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5 Tips to Preserve Our City of Trees

We’re offering up some tips on how to help minimize your tree troubles and keep the city looking lovely.

Patch filled you in on proposed changes to South Pasadena’s tree ordinance Tuesday.

Now, we’re offering up some tips on how to help minimize your tree troubles and keep our city looking lovely. 

Local arborist Terry Chesbro, who's worked in the San Gabriel Valley for more than 35 years, gives insight on caring for trees: 

1. Trim Wisely 

Ultimately, every tree is different. Any ISA certified arborist will tell you: Each should be pruned based on personal factors such as history and structure.  

But don’t overdo it. While dead and diseased branches definitely need to go, “If a tree is virgin, all I recommend usually is thinning about 10 to 20 percent—thinning without over-stressing the tree,” says Chesbro.

Oaks in their natural environment, for example, “can be just deadwooded and maybe thinned a little now and then,” he continued.

2. Avoid Topping!

Chesbro says many of the 115 trees that fell in South Pas during the windstorm were because of topping, which is essentially when too much of a branch is removed—often done to reduce size.

“It is extremely bad for the tree, because the cut that is left never heals over,” says Chesbro, adding, “The re-growth is weaker than the original top.”

And in that case, he does recommend maintenance: “You can’t just leave that tree to its own devices, because the likelihood of it being damaged is very high.”

The ISA offers this article for pruning young trees and these tips for pruning mature ones. 

3. Plant for the Worst

It's best to plant a variety of trees based on location and species. 

There are some tree species that stand up to strong winds much better than others. “Particularly deciduous trees—trees that lose their leaves—are usually safer, because the wind usually happens in the fall and winter,” notes Chesbro. 

(All trees are susceptible to disease. Here's a link that will help you determine if one of your trees is damaged.) 

4. Cut Back on Watering 

As Patch blogger Barbara Eisenstein put it: “Trees fail because we baby them. We over water them, so they don't have to develop deep, broad, supporting roots to get water.”

It's ideal to let trees—especially native ones—dry for about two to three weeks after a watering, says Chesbro. 

When watering your lawn frequently for short periods of time, “the abundance of water makes a thick heavy crown and … a weak root system, which is a recipe for blowing over,” he warns. 

5. Feed Your Tree

Use mulch to reduce loss of soil moisture and protect the tree roots. 

“As the chips or the mulch decays, it puts nutrients back into the ground,”Chesbro says.

And leaves are good! “They should be left in the beds and doing their job.”

Terry Chesbro is an ISA-certified arborist and the owner of Chesbro Tree Care based in South Pasadena. He can be reached at (626) 799-4552.

Got a great tree pic? Upload it here!

Barbara Eisenstein, Contributor February 22, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Good suggestions! I think there is a typo in the 5th tip. I think you mean to say that one should add mulch to reduce the loss of soil moisture. Mulch prevents moisture on the surface of the soil from evaporating quickly, so there is more water for the plants. Be sure to keep the crown of the tree, the area at the base of the main trunk(s), clear of mulch to prevent disease. We can all agree that topping and over pruning, which is very common in South Pasadena, should not be done. Big, beautiful trees are a gift. This is one time that hiring the low bidder can be a very, very expensive mistake. Use a good, licensed arborist for mature trees.
Kristen Lepore (Editor) February 22, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Thanks for catching that Barbara. We fixed it!
Drew Ready February 23, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Huge thanks to Patch (Kristen Lepore), Terry Chesbro, and Barbara Eisenstein for all of the great information. I know my fellow commissioners on the Natural Resources and Environment Commission share my appreciation for all you have done to raise our community's awareness!

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