Ask the Arborist March 2022

The first weeks of the new year represent a challenge, a race against time, as we work to get trees that require pruning or felling completed before the arrival of spring. 

Once trees come into leaf, and the nesting season begins, the scope for working on them is limited.  If a tree becomes a nesting site, only work to deal with an imminent emergency can be undertaken.  Nesting burs are protected by law.  It is a criminal offence to disturb them.

Sometimes, the nesting birds will be hidden away and birds such as wood pigeons can have a second nesting in the late spring.  There have been occasions when we have been trimming a conifer hedge in June and had to stop after a nest has been spotted.

Timing of pruning also depends on species.  Whilst the dormant winter months are ideal for pruning trees such as London Plane, oak, ash and beech, it is not good to prune trees such as cherry, birch or maples before they come into leaf.  My customers usually appreciate when I am able to explain why works are delayed until the summer for these trees (if they are pruned in winter, they are vulnerable to several diseases).

The team has also been working to fell some ash trees subject to Ash Dieback.  This represents an additional challenge because the wood becomes brittle as the disease spreads, and it is no longer safe to climb an ash tree to prune or fell; a working platform needed to be used.

Several sites have involved road-side trees and traffic management has been required. This has to be arranged in consultation with the relevant local authority highways team.  Sometimes, it seems that the work of felling a tree is the simple part, after dealing with traffic and timings!

While I am happier working with a chainsaw or climbing a tree than dealing with the paperwork, I value working closely with an arboricultural surveyor whose expertise lies in the process of tree-work applications to local authorities, safety assessments and dealing with requests for trees subject to Tree Preservation Orders or those in Conservation Areas, where consents are involved.  Our roles complement each other and provide customers with an independent view on the type and timing of work required.

Next time, I’ll share about The tree with no roots!

Be careful out there!

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It has been a winter punctuated by a number of storms. Eunice, one of the strongest such events, wreaked havoc mid-February. It is perhaps best known for tearing the roof from London’s O2 Dome, but as with so many of the storms this season, thousands of trees were uprooted.

Arborist Ed Heinrich was on his way between jobs when a tree crashed down into the road just metres in front of his vehicle.

It serves as a timely warning for all of us who need to venture out in such poor conditions to remain extra vigilant.

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A blackbird nesting in a tree – an occupational hazard for the arborist

Ask the arborist

Edward Heinrich is an arborist based in Solihull where he runs the practice Umberslade Arboriculture.

The residents of Solihull often ask him questions, and each month, he’ll be sharing some of these, and the answers. 

Q: There is a wood pigeon nesting in my hedge.  I want to trim the hedge.  I have heard that nesting birds are protected.  Wood pigeons are pests.  Is this bird still protected?

A: Yes!  All nesting birds are protected from the moment they start building their nests!


Q: Debbie asks: I am going to plant a tree in my garden. How high do you think should I stake it?

A: Staking is used to hold the roots firmly until they can grow into the surrounding soil and provide anchorage to the tree.  It is better to stake lower down on the trunk, ideally no higher that 1/3 of the trunk height.  Staking higher can limit movement of the trunk, leaving it weak and prone to breaking.  Stakes should only be needed for 2-3 years after planting.


Q: Trevor asks: I want to apply mulch around the base of a tree. Is gravel suitable?

A: Mulch can be used to suppress weeds.  Organic mulch such as bark can also help to feed the soil.  Gravel can’t do this.  It can also weigh the soil and cause compaction.  If you are using bark mulch, it should be stored for at least six months, and preferably 12 months, before being applied to the soil.

Fresh bark has a low level of nitrogen and can absorb nitrogen from the soil, leaving the soil depleted.

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