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Common Tree Myths for Homeowners in Toronto

Think you know your trees? Many homeowners are familiar with the sight of their home’s trees but know little about them and how to care for them. Homeowner tree myths are rampant! We break down some of the most common homeowner tree care myths we hear from Toronto residents.

Trees Don’t Need Maintenance

 You only need to do anything with your tree if there’s something obviously wrong, right? Not exactly. It may seem unnecessary, but regular pruning every couple years helps keep trees healthy and thriving. 

Treatments such as fertilizing also help keep your trees looking good. Trees in the city can be deficient in nutrients they’d get in the wild from other plants and decomposing plant matter, so fertilizing helps restore these nutrients. There are many issues that can affect tree health throughout their life cycle.

I Can Do What I Want With a Tree on My Property

One of the biggest myths about homeowner tree care is that people can do whatever they like with trees on their property. In fact, many of the trees Toronto homeowners think of as “their” trees aren’t theirs at all – they’re city property on the municipal road allowance. That means the city is responsible for maintenance, planting, and removal. Unless you have a very deep front yard, it’s very likely that trees in front of your house are “street trees” that are the city’s responsibility. Ontario sets standards for municipal road allowances throughout the province, so check your municipal guideline if you live elsewhere in the GTA.

For other trees, homeowners aren’t just allowed to cut down a tree because they feel like it. The city has to approve a removal and issue a permit with good reason.This can include trees that are dying, diseased, or invasive species, and trees that are in the way of planned construction (where unavoidable. In each case, Toronto homeowners are required to plant a new tree on the property or pay a replacement fee.

If Your Tree Looks Healthy, It’s Fine

It can be hard for the average person to spot an issue with a tree. Part of this is obvious: if it’s a big tree, most of us literally can’t see that much of it without climbing up or another way to view the upper branches and canopy of a tree. What looks fine from the ground may conceal browning leaves and uneven growth high up.

Most homeowners also aren’t specialists at examining trees. Arborists are experts in spotting and diagnosing tree conditions. We can see potential issues like dead or dying branches, uneven growth patterns, root or pest damage.

Regular pruning helps get expert eyes on your tree and can help you catch any other issues early.

If Your Tree Looks Unhealthy, It Needs to Be Cut Down

Not always true! This is one of the biggest myths in tree care. Our goal is to ensure tree health and prescribe maintenance when possible. A qualified arborist can assess an unhealthy-looking tree and recommend the best course of action. A tree may need pruning to remove unhealthy or hazardous branches or encourage new growth. 

Diagnosing a fungal or insect infestation can allow arborists to treat a tree and nurse it back to health. In some cases, adding cabling or bracing can give enough support to a tree to preserve it. And sometimes, fertilizing or soil testing prior to treatment can help determine if a tree is lacking in nutrients and provide improved soil quality to bring it back to health. 

When removal is necessary for health, safety, construction or other reasons it should go ahead – but there may be other options to save it.

Tall trees on a Toronto street ready for tree fertilizer

Your Tree Is “Too Tall”

Tall trees aren’t necessarily unsafe. The bigger issue is usually that the trees needed maintenance pruning to ensure proper growth, or they were too aggressively pruned resulting in a stretching, heavy top with pockets of rot up the trunk. Since trees do not heal their wounds like us, every time they are cut is an opportunity to introduce rot or structural defects that can have a long term impact on the health and safety of the tree.

Trees know how to grow on their own terms – there isn’t a point at which they turn into a giant precarious Jenga tower. Different tree species have different ranges of growth, and many Ontario trees can grow quite tall. However, this is most likely for older trees, as newly-planted trees in urban areas don’t typically grow as high as trees that were planted before an area became built up. Tall old growth trees contribute greatly to beauty and air quality in our urban neighbourhoods.

If a tree is healthy and well-maintained, its height should never be a problem. If, however, branches are breaking off or the tree shows signs of dying off, then your tall tree could have a problem – just like with a short tree. 

Whatever your tree’s height is, that’s when it’s time to call an arborist!

Your Neighbour’s Tree Is Causing Problems and You’re Stuck With It

Complaints about neighbours’ trees – like all sorts of complaints about neighbours – are common. In most cases, you have the ability to prune any branches of your neighbour’s tree that are overhanging your own property, as long as it won’t cause structural damage to the tree. That’s where an arborist comes in! However, it’s best to keep things neighbourly and see if your neighbour wants to handle having the tree pruned themselves, or if not, to at least have them on board with you hiring someone to prune the part overhanging your yard.

However, if the problem is leaves, fruit, acorns, needles, et cetera, shedding from high-up branches overhanging your neighbour’s yard….we’re afraid you’re out of luck. Acorns aren’t required to respect property lines. There are lots of good deals on rakes and brooms at this time of year!

Home Insurance Covers Tree Maintenance

For most homeowners, you’ll be paying the cost of tree care directly. The exception may be in an emergency event, such as a tree breaking during a storm, a branch collapsing on your house, etc. In these cases, normally you’ll contact both an arborist and your insurance company and submit a quote for review. Arborists don’t bill directly through insurance companies.

Home insurance doesn’t typically cover things like pruning, planting, or removal of healthy or at-risk but not imminently dangerous trees. That’s why we understand that tree care can be a big decision and expenditure for homeowners!

Homeowner Tree Truths

One big truth is that it pays off having a good arborist! We keep your property looking good, keep your trees healthy, and are there if it’s time for one to go (or if adverse weather makes that decision). Looking for a reliable arborist to be in your home contractor roster? Talk to us at Vista Tree.

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Cheryl Cooke
James responded quickly to my request for a quote and he and his crew did an extremely professional job with perfect cleanup. I would recommend these guys in a heartbeat. James is an excellent communicator and a pleasure to work with. Thanks for giving my garden a great jump on Spring.
Lawrence Tavers
James and Michael have been the best arborists I’ve ever dealt with. First off, they were friendly and professional. They didn’t just throw out a number, they went through the job and what needed to be done and what didn’t and gave me a reasonable price. On the day, the crew came and did a fantastic job. It was a hard one but they made it look easy. And the clean up was perfect, my yard looked better than it did before they came. They’re my go to from now on.
Johnathan Melnick
I got two trees removed for a renovation project, and vista was on it right from the start. Report came through right away, permits right after but then due to some cost over runs I had to delay for 4 months and hold off on the removals until last month. Trees came down so well, crew was really professional. They left the site looking CLEAN and thats saying a lot as it had a lot of builder garbage around .stump grinding happened right away. James and Mike went above and beyond to manage this and help me out when the unexpected happened. Definitely recommend.
Ronald Romick
Very professional work. We are very satisfied with the quality of the work done. We would recommend Vista 100 percent. Great quality, performance and professional.
John Rydzkowski
I had James and his crew cut down and remove my 40'+ blue spruce before the wind blew it over. There was an urgency in getting the work done and they were there for me. They were very professional, worked safely and cleaned up when they were finished. They also showed me proof of insurance and WSIB which is very important as a home owner. I'm happy to recommend them to anyone. Thanks 😊
Marlee Pinsker
Vista Tree Management came to our house and did a wonderful job helping to protect the roof from squirrel damage. James walked around the perimeter of the house with me and pointed out every tree branch that might possibly be the instrument of a squirrel finding its way to the roof. He then set up a time, came over promptly, and in short time cut down many tree limbs and branches. He consulted with me about whether anything else needed to be done, and when I pointed out one last branch, he cut it down. I feel I have finally found a tree service which has the knowledge and expertise to help with my property. My husband and I are more than satisfied! The staff at Vista Tree Management were so very helpful.
Kristian Alexander Kennedy
We had the pleasure of working with Vista recently and we could not have asked for better service. We have a small apple tree and hedge in our front yard that we wanted pruned. As part of the quote, we had also requested that some time be spent with us as the pruning occurred so that we could learn how to properly care for our garden going forward. James was prompt, responsive and incredibly thorough. He completed the tasks exactly as we had discussed and as was quoted. He was patient and spent lots of time teaching us the various pruning methods that he was utilizing. Not only does he have excellent attention to detail while pruning, but he also takes great care in cleaning up all the plant debris once he was finished the job. We can’t thank him enough for the excellent service provided. We will be sure to reach out to Vista for all of our future pruning/landscaping needs. Thanks James.
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