Someone, much wiser than I, once said, "He, who fails to plan, plans to fail!" Imagine not planning the life care of a new child. Without thoughtful guidance and care the child might not survive to achieve productive adulthood. Trees are living things too. Should not we give similar attention to their development?
Trees are the largest living things on earth that survive despite the inability to move out of harm’s way. They must make it where they are rooted. Unfortunately, the average life span of an urban tree is estimated by some to be only seven years. Since we do most of the planting, then we must share in the responsible care of these trees if they are to reach maturity.
The typical large homeowners' association landscape with maturing trees might have a value of a million dollars. Such an investment deserves professional management. Too often a board decides "it is time to cut all the trees" and solicits bids from local tree contractors. Few recognize the difference between cut and prune. And unfortunately, most tree contractors simply provide just what they are asked, rather than offering sound management counsel on how best to maintain the tree investment.
Rarely do all trees need simultaneous pruning. They are as individual in their needs as are we—their guardians. And the absolute worst is the direction that "all the trees are to be cut heavy" so that they will not need it again so soon. To control size through heavy pruning will incur the highest maintenance costs. The best pruning approach is to allow the natural characteristics of the tree to develop. If the tree is too big for the location, remove it and allow nearby trees to continue developing. Or, replace it with a more suitable species. Secondly, heavy cutting of established limb wood initiates decaying weak structured trees that will require more frequent maintenance to minimize an increased hazard to people and property.
The Management Approach is to identify a baseline of needs. Then in a prioritized fashion itemize the needed work by species, season or urgency. With this data, a forecast many years into the future is made with realistic budgets of meaningful and necessary tree care. A good plan must also address the cultural problems of the site like water, light, space and soil conditions.
A professionally prepared management plan allows any non-tree-expert to efficiently manage stressed financial resources to best control the equally stressed living resources they are entrusted to preserve. With proper managed care, trees will be precious gifts for future generations.