Category Archives: Tips

A Spot in the Shade: Summer Shade Trees

Summer is just around the corner  in Westchester County!  The summer months can surely bring unbearable heat at times which cause so many to run to their air conditioned houses. Let’s look at a way to escape the summer heat while still enjoying some fresh air. We waited all winter to get outside so let’s not lock ourselves back up indoors! An obvious escape from the high sun is to find a shady spot. When thinking about your landscape design, it is a good idea to incorporate some Shade Trees. Typically these are deciduous trees that produce a thick leaf coverage in the warmer months of summer then shed their leaves upon the arrival of the cooler seasons.

Let’s take a look at some of the shade trees that can help to offer a “cool spot in the shade” and also improve the overall appearance of your landscape design. This is definitely something to think about as you are designing the layout on your property. Maybe some of these trees are already on your property and now you can see them in a new light!

Weeping Willow Tree
Besides their obvious charm and elegance, Weeping Willows also serve as a fortress from the blazing sun during the summer months!  The weeping willow is a medium to large-sized deciduous tree that has the potential to grow up to 60 feet tall. They tend to grow rapidly, but unfortunately have a short lifespan. The beautiful shoots are a yellowish-brown, with very small buds. The leaves are patterned and spirally arranged. They are light green, with finely serrate margins and long tips. A cool summer breeze tends to animate these gorgeous trees and they are a very sought after addition to any landscape design!

White Birch
The White Birch Tree, also known as the European birch, can grow up to be 30 to 60 feet tall and features “drooping” branches. These trees have smaller leaves that offer a nice diffused shade.  Birch trees in general are tolerant of most soil and climate conditions. They do, however, like moisture during the dryer summer months. Birch trees grow very fast, which is a plus if you are planning a new layout design while the peeling white bark can stand out in a landscape.

Silver Maple
The Silver Maple is the fastest growing of the Maple trees.  Its branches spread out, producing a gorgeous canopy in the hot summer months! They can grow in upwards to 80ft and have a “wingspan” of up to 40ft! It is a very adaptable tree but it does require the most sunlight out of all the maples. The leaves are simple and palmately veined with deep angular notches between the five lobes. These trees are often planted for ornamental purposes because of their rapid growth and ease of propagation and transplanting. They are highly tolerant of urban situations and are frequently planted next to streets.

So get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather that mother nature is serving up! Plan a picnic or grab your favorite book and find your spot in the shade under your shade tree of choice! Plus, by turning off the air conditioners we are saving money and energy which helps reduce your carbon footprint. Enjoy your summer!

10 Considerations When Planting a Tree That You May Not Have Thought Of

Trees serve a number of obvious purposes in the landscape such as creating shade, blocking wind, reducing noise, defining boundaries, and focal points are just a few.

Deciding where to plant a tree goes beyond just creating a beautiful design. There are many other factors an arborist will take into consideration when making the best possible recommendations the types of trees to plant and how to maintain them for many years to come.

Here are 10 things to consider when you are deciding what and where to plant trees on your property to save you time and money.

Play Areas

You may want shade over designated play areas or sand boxes on your property to provide protection from the afternoon sun. However, you also may want to consider the mess that birds and other critters can cause if the canopy extends over the area.

One solution to this is to map out the line of the sun during the day and place trees strategically in the path, but a distance away from the play area. This will provide the needed shade, but also keep the area clean.


Keeping a pool clean can be hard enough without a tree hanging over it. And while most pools are built in sunny locations, you may want your pool to be in a spot where you can relax out of the sun.

Unlike play areas, you may not want to shade the entire pool area. In this case, do not plant trees in the direct line of the sun. You can plant your tree on one side or the other to create a shady spot. Evergreen types are a great option to plant around pools.

Footings and Foundations

Be sure that roots will not grow and seek water too close to concrete, footings, or foundations.
Roots can become very powerful and break foundations, sidewalks, paths, or walls. This can be a costly mistake.

Power Lines

Be sure you check what’s overhead. A tree that grows into power lines can wreak havoc for you and your neighbors!

Property Lines

Be aware of property lines and easements. This one can make enemies out of neighbors.

Underground Utilities, Sewers, and Septic Tanks

Not only can roots grow and break pipes or lines, you also want to plant your tree in a place where it won’t have to be moved should you need to replace or repair these lines. Locate these lines and plant away from to avoid any problems in the future.


Keep in mind the size of the tree. As a tree matures and reaches its full size, it should be in proportion to the size of your home. Small trees can look out of place next to a large home and large trees next to a small home can be overpowering.

Hiding or framing a home

You’ll want to consider whether you are looking to accent your home or hide it from neighbors or the street. This will help you decide upon the size and type of the tree you choose to plant.

Parking Areas

Like the play area, parking areas give birds and other critters to make a mess! Take a look at the areas the canopy will cover if this is a concern for you.


Trees will need to be cared for to maintain optimal health. This can include pruning, watering, and pest and disease prevention. An arborist can help you keep trees healthy, full, and strong so you can minimize your risk of damage and keep your property safe and enjoyable.

If you’d prefer to consult an arborist, we’d be happy to help you. Give us a call at 914-238-0069 and we’ll assist you in recommending the best locations to plant trees in your yard and how best to maintain them.

3 Simple Tricks to Make Fall Cleanup Easier

It’s a beautiful time in New England where the trees give us a stunning show and the leaves change from a bright green to shades of red, orange, and yellow.

The views are spectacular, but after a week or two, they now cover your lawn! A covering of leaves can suffocate your lawn, causing mold and fungus to grow.

Here are 3 simple tricks to help the Fall cleanup go smoother:

1) Use a tarp.

Instead of picking up many piles of leaves and breaking your back, lay a large tarp down and rake or blow the leaves onto the tarp. Not only can you easily drag the tarp to the place you will keep your leaf piles (see the next tip!), you can make less trips depending upon the size of the tarp.

2) Mulch instead of rake.

The best way to do this is to first shred the leaves with a mower or compost shredder. This also saves your back from raking!

Begin a compost pile with the mulched leaves. You can simply pile up shredded leaves or build a small fenced in area to store the clippings. Over time, the mulch pile will turn into a nutrient rich soil to use in the garden.

3) Enlist the help of the family.

Children can help with the raking, especially when creating a pile of leaves to jump in (minus the sticks, of course). Make the Fall clean up a fun family activity and end the day with a cup of hot chocolate, blankets, and a movie.

If you don’t have the time, tools, or energy, to clean up your lawn, we’re happy to help! Call us at (914) 238-0069 to schedule a visit.

How to Attract Butterflies to your Yard

With the return of warm weather we are starting to see a familiar and welcoming sight. Little splashes of color that flutter by and add vibrancy to our landscapes. Indeed, the butterflies have returned. Every time we see one of these beautiful specimens we can’t help but smile and feel content for the few moments we share with their presence. So how do we attract more and more butterflies to our yards? Let’s take a look at some key elements.

Naturally, if you were to sit and wait for them you would eventually see one or two. However, if you know what they are looking for and provide the proper trees, flowers, and shrubs for them, you will have your own butterfly sanctuary to enjoy!  For starters, it’s best to start with a variety of flowering/fruit trees and shrubs to attract butterflies to your garden. It is recommended that you choose a mixture of both rapid bloomers and varieties that have a longer bloom time. With the addition of these types of plants you will start to see American ladies, silvery blues, zebra swallowtails, Compton tortoiseshells, and northern pearly eyes . . .just to name a few.

The eastern red-bud tends to bloom in early spring and is one of the earliest bloomers. This leads to the attraction of such specimens as the silvery blue, zebra swallowtails and dreamy duskywings. This would be a great addition to any landscape to help kick off the welcoming of the butterflies. Plus you are helping the environment because its nectar and pollen attract butterflies necessary for healthy orchards and vegetable gardens.

It is very important to know what these beautiful creatures are looking for in order to create an inspiring butterfly sanctuary in your yard. The majestic flutter-bys instill a joy and peacefulness to our everyday. It is a very simple process and takes minimal work to give these beauties what they are looking for . . .and well worth the effort!


How Trees Are Damaged During Construction

Winter is the perfect time to begin planning your upcoming spring projects and renovations.  If you are considering tackling a construction project near your home or residence, try to keep the surrounding trees in mind to avoid potential damage.  Here are a few ways trees are damaged during construction.


Do you have tree care questions? Call Westchester Tree Life!

Trunk and Crown Injury


Westchester Tree Life serves all of Westchester county.

Did you know construction equipment can injure the portion of your trees which sit above ground?  Branch breakage, wounds to the trunk and tearing of the tree bark are all ways your tree can become injured during a construction project.  To avoid permanent or fatal injuries to your tree, ask your team to be mindful of their equipment, or mark a barrier.

Root Damage


This diagram helps to explain how nutrients move through a tree’s system, beginning with the root system.

Construction which is tearing up ground or affecting the ground can potentially damage your tree’s roots!  Your tree’s root system is vital, as it absorbs water and minerals from the soil and sends them up the trunk to nourish the tree.  When planning construction, try to cut as far away from the tree as possible; a good rule of thumb is to steer clear of working underneath the tree’s crown.  

Did You Know:  Damage to a tree’s roots can affect its ability to stand upright during storms, causing potential danger and property damage.

Soil Compaction


Soil that has not been compacted vs. compacted soil via Mother Earth News

Be aware that heavy construction equipment can cause soil compaction.  This reduces pore space which is necessary for water and air movement.  Soil compaction can halt root growth, limit water absorption and penetration and decrease oxygen.

For more information on how trees are damaged during construction, check this guide from Trees Are Good.

3 Signs a Tree Is Dying

Knowing how to properly care for the trees on your property is key when maintaining a safe environment.  A dying tree is a danger to the surrounding buildings, power lines, pedestrians and more; knowing how to spot a dying tree easily can save you from damages.  Here are 3 signs a tree is dying.

Trunk Damage


When assessing the health of your tree, start at the trunk!  If the damage to a tree’s trunk is sufficient enough, it compromises the future of the tree.  Look for any cracks in the trunk and check the bark; a lack of bark may be a tell-tale sign that your tree is not so healthy.  Though it is normal for a tree’s bark to fall off as it ages, it’s not a good sign if the bark won’t grow back.

Damaged Roots


Tree roots can cause thousands of dollars in damage to sewer lines. Prevent plumbing problems by following these tree-planting tips.
via Popular Mechanics

A healthy root system is essential for tree healthy.  The roots are where water and nutrients are absorbed and distributed throughout the tree.  If your tree’s roots aren’t visible, call Westchester Tree Life to assist in your tree care evaluation; we can help spot damage properly.


A leaning tree; via CBS New York

Is your tree leaning?  A noticeable lean can be a sign of serious root damage.  Leaning trees are a damage to their surroundings, especially during the stress of winter storms.  As ice bears down and wind pushes, the tree can give way and land on a nearby home, business, car or person.

Bare Branches


If you are concerned a tree on your property is dying, check it’s branches come springtime.  A tree which is not producing leaves is a warning sign.  If you notice that only one side of your tree has dead or dying branches, you may want to have a professional arborist come to check for serious trunk and root damage.

 If you are concerned a tree on your property is dead or dying, call a professional arborist from Westchester Tree Life today at (914) 238-0069.  You can also request a consultation using our online form here.

Managing Tree Hazards and Risks

Trees are tremendously beneficial to both residential and commercial environments, though they can become a hazard over time.  As trees age, they are more likely to drop branches, cause root conflicts and more.  Today we’re sharing our best tips on managing tree hazards and risks.

Tree Hazards

NDSU Agriculture - North Dakota State University

NDSU Agriculture – North Dakota State University

Tree hazards increase during wintertime in Westchester county.  The combination of strong winds and harsh winter storms can weaken branches, causing them to fall.  The key to preventing tree hazards is ensuring that your trees have been properly assessed by professional arborists, such as Westchester Tree Life.

Preventing Tree Hazards and Risks


A PSE&G worker examines the powerline damage caused by a fallen tree; via

There are many ways to prevent tree hazards and risks.  Trees which are too close to your home or a power line may pose a threat to your property.  If your tree is infringing too closely on a power line or house, ask an arborist whether removing the tree would be the best solution.


via Pacific Gas and Electric Company

It’s important to remember the importance of pruning!  Pruning your trees removes dangerous and defective branches, which can cause potential damage.  Leave the pruning to a professional arborist to ensure the process is executed properly.

Other solutions for managing tree hazards and risks include cabling and providing routine care.  Cabling and bracing a tree is an effective means of providing support for weak branches and stems.  A routine plant health care plan is important to maintaining a healthy tree, which in turn, ensures a hazard-free tree!

Sapsucker Injury on Trees in Westchester

It seems that in recent years we’ve noticed a definite increase in sapsucker damage in suburban landscape settings.  Almost every property I visit seems to have varying levels of sapsucker activity.  Today I’m going to share what to look for when identifying sapsucker injury on trees in Westchester.


Greg Schneider Photography

Sapsucker Migration

The sapsucker (Sphyrapicus Varius), is a migratory bird and is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918. Since they are migratory, most of the damage they do to trees occur between the months of April and early October, in the Westchester area.

The Sapsucker’s Diet


via Larkwire

As their name implies, the sapsucker’s diet is primarily comprised of tree sap, though they do eat insects as well.  There are more than 250 known woody plants that sapsuckers feed on; some common species are Sugar maples, Norway spruce, White pine birch and Holly.  Sapsucker damage can be found both on branches and trunks of trees, which can cause a die back on affected limbs, as well as overall poor tree health.  Tree damage from sapsuckers can range from light to severe. 

You can hear the sound of the sapsucker drumming (or pecking) up to 600 feet away on a calm day.  This noise is a pattern of quick repetitive beats followed by a series of slower tapping.

Identifying Tree Damage



Sapsuckers make neat evenly-spaced holes in horizontal lines that start off about 1/4 inch in diameter and are expanded as the sap sucker revisited the holes to feed.  They can make as few as one or two lines or several depending on their preference for the sap they feed on; this can often resemble a grid like pattern.  Holes from the sapsucker’s feeding may be round or rectangular.  Damaged areas can have excessive sap flow, resulting in black staining which occurs due to the colonization of sooty mold.

Management and Control

Physical barriers are an effective way to manage and control sapsucker injury on your trees.  Various materials may be used such as burlap or a special tree tape which can be placed over the areas of recent sapsucker damage to deter further feeding.  

Visual deterrents such as strips of reflective tape or metal spiral strips which twirl in the breeze create a negative stimuli for the bird.  Predator decoys such as fake owls scare sapsuckers off as well; small metal wind chimes are effective as well.

BirdXPeller Pro

BirdXPeller Pro via

Sound deterrents or noise makers are effective in staving off sapsuckers too.  BirdXPeller Pro by Bird X is an electric distress call system, which features motion sensors to scare the bird.

Westchester Tree Life is here to assist in monitoring, evaluating and helping to manage the threat of sapsuckers to your valuable trees and woody plants.  If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to call us at (914) 238-0069!

Branch Breakage

 Start the new year on a safe note!  Winter weather is here and that means it’s the season for branch breakage.  Branch breakage happens during winter storms and can cause potential property damage.  Stay safe with Westchester Tree Life!


Branch Breakage:  Understanding the Problem

Westchester’s winter storms can be abrasive.  Minimize property damage and ensure your property is safe by taking the time to check your tree branches on a clear day.  If you need help identifying branches which are susceptible to breaking, our professional arborists are more than happy to help.


If you have deciduous trees planted on your property, take note that their wood hardens during the winter, making branches more apt to snap.  Once ice and snow accumulate, the branches are further weighed down, causing potential branch breakage risks.  Evergreen trees are also prone to branch breakage due to snow and ice accumulation.

Minimizing Branch Breakage

Routine tree maintenance is the best way to minimize tree branch breakage.  Our tree care professionals offer concise plant health care plans tailored to the specific needs of your trees, plants and shrubs.  Year-round tree maintenance is essential in protecting and preserving your trees, plants and shrubs.


Prepare for next year by scheduling your tree maintenance, especially for fall 2017.  Good fall tree maintenance is key; this is when we prune weak and vulnerable branches.  Do you have a question or concern?  Request a consultation with one of Westchester Tree Life’s arborists with our easy-to-use online form here

Hardiness Zone FAQ

Easily determine what plants, shrubs and trees grow best in your area by knowing your hardiness zone!  Hardiness zones are defined by conditions such as minimum temperatures, and determine which specific category of plant life is capable of growing and thriving there.

What are Hardiness Zones?


The United States and Canada are divided into 11 plant hardiness zones based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in the average annual minimum temperature.

How Do I Determine My Hardiness Zone?

The United States Department of Agriculture has a map which can assist you in determining your hardiness zone.  View the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map here.

What Does “Suitable Hardiness” Mean?


Suitable hardiness means a plant which can be expected to grow in the zone’s temperature extremes; this is determined by the lowest average annual temperature. (via

Are There Other Factors That Affect Plant Survival Aside From Hardiness Zone Limitations?


Yes!  Soil moisture, humidity, the number of days of frost and risk evaluation such as the probability of a severe low temperature should all be taken into account.


For more information, read our blog, “Hardiness Zones” here.  For assistance in determining the best plant health care for your garden or landscape, request a consultation from Westchester Tree Life here.