Stories

Maple On A Roof in Raleigh

A customer that I had worked for previously called me to come see if I could remove a large Maple tree that had fallen onto his roof during a recent snowstorm. The snow turned out to just be the last straw, as the trunk near the base was quite decayed and the tree had already developed a lean searching for sunlight over the driveway.

The tree as it landed on the house in the snow. (stitched image)
The tree as it landed on the house after the snow melted. (stitched image)

A number of factors allowed me to do this job. His home has a roof pitch of 3:12 in the back and 4:12 in the front and the drop off to the ground if just a few feet into soft ground on the rear and not much more in the front. The tree was also supported on the edge of the roof at a few points, so all the branches on the roof could be cleared off before removing the tree from the roof. There was still some snow on the roof when I started, so I brought a broom up with me to clear out a walkway ahead wherever I cleared branches.

The snow had to be swept as I moved to keep a sure footing.
Branch by branch.
Branch by branch, slow and steady.
As the limbs got thicker, the pieces got shorter.
Almost clear.
I used a handsaw, not a chainsaw, to keep an extra hand available for balance. Quality handsaws, like the Silky I used, cut fast.

The tree was secured with a rope to prevent it from sliding off the front of the roof. Sliding like this could have caused more damage to the roof and smaller branches could clip parts of the building under the roof line. A second rope was placed to take a little of the weight off the roof, but the acute angle minimized the help.

Installing ropes.
Ropes installed.

Once all the branches had been reduced to their contact points on the edge of the roof, the work started from the ground. The pressure was taken off to leave the main branch on the roof at last, getting down everything else to prevent damage to the fence. The main trunk had a second trunk of some size. I cut it off near the base of the tree and then cut off sections from that end, working the limb down in size. Eventually, I was able to carry off the branch from the roof.

Taking the limbs off the edge, from smallest to largest.
Down to 2 limbs. The smaller one was cut near the base then “walked down” with multiple cuts.
Starting the cut to walk down the smaller remaining limb.
Cutting off sections to walk down the limb.
Using a polesaw to remove one minor branch stuck by the chimney before pulling off the limb it’s attached to. After that, just the biggest limb (forefront) to remove.
Last limb supported by a 4×4.

To get enough weight off the final piece, a 4×4 was hammered in place, the end cut most of the way through by the roof, the trunk cut most of the way through closer to the stump end like the previous limb, and then the end on the roof was cut off and the piece resting on the 4×4 pulled forward.

All limbs off the roof. Removing ropes for cleanup.
Bucking the limbs for the customer.
Bucking the limbs for the customer.
Bucking the limbs for the customer. My helmet screen is up as it was interfering with what I could see in that situation, but I’m wearing safety glasses.
Finished and the customer offered to clean up the mess. It was a demanding job and he’s had me out a few times, so I took him up on his offer. (Thank you!)
Finished.
Finished. The tree did damage the roof in several spots, but it could have been much worse. I was able to remove it without causing any additional problems.

The customer requested the wood be bucked so he could split it and burn it, so that was the last part. Once finished, he graciously offered to blow off the roof and driveway for me so I was able to clean up my equipment and go.

Evaluating Your Trees

I recommend tree removal where there is (or will be) a poor match between the tree and the site it is growing on. What is a poor match? First, consider your land, all the structures on it, and what you desire from your land. Do you want a wooded lot? A large lawn? A vegetable garden? Are the trees you have part of enhancing or protecting those structures and implementing your vision for your land or will they interfere with it? If they interfere, you have a poor match. Do something now to take advantage of Just Small Trees, LLC services, not in 5 or 10 years when the problems are much more expensive to fix.

Remember, well-matched trees increase your enjoyment of your property and your property’s value,  while poorly-matched trees do the opposite.


First Glance at Your Trees

Take a walk around your home and property. For trees near your house, look at each tree individually and consider the potential problems below. If you have a large number of trees elsewhere on your property, you can look at them in groups to save time.


Poor Site Problems

  • Poorly Located (Damaging): The tree threatens or will threaten structures such as a foundation, patio, or deck due to root flare and trunk growth.
  • Poorly Located (Annoying): The tree produces messy fruit, flowers, or leaves that are problem in the current location. Examples are gumballs from sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) in a lawn or fruit from red mulberry (Morus rubra) staining a deck.
  • Site Use Interference: The tree shades or will shade a lawn, garden, or other plants. Roots of such a tree will also reduce water available to other plants.
  • Construction: The tree’s roots have been destroyed due to soil grading or extensive digging.

Poor Tree Problems

  • Diseased or Damaged: The tree is diseased or damaged now and not worth saving or can’t be saved.
  • Ugly: Some trees you just don’t like. Remove them now, get relief, and save money in the long run.
  • Poor Adaptability: I often cut down black cherry (Prunus serotina) trees from the Wake County area. Why? Despite being a good tree in the NC mountains, this tree grows poorly in the local heat and humidity. Add in eastern tent caterpillars during the summer and you end up with a tree having bad foliage, bad form, and numerous health issues.
  • Potential Breakage: Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) has ugly, poor branch structure that is prone to ripping the trunk when branches break due to wind or ice. Why wait? Cut it down and replace it with something better.

Removal vs Pruning

If you have a good tree species but the site match is just so-so, pruning is a good option. The most important thing with pruning is to start early in the tree’s life. It is impossible to turn a large, healthy, mature tree into a small, healthy, mature tree. Attempt to do so and you will get a tree that will decline and die over the next several years.

Pruning a good tree is worthwhile. For example, my parents have a large willow oak (Quercus phellos) about 20 feet from their house. At close to 70 feet tall and with a trunk diameter of 3 feet it requires pruning every several years to get branches off the house and roof. Regular pruning, starting years ago, is the only reason this beautiful specimen has been able to safely coexist with their house.

Overall, I don’t recommend pruning to make a tree stay smaller unless you are prepared to invest in yearly pruning of the tree for the entire life of the tree. An example would be an apple tree grown for fruit, a more extreme example a bonsai tree. If you don’t want to prune so often, remove the tree when it’s small and put something better in it’s place.

Maple in Cary – Insect and Root Problems

Large Lower Branch Beginning to Dominate Right Side

Late last year a man contacted me through the website with pictures of a maple tree in his front yard. The problems weren’t obvious looking at the pictures, but the man indicated the tree didn’t look right. In person, it became clear that the tree had a poor form given relatively good conditions as far as room and light in the nearby area. The tree had a large branch coming out across the driveway that was growing more quickly than the main trunk. This tree would develop into an ugly, lopsided tree with time.

Girdling Root
Girdling Root Cut Away

Looking closely at the root flare, where the trunk meets the ground, I found a girdling root that if not causing problems then, would soon cause problems for a tree that didn’t need any more of them. The root wasn’t too large compared to the trunk, so I decided it was best to cut it away.

Gloomy Scale
Gloomy Scale

One other observation stood out during the close inspection – the trunk of the maple was nearly black. Black because nearly the entire maple was covered densely in Gloomy Scale, Melanaspis tenebricosa. Gloomy scale is a sucking, armored insect that takes nutrients from the tree. With this much on the tree, it was no suprise to see the sparse canopy.

Gloomy Scale Removal in Process
Gloomy Scale Removed from Lower Half

After some research, I decided on a plan of removing as many scale as possible on the lower portion of the maple, treating with a horticultural oil in the late winter on the thinner upper canopy, and giving the maple the best possible growing conditions by extending out the mulch circle to reduce competition with the lawn.

Tree Replacements in Carolina Preserve

UPDATED: November 30th, 2017

My name is Paul Nystrom, ISA-certified Arborist and owner of Just Small Trees. I’ve put together a plan and pricing to replace the trees that have been removed in the Carolina Preserve development. The goal is to have a new tree planted in accordance with arborist standards while leaving a clean site. All you’ll have to do is water.

I have replaced 3 trees in Carolina Preserve as of November 30th, 2017.

While new trees are generally recommended to be planted 3 feet to the side of a removed tree, this is a guideline suited for smaller trees with containers under 5 gallons. Because the new trees will be in 15-25 gallon pots, the new holes will be almost 5 feet in diameter. Due to the restrictions in place by the close location of electric, water, sewer, and communication lines, I’ll use hand tools to remove the remains of the stump and roots as necessary. The new tree will sit on soil, not on top of the old tree. Depending on how much of the old tree is left in the ground,  the new tree can be planted between 0 and 3 feet of the old tree’s location. In most cases, planting near to the old tree will give the most room for your tree as it gets older and larger. Trees moved closer to utilities could suffer if those utilities need to be repaired in the future and the tree roots are cut.

In the end, extra soil (a mix of certified compost and NC native topsoil) will be brought in and mixed with the clay soil to make up for the removed material. The extra hand digging work and the extra materials is why the price will be higher than my basic tree planting price.

If you decide to use my service, please read:

  1. Just Small Trees standard waiver form
  2. Just Small Trees standard tree planting information page

I’ll confirm the position of the new tree with you and then I’ll take care of everything else from preparing the planting hole to calling 811 to cleaning up.

I can offer tree planting until the ground gets close to freezing, probably mid-December. After that date, the best practice would be to reserve the tree you want and then plant it in earliest Spring. This way the nursery can take proper care of the plant when the tree isn’t growing.

SERVICE PRICE WHEN
Remove large wood chip piles $50.00 Done anytime
Tree hole preparation included with planting service Done anytime, I will call 811 first
Planting service w/ 1 year warranty $200.00 most locations

$150.00 locations with minimal stump remains

Thru mid-December or after March 1st
Tree itself $130-$260 n/a

Total price = Tree price + Planting service price

AVAILABLE TREES – All Single Stem. Prices are for TREE ONLY:

  • ‘Brandywine’ Maple -Not available in containers in required HOA height/caliper
  • ‘Okame’ Cherry, 25 gallon, $218.00
  • Dogwoods – Not available in containers in required HOA height/caliper
  • ‘Red Rocket’ Crape Myrtle – Not available in containers in required HOA height/caliper/stem
  • ‘Muskogee’ Crape Myrtle, 25 gallon, $226.00
  • ‘Natchez’ Crape Myrtle, 25 gallon, $226.00
  • ‘Natchez’ Crape Myrtle, 15 gallon, $208.00 – less expensive 15 gallon from a different nursery may be available.
  • ‘Tuscarora’ Crape Myrtle, 15 gallon, $208.00- less expensive 15 gallon from a different nursery may be available.
  • ‘Biloxi’ Crape Myrtle, 25 gallon, $226.00
  • Fringetree – American version not available in containers in required HOA height/caliper, Chinese version is available

If there is another tree variety you’d like, please contact me for availability and price.

HOA Requirements – I cannot take responsibility for meeting HOA requirements, but I will source trees to the requirements you give me or tell you if none are available.

Payment – As normal for my company, payment is due upon job completion. If I’m unable to plant your tree before mid-December but I’ve completed preparation work, I’d like to ask for 25% payment for that work and to reserve your tree for 2018.

I want to put in great trees that have great long term prospects. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. My email is paul@justsmalltrees.com or call 919-521-7651.

Tree Watering – Fall Planted Trees

HOW To Water

Expect about 45 seconds of watering at a medium to strong flow rate per gallon of the original container size. So a 7-gallon tree, about 5 minutes. A 25 gallon tree, about 20 minutes. If the mulch is dry, it’ll take 2-3 minutes just to soak the mulch, so you need much more to moisten the soil below.

You can use a strong flow if you are hand watering. Divide the mulched area up into sections – spend a minute on each, go to the next & next, then repeat. If you get run-off under the mulch but haven’t watered that much, move to another section or stop watering for a few minutes to let it soak in.

Another option is to set your sprayer on a gentle flow and leave it spraying on each section of the mulched area. Move it every 5 minutes or if you see runoff. With a gentle flow it’ll take about 1.5 to 2 minutes per gallon of the original container size to water your tree. So a 25 gallon tree, about 40-50 minutes.

Remember: It’s better to water deeply and less often than shallowly and more often.

WHERE To Water

For the first 4 months the roots will be in the area of the container, for a 25 gallon tree this is about a 2 foot diameter. Though you want to water the entire mulched area, make sure you don’t miss watering this area.

Watering SCHEDULE

  • Water in 1 week.
  • If the weather remains on the warm side, water every 2 weeks until it gets cold.
  • Once cold, water every month until the Spring warm-up.
  • During the Spring warm-up, water every 2 weeks.
  • Once the leaves are out and the weather is warm, water once per week until the weather cools off in the fall.
  • In the fall, water every 2 weeks until it gets cold.
  • At this point you shouldn’t need to water anymore except in hot weather dry spells. If you get one, water every 2 weeks to enhance the health of your tree.

Do I need to water in the event of RAIN?

Because the tree is new and due to the mulch, you’ll need to water even if it rains unless you get 2 inches of rain or more for the watering period.

CONTACT ME

If you have concerns about your trees health or watering, please contact me right away. If you feel your tree needs more than 1 deep watering per week in the summer, please let me know.

Tree Planting Service

Need a tree for your yard? Looking for a tree selected and planted with care? I can help you.

Total price = Tree price + Installation price

I install customer provided trees and plants for the installation price only, though I provide no warranty on customer provided trees and plants.

Tree Pricing

Trees I provide are selected from area nurseries. I personally approve the trees after observing the roots, root flare, trunk, branch spacing, and overall health of the tree. Tree pricing depends on the tree variety and size. Please contact me to get a quote for a specific variety.

Please note: Once I’ve ordered your tree, there is up to a 25% cancellation fee (based on the tree price only) for cancellations. Once I’ve received your tree, there is no cancellation on the tree and it will be delivered to your property.

Installation Pricing

Container Size Installation Price, Basic Installation Price with Sod Removal
<1 gal $5.00 $10.00
1 gal $10.00 $15.00
3 gal $20.00 $30.00
5 gal $30.00 $40.00
7 gal $30.00 $40.00
10 gal $45.00 $60.00
15 gal $60.00 $75.00
20 gal $75.00 $100.00
25 gal $100.00 $130.00

Installation Service includes

  • 811 called. Note: 811 only marks utilities. I cannot take responsibility for any underground systems unless they are marked. This includes (but isn’t limited to): irrigation, landscape lighting, security, septic, and water from the main to the home.
  • Clear ground where plants will go. Sod removal is extra.
  • Remove loose bark and sand as texture of plant’s roots permits.
  • Prune out damaged, encircling, and girdling roots.
  • Locate root flare to determine planting depth. Plant root flare 1-2 inches above ground to account for settling.
  • Dig a proper size hole, typically two to three times the container size and at depth determined by root flare. If the tree is going into or next to the spot of a removed tree, please see below under Installation Service Extras.
  • Backfill with location soil and 50/50 native topsoil/compost blend.
  • Cover with 2-3 inches of triple-shred hardwood bark mulch. Leave open space immediately around trunk.
  • Prune out damaged, dead, or very poorly located branches. In most cases, pruning should be limited until the next year to improve tree recovery.
  • After-care watering instructions.

Installation Service Extras

Tree for Tree – Replacing a tree in the same spot as a removed tree. This may require additional grinding, extensive digging, removal of old tree grindings, and replacement soil. Priced on a per job basis.
Clearing – Sod removal and disposal or extensive clearing of ground for plants beyond what is needed for planting itself.
Mulching – Mulching placed beyond what is needed for the planting itself.
Staking – Staking is not usually needed, but is available.
Fertilizing – Slow release fertilizer tablets installed per product directions, not recommended in most cases.
Soil Testing – Mass planting or high value trees may benefit from site soil testing.
Design Fee – Installation prices are based on customer generally knowing what plants and where. More extensive consulting and design work is available.


Plant Warranty

1 year covering plant and labor to re-install. Limited to one replacement of equal or lesser value. Please contact me as soon as possible if you believe a plant is not doing well or you have questions about care.

Warranty Applies To – Plants purchased by Just Small Trees, LLC. Customer supplied plants are not warrantied. The full plant warranty is offered on a job-by-job basis, on container-grown plants only, and may not be available for plants installed in difficult locations, on difficult to transplant species, or on plants that typically do poorly in central-NC conditions.

A partial (labor-only) warranty is offered on ball-and-burlap plants.

Warranty Covers – Plants that decline or die despite reasonable care. Trees that are blown over in high winds will be put upright within the warranty time frame at no charge.

Warranty Does Not Cover – Damage from acts of God or extreme weather conditions, theft, 3rd party damage, improper watering, improper pruning, neglect, abuse, or animal damage.

Finishing The Job

I completed the removal of a dead Crape Myrtle recently and I was surprised to hear a now familiar story: “We had a man come out to do the job, but his chainsaw broke and then he didn’t come back.” I examined the cut and it was small enough that it could have been finished with a handsaw and effort. Why didn’t he?

Of the many times I’ve heard this story, some cases might be a person who takes the money and runs, but some are surely just leaving work on the table. In any case, I finished up the work left unfinished and was happy to do so. Sometimes the breadth of characters in the world surprises.

Mulberry In Raleigh

A customer contacted me about a Mulberry that had fallen down due to the heavy rains received in the previous days. In one of the established neighborhoods in the North Hills area of Raleigh, the Mulberry had been growing for a long time and providing privacy along a rear fence. And had it ever!

Storm Fallen Mulberry
Storm Fallen Mulberry
Storm Fallen Mulberry
Storm Fallen Mulberry

Mulberries are tremendous growers that put up multiple trunks and produce a lot of wood. Unlike a Bradford Pear, the wood is quite strong and so the Mulberry grows easily to an unbalanced shape as it seeks light. This tree was probably under 40 feet tall when standing, but nearly as wide, and was close to 2 feet in diameter at waist height.

The thing with storm fallen trees is that they are over, but they are not down. So the work is nearly as much, and in many cases more, than cutting a tree down from a standing position. The tree was pieced down carefully from the tips, working back, making sure to be careful of the shifting and rotating weight that is released from storm fallen wood.

Mulberry 75% Removed
Mulberry 75% Removed

In the end, the trunk was cut back close to the root mound and left as shown per the customer’s request. It measured over 24 inches at this point. You can also see the yellow wood and white sap that are hallmarks of Mulberry.

One of many trunks. Cut shows white sap.
One of many trunks. Cut shows white sap.
Mulberry cut back to root mound.
Mulberry cut back to root mound.

Disposal went well, the location wasn’t close to the street, but the land sloped down – a welcome relief. Because I don’t use heavy equipment and I work carefully, the yard was left in great condition despite moving a couple tons of tree across it.

Lawn Before
Lawn Before
Lawn After
Lawn After

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my customers. Whether you just had me out for an estimate or gave me the job, I enjoyed meeting so many this year. As my brother-in-law says about his business, “I have the best customers!” The only headaches this year were a few 95F/90% humidity days, a stuck tree that took all my coaxing to come down, and a split pair of pants. With a business that focuses on small trees, what suffered most was the wedges.

2016 Annual Report

  • Animals Rescued: 2 baby squirrels (Thank you, Wildlife Welfare)
  • Lost Tools: 1 Silky handsaw
  • Vehicles Stuck In Mud: 1
  • Vehicle Tire Flats: 1, shredded on Dogwood stump
  • Shovel Handles Broken: 3
  • Dogs Met: 4, only 1 hostile
  • Tyvek Suits Worn: 1, severe poison ivy on tree
  • Favorite Job: Mulberry Removal
  • Toughest Job: Hickory hung up in an Elm and a Magnolia. Save the Magnolia.
  • Furthest Job Location: Middlesex, NC
  • Most Shrubs Removed on One Job: 21
  • Hardest Plant ID: Ternstroemia gymnanthera. Great plant, I recommend using it where conditions permit.

Log Bucking in Raleigh

A customer had me out to remove a dead pine tree, broken & hung-up, that was in danger of collapsing onto his home. That worked completed, he had me back out a week later to buck up all of the fallen wood on his property.

Log bucking is simply cutting wood into shorter lengths that can later be split for firewood or used in outdoor fire pits. Generally the lengths are from 12 to 16 inches, depending. I don’t do splitting. I do stack, but the customer didn’t want that in this case.

Thanks to the more powerful equipment I use and the tools I have for handling timber I was able to cut up everything on his lot in 2.5 hours. In all I bucked Oak ranging from 6 to 12 inches in diameter, Pine from 4 to 16 inches, and large Tulip Poplar up to 22 inches that had fallen in a storm. When you have many fallen trees and a small chainsaw, it can save you many, many hours to use the log bucking service I offer.

Bucked Pine and Oak
Bucked Pine and Oak 2

Pruning Service

I offer pruning for small trees, fruit trees, ornamental trees, and shrubs such as Roses, Privets, and Figs. You can find more details on my Services page. My goal is to prune to arboricultural standards while meeting your requirements as closely as possible. So I prune for the health of the tree, with proper cuts, and at the proper times. This means I don’t top Crapemyrtles or prune Azaleas in the fall.

Here is a ‘Red Delicious’ Apple Tree (Malus domestica) I pruned in March 2015. This was right before bud break with pictures just two weeks later as the buds began to break.

front-pre
Apple, pre-pruning from the front
side-pre
Apple, pre-pruning
side-post
Apple, post-pruning
side-post-spring
Apple, post-pruning, bud break

This tree is at least 35 years old and in fairly good condition with only one major defect in the trunk and strong leaf out each year. The tree hadn’t been pruned in a few years, so there was a lot of extra growth.

Why not prune more? The general rule of thumb is no more than 1/4 of the canopy in a year (1/3 for shrubs). Also, the tree is older and is in fairly good, but not great condition. Pruning doesn’t make a tree grow larger, but young trees can take a lot pruning because they don’t have a lot of mass to maintain. Very mature trees often have a precarious energy balance where pruning just a small portion of the canopy causes the tree to go into decline.

The tree produced few, if any, blooms in 2015. It was a heavy pruning and I knocked a lot of the buds off working in the tree to gain access for all the cuts. Had the pruning been done in January, perhaps the buds would have been in a firmer state. The tree produced great leaves, though, and in 2016 had a good crop of fruit.

Unfortunately, it’s the last of the three apple trees originally planted in the location and pollination is more difficult now. Here is an article on Apple Tree pollination.

For more information on pruning, see the Trees Are Good website.

Shrub Removal Service

Have a house built in the last 20 years? You’ll find that the builders in almost every case installed shrubs far too close to your foundation. Now you’ve got 10 foot Hollies growing against your siding blocking airflow, 15 foot Viburnums you keep hacking back because you can’t access your hose, Loropetalum growing over your foot path, or Euonymous that just look bad.

It’s time to make your landscape match your wonderful house by planting shrubs you actually want to look at, varieties that grow to the size you want, and by planting them 3 to 8 feet off of your foundation.

First, you’ve got to get rid of the old, nasty ones. You can hire someone to cut them down to the base, but you’ll still have stumps left. These stumps will grow back unless you apply herbicide and then they’ll still take years to decay.

Instead, hire Just Small Trees to remove your shrubs AND their stumps. I bring the usual qualifications (insured, certified, & licensed) plus I add four traits that allow me to offer you excellent pricing on shrub removal:

  1. I’m strong.
  2. I have excellent tools.
  3. I know how builders plant shrubs.
  4. I know how shrubs grow in response to number 3.

It may take you two hours, a broken shovel, and some mild swearing to remove one 8 foot Privet. I can get it out in 30 minutes and then dispose of it so you don’t have a big pile of yard waste sitting around; stumps of which decay slowly and don’t burn well.

Shrub Removal Pricing:

  • My regular prices apply to Aucuba, Buddleja (Butterfly Bush), Buxus (Boxwood), Callicarpa (Beautyberry), Camelia, Euonymous, Ficus (Fig), Forsythia, Ilex (Holly), Juniperus (Juniper), Lagerstroemia (Crapemyrtle), Ligustrum (Privet), Pittosporum, Rhododendron (Azalea), Rosemarinus (Rosemary), Syringa (Lilac), Ternstroemia (False Cleyera), Vaccinium (Blueberry), and Viburnum.
  • I have lower prices on Berberis (Barberry), Hydrangea, Loropetalum, and Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo) because of their shallow roots.
  • I have higher prices on Ilex cornuta (Chinese Holly), Phyllostachys (Bamboo), Pyracantha, and Rosa (Rose) because of their dense thorns or difficult stumps.
  • Prices for older shrubs are higher than younger ones of similar size because the stumps will be bigger, even if the shrubs have been pruned to the same height every year.