Turns out that ‘dealing with trees’ is another new part of our lives since moving to the country. Sad to report, but the acacia tree by the kitchen toppled over in last week’s storm.
Only a couple of days before, we’d admired how the golden leaves glowed against grey clouds. Thankfully, it just fell across the grass, rather than hitting our house or our neighbours. No damage, no-one hurt, but a sad end to a beautiful tree.
We didn’t even hear it fall. My husband managed to leave for work that without spotting a 30 foot tree laid out across the lawn. I only noticed when I glanced out of the kitchen window, to see a lot of leaves where I wouldn’t normally expect them.
So suddenly, we had a whole great tree that needed shifting before it killed the grass underneath.
Calling on a tree surgeon
Back in London, we had a teeny tiny garden (pic in this post) and a single cherry tree. Tree maintenance amounted to bribing a keen gardener friend with beer and a barbecue, so she’d come round and wield her pruning saw. I could lop off low hanging regrowth with some sturdy secateurs.
Here in Suffolk however, we’re surrounded by trees. Every spring, as the new leaves sprout, the house starts to disappear behind the foliage. We’re lucky enough to have cherry trees here too, among all the others, with spectacular blossom early in the year. We benefit from the shade in summer, rake up industrial quantities of leaves every autumn, and hang ghost and bat decorations in bare branches every Hallowe’en.
But boy do they grow.
Soon after we moved in, I added a new contact to my phone: tree surgeon. We asked around for recommendations, and then got a tree surgeon round for a quote. He was able to identify which trees we had (yes I am that clueless), which needed pruning, which were showing signs of disease or dead wood and how to deal with branches from neighbouring properties. He was also able to advise on how to deal with a tree growing too close to the house (summary: carefully) and take care of the council paperwork needed in a conservation area. Once all the admin was sorted and they had the time, the tree surgeons returned and took care of assorted pruning, pollarding and reshaping.
Coping with our fallen tree
My husband and I are not great at DIY. Faced with 30 foot of tree lying across the lawn, I wasn’t suddenly going to start wielding a chain saw. Heck, I get nervous using a hedge trimmer.
Instead, I dug out the number for Ian Allston Tree Surgery, and Marcus Allston nipped round for a quote a couple of days later. Much to my relief, it wasn’t our fault the tree had fallen. Turned out the roots were rotten, and in the high wind the trunk just snapped off at the base.
Mr Allston was also able to have a quick look round the garden, so he could put together a quote for other work that now needs doing – fighting back the fig tree and hornbeam hedge, stopping the willow tree getting too ‘whippy’ and cutting out dead wood from the eucalyptus.
Then a team of two came round after the weekend to deal with the tree. With great efficiency, they lopped off the branches, fed them through a chipper, chopped the trunk into logs and then cleared all the leaves away. It must have taken an hour and a half max, as by the time I returned from the school drop off and a run, it was all finished.
Meanwhile I’m trying to view the logs as bonus free wood for the wood burner we had installed, to offset the expense.
Top tips for dealing with trees
- If you’re tackling trees yourself, get some decent tools. Secateurs might work for deadheading roses, but they’re not a whole lot of use with tree branches. We’re now armed with a chunky pruning saw that Crocodile Dundee would approve of, plus some loppers with telescopic arms.
- Check if you’re in a conservation area. If so, you’ll need to submit paperwork to the local council for permission to do significant work to your trees, and certainly to remove any dead trees. If you’re using a tree surgeon, they may know what needs to go to who, and take care of it for you.
- Wear goggles if you intend unleashing your inner lumberjack. Power tools and wood chips in the eye are not a great combination.
- Call in the experts. It may go against the frugal grain, but some tasks (and trees) are just too big to DIY. For big jobs, the professionals don’t only have the skills and knowledge, but also the whole range of protective clothing, headgear, ropes, harnesses, appropriate equipment and insurance. The Arboricultural Association has a searchable list of consultants and tree surgeons.
- Problem with neighbouring trees? You’re allowed to chop down branches overhanging your property – but get this, you then have to give your neighbours the branches back. Or perhaps more sensibly, check if they’re happy for you to dispose of them.
- If you have a wood burner, ask to keep the logs. However, you may need an axe to split 10 inch chunks into usable logs, and you’ll certainly need to store them for a year or so, while they dry out or ‘cure’.
- Brace yourself for regrowth. If pruned hard, trees have a tendency to spring back exuberantly. Resign yourself for a return visit from the tree surgeon in a few years time.
So – now that I’m down the bill for getting a tree taken away, does anyone have any frugal top tips for dealing with trees? Do share you suggestions in the comments!