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Is it safe to DIY tree felling and cutting?

Is it safe to DIY tree felling and cutting?

When it comes to DIY home and landscape improvements, there are some projects you can handle like a pro and others you should leave to a pro.

Painting a room? Go for it! Retiling a bathroom? Tricky, but you can master it, right? Planting a tree? Sure! But what about removing a tree?

Read on to find out if it’s ever safe and recommended to remove a tree on your own.

? Are there risks and dangers with DIY tree removal?

Rule of thumb: If you would have to use a ladder to reach and remove tree limbs, that tree is too big for you to remove safely.

If you were to get up on a ladder with a chainsaw, so many things could go wrong. You are putting yourself and your home at great risk. You could fall off the ladder, lose control or worse. And the tree limbs you’re cutting could fall on your home, go through a window, hit you, or even hit the ladder, knocking you off while holding a moving chainsaw. Falling tree limbs are large and completely unpredictable, which makes a dangerous combo.

While there are many landscape projects you can safely and easily DIY, tree removal is one that is not worth the money you save. If you hurt yourself, you’ll be slammed with medical bills, and if you damage your home, you’ll have to pay for those repairs, too. Plus, Davey arborists give tree removal estimates for free. They have the equipment, experience and insurance needed to do the job safely.

What if I pull up a tree or tree stump with my truck?

We’d recommend against it–especially if the tree you’re removing is close to your home or any nearby structures. It’s difficult to anticipate what direction the tree will fall, which could do serious damage. Whatever you save on tree removal will not outweigh the cost of repairing your truck or home.

Plus, trees can be incredibly heavy, much heavier than you’d think. An 80’ maple tree that’s two feet wide likely weighs more than 20,000 pounds or 10 tons. Most standard pickup trucks are designed with a towing capacity between 5,000 and 13,000 pounds. The stump alone could potentially exceed that limit.

If you attempt to uproot a large tree or stump that exceeds your truck’s abilities, the ropes or chains you’re using could break. Or you may even propel your truck off the ground. All of this has the potential to damage your truck.

The damage you could do to your truck or home just isn’t worth the “savings” of DIY tree removal.Click here to get a visual of all the elements that could go wrong.

Can I safely cut down a small tree? 

If the tree is small enough that you could remove it without climbing a ladder, it’s likely OK if you remove it yourself. If you have any doubts about whether it’s safe to remove the tree on your own, contact an arborist, and they’ll provide guidance.

If you’re ready, here’s how to do that safely:

  1. Water the day before you plan to remove so that the soil is easier to dig.
  2. Measure how many inches your tree trunk is. For every inch, plan to dig 6” deep to reach the entire root system. Using that depth, dig around the tree’s roots, which likely extend out to the outer edge of the tree’s canopy.
  3. Using leverage, wiggle the root ball out. If the roots are intact, you can transplant the tree. Or if you want to dispose of it, cut it up with a chainsaw. If you go that route, wear protective eyeglasses, earplugs and gloves.
Examples of Mulch

Examples of Mulch

Examples of Synthetic and Inorganic Mulches:

  • Black Plastic
  • Landscape Fabric
  • Stone/Gravel

Synthetic and inorganic mulches do a good job of holding moisture and blocking weeds. They don’t add any fertility to the soil, but on the other hand, they don’t decompose and require replacing as often as organic mulches.

Uses for Synthetic and Inorganic Mulches

If you like the functionality of plastic or landscape fabric, but not the look, you can always add a thin layer of bark mulch on top of the plastic or fabric for camouflage. However, as the bark decomposes, weed seeds will be able to take hold on top of the plastic or fabric. You will also need to replace the bark as it disintegrates. If you’re building raised beds, consider making them the width of your plastic or fabric so that you can cover the bed without seams.

Plastic and Landscape Fabric

Plastic and Landscape Fabric are good choices for around foundation plantings and other shrubs and trees. These plants don’t require frequent fertilization and, for the most part, you won’t be working in these beds regularly, so you don’t want to have to worry about weeding them throughout the summer.

However plastic gets very hot in the summer and besides smothering weed seeds, it can also kill all the good things in the soil, including plant roots, unless there is sufficient moisture.

Be sure to cut holes in the fabric to allow sufficient water to pass through. If you are seeing puddles accumulate on top of the plastic or fabric, you don’t have enough drainage. Landscape fabric is porous and shouldn’t be a problem unless it gets blocked.

Gravel and Stone

Gravel and Stone work well as mulches in areas that require good drainage or beds with plants that like a little additional heat, like Mediterranean herb gardens and rain gardens. Stone is hard to remove, so give it a lot of thought before using stone or gravel as a mulch.

Which mulch you choose depends on the function and aesthetic you are looking for. There are more and more choices each year, so review your options before you start spreading and choose a mulch that will please you and aid your garden for many years.


What is Mulch

What is Mulch

Mulch is any material that is spread or laid over the surface of the soil as a covering. It is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool, and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil’s fertility, as they decompose. Types of Organic Mulch

  • Bark, Shredded or Chipped
  • Compost
  • Composted Manure
  • Grass Clippings
  • Newspaper
  • Shredded Leaves
  • Straw

Organic mulch will decompose and have to be replaced, however in the process it will also improve your soil’s fertility and, of course, its organic content. The dryer and woodier the mulch, the slower it will decompose and the fewer nutrients it will give to the soil. It pays to know the origin of manure, compost, and straw since these materials can contain viable weed seeds. The last thing you want is to spread a mulch that is going to start sprouting and make more work for you. Each type of organic mulch has its own use. Bark Bark mulches are best used around trees, shrubs, and in garden beds where you won’t be doing a lot of digging, like front walkways and foundation plantings. These woody mulches don’t mix well into the soil, and it can become a hassle to have to keep moving them aside to make way for new plants. However, they will last longer than finer organic mulches. Compost Compost and composted manure can be used anywhere, as long as they are relatively well composted and weed free. You can use them as a coating of mulch or simply side dress plants with them during the growing season, to insulate and give a boost of slowly released nutrients. Grass Clippings Grass Clippings are a mixed bag and are best suited to remote areas of your garden where you want to suppress weeds. Grass clippings, like most green plant debris with a high water content, decompose very rapidly and in the process, they can get somewhat slimy, with an unpleasant odor, so use with discretion. Grass clippings also tend to mat down and not allow water to pass through. Ideally, you should use a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the lawn to add fertility to that soil. However, if you do bag your grass clippings, don’t throw them away unless you have used weed killer or some other herbicide or pesticide on your lawn. Synthetic lawn care products can be bad for some flowers, and you certainly don’t want to use them in your vegetable garden. But untreated grass clippings can either be dumped into your compost bin or used to mulch open, unplanted areas. Newspaper Newspaper as mulch is becoming more and more popular. Most newspapers have switched over to organic dyes, especially for their black & white sections. Shredded newspaper has been used for years to keep plant roots moist while shipping. Layered sheets of newspaper also have great moisture retention abilities, and they act like other organic mulches as far as suppressing weeds and controlling soil temperatures. They are also great for smothering existing grass, to jump start a new garden bed. To use as a mulch in the garden spread a layer of four to eight sheets of newspaperaround the plants. Moisten the sheets to keep them in place. On windy days it’s easier to moisten the sheets before you place them down. Cover the newspaper with a one to three-inch layer of another organic mulch and the weed protection should last throughout the growing season. Shredded Leaves Shredded Leaves are natures favorite mulch. They can be used as mulch anywhere and have the added bonus of being free. You will also entice more earthworms to your garden soil. Some gardeners don’t like the look of leaves in their garden, and they probably aren’t appropriate for a formal setting. But if you spread a layer in the spring, before plants spread out, the leaf mulch tends to blend into the view within a short time. Shredded leaves are perfect for woodland gardens, and if you spread a layer over your vegetable garden in the fall, it will begin decomposing over the winter. Unshredded leaves can mat together and repel water, in rainy areas. However, if that happens, you can always rake and fluff them up a bit, if they appear to get matted. Straw and Hay Straw and salt hay are popular mulches for the vegetable garden. They keep the soil and soil born diseases from splashing up on lower plant leaves and make paths less muddy. Straw decomposes very slowly and will last the entire growing season. It also makes a nice home for spiders and other beneficial insects who will move in and help keep the pest population in control. And finally, it’s easy to either rake up or work into the soil when it’s time to plant a new crop or put the vegetable garden to bed.