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Trees need constant attention and trimming

By Staff | Sep 29, 2008

A letter from the City of Blue Earth has some residents wondering what to do about trimming trees.

The letter instructs residents there is an ordinance requiring at least 16 feet of clearance above city streets. It is for clearance of city plows and emergency vehicles

If citizens don’t do the trimming themselves, the city will have it done and put the bill on the property owner’s taxes.

Nyle Huston says the letter has prompted some calls to his firm, Huston Landscaping and Tree Service, in Blue Earth.

Huston has been cutting trees with his son Jeff for 30 years.

He warns there is a right way, and a wrong way, for people to trim a tree to comply with the ordinance.

The wrong way is to just trim the branches that overhang the street and violate the 16 foot set back requirement.

“People actually need to trim back the whole tree, evenly all around,” Huston says. “Trees should be trimmed back even to the point of making them look skinny – they will fill out again.”

He says many trees can experience three to four feet of growth a year.

Of course, for those residents who don’t relish climbing a ladder with a chain saw in their hand, Huston’s company is more than willing to do the work.

There are several other firms in the area which also list tree trimming as part of their work. Some charge at different rates than others.

The Huston’s charge between $250 and $500 per tree, depending on the size. It can take up to a half day to trim one large tree, they say.

“My son Jeff is a certified arborist and tree inspector,” Huston says. “He really knows what he is doing.”

Jeff Huston says he had to take a lot of college level courses and pass a 200-question test in order to get certified.

“Plus I have to take a class and get re-certified each year,” he says.

The two Hustons also own a tree trimming service in Apple Valley, where Jeff resides. Between the two locations they stay busy all year round.

“Yes, we trim trees all throughout the winter,” the senior Huston says. The younger Huston, who does most of the aerial work, adds that if it gets too cold, they don’t go out.

Nyle Huston say most trees are able to be trimmed at any time of the year. The exceptions are the oaks and elms, he adds.

“The University of Minnesota recommends to stop trimming those two types by April 1,” Huston says, “and not start back up until late July. We wait until September, just to be sure.”

The tree branches and leaves are all run through a chipper and the wood chips are either hauled to the Blue Earth dump site, or given away.

“They make good ground cover around trees and shrubs,” Huston says. “We put them two to three inches deep, about three feet around a tree.”

The Hustons also dispose of the larger logs, unless the landowner wants them for firewood.

Occasionally the Hustons are called upon to take down a large tree.

“It is a service we do, but it always makes me feel bad – after all it takes a lifetime to grow a tree,” Nyle Huston says.

His firm always tries to plant a tree immediately to replace the one lost. Tree plantings and landscaping are part of their company’s work.

“However, we spend a lot of time just doing tree trimming,” Huston says. They will spend a week in Blue Earth, followed by two in Apple Valley, or vice-versa.

“We have a lot of repeat business,” Huston explains. “Once someone has our number, they call back whenever they need a tree trimmed.”

He says most trees should be trimmed every five years. One of the reasons is it keeps the tree healthy.

“Bugs and disease hit the dead areas of a tree first,” Huston says. “So it is important to the well-being of a tree to have regular trimming – besides making them look better.”

Huston says he has really enjoyed his thirty-plus years in the business. He attributes some of that with being able to work with family.

“A lot of fathers and sons might not be able to work side by side in a business,” he says. “But it has really worked for us.”

Although he no longer goes up in the company’s boom trucks, Nyle still works each day, running the skid loader. It is Jeff who is usually up in either the 40- or 60-foot boom baskets.

“Heights don’t bother me any,” Jeff says as an understatement. He does admit his shoulders get a little sore by the end of the work day. Both Huston men have had, or need another, rotator cuff surgery.

“It comes with the job,” Nyle says. “But it still has been a good profession — I can’t complain.”