Investment in tree care will return big benefits

Meadow Vista expert offers tips, advice to keep them thriving
By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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Tree expert Gordon Mann has some advice for homeowners: Don’t wait until the first big storm to learn that your trees have problems. Mann, a Meadow Vista resident and owner of Mann Made Resources, which he has had since 1986, says that’s a mistake he often sees. “The biggest thing people should do (in the fall) is make sure their trees don’t have a lot of defects or weak branches that could fail during a storm,” he said. He suggests taking the time to really look over each tree and to call in an arborist from time to time as necessary to find out what tree services and maintenance are needed. Mann has spent most of his adult life tending trees in urban landscapes. He was recently named a True Professional of Arboriculture by the International Society of Arboriculture. He was one of only seven to receive the honor out of 20,000 members worldwide. Mann travels all over the U.S. and Canada as a consultant on tree issues. As a member of the International Society of Arboriculture, he chairs an annual chapter conference and is a representative on the A300 section of the American National Standards Institute. The institute sets international standards for a variety of industries and services. “Trees are probably one of the most valuable infrastructures in the landscape,” he said. “They require maintenance. The idea is to care for them so we can avoid difficult failures.” Pruning is a necessity. Trees planted in open areas can develop overly long branches. Or sometimes there is defective growth that could create potential failure situation, he explained. Proper placement is equally important. That means making sure there is an adequate distance from the tree to the home’s foundation or sidewalk. “Make sure it has room to grow,” Mann said. “If a tree will get two or three feet in diameter, double or triple that distance from the sidewalk. (It needs) plenty of room to grow and plenty of soil.” When planting trees, know where the sewer lines are. “Typically keep trees a minimum of 7, 8 or 10 feet away from sewer lines,” he said. “(If planted too close) we know trees are going to grow into that because the roots seek moisture.” Likewise, if you plant a tree in the middle of the lawn, you need to provide a buffer island to protect it from overwatering and lawn maintenance. “Weed whackers and lawn mowers can damage trees,” he said. “Use mulch or decorative treatments around the base. That limits people’s need to come up with weed whackers and mowers. It gives trees a buffer and gives room for the roots.” When choosing trees, pick something that will grow well in the climate. For the foothills, you want to make sure the species does well down to freezing temperatures. For this area, sometimes the biggest challenge is trying to get fall color. Mann suggests red oaks, red maples, sweet gum, black tupelo or liquidambar — although liquidambar has an aggressive root system. Another must when choosing trees is to end up with a diversity of species. “Ideally maybe as much as 25 or 30 percent (of one type of tree) on small properties,” he said. “On large properties, only have 10 percent of one species.” That diversity offers protection against insect invasion and disease. “If a disease comes through, it will affect fewer trees,” he explained. He has dealt with that problem first-hand combating Dutch elm and other menaces. In fact, his first job in the career field was repairing losses from Dutch elm disease. “We were working with trying to keep up with the number of dying trees and doing different plantings, putting in diversity to prevent more Dutch elm,” he said. An ideal environmental choice is a tree native to the area. “Natives may require more water at first, but they will need less water as they mature,” he said. Mann’s interest in the outdoors began as a Boy Scout in the Midwest. “As I was growing up and in high school, I was looking for alternatives to the business world,” he said. He got a degree in forestry in the 1970s, then found jobs were scarce in that field. That’s when he branched out to the arborist career track. A few years later during a vacation to the West Coast, he got a job as an arborist with the city of San Mateo and moved to California. After two years there, he took a job with Redwood City, where he remained for 20 years. As a division manager and public works superintendent with Redwood City, he developed a sidewalk repair program that protected tree roots by introducing curved walkways and other alternative approaches. Now retired, he focuses on consultations as well as selling several tree root barrier products through his company’s website and distributors. One of those products is the Root Block Root Deflector. “It deflects tree roots away from infrastructure,” Mann said. “It could be sidewalks or buildings. It is wherever roots are going to grow and you want to redirect them.” Other products are Mulch Block mulch collars that prevent burying the trunk with mulch and protecting from tree fungi; and rubbersidewalks and terrewalks — 2-inch- thick sidewalk panels that can be placed over tree roots to reduce root pruning, Maintaining a landscape with healthy trees is beneficial in a variety of ways, he says. “I think the (benefits) increase in the hotter climates and poor air quality districts like the Sacramento region,” he said. “Through the leaves, (the trees) take in carbon dioxide, but also particulate matter and help clean the oxygen. The shading at ground level is going to reduce the ozone and reduce the need for air conditioning. “ By shading the ground, trees can also reduce water requirements. And they are stormwater interceptors. “(For example), where we live, evergreens catch the water and slow down the heavy precipitation,” he said. “Instead of a bucket, it’s more like a sprinkler.” Trees can also reduce the risk of flooding. “It depends on the type of rain event,” he said. “Trees are designed to handle an inch or inch and a half an hour. But for anything that exceeds that, all bets are off.” At?Bushnell Nursery in Granite Bay, employee Michele Parry suggests Chinese pistache, Nyssa (also known as the sourgum) or the tupelo for fall color. All of them are in ready supply at local garden centers, she said. “Two really familiar (types) here are any Japanese maple or any red maple,” Parry said. “They give a really spectacular fall show. A tallow tree will also produce a really pretty show. It has kind of a heart-shape leaf. It will have all the colors — the yellows and the oranges.” Fall is the perfect time to plant trees, she said.