How to Pick a Tree Care Company and Avoid Pitfalls: A Beginner’s Guide

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In tree care service, there are two types of companies: the ones that know what they are doing and the ones that think they know what they are doing.

Tree Maintenance Help - Trimming at Height

What makes Tree Care by Robert Miller different than other tree companies?

Robert Miller started the company in the spring of 1990. He didn’t have any experience in tree care, but his natural salesmanship helped him establish his business in the early years. When Jovan, Robert’s daughter, took over the company in 2012, she continued to build on her father’s success. Jovan decided that to continue growing the company, they needed to become the best in the area, and with that in mind, she became an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist.

ISA Certified Arborist | Tree Care by Robert Miller

In her training to become a certified arborist, Jovan studied the biology of trees, as well as their maintenance, safety, and diagnoses. The ISA certification exam covers 10 areas of knowledge:

  • Soil management – an integral part of maintaining and enhancing the quality of the soil,
  • Tree identification and selection – tree identification is important because different species require different things, from temperature to soil ph and h2O needs,
  • Installation and establishment –  start off on the right track with proper installation and establishment practices
  • Safe work practices – tree care can be a dangerous job, so being aware of the best safety practices is a must
  • Tree biology – understanding trees from the inside out
  • Pruning – pruning for structural integrity keeps trees healthy, as well as aesthetically pleasing
  • Diagnosis and treatment – sometimes trees get sick, and when that happens, you need someone who knows how to diagnose what is wrong so that you can treat it properly
  • Urban forestry – to care and integrate forestry and trees into an urban environment
  • Tree protection – different municipalities, cities, and counties have different rules and regulations for tree protection
  • Tree risk management – identifying when trees might be at risk and finding solutions for the issues at hand requires knowledge in the areas listed above

By getting her certification in arboriculture, Jovan has taken Tree Care by Robert Miller to the next level.

A benefit of hiring certified arborists is the specialization customers receive.

Tree inspections with our certified arborists

Some services that are offered are not necessary, but they sound logical enough on the surface. Here are some of the most common unnecessary (and often harmful) practices and what to do instead:

Harmful practice #1: Lion’s tailing a tree

Lion backing away - Don't lion's tale a tree
Back away from lion’s tailing your trees. (Image via Prideland)

Lions-tailing is a form of over-pruning. The practice removes interior branches and leaves, leaving a tuft like end on the branch. This creates a weak branch with a heavy end. It can also lead to sucker growth. Sucker growth often happens when a tree is under stress. The tree will use energy reserves to send out a lot of new growth in the hopes of overcoming the loss of leaves that the lions-tailing removed. This practice makes a tree more likely to be damaged in heavy winds. In fact, the heavy ends of the branches can act like an umbrella being caught in the wind, which makes the tree a lot more likely to be uprooted.  

An experienced arborist will do this instead…

Jovan learned that some of the common practices used by some untrained tree care companies, such as thinning a tree through the middle, damage the tree. She also learned how to fix it–a slow process of years, which allows new branches to grow and replace the old ones. This process is not quick, and it takes careful planning. Years, in fact. The thinned branches need time to re-grow, but they also need to be stronger than sucker growth branches. The balance between pruning back sucker growth, which often leads to weak limbs, and encouraging strong and healthy limb growth requires expert knowledge.

Harmful practice #2: Topping

Tree Topping Kills -
Image courtesy of Plant Amnesty

Topping is when the top of mature trees are cut off like the top of a hedge. Topping severely and permanently damages trees.

Unlike lions-tailing, there is not a way to fix a topped tree. In fact, in many counties and municipalities in Florida, topping is illegal. Some homeowners ask for their trees to be topped when their trees become tall.

Do this instead…

Homeowners believe the trees’ height might be a safety hazard. This isn’t necessarily true.

The height of a tree is stabilized by the root systems, but when a tree is topped, you open the tree up for a lot of different issues. A topped tree can face starvation from the loss of leaves. The trees can also face shock and a susceptibility to insects and diseases. Topping not only weakens the tree and can lower property value; topping can lead to the death of the tree.

Lots of homeowners will use a service that tops trees because they think it will save them money, but in the long run, this practice is much more expensive than hiring a professional who knows the dangers of topping and other practices that are damaging to trees.

Why structural pruning is always a smarter bet

Rather than topping or lions-tailing, arborists use structural pruning practices to maintain the health of trees and proper branch attachment and structural integrity. This has been Jovan’s goal since taking over the company–to create a tree care company that can offer expertise and quality work while maintaining the roots that her father put down when he started the company.

Why healthy trees matter to homeowners

Mary Katherine Galliger kissing a tree
Love your trees, don’t fall in love with your trees!

Tree health is important to arborists, and it should be important to homeowners as well.

Having trees on a property is more than an aesthetic concern. Well-cared-for trees can raise a property’s value. Surveys have shown that mature trees and landscaping can raise property value by 7 to 19 percent. Mature, healthy trees provide much-needed shade, a benefit not only to an electric bill but also can lengthen the amount of time between a house’s need for painting or a new roof.

These benefits are not always at the front of a person’s mind when they are thinking of hiring an arborist versus a person with a chainsaw and a ladder, but they should be because, with proper care, trees can be a wonderful addition to a home’s value.

Having trees in a yard can improve air quality by reducing pollution from traffic and other factors. Trees also drown out noise pollution.

In Florida, homeowners have the added worry of hurricanes. Healthy trees can help protect property from wind damage, but old and sick trees are more likely to be uprooted or have branches come off in a storm.

Harmful practice #3: Beware of hurricane cuts!

Hurricane approaching Florida
This is usually a BAD time to trim your palm trees…

Some companies offer hurricane cut services before storms, but this is a sales pitch. For example, palm trees are often given a “hurricane cut,” which is when all but a few of the fronds are removed before storm season. This actually weakens the tree, making it more likely to receive damage during a storm.

Many palms, like the native cabbage palm, are self-cleaning. This means that the fronds fall off when they are dead, but even palms that aren’t self-cleaning should not be over-pruned.

The key to weathering a storm in your yard is the health of the tree and its wind resistance. Some species of trees are more wind resistant than others. For instance, palms withstand hurricane force winds better than conifer or broad-leaved trees, and native tree species tend to do better overall.

Before hurricane season, consulting a company with tree specialists can help determine whether the trees planted are healthy. Accidents and unforeseen things can happen, but having healthy trees around a house, especially in groups rather than individual trees, can help keep a home safe.

Taking Tree Care by Robert Miller to the next level

Jovan continues to make Tree Care by Robert Miller a leader in the community through her yard debris recycling initiatives.

Any debris taken from jobs is recycled at the company’s 10.5-acre property. The process happens like this:

  1. Tree debris is separated by type. The oak is cut and dried and turned into firewood. Large pieces of tree debris are planked and cured. The small pieces are mulched and turned into topsoil, which can be used on other landscape projects.
  2. Miscellaneous debris is taken and made into biofuel. The goal is to reuse all of the yard waste collection and to keep it out of landfills.

This program is a huge undertaking, especially since Tree Care by Robert Miller offers full-service clean-up on their jobs. A bragging point for the company is that customers often say that if they didn’t see the work being done, they wouldn’t know anyone had been in the yard because the clean-up is so meticulous.

Not just trees, Jovan loves two- and four-legged creatures too.

Jovan has become a bit of an animal whisperer. She has saved many baby raccoons and squirrels. Since we encroach on their territory and environment, Jovan says it’s only fair to try and rehabilitate or re-home animals that are found in fallen trees or displaced by the care and landscaping of trees and yards. Her crews have found baby bats and an owl and rescued quite a few cats from trees.   

Tree Care also is a leader in other areas. Safety is important to Jovan. In fact, she has instated safety gear requirements for her crews, which is shockingly rare in the tree and landscaping world. All her crew members are covered by insurance and workman’s comp, which protects the crew and homeowners. Jovan’s dedication to keeping her crew’s safe stems from her belief that if her employees are happy, well-trained, and well-taken care of, her company will benefit in the long run.

Tree Care by Robert Miller fosters a sense of community, and this is reflected in the fact that Jovan has employees that have worked for the company since long before she took over. The average employee has worked with her team for over seven years.

The devotion and loyalty that exists between Jovan and her employees benefit customers. The customer receives better value for their money because content employees do better work and provide better customer service.

Growing strong trees takes years. Building a strong company often takes just as long. Jovan is dedicated to both. With her knowledge of trees and her focus on customer service, her company is the right call for tree care.  

How to Pick a Tree Care Company and Avoid Pitfalls: A Beginner’s Guide

Time to Read: 7 min