This morning a large, green bucket truck rolled into my neighbor’s backyard. It was re-painted and had no visible name on it. Uh oh. Joe-the-tree-guy! You know him. He does tree work on the side when it’s too hot to do roofing and asphalt. Two guys get out: one has on a hardhat and is carrying a chainsaw – no other protective gear. The other guy is chewing gum and has no safety gear what-so-ever. Chainsaw-guy gets in the bucket, lets the chainsaw rip and proceeds to limb up my neighbor’s 75′ oak tree. You remember the one? It had two main leaders and split about a month ago, one leader slamming into the ground, but hitting nothing.
Anyway, safety-guy (sans any safety gear) chats with my neighbor occasionally checking on chainsaw-guy. Chainsaw-guy continued to limb up the oak, moving the bucket higher and higher up the tree. Did I mention the bucket truck didn’t have stabilizers? I don’t know a lot about bucket truck safety equipment, but I do think if I’m 60′ up in the air, stabilizers would be a nice feature.
In about 45 minutes, chainsaw guy had the tree limbed up and was ready to start taking the tree down. He made a notch on the side of the tree closest to my yard and let the top go! It skimmed our tree line…thank you chain-saw guy. That old white oak needed a bit o’ pruning.
Joe-the-tree-guy service finished up in about an hour. No chipping (can you say, thank goodness?!), no clean up. They just left.
In NJ, we have a Licensed Tree Expert bill that recently passed. It requires that companies who work on trees be licensed, so that drive-by-night companies like Joe-the-tree-guy’s cannot kill their workers with lack of safety. Click here to learn more:
It hasn’t rained in South Jersey for 29 days, and there’s only a 50/50 chance that we may get some “scattered thunderstorms” in three days. After a snowy and wet winter which already abused newly planted trees, this drought will inevitably finish-off already stressed trees. UNLESS folks start watering their trees.
This past spring the NJ Tree Foundation planted over 1,300 large shade trees across the state. On average, each of those trees cost $350.00 to plant (cost of tree, shipping, staff time, etc). That is quite an investment. When I pay $350.00 for something, it’s a big deal and that something better be around for awhile. Which is why the NJ Tree Foundation does community-based forestry. Residents must want, and agree to care for, their newly planted tree. Otherwise, we are throwing money out the window.
So, back to watering. In the summer months, water your tree one-to-two times per week. Put a hose at the base of the tree, set it on a trickle and let it run for half-an-hour. Or, spend $20.00 on a tree watering bag. These are the best inventions for watering trees. The bag has tiny holes in the bottom that allows 20 gallons of water to S L O W L Y seep into the rootball. That is the key to watering trees and plants – a slow and thorough soaking of the roots.
From our Camden Staffer (the edited) story:
“The S. Jersey Port is missing 7 trees. I know who stole them. It’s just a guy who wants to beautify his community… Haven’t met him/her yet, but I would like to solve this in a very unorthodox way. I want him to organize a planting on his block, and I want to replace those S. Jersey Port trees at no cost to the Port. Otherwise, the SJ Port wants to press charges against this guy. I am truly grateful it is not some butthole selling our trees. If we solve this in a positive way, I can feel comfortable replacing the SJ Port trees because my culprit won’t take any more. I also think the Port is more likely to work with us again if we take care of this for them. They are SO MAD, and I understand why. They want the resident to pay…hopefully, my solution will work and all will be good in the world again.”
Need I say more?
I was reviewing some bid specs the other day. A good piece of work that would keep my planting crew working past the tree planting season, and bring in some much needed dollars to the Tree Foundation. And then I saw…”contractor must pay employees prevailing wage”…
Prevailing wage for a landscaper in NJ is…drum roll please…$51.60 per hour! Really. You must pay a laborer $30.85/hr. + $20.75/hr. fringe if that worker does not receive fringe benefits. My tree planting crew works 8-10 weeks at best. They are hired from Logan Hall in Newark, NJ – a halfway house (don’t imagine a large Victorian home. Logan Hall is an institution where men are housed 6 to a room). We hire a new crew each spring and each fall. This is a re-entry program for men under parole supervision. And yet, if I want to bid on this contract (and many other contracts in NJ) I must pay these men $51.60/hr. Besides sports figures and CEOs, who makes that kind of money? And don’t forget, our tax dollars are paying for this outrageous wage. So, instead of a park maintenance job costing the county $10,000, it will cost five times that amount!
The Tree Foundation pays the tree planting crew the same wage that other landscapers pay their crews. Because we are a non-profit, we do not get the tax breaks or training stipends that a for-profit company can take advantage of for hiring a man with a criminal record. So, why do we do it? Because it works. Because the men work hard for us and leave parole with money in their pockets. They can get an apartment, buy groceries, and find a job with the money they have made working for the Tree Foundation. It is the right thing to do. And I get to meet some interesting characters.
By bidding on a contract that insists I pay each crewman $51.60/hour, am I not feeding from the same trough that has bankrupt New Jersey? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Starting out in Urban Forestry, my favorite tree was the Zelkova. Tall, majestic and vase-shaped, the Zelkova is not native to the US, but was used as an alternative for the Elm when Dutch Elm Disease almost wiped them out completely. In my hometown, our main thoroughfare was lined with beautiful Elms, creating a shaded canopy along the sidewalks where I rode my bike. Then, Dutch Elm Disease came calling, and our streets and sidewalks were bare.
Today, my favorite tree is the Willow oak. It happened about 11 years ago when work brought me to Washington DC and I saw the most magnificent trees – Willow oaks. Huge trees lining the roads and sidewalks, and shading DC parks. I fell in love.
Seven years ago, the NJ Tree Foundation planted a 10-acre Living Memorial in tribute to the NJ victims of 9/11/2001. It is called the Grove of Remembrance. In this memorial there are over 40 different tree species including Zelkovas and Willow oaks. Both hardy trees, the Willow oaks are thriving! This Living Memorial is located in Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ on a former brownfield. There is no “soil” to speak of, just fill. And environmental conditions there are quite harsh. It is my personal barometer for hardiness in trees and shrubs. If a plant can survive in the Grove of Remembrance, it can survive anywhere.
And so, my newest favorite tree, the Willow oak, has not let me down. It is a happy camper in the Grove, and doing me proud.
My neighbor had a very large, very old, double-leader oak tree in his back yard. The other day, we heard a huge crash! It was a sunny, windless day. But that mighty oak lost one of its leaders (stems). Luckily, no one was hurt and no property was damaged. So, what is my point? We inspect street lights, telephone poles, sidewalks, etc. to make sure they are stable and cannot hurt anyone. Yet, in parks and at schools where adults and children gather, we never think to inspect our trees. What if that double-leader oak tree was located in a park, next to a playground, and on a sunny, windless day, one of those leaders came crashing down…?