The trees that grace the outdoor spaces of most New Jersey HOAs provide more than just shade. Besides being integral parts of the landscape design, they enhance the community's overall aesthetic, which in turn increases value. Keeping your trees healthy and attractive is an important component of any association's grounds-keeping program—so what happens if your lovely spring-flowering pear trees have lost branches over a harsh winter? What do you do when those once-trim blue spruces are suddenly looking scraggly and unkempt? Ailing trees devalue a community, both by transmitting a negative message to residents and by eroding the community's curb appeal to prospective buyers.
Too Close for Comfort
Any number of ailments and accidents can befall trees in our area, but there are a few common problems that arborists and other tree care professionals see over and over again. The main culprits are improper placement and improper maintenance.
One way that trees can be damaged is when they are planted to close to condo foundations. “It’s horrendous, especially in multifamily, multi-home communities where there is a limited amount of planting space,” says Sam deTuro, chairman and founder of Woodwinds Associates, Inc. in Princeton. In many communities, deTuro continues, “Trees are planted too close to one another and too close to the structures, whether it be the buildings the sidewalks or the streets. It's the wrong tree in the wrong location.”
Badly placed trees cause trouble in several ways—their branches can interfere with power lines, or grow to obscure windows. Their falling leaves or seed pods may occlude gutters, drains, and ventilation elements. Invasive root systems can buckle sidewalks, and even in some cases work their way through foundations, wreaking structural havoc and costing thousands to repair. Trees planted too closely together can become tangled and entwined with each other, blocking out sunlight to other ground-dwelling plants and creating a maintenance headache when it comes to maintenance.
There are a number of ways that closely-packed trees can be dealt with, says deTuro. The easiest solution, he says, is “to continually prune the tree, which is often the very easy fix.” Another method that involves slowing or stopping expansion is the application of plant growth regulators, which must be used every three years or so. “Growth regulators can be successfully used if you can catch the tree before if outgrows the location,” deTuro says, “whether it be too close to a building or power line.” The most radical solution involves “Cutting down the [offending] tree down and putting in the right tree” whose roots won’t invade nearby structures, he says.