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Branching Out
Fall 2015


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In This Issue
Trees Are For Us Acquisition
UW-Stevens Point Leaf Study
New First Choice Website
Featured Tree: Honey Locust
The Making of An Arborist
Disease & Pest Spreading Culprits
Why Prune in Fall or At All?
Five Fertilization Tips
  First Choice Acquires "Trees Are For Us"  
In May, First Choice acquired Milwaukee landscaping firm, "Trees Are For Us," formerly owned by Angelo Jose Loyo, who will stay with the firm, and his wife Marilyn. With these assets, we now operate First Choice Land Care and offer landscape maintenance, installation and construction services to our clients. For full details on our new service offerings, click here

First Choice Assists UW-Stevens Point in Leaf Study
As part of our research commitment to help the study of arboriculture move forward, First Choice is assisting the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point with an ash tree leaf study. The goal of the study is to determine the environmental impact of what is being lost as the Emerald Ash Borer claims more and more ash trees.
Members of our First Choice team are helping to gather leaves for the project, and we'll make sure to keep you updated on the results of this study as it progresses! 
New First Choice Website
We updated our website! Take a look at the brand new www.firstchoicetreecare.com - featuring tree care tips, timely topics, the full-list of our customer-oriented services and a closer look at our team of Certified Arborists.  

Featured Tree: Honey Locust

This fall we're excited to introduce you to the honey locust tree ( Gleditsia triacanthos)! Also known as the thorny locust, the honey locust is a deciduous tree native to central North America. In the autumn and winter months the native tree is adorned with long seed pods resembling skinny twisted bananas.   Fortunately, scientists have developed varieties of honey locust that are both thornless and seedless.  The most successful varieties we recommend are called "Skyline," "Shademaster" and "Imperial."
A popular ornamental plant, honey locusts tolerate urban conditions, compacted soil, road salt, heat and drought. Its popularity is also due in part to the fact that it transplants so easily. Its fast growth rate and tolerance of poor site conditions make it valued in areas where quick shade is needed, such as new parks, roadways or housing developments.
The leaves of a honey locust are bright green in the spring and turn to a warm yellow in the fall. The honey locust also sprouts small cream-colored flowers in late spring, which emerge from the base of the new leaves. 


Tree Quote

"Time spent amongst trees is never wasted time."

- Katrine Mayer

Autumn has arrived! Ken Ottman
The weather is cooling down and the leaves are starting to fall, but don't forget about your trees just yet! Autumn is the ideal time of year to prune and fertilize your trees in preparation for the winter months ahead. A little work in the fall will give your yard beautiful, healthy trees come spring.
In this issue of Branching Out, we're exploring the ins and outs of pruning and fertilization, as well as taking a closer look at the roots of First Choice - our Certified Arborists. 
Ken Ottman, Owner, First Choice Tree Care 

The Making of an Arborist
At First Choice Tree Care, our ISA Certified Arborists are the roots of our business. It's our arborists that come to your yard to plant, prune, treat or remove your trees, so it's very important to us that they are well prepared to bring you the best tree care possible. Preparation for our arborists begins with a 2-year or 4-year degree, primarily in arboriculture or forestry. When arborists are hired at First Choice, we supplement these degrees with practical, on the job training, and continued learning from industry experts.
As part of our training program, we have employed the skills of former State Climbing Champion, Aaron Schauer, in a 10-week training program for new hires. During these ten weeks, Aaron creates a foundation of safety, skills and efficiency for each arborist.
We are excited to also welcome industry expert, Dr. Les Werner, as a training advisor to our team. A distinguished professor at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Dr. Werner is a leading expert in the field of arboriculture. In his role at First Choice, Dr. Werner shares his years of experience and research to assure that our arborists apply the latest technology in their chosen careers.  The goal of his involvement is to prepare our staff to better apply their educational experiences to the real and practical world of tree care for you, our customers.
Once our team members have completed their ISA Certified Arborist qualification they are also annually given the opportunity to attend up to five days of advanced training offered by the Wisconsin Arborist Association.
To better illustrate how First Choice trains an arborist, we'd like to introduce you to you to two of our finest: Nick Kluck and Travis Hansen. 
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point with a degree in urban forestry, Nick was an avid rock climber and saw arboriculture as an opportunity to get paid to climb. His education prepared him for a career as an arborist, but it's his on-the-job training that has helped him to bring the best service to First Choice customers.
When he was first hired, Nick says a lot of his training was learn-as-you-go coupled with the assistance of Aaron Schauer's technical training. Nick shared, "With Aaron, we did a lot of hands on, technical training. We learned a lot about technical rigging - a lot of practical stuff that I could use right away on the job."
For Nick, the best part about the job is working outside and, at the end of the day, being able to see the work you've accomplished and the progress you've made for your customers. 
After growing up on a Christmas tree farm in central Wisconsin, a career in arboriculture was a no brainer for Travis Hansen. He holds a degree in forestry from Mid-State Technical College in Marshfield, Wis., and has spent plenty of time climbing trees.
For Travis, training at First Choice has been ongoing as he attends conferences each fall and winter with arboriculture professors and speakers to learn about new products and ideas in the field.
"Between our education and the conferences, [First Choice arborists] learn about the biology behind tree care. So when we are talking to customers, we can tell them about how what we're doing is helping not only the appearance of the tree, but the health of the tree," said Travis.
To learn more about First Choice's team of experts, click here

Trees & Firewood: Disease & Pest Spreading Culprits throughout Wisconsin 
Who did it?
Was it the camper with firewood at the lake? Or the holiday enthusiast with the Christmas tree crossing the Illinois-Wisconsin border? 
It's important for Wisconsinites to get a "clue" about the significant role they play in the spreading of invasive species and diseases like emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, oak wilt and Dutch elm disease.
Firewood, nursery stock and Christmas trees should be purchased from local, certified dealers and growers close to your home. The less distance you have to move firewood, nursery stock and Christmas trees, the less chance you have of spreading diseases.
With more than 600,000 evergreens harvested each fall, Christmas trees are already getting the once-over from state Department of Agriculture inspectors in preparation for the upcoming holiday season. Inspectors are looking to ensure that no hitchhikers, like gypsy moth eggs or pine beetles, are on trees before they ship out to retail lots around the state and country. Ottman Christmas Trees has also started its preparations for the holiday season!
While firewood, nursery stock and Christmas trees are three specific ways in which insects and diseases are spread, homeowners can also unintentionally spread pests by neglecting to safely remove diseased or infested trees from their yards. If you know a tree is diseased or infested by invasive insects, bring in a professional to advise you regarding safe removal and disposal of the resulting wood and debris. 
Above all, homeowners should be conscientious about the movement of trees in any form as it may introduce invasive species to a city, county or neighborhood. 
Why Prune in Fall or At All? 
During the autumn months, many homeowners sit back and watch their leaves turn from green to colorful hues, thinking their tree maintenance is done for the year. However, fall - and winter - is an important and advantageous time to prune your trees and keep them healthy for next spring.
Why prune in the fall and winter?
The threat of insects and disease is significantly decreased in fall and winter months, giving trees time to recover from pruning wounds without risk of infection. Additionally, pruning in the autumn after leaves have already fallen redistributes growth to the remaining parts of the tree come spring.  A side benefit of fall and winter pruning is that it reduces the distress homeowner's feel when they lose foliage from their yard.
Why prune at all? 
Some homeowners question whether pruning is really necessary, as trees in the forest grow and live for years without any maintenance. However, because forests initially have hundreds of trees in a small space, the trees adapt to their environment.  The number of trees on an acre is dramatically reduced over time. Thousands of trees per acre die between the time they are small and when they become mature as a result of competition between trees for light, water and nutrients. 
Left: Tree in yard with low-hanging branches.
Right: Trees in forest with branches only at the top.

The surviving trees are naturally pruned by competition for light. Competing branches that don't receive enough sunlight die and fall off naturally. Next time you're hiking look up and you'll find branches only at the very tops of trees.
Trees that are growing in yards, however, do not have the crowding or shade problems that invoke natural pruning. Your yard trees are surrounded by light and retain all or most of their low branches. Branches may be too crowded, form weak attachment angles which later break in storms, compete with the main trunk or stem, or divert water and nutrients from the main leader of tree, killing the top.  Because nature and shade fail to prune, homeowners must do it themselves.
Left: Branch with weak attachment growing at bad angle.
Right: Weak branch damaged in a storm.

The hierarchy of pruning
Most importantly, trees are pruned for the  safety of people and property. Branches that will likely fall should be removed before they harm family, friends or neighbors.
Secondly, pruning should promote the  health of the tree. Trees overcrowded with branches or branches that have grown at a bad angle to the tree should be removed. Pruning should also remove competing leader branches from the tree, with the goal of creating structural branches that are properly spaced.
Lastly, after safety and the health of the tree have been considered, trees should be pruned for  appearance. If trees are safe and healthy, personal preference can dictate how trees are shaped to fit the style of the homeowner. At this point, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.  Trees may be pruned to be low branched, high branched with a single or multiple dominant trunks or very formal like the square shaped trees pictured below from the Manoir d'Eyrignac in France. 

After trees are safe and healthy, pruning can be done based on appearance. The trees above represent different personal tastes in the way trees are pruned.
Oh, one last thing on pruning!
Do not top trees!! Topping is a destructive practice where the ends of tall trees are cut back to form large stubs, or an 'antler-like' or 'hat rack' top to a tree.  Topping causes decay of the large remaining branches and excessive sprouting at the top of the tree.  New growth following topping is weakly attached and hazardous. Both branch decay and weak branch attachments increase the likelihood that the tree will fall, endangering people and property.  There is never a good reason to top a tree.

Five Fertilization Tips
Another important element of fall tree maintenance is fertilization. However, there is more to effective fertilization than making a quick trip to your local home improvement store and picking up a bag of fertilizer. Below you'll find five tips to making the most of your fall fertilization routine.
  1. Examine trees to determine if fertilization is necessary. Not every tree needs to be fertilized every year. If the leaves of your tree are small and off-color, that could indicate a deficiency in nutrients. Similarly, branches with less than 12-14 inches of annual internodal expansion (growth) could also benefit from fertilization.
    The leaf on the left is healthy. The leaf on the right is an unhealthy and off-color with its yellow tint and pronounced green veins.
  2. Understand your tree. Effective fertilization depends on understanding the type of tree and what nutrients it is missing. Certified arborists can assist in the identification of trees and nutrient deficiencies.
  3. Use the right fertilizer. At First Choice, we use slow release nitrogen fertilizers with low solubility that are composed in such a way that trees are only using resources when the soil is warm enough for growth.
  4.  Fertilize young trees. This rule is pretty simple. If you just planted a tree, it will need the extra boost from fertilization to help it grow and remain healthy. Newly transplanted trees benefit from fertilizers rich in root growth elements such as phosphorous and potassium.
  5. Do not fertilize trees in decline. Older trees in decline are in "retirement." They survive by being conservative with their resources and using energy for defense instead of growth. As a growth stimulator, fertilizer speeds up the decline of a tree and forces it to use stored carbohydrates on expansion. Instead of fertilizing trees in decline, consider using a growth regulator like Cambistat.