Hello! I live in a community in Columbia, MD called Pleasant Grove. Our HOA...

Asked January 23, 2014, 9:06 PM EST

Hello! I live in a community in Columbia, MD called Pleasant Grove. Our HOA is interested in assessing the health of the c. 200 year old oak tree in the pictures attached. It is situated on our community tot lot and is the HOA's responsibility. We want to make sure that we are maintaining it properly. Do you have any advice about how we could get someone qualified to assess its health and make recommendations, in a cost effective manner? Thank you! Jennifer Schwartz

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

There is a Maryland Big Tree Program which identifies the largest trees by county. You can try contacting them about advice and assessment at mdbigtreeprogram@aol.com. The program is run by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. At the DNR website, they have an online forester who could be helpful.

The important thing with trees is to avoid compacting the soil under them (compaction prevents water and oxygen from reaching roots.) Walking and mowing when soil is wet or damp are major causes of soil compaction. Besides a standard plug aeration of the soil under the tree and filling the resulting holes with organic matter, there are other ways to improve compaction of old failing trees.

Throwing synthetic fertilizer under a tree is not a good idea. Get a soil test done before applying any. Stick with organic soil amendments. Try to allow its fallen leaves to remain under the tree to decompose as naturally as possible. Avoid planting other things under the tree or digging which would disrupt/kill its roots.

You can contact a certified professional arborist by going to our Links in the Information Library on our website. Look under the General category and you'll see this website of arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture: http://www.goodtreecare.com/search/index.cfm

Most arborists are associated with a Tree Service Company and will probably recommend some kind of service, but you needn't do it and we think arborists certified by the ISA are the most knowledgeable you'll find. There is no charge for the visit and you can get the opinion of several arborists.

We have both a plant pathologist and entomologist on our staff here at HGIC and you can send us a photo of any problem with the tree or send an overall and close up photos of the tree after it leafs out this spring and we should be able to give you some idea of how it is doing.