Tree Thinning Basics – What You Need to Know

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In Northeast Ohio, trees and forests are abundant. For many of us, we buy a property that has acres of woods or an orchard. When this is the case, it’s important to understand the process of thinning and its purpose. With the assistance of tree trimming companies in the Kirtland Hills area, like Vancuren Tree Service, you can maintain your beautiful and lush woods with ease.

Thinning means removing smaller and weaker trees to allow other trees in your forest or crop to grow larger and easier. You’re basically choosing your most valuable trees and giving them an advantage. If there are too many trees, they will compete with each other for sunlight, water, and nutrients. This will cause valuable trees to grow at a slower rate because a plot of land can only support so many. Therefore, if you take out smaller or unhealthy trees, you have less trees but those that you keep are much stronger and desirable.

While the process of thinning does occur naturally, it can take upwards of 100 years. Doing so intentionally can speed this process up. It also helps to shape the forest and guide growth in the way you want.

While trees need nutrients from the soil, water, and light, the only thing you can intentionally control is the light a tree receives. So when a forest gets too dense, you can “poke some holes” in the canopy, so to speak, by taking down competing trees. This is the same idea as weeding a garden to protect your tomatoes and cucumbers.

It can also improve the health of your forest by allowing more diverse species to grow. It also helps to increase wildlife and reduces material that can cause wildfires. Additionally, it helps the forest look more attractive. This is a crucial step if you use a forest to produce commercial timber.

Another reason to consider thinning is overgrown forests are at greater risk for causing wildfires or disease and pest infestations.

Be careful though. If you do not thin the right way or at the right time, this process can cause some harm. While you do want to remove small trees to help others grow, removing too many trees will allow too much light in, which will cause heavy branches and knots, thus reducing the quality of the wood and its potential uses.

What is the process?

  • Talk to a forester or tree company. They will be able to help you determine what needs to be done and how much of your forest needs thinned. They can also carry out the actual procedure for you.
  • Check your trees to see how many are on each acre, the species, diameter, height, age, and condition of the trees. Also check for signs of stress, insect issues, and deformities.
  • Check to see if any areas of the land have fragile or sensitive soil, or slopes and hills that could make it harder to access some trees. This is especially important if you live in a coastal area, a place with high ridges, or somewhere very windy.
  • Understand why you want to thin your forest. Is it because you want to create a better habitat for wildlife? Do you plan to raise cattle or livestock? Do you want to encourage or protect the growth of specific trees? Are you growing trees for commercial purposes? Whatever your reason is, this will determine which trees you remove and which trees you protect.
  • Choose which trees to keep. Typically, you will want to keep larger and taller trees that are straight and healthy. Remove those that are smaller, invasive, crooked, damaged, or sick.
  • Space accordingly. Trees should have about 10 to 15 feet between them
  • Who will do it? Decide whether you want to thin yourself or if you want a professional to do it.

There are many different methods you can use to carry out thinning. You can use chemical tree killers, mechanical tools like axes, machetes or shears for smaller trees, or a chainsaw for larger trees. Very large trees will require special equipment to remove.

When is the right time to thin? Typically when trees average 2 to 10 inches in diameter at breast height (4.5 feet above ground) and are 10 to 20 feet in height. This is because at this size, the trees that are left will grow rapidly because of the increase in space, light, and nutrients. It is not recommended to do this in the spring or early summer because this is when bark is most susceptible to damage. Trees that are scraped or damaged will be vulnerable to rot and insects during the hot months of spring and summer.

Remember to disturb the keeper trees and their soil as little as possible.

After you have removed undesirable trees, make sure to remove stumps as well because they can attract insects. For some species, trees can actually sprout from the stumps.

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You can remove tree remains in a couple different ways. The first is to decide what to do with slash. Slash refers to the left over logs, branches, and leaves. You can lop and scatter it or leave it. Lopping and scattering means cutting up the slash and distributing it evenly so it decomposes and restores nutrients to the soil more evenly. Leaving it behind is good for the soil because it will decompose and return nutrients to the soil. However, it can add fuel to wildfires, and get in the way of you, livestock, or wildlife. You can also burn the slash. The resulting ash can be good for the soil and encourage growth. However, you do need permits and the knowledge of how to do so first.

Thinning can be a very beneficial practice for your trees and forests. This is a daunting task but with the help of Kirtland Hills tree trimming companies like Vancuren Tree Service, this process can be made easier so you can have healthy trees and forests all over your property.

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  • VanCuren Services has been our “go-to” clearing contractor since 2009, tackling both residential and commercial projects across Northeast Ohio.  Most notable project include ODOT Innerbelt Bridge, Cleveland Medical Mart and the NEORSD Superior Stones project.  Dave and his crews are experienced professionals and perform each project with safety as a top priority. I can recommend them with confidence.

    - Vic DiGeronimo, Jr.( Independence Excavating, Inc. Commercial Tree Removal (May 2017) )
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  • I had a lot of tree trimming done and removals and I barely noticed the crew was at our house. They did their work quickly without interfering and cleaned up very nicely.

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    - Paul( Bainbridge, Ohio Tree Removal April 2017 )