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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, Feb 19 2020 09:10PM

Once winter sets in, your trees can become stressed. Their only self-defense against winter is to go dormant. While this decreases their need for nutrients, it still leaves them susceptible to the caprice of winter weather. Take a little time to give your trees TLC in the winter and they will reward you with healthier growth in the spring.

Heavy snow: Healthy branches can endure light snowfall, but when snow is wet and heavy, it can cause them to droop to the breaking point. When you see tree branches sagging significantly, you can brush the snow off carefully with your hand or a broom, brushing in an upward movement if possible, in order to avoid pushing the branches down farther. Shaking a branch is not recommended, as that can increase the risk of it snapping.

A word of caution: Only address the branches you can reach comfortably! Do not try to reach higher branches by standing on something in the winter. The conditions are too dangerous and you can become seriously injured. Call your tree specialist, who has the equipment to properly reach higher branches.

Limb breakage: Clean up fallen limbs and branches if they’ve broken clear off. As already mentioned, do not try to prune branches that are out of your reach. If limbs are partially broken and do not pose a hazard, you can safely wait until later in the winter to prune them, to avoid any further harm to the tree when it is dormant. If, however, the break is to an important or large branch, or if any part of the tree poses a safety hazard, call in your tree specialist to remove the broken or dead branches. Now is a good time to make plans with them to prune your trees safely in late winter, to achieve the best results in the spring.

Drought: Your trees may experience drought if there has been little precipitation, little snow cover, or significant winds. Watering once or twice a month is recommended, but only when the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you did not mulch in late autumn, do so now. Deliver water through a soaker hose, out near the drip line where the ends of the roots are, not near the trunk. Your tree service can also advise you where best to position your hoses. Water early in the day so the tree has time to soak up the water, which should wet the soil at least 6 inches deep.

Animal pests: Animals need to eat in the winter, too, but you don’t want them eating your trees. If you have mulched up to the trunk, remove the mulch to at least 6 inches away, both to avoid rot and to take away cover for small rodents. Put up a mesh barrier to deter small animals. Mouse traps can also be helpful as can deer repellant which can help deter deer from feasting on your plants and low branches.

Cold, wind, salt: It’s not too late to put up burlap barriers to protect your trees and evergreens from excessive winds or salt from the road. When using salt on your driveway, use less harmful de-icers such as calcium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate. Alternatively, if you have plants near your driveway and walkways, try using sand, sawdust, or other abrasives to provide traction rather than salt.

With tree care, protection is the best medicine. Keeping your trees well-watered throughout the other seasons, having a regular pruning plan, and controlling insects and pests year round will result in fewer problems in the winter. But winter weather can derail the best of care regimens; if that happens, call a professional who has the proper training and the proper equipment to help you. If you are in or near the Central New Jersey area, call us here at Stonaker to see how we can help you.

By John Stonaker, Feb 10 2020 07:01PM

We are often asked by property owners if they can use the trees we cut as firewood. The answer depends on the tree species and the condition of the wood.

Best trees for burning

Hardwood trees burn best, because they burn longer and hotter and leave behind little ash. They include species like oak, apple, hickory, maple, beech, and cherry. Softwoods contain more resin or sap and are less dense, burning less efficiently and producing more waste. These include cedar, spruce, pine, yew, basswood, cottonwood, and redwood.

What wood to avoid burning

Be careful about burning wood that has been infested with insects. Do not bring into your house any wood that has termites or ants, and never transport out of your local area any wood that has been infected with the ash borer. It’s best to allow your tree service to dispose of these properly.

Wood that is already dead may be used for burning if it hasn’t started to rot. Ask your tree specialist, and never try to cut down a standing dead tree yourself, as you cannot be sure which way the dead wood will crack or fall. Leave that to the specialists.

How to make good firewood

Cut logs into pieces about 16” long, then split into wedges about 3-5” wide. Even though it takes longer to cut, smaller logs dry faster and more evenly. Stack the logs in a manner that allows air circulation, off the ground and covered.

Allow the wood to dry out, or season. Fresh cut wood is about 80% water. You want to season it until it’s about 20-25% water, which could take 6-10 months. Don’t skip this step. Wet wood burns poorly, smokes heavily, and puts out more creosote, which builds up in chimneys and creates a fire hazard. You will know if your wood is still too green if it looks moist or if it hisses and bubbles when lit.

The best wood has dried for a year. It will generally look dark or gray, with a white interior and fine cracks in the wood, indicating dryness. Ideally, use wood within 4-5 years, after which it begins to deteriorate.

Final advice

Don’t try to take down a tree by yourself, whether the tree is living or dead. Your tree specialist has the training and the specialized tools, as well as the insurance coverage in case anyone is hurt or any damage is done to your property. Of course, there are also hacks out there, so before hiring a tree service, make sure you ask them what training they have and what insurance they carry.

Contact us here at Stonaker in Central New Jersey to see how we can help you.

By John Stonaker, Jan 17 2020 06:23PM

Use the winter months to provide needed care for the trees on your residential or commercial property. When the trees are dormant, the leaves are gone and the branches are clearly visible, making it a perfect opportunity to provide some much-needed structural and preventive care so you can enjoy your trees for years to come. Here are some do’s and don’ts to remember about winter tree care.

DO inspect your trees: Do any branches look too close to the house or electric wires? Do any branches seem weak or growing in an odd direction?

DON’T do any major projects yourself: Trees near buildings and other important outdoor spaces should be inspected by an expert who knows what to look for. Don’t guess. An expert can recognize when a tree may need cabling to save a major limb. Sometimes a sick, damaged, or poorly placed tree needs to be removed. The winter is the best time for major work, since the ground is likely frozen, making it easier to move in heavier equipment, and the gardens are dormant, causing less disruption of the landscaping.

DO prune: Pruning removes dead, damaged, or weak branches, helps create an aesthetic and healthy shape, and encourages new growth. In the winter, your tree specialist can better see the tree’s branching and provide optimal pruning. And since the tree is dormant, the pruning will induce a burst of new growth in the spring, when the tree is at its peak strength. Winter pruning will also prevent the spread of insects or disease, since they are also dormant.

DON’T do the pruning yourself: Small branches near the ground can be pruned by property owners safely, but any major pruning or any pruning that requires a ladder should be left only to the experts. Tree specialists and arborists have both the training and the special equipment to properly and safely prune your trees. Doing it yourself could risk your safety, damage your property, and harm the tree.

DO mulch: If you didn’t mulch in the autumn, do it now. Mulching retains moisture, insulates against extreme temperatures, and increases nutrients in the soil.

DO mulch correctly: Applying mulch against the trunk of the tree can encourage rot and insect infestation. Mulching too deeply can encourage roots to grow up in search of moisture instead of down into the soil. For details on correct mulching techniques, read Mulching and Edging Around Trees.

DO wrap some trees: Wrapping your trees in the winter can protect them from damage caused by cold, wind, animals, or road debris. Burlap is the most common material, and can be wrapped around the tree itself or can be staked like a fence around the tree.

DON’T wrap incorrectly: Do some research to determine if your tree actually needs wrapping and the best way to wrap for your particular variety and its location.

DO use dormant oil insecticide: Just like your trees, insects are dormant during the winter, preparing for a burst of growth in the spring. Now is the time to coat them with dormant oil that will smother larvae and eggs laid on the trees, with minimal or no damage to beneficial insects.

DON’T use oils incorrectly: Be sure to use oils that are made for your specific tree variety. Don’t use the same oil on trees not listed on the label just because you don’t want to buy another one. Be sure that it is specifically marked as a dormant oil, and apply only when the tree is completely dormant.

Taking a little time to care for your trees in the winter will reap rewards when the growing season returns. Contact us here at Stonaker to help you with your winter tree care needs. We service central New Jersey and surrounding areas.

By John Stonaker, Jan 17 2020 06:11PM

Whether your property is commercial or residential, your trees could benefit from edging and mulching. Mulching insulates the soil, protecting the tree from cold, and retains moisture, keeping the tree hydrated during the heat of the summer. Mulch also discourages weeds that compete with the tree for nutrients. Adding an edging can help retain mulch, prevent lawn creep, and protect the tree from damage caused by lawn mowers.

Common mistakes

While mulching and edging are beneficial to the tree, it’s important to avoid common mistakes that can actually damage the tree. One of the most common mistakes is to create a mulch hill, sometimes called a “mulch volcano” around the tree. You’ve surely seen mulch piled high under trees. This application certainly discourages weeds, but it also suffocates the tree’s roots, which then grow upward instead of downward in search of nutrients and water.

Piling mulch against the trunk turns the advantages of mulch against the tree; its insulating and moisture-retaining properties encourage rot and create a welcome home for insects. Piling mulch against the tree is very common with mulch hills. Some landscapers will create a donut of sorts around the tree, trying to keep the mound away from the bark of the tree, but rain and natural settling cause the mulch to eventually drift down to the trunk.

Raised beds around trees are beautiful, but they usually include the two problems listed above. In addition, they usually have plantings in the raised bed, causing additional competition for water and nutrients. For a mature tree with a large canopy and roots well established deep in the ground, a raised bed with an inner wall that keeps the bed at least two feet away from the trunk could be created with less risk of harming the tree.

How to edge and mulch correctly

Determine the size of the mulched and edged area you want. Laying a garden hose or using landscaping spray paint to mark the area will help you maintain a nice form. Be sure to think carefully about traffic patterns, future growth of the tree, and neighboring plants before deciding on the size and shape of the edged area.

Carefully remove 2-4 inches of turf, avoiding damaging any roots. If you are removing a deep mulching that has been in place for several years, you will likely come across many small roots, and possibly larger ones. If you discover roots or suckers, we recommend you get help from a trusted tree specialist—not a regular landscaper—who can help you remove the roots without hurting the tree.

Do not remove much soil around the trunk itself – remember, you will not be laying mulch within several inches of the trunk, and you will not heap the mulch above ground level, so let the surface of the ground taper gently up to the trunk.

Once the area is cleared, you may choose to add an edging. You can choose from a variety of materials that will complement your landscape and your style, including rocks, bricks, and fabricated edging.

Fill your edged area with the organic mulch of your choice: pine needles, bark, wood chips, composted leaves, or other commercial mulch. Make sure the organic mulch is fully matured, not fresh, as it will create heat as it decomposes.

Maintain your mulched area by occasionally raking to prevent packing, and replenish every year or two as it slowly decomposes.

Feel free to reach out to us here at Stonaker for your tree needs. We service central New Jersey and surrounding areas.

By John Stonaker, Dec 26 2019 03:52PM

Winter is the perfect time to dream about and plan for landscaping projects in the spring! Well-designed landscaping and outdoor amenities can increase property value by up to 20%. More importantly, you will have more outdoor living space and you’ll enjoy your property more with proper management and development of your landscape.

Think about your yard as your outdoor living room. What does your family do outside, or what would your family like to do? Think about what outdoor items you would like, such as a pool, patio, fencing, or fire pit, and plan them around your trees. Since trees are your largest plant, live the longest, and can have a major impact on the enjoyment of your outdoor space, think about them first before planning placement of any permanent fixtures.

Be sure to look through books and online sites or visit locations with beautiful landscaping to get inspiration, keeping in mind these questions:

•What do you want your trees to do for you? Provide shade? Color? Privacy? Wind barrier?

•What are your existing trees like? Are they an asset to your plans? Should any be removed because of poor health or potential property damage?

•What trees would work best in your climate?

•If the trees will be near an outdoor living space, do they drop seed pods, petals, or nuts that could be messy or hazardous where your family will be living and playing?

•If you want all-year color, which trees will bloom or change colors in succession?

•What do you want the view to look like from various places on your property – from the living room or kitchen window, from the patio, from the road?

Once you’ve answered these questions, make a list of work that needs to be done on your existing trees and include list of trees you would like to add to your landscape. Create a formal layout, considering how the gardens and property will look in different seasons. It’s also useful to create a few future plans, showing the effect on landscaping over the years as your trees mature.

If you are planting new trees, purchase them from a reliable source and consider having them planted by a professional. If a tree is planted too shallowly, it could heave back out of the ground – if too deeply, it can hinder growth. A common mistake is to dig too small a hole for the roots to spread well. Depending on the soil type, a poorly dug and amended hole can either retain water and drown the young tree or limit water retention and dehydrate it.

Another common problem is root girdling, which occurs when the roots grow in a circular pattern. This is common when a plant has been in a pot for too long. Root girdling will eventually choke a tree as the roots grow bigger and tighter around the trunk. A tree specialist will be able to prevent these problems by proper planting methods.

Enjoy your winter months by planning for major tree projects to extend your outdoor living and the enjoyment of your property. Contact us at Stonaker if you are in the Central New Jersey area for all your tree service needs.

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