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Canopy management

Sometimes, it takes extreme weather events to notice our trees. That becomes easier when high wind and storms cause branches to fall, twigs to accumulate, and trunks to topple.

It’s at those times when our trees become more noticeable! 

While acts of God are an exception rider in our home insurance policies, there are ways to strengthen our canopy.  By promoting health, when extreme weather hits,  trees and shrubs better withstand unexpected onslaughts.

It’s part of an integrated tree approach called canopy management. 

Canopy management was a term first associated with the management of fruit tree orchards. It has come more into play with the urban forest, as cities adopt policies to grow the amount of canopy within municipalities. 

We bring this view into your yard. Especially if you have dozens of plants that need management. 

What are the principles of canopy management? 

  • early identification of disease process
  • maintenance of the balance between unwanted pests and beneficial insects
  • yearly infusion of nutrients to promote root growth
  • identification of trees and shrubs which may pose future hazards to people or structures 
  • analysis of soil conditions 
  • tree planting selection based on native climate, micro-climes, and ideal use of space 
  • analysis of worst-case weather events and planning for those eventualities. Also helps recover from weather events
  • analysis of abiotic factors such as construction projects (home additions, walkways, pools, outdoor living spaces) 

When we are in your yard on a scheduled stop as part of your PHC plan, one of the most important jobs our techs have is making visual notes of these factors.  Over the past 25 years, we’ve developed a monitoring checklist, based on the principles of canopy management, to fulfill the goals you have outlined for your yard or campus.

For example, an apple tree that you wish to bear fruit will have a different management strategy than if you don’t want it to drop fruit at all. 

A further example is allowing ladybug populations to thrive in June-July by not over-spraying certain parts of the canopy. Ladybugs are the natural predator of defoliating insects such as aphids.

Arborists can also take images using the I-Tree tool (see the link and sign-up instructions below) to create a time-scale analyzing canopy cover growth or decline. At scale, this provides all kinds of data including the ability to calculate heating/cooling effects, heat-island effects, and potential insect hotspots.  

What a tree service looks for in canopy management? – Initial assessment

Using a ground-up analysis works best for a homeowner because it allows the tech to assess the soil, which is the key factor in how the canopy ends up looking two or three decades down the road.

They will look for, 

  • Soil compaction – compacted soil squeezes out room for air and water 
  • Shallow roots – indicates a lack of water as roots tend to surface if there is no water in the deeper soil zones (very common in Colorado)
  • Poor maintenance history – trees that haven’t been pruned, or worse pruned improperly
  • Root damage – Trees that have branch damage in one part of the crown indicate underlying root damage, typically through drought or  construction 
  • Homeowner input – Information about tree age, maintenance history, and construction history can provide clues to issues trees might be facing.  This also allows for goal setting and long-term resource planning 

Forming a plan for your yard

Once this information is gathered, a tree service can set up a trimming and tree spraying schedule, assess watering needs, and suggest removal and replacement planting.

This holds true for shrubs as well.

This directs your money in the best places possible and improves overall performance.  For example, we are always upfront about whether a tree “deserves” to be trimmed. It may stay healthier by waiting a year, especially if the time of year isn’t ideal for pruning a given species. Conversely, it may be time to just remove and replace, if a tree trimming won’t really help the tree overcome a broader decline. 

To wrap up, canopy management creates a system of scheduled monitoring offering the benefits of  surfacing problems before they become major costs while  

  • Removing dangerous branches before they do their worst
  • Preventing over-feeding of mature trees is a waste of money
  • Identify poor pruning in the maintenance history of the tree to adjust the PHC plan to promote health. 
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