What is an Arborist, and When Should I Call One?
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What is an Arborist, and When Should I Call One?

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Maintaining a lush and vibrant yard involves more—a lot more—than regular watering, mowing, and pruning. To truly care for your home's green spaces, it's essential to understand them and know what to look for.

If you know the signs, trees often tell you exactly what's happening with your yard. However, even folks with an inherent green thumb sometimes need to call in the experts, and knowing when to do so is another important piece of the puzzle.

At Green Drop, we take pride in having the largest number of ISA-certified arborists in Canada, with more than 19 qualified tree experts throughout Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. We're your go-to partner for comprehensive lawn and tree care, but we also want to help you understand the role of an arborist and when you should call one.

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What Exactly is an Arborist?

Most people have probably heard the term "arborist" but may not know precisely what it is or what one does. The official Merriam-Webster definition of an arborist is "a specialist in the care and maintenance of trees." In other words, it's a tree doctor.

Importantly, though, an arborist is very, very different from someone who simply offers tree removal or tree trimming services. A certified arborist is a trained professional who has spent significant time studying trees and shrubs and how to cultivate and manage them properly.

To earn ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certification in Canada, you generally need a minimum of three years of hands-on experience working in arboriculture or to hold a degree in arboriculture or a closely related field, such as horticulture, landscape architecture, or forestry. The certification exam is pretty gruelling, covering tree biology and nutrition, the relationship between soil and trees, water management, and tree risk assessment.

When to Call an Arborist

Now that you understand what an arborist is and does, it's time to learn more about when you should call one.

1. Visible Signs of Stress

If your trees show signs of distress, such as wilting leaves, unusual discoloration, bark changes, or abnormal growth patterns, it's time to consult an arborist. These experts can diagnose the issue, recommend the appropriate course of action, and provide the necessary services.

2. Preventative Care

Piggybacking on number one, don't wait for visible problems to arise in your yard. Simply monitoring your trees and shrubs regularly, or better yet, having regular consultations with an arborist, can go a long way in maintaining their overall health and preventing potential issues.

3. Professional Pruning

It's no secret that regular pruning is crucial not just for aesthetics but also for overall tree health. If you notice significantly overgrown branches or limbs threatening or beginning to encroach on structures or other trees, it's advisable to call in an arborist. There are proper and improper pruning techniques and right and wrong times of year to do it (for example, you want to avoid pruning too close to winter, as fragile new growth may not survive the season's harsh elements). Arborists can skillfully trim and shape trees, encouraging optimal growth and minimizing safety risks.

4. Pest and Disease Management

Pest infestations and diseases can wreak havoc on your trees, and they sometimes seem to appear out of nowhere. Arborists are explicitly trained to identify and then treat these issues effectively. Aside from bringing your tree back to health as quickly as possible, they can work with you to develop a long-term plan to keep it disease- and pest-free. Early intervention is key to preventing potential spreading throughout your yard, and often, only the trained eye of a tree doctor can catch the signs.

5. Tree Removal

Unfortunately, trees sometimes have to be removed. They may become unsafe due to age, disease, storm damage, or simply be unsavable. Removal is a job for a professional arborist with the right equipment and know-how to remove trees safely, ensuring the protection of your property and the surrounding environment.

If you're facing tree removal, be sure to ask the company to see their licensing and bonding documentation. Again, not all arborists are created equal, and this potentially dangerous job requires extra safety precautions.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Arborists

Why do I need an arborist?

An arborist is a certified tree care specialist, explicitly trained in identifying and addressing tree issues. They offer guidance on appropriate tree care methods, as well as provide a number of those services.

How often should I have my trees inspected by an arborist?

Ideally, you should have your trees inspected at least once a year or following a major weather event that may have impacted them. However, many people find that every other year is sufficient for most healthy trees.

What is a tree risk assessment?

A tree risk assessment involves a methodical examination of a tree's overall well-being. This includes its structural stability and potential risks it may present to individuals, property, or neighbouring trees. This evaluation generally includes looking for signs of decay, illness, or structural imperfections while weighing the likelihood of eventual tree failure. Typically, an arborist oversees tree risk assessments, offering realistic suggestions for management, maintenance, or removal, if necessary.

How often should you treat trees?

All trees require periodic inspection and, occasionally, necessary treatment. For most healthy trees, routine upkeep, including pruning, should be carried out approximately every 3–5 years. That frequency may vary based on the tree species, individual requirements, and environmental or weather factors.

How do I know if my tree is diseased, and what should I do?

First, look for visible symptoms like unusual leaf discoloration, bark abnormalities, or pest infestations. If you identify any of these, consult an arborist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

When should you cut down a tree?

Signs such as extensive decay, significant leaning, or structural instability threatening nearby structures or other plants may necessitate tree removal.

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Green Drop Arborists Are Key to a Greener Tomorrow

In western Canada's ever-changing seasons, caring for your lawn requires expertise and diligence. At Green Drop, a fourth-generation family-owned business, our team of ISA-certified arborists offers a wealth of knowledge and experience, ensuring that your lawn and trees receive the professional care they need to thrive. We strongly believe that healthy, thriving green spaces are crucial to the community, the environment as a whole, and individual well-being.

Our team of arborists was also invited to speak at the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Conference held in Kowloon, Hong Kong, in November 2023.

You can now schedule a free tree care assessment with one of our ISA Certified Arborists using the calendar. Your yard deserves the best, and at Green Drop, we deliver.

Schedule Your Free Tree Care Assessment