Tips for Your Fixer-Upper’s Landscape


When you are ready to invest money, you have a large variety of options that range from low-risk and passive to high-risk and active. Your primary interest may involve taking an active approach, so you bought a fixer-upper that you can improve for rental purposes. While you may look forward to working on the home, you may have a rough landscape to start with.

You may be familiar with working on projects inside the house, but you are not too experienced with landscape work. You will find it beneficial to get lot clearing service and tree removal services as soon as you assume ownership to gain knowledge and to begin working on follow-up projects. Here are steps you can take to start your landscape plans.


Tips for Your Fixer-Upper’s Landscape2019-04-21T03:28:51+00:00

How To Handle Storm Damage In Your Yard


The weather has been wild. There are storm alerts blaring from your phone and you can barely see your yard with the sheets of rain that are coming down. Of course, that’s not even mentioning the wind. Even though there might not be hurricane-force winds, things are certainly whipping around out there. At wind speeds between 25 and 57 miles per hour trees can bend and branches can break. When winds get up to between 58 and 74 miles per hour larger limbs can snap off and shallow rooted trees can topple over. What happens if you have some serious yard-related storm damage? Take a look at what you need to know when dealing with the aftermath of heavy rains and high winds.

Stay Away

It’s tempting to rush outside and get up close and personal with your trees. You may want to fully inspect the damage, pulling on dangling limbs or moving partially toppled trunks. In short – don’t. Even though you instinctively want to check out the damage, moving tree parts could prove dangerous. A seemingly stable part of the tree could suddenly topple over, falling on you. Weak or flimsy branches could fall as you walk underneath as well.

And then there’s the electrical issue. If power lines have snapped, fallen on or are in some way tangled up in your trees, never touch the lines, the trees or anything near them. These fallen lines (and the trees they’re stuck in) pose a serious electrical shock and fire hazard.

Call in the Pros

Obviously, you can’t let your storm-damaged trees just sit in your yard. They aren’t going to magically disappear and Mother Nature won’t take care of them. Here’s where you need a tree care professional. The pros know how to handle broken limbs, toppled trunks and everything else you’re seeing in your yard. They have the safety know-how to clear your outdoor space without putting you (or anyone else) in danger. This doesn’t just cover removing branches and trunks that have already fallen. Cutting broken branches in the wrong order may result in large pieces of the tree falling and potentially crushing you. The tree care pros know the proper way to take a broken branch down, without letting it crash down on someone or something.

Along with the safety factor, a professional service knows how to help the trees that have made it through the storm. Randomly chopping of branches, or worse – breaking them off, won’t help your trees. Yes, it may clear some of the damage. But it may also cause some serious harm to the tree itself. Cutting a branch too close to the trunk may remove the “branch collar.” This is the specialized area of tissue that helps the tree heal the resulting wound. If you shop this part off, you leave the cut open to tree-rotting disease and pests.

Alert the Electric Company

The tree care experts aren’t the only professionals you need to call after you’ve had severe storm damage. If there are downed wires, you need to have the electric company handle the problem before doing anything else. Again, never go near or touch downed wires. Even though they may not look live, they could have the power to seriously shock you. They may also electrify the area surrounding them.

Before a tree pro can come remove the fallen branches and get to trimming the remaining areas, you need to make sure that your yard is safe. Never expect a tree care service to work around downed wires. Contact your local electric provider and ask them to inspect and clear the wires pronto.

Do you have storm damage? Are you looking for ways to prepare for potential storms? Call Smitty’s Tree and Arbor Service at 708-385-2814 for a professional consultation.

How To Handle Storm Damage In Your Yard2019-04-21T03:32:19+00:00

Want to Transform Your Barren Lawn? Five Fast-Growing and Chicago-Friendly Trees


If you’re tired of paying high utility bills and staring at a flat, boring lawn, you may be considering planting some ornamental trees around the perimeter of your property to generate some shade, muffle street noise, and serve as a home for birds, squirrels, and other wild creatures that can provide you with hours of television-free entertainment.

While there are many trees that can weather Chicago’s chilly winters and its sweltering summers, some of these trees are extremely slow-growing, which means you may be waiting years or even decades for a bit of lawn shade.

Fortunately, there are several species of trees that perform well in this temperate climate and can generate up to two feet of growth per year, providing you with tall and well-leafed trees just a few years after planting. Read on to learn more about five types of trees that thrive in Chicago weather and can provide you with shade, wildlife, and privacy.

Coniferous or Deciduous? 

Before you make a tree selection, you may want to spend some time thinking about whether you’d prefer a needled tree that retains its green year-round or a deciduous tree that loses its leaves each autumn. Both tree varieties have advantages and disadvantages that make it difficult to put forth a one-size-fits-all recommendation.

Deciduous trees generally provide more shade coverage during the spring and summer months, as these trees’ leaves can cover a greater span of sky than conifers’ needles. However, these leaves will eventually fall to the ground, generating a fair amount of raking if you live in a neighborhood subject to homeowners’ association regulations or local ordinances regarding leaf disposal.

Most conifers (except a few varieties of cypress) won’t lose their needles, but can generate cones, small berries, or other debris that may require some raking. Conifers are also generally more resistant to insect infestation and various tree diseases than deciduous trees, making them a good choice for areas prone to flooding or high moisture levels that can lead to root rot.

When selecting your tree, you’ll also want to keep age and soil quality in mind. Trees grow most quickly when they’re fairly young, so paying a premium for a tree that’s just a foot or two taller than a sapling may not be money well spent. By that same token, planting a young tree in less-than-ideal soil can slow its growth rate, so using potting soil or peat moss to supplement the dirt that is already in the ground can provide your new trees with an added boost of nutrition.

Fast-Growing Conifers

If you’ve decided conifers better fit your lifestyle or landscaping scheme, there are a few types guaranteed to provide you with feet of growth within just a few years, including:

Eastern White Pine

This attractive pine tree can generate 12 to 15 inches of growth per year, with thick, wide-spaced branches providing plenty of shade. Like other pine trees, the Eastern White has long, thin needles and paper-thin bark that creates the refreshing smell of pine in the air. This tree can reach a maximum height of 100 feet or more, so you’ll want to ensure you plant it in an area with plenty of space for its roots to expand (and far away from any power or telephone lines).

Italian Cypress

With its tightly-knit needles, this classy tree can provide your home with an instant burst of sophistication. Although the cypress tree drops small cones, it won’t lose its leaves and can be trimmed or molded into a wide variety of shapes to complement any decor.

Fast-Growing Deciduous Trees

If you’d like more shade than a set of conifers can provide and are also looking forward to an array of autumn colors, there are a few trees that may fit the bill, including:

Silver or Red Maple

These trees are thickly leafed during summer and transform to a blazing red or bright yellow during autumn, providing your yard with some well-appreciated color. Although silver maples can grow up to 20 inches per year, they’re not the best for poor or rocky soil; their root structures tend to be on the shallow side, which makes high-quality soil a must to prevent the tree from toppling in a storm or languishing during a drought.

Dawn Redwood

This redwood tree can thrive far from its California roots, growing up to two full feet per year for several decades before reaching its adult height of around 80 feet tall. This tree thrives in moist soil, perfect for yards with poor drainage or located near a creek or other body of water.

Gum Tree

This tree is one of the fastest growers available, adding up to three feet of height per year and reaching a maximum height of anywhere from 25 to 70 feet. Gum trees can generate quite a bit of debris and detritus, so you’ll want to locate them away from your home’s roof, driveway, or other areas where this debris can present problems.

Regardless of whether you’re seeking conifers, deciduous trees, or both, choosing from one of these species can ensure rapid, disease-free growth that will allow you to relax in your shade-filled backyard within just a few years of planting.

Want to Transform Your Barren Lawn? Five Fast-Growing and Chicago-Friendly Trees2019-04-21T03:32:59+00:00

Proud Pet Owner? Dog-Friendly Landscaping Tips


If you’re like most dog owners, your fur-bearing best friend is a member of the family, and you want to do whatever you can to keep your family safe and comfortable. This includes creating an enviable backyard oasis. Unfortunately, if you don’t take your dog’s unique needs into consideration, you might create an environment that is potentially deadly for your pooch.

Luckily, you don’t have to take a lot of extra money or time to transform your backyard into a paradise for your four-legged family member. Here are a few simple tips to help you create a dog-friendly backyard.

Find the Right Fence

The type of fence that will work for your dog and backyard is dependent upon several factors—including your budget. The size and agility of your dog are two of the biggest considerations. For example, if you have a large dog that loves to climb and jump, choose a fence that is at least six feet high and avoid chain link, which is very easy to scale.

A privacy fence is the best option for dogs that will bark at anything that passes by your property, from squirrels to strangers and other pets. If your dog is smaller, older, or doesn’t have a history of roaming from your property, go ahead and choose a fence based upon its aesthetic appeal instead of utility. A beautiful picket fence is a great option that will keep your dog contained without compromising your landscape’s appearance.

If you have an existing fence that won’t contain your dog, but you don’t have the budget to invest in a new fence, there are several ways to dog-proof your existing model. For example, if you have a chain-link fence, plastic slats or inexpensive reed fencing panels can help contain your pet.

Identify Plants That Are Dangerous for Dogs

Planting flowers or a garden that will thrive requires a lot of homework and planning. The first step is to choose plants that are native to Illinois or will withstand a cooler climate. If you own dogs, you must also choose plants, flowers, and foliage that do not pose a threat.

There are, unfortunately, several varieties of plants and flowers that are highly poisonous to dogs. Here are a few you should avoid planting in your backyard:

  • Autumn crocus
  • Azalea
  • Lily
  • Oleander
  • Daffodil
  • Lily of the valley
  • Tulip

There are also several varieties of trees that are poisonous to dogs, including:

  • Cherry trees
  • Plum trees
  • Avocado trees
  • Peach trees

Instead, choose plants that will accentuate your yard and are completely safe for dogs, including orchids, sunflowers, African violets, and zinnias. If your dog loves digging up your prized flowers, consider housing them in tall pots or plastic containers.

Create a Designated Dog Area

If your dog loves spending summers lounging in the backyard, you know how quickly a dog can destroy a beautifully landscaped lawn. Don’t let all your hard work and cash fall victim to your curious dog. Instead, create a separate area that your dog will love.

To begin, turn the area in front of your yard into a dog run. Leave this area free of grass, or else lay down pavers. Your dog will be drawn to the smooth surface and will enjoy running around the perimeter of your yard.

Protecting your dog from damaging sun is also critical. Create an area for your beloved pooch to lounge in and enjoy the beautiful weather. A spot underneath a shade tree is a great place. If you keep several toys, a bowl of water, and a small dog house in this area, your dog will naturally be drawn to this spot. Remember to provide your dog with plenty of cool, fresh water, and don’t hesitate to pull out the hose if your dog is panting or appears to be overheated.

Finally, if your dog has free range of the backyard, chances are you have several spots in your lawn that are yellow. This color is caused by the acids in your dog’s urine. The best option is to create a special area where your dog can do their business without sacrificing your lawn’s appearance.

One option is to hardscape a corner of your lawn with dog-safe materials, such as pavers, pea gravel, cedar chips, or bricks. Avoid using jagged rocks or cocoa bean mulch, which is made from the shells of the cocoa bean, a substance that is potentially deadly for your dog.

Take your dog over to this area several times, and eventually they will begin to understand that this is the spot to relieve themselves.

Creating a beautiful, functional backyard that your entire family, including your dog, can enjoy doesn’t take a lot of time, effort, or money. If you have any additional questions about how to dog-proof your property or want some help with landscaping or tree removal, don’t hesitate to contact the professionals at Smitty’s Tree Service.

Proud Pet Owner? Dog-Friendly Landscaping Tips2019-04-21T03:34:48+00:00

3 Ways to Avoid Damaging Your Trees When Planting Flowers in Your Yard


Now that the long winter has ended and spring has finally sprung, you may be thinking of planting some new bright, beautiful flowers in your yard. While a few flowers can make any yard look more beautiful, when you plant them in the wrong places or make mistakes when caring for them, you can damage the trees in your yard.

3 Ways to Avoid Damaging Your Trees When Planting Flowers in Your Yard

Thankfully, trees and flowers can live together in harmony when you follow these three tips to avoid damaging your trees when planting and caring for your new spring flowers.

  1. Don’t Plant Raised Flower Beds Around a Tree’s Trunk

At first thought, it may seem like nothing would enhance the beauty of your favorite trees more than rings of your favorite flowers planted around their trunks. This may lead you to consider planting raised flower beds around the trees’ trunks so you don’t have to dig into the trees’ root systems.

However, planting a raised flower bed around a tree’s trunk can be even more detrimental to the tree’s health than planting flowers amidst the tree’s roots for several reasons.

First, when you cover the tree’s perimeter with a thick layer of soil, you can starve the tree’s surface roots of oxygen. This oxygen is very important to a tree’s health, and without it, a tree will slowly die. In addition, the flowers will likely require more water than the trees roots do and, when given too much water, the roots can decay.

If you must plant flowers around your trees, it is a better idea to plant very small ones directly into the ground between tree roots while being extremely careful not to damage the roots with your shovel.

However, it is a better idea to avoid planting flowers around your trees completely and instead plant them in other areas of your yard where you can be sure they won’t have to compete with your trees for nutrients.

  1. Don’t Water Your Trees Every Time You Water Your New Flowers

You likely know that, when you plant new flowers, you will have to water them relatively frequently. Most flowers need water daily or even several times a day during a hot, dry summer. Since you will be outdoors watering your flowers often after you plant them, you may be tempted to begin watering your trees more frequently to give them a little extra special attention.

However, it is very important to continue to water your trees on the schedule your arborist recommends and not any more frequently. Over-watering a tree can be just as detrimental as under-watering one, and too much water can cause roots to decay and ultimately lead to tree death.

Even freshly planted trees only need to be watered about once a week, while the water needs of mature trees can range from once a season for trees with low water needs to once a month for trees with higher water needs.

  1. Don’t Let a Sprinkler System Direct Too Much Water at Your Trees’ Trunks

If you are planting just a few flowers in your yard, then you may plan to water them by hand with a watering can or water hose. However, if you are planning to plant many, then you may be thinking of setting up a sprinkler system that waters them to help you save time.

If you do plan to water your flowers with a sprinkler system, be sure it is set up to water only your flowers and not spray water on the trunks of your trees. Tree trunks need to stay relatively dry to stay in good health, and if they are saturated with water from your sprinkler system daily, they can rot, decay, and become more susceptible to tree diseases.

Spring is a great time to plant a few colorful flowers in your yard, but make sure you don’t harm your trees while planting and caring for them. If you have any questions about how your new flowers may impact the health of your trees, contact a professional arborist, such as Smitty’s Tree and Arbor Service, who will be happy to answer all of your questions.

3 Ways to Avoid Damaging Your Trees When Planting Flowers in Your Yard2019-04-21T03:35:47+00:00

Manage Your Landscape to Attract Nice Creatures and Repel Bad Bugs


When managing their landscapes, property owners must consider two factors. First, the impact of human actions on the native plants and creatures. Second, the damage done animal friends and foes do to woodsy spaces.

Manage Your Landscape to Attract Nice Creatures and Repel Bad Bugs

Some of the mammals, insects, and birds that visit the branches of trees are helpful to people and the ecosystem, like honeybees that pollinate fruits and vegetables. Other insects and animals that invade trees are intent on destructive feeding and tunneling that kill our trees and forests.

It’s a balancing act to encourage one species while repelling another. There are a few ways that property owners can make this daunting task a bit easier and manage their landscapes to encourage or repel certain critters.

Know Your Landscape Blueprint

To attract the beneficial critters and repel detrimental ones, you must conduct a thorough inventory of your landscaping. Use a gardening app or a sheet of paper to draw out your property boundaries. Try to identify each type of plant you find growing on your lot or land. It may take a while to inventory all of the plants, but the knowledge is worth the effort.

An experienced arborist or tree service professional will help you identify any trees you don’t recognize. Most landscaping professionals will also help you identify shrubs, perennials, and other wanted and unwanted plants. Your local extension office is another source of knowledge, as it offers pamphlets and other materials to help you identify most common plants in your area.

Once you know what’s growing where you live, you can research the creatures that are attracted to the trees and other plants co-existing on your property. Remember that some obnoxious weeds, when present in large numbers in the landscape, also give you an idea of the condition of your soil. The weeds’ presence helps you and your landscaping professionals determine soil quality. You can plan a fertilization program that properly feeds your planted trees to support local wildlife.

Schedule Routine Tree Inspections

Monitor the health of your landscape by scheduling an annual or semiannual inspection of the trees and shrubs on your property. It doesn’t take long for some plant diseases and pests to destroy flora. By ensuring you have regular examinations of your trees, you can save them from falling over or dying where they stand.

In turn, healthier trees mean healthier animals and birds in the trees. Whether a tree produces flowers, berries, or cover for nests, you support wildlife when you take care of your trees.

You need to be vigilant in keeping your trees safe form detrimental pests. For example, insects like the emerald ash borer destroy ash trees all over the US. These insidious pests feed for several weeks on leaves, then lay eggs in galleries they create under the bark of trees. Once a tree loses 50 percent of its leaf canopy to the emerald ash borer, it’s too late to save the tree. If caught early, however, it is possible to save an infested tree.

Scheduling routine tree inspections reduces the likelihood that your trees will get destroyed from noxious bugs and critters.

Understand Your Micro-Ecosystem

It’s important to understand how your property works with the natural habitat around it. Are you on a sloping piece of land that drains into a creek or other body of water? Are you in a seasonal pathway for migratory birds? Do mammals make nests in your trees or shrubbery?

When you understand the way your property fits into the ecosystem, you can choose landscaping treatments that do the least amount of harm to wildlife. Fertilizers, insecticidal sprays, and herbicides should always be chosen based on their safety to animals and nearby watersheds. In many cases, herbicides and pesticides should be limited or not used at all, providing the best protection for animals.

For example, emerald ash borer invasions and threats may be treated with injections, sprays, or drenches at the foot of the tree. Some of these treatments negatively affect other insects and wildlife, so you and your arborist should choose the least harmful method of treatment. Of course, if a tree dies because it wasn’t treated for fatal pests, its death destroys animal habitats, too. Caring for your property and nature is a balancing act, indeed.

If your property is relatively free of pesticides and you want to help support wildlife on your lot or land, attract friendly creatures by providing the food and shelter they require. Honeybees need all of the help they can get, and you can provide it by planting pollen-rich flowers, trees, and shrubs. The rusty-patched bumble bee is now endangered, but you can help this beleaguered pollinator by planting flowering plants that bloom from spring to fall.

Northern long-eared bats are another endangered species. The bats eat a lot of bugs and are vital to the ecosystem, but they’re in declining numbers. They love to nest in dead tree hollows, but homeowners normally remove dead wood to prevent property damage. Install nest boxes for the bats to provide more habitats and encourage these helpful mammals to thrive in your area.


The experts at Smitty’s Tree Service Inc. are happy to help you identify, fertilize, and treat trees in your landscape so desirable wildlife stays and bad pests go away. Contact us today to schedule a visit from one of our certified arborists to get started on your tree maintenance program.

Manage Your Landscape to Attract Nice Creatures and Repel Bad Bugs2019-04-21T03:37:29+00:00

5 Reasons Why Mulch Is Your Garden’s Best Friend


The types of plants, lawn, and trees you choose will have a bearing on whether a garden can match these criteria successfully. Yet, another, more unassuming garden product can also play a key role in ensuring that your garden is fulfilling your expectations: mulch. Here are five reasons why mulch is your garden’s best friend.

1. Mulch Reduces Weed Growth

One of the most time-consuming and endless tasks involved in gardening is weeding. Unfortunately, it’s also highly necessary if you don’t want your garden to become overrun with plant-destroying weeds. Laying a thick layer of mulch over your garden beds and around the base of trees is an excellent way to significantly reduce weed growth.

Mulch works to discourage weeds in two main ways. First, it robs the weed seeds of the light and warmth they need to germinate and grow. Second, the miniature ecosystem that grows beneath the layers of mulch are a haven for beneficial insects that feast on any seeds from weeds that lie dormant, just waiting to infest your garden.

If weed reduction is one of your primary purposes when laying mulch, then mulch made from hardwood chips is the optimal choice. Other mulch materials, such as hay or grass clippings, can be riddled with weed seeds that will soon sprout and negate any weed-reduction properties you had been looking for.

2. Mulch Reduces the Need for Water

Water costs are on the rise all over the country, and the Chicago area is no exception. Since water bills are increasing, having a thirsty garden that requires a lot of watering doesn’t make practical or financial sense. Mulch is an effective way to reduce your garden’s water needs and maintain a lush, green look even through the hotter months.

Mulch works in this way by creating a barrier between the topsoil of your garden bed and the heat in the atmosphere above it. This process minimizes evaporation so that your garden bed holds water for longer, which means you’ll need to water it far less often. A thick layer of mulch will also hold in a significant amount of water following rain or watering, which will trickle down to slowly hydrate the soil.

3. Mulch Is Environmentally Sound

With growing concern for both the local, national, and global environments, having a garden that minimizes any negative ecological impact is an important concern for many homeowners. Mulch is the perfect product to boost your garden’s eco credentials.

Since using mulch reduces your water consumption, investing in mulch means your garden is less of a drain on the resources needed to harvest, clean, and distribute water. The weed reduction properties mean you won’t need to use any harmful or polluting chemicals to keep your weed levels at bay.

To keep your garden as green as possible, choose the right material. Smitty’s Tree and Arbor Services use mulch made from salvaged waste hardwood from the lumber industry. This gives our product the double bonus of being both a recycled material and a material from a renewable and sustainable source.

4. Mulch Protects Your Garden From the Elements

Recent years in Chicago have seen record-breaking snowfalls and cold temperatures. Heavy snow and freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on your garden’s well being. Chicago summers are similarly extreme—on many July and August days, the temperature and humidity soar and people and gardens alike suffer.

Fortunately, mulch is very helpful in protecting your garden from weather extremes. As discussed above, mulch acts as a layer of insulation between your garden and the air temperature. This effect is enhanced by the pockets of trapped air between the individual pieces of mulch. Mulch made from hardwood chips is particularly good for this purpose because wood is a poor conductor of heat and cold.

While mulch won’t do a great deal to protect the parts of the plants that are above ground, it plays an important role in protecting parts of your plants that lurk beneath the surface. In particular, its insulating properties it prevent roots, seeds, and bulbs from being killed by the cold or heat, which means your garden can spring back to life once the weather becomes more hospitable.

5. Mulch Makes Your Garden More Attractive

A thick layer of mulch is more than just practical. It can also give your garden more aesthetic appeal. Beautiful hardwood mulch in natural hues like red, brown, or straw can help cover up dull garden beds, enhance and highlight plant and tree foliage, and create a unified look throughout the different areas of your garden.

Mulch is an important part of having a healthy, beautiful, and ecologically sound garden, so it’s well worth considering it for your home. It will help to ensure that you spend more time relaxing and enjoying the space instead of getting your hands dirty. If you’re interested, get in touch with Smitty’s Tree and Arbor Services today.

5 Reasons Why Mulch Is Your Garden’s Best Friend2019-04-21T03:43:19+00:00

Don’t Spend Your Life Doing Yard Work: Plant a Low Maintenance Tree


When you’re thinking about adding a new tree to your landscape, you have many factors to consider. You may have a preference for how the tree looks, how much fruit it produces, how much shade it offers, and how high it should grow.

But when you’re choosing which type of tree to plant, don’t overlook how much work some trees take to cultivate. Some trees flourish with minimal maintenance, while others require a lot of care. If you want your tree to get along okay without you, you’ll need to pick carefully. Keep reading to find which trees to avoid and which could be great for your yard.

High-Maintenance Trees to Avoid

Don’t plant a tree that will cost you excessive amounts of time and effort. You should avoid these trees.

1. Norway Maple

As you may guess from their name, Norway maples are not native to the United States. However, some homeowners choose to plant them because they can thrive in many different kinds of soil or weather. Additionally, they’re beautiful trees. The leaves turn a gorgeous shade of yellow in the fall, and you can find yellow flowers on their branches in springtime.

Don’t be fooled, though. Despite their looks, these trees are more trouble than they’re worth. The Norway maple has a shallow root system that aggressively winds around the tree trunk. Not only do the shallow roots make it easier for the tree to tip over, but without constant care the roots can strangle the tree. Don’t plant a tree that you’ll have to stop from killing itself.

2. Willow

You can find many types of willow trees, including pussy willows, black willows, and Missouri willows, and they’re all very graceful. You may love the long, elegant lines of the dangling branches.

However, this tree is not very strong. Willow trees have very brittle wood, which means that high winds and large snowfalls can break off branches. Additionally, willows love water, and as the roots search it out they can break your water or sewer pipes. Leave willows to their natural habitat by bodies of water and plant something else.

3. Cottonwood

Cottonwood trees grow quickly, making them an attractive option for homeowners who want some shade in their yards as soon as possible. However, cottonwood trees are more trouble than they’re worth.

Like the Norway maple, cottonwood trees have shallow root systems, making the trees more susceptible to falling over during high winds or heavy snowfall. Also, like willows, the wood is weak, so branches can break off during rough weather. Cottonwoods are worse than either tree, though: these trees are highly susceptible to disease and pests, and they’ll drop fluff and leaves all over your yard.

Don’t get a cottonwood tree-you’ll regret it. Choose something stronger and less messy.

Low-Maintenance Trees to Look In To

You have many, many options if you need a hardy tree that won’t take much work. Ask your arborist about these options.

1. Amur Maple

Skip the Norway maple and try this tree. It provides great shade, and the leaves turn a beautiful shade of red-orange in autumn. This tree doesn’t grow to be too big, and it could be great for shading your front porch.

The Amur maple can grow in most kinds of soil, but it prefers moist soil with good drainage. The only help it should need is if you’re in a drought-make sure to give it extra water then.

2. River Birch

If you love the slender, graceful lines of the willow tree, consider looking into the birch family instead. River birches have unique bark that looks like it’s peeling, giving your yard some new texture.

River birches are great in sunny areas, especially near water. If you have a pond, the river birch is a great option. You likely won’t have to worry about the tree again once it’s established.

3. Douglas Fir

If you’d like a tree that takes care of itself, consider the Douglas fir. This evergreen tree can brighten up your yard during all four seasons.

One of the chief draws of this tree is that it rarely needs pruning. You may have to occasionally remove dead branches, but the shape of the tree takes care of itself. Otherwise, the only care it really needs is some mulch to keep the soil moist and some extra water during droughts. You won’t even have to worry about raking leaves in the fall.


Choosing a tree can be difficult. If you want your tree to last for many years without requiring much work from you, talk to a local arborist like Smitty’s Tree Service. We have over 60 years of experience, and our knowledge of Chicagoland’s climate and soil will help us guide you to the trees that will thrive in your yard. Call us to get our expert opinion.

Don’t Spend Your Life Doing Yard Work: Plant a Low Maintenance Tree2019-04-21T03:44:15+00:00

3 Common Backyard Chicago Trees and the Threats They Face


Thanks to El Nino, Chicago enjoyed a relatively warm winter from the end of 2015 to the beginning of 2016.
But past years haven’t been as kind to the Windy City-no one in the city will ever forget the notorious
Groundhog Day “Snowpocalypse” of 2011 that dropped 21 inches of snow and stranded cars for days.

Of course, winter isn’t the only season Chicago residents worry about. This summer, like most Chicago summers, promises temperatures above 90 degrees with high humidity. Humans adapt to this type of weather by heading indoors, soaking in the air conditioning, or frolicking in the lake on the hottest days.

Unlike you, though, your trees can’t pick themselves up and head inside and out of the weather. Chicago’s trees have to be sturdy enough to endure the fluctuating temperature all year long, and their endurance makes them fairly unique.  

Below, we’ll tell you more about some of Chicago’s most popular native trees. Since they’re native to the area, most of these trees resist harsh weather, pests, and infestations fairly well, but we’ll tell you about the most common threats to these trees so you can be on the lookout.

1. American Sweetgum

Although the star-shaped leaves of the American sweetgum look beautiful in the spring and summer, they explode into vivid colors each fall. The tapestry of colors makes the sweetgum a popular choice for homeowners and city planners in the area.

Since the sweetgum is native to Illinois, it can endure the harsh conditions of Chicago’s designated plant hardiness zone, zone five. Zone five trees can survive temperatures of -20 degrees Fahrenheit and thrive in humid climates.

Sweetgums grow fairly tall, and their pyramid shape makes them the perfect shade trees. If you have one of these trees in your backyard, you probably appreciate the cooling effect they create on the hottest summer days.

Most Common Threats

American sweetgum trees don’t face many threats from pests. They might experience damage from bagworms and fall webworms, so contact an arborist if you see webbing and sacks on the trees. Sweetgum branches can also experience scale, which you can prevent by treating the tree in the spring.

American sweetgums can grow in wet soil, though they do better in drained soil. They can tolerate drought moderately well, though extremely dry conditions kill the tree. If the trees roots get damaged or experience drought, the crown of the tree will start to die. During a hot, dry summer, you should pay particular attention to your sweetgum.

Take care to water the tree properly throughout the year. These trees have fairly extensive root systems, so before you plant a sweetgum, ensure that you have enough space for the roots to grow.

2. Sassafras

The trees that give you root beer are native to central and southern Illinois. If you don’t have one in your back or front yard, you’ve likely seen sassafras trees lining the streets of Chicago suburbs.

Like American sweetgums, sassafras trees produce beautiful flowers in the spring and turn gorgeous colors in the fall-the leaves become orange or even purplish. The trees also smell aromatic and exotic all year long.

Consider planting a sassafras if you need to rejuvenate infertile soil in your yard. You can grow a cluster of sassafras trees, but a single tree is often enough to shade your backyard and attract butterflies and birds.

Most Common Threats

If your tree’s leaves start to yellow during the spring or summer, your soil’s composition is probably unbalanced and the tree could have an iron deficiency. If you notice any yellow leaves on the tree, get in touch with your arborist to address the problem as soon as possible.

Sassafras trees can withstand most pest infestations, but they’re particularly susceptible to root borers and gypsy moths. Wood-boring weevils can kill smaller trees, and Japanese beetles particularly love to feast on sassafras bark.

3. Ironwood

Ironwoods are some of Illinois’ most beautiful and most durable hardwood trees. If you have an ironwood tree, you’ll enjoy its distinctive brownish-gray bark that peels off in strips. The leaves yellow in the fall.

Ironwoods provide excellent shade covering and can grow up to 40 feet high. They tolerate acidic and alkaline soils well (though not salty soil), and they’re relatively tolerant of drought conditions (though not of poorly drained soil).

Ironwood trees attract a host of native Illinois creatures, from small mammals to beautiful songbirds. You should prune these trees in either the early spring or the tail-end of winter.

Most Common Threats

Like sassafras and American sweetgum, ironwood trees are very pest resistant. The only thing to look out for is tree trunk rot, which stems from a fungus that infests the tree’s trunk. If you notice wilted or yellowing leaves, your tree could have tree trunk rot, but you should contact an arborist to be sure.

Enjoy Your Native Illinois Trees

Your native Illinois trees enjoy living in Chicago as much as you do. If you have either of these three types of trees in your yard, be on the lookout for the pests and diseases we mentioned, but remember that you don’t have much to worry about-as long as you work with a qualified arborist, your trees will withstand Chicago’s harsh climate for years to come.  

3 Common Backyard Chicago Trees and the Threats They Face2019-04-21T03:46:23+00:00

How an Arborist Can Enhance Your Next Landscaping Project


Backyards have a lot of potential. You can use the outdoor space to host summer barbecues, camp with your kids, throw a party, or just relax after a tiring day. But if your backyard’s current look doesn’t live up to or match the design you have in mind, you’ve likely decided to renovate it.

For your new landscape to fit your vision flawlessly, you’ll need a team of landscape architects to plant gardens, lay stone walkways, and install a miniature waterfall. However, landscape artists need to have an even, well-prepared yard to work with.

Before you implement your dream design for a new backyard, hire an arborist to perform the following services. As you work with these experts, you’ll create the perfect blank slate so you and your landscape architect can bring your vision to life.

Land Clearing

Land clearing refers to several different services that prepare an outdoor area for further construction or renovation. Most often, this service is performed on larger areas of land that will be converted to conservation habitats for local wildlife. However, an arborist can perform land clearing on residential properties. He or she will remove stumps, trees, and other plant life so the land can be used for your specified purpose.

We’ll talk more about tree and stump removal below, but in general, you’ll want an arborist to clear your backyard of any excess foliage before you start your next landscaping project. If you have scraggly bushes, weed-filled patches, or flowing ground vines throughout your yard, removing them provides you with more useable space.

Tree Removal

As part of land clearing, your arborist should also remove sick, damaged, or dead trees from your yard. Additionally, if you have too many trees for your yard or if the trees you have are growing too close to your home, removing them reduces your risk for injury or property damage.

By removing dead, sick, damaged, or dangerous trees from your yard, an arborist ensures that:

  • Your home and property are protected against potential damage.
  • Your lawn and yard are clear of trees that could inhibit your landscaping project’s efficacy and aesthetic.
  • Your grass and yard are in healthy condition so you can enjoy your new landscape.

Once the trees have been removed from your property, ask your arborist if he or she can turn the tree into mulch that you can use for your landscaping project. Mulch made from healthy trees can keep your landscape looking fresh. It can also hold moisture in the ground, benefitting any new plants you add to the space.

Stump Removal and Grinding

Another land clearing service that arborists offer is stump removal and grinding. If you have a stump (or several) on your property, you’ll want it removed before you begin your renovation. The stump not only puts you and others at risk for injury, but it also makes landscaping difficult to accomplish.

And, old stumps are the perfect abode for insects-and too many insects and pests in your yard may damage the area after you’ve renovated it.

Stumps are hard to work around, but removing them on your own is also difficult. Arborists use heavy machinery to grind the stump into mulch and then fill the hole with the mulch to keep the area safe and clean.

Tree Trimming

If you’ve worked your current trees into your new yard’s design scheme, then let your arborist trim them. Overgrown, hanging, or broken branches pose a hazard to you and your property. Regular tree trimming also provides the following benefits:

  • Your trees will stay healthier for longer when weak, dead, or damaged branches are trimmed away.
  • Your trees will look better after they are pruned, which enhances the overall aesthetic of your yard.
  • Your trees will produce more, larger fruit (if you have a fruit tree) when they are well maintained.
  • Your yard will receive more sun exposure when the branches are regularly trimmed back.

Regular tree trimming also opens up the space. Without looming, hanging branches, your yard will look bigger.

Lawn Aerations

Arborists can also perforate the soil to allow water, air, and other nutrients to reach the grass roots. When your lawn is aerated, the roots can grow deeper and they become stronger. As a result, you’ll have a healthier, lusher lawn that can withstand various kinds of weather. And, your healthier lawn will further enhance the new landscaping once you’ve completed that project.


Before you begin your next landscaping project, turn to a certified arborist to help you prepare your yard for renovation. Arborists can take the steps mentioned above to ensure that your yard is ready for remodeling. These services will enhance your yard and further your new landscape design so you can enjoy this renovated outdoor area for years.

How an Arborist Can Enhance Your Next Landscaping Project2019-04-21T03:47:04+00:00