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Your Tree Removal Experts


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, Sep 24 2019 05:25PM

As a tree grows, so does its root system. In fact, for many trees the entire root system grows wider than the tree’s branches. Therefore, if a tree is placed near a hard surface such as a driveway, parking lot, or sidewalk, roots may eventually buckle the surface, creating an unsightly and potentially dangerous condition. There are ways, however, to make your trees compatible with paved surfaces, retaining and enhancing the value of your residential or commercial property.

Before Planting

When it comes to tree placement and care, prevention is always the best medicine. If you have not yet planted your trees, now is the time to plan properly in order to avoid future problems. First, consider planting trees that do not have shallow root systems. Shallow-rooted trees include a variety of maple, tulip, ash, sweetgum, pin oak, poplar, and willow trees, among others. A tree specialist can direct you to trees that do well in your area and that tend to have deep root systems.

Allow sufficient distance from your surface to your tree at maturity. If your tree will be up to 30 feet when full grown, allow 3-4 feet from paving. If 50 feet, allow 5-6 feet. If more, allow at least 8 feet from paved surfaces. This should limit damage or heaving of surfaces from the largest tree roots and allow the roots to dive down deeply for water.

Consider installing a root barrier along the sidewalk or driveway. The barrier can be made of plastic or geotextile, should be at least 2 feet deep, and extend 5-6 feet in both directions along the surface.

Surface Modifications

If your planting is very new and roots have not extended far from the initial root ball or haven’t reached the paved surface, you can try installing a root barrier. For more established plantings, consider modifying the paved surface using one or more of the following methods, but be sure to check with your tree specialist first to determine what the best course of action is for your situation:

• Replace concrete with asphalt, which is more flexible and not as likely to crack

• Lay down a geogrid mesh on top of the roots to force them downward

• Lay a barrier of several inches of coarse gravel, forcing the roots to grow downward

• Pour a thicker layer of concrete or asphalt (6 inches), making it more difficult for roots to push through

• Curve the surface or make it more narrow to allow the tree roots more room to expand

Several of these methods can be combined, such as the geogrid mesh, gravel, and asphalt, with the help of a knowledgeable tree expert and paving service.

Tree Modifications

You can amend the tree itself, but some changes risk damaging the tree. A well-pruned tree can help keep root growth under control, so consider a heavy crown pruning to slow the tree’s growth. Done by a professional, this is actually the healthiest option.

Excavate under the roots with an air excavation tool to remove the dirt. Then either leave the space open or fill it with pea gravel. This will give the roots room to move downward when layers of paving are placed on top.

Cutting the roots should be a last resort, because the roots are the tree’s lifeline. More mature trees, unhealthy trees, and certain species are less tolerant of root pruning. Larger roots of 3” diameter or more will be susceptible to disease or insect damage, weakening the entire tree.

If you must prune roots, have an expert do it, and use a stump grinder, if possible, to shave the tops of the roots rather than cutting them. The roots being pruned should be no closer than three times the diameter of the tree. For example, a tree with a 12” diameter should not have its roots cut closer than 3 feet away. Cut even farther for trees judged to be intolerant of root pruning.

Contact a tree expert before you do any tree modifications or surface repairs. If you’re in the Central New Jersey area, contact us here at Stonaker to see how we can help you save your tree and improve the value and function of your residential or commercial property.

By John Stonaker, Sep 17 2019 05:42PM

Thousands of different insects depend on trees for survival and are part of a healthy ecosystem. However, certain insects are destructive, causing terrible damage to your trees. If left unchecked, the damage can be fatal.

Insects feed on different parts of trees and in different ways. Some tunnel inside the tree and feed on the inner layer of the bark or on deeper tissues. Others chew leaves or suck sap. Watch for the signs of infestation and call a tree specialist as soon as possible to limit the damage and save your tree.

Boring or tunneling insects

These are the hardest to spot and the most destructive, because once you see the evidence, it may be too late. Signs of damage from borers include piles of sawdust, exit holes on the tree, oozing, or cracks in the trunk or limbs.

For borers, prevention is the best medicine. Keep your trees properly pruned, mulched, fertilized, watered, and free from other pests or damage. By keeping the tree in optimum health, the tree borers will not find an easy entrance and will search for a more hospitable home.

Chewing, defoliating insects

These symptoms are easy to spot, so treatment is often effective if action is taken quickly. Beetles and caterpillars are the most common culprits, particularly the infamous tent caterpillars and gypsy moths. Bagworms and sawflies are particularly destructive of evergreens.

Watch for signs of web-like netting, where the eggs are laid and caterpillars are hatched. Different insects have different eating patterns, some eating the leaf whole, others eating around the veins, leaving a skeleton effect.

Sucking insects

Sucking insects include aphids, mites, whiteflies, and scales. These insects suck the sap out of your tree, robbing it of moisture and nutrients. You may see withered leaves, dieback of branch tips, a coating of soot-like mold, sap, or bumps on the trees. The bumps are actually the scale insects themselves. Because sucking insects are usually quite tiny, they can go undetected until much damage is done.

What you should do

If you see any signs of distress in your trees, contact a tree specialist in your area who can help you identify the cause and design a solution that will save your tree. If caught early, an insect infestation can be reversed, requiring only treatment and a future maintenance plan. If infestation is severe, pruning the most damaged areas may be the best option, along with treatment and a maintenance plan.

It’s important to act before the infestation spreads to other susceptible trees, resulting in a more costly fix and a decrease in the value of your property. If you are in the central New Jersey area, contact us here at Stonaker to see how we can help you. Here in New Jersey and Pennsylvania we have some unique insect issues that must be dealt with to keep trees safe.

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.

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