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Spring is upon us, with a fresh supply of trees and garden plants tempting shoppers at nurseries, home centers and even some grocery stores.
Whether you want fresh fruit you can pick yourself or some shade for your yard, trees play a major part in the beauty of our East Texas landscape. Trees are also a major cause of power outages and they can create dangerous situations for homeowners and lineworkers alike if they come too close to ower lines.
It is a balancing act that Trinity Valley Electric Cooperative’s certified arborist, Greg Treadwell, works through every day. His expertise can help in planning successful and safe additions to your treescape, and possibly build in some energy saving measures to the process.
Trees at Home – Keys to Success
While it may be tempting to pick out a new tree to take home in the same way you might pick flowers or vegetables, planting a tree requires some careful consideration.
“It really starts in planning ahead, looking around the area you want to plant, looking up to see what the tree is going to do, and looking down at the soil and other plants that will be competing for light and nutrients,” Treadwell said. “Over time, a tree can really affect your home, other landscaping and trees, sidewalks, and of course power lines. You can get a good idea of what to expect by looking carefully at the information tag when you are buying a tree, which will tell you the expected height and width of the tree, as well as water and sun requirements and other helpful information.”
Treadwell also recommended selecting a tree with a single main trunk, to avoid future splits and growth problems as the tree gets larger. Routine pruning and care can help the overall health of the tree and eliminate the safety hazard of dead branches falling. Planting trees is a long-term commitment, and even relatively low-maintenance varieties will benefit from regular attention and care.
“Trees pull most of their nutrients from the top 6-10 inches of soil, so the makeup of that soil is going to determine a lot about the health of the tree,” Treadwell said. “It isn’t a bad idea to take a soil sample to one of the local feed stores and let them test it to see what nutrients may be lacking and what you might want to add to the mix along with some appropriate fertilizer.”
Trees and Power Lines
With nearly 8,000 miles of power lines through beautiful North and East Texas countryside, TVEC’s right-of-way maintenance program is key to maintaining reliable and safe electrical service.
“We try to meet a five-year cycle of trimming, but that depends on weather and rainfall totals,” Treadwell said. “Of course in rainy years the trees grow more, which can create problem areas, but overall it is a commitment to systemwide reliability that takes a constant effort.”
Sometimes, of course, there is a conflict between the need for proper spacing between power lines and trees, and a property owner’s wishes.
“We try very hard to work with members and accommodate where we can along the rights-of-way,” Treadwell said. “Our crews do a great job of taking care of the trees as best they can while also getting where we need to be for reliability, which is generally 15 feet on each side and at least 12 feet below the power lines. We also try to take care of the trees and cut in a way that will do the least harm, trimming back to a main branch or trunk.”
TVEC’s contracted right-of-way crews also mulch and remove all small brush and debris and will leave firewood-size logs for members.
“If a tree falls on a line and linemen have to remove it or other situations where we have to clear a small area, they aren’t equipped for clearing that, but as a whole, our goal is to leave everything looking as nice as possible,” Treadwell said.
Whether in the rights-of-way or near a service line to a home, tree branches near power lines pose a very real hazard, so much so that Texas’ Health and Safety Code forbids trimming those branches by anyone not trained for the task.
“If there is any question, we would rather members call us and let us come look at it before starting to cut,” Treadwell said. “We will do what we can to help because safety of our members is our top priority.”