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Tips for hiring tree care professionals

Over the last few weeks we have had tree care “professionals” going door-to-door offering to spray or prune a tree they say is going to die otherwise.  I use quotes around the word professionals because these people are, in fact, not professionals.  Real professional tree care services do not go door-to-door looking for business.  Would you hire a doctor or dentist that knocked on your door and offered to treat you for an ailment you didn’t know you had?  Most legitimate companies have all the work they can handle without resorting to solicitation.  However, our trees do need professional care from time to time.  Here are some tips for hiring a qualified company or individual:

  1. Get Informed – Before hiring a company, always get a name, address, telephone number, and references.  Call the telephone number to make sure that it is truly a working number.  Tree service individuals carry varying types of certification.  If they are offering services within the city limits, they have to have a city business license.  At a minimum, an individual should have a commercial pesticide applicators license or a pesticide technician’s license but just because they have these documents does not necessarily mean they have the experience or training necessary to properly care for trees.  Additionally, legitimate companies are bonded and should be willing to show you current certificates of liability and workers compensation.  Just because a company has a nicely painted truck with a legitimate-sounding name does not mean it’s a legitimate company.
  2. Estimates – Always get a written estimate prior to agreeing to terms.  An estimate should be very specific as to the species of tree, location of the tree on the property, and every detail of what the company is going to do to the tree.  An estimate that simply says “Prune Front Oak” does not contain enough detail.  Do not immediately hire the first company that gives you an estimate.  Always take the time to get additional estimates from at least two other companies.  Any legitimate company will be willing to provide a free estimate.
  3. Do Your Homework – It is advisable, but not always necessary, that a signed contract states that work is to be done according to ANSI standards.  The ANSI standards define techniques for pruning, fertilization, safety, and other categories of tree care.  At the very minimum the homeowner should make themselves aware of the ANSI standards to determine whether the company’s methods are consistent with recommended practices.  These standards can be found online at:
  4. No Topping – It is well known that topping damages trees.  If a company advises topping and is willing to do that to your tree, take it as a warning not to hire them.
  5. No Spikes – A professional would not use spurs or spikes to climb trees.  Spikes wound the tree and often carry diseases from trees previously taken down.
  6. Price – Quality tree care is not cheap.  If an estimate seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Unfortunately, many unsuspecting owners have been recently taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals.  These individuals give hard-working, legitimate tree care companies a bad name.  Do your homework.  Don’t get in too much of a hurry to get your tree sprayed, it’s not going to die tomorrow if you don’t spray it today.  And, as always, you can call your county extension office for more information or assistance. 

Century farms application period open     photo: Century Farm image

Long-term owners of Missouri farms are proud of their family accomplishments. This was evident during the Centennial Farm program held in Missouri during the American Revolution Bicentennial Year of 1976. In that popular program, 2,850 Missouri farm owners in 105 of Missouri’s 114 counties were recognized as owning a "Centennial Farm."

Interest in the program continued after 1976. Several Missouri farm owners asked about having their farms recognized, so the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources and the University of Missouri Extension planned a 10-year update in 1986 called the "Century Farm" program. During this update, 1,080 additional Missouri farms were recognized.

Long-term family farm owners who were not able to take part in the 1976 or 1986 events still wanted recognition, so the College and MU Extension planned for annual updates. Since 1987, an additional 4,441 farms have been recognized. The program has continued each year with approximately 100 or more farms being recognized each year. In 2013, there were 251 farms recognized. In 2008, Missouri Farm Bureau became a program co-sponsor.

Applications must be postmarked by May 15, 2014. Late applications cannot be accepted.  Apply here ⇒ Missouri Century Farm application

Photo: Bates County 2013 Century Farm Families
Bates County 2013 Century Farm families

Trees add value to your landscape

Trees can provide your home with shade, wind protection and visual appeal. They can reduce energy costs, provide recreation for children and habitat for wildlife.

Newly planted trees need special attention, and not all trees are suitable for all conditions. MU Extension’s horticulture experts have developed a series of publications to help you choose the right tree and get it established:

MU Extension publication G6800, Selecting Landscape Plants: Shade Trees
MU Extension publication G6805, Selecting Landscape Plants: Flowering Trees
MU Extension publication G6810, Selecting Landscape Plants: Uncommon Trees for Specimen Plantings
MU Extension publication G6815, Selecting Landscape Plants: Needled Evergreens
MU Extension publication G6820, Selecting Landscape Plants: Broad-leaved Evergreens
MU Extension publication G6850, How to Plant a Tree

Don’t guess — soil tests save time and money

Soil testing is the best guide to the wise and efficient use of fertilizer and soil amendments, said Manjula Nathan, director of the University of Missouri Extension Soil Testing and Plant Diagnostic Services.

Whether you grow acres of row crops or have a vegetable patch in the backyard, a soil test will provide you with an analysis of nutrients and a set of recommendations for any improvements.

“We frequently get questions from customers like, ‘I apply fertilizer every year. How come my plants are not doing well?’” Nathan said.

“Most of the time the problem is they never have done a soil test, but have been guessing on fertilizer requirements,” she said. “They do not realize that by guessing they are wasting money by over- or underapplication, and the excess fertilizer can end up in streams, ponds and underground water, polluting the environment.”

Soil testing can be done through the extension office. The cost is $15 per sample. Soil testing publications

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