• Felicano performing a standard dead pine tree removal. Notice that he is wearing all of the required personal protective equipment for the particular job. Compare this to many of our competitors ads and websites and see how many of them are adhering to the OSHA and ANSI guidlines by wearing the correct saftey gear.
  • Yes we even prune palm trees. Downey Tree crews begin setup to prune one of the thousands of palm trees that we prune each year from our Destin, Florida location.
  • Downey Tree Crews prune a large American Beech tree to remove deadwood and enhance the overall appearance.
  • Downey Tree Crews removing a large Oak tree from the grounds of the Georgia State Capital. This tree was infected with a fungus called Ganoderma which is a wood decaying fungi.
  • Pruning Palms in Paradise. Downey Trees crews keep the palm trees looking their best at Sandestin Resort in Destin, Florida.
  • Production Manager, Phillip Kelley, performs an extremely large and dangerous Oak tree removal using a 70 ton crane. This tree was completely hollow and had split on the backside requiring for an emergency removal.
  • Phillip Kelley, Production Manager, works to remove an emergency storm damaged tree at Stone Mountain Park.

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A Skill You Hope You’ll Never Need -Rick Barnes & Zachary Parker

To most of us, an error on the job might mean an addition mistake or a misspelled word; an injury, slamming one’s knee into a desk corner, or perhaps a paper cut. For the men and women in the business of Tree Care, the simplest mistake can result in a serious injury- or worse. The tiniest lapse into a daydream can quickly lead to a Tree Care Professional’s worst nightmare. According to statistics published by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), Monday is the most dangerous day of the week, followed by Friday. There is arguably no other industry where a tiny mistake, a lapse in attention, or a procedural misstep can more quickly become a tragedy. Of the 126 accidental tree care incidents reported in 2014 by industry colleagues, the news media, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 81 resulted in fatalities.

Safety is forever on the minds of the associates at Downey Trees, Inc. To this end, a 4-hour segment of last December’s company Christmas Party was dedicated to preparing for an event that anyone would dread: rescuing a climber incapacitated in a tree or in lift equipment. This training is critical to the safe operation of a Tree Care company. In fact, it is mandated by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Z133.1 and OSHA, the legal standards for Tree Care operations. The morning of December 9th dawned crisp and cold, mostly cold. Spirits were high following a recently-consumed breakfast, and the anticipation of a pulled-pork feast at the end of the exercises only added to the festive spirit.

Several different aerial rescue scenarios were simulated at 3 different tree climbing stations at Downey’s Norcross facility. The training staff wanted to bring home the fact that there are numerous situations which might necessitate an aerial rescue. In the first scenario, the climber uses tree climbing spikes in a Two-Spar Rescue to bring down an arborist knocked unconscious by a falling limb. In this instance the “injured climber” is actually another man that the rescuer must bring down out of the tree. That climber is also wearing spikes which, among other things, could stab the rescuer should they come loose while he is in the process of climbing past them. Once successfully past the injured climber, the rescuer must then establish a safe system to facilitate lowering of both climbers in a controlled fashion, most often by securing the injured climber the rescuer.

The second scenario necessitated a High-Angle Aerial Rescue, where a climber without spikes becomes incapacitated while working aloft. They may have been injured by a chain saw, developed heat stroke and become unconscious, or even become paralyzed by fear. The latter malady might seem far-fetched when referring to a group of people who have chosen to climb trees for a living, but it is actually quite common. For this practice rescue, the climber works with and lowers a 180-pound dummy instead of a real-life colleague, but the challenge of doing so is no less imposing. The procedures are similar to the first scenario, with a few subtle differences that require thought, clear decision-making, and practice to insure safety and control throughout the exercise. Even without the threat of spikes, the high angle rescue is difficult, and command of the skills required is important.

While emphasis is certainly placed on safety and control in both scenarios to prevent the rescuer from becoming a second victim, time is of the essence, lest the rescue of a living person become the recovery of a deceased one (or two). The dangers are too numerous to elaborate on, but here are a few shocking facts about tree incidents and situations that might necessitate an aerial rescue:
• Palm Fronds: Downey Trees’ Destin team deals with the pruning of Palm trees every year. Of those 81 fatalities reported in 2014, asphyxiation claimed the lives of 3 people by the excessive weight of sloughing Palm fronds. A recent article in Arborist News, a publication of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), described an aerial rescue that came about when a climber became pinned to a Palm tree when a mass of fronds sloughed off of the plant as he was pruning it. For such an unassuming scenario, this is all too common.
• Suspended upside-down: If the climber is struck and becomes unconscious, it is imperative that he/she remain upright and not allowed to hang inverted for an extended period of time. A climber in such a position can pass out in two minutes or less. If the inversion persists, suspension trauma can take place, and can lead to the death of the climber.
• Energized equipment: pruning near power lines can be very dangerous business, and the use of a bucket truck (or cherry-picker) does not make it any less so. If a bucket truck should come in contact with utility lines, safety features built into the truck can often prevent it from becoming energized. However, these same safety features will not necessarily protect a well-intentioned “rescuer” from being a victim himself when he touches an energized truck to try to assist the coworker aloft. As troubling as it may seem to helplessly watch a co-worker in trouble while operating an energized lift, about the only thing that can be done is to call the power company for assistance. Electricity creates some of the most dangerous situations in Tree Care.

Witnessing the aerial rescue training firsthand also illuminated the fact that its success is not simply limited to the person trying to safely bring the incapacitated climber to the ground. Of equal importance is the crew member that calls 911 and remains on the line with the dispatcher, providing updates on the progress of the rescue and properly guiding emergency personnel to the site of accident. Also important is the coaching and encouragement from other ground workers as the rescue progresses. It is truly a team effort and everyone on the crew needs to be involved to execute a safe, efficient, and effective rescue.

As the training wore on, the reality of the activities became more apparent to the participants. While the climbers felt more confident about the procedures involved in aerial rescue, there was some consensus that getting everything right (ropes, knots, positioning, procedural steps) was challenging. This revelation led to some well warranted trepidation. Some felt that that the spar rescue was the most difficult of the scenarios, but all developed a greater respect for what is involved in aerial rescue, regardless of the form it took. While one never knows how they would react until thrown into such a situation, most of the participants seemed more comfortable with aerial rescue at the conclusion of the training. Most expressed confidence that they would be able to employ the required skills in the field if called upon to do so. If nothing else is gained from such training, it serves to remind tree care professionals of the very real dangers they face every day.

As the sun finally began to break the chill around late morning, the aerial rescue training concluded and other contests led up to the Christmas feast (fodder for another blog on another day). A representative of Downey’s Insurance Company, who was invited to observe the training was favorably impressed by the skills exhibited by Downey staff during the course of the training. And while there is some comfort in knowing that the Tree Care team at Downey Trees, Inc. can perform an aerial rescue if called upon to do so, hope springs eternal that the situation will never come to pass.

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Like the Falcon’s it’s all about the preparation and execution…

Reflecting on similarities between our two organizations the Atlanta Falcons and Downey Trees, Inc. after looking back at the season-aka-2016.  While Downey Trees is done with its season, the Atlanta Falcons have a bit more work to do to finish their year.  Downey Trees is not a professional football team but we are a professional Tree Care Team and are measured daily by our clients and friends on what kind of season we are having.  Not by the sale of seats for home games or memorabillia but by having the opportunity to work on our clients properties and their friends properties year after year.  That’s Downey Trees season ticket holder.

Like the Falcons we have a great coach in Paul Bagley-President and owner who has led this organization from it’s infancy to today stature.  Having a great coach means he has created a brotherhood similar to that of the Falcons, where teamwork and relying on each other to do our job is critical to the mission.  While we don’t have practice, we do have game day every day.  The Falcons practice during the season daily, whether in planning strategies for their next opponent or getting their players healthy for the game or making sure the coach knows the right play to call for the game day situations. Preparation is key to winning and Downey Trees deals with similar challenges day in and day out with no off season-but knowing its all about preparation and execution.

Like the Falcons our guys are professional athletes in their own right-they can’t run a 4.2 second 40 yard dash but they can hoist themselves up an 80’ tree to prune and if you don’t think that is a professional athlete that takes a great amount of fitness then give it a try sometime.

Downey Trees runs the tree business like a professional football team with Crew Leaders who run their team every day executing the desires of our clients according to the playbook.  We have Operations Managers who schedule staff, support crews, and train to ensure we meet our goals of providing the absolute best tree care in the Nation-period.  Does the plan go off without a hitch-I can not remember a day when there was not something new or challenging not in the playbook that tried to throw us off course, but no matter what we faced our team bounced back and handled the pressure.  Good execution comes from preparation and we are diligent in making sure we are prepared to execute to the level our clients, customers and teammates expect.

Like the Falcons we plan on winning every game we play-does it work out that way?-not always, but we plan for winning-and in 2016 we won-

Defining winning for a football team is easy-undefeated season or winning the big game at the end of the year-taking home the trophy-maybe winning the Super Bowl.  Like the Falcons winning the Super Bowl will come down to game day execution.  They expect to win, they plan to win and they play to win-and when the play clock shows no more time and the scoreboard shows Atlanta Falcons as winners then let the celebrations begin because of execution.  Like the Falcons our play clock ran down to zero in 2016 and the game was over-did we win-you bet and in many categories but the only one that matters to us is that you, our clients, come back in 2017 to work with us again because we do our best in preparation and execution to make your year a winner.

Here is to a Falcons win on Sunday and another successful year of satisfying our clients in 2017.

GO FALCONS!

 

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Considering the Much Maligned Crapemyrtle!

Even those that don’t have much of an appreciation of plants and flowers are likely to stop, stare, and admire the beauty and variety of color exhibited by the Crapemyrtle during the hot months of summer.  A standard in the southern landscape, Lagerstroemia indica has, for all its glory and ornamental value, become the “whipping boy” of many who confuse mutilation with well-meaning care.  It is almost as if folks make it their News Year’s resolution to cut Crapemyrtles down to size, leaving chopped-off stalky sentinels where very often a stately tree once stood.  The Georgia Gardener, Walter Reeves, coined the phrase “Crape Murder!” many years ago, and those of us that know better have spent many years trying to turn the tide on this malpractice and let people know that the trees don’t have to be cut back to nubs to look good.  Many of us have found out to our consternation that perception has been misconstrued as truth.

 

The oppression and confusion about this poor plant goes right back to the spelling of the name itself, for there are many and who really knows which one is correct?  One might think of the delicately folded flowers and call the tree “Crepe” Myrtle, after the paper they resemble.  Then there is the controversy over whether it is two words or just one?  Crepe Myrtle? Crepemyrtle? Crape Myrtle? Crapemyrtle?  To put an end to this controversy I defer to Dr. Michael Dirr of the University of Georgia, who uses the common name “Crapemyrtle”.   Done.

 

Lagerstroemia indica is native to China and Korea and was introduced to Charleston, SC in 1790 because of the spectacular flowers the plant produces.  Lagerstroemia fauriei is the Japanese Crapemyrtle that is known more for its colorful peeling bark.  In the 1950’s a specimen of L. fauriei was sent to the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. where Dr. Donald Egolf set to work crossing the two species and selecting seedlings with promising ornamental characteristics.  The fruits of this labor are many of the cultivated varieties of Crapemyrtle that we see today, including the National Arboretum Selections:  plants selected not only for flowers but also for highly ornamental bark, as well as resistance to many of the pest problems that plagued L. indica: Aphids, Powdery Mildew, Sooty Mold, and Leaf Spot.  (Other pests that may be attracted to Crapemyrtles to which they are not resistant include Japanese beetle and Ambrosia Beetle.)  These selections were named after Native American Tribes: Muscogee, Natchez, Tuscarora, Osage, Sioux, Pocomoke, and others.  A magnificent specimen of L. fauriei can be found at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and opposite the Great Lawn there is a beautiful alee of ‘Natchez’ Crapemyrtle.  Crapemyrtle hybridization has continued through the decades at the National arboretum and elsewhere- new and different varieties are introduced almost annually.

 

Why the butchery?

My involvement in the landscape industry stretches over 35 years.  My first recollection of ‘Crape Murder’ goes back to the mid-1980.  I think the practice started with bored landscape gardeners looking for something to fill the down time in January.  While it might seem more appropriate to present something on Crapemyrtles in the summer, when the plants are in glorious bloom, we arborists are destined to present at this time of year, when we see all over the city what were formerly graceful arching branches displaying the dried fruits of last year’s bloom, reduced to large sticks emanating from the earth, topped with knuckles from the plundering cuts of previous years, balled up as if to make a fist with which to punch the offending person wielding the pruner! Another possible explanation for the horticultural malfeasance referred to previously harkens back to a decades-old conflict between those that want a “mature look” in their landscape quickly and those that would select plants for the long term.  Proponents of the school of fast growth have in the past made popular such plants as Red-Tip Photinia, Bradford Pear, and Leyland Cypress.  The rapid growth of such plants made them desirable to give a property the appearance of establishment, and yet problems came along as these plants overgrew their designated space.  This same notion could be the reason that so many Crapemyrtles have become the victim of the lopper and chainsaw- the wrong variety is chosen to fit a given space when the plant achieves its mature size.  The plethora of new varieties of Crapemyrtle that have been developed over the years provide a proper plant for nearly every sunny situation.

 

It is our hope that reading this will motivate you to put those loppers and saws away (except perhaps to remove that ill-suited variety of Crapemyrtle you have in there now (or better yet- let Downey Trees, Inc. do the removal for you!). The chart below lists a sampling of the varieties that are available.  Information is presented on the variety, flower color, and mature size of the plant.  Keep in mind that a Crapemyrtle often grows as wide as it does tall.  A little extra research on your part at the nursery or on the internet will provide more information about other ornamental characteristics such as bark and fall color.

 

Crapemyrtle Variety Flower Color Mature Size
     
‘Natchez’ White 20 feet plus
‘Muscogee’ Lavender 20 feet plus
‘Dynamite’ Red 20 feet
‘Sioux’ Vibrant Pink 10-20 feet
‘Osage’ Clear Pink 10-20 feet
‘Black Diamond Blush’ White-Lt. Pink 10 feet
‘Tonto’ Red 10 feet
‘Catawba’ Violet Purple 10 feet
‘Plum Magic’ Fuchsia Pink 10 feet
‘Strawberry Dazzle’ Neon Rose 5 feet
‘Sweetheart Dazzle’ True Pink 4 feet
‘Diamond Dazzle’ White 3 feet
‘Ruby Dazzle’ Pink 2-3 feet

 

Whether talking about Crapemyrtles, Crepe Myrtles, or Crepemyrtles, always remember that mature size matters.  As you now know, there is a variety that will fit nearly every garden situation.  Color, form, and interesting bark can be provided by this plant regardless of the limitations of garden space.   We hope this will help you pick a Crapemyrtle for your landscape that won’t become the whipping boy of your yard-mutilated and maligned like so many in the southern landscape!

 

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Winter Tree Care

Winter Tree Care
Just because it’s dormant doesn’t mean there isn’t something to do…
Caring for trees in the winter is another aspect of keeping your trees healthy and happy all year long and providing them the best opportunity to not only survive but thrive. So, what do we recommend during the dormant season to keep your trees healthy? Here are a few basic guidelines to help.
• Mulch-we are not so much concerned with what type of mulch you use, hardwood or pine straw, we are more concerned that you mulch if at all possible. Mulching at the proper depth, which by the way is 3”, serves several purposes. It aids moisture retention during dry periods. Remember summer of 2016. Mulch also allows for improved air and water percolation. Roots need air as much as they need water to do their job so having the critical root zone of the tree covered in mulch helps with root development. Mulch reduces competition from turf grass. Remember, we said if it at all possible to have your trees mulched is great but we realize that many times that is not possible. When mulching, keep the mulch away from the trunk of the tree. Pull the mulch away from the trunk as the added moisture can invite unwanted pests and encourage the development of adventitious roots in the mulch layer. Don’t forget that some of the best mulch and fertilizer for your trees is provided naturally- leaf litter!
• Fertilize-with air temperatures on the colder side and soil temperatures still warm enough to allow for root development, winter is a great time to fertilize and provide your trees with some nutrients. Think of these like vitamins for your trees. While these products can be utilized anytime, they perform best during the dormant season, allowing for maximum performance. Fertilizers promote a healthy environment for tree growth. Winter allows for optimal uptake of the products to be used during spring flush.
• Rooting stimulants-these are a great addition to tree care protocol as well. Remember trees can’t just get up and move if they aren’t happy, so providing the trees with all the supplements needed for healthy plant growth is essential. Like taking fish oil to help make everything in our body work better, the microbes and organic matter we place in the soil maximizes the relationship between tree roots and the soil web.
• Soil compaction-this unseen enemy of healthy root systems can be alleviated by introducing Downey’s proven soil de-compaction process. Using a commercial compressor forcing air into a unique grow gun apparatus reduces soil compaction through fracturing, opening pore space for water, air, and biological movement in the soil.
• Roof and building clearance pruning-now is a great time with the leaves gone to make an assessment of overhanging limbs, reduce the opportunities for squirrels and possums to make the leap from tree to attic. It is a bit scary to contemplate squirrels scurrying through your attic, possibly chewing electrical lines or raising havoc in other ways. Take a walk around your home or building to assess whether or not you are providing a bridge for the critters to take a stroll into your attic where it is nice and warm. Downey Trees, Inc. is happy to help with clearing the jump zone to make it a gold medal jump for the squirrels. Providing building clearance now can also prevent issues with spring storms. Keeping weak and hazardous limbs away from your structure and/ or removing dead and or dying limbs is a great preventative program to complete during the dormant months.
• Tree pruning-removing deadwood, elevation, and roof and building clearance, and dead tree removal are all excellent projects for these dormant months. Wondering how we know what is dead and what is alive? Our trained arborists can identify hazardous situations with your trees, even with no foliage on them! Also, corrective pruning can best be accomplished during dormant months as structural maladies are easily identified.
Unsure of what your trees need, then contact Downey Trees, Inc. and we are happy to help by putting you in touch with our professional arborists.
10-27-16 Decompaction Video Matt T

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Over the River and Through the Woods…

…To the Governor’s House We Go!

By: Rick Barnes (with apologies to Lydia Maria Child and Clement Clarke Moore)

 

Twas months before Christmas and all through the state

They searched for a tree for the Governor’s estate.

The chainsaws all hung in Downey’s shop with care,

In hopes that news of the tree would come there.

The crews wore reflective yellow, I a hard hat

And had settled to wait for the flow of tree sap.

When all of the sudden we received the good word-

That a tree had been found- the crews started to stir!

And from the equipment yard there rose such a clatter, that Paul, Rusty, and Jacques went

To see what was the matter!

Out of the doorway they flew in a flash,

Jumped into their trucks… to the Tree at long last!

The sun had just peeked through the winter-bare trees,

Not a shadow was cast, but the crews were set free.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a crane, flat-bed truck and crew ready and near.

With a motivated driver, so lively and trusty,

I knew in a moment it had to be Rusty!

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

Now David! Now Dennis! Now Josie! Now Roland!

On JY! On Caleb! On Howard! On Kevin!

To the top of the crane! This tree’s sturdy and tall-

Now dash away, dash away, dash away All!

As dry leaves before Hurricane Matthew did fly,

When trees fell in Hilton Head- removals to try,

 

So the crew cut the tree- from the crane then it flew,

To be loaded on the truck- strapped down good and true.

And then in a twinkling a caravan formed

The tree, the crane, trucks- State Troopers to warn!

The parade made its way from forest to road

With flashing lights and a most precious load!

The holiday rush had begun with full swing

Heavy Atlanta traffic- most familiar ring.

Please clear the way- Move! Can’t you see?

That what we have here is the Governor’s tree!

Fifty miles, maybe more, the caravan was sent

Down I-20, ITP, through the city the tree went

At last we arrived at the West Paces home

A beautiful Red Cedar to place on the lawn

Tree, crane, trucks and troopers pulled into the gate,

Despite all the traffic we had not arrived late!

Men jumped out of their trucks and went straight to their work

The tree was lifted slowly- neither fumble nor jerk!

Smoothly the crane lifted tree off the truck

Downey Trees had done this before and needed no luck!

Skillfully and patiently- like training a pup-

The crew moved like clockwork and stood the tree up!

Few hours had passed since the new day had dawned

A new Christmas tree now stood on the Governor’s lawn!

Then Rusty, laying a finger aside of his nose

Sent Caleb and then up the tree he rose,

To disconnect the tree from its tensioning cable

And be decorated by others- Christmas symbol enabled!

Days later the Governor himself would delight

The citizens of Georgia as the tree he did light

But for now the work of Downey Trees had been done

And telling the story was certainly fun

And as flat-beds, cranes and trucks drove out of sight

You could hear Downey Trees say-

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What a Dry Spell it has been here in Hot-lanta…

By all accounts we are in the early to mid-stages of fall as evidenced by our cooler mornings, crisp clean air, leaf color change and oh yeah-football. What does all that have to do with my trees you ask?  As a matter of fact, we are glad you asked because the summer of 2016 is one for the record books.  As the second hottest summer on record with 90 days with temperature of 90’s degrees or more and a precipitation since January of only 32.71 inches compared to a 30 year average rainfall of 41.71 inches.  It is a combination of factors that can lead to significant stress for your trees both young and old.

“My trees look OK so why should I be worried?”

How your trees look today may not be a good example or predictor of how they will look tomorrow, next spring or summer for that matter.  Protecting your trees is protecting your investment whether financial or for most of us, aesthetic reasons.  Trees for the most part do not exhibit signs of stress immediately.  It takes time for the tree to give us signs that they are not happy or doing well.  Since trees can’t get up and move, we need to be sensitive to their needs and help them overcome what Mother Nature has thrown at them in 2016.

What does having only 20.02 inches of rain since March have anything to do with my trees?  We have droughts all the time. Great question, but keep in mind that a 24” diameter tree uses some 700 gallons of water a week to cool itself.  That’s right, 700 gallons! Now that is a lot of water but where does the water come from when it has not rained for so long.  Trees adapt well and likely have found sources to help but supplementing the trees needs can be a big benefit to their overall health.  Entering fall, a typical dry time here in Atlanta, giving your trees a good soaking can help a lot.

It would be like taking a nice cool drink of water after an arduous workout, it just taste good.  Your trees are not concerned with taste as much replenishing its water stores. Younger trees can adapt more easily to environmental stress like a drought but need attention like their older siblings because they don’t have the reserves of their older brothers. All that being said it is important to monitor your trees young and old.

Here is what you can do to help your trees during this unusual dry period.

  • Provide additional water to your large trees under the drip zone to make the most out of your watering.
  • Provide the water in sessions to re-wet the ground and allow the water to percolate.
  • Give the trees roughly 10 gallons of water per trunk diameter.  Another way to calculate is to take the trunk diameter x 5 minutes=total watering time.  For example a 24” x 5 min/inch =120Min or 2 hours of watering.  Remember it is best to give that water in a couple of different sessions to allow the water to percolate and wet the soil to be the most effective.  Ideally use a drip hose to distribute the water over a greater area.
  • Mulch is a great way to help your trees by holding in the moisture.  Keep mulch either straw or hardwood to a depth of no more than 3”.  This aids the tree in retaining what little water is available.
  • Helping the trees with an injection of micro-nutrients, essential for chlorophyll production, organic extracts, along with a combination of endo and ecto Mycorrhizae, humates, and essential microbes to encourage root development.
  • If unsure ask the experts to assess your trees and make recommendations.  It is what professionals do-you don’t take your car to the landscaper so don’t let your neighbor diagnose your tree issues.  Call Downey Trees, Inc. to help.

 

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What a Summer it has been here in Hot-Lanta

By all accounts we are in the early stages of fall as evidenced by our cooler mornings, crisp clean air, leaf color change and oh yeah-football. What does all that have to do with my trees you ask? As a matter of fact, we are glad you asked because the summer of 2016 is one for the record books. As the second hottest summer on record with 90 days with temperature of 90’s degrees or more and a precipitation since March of only 20.02 inches compared to an average rainfall of 29.95 inches for the last five years. It is a combination of factors that can lead to significant stress for your trees both young and old.
“My trees look ok so why should I be worried?”
How your trees look today may not be a good example of how they will look tomorrow, next spring or summer for that matter. Protecting your trees is protecting your investment whether financial or for most of us, aesthetic reasons. Trees for the most part do not exhibit signs of stress immediately. It takes time for the tree to give us signs that they are not happy or doing well. Since trees can’t get up and move, we need to be sensitive to their needs and help them overcome what Mother Nature has thrown at them in 2016.
What does having only 20.02 inches of rain since March have anything to do with my trees? We have droughts all the time. Great question, but keep in mind that a 24” diameter tree uses some 700 gallons of water a week to cool itself. That’s right, 700 gallons! Now that is a lot of water but where does the water come from when it has not rained for so long. Trees adapt well and likely have found sources to help but supplementing the trees needs can be a big benefit to their overall health. Entering fall, a typical dry time here in Atlanta, giving your trees a good soaking can help a lot.
It would be like taking a nice cool drink of water after an arduous workout, it just taste good. Your trees are not concerned with taste as much replenishing its water stores. Younger trees can adapt more easily to environmental stress like a drought but need attention like their older siblings because they don’t have the reserves of their older brothers. All that being said it is important to monitor your trees young and old.
Here is what you can do to help your trees during this unusual dry period.
• Provide additional water to your large trees under the drip zone to make the most out of your watering.
• Provide the water in sessions to re-wet the ground and allow the water to percolate.
• Give the trees roughly 10 gallons of water per trunk diameter. Another way to calculate is to take the trunk diameter x 5 minutes=total watering time. For example a 24” x 5 min/inch =120Min or 2 hours of watering. Remember it is best to give that water in a couple of different sessions to allow the water to percolate and wet the soil to be the most effective.
• Mulch is a great way to help your trees by holding in the moisture. Keep mulch either straw or hardwood to a depth of no more than 3”.
• Helping the trees with an injection of micro-nutrients, essential for chlorophyll production, organic extracts, along with a combination of endo and ecto Mycorrhizae, humates, and essential microbes to encourage root development.
• If unsure ask the experts to assess your trees and make recommendations. It is what professionals do-you don’t take your car to the landscaper so don’t let your neighbor diagnose your tree issues. Call Downey Trees, Inc. to help.

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The Trouble with Leyland cypress…

The increasing drought in Georgia has turned Leyland Cypress trees from green to branches of brown. What is the cause and what can be done? Below are some points about what we are seeing and some things that can be done:
• Dry soils have led to root damage on Leyland Cypress trees and other conifers
• This damage is manifested in foliage browning and branch dieback, and can also worsen the effects of certain fungal pathogens such as Seiridium and Botryosphaeria cankers, which often show similar symptoms
• Fungicidal chemicals have little effect in either preventing the diseases or curbing their effects or spread.
• Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to manage these physiological and pathological situations is to restore a balance in soil moisture. Average rainfall in Georgia is 1” per week. Providing 5 gallons of water per inch of trunk per week will approximate the water provided by natural rainfall.
• Downey Trees, Inc. can provide soil fracturing / de-compaction services to increase the pore space in compacted clay soil for better penetration of water and oxygen.
• Better water management and de-compaction will slow the effects of dry soil and fungal pathogens, but will not necessarily curtail the effects of an extended drought.

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Last Day in the Life of a Bicentennial Oak

The old soldier was showing his age. Several months prior, a large section of the top failed, breaking open to expose a significant cavity near the apex. There were telltale signs at the base of the tree that the end was near. Deciding to remove a living monument to the history of our state and country is fraught with second-guessing and endless questions, but it seemed that the time had come.
The tree was a Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata). The plaque near the base of the tree laid testament to the probability of it being alive when the United States Constitution was signed, and its home was in Gwinnett: the county named for one of the Georgians that signed the Declaration of Independence 11 years earlier. As a seedling, the tree was likely one small member of a larger forest. As it grew along with the county’s agrarian population, the surrounding forest could have been cleared away to expose the future specimen, allowing it full sun and open space to develop to its full potential. Perhaps crops grew right up to its canopy, or cattle took refuge from the summer sun beneath its shade. Could it hear, it most certainly would have perceived the shots of a hunter seeking game in the new frontier- perhaps even distant cannon fire during the Battle of Atlanta as the South lost its grip on the Confederacy. Could it see, it may have experienced the strife of tenant farmers as they scratched a living from the Earth during the Great Depression. Maybe the moon shined brightly over the tree one July evening as Neil Armstrong took his “one giant leap for mankind.” And it was there during the stark silence of 9-11-01, when the skies over its canopy and the nation were a no-fly zone of a nation under siege.
At Downey, we covet trees with a story, with a parallel to history and a window back into time, such as with this magnificent Oak tree. We appreciate the value such trees bring to the landscape and encourage our clients to do what they can to extend the life of those special trees as long as possible- even to care for younger trees while in the vigorous growth stages of their lives in order that they might have a better chance of becoming a bicentennial tree. Development came very close to the base of this oak: asphalt and concrete encroached like flowing lava, and the tree coexisted with its new neighbors for decades. Developers saw the value in the tree and took significant steps to preserve it.
As with all living things, however, time takes a toll. Mature trees eventually experience a death spiral that is as much a part of life as any. The broken top and exposed cavity mentioned earlier was the first indication. A basal resistograph test, drilling into the tree near the ground to determine if the wood inside is solid, indicated the strong possibility of extensive decay or perhaps even a large cavity inside. On the day of removal, an opening in the trunk was found big enough to for a soccer ball! Mounting evidence finally led to the painful decision: the tree must be removed for the safety of those that pass beneath it.
The photos clearly show the process of removal. Limb by limb, the remaining green canopy was reduced to the tree’s framework of huge limbs and attending trunk. Our track lift was strategically positioned in one spot, and yet allowed Dennis, Downey Trees, Inc., Operation Manager to efficiently and completely work his way around the very outside of the canopy, gradually working toward the center. Some of the cuts resulted in a rush of water draining from a limb- evidence of decay inside the structure and infiltration and movement of rainwater. He was also a little surprised to find, in a cavity in a large limb about 60 feet up, a rather enraged Possum! The limb occupied by the marsupial was cut on either side of its den and lowered to give it an opportunity to seek a new home. A crane arrived as the outer limbs were cut, there to assist with the larger limbs and heavy timber that would come down later. The heavy cutting began as the tree was reduced to the massive column of the central trunk. Bringing this down in 6-8 foot sections was time-consuming, yet it was tremendously impressive the see the efficiency with which the tree came down, the solid communication among the workers and crane operator, and always a culture of safety apparent from start to finish.
The most telling evidence of the necessity of the removal came with the lowering of the trunk sections. Witnessing the cutting and removal of the first section, one could not help but be moved by the sheer size of the piece. And solid! The crane operator monitored the weight of the trunk sections as they came down. The first one was 13, 500 pounds (6 ¼ tons)! At least three additional sections would come down later, one of which weighed in at 15,000 pounds. But wait! They were solid! Where was the danger that had been so evident before we started cutting down the tree? The answer was to be found near the very base of the tree, and can be seen in the photo. Weight well in excess of 25 tons was sitting on a narrow ring of solid wood at the very base of the tree. Estimates are that it would have failed within 2 years: a healthy tree would have had a solid core of wood where we found this void off decay.
We are trying to perpetuate the genetic line of the old Bicentennial Oak. Prior to the commencement of the cutting of the tree, we dug seedlings from around it and collected ripened and un-ripened acorns. Unfortunately, the four seedlings collected and potted were ravaged by small animals, so all hope lies with the acorns, which are being allowed to ripen prior to planting in the fall. Perhaps the last day in the life of one Bicentennial Oak is the first day in the life of another. From a tiny acorn springs a mighty Oak: hopefully another Bicentennial Oak will grace the Land of Gwinnett County in 2217!

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Early Fall-What’s up with the trees?

We have come to associate the Labor Day weekend as the end of the summer and the beginning of fall, yet the autumnal equinox does not occur until around the 21st of September. In the southeast, the seasonal signs of fall don’t typically show until a month or so after that. So what’s going on with the trees around here? As one drives around Atlanta and beyond, intermittent splotches of brilliant fall color can be observed among the trees. In other places, leaf drop litters lawns to the point that thoughts of raking leaves are provoked- good thoughts for some folks, possible dread for others! Remembering last summer, an uncommonly moist and mild one, the Cherry trees around town were completely bare by Labor Day. Does the onset of fall have a hair trigger?

Fall color is revealed as chlorophyll in the leaves begins to break down. Since this chemical is the one that allows the plant to turn water and carbon dioxide into simple sugars and oxygen in the presence of sunlight, its demise in the leaves means that food production in the tree is dwindling. The colors that we see- reds, yellows, oranges, and browns were there in the leaf the whole season- they were simply masked by the green pigment. The triggering mechanism for this change in leaves is complex and not fully understood, but it is evident that temperature and the changing angle of sunlight are contributing factors. As the autumn season progresses, another chemical seals off the place where the leaf petiole attaches to the stem, and the leaf falls off the tree to be recycled into mulch and fertilizer for subsequent seasons. This phenomenon, called leaf abscission, is an adaptation of many temperate-zone plants (deciduous trees) to prevent excessive drying out by cold winter winds.

The fact that all of this is happening months too soon is indicative of stress in the trees. This year, Atlanta has seen over 2½ months of daytime temperatures in excess of 90 degrees F. While the record is over 3 months of such extremes in the hottest years, this summer has been far hotter than the last three. Additionally, rainfall has been less than normal- 4 inches less than our 30-year average. While this may not seem like a lot, the combination of high temperatures and reduced rainfall place considerable stress on trees. Consider a large Maple tree, for example: the tensile pull of water initiated by leaves and extending all the way down the twigs, branches, and trunks to the roots can cause a loss of as much as 52 gallons of water per day! While most established trees can tolerate a period of time lacking rainfall or supplemental watering, sooner or later a stress response will ensue, be it wilting, marginal burn on the leaves (a textbook sign of stress), premature leaf drop, or premature fall color.

Maple trees are very often the first trees to exhibit the stress symptoms described here. Several examples are shown, all taken right around the Labor Day holiday. By all indications, some photosynthesis is likely taking place, but premature shut-down of the plant is also evident. Carbohydrates in the plants can be transformed into starches which can be stored in stems and roots, something that takes place especially this time of the year with the dormant season approaching. By not meeting the tree’s potential for the accumulation of starch, the resulting deficit and stress can predispose it to other problems. Borer infestations, root and stem dieback, scale infestations, and fungal attack are but a few of the potential problems that could plague a stressed tree.
The chances that any of these problems will occur can be greatly diminished by reducing the stress the on the tree.

The first management strategy is providing water. The benchmark for optimal water in Georgia is 1 inch per week. If Mother Nature does not provide, we should supplement to make up the deficit. Let’s say, for example, that the thunderstorm last night dumped ½ inch of rain on our property (we know this because we checked our rain gauge). This means that for the rest of this week, assuming we don’t have another storm, we need to provide an additional half inch of water. One inch of water per 1000 sq. ft. is equivalent to 660 gallons per 1000 sq. ft. Therefore, applying 330 gallons of irrigation water per 1000 sq. ft. will allow us to make up the deficit. Again, we will utilize our rain gauge to approximate the correct application. Trees should receive 5 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter per week. That means your beautiful 6” DBH (diameter at breast height) Japanese Maple tree will need 30 gallons of water this week, barring any rain. Mistakes most made by well-meaning folks include watering by frequency instead of amount (this is the way we are conditioned to water by those that provide and regulate it), not calibrating their watering to know how much they are applying in a given period of time, and not adding in rainfall as a portion of the water application.

Deep penetration of water into the root zone can be accomplished by longer, slower applications of water on consecutive days. In addition, de-compaction of the soil can improve the pore space to allow water applications to percolate more deeply and prevent water from running off and away from the root zone. Downey Trees provides soil fracturing and de-compaction utilizing a pneumatic air tool and compressed air to open up the soil for improved movement of water and oxygen. Another effective way to improve the health of the tree is by enhancing the health of the soil. Our products for soil web management include organic beneficial fungi, humates (carbon compounds that promote a living, active soil structure), and low-analysis fertilizers to provide direct macro and micro-nutrients to the tree’s root zone.
Downey Trees, Inc. will design a specific program for the important trees on your property that utilizes these management tools and others to reduce the stresses imposed by a harsh urban environment. Call us soon for a free review of your trees- before the stress of an early fall shows its colors too soon!

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