Maintaining Trees in the Urban Forest

Maintaining Trees in the Urban Forest


Arboriculture is the art, business, and science of caring for trees in residential areas. Trees provide many benefits like shading houses and cleaning the air and water; they also improve our quality of life. Planting trees in our towns and cities is a great way to make them nicer places to live and work.

Students in the Arboriculture & Urban Forestry program will learn the importance of and how to care for trees.  Students will take a proactive approach to climate change as they learn what they can do now and in the future to make their communities greener. Arboriculture and urban forestry are core aspects of environmental conservation.

This program will cover a number of earth science related topics including: botany, physiology, soil composition, run-off, and pollution.  Students will also receive hands-on experiential training in: identifying trees, identifying disease in trees, climbing trees (knot tying, ascension, limb walking, tree worker safety), pruning, plant health care, and pest management.

Our 2-week intensive will balance academic study of the science and business of arboriculture while offering an introduction to the basic skills required to work in the field.

Arborists are in great demand in many towns and cities because it is important to properly plant and maintain trees. There are currently multiple career opportunities for graduates with either a two- or a four-year degree in Arboriculture & Urban Forestry at UMass-Amherst.


Description of Topics


I.     Arboriculture

a.  Cabling is the installation of structural support systems in trees to reduce the likelihood of failure. We will cover types of systems, when it is appropriate to use each, and how to install them

b. Fertilizing is managing soil nutrients, pH, soil texture, and organic matter. We will cover why it is important to test the soil and foliage prior to fertilizing, different application methods, and calculating how much to apply.

c.  Planning is the process of determining which trees to plant in a given site. We will cover the concept of “plant the right tree in the right place” to maximize the benefit/cost ratio of each tree. We will also cover how to inspect nursery stock to reduce future maintenance needs.

d.  Planting involves digging a planting hole, installing the tree at the proper depth, and backfilling without compacting the soil. We will also discuss after-care during the first growing season, including irrigation, and different seasons for planting trees.

e.  Pruning is the selective removal of branches to achieve an objective. It is one of the most common things an arborist does. We will cover different pruning objectives, different types of pruning and which branches to remove, as well as how to make proper pruning cuts.

f.  Safety is the most important aspect of arboriculture and this class. We will review the ANSI Z.133 safety standard and all of the relevant aspects of safety. We will emphasize safety every day, to inculcate a safety culture.

II.    Botany

a.  Anatomy includes understanding all of the basic parts of a plant:  leaves, stem, roots, vascular & meristematic tissue

b. Morphology is the external appearance of different plant parts (the shape and arrangement of leaves, buds, and flowers; bark; crown architecture)

c.  Physiology includes the functions of a plant (photosynthesis, respiration, transpiration, reproduction, osmosis)

III.   Benefits

a.  Trees provide many societal benefits; we will qualify and quantify them

b.  We may be able to use iTree software to quantify benefits

IV.   Business

a.  Use of Excel to manage and analyze business data

b.  Importance of communication with clients and employees (this includes using Powerpoint or a similar software to present information)

V.    Climbing

a.  We will cover all aspects of safe climbing, from inspecting your gear, the site, and the tree, to proper stretching before and after climbing, to setting a rope, ascending, tying good knots, choosing an appropriate anchor point, and working the tree (limb-walking).

VI.   Pruning

a.  We will cover pruning objectives, knowing which branches to prune for different types of pruning (clean, raise, reduce, thin), what types of pruning cuts there are (reduction, thinning), and how to make them (three-cut method).

VII.   Soils

a.  Texture is the percent sand/silt/clay particles in a soil

b.  Structure is the arrangement of pore space and soild particles

c.  Cation exchange capacity is the ability of a soil to hold nutrients to be exchanged with tree roots

VIII.  Tree Identification

a.  Use morphology (leaves, buds, flowers, bark) to identify plants

b.  Learn Latin binomials (genus & species) for common landscape plants

c.  Distinguish between hardwoods and softwoods (conifers)


Instructor: Brian Kane

Sample schedule: Arboriculture and Urban Forestry