Importance Of Tree Preservation During Construction

Drive along the residential streets of Westchester or Fairfield county and you are bound to see  cement trucks, excavators and cranes hard at work expanding homes and making them more livable for todays’ families. If you are lucky enough to be planning a home renovation, then you are also aware that the list of “to-do’s” is literally endless. Permits, inspections, architects, plan revisions and don’t forget, picking out every last finish.  What may start out feeling fun and exciting, can quickly turn daunting.

However, we are not here to overwhelm you, rather, we’d like to take a moment and point out one important piece that very often gets overlooked, Tree Preservation.  When deciding to undertake a renovation project the main motive is normally to ‘Add Value’, then why is it so easy to forget about the irreplaceable value a mature tree adds to your landscape? Did you know that mature trees carry a value of up to $10,000 each! But it’s not even about the dollar amount; they provide shade, privacy, better air quality, and protection from storms, making them a priceless addition to any home’s landscape.

You might be wondering: How can a tree 10 feet from my house be impacted by construction? Well it’s not about those parts of the tree you can see and admire, the trunk and the crown, it’s what lies beneath, the roots.  The very ends of a tree’s roots, known as the Critical Root Zone, are the most important aspect of a tree’s vitality.  The Critical Root Zone is identified by tracing a circle on the ground that mirrors the edge of the tree’s crown (See diagram below). Depending on the size of the tree, the Critical Root Zone can be anywhere from 5 to 30 feet away from the base of the trunk.  We bet you probably didn’t realize that… And can also bet that most construction contractors don’t know that either.


So now imagine this precious circle around the base of your tree, and how the weight of excavators, fork lifts and pallets can compact the soil and prevent water, air and nutrients from getting to the primary feeding zone of your tree. Or that construction debris and potentially harmful chemicals may be compromising the soil surrounding the critical root zone.  AH! Scary! The risk is real.

Here at Emerald Tree and Shrub Care, we are experts in preserving mature trees from a number of hazards, including, construction. The key is, enlisting our services before your project starts. Below are the steps we take to ensure your trees remain strong and healthy through the entire building process:

  • Partner with the building company early on. Determine the timeline, scope of the project and areas that will be effected.
  • Have an arborist walk the property and identify the preservation needs for different trees and plants.
  • Perform fertilizations and inoculations on trees and shrubs that need an extra boost of nutrients to handle the additional level of stress.
  • Install an irrigation system, even if it’s just temporary plan, to ensure the trees remain properly hydrated.
  • Mark the perimeter of each Critical Root Zone with flags, and then have tree crews install snow fencing as a visual and physical boundary for all workers on the property.
  • Install several inches of wood chips or mulch to protect the Critical Root Zone from contamination during the construction process.
  • Periodically check in at the project site to ensure fencing is not compromised and construction crews are staying clear of critical areas.

If you are planning a construction project and have trees that you would like protected, please call us, this is a service we feel very strongly about and we would love to help! 914-725-0441.



Last year, 2017, proved to be an overly active year for storms, and in many places the destruction is still felt. This year, we are taking an entirely new, proactive approach to storm preparation for our customers’ properties. The strategy can be summarized into three main pillars: Early action, thorough inspections and a multi-pronged treatment approach.

Early action

While many people focus their energy on preparing for “winter storm season,” Emerald Tree & Shrub Care has learned in our 20-plus years of doing business that hurricanes, tornadoes and fall nor’easter storms can be just as damaging during their peak season in August, September and October.  Our goal, is to get out for storm prep inspections in the first 2 weeks of August.

Thorough inspections

When walking the property, our main objective is to determine which limbs and trees overall pose a risk of failure in a high-wind storm. It’s important to note that it is impossible to accurately predict when and if a tree will fail, but as arborists, we know many symptoms that can lead to a tree’s failure. Below is a list of red flags we look for.

Overall structure: The appropriate branch size for a mature tree is approximately two-thirds the diameter of the trunk. Ideally, with large shade trees we like to see one dominant trunk (leader) growing up to the top of the canopy.

A leaning tree can sometimes be a completely natural occurrence and no cause for concern. It could be the tree adjusting itself for better sunlight. However, it could also be the result of a weakened root system or previous storm damage. It’s important to examine these trees closely, looking for cracks in the trunk, dropped branches, heaving root systems and other signs of failure.

Weak limbs: A limb without bark or leaves or with dead leaves is a sign of dead wood. These are the top priority to remove, because with no life inside, they become brittle and are unable to bend or sway with the wind. These branches will crack and fall very easily during a storm.

Limbs with wounds, holes or cavities could be a sign that infection has entered the tree, causing decay. When a limb has grown larger than the trunk, it is typically beyond the normal weight that can be supported by the tree.

Root health: When you see exposed root zones that are not protected by a layer of earth, you must be concerned about their strength. Severed or damaged roots can occur when a structure, street or path is built within the tree’s root zone. Signs of severed roots are seeing one side of the tree declining or dying, fungal fruiting bodies or scarification of the buttress root area.

Once an inspection is complete, it is then our job to determine the necessary course of action. It’s important to remember that mature trees also serve to provide protection to our homes during high-wind storms. While a homeowner might want to remove all mature trees out of fear of them failing, we must explain that they provide a significant buffer that can protect properties from heavy wind damage during storms

Multi-faceted action plan

Once weak or at-risk trees are identified on a client’s property, we develop a storm-prep proposal for each property given its unique needs. The plans are scalable but comprehensive, including everything recommended to minimize risk from storm damage in the coming year. Below are a list of the services likely to appear on a storm prep proposal.

  • Pruning out deadwood and weakened branches
  • Cabling or bracing overgrown limbs or dual trunks
  • Fertilization and watering to ensure trees have proper nutrients to stay strong all winter long
  • Removal of trees that are considered hazardous and won’t likely weather the storms

If we’ve learned anything from last year’s storms, it’s that you can never be too prepared for what Mother Nature will throw at you. Proactive storm preparation is probably not on your list of things to do this summer, but it’s our duty as arborists to alert you to any risks and help keep your properties safe year-round. If you are interested in having an arborists inspect your trees, call us at 914-725-0441.

A Proactive Approach to Storm Preparation

Summertime.. And the trees are needy!

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Summertime is here, and your trees needs a few things from you.  Here is a short list of how to care for your precious greens throughout these hot summer months.
Prune: Overgrown trees and shrubs are a big problem in summer heat because there is not enough fresh air circulating throughout the branches. A common misconception is that all pruning should happen during dormant periods, meaning the winter. This is false. Summer is a very beneficial time to prune trees, as it can be easier to identify weak branches when they slump from the weight of newly formed leaves. Also, summer is the ideal time to prune flowering trees and shrubs since they have not yet begun to form new buds. The general rule of thumb is to prune flowering trees and shrubs immediately after their blooms die. If you procrastinate, you run the risk of cutting off new buds which will mean fewer flowers for the following year.
Treat for insects: Unfortunately, with warmer weather comes more pests, and we don’t just mean ticks and mosquitos, but the thousands of different bug varieties that can spread diseases to your beloved plants & trees. Most of the time, identifying an infestation requires a trained eye. Sometimes the bugs themselves are not visible so our Plant Health Care Technicians have to rely on symptoms such as leaf spotting, cracked bark or crown die-off. When it comes to insects, the best thing you can do is get in front of the risk with preventative care before a problem arises. At Emerald Tree and Shrub Care, we are extremely knowledgeable of all insect threats and can prescribe a treatment plan that will keep infestations at bay all summer long.
Water: Just like humans, plants too require nourishment in the form of H2O during hot summer days. It’s important to make sure your plants and trees receive enough water, especially those that were planted in the last couple of years. An optimal amount of water for a tree or shrub is about 1-2 inches of water each week; just enough to reach all of the roots, both shallow and deep. Be careful not to overwater, as this could cause root rot, wilted leaves due to lack of oxygen or a condition called Edema, when the plant cells fill with water and actually burst. Every plant and shrub is different, so it’s important to research the specific needs of your variety or consult with an arborist.
Storm damage prevention: Summer is the season for thunderstorms and heavy winds. To protect your property from falling tree limbs, consult with an arborist to assess the safety of your large trees. Cabling or bracing trees with weak limbs, or removing weak limbs completely, may be necessary.
Tick and Mosquito Control: What good is a backyard if you can’t enjoy it during the summer? To combat insect-borne diseases and viruses like Lyme, West Nile, Powassan and Zika in our own backyards, Emerald offers safe and effective mosquito and tick protection programs. We have organic options that are safe for your children and pets. In fact, you can go back to enjoying your outdoor space within 15 minutes of us spraying. Call us for a free estimate today!
Tree health diagnosis: Summer gives us the best opportunity to identify tree health problems. Diagnosis of the actual cause of the tree malady is a tricky business, best left to an expert. As with human illness, prompt detection and treatment can be critical. If you are unsure whether your tree is healthy or can withstand the next storm, consult our professional arborists who can identify and remove hazards as well as treat tree health problems.
Questions about your tree care needs, plant health care or other services we provide?  Please call us at (914)725-0441 or email us at

Topping is for Ice Cream, Not Trees

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Tree Topping Fiction vs. Facts

Definition: Tree Topping – the removal of main tree branches to stubs in either a straight-across hedge fashion or a complete delimbing of the tree, leaving only the main trunk or trunks of a tree.

Fiction: “Topping rejuvenates the tree.”

Fact: Tree topping usually removes so much of the tree’s crown that it can unbalance an older tree’s root-to-shoot ratio and temporarily cut off its ability to make food. When trees are topped, they will typically respond by readily growing new shoots. From that point forward they become high-maintenance. Most must be pruned regularly in an attempt to restore normal structure and growth. Pruning a tree annually is not environmentally sustainable or cost-effective. Your tree will also be more susceptible to disease and insect problems.

Fiction: “The tree is too big and casts too much shade, and needs to be reduced by topping.”

Fact: By their very nature, trees create shade, which means you really can’t plant anything underneath and expect full success. But in some instances, proper selective pruning, NOT topping, can reduce the bulk of a tree, letting in more light and allowing wind to pass through the tree. Proper pruning does not stimulate regrowth, and the tree will not respond as drastically as when topped or over-thinned. A qualified arborist is trained to understand which kinds of cuts to make (thinning cuts, not heading or topping cuts); he/ she also knows when to stop.

If problems caused by a tree cannot be solved through acceptable management practices, the tree should be removed and replaced with another species, or other plant material more appropriate for the site.

Fiction: “Topping a tree is cheaper than having it pruned.”

Fact: Initially, it might seem cheaper to cut the tree in half to get the result you are looking for. But over time the tree will require more frequent maintenance, and become a danger.

Drastic topping cuts create opportunities for epicormic shoots on the remaining trunk to grow quickly into large, poorly attached branches, if the tree doesn’t just die outright. The potential for them to break off and cause a hazard to property or people is very high. From a legal standpoint, the owner or owners of such a tree may be responsible for damages if it can be proved they were negligent. Incorrect pruning can cause trees to become hazardous, and therefore is negligence.

Fiction: Topping is a time-tested way to prune a tree.

Fact: Topping is not a standard practice, and in fact is “outlawed” by national tree care standards. Topping has always been controversial. If someone tells you they have always done it that way, it’s a good bet they aren’t up to speed with the latest, scientific tree care methods.

Fiction: A banana split with all the toppings is considered a serving of fruit.

Fact: We may not know diets, but we do know trees. Topping is for ice cream, not trees.

So how can you reduce a tree’s growth without the injurious effects of the “toppings?” Consult with a professional arborist who is bound by an industry code of ethics to provide proper pruning according to the profession’s tree care standards.

The Right Hedge Makes All The Difference

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Hedges or Hedgerows are any shrubs, trees or plants placed in a close-knit line to form a barrier. In fact, the word hedge dates back over 800 years from the Old English language, and simply means, ‘enclosure’.

While their original function was to mark property boundaries, over time, they have grown to serve many different uses such as blocking wind from smaller adjacent crops, providing privacy such as a ‘Live Fence’ or as an artistic design element.

If you are thinking about adding hedges to your landscape, it’s important to understand the many different features and needs of each variety.  Let’s take a closer look at the more popular hedges we see used today:


Close your eyes and imagine a formal garden. Chances are, you are envisioning boxwoods! These are the most commonly used hedges for topiaries, mazes and pathway borders. Their tidiness and ease of maintenance make it a favorite just about everywhere it grows.  If boxwoods are your shrub of choice, take the time to do your research. There are many different varieties of boxwoods, some that do better in full sun and some that can withstand strong winds.  Selecting the wrong variety could result in bronzing, which is probably not the look you are going for.  Learn more about boxwood problems in our previous post, “Why Are My Boxwoods Turning Brown?”


Native to North America, these evergreens are hardy and grow to a height of 12-14ft with a spread of 2-3ft.  Because of their height, they make great privacy hedges.  These evergreens are not drought resistant, in fact they thrive best in moist and swampy soils. There are several pests that like to make arborvitae their home, and it’s important to inspect often, because if left unnoticed, Spider Mites or Bagworms can cause irreversible damage.


Also part of the evergreen family, Holly is another popular choice for hedges. Popular for good reason, it is fast growing, easy to prune and stays green year-round. Holly’s most distinctive features are their dark-green glossy leaves and red berries which show up in winter months.  There are hundreds of different varieties of holly, so similar to boxwoods, be sure to do your research before planting. Some of the more modern varieties are very good at resisting diseases and insect infestation.


With a growth rate of approximately 2 feet per year, Laurel is well known for being the fastest growing hedging plant, but that’s not all, they are also the cheapest! Laurel leaves are rounded, glossy, bright green and look great all year round.  They can be trimmed into formal box-shaped hedges or they can be left more natural for a less formal looking hedge. They really are beautiful and can grow in nearly any light or soil types. If left untrimmed they will grow to about 18 feet tall.


Hemlocks are a slow-growing evergreen that when trimmed and maintained properly can make a wonderful privacy screen.  Their elegant and wispy leafage give them a soft and natural look. It’s one of the few evergreens that can handle full sun and full shade. The first thing to note about these beauts, is that if left untrimmed, they will grow up to 80 feet tall, so it’s important to constantly be trimming and pruning.  Also, they are very susceptible to mites and insects, so be sure to get them sprayed several times a year.

These are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hedge options, there are hundreds of different species and varieties to consider.  Whether you are trying to replicate a formal English garden, or just plant a few smartly places conifers for privacy, it is always important to consult an arborist before ordering your plants and trees.  As mentioned above, each variety has a unique makeup with unique needs, and the best first step to take is always a Plant Site Analysis.


Gypsy Moth Caterpillar Spotted in Westchester

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What is the Gypsy Moth?

An invasive bug native to Eurasia that is well known for the damage that is causes to trees. They prefer Oak Trees, Birch Trees and Willow Trees, but will also prey on a number of different shrubs and trees that are in close proximity.

A female Gypsy moth cannot fly; she will lay clusters of eggs on bark, rocks, or really any surface that is convenient.  Each cluster she lays can contain anywhere from 100-1000 eggs. In the springtime, larvae hatch from the eggs and hang out near the cluster until heavy winds come and carry them away. From there, they find their way to a host tree and feed on the leaves causing defoliation to occur.

History of Outbreaks

The gypsy moth was introduced to North America in 1868, and was first spotted in Connecticut in 1905.  While there is a known population in the forests of Southern New England, it typically remains contained and outbreaks are small and manageable.

There was however, one very notable outbreak that lasted nearly 20 years in Connecticut from 1960-1980. At the peak of the Connecticut outbreak, defoliation had occurred in 1.5 million acres of trees, which is nearly 80% of the state’s forestland!

Recent Siting

Our arborists here at Emerald Tree and Shrub Care were recently called to a property in Cortlandt Manor where a population of “caterpillars” had invaded last summer.  Upon inspection, we identified countless egg hatches throughout the oak and willow trees on the property. While we treated this specific property, it’s very possible that Northern Westchester could experience an outbreak this Spring.  Please keep your eyes peeled for eggs masses that look like this:


And call us immediately (914-725-0441) for help identifying and treating the issue before they become a major outbreak.

Spotted Lanternfly Poses Huge Threat

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Native to Asia, this sap-sucking insect was found for the first time in New York State on November 29, 2017. These insects change their appearance with each life stage, but adults are about 1 inch long.  Their outer wings are a muted gray color with black spots, very inconspicuous until they hop or fly and expose their bright reddish/orange inner wings. While their wings are their main distinguishing feature, the lanternfly is actually more likely to hop from surface to surface as opposed to fly.

Why is the Spotted Lanternfly so dangerous?

  • They have a very powerful ability to reproduce in mass quantities. Females lay between 30-50 eggs at a time, in what looks like a disgusting gray goop. With an average of two hatches per season, that means each female is creating roughly 100 new spotted lantern flies each year!
  • They are not picky about their host.  While their preferred host plant is the Ailanthus altissima, (Which is an invasive itself known as the tree of heaven) they will also feed on over 70 other plant species including grapes, hops and fruit trees. Not only can they hop around easily, they pose a threat to a variety of different industries.
  • As they suck the sap of a plant’s stems, leaves or trunk, they excrete a sweet honeydew secretion that coats the host plant and is a catalyst for the growth of sooty mold.
  • There are no known predators. Birds do not seem to like to eat them and no other predator has been identified, keeping their population relatively stable for the time being.

The USDA has recognized the serious threat that this insect poses, and in February 2018, they announced their commitment of $17.5 million to stop the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly.

What can you do to help?

  • Avoid quarantined areas where the insect has been spotted. Eggs are very easily transported on wood, plants, nursery stock, cars, furniture and waste.
  • If you see a Spotted Lanternfly in an area where it’s not known to exist, try and capture it in a closed container and report it to the department of agriculture.
  • Regularly check known host plants, like Ailanthus altissima trees, for egg masses and actual insects. Dusk is the perfect time to do this, because they tend to cluster on trunks of their host trees around this time.

For more information on the Spotted Lanternfly, read the USDA’s fact sheet,

What Exactly Is Plant Health Care?

Arborists Are Trained To Diagnose Plant Illnesses

Walk around your property at any given time and chances are you will probably notice some dead branches, brown spots in bushes, bare spots where leaves dropped too early, white mildew or if you look super close you may see insects that have made themselves a nice little home on your precious greens.  Are these all symptoms you should be concerned about? Not necessarily, but it would be wise to call an arborist that is trained at identifying the underlying cause of these problems.  For instance, the bugs could be completely harmless, or, they could be spider mites that will slowly increase their presence and suck the life out of your hedge’s leaves and eventually, cause them to stop growing.

Early Detection & Environmentally Safe Remedies Are Key

Now we have to ask, how often are you walking your property and looking closely? We mean really closely, to check for these symptoms? Our guess is maybe once or twice a summer… if that.  Unfortunately, if the plant problem goes undetected for some time, often times the issue cannot be fixed and removal is the only option. The key to keeping your trees and shrubs healthy and vital is ongoing monitoring and prevention.  In fact, these are the two main objectives to our Plant Health Care Program. By remaining ahead of the problem, we are able to rely on nontoxic and organic treatments, some of which include:

  • Insecticidal Soaps
  • Beneficial Nematodes
  • Soil Drenches and Injections
  • Aerification of Compacted soils
  • Hand Pruning of Nests or Localized Infestations
  • Mauget Systemic Injection Systems
  • Custom Blended Deep Root Liquid Fertilization

A Holistic Plan That’s Designed Specifically For You

Since every property is different, and the needs of plants vary, it’s impossible to devise a “one size fits all” Plant Health Care Plan. Instead, we rely on a detailed inventory of your property’s elements and a strong working relationship with the property owner to understand the comprehensive needs of your yard.  Below are the promises we make to all of our loyal Plant Health Care Customers:

  1. Initial property inspection to determine baseline needs and any immediate problems that need to be remedied.
  2. A thorough write up with our recommended Plant Health Care treatment plan. This includes how often we will visit your property (anywhere between 2-6 times a year), what plants we will prioritize, what treatments we will administer and approximate dates when you can expect our crew to visit you.
  3. We will also propose any additional recommended actions that we feel will benefit your property (ie. tree fertilizations, tick and mosquito prevention plan or tree trimming, bracing, cabling or removal).
  4. Once our arborist and the property owner have an agreed on plan, it is our mission to monitor, detect and treat your plants and shrubs to the best of our capability. We consider it our duty to protect your precious greens from insects, diseases and anything else that may effect their health.

Scalable Programs For Every Budget

Many people ask us, “Well what does a Plant Health Care program cost?” The only commonality among all plans is the goal, to keep the property safe and healthy.  Beyond that, one plan may be as simple as a couple of annual visits to check on and feed two trees.  Alternatively, another plan might involve monthly inspections and treatment of every tree and shrub on the property.  As your partner, we want to help you make informed decisions that address the highest level concerns of your property.  With that being said, the complexity of your program will depend entirely on how much you, the property owner, is willing to invest.  We are here to protect your property no matter what size, shape or variety.

For more info on Emerald Tree and Shrub Care please call us at 914-725-0441.


Plan Before You Plant

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Start With A Plant Site Analysis

Picking the right tree, or the right spot for your tree requires a great deal of thought and research.  Many homeowners don’t realize all the factors that can contribute to a tree’s success or failure.  When you enlist our certified arborists to conduct a plant site analysis, we carefully examine the following factors:
  • Amount of space available for the tree to mature.  This includes visible structures such as garages, sheds and sidewalks, as well as underground objects like pipes, septic systems and bedrock.
  • The topography of the land. Steep hills, ditches and slopes are all an important factor in the ability of a tree to remain nourished and stable.
  • Soil composition is a vital element of plant site analysis.  Knowing and understanding how differences in nutrient makeup effect certain species of trees makes all the different when selecting the right tree.
  • Your location and the recommended hardiness zone for the particular tree of interest is also an importance factor to examine.  Just about every type of tree has a recommended growing zone where they will prosper best.  Unfortunately, not all trees will survive in our zone (Zone 7a). Hardiness Zone Map.
  • The amount of sun and shade an area receives is key. Sun and shade patterns change with time of day, as well as time of year.
  • Other things to consider would be exposure to elements like harsh winds, sprinkler systems and heavy foot traffic.
Seems like a lot of work doesn’t it?  Not necessarily for the trained eye. Our arborists have a vast amount of experience with different types of trees and landscapes. Even when working with a landscape designer, it is important to have an arborist walk the property and review planting plans.  The extra time and energy put into planning, will prevent you from wasting your time and money on the wrong tree.
To schedule a plant site analysis call us at 914-725-0441 or email us at

TREES: The Real Superheroes of Winter

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.02.51 AMThe entire east coast is covered in snow, iguanas are freezing and dropping from trees in South Florida, single digit temps have us all hunkering inside and somehow, the trees all prevail. Have you ever stopped to think just how trees and plants survive prolonged freezing temps and still manage to bloom in the spring? The answer is that science is truly amazing and trees are pretty good at preparing for the winter.

The first step occurs in autumn, when low temps and longer nights act as a warning signal for trees to store their nutrients, slow down on producing chlorophyl and drop those leaves!  The tree is preparing to become dormant.  What most people don’t realize, is that dormant doesn’t actually mean inactive, instead the tree strategically turns on the genes that will help it survive the cold and turns off those genes that are associated with growth.

When the temp drops to moderate freezing (20s and 30s) the trees have a very complex way of controlling where the ice will form within their makeup.  The tree will often separate out their more vulnerable cells, allowing them to become the nucleator of ice growth.  Since moisture is attracted to ice (think about frost growing in your freezer) ice will continue to form in these concentrated areas, leaving the remaining more important cells protected.

But what about when the temp gets dangerously low, like the 5-10 degree range we are experiencing now? Trees in much colder climates have a final defense against the cold that is truly remarkable.  Trees sensing an extreme drop in temperature will begin producing protein molecules and sugars that will lower the freezing threshold for liquids inside the tree’s cells.  These sugars act just like anti-freeze, turning the cell liquid into a really dense, concentrated solution, thick like molasses, that literally cannot freeze. The tree also produces more molecules that will act as ice nucleators, but smartly only grows them in the intercellular spaces, protecting the cells from ever freezing and drying out.  “At this stage where trees are fully cold-acclimated, you can put them into liquid nitrogen and they would survive” says Sally Aitken, Forestry Professor at the University of British Columbia.

So now that you’ve learned how hard-working and smart trees are, you can breathe easy knowing they can withstand the winter… well almost.  There is definitely reason to be concerned when we have an extremely cold winter.  The trees will survive, but they are working overtime to produce those sugars and transform their physiology to prevent freezing.  After harsh winters (like the one it seems we are in for) it is more important than ever to feed and fertilize your trees and shrubs in the spring.  They will absolutely benefit from the added boost of nutrients before they enter their real busy seasons, Spring and Summer.

Call today to schedule a spring fertilization from our certified arborists at Emerals Tree and Shrub Care: (914) 725-0441.