengthen your stressed-out tree

• Remove some of the grass around the base of your tree to reduce competition for nutrients

and water.

• Fertilize your tree with the proper fertilizer for its variety. Be sure to use the correct fertilizer

and the correct amount.

• Mulch your trees to control temperature fluctuations in the soil and to maintain moisture.

• Water well, especially in times of diminished rainfall.

Following these tips should help revive your tree, but if your tree is particularly ill or if you suspect insect infestation or disease, reach out to a professional tree service expert in your area.

By John Stonaker, Apr 30 2019 08:07PM

When and how to prune your trees depends on your goals and the type of tree you want to prune. Dormant pruning, before the plant begins to show any growth, is usually best for most plants. Disease and insects are less likely to be a problem during cold months. In addition, shaping the tree or removing weaker branches means there will be more energy to send to the remaining branches, producing a burst of new growth in the spring.

Do’s and Don’ts of Spring Pruning

But what if you missed the dormant period and you still want to shape your tree? Or what if you want to curtail excessive growth rather than encourage it? It’s not too late, you just need to follow a few important guidelines.

-When pruning after growth has begun, never remove more than 10% of the growth.

-Remove any dead branches, diseased growth, or areas with insect infestation.

-For trees that bloom in early spring: Prune after the flowers fade.

-For trees that bloom in mid- to late-summer: Prune in winter or early spring.

-For maple, walnut, and birch trees: These trees ooze sap in the winter or early spring prunings. This is not harmful to the tree, but to decrease the sap release, you can prune them after they have fully leafed out.

-To curtail growth on most trees: Prune in early to mid-summer after trees have leafed out.

-For oak, elm, sycamore, and honeylocust: Trim only when dormant in the winter to avoid serious disease.

Never prune in the autumn. In this season, plants send their energy to their roots and will not put energy into healing wounds or fighting insects, fungus, or disease, which are all looking for a nice place to over-winter.

Pruning Basics

It’s important to use sterile, sharp tools designed specifically for pruning. Be sure to sterilize your tools between plants so you don’t transfer disease or fungus from one tree to another. As a general rule, prune branches that are damaged, weak, or rubbing against each other. Also, prune branches that grow vertically from a well-established branch or that point downward. Watch out for multiple leader branches splitting from the main trunk of the tree, unless that’s the growth pattern for the variety of tree. Look at your tree and try to envision future growth and how you would like it to look eventually.

As you can imagine, there are many factors involved in pruning properly: the time of year, the type of tree, your goals for the tree, and the current condition of the tree. Pruning is a combination of science and art.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the pruning of the tree, it’s best to call in an expert to get the tree shaped properly and to give you some tips on how to keep it in its best health. Be sure to reach out to us here at Stonaker if you have any questions or you would like an evaluation of the needs of your particular trees.

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