During the drier months when many home construction projects typically get underway, we get a lot of calls from property owners looking to protect their trees.
From heavy equipment being driven over roots, construction teams walking all over the property and a variety of machines coming through the yard, doing a remodel or taking on a large outdoor project can be stressful on your trees and the land.
This heavy foot-traffic and machinery can leave the soil compacted and cause it to lack the proper aeration and nutrients needed to help trees and plants survive.
In addition, construction trucks can break tree branches and damage bark, root zones may end up cut in half to dig trenches or basements, and trees that are in the way, often get uprooted. Other trees may end up too close a new home's foundation.
Cutting into a tree's roots, compacting the soil over roots, or changing the ground level around a tree during construction are three of the most common causes of tree damage or death.
The most effective way to save trees during construction is to plan additions, driveways, utility lines and other features outside the root zone of trees that you want to save. This means keeping a tree the distance of about half its mature canopy from any structure.
To minimize damage from construction equipment, build temporary fence or barricades around trees that you want to save, so that workers will know to steer clear of them.
Having an arborist as part of the planning process on any outdoor facelift, rebuild or fresh build can really benefit the property.
An arborist can help save the trees and plants that are already in place and make the right decisions when picking new trees to plant. They can help determine if a tree should be relocated, removed or left in place or are protected under local ordinances.
When planning a new landscape, matching the plants and trees with the property's unique environmental conditions is one part of the bigger picture. The other part is thinking about the landscape's future growth potential. You must consider what the landscape will look like in 10, 20 or even 50 years from now.
Before you make any purchases or start digging and planting, there are steps that should be taken for proper planning and to ensure your landscape is going to thrive:
• Research your hardiness zone to find the best plants and trees for your local conditions. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map uses temperatures, wind, humidity and precipitation to determine the best plant and tree options to thrive in an area. For Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, look for trees that will grow in Zones 9b and 10a.
• Do a soil test. Before planting anything, knowing your soil's current state and making proper adjustments can be the difference between a tree that survives and a tree that thrives. A soil test will tell you about the amount of nutrients in your soil, whether your soil is acidic or alkaline and how much fertilizer you'll need.
• Make sure you choose the right tree in the right place. You don't want to plant a tree that will become tall under the high voltage lines, or put a shade tree too close to your home.
• Choose the trees that will most benefit the property. This can be choices made for shade, low-maintenance, flowering, whatever is most important to you as the property owner.
Popular tree choices in Bay Area
Trees for shade
• Sycamore or London Plane tree
• Chinese elm
• Arbutus marina-Strawberry tree
• Silver Leaf Linden
• Brown Bracken Magnolia
• Drake Chinese Elm. This one is resistant to the various diseases and insects that elms often get and grows quickly into a nice size tree.
• Silver Leaf Linden. This one has a 'tear drop' form with an attractive leaf arrangement between green and silver leaves.
• Chinese Pistache. This one has a round canopy with vibrant red fall color.
Editor's note: Jeff Newborn is a local arborist at The Davey Tree Expert Company in Menlo Park, which serves communities on the Peninsula, including Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto and Redwood City. His "Ask your local arborist" column appears once a month on Embarcadero Media websites. Newborn can be reached at 866-923-5658.