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Tree trimming can save life and limb in a storm

Nancy Szerlag: Gardening

October 28. 2011

On my to-do list last week was scheduling an appointment with Owen Tree Service, (800) 724-6680, www.owentree.com, to have one of their arborists check out the trees in my yard. Several ashes have succumbed to the emerald ash borer, and a couple of others look like they might need trimming.
Brad Dunkin, staff arborist at Owen Tree Service, says it's smart to be proactive when it comes to tree care. Having a professional trim and possibly cable or remove a weak limb can mean the difference between life and death to a tree should a violent storm hit. It's often cheaper to take down a tree beyond help before it's knocked down by a storm, causing expensive collateral damage, injury and possibly death.
About every decade, Mother Nature would trim trees of small twigs and dead or weak branches by sending a storm through large areas - such as southern lower Michigan - in spring just as trees were leafing out.
"But our weather patterns have changed," says Randy Owen, president of Owen Tree Service. "Now we get fierce storms that hit localized areas throughout the summer."
When fully leafed out, some large trees that haven't been trimmed either by nature or a professional arborist cannot withstand the pressure of the wind and are damaged or destroyed. We've all seen videos on the nightly news of giant trees toppled onto houses, cars and electrical wires. The cost of emergency removal of these huge trees can be in the thousands. Damage to homes and cars can also run in the thousands. In a few cases it can cost the owners their lives.
The time to find a good tree care service is before trouble strikes. Fly-by-night operators often go door-to-door soliciting work cleaning up storm damage. Professionals rely on advertising, word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business.
"When hiring a tree service, a certificate of insurance that includes workman's compensation coverage is a must," says Owen. If a person you hired is injured on your property and not covered, you could be liable.
If someone knocks on your door and flashes you a sheet of paper that looks like a certificate of insurance, beware. With today's technology, they are easily forged. "We are happy to have our insurer send a client a copy of our policy by email, fax or snail mail, so they can be assured of our coverage," says Owen.
Membership in national and local professional organizations also indicates quality of service and skill. They usually are listed on company websites, so check them out.
Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. Email her at Szerlag@earthlink.net.
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