Justin Greer is an 18-year veteran of the tree service industry and Director of Operations at Western Tree Removal Specialists, a Diamond Certified company. Photo: American Ratings Corporation (2015)

Justin Greer has been servicing trees for Sonoma County residents since he was a teenager, and today, he’s the director of operations at Western Tree Removal Specialists. We took a few minutes to speak with Justin about his field of expertise and gain some helpful knowledge.

Q: Do trees really need to be serviced? Can’t we just let them be?
A: There are a couple reasons why trees need to be serviced, both of which are tied to changed environmental factors. Before humans came on the scene, trees grew in fierce competition for resources, which kept growth in check. Picture a forest where not a drop of light gets through the broad canopy and the trees grow so close together that they’re practically holding each other up.

Flash forward to today, where the circumstances are reversed: Trees are often situated alone or in small groups, and they’re able to get all the water and sunlight they need—not to mention the synthesized nutrients we feed them via fertilizers, which are basically plant steroids. Altogether, this causes trees to grow much faster and larger than they had under previous circumstances.

Also, as humans have manipulated our environment over the years, we’ve created a lot of stress factors for trees. When in a state of stress, a tree will often respond by extending its roots further in search of nutrients, or expanding its limbs and growing extra leaves to generate more energy from the sun. Again, the result is augmented growth, which is why maintenance is needed to prevent potentially dangerous conditions.

Q: What’s an arborist and why is it important to hire a company that has one on staff?
A: Most people think an arborist is just somebody who works on trees, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. What sets an arborist apart is extensive, certified knowledge of trees and tree care. To become an arborist, one has to undergo an extremely rigorous process, which includes providing documented hours of field experience and taking a test set to international standards. After earning certification, an arborist must be periodically re-certified, which requires ongoing education and field experience.

While any quality tree company should have an ISA Certified arborist on staff, if that person isn’t a full-time employee, it doesn’t mean much. Some companies will retain an arborist with whom they consult a few times a year, but in reality, this person should be playing an active role in overseeing the company’s operations.

Q: What are some obvious signs that there’s something wrong with my tree?
A: One of the most obvious signs is an excess of brown leaves or needles, particularly on the outside of the tree. Others include hanging, drooping or cracked branches; defects on the trunk or roots; and an excessive amount of birds occupying the tree, which may indicate an insect infestation. Also, human-caused damage can be an issue—if someone backs into your tree with their car or your gardener accidentally hits it with a weed-whacker, it can induce a state of stress.

Q: What are some proactive steps I can take to keep my trees healthy?
A: First, get an annual inspection and follow your arborist’s recommendations. Plan on having most of your trees pruned every three to five years, although some trees will be on a seven-year cycle. Don’t skip a maintenance cycle—that can cause a lot of extra problems. It’s also important to be conscientious when planning any new construction on your property, including any excavation within a distance of 1.5 times the tree’s height. If done improperly, even something as minor as a sprinkler installation can kill a tree.

In general, make an effort to be in tune with your landscape. Take a few minutes each week to examine your trees, assess their condition and look for any new developments. You can even make a game out of it with your family. Look at your trees and name five things you notice, none of which can be the same as the other person’s. You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.

To find a Diamond Certified tree service company in your area, click here.

Learn more:
Savvy Consumer Tip: Trees & Privacy
Oak Tree Maintenance: The Basics
Assessing the Health of Trees Around Your Home

10 Responses

  1. Jim says:

    My friend is starting his new tree service soon. He hopes to get a lot of clients that need their trees removed. The hardest part is finding a truck to put all the branches in. Maybe my dad will let him use his.

  2. DoloresB says:

    I like that the first question you answer is why trees need proper tree service. I don’t think everyone understands the importance of taking care of trees. Pruning and trimming can really help them grow to be good and strong.

  3. Caleb Hart says:

    I didn’t know that trees should be serviced so frequently. It makes sense that trees have changed and adapted as the environment has changed. My father wants to plant a tree in his front yard. He hasn’t yet because he doesn’t know how to service them.

  4. Recently my wife and I have been discussing this topic, as there is a very large tree in our yard. She wants to leave it be, and I would love to do that, but I thought it would be a better idea to have it trimmed or serviced. I will refer her to the part where you mention how a lone tree has no competition, and will grow much differently than if it was surrounded by other trees. Thanks for the information.

  5. I liked what Justin said about why maintaining your trees is important. It seems like they should be low maintenance because people see them growing in the wild. He’s right about how changing environmental factors affects trees. They’re competing with other trees and plants for resources from the earth, and that competition can affect how trees grow. It’s also important to keep in mind that trees can get sick, so maintaining them can help to ensure that they’ll continue to have a long and healthy life.

  6. Irena Ryans says:

    Thanks for the information. It’s good to know a little bit more about how to take care of my trees. I wish I had known this a few months ago; I didn’t do anything to help them so now they’re all dead. Looks like I’ll be needing to have them removed. Do you have any tips about that?

  7. Ellen Banks says:

    On our property, we have several beautiful trees that have been growing for years. The roses that were planted near them have shown signs of disease. I’m worried that it will spread to the trees and cause problems. Are there any preventive treatments that can be done to keep the disease from spreading? I would hate to lose both my roses and the trees.

  8. Emily Smith says:

    This was an informative post about tree services. I have often wondered why we can’t just leave the trees alone and let them be. I didn’t realize that trees now grow faster and bigger than they usually do. Now I understand a bit more about why trees need to be carefully maintained.
    Emily Smith

  9. There are a lot of trees in my back yard. There is a circle of about five that have started to turn brown and lose their leaves. They are all really close together, so could their dying be related to something?

  10. Eliza Cranston says:

    Thank you for the information on tree services! I’ve also wondered if it was fine to just let trees be, but it makes sense that the trees in our yard don’t have the same competition as those in the forest and so need to be kept in check. I have an oak tree with some big branches that are starting to overhang my house. I’m wondering what would be the best time of year to get them trimmed?

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