Trees enhance our homes and outdoor spaces. They face the winds and rains of all seasons, but still grow strong and lovely with each passing year. We perform just a few tree care responsibilities, and in return they give us beauty, shade, and play spaces.
They give us different ways to enjoy the outdoors with our friends and family. They are truly a great investment, and like all investments they need our regular attention and maintenance.
Tree care is especially important when kids are involved. Over time, all trees need upkeep for their health and our safety. Like our own bodies, trees are constantly growing, changing, and shedding old layers. When not inspected and serviced regularly as part of proper maintenance, a tree can present a number of dangers. Branches can give way under the weight of a climber. Larger limbs can become damaged from the strain of improperly installed equipment. Items caught in the branches can create a falling item hazard. This is why tree care is so important.
Kid-specific issues to look for
When you’re a kid, not many things in life are as tempting as a tree whose branches just reach out and invite you to climb them. A tree’s canopy can become a fort or a cool, shady place to lay out and read or daydream. Some trees are good candidates for tree-swings and turn into your own personal swing-set.
To keep those happy moments safe, there are a few things you can do to be proactive. First, every so often walk around your tree and take a good look at itl. Are there any signs of change? Has anything gotten caught in the branches? Outdoor toys, litter from other yards, plastic bags, and even pieces of clothing often find their way into the canopy of a tree. It is important to remove items like this as soon as you find them. They are not just a falling threat. They can also trap moisture on the tree, block the sunshine that feeds the tree, and make a home for pests.
If you can’t remove the item by reaching up and grabbing it, do not shake the tree to knock it loose! Instead, take a broom and, not standing directly under the item, use the head of the broom to push the item up and forward until it falls. You can also use a ladder to retrieve it, being careful to observe all ladder safety procedures.
After you have made sure to remove items caught in the branches, go over and look at the branches where they meet the trunk. Think of little hands grasping the lower branches and look for possible issues, such as any cracks, oozing, or other signs of potential damage. You can test each branch, gently, with your hands to see how it responds. A healthy branch should have a bit of springiness at the joint. Brittleness at the joint could be a sign of trouble.
Finally, look for any deeply-exposed roots. Ask your tree-care professional about the needs of
your tree and how you can ensure its health. Some methods include mulching, fertilization, and checking that the soil of the tree is balanced and nutrient-rich.
Get kids to help
Giving our kids a chance to help with tree care is an opportunity to get them invested in the health of the family’s trees and interested in an outdoor activity. It can also be fun!
It’s probably going too far to think of trees as child-resistant pets, but as with pets, trees offer kids a chance to take care of another living thing and take pride in doing a good job. Even very young and small children can help with cleaning up fallen leaves.
Teach kids about trees
Getting our kids involved with tree care also gives us a lot of learning opportunities. When you go for a casual check of your trees, you can take your kids along and explain what you’re doing, and why. Let them feel for themselves the springiness of a healthy branch joint. Show them where a bud forms on a branch to become a leaf. Ask them what they see when they look at the tree.
Trees can suffer damage from accidental abuse. Like adults, when kids know how to interact appropriately with trees and their environment, they usually do. Common mistakes that kids (and everyone!) should know not to make include:
· Snapping off branches
· Throwing things at or into the tree
· Stripping off leaves
· Pouring liquids into the soil, especially around the roots of a tree and the trunk
· Trying to climb a young or weak tree
· Shaking the tree
· Stripping the bark, especially around the trunk
· Trying to pull up an exposed part of the tree’s roots
· Digging under the tree
· Trying to expose and/or hack at a part of the tree’s roots
· Applying heat to the tree or any of its parts
It’s easy to take for granted that most people know not to make these mistakes, but we don’t learn until we’re shown. For example, many children do not know about how a tree’s roots function. This is a chance to teach them about the importance of the root system in bringing nutrients and water to all other parts of the tree, and how the roots anchor the tree in your yard.
Then they can understand that what goes into the soil is what goes into the tree’s dinner.
When we get our kids involved in tree care, we’re able to share our passion for the outdoors and teach a few important lessons along the way.
Some cool tree facts for young and young-at-heart arborists
· Tree roots can grow larger and wider underground than the tree’s entire canopy above the ground!
· The oldest living non-clonal organism on Earth is a tree that’s over 5,000 years old!
· It’s estimated that there are about 380 mature trees for every 1 human on the planet!