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supporting our trees, all their lives long, with basil camu

MOST PEOPLE call in an arborist when they think it’s time for a tree to be removed, a costly process both financially and environmentally, since trees are critical drivers of diversity. Today’s guest runs a tree-care company and also a tree-focused nonprofit that emphasize other services instead of removals, advocating for the planting of young trees, for caring for our trees with smart structural pruning, and regular inspections to get to know them better and stay ahead of any problems, and for thoughtful support of dead and dying trees as important forever members of our ecosystems.

Basil Camu is co-founder of Leaf & Limb tree care company in Raleigh, N.C., and author of the new book, “From Wasteland to Wonder: Easy Ways We Can Help Heal Earth in the Sub/Urban Landscape.” Leaf & Limb is a very different kind of tree service that doesn’t do take-downs, and instead focuses on tree care through all phases of life, our subject today.

Plus: Comment in the box near the bottom of the page to enter to win a signed hardcover copy of his book. (The e-book version is free, and can be downloaded at this link.)

Read along as you listen to the May 27, 2024 edition of my public-radio show and podcast using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify (and browse my archive of podcasts here).

caring for our trees, with basil camu

 

 

Margaret Roach: Well, we were introduced, I don’t know, a couple months ago by Doug Tallamy of University of Delaware, who praised your book to me and your work, your tree-care work, and you and I did a “New York Times” garden column together recently, and I learned a lot from that.

So, people usually call a tree service when they’re in a panic, don’t they? They say, “Oh, my goodness, I need to take down. Help,” right? Yeah [laughter].

Basil: Yeah. It’s a big part of … I mean, honestly, I’d say it’s the majority of what the tree-service industry does is removals.

Margaret: Yeah, and maybe instead, ideally, someday, someday, someday we’d all have a relationship with an expert in tree care, an ongoing relationship, instead of just calling for emergency interventions, you know?

Basil: Right. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think even right now, it’s interesting, we have a local story developing here in Raleigh, whereby this old oak is having to be removed from one of our downtown city squares. And the truth of the matter is, it is in really dire condition. It has a large split, lots of risk factors. But kind of going back to what you were saying earlier, many of these issues start decades in advance.

So I think really, the first step is to ensure that the tree has excellent soil health, which we can do with all the ways that you know, of course: leaving the leaves, adding arborist wood chips, these sorts of things. And the second component, I think, to this long-term preemptive care for trees is just ensuring that they have good structural stability, because otherwise … I always like to remind folks, trees evolved and adapted in the forest setting, and in that setting they have to compete for sunlight. And when they compete for sunlight, they grow straight and tall with well-spaced branches. It’s a very ideal structure.

When they grow in the suburban setting, they don’t have to necessarily compete for resources, so they can grow in these unnatural ways. There are large branches that are too heavy. So, we’re all accustomed to seeing that, because this is where we live, but it’s not necessarily how a tree is supposed to grow. So, structural stability really does matter.

Margaret: Right, and I want to talk a little bit about structural pruning and some other things, but before we move on, you used a phrase that people ask me about a lot, “arborist wood chips.”

Basil: Right.

Margaret: And that’s a different thing from wood chips, bark chips or whatever, that might come in a bag. Arborist wood chips, why do you specify it that way? Because it has all the different parts of a tree?

Basil: Yeah, we could actually probably do an entire podcast just talking about this topic. [Laughter.] The short of it is that … Let me just give you the quick rundown. Number one, these are the remains of branches and trunks that are being chipped, and so what you’ve just said, it is all parts of the tree. And the research shows something like—well, the majority, I won’t even put a number on them—the majority of the enzymes and the aminos and the really good nutrients are actually in the small twigs and leaves. But other parts of the tree have other things that matter, so you’re getting all parts of the tree, which means you’re feeding a wider diversity of life in the soil, so you’re attracting different kind of fungi, different kind of bacteria. We’re really emphasizing that outrageous diversity in the soil.

I would also say, sort of from an environmental standpoint—and this is my primary lens zooming out a little bit—when we’re thinking about, say, a double-shredded mulch or a triple-shredded mulch, which is very common, those have actually been run through chippers two times or three times, hence the name. So, they have a much larger carbon footprint. For folks who don’t know what that term is, that’s essentially how much fossil fuel are we using to create this product, more or less. So, we’ve got larger carbon footprint. Then when you get into the bagging aspects, now you’re introducing unnecessary waste. There’s transportation issues. These all add to the carbon footprint.

And let me just add one other layer, which is, these double- and triple-shredded mulches that are so common tend to become waterproof. And when that happens, that means your tree’s actually not getting water, so now instead of helping retain moisture for your tree, you’re actually hurting it. We can get at better health, decreasing carbon footprints, keeping local diversity in play—because you can imagine a local tree harbors local fungal strains. So, there’s just a lot of reasons to go with arborist wood chips, and they’re free from most tree services, by the way.

Margaret: Yes, and so that’s why I wanted to point it out because it’s something that I know most of us don’t understand, and I just wanted to give it a little bit of a shout-out, so thank you. Thank you for the elevator pitch on arborist wood chips. That was a long elevator ride, but it was a short version of the whole story of arborist wood chips. [Laughter.]

Basil: Sorry.

Margaret: So structural pruning, you were talking about how in a forest, all the trees are competing for the light resources and so forth, and so they grow up, up, up, straight up, and they have better-spaced branches than they do when we stick one tree in the middle of our lawn and it has all these resources, but that’s not really natural for it. That’s not the way it evolved to grow. So, if we had this ideal relationship with a tree-care expert, such as yourself, and you would come and visit and we’d do an inspection, so to speak, of all the trees on my property, and we’d get to know them and we’d make notes? Or-

Basil: Yeah, absolutely.

Margaret: Yeah. And then when does the structural pruning begin? So take me through a pretend … How do we get to know each other, and then when do we start pruning? [Laughter.]

Basil: Right. It’s a great question, and I want to just introduce, go just one level higher for a second and explain why any of this matters. As trees mature, as your listeners all know, their benefits to local ecology increase exponentially. So, if we’re wanting to help heal Earth, and we’re wanting to fix some of these big environmental issues that we’re facing, one of the really easy things we can do is help our trees live as long as possible.

So in that vein, if I was to meet with you, probably the very first thing I’d want to look at is really the soil around your trees, and the structure of those trees. Ideally, structural pruning would begin at a very young age. It isn’t often the case. Typically, you might not get to visit a tree until it’s a little older. In terms of soil, we’re going to use some very simple proxies, like pushing a screwdriver into the ground. Is this nice loamy, rich soil, or is this the norm, which is old agricultural hardpan, or whatever. In new neighborhoods it might just be red clay.

And these are really the two big things. In terms of structure, we’re going to look and see, does this tree have one trunk or multiple trunks? Is it leaning? Oftentimes around, say, a house, it will grow over the roof because there’s lots of sunlight there. So, maybe we need to reduce some of those branches back.

I would say for anybody who’s listening and wants to learn a lot about structural pruning, Dr. Ed Gilman, former professor at University of Florida, is the preeminent expert. And he’s written a book called “An Illustrated Guide to Pruning,” and that is the gold standard right there.

Margaret: Huh. O.K. You just mentioned the soil around the tree and you stick the screwdriver in. It’s a long screwdriver, I think I remember you talking to me about in the “New York Times” interview, and you want to gauge sort of the compaction or hopefully lack of [laughter], that it’s not too compact and like a rock.

Basil: Right.

Margaret: So let’s say we do that around some of my trees, and you notice that some of them have less ideal soil conditions than others or whatever. Do you then say to me, “Hey, I think I want to advise you to get on a program to do …” fill in the blank? I mean, is it-

Basil: Yeah. I’ll give you some DIY stuff. I think your listeners would appreciate that, but I’ll also mention a professional approach. And then in terms of soil, one of the reasons I like the screwdriver proxy is because if it’s easy to push in, it means the soil has lots of open pores, which indicates good structure. And soil can only have good structure in the presence of lots of life, because life is what gives soil much of its structure. It’s the tunneling of earthworms, and it’s prey and predator, and it’s all the life that happens. Really healthy soil is more air than anything else, so that’s why the screwdriver proxy’s a nice one.

If it’s hard to push in, it means there’s not a lot of open pore space in the soil, and it means we likely don’t have a lot of life in that soil. So the first thing I would advise from a DIY approach is add 6 inches of arborist wood chips around this tree. Go from trunk to edge of canopy if you can. Don’t pile it on the trunk. We don’t want to do that. That makes a different issue, the dreaded mulch volcano.

Margaret: Ah, the volcano mulching, ah! [Laughter.] Yeah. So, keeping it away from the trunk, but that thick a layer of arborist wood chips.

Basil: Yeah. And the cool thing about arborist wood chips is you could even go up to 12 inches if you want, because they don’t have the same issues that many of the other mulches have. They don’t become waterproof. It’s very different. The other thing I’m going to say is of course, leave all the leaves in this bed, if possible. You may not want them in your grass. Most people have grass, for better or worse, but at least rake those leaves into this bed. Let them rot.

And then for those who are motivated to do so, plant some understory native trees and shrubs. This not only helps further enhance the soil. In “Mycorrhizal Planet,” Michael Phillips indicates that if you have eight or more species growing next to each other, trees and shrubs, they begin trading resources, so nutrients and things like that, so they’re all helping each other building soil faster. But we’re also providing this understory layer by which moths and butterflies can finish their growth stages, so there’s lots of reasons to add some understory trees and shrubs, if possible. That’s the DIY approach.

Now, sometimes we’ll be working with say, I don’t know, a development company. It’s a prize oak near a corporate campus, let’s say. They need results faster, because what I’ve just described takes time. Well, then you can hire a professional to go in with this tool called an air spade. Basically, it’s like a rototiller that uses air so you don’t damage the roots, and you turn the soil and you mix in lots of leaf compost as you do so, and then you add wood chips on top. That essentially expedites the process. That may or may not matter. I think for most listeners here, wood chips, leaving the leaves, planting understory, it’s a great approach.

Margaret: O.K. All right, good. You reminded me when you just were describing this, I think in permaculture it would be called a guild almost, the companion plants, maybe sort of a community around a tree or whatever. But you reminded me that in the book you also talk about various other forms of planting trees, but you advocate and you facilitate, actually, through your nonprofit, Project Pando, you propagate and distribute seedlings, sapling trees, to environmental and ecological projects and so forth. Besides that, I also remember reading in the book the idea of planting pocket forests?

Basil: Yeah.

Margaret: Can you tell me what a pocket forest is?

Basil: And let’s talk just briefly about saplings. I am a huge advocate for planting native saplings, which are one to three-year-old trees, especially when they’re grown using an air pruning box, which is how we do it at our nonprofit. We grow and give away tens of thousands of these native trees, and the beauty of these young saplings, they have excellent root structure.

Even if it’s not an air pruning methodology, maybe you get it from your state forest service, you’re still likely to have much better root structure than you will find in the containerized plants that you will buy from your local nursery. Or, some folks may even use the balled and burlappeds, which are much larger.

In both cases, balled-and-burlapped and containerized trees, you have very malformed root systems that take ages for the tree to recover, may never recover. We see trees die prematurely all the time. It’s one of the reasons why the average lifespan of a suburban tree is only 35 years. But saplings bypass all of that.

And then I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds on carbon footprint and genetic diversity, but there’s just so many reasons why if you can just collect some seeds, grow them yourself, which we give very simple instructions for how to do this in the book, those are the trees that will likely live very long and healthy lives and need less maintenance and less care.

And then in terms of a pocket forest, we take this sapling idea and sort of one-up it. You can imagine a typical front yard. I don’t know what the average is per se, but I would estimate the average is, say, 1,000 square feet on either side of the front walk, let’s just say. So in  1,000 square feet, a client may ask us to plant one or two overstory trees and a handful of shrubs or smaller trees, let’s just say; a conventional front yard.

A decent amount of plant costs a decent amount of work, because those are big trees that we’re getting from nurseries. You can, for the same money and the same amount of effort, load up that 1,000 square feet with young saplings. And especially if you’re growing them yourself or you have access to a local native nursery, you can introduce a lot of diversity, overstory, understory, shrub layers. Put a bunch in there. We typically will space them out every 2 to 3 feet.

And the beauty is you can let that grow up with virtually no maintenance or watering. Not everything’s going to live. Between 5 percent and 30 percent of the trees will die, but that’s okay, because there’s so many of them. And that will create this maximum amount of above-ground native diversity, and ditto underground. So, we’re really maximizing the amount of photosynthesis that’s happening, soil formation, life for other creatures, birds, insects, you name it. And if our interest is addressing environmental concerns, helping other life live, and helping heal Earth, then this is a great way to do it.

And it doesn’t cost any more money or time to install, and it’s a lot easier to maintain over the long run, because when the system begins to mature after about the third or fourth year, it closes. There’s no more weeds that can enter. You don’t need to do anything, whereas in that other conventional front yard, you’re going to add mulch every year. You’re going to have to pull weeds every year, or maybe you’re spraying an herbicide. There’s just forever maintenance happening in that space.

Margaret: Yeah, and we’re all impatient and we want the big B&B, instant tree kind of thing, and so forth. But the other thing about saplings is, and you may have said this, but I don’t think so, they really catch up.

Basil: They do.

Margaret: I mean, yeah, they’re not going to be the same size as that X-hundred-dollar balled-and-burlapped thing in five minutes, but in five years, they’re going to be pretty damn big. Do you know what I mean?

Basil: Yeah. There’s great peer-reviewed research on that front. I believe it is 50 percent of B&B and containerized trees die, and of the 50 percent that survive, it is within about, I can’t remember my numbers off the top of my head, but let’s just play it safe here, five to 10 years, those saplings will catch up. Typically, saplings have a lot lower mortality, and then across that timeframe, they’re going to be larger and healthier than that balled-and-burlap ped or that containerized tree.

Margaret: Because they rooted from a young age into that soil.

Basil: Exactly.

Margaret: That is their native habitat, so to speak.

Basil: Exactly.

Margaret: And they are acclimated from youth, which is really important.

Basil: Exactly. And listen, it can be even easier than that. My favorite thing … And we have a little video. We have a YouTube channel. There’s a bunch of fun videos, but we made this video where … And this is inspired by a Facebook group called Trees From Seed. He does a great job, but I’ll give you the pitch here. Take a piece of chicken wire. Make a nice little circle. Use a sod pin to push it in the ground and hold the wire in place, and then just dump a bunch of seeds in the middle. Maybe put some leaves on top, and it’s remarkable. You’ll get a bunch of trees that grow from that space. They’ll have a built-in protection cage, and then you can either just let them all grow and figure it out, or select for the winner, and that’s probably the easiest way to plant a tree.

Margaret: Right. Pretty wild. So, I want to make sure that we have time to talk about my favorite subject, since I live here in the graveyard of fallen trees [laughter]. I want to talk about dead and dying trees and managing them, and thinking about them in a different way, because all the arborists around here sort of have, at one time or another, given me the side eye when I’ve explained what I wanted to have happen with a tree that was declining, let’s say.

And we’re not talking about when there’s hazard, I mean, when it’s hanging over the house or hanging over the car park or whatever. We’re not talking about when there’s danger involved.

Basil: Correct.

Margaret: But assuming there’s no danger—the rest of this conversation assumes there’s no danger to people or property—I just think that these are these precious beings that grew up out of this place, and they should be laid to rest here. And however that goes, whether they fall down, or they need to come down in stages or whatever, and I have carcasses of beloved trees lying around my property. And again, people probably think I’m completely bonkers, but there’s not one lying across the driveway or something [laughter].

Basil: Yeah.

Margaret: I just make room for them. And boy, oh boy, do the woodpeckers love it. Oh, my goodness, I have more pileated woodpeckers than … It’s fun. It’s really fun.

Basil: It is, and you know what else? Those woodpeckers, for those who don’t necessarily care just about a woodpecker, which I of course do and you do, too, but woodpeckers provide free pest control. So, around here we have Southern pine beetle, Ips, turpentine beetle, all kinds of damaging wood-boring insects. Those are snacks for the woodpecker, so if you have woodpeckers, you’re probably getting a lot of protection for some of your other trees. That’s a great reason to have at least one dead tree.

But I would go way beyond that. I think dead trees in and of themselves are an important part of the ecosystem. I think you said this in the article, that when they die, they begin a second life, and that second life provides so much food and so much home and habitat for life that need that space.

Margaret: Yes, absolutely. And I mean, the number of microorganisms that work on the declining tree, and then when it’s a fallen log, when it’s lying on the ground, all those years after that, I mean billions, probably. I don’t know how many millions are in a carcass of a tree as it degrades and degrades and degrades, all those detritivores, all those little processors of the organic material. And where do we think organic material … We’re saying, “Leave the leaves,” well, leave the trees, right?

Basil: Yeah. Hey, you know, I don’t, of course, remember my numbers perfectly, but in terms of … Just two fun facts. I believe it’s somewhere in the vicinity of 70 different birds rely on dead trees for either homes or perches for hunting.

And then on the insect side, I think one of the fascinating things that happens with a decaying tree, fungi set in, of course, but they import nutrients from the surrounding soil into that dead tree. And with the nutrient fusion, it is now palatable for the beetles, so the beetles move in and they begin eating that wood, and beetles are a really crucial base of many different food webs. So, supporting beetles is a great way to support so many other forms of life.

Margaret: Yeah, and the reason you can’t remember the number, I’m going to tell you, is because it’s different in every region, so don’t worry about it.

Basil: O.K., fair [laughter].

Margaret: Because it really is. I mean, depending on the birds that are native to a particular … that are in a range of a particular region, and then the habitat within that region. I mean, I’m two hours from New York City. Well, I have different bird species here than, you know what I mean, than in a habitat like an urban habitat, etc., so it’s different everywhere, I think.

Basil: Good point.

Margaret: But yes, lots and lots and lots of birds that are either primary cavity nesters that can make a hole in a tree for a roost or a nest, like a woodpecker can, or are secondary nesters, that use the cavities that they’ve inherited, so to speak, either that nature made when a tree was damaged or grew in an odd way, or that a woodpecker made. So, that’s pretty great.

Basil: Yeah, and you know, it’s worth noting, nowhere today have we talked about spending money or spending more time. All of these conversations, it’s less money, less time, and that’s sort of one of the key features of my book is, I think if we worked with natural systems instead of working against them, which is going to require rethinking some of our paradigms, but we save time, we save money, and we help heal Earth. It’s really just a win-win-win, in my opinion.

Margaret: So, in the last several minutes we have left, there’s just, again, going back to sort of, call in the tree service, you know, that thinking.

With the structural pruning, for instance, and you said it should start at an early age, but a lot of times it doesn’t, what about when there’s a dead branch in a big tree and it’s nowhere near the house or anything, but it’s up, way up high in a big tree? I mean, should we be looking around in this sort of inspection we’re doing? When you see that and you come and you visit the client and you’re doing the annual inspection, are you targeting those and getting rid of those? Or do you feel the same way about those that what we were just talking about with the dead and dying trees?

Basil: It’s the same. If those branches present no risk, they should be left for all the reasons we’ve just discussed. Again, and you said this earlier, it’s very important, we do want to prioritize human health and well-being, so I would not advocate leaving something that could hurt somebody. But in many cases, the dead branch or the dead tree won’t hurt anybody, so leave it.

And honestly, I’d go even beyond that. I’m a board-certified master arborist. I’ve been working in this industry for 15 years now, and the majority of calls that we receive to remove live trees even, they’re just unfounded. I would say maybe as my parting gift to listeners, something like 90 percent of the trees that you think need to be removed do not. I’ve been doing this long enough to be able to say that confidently. Most of the things that folks worry about are either unfounded fears or just these strange urban myths that persist forever that just won’t go away.

I’ll give you one really fast. “The big tree near my house, it blows in the wind and we have hurricanes coming and I’m scared it’s going to fall.” Well, guess what? That tree is 70 years old. It’s been through every major hurricane. I’ll use North Carolina as example. Every single major hurricane North Carolina has to throw at it, and it has survived to tell the tale. Assuming there’s no change to the tree, like no new wounds, or we’ve cut off roots or something, then this is actually your safest tree. So many of the trees that we think need to be removed really don’t, and that is an easy way to save yourself $3,000 or $4,000 and help heal Earth. It’s just a win-win.

Margaret: Right. Well, Basil Camu, I love the message, and as I said, [laughter] me here from the place of old and dying and dead and fallen trees, where to me, there are some of my most precious companions, so to speak. And you really can see it if you let it happen. You can see what it does to heal the place and to feed the place. So I’m so glad to talk to you, and we’ll have the book giveaway too, as I said.

People should know that the book is being offered by your nonprofit as a free download, if they’d like to do a digital copy, or just for the cost of printing and shipping as a hardcover, so I’ll give all the details on that, too.

Basil: That’s perfect. And I just want to say it’s a great honor, and thank you so much for all the work you’ve done in getting really important messages out there, and thank you so much for having me today.

more from basil camu

  • Order the new book (free as e-book download; hardcover is priced just to cover printing and shipping)

enter to win a signed copy of basil’s book

I’LL SEND A signed copy of “From Wasteland to Wonder” by Basil Camu to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is answer this question in the comments box below:

Any dead or dying wildlife trees or “snags” in your landscape?

No answer, or feeling shy? Just say something like “count me in” and I will, but a reply is even better. I’ll select a random winner after entries close Tuesday June 4,, 2024 at midnight. Good luck to all.

(Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

prefer the podcast version of the show?

MY WEEKLY public-radio show, rated a “top-5 garden podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper in the UK, began its 15th year in March 2024. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station in the nation. Listen locally in the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Eastern, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the May 27, 2024 show using the player near the top of this transcript. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify (and browse my archive of podcasts here).

  1. Sandra Korbelik says:

    My dog groomer lovely large tree in her front yard whose leaves clog her gutter. I’ve convinced her not to remove it but have it pruned by an arborist. She’d never heard of the profession!

  2. Anna says:

    I have a few snags around my house and love watching the woodpeckers have at it. My friend had a pine tree that needed to be removed and requested the bottom 8-10’ be left in place with all the horizontal branches trimmed back so it is now a natural bird feeder holder and looks very intentional.

  3. Mary says:

    Wow, great interview! I have lived on a 1 & 1/3 acre in the suburbs in SW OH for 24 yrs & have many dead trees that I leave to the wildlife. I did not know that the branches/twigs also provide great nutrients, besides the leaves, but I have been leaving them for years. I have a lot of wildlife pass through my lot over the yrs and have had the motto “Plant Enough for Everyone”. I had an oakleaf hydrangea seedling that I’d purchsed & for 5 yrs it never got taller than a foot, due to being eaten. Finally, it took off & is now 8 feet tall. Will be buyingt this book if I do not win. Thanks for all of the educational articles you have posted/written (loved your sections in MSL in yrs past).

    1. Polly Erb says:

      We have snags in the yard and the woodpeckers love them. Am at the beginning of understory planting now that all the invasive buckthorn and autumn olive is removed. Would love a hard cover copy to mark up.

  4. Lorna Wooldridge says:

    I live in a development managed by an HOA and management company, so these kinds of trees aren’t part of the landscape, but they are in the woodland that abuts our apartments. Thank you for a great podcast and giveaway.

  5. Gina says:

    I’ve used lots of pruned branches leaves and bark to make hugelkultur raised beds and will check basils book on how to save seedlings!

  6. Jane Evans says:

    I am fortunate to back up to a small wooded area that is not mine, but the owners are on the other side of a small stream and don’t pay much attention. There’s an entirely dead tree that will fall in those woods when it comes down, so we’re just leaving it. I took down a small tree on the edge of those woods a few years ago and left a stump of about 6 feet. If I were to do it again I’d leave a much higher snag. This spring I watched a hairy woodpecker rip its way down the rotting bark, eating bugs.

  7. Kathy kauffman says:

    We have ten acres on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Frequent nor’easters and an occasional lightening strike, as well as the increasingly high tides over the years have left some trees suffering. We have lost a few loblolly pine and oak. We try to leave them in place unless their eventual fall would create damage.
    Loved this interview!

  8. Maureen May says:

    I love this article and your emphasis on putting value in dead and dying trees as well as live ones. I do not at present have any dead or dying trees in my yard but will leave them if I do.

  9. Suzanne Godec says:

    I have MANY snags on my 11 acre property in the Catskills. I initially viewed them as an eyesore but lately I’ve appreciated their tremendous contribution to the ecosystem.

  10. Heide says:

    We had a young white pine tree toppled by strong winds. We had it sawn into segments and left on the ground. Is that beneficial to anybody?
    Another, older white pine had woodpecker visitors and leans over our driveway. Should we have it
    taken down?
    A tall ash has finally died this year and has no leaves. It also has been visited by woodpeckers. Birds like to sit on it. It doesn’t look nice in our front yard but your article keeps me from taking it down. Should we wait until it falls by itself which might take many years? Or leave a few feet of trunk ?

  11. Lin says:

    I love trees, and it hurts me when I see them cut down just for lawn beautification or other flimsy reasons.
    This is a great article , very informative!
    Your columns feature the best authorities on so many diverse gardening related topics, Margaret!

  12. Cheryl Ott says:

    Living in the woods I have trees in every stage of life. Even a snag I see from my back window. This interview was extremely informative. I never heard of arborist’s wood chips but I will look into them and will plan to use them here. And the idea of making a chicken wire circle with tree seeds scattered inside and covering with leaves is brilliant! I will be doing that in my yard as I attempt to shrink my lawn. I learned a lot. Thank you both!

  13. Frances Boninti says:

    Loved Mr. Camu’s interview and I’ve been lucky enough to have an arborist that has the same philosophy….

  14. Diane Engles says:

    I am in a new landscape so no. However, I would consider hiding a log behind my decorative fence to benefit wildlife. My HOA would probably object to a snag.

  15. Linda Seidel says:

    This is an amazing interview. When we bought our older house on a creek in an urban setting, a friend gave me 5 Bur Oak saplings. The trees are native to our area of Texas. I planted them all in 2012, and they are now mostly 15 feet tall. The creek has overflowed its banks many times, especially when they were young. We just stood them back up when the water went down. Now when it floods, they are large enough to hold their own. Old trees that came with the property have only been removed when they were a hazard. We are lucky to have Bois d’ Arc trees, so tall that there is no way to prune their dead limbs so high up. We just let them fall as there is no way an arborist can even get to them. I am so inspired by your interview to let the trees we have live their life and their death on this property, provided there is no danger to a structure or person.
    I can’t wait to read your book. Thank you.
    Linda

  16. Deborah Banks says:

    Yes. We live in the northern Catskills and own 215 acres of woods and fields. We do not clear the dead trees. Currently a friend is using his team of horses to log our biggest ash trees (since they have EAB and are dying). We asked him to leave the tops and branches where they fall. Neighbors may come to cut firewood, and the rest will remain on the ground. In addition to the benefit for wildlife, it may help young seedlings to survive the over-grazing by deer.

  17. Gail Russell says:

    Love this interview. We just went through a big storm here in southwest Missouri. We lost 4 big trees in our front yard and two in the back garden. One of them was a Catalpa that is my favorite, it’s easily 4 feet through the center. I want to cut off the branches and sit it back up. Much opposition to that, but we will see :).

  18. Susan says:

    Oh yes, I have numerous standing dead/dying black locust with so many cavities they are bird condominiums. And 2 large white pine logs decaying on the ground. And they do not detract from the appeal of my garden but enhance precisely because of birds, critters, and insects that inhabit them.
    Excellent info!

  19. Janet D Carmichael says:

    I found this interview to be very helpful. We have left a stump in our yard on purpose, but my husband says it is not tall enough at only about 10 feet. Even so, it is home for various wildlife and has been a perch for a hawk trying to figure out how to catch are one big koi!
    Last year, we covered a patch of lawn in our backyard, and piled on wood chips. Now, we are in a 2nd year with native perennials. It has been a fascinating journey. We have two side lots of mixed oak and hickory, so we are very interested in Mr. Camu’s book. Thanks for all the info!!

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