Tips for Planting Happy, Healthy Trees

Trees are long term investments and bring beauty, shade and fresh air to us all. You may think that planting something means you stick it in the ground, cover it with soil and water it and hope for the best, but if you take small steps during the planting process, you can give your trees the best start. You will definitely reap the rewards at a later.

Finding the Trunk Flare

The roots of a tree need to be watered, but they also need access to oxygen, and planting a tree’s roots too deep can cause the roots to slowly suffocate. Planting a tree too deep can also lead to the development of circling roots which can girdle and choke the tree as it grows.

To ensure that the tree is planted at the right depth, you can use the trunk flare as a guide. Take a look at a tree that has grown naturally in the landscape, and notice the area where the base of the trunk gradually widens or flares out just as it enters the ground. This is generally called the trunk flare, or the root collar.

You need to plant your tree so that the base of the trunk flare is right at the surface of the soil or slightly above in dense soil.

So, it’s best to ignore the old advice of simply measuring the height of the root ball to see how deep to dig the hole. Rather go by the trunk flare.

You also may want to set the root ball on undisturbed soil to prevent the tree from sinking down into the hole as the soil compacts again, and covering the trunk flare.


Make the hole wide

This is done so that the soil around the hole can be easily penetrated by the roots. This is especially necessary with more dense soil such as clay where the sides can be slicked over with a hard layer, making it difficult for the roots to push through the soil.


Setting the tree in the hole

At this stage, you may want to loosen and spread the roots on the outside of the root ball before setting it into the hole, but it is important to keep the root ball intact. If you notice any roots that are growing around the root ball or that are kinked, trim them away.

Be very careful with the root system as you set the tree into the hole. Breaking the roots in the root ball can have serious, life-threatening consequences for the tree.


Use native soil to fill the hole

At this stage, you may think that adding fertilizer and organic material to the soil is a good idea, but the tree will do much better with the native soil that you dug out. If you fertilize the native soil, the roots will stay within this pocket of hospitable soil, and will not cross the boundary into the native soil and this will ultimately affect the overall health and longevity of the tree.

Stake only if absolutely necessary

Most gardeners think that a stake is imperative when planting a new tree. The natural movement of an unstaked tree helps it to develop a stronger trunk and a more robust root system, so staking a tree actually causes more problems than you may think.


You can spread mulch about 5 to 10 cm deep over the root zone to help keep moisture in the soil. Remember to make it into a doughnut shape and do not cover the trunk itself with mulch as this could cause rotting of the trunk amongst other problems.

Keep your young tree well watered during its first season in the ground – but take care not to over water. Just ensure that the water soaks through the entire depth of the root ball.

(Part 2) The Life Cycle of Trees and How to Care for them at Each Phase

This week we explore the more mature stages in the life cycle of trees.

  • Adult/Mature

As soon as a tree starts to produce fruit and flowers, it is no longer classified as a sapling and this is the time of it’s life in which it is most productive. The length of this phase depends on the species of the tree.

In this stage of the life cycle, caring for the tree changes. It is a good idea to regularly inspect your trees for diseases, pests and branches that may pose a danger to you or the tree’s health.

During dry periods, it is still important to deep water your tree. Although the tree is now able to withstand longer periods without water, it is still a good idea to deep water the tree at least once a month. You will also need to prune regularly. If you are not sure how or where to prune, we suggest calling a professional tree care specialist.

Be sure to mulch regularly, but be more cautious with fertilizer as a healthy tree is most likely able to draw essential nutrients from the ground. Test the soil first to avoid harming the tree with too many chemicals.

  • Ancient Tree

An ancient tree is not usually identified as Ancient by it’s age, but rather by it’s characteristics since the life span of a tree depends on the species. The characteristics will be, for example, a tree with a small canopy and a hollow trunk.

Once again, we suggest regular tree inspections to check for disease, pests and the need for pruning.

Keep in mind that the tree is not as supple and strong as it used to be in its youth, so be aware that you could seriously damage your ancient tree by drilling into the tree or hanging items from it, like tyre swings, etc.

  • Decaying Tree (Snag)

This is the final stage of a tree’s life cycle and includes trees that are decaying as well as dead trees that are still standing. The tree itself will no longer grow, but the usefulness of its trunk to the environment around it has not yet diminished. The dead wood can now provide homes for wildlife and insects and can also be a source of food for them.

A snag does not require a lot of care as the tree is essentially dead or dying.

The Life Cycle of Trees and How to Care for them at Each Phase (Part 1)

Just Like humans, in fact, just like all living things, trees have a life cycle. This article will examine these stages and suggest how you should take care of your trees in each stage of their life cycle.

  • Seed

Seeds are a means for trees to ensure that the next generation of the species is spread and propagates – to ensure that the species continues to survive.

The seed contains all the resources needed for it to survive on its own, for a period of time so that it can reach a safe place to germinate.

The best time to sow seeds is in Autumn but you need to ensure that they are planted or sowed at the recommended depth. If they are planted too deep, they may not sprout and if they are planted too shallow the roots won’t take hold and the seedling will wither.

You should ensure that you use a good soil that drains well and place the container in a sunny spot. Ensure that you keep it moist but not wet, as too much water could cause decay and the seed will not sprout. The environment should also be quite humid, so we suggest that you cover the container in a plastic tent with some holes to allow air circulation.

Once your seed germinates, move it to a brighter location – you may need to keep it indoors until you are ready to plant it, but ensure that the plant gets plenty of sunlight.

  • Sprout

The seed has now fallen and needs to secure itself – this happens when the primary root emerges from the seed in order to anchor it and to provide the growing plant with water.

Once the primary root is secure, the embryotic shoot emerges which will then appear above the soil.

  • Seedling

A tree is considered a seedling until it is about 3 ft or 1 metre tall. This is the stage of the tree life cycle when it is most at risk of disease or damage. The seedling would be called a whip if it does not have any branches.

It is best to uproot, store and transplant trees during their dormant phase because they are more able to resist stresses during this phase. This is usually during the Autumn and Winter months.

You need to ensure that the roots remain properly moisturised as the root tips desiccate from lack of moisture. The root tips are extremely important for the tree as this is where new roots will sprout from.

Try to handle the seedling as little as possible.

Choose a spot that is well protected from most of the elements in your garden so that the tree can stand a fighting chance of survival.

  • Sapling

Once a tree grows higher than 1m it is considered a sapling, but the duration of time for which the tree is considered a sapling depends on the species.

Water is much more important than fertilizer in the first two years, so make sure that you keep the soil moist, but not wet. Even though your tree is at it’s weakest just after planting it and will need a fair amount of water, you can still over water it and you could lose your tree. To check if it has enough water, you can dig a small trench around the sapling and checking if the soil is still moist. If this is dry to the touch, your plant needs water.

Ensure that you use the deep watering technique with saplings that are planted in your garden. Shallow watering will result in surface roots forming which are too weak to support the young tree and will make it more susceptible to disease.


Stay tuned for part 2 of this informative article.

Quadrastichus Mendeli: Is this species a friend or a foe?

FABI (Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute) has recently discovered a natural enemy of the invasive wasp species, Leptocybe Invasa in South Africa.


Leptocybe Invasa

The pest Leptocybe Invasa is native to Queensland, Australia, but has spread to Africa, Asia, the pacific, Europe and Latin America. In fact, any country that has Eucalyptus trees can fall victim to this gall wasp.

In South Africa, Eucalyptus plantations are being infested by this pest. They insert their eggs into newly sprouted leaves, petioles and stems of the Eucalyptus tree, and, as the tree develops, the larvae grow and deforms the attacked area. This deformed mass of tissue is called a gall, hence the term, gall wasp.

Each gall has multiple chambers and each chamber hosts a developing insect, drawing nutrients from the deformed plant tissue surrounding it. At a high enough infestation rate, the growth of trees can be stunted. They can even be killed. This insect can cause major devastation of the Eucalyptus tree population resulting in various management strategies like the selection and deployment of resistant eucalypt genotypes and the introduction of biological control species like the Selitrichodes neseri.


Quadrastichus Mendeli

Having this little wasp in South Africa is good news. It is hoped that the Q.Mendeli will control and eventually end the spread of Leptocybe Invasa.

The Q. Mendeli is indigenous to Australia, is about 1mm and directly attacks the developing L. Invasa larvae. The Q. Mendeli was deliberately introduced by Israel and India and they have seen very good results in the control of the L. Invasa.

The situation is being monitored buy collecting samples of galls for research on a regular basis, but for now, all we can do is wait for the Q. Mendeli to do it’s job!

Organic Christmas Trees

December is fast approaching and the Christmas feeling is already in the air. Why decorate the same old way with that same old plastic tree?

There are some trees and shrubs that can substitute as a Christmas tree and once Christmas is over, it can be planted in your garden, or it can be kept in it’s pot ready for next year’s use. You can even take the DIY one step further by using seed pods and other organic material to make decorations. Get creative with paint, glitter, beads and other fun things and paint those cones and seed pods that you pick up around your garden!

Not only will you be saving the planet by reducing the use of plastic but you can also save money!

There are some Indigenous Tree Species that would make lovely Christmas Trees. These include:

  • The Yellowwood Tree (Podocarpus Henkelli)

This tree is often considered to be South Africa’s National Tree – it has glossy, dense, drooping leaves and a neat canopy. The branches are strong enough to hold decorations and the tree doesn’t grow very fast, so you should be able to use it as a Christmas Tree for many years. In a natural habitat the tree can reach between 20 and 30m in height, but it will be just fine in a container as well.

  • Outeniqua Yellowwood (Podocarpus Falcatus)

When young, this evergreen tree has the traditional conical Christmas Tree shape and can permanently be kept in a container due to its slow growing properties. In a natural habitat, the tree can reach up to 12m.

  • Real Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius)

This is an evergreen, frost hardy tree with blue-green foliage that can be grown and kept in a container for many years.

  • Cape Gardenia (Rothmania Capensis)

This is one of the most attractive indigenous evergreens that has glossy dark green leaves and flowers from December to February.

  • Cheesewood (Pittosporum Viridiflorum)

This tree only reaches about 7 metres in height which makes it great for a small garden or container. It is frost hardy and has glossy dark green leaves that forms a neat canopy.

  • Blue Guarrie (Euclea Crispa)

This member of the Ebony Family is a neat, upright tree with a dense round canopy of dark bluish green leaves. It has a rusty to dark brown bark, often covered in lichen. This evergreen tree is ideal for smaller gardens and provides shade all year round because of its frost hardy and wind resistant properties. In summer, the sweet fragrance of the yellow bell-shaped flowers attracts butterflies and beautiful birds.

  • Mountain Cedar (Widringtonia Nodiflora)

This tree canopy is conically shaped with needle-like leaves – it looks the most like a traditional Christmas Tree. The tree is frost and drought resistant which makes it more likely to thrive in our tempestuous South African Weather conditions.

Caring for your Trees this Summer

Caring for your trees during the summer months is just as important as during any other season. This article will look at a few tips and techniques you can use to take care of your trees during the long, hot summer!


The best time for mulching trees would be spring time, but you will also be able to successfully mulch your trees in summer and still reap many of the benefits. Mulch keeps your soil temperatures cool by helping to conserve the moisture in the soil, and suppresses the growth of weeds. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t mulch against the trunk of the tree as this can cause the trunk to rot over time. Rather make a donut shaped mulch layer around your trees.


South African summers can get quite hot, so it may be necessary for you to water your trees regularly, especially if the tree is young or newly planted. Trees need, on average, one inch of water per week, and it is much more effective to water a tree less frequently, but you need to make sure that the water reaches deeper into the ground to reach the deep roots of the trees.


Just like humans, trees need nutrients to support leaf and shoot growth, and to fend off diseases and pests. Trees growing in urban areas or high stress areas will need more fertilizer than trees growing in natural areas


Pruning trees is as much an art as it is a science – this is why you should try to leave it up to the professionals. You should try to limit your pruning to the dormant season, but sometimes it is necessary to prune your trees in summer. You should remove any branches or leaves that are diseased, damaged or dead. Flowering trees should only be pruned in the early summer, after they finish blooming.

Tree Pest Inspections

You should always keep an eye on your trees, by examining them frequently throughout the summer to check for pests and diseases. Most insects are not harmful to trees but some can be devastating to the health of a tree. Inspecting your trees regularly will ensure that you catch any potential infestations early, and will prevent the loss of precious, oxygen producing trees.

Storm Damage

Summer rain storms can cause damage to trees and property, and it is important to assess the health and strength of your trees after every heavy storm. You may need to consult a tree care specialist to assess the safety of large trees. You could also brace and/or secure weak limbs with cables, if it is not necessary to completely remove the limb.

To Burn or Not To Burn

Spring time has arrived in sunny South Africa and this means it’s time to braai! South Africans love to enjoy the beautiful weather and environment we are blessed with by spending time outside with friends and family around the fire.

Contrary to what you might think, not all wood should be used in a fireplace or a braai. There are some risk factors to consider when choosing your fire wood to ensure that you, your friends and your family stay safe and healthy while enjoying the great outdoors.


Never use the following:


  • Green Wood

When a tree is cut down, the wood needs to be left out to dry, or season, for an extended period of time (more than 9 months is best). A newly felled tree will still have tree sap and water stored within its branches.

Freshly cut fire wood is very difficult to set alight, it produces less heat and a lot more smoke. The wood will also bubble and pop as it burns away the moisture in the wood.

Chimney fires may be caused by burning the wet wood of certain species of tree. The smoke could contain a high concentration of creosote, which is a flammable substance that collects in chimneys as the smoke escapes. Evergreen trees give off more creosotes than most.

Green Wood will have firmly attached bark that is still sticky with sap. Seasoned wood will weigh less and will make a cracking sound if you hit it with another piece of wood.


  • Non-local Wood

If you live or are visiting an area which is affected by an invasive species, you should take care not to move the wood outside of this area.

The spread of invasive insects and diseases is mainly caused by firewood that travels outside of the affected area. New outbreaks almost always start in and around camp sites or public braai areas where firewood is often used.


  • Soft Wood

Soft wood like Pine, Fir or Cypress are soft woods that burn fast, does not form many coals and causes a lot of smoke and soot. If you are using a fireplace or chimney, you may want to avoid wood that is prone to producing soot.

You can use seasoned soft wood for outdoor fires, but cooking using soft wood may become difficult as the wood does not form many coals.



  • Driftwood

Salt Water Drift wood becomes saturated with salt, and burning this can release harmful chemicals into the air. Salt contains Chlorine which can burn away mucus membranes in a condensed gaseous form. The smoke from driftwood can also be corrosive that can damage your fireplace or braai.


  • Poisonous Wood

Any wood that has the word ‘poison’ in its name should never be burned as it will release an irritant called Urushiol into the smoke. This will cause major respiratory problems and can be life threatening in some cases.


  • Oleander or Ceylon Rose (Selonsroos)

Oleander is an invasive species in the South African eco-system, so you may think it will help our eco system if you burn these plants, but every part of the Oleander shrub or tree is extremely poisonous. The sap also irritates the skin. Burning any part of this tree will release carcinogens into the air which is harmful to breathe in. The wood should never be placed near food either.


  • Treated, painted or pressure treated wood

Even though Brands Tree Felling does not deal with or produce this type of wood, we think it is important to mention.

Burning wood that has been treated, painted or pressure treated will release harmful chemicals into the air. This can lead to major health problems for the people around your fire, and for people eating the food prepared on this fire.

Pressure Treated Wood can be identified by its greenish or reddish hue and the perforations on the surface.

Plywood is also not suitable for burning as burning the glue used in the manufacturing process releases harmful chemicals into the air.

Milled Lumber may be treated with polyethylene glycol to make it dry faster.


  • Big Pieces of Wood

If the firewood is too big to fit into your fireplace or braai, it is not suitable. Large pieces of wood can fall out and set alight the surrounding areas.


  • Endangered Species

Needless to say, burning wood from an endangered species would be a tragedy.

For the comprehensive list of the protect tree species.

The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) is threatening South African Trees

The polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB), also known as Euwallacea Fornicatus are able to cause a great deal of damage to our environment, and it has recently been discovered in South Africa.

These beetles are approximately 2mm long and is native to South East Asia, which means that the beetle has no natural predator in South Africa and can spread like wildfire.

To make matters worse, this beetle has a symbiotic relationship with certain types of fungi, like Fusarium Euwallacea. The fungus is the beetles’ main source of food in addition to it being the main cause associated with the wilting of trees. The beetle is believed to use the other types of fungi to help with colonisation of infected trees.

This beetle along with the associated fungi, has caused tremendous damage to trees across the US (specifically California) and regions of the Middle East. Considering the devastation caused by this beetle in Sandton and in Knysna (currently infesting over 200 indigenous tree species from 28 different plant families) this beetle could cause one of South Africa’s largest ecological tragedies.


How does the beetle infest the tree?

The beetle itself, does not kill the tree, but the fungus accompanying the beetle does. The fungus infects the tree’s vascular system which then affects and/or stops the flow of water and nutrients within the tree.


How to Identify the Shot Hole Borer

Unfortunately, the beetles are the size of sesame seeds and can be hard to spot, however, you can identify an infected tree by looking for the following signs:

  • Wilting or missing leaves
  • Dead or dying Branches
  • Entry or Exit holes on the bark (the size of a pen tip) – these holes may have staining around them
  • Shotgun like lesions on the bark at entry or exit hole
  • Sugar Volcanoes on the bark at entry or exit hole
  • Blotches of oozing resin on the bark at entry or exit holes
  • Wood frass (wood powder) on the bark at entry or exit holes


What Can I do about PSHB?

The PSHB beetle drills very deeply into the wood, which is why no remedy has, as yet, been discovered for this pest. We recommend KOINOR at this stage, but results are, unfortunately, not guaranteed.

The public can also aid in the management of the spreading of this infestation by reporting any signs to FABI (Forestry and Biotechnology Institute).

The discovery of this beetle in South Africa is a major concern to foresters, farmers, tree fellers and landscapers as these beetles are very aggressive and are known as tree killers. We have a large biodiversity in South Africa hosting 299 species of mammals and 858 species of birds, all depending on trees for their food and shelter. It is our duty to take care of the natural beauty we are blessed with.

Of course, of course we can!

of course we can

Hotel Hope Ministries


Brands Tree Fellingcomes to the rescue” for Hotel Hope Ministries in their Melville children’s home. This children’s home, catering for 18 children, had a forest of greenery in the back garden, with trees hanging over the neighbour’s property – trees that had not been cut or maintained in ages. It was a big mess and an even bigger job, but nothing that Brands Tree Felling could not handle. They managed the job in a day and a half, cutting though all the trees, cleaning up, and without causing any damage to the surrounding property.


The Hotel Hope Ministries charity has been in existence since 2008, and the children’s home opened in 2011. They have two homes in Melville and one in Westdene that is still being built. This organisation has had 90 children since 2011 across the two homes in Melville and of those 73 have been adopted into South African families or families abroad. Most of these children are orphaned through crime, accidents, poverty and HIV and then taken in by Hotel Hope Ministries.


Hotel Hope not only cares for our youngsters, but also educates the mothers through its teenage crisis intervention in Alexandria.


Hotel Hope Ministries initially got to know Brands Tree Felling 5 years ago when Hotel Hope had a Peach tree in the back of their property that fell over. As Hotel Hope did not have the capabilities to remove the tree themselves, Brands assisted in the process. Brands Tree Felling and Hotel Hope Ministries have been joining forces ever since as they are, according to Oliver Quambusch, “ethical, honest, and don’t do it for the glory”.



Children of Fire


Children of Fire,  Africa’s First Burns Charity, has a long-standing relationship with Brands Tree Felling.


This organisation stated that they are always on hand to give advice which trees should be trimmed, how, when, and how much. Sometimes, when a tree was cracking a building or a wall, they helped to remove a tree entirely. At other times, Brands trimmed the Pride of Bolivia, the Pride of India, the Loquat tree and many more trees that Children of Fire cannot always remember the names of.


They have also helped to prevent determined surplus trees from growing back, after the boles of the trees have been destumped. Child burns survivors have also been taught the difference between indigenous and alien trees, which trees support wildlife, and those which are not so good for the environment.


“We hope to keep working with Brands Tree Felling for many more years. They are reliable, efficient, safe and their teams are well-trained, well-equipped, courteous and tidy”.

Prune Away The Winter Decay

Prune away the winter decay

To most homeowners, trees are highly valued as they lay the foundation of any landscape.  It is for that reason that most homeowners would aim to keep their trees as healthy as possible, although this isn’t always an easy task.  One thing that is very beneficial to the health of trees is pruning.  Pruning contributes to keeping trees safe, beautiful and healthy.

Tree pruning promotes tree health


When trees are pruned properly, they are stripped of all the dead or dying branches.  These are often very dangerous to your trees as well as the surrounding property and any people or animals that may find themselves in the vicinity of the trees.  Cutting away threatening branches prevents further decay and promotes a trees general health as it permits the tree to nurture the remaining branches more effectively.  Moreover, trimmed trees get better air circulation and sun exposure which are two vital factors that make for healthier trees.  Regular pruning is also a good method of fighting infections and insects that may be found in trees.  When infections get into your tree, they tend to travel to all the healthier parts of the tree, ultimately endangering the tree in its entirety.  This can be avoided by trimming away dead branches to prevent infection or further spreading.

Tree pruning improves the overall appearance and structure of trees


Trimming or pruning your trees has the added benefit of beautifying your landscape. By cutting off all of the unappealing dead branches you can clean up your tree thereby improving the aesthetics of your landscape.  This also serves to prevent the growth of unattractive broad and fragile branches.

Moreover, tree pruning prevent trees from growing branches with frail crotches which will eventually cross each other and compete for space in the crown of the tree.  Trees can also be shaped by means of pruning.  When doing this one can smooth out uneven growth patterns, thereby make the tree more appealing to the eye.

Tree pruning increases property values


Properties with a groomed and well maintained gardens, undoubtedly have an increased property value.  It is therefore vital to keep you garden spick-and-span.  One of the elements of this is to make sure that your trees are always well pruned and maintained.

Tree pruning prevents possible hazards


As tree pruning lightens a tree’s weight, it reduces the possibility of a tree or some of its branches falling during storms or heavy rains and winds.  Another reason why regularly pruned trees are considered safer is because they don’t carry dead branches.  Dead branches can fall at any time possibly causing damage to the garden below, people, animals and buildings.

Prune in Summer or Winter?


Firstly, regardless of any season, if you notice that your tree has damaged or dead branches, they need to be removed as soon as possible.  For other cases when pruning, here are a few suggestions on when you should prune:  Winter pruning is a good idea as it contributes to the new growth once spring arrives.  It can lead to your tree looking more mature and fuller in the long term.  If you’re looking to prune this winter, do so as soon as the deciduous trees leaves have fallen.  Evergreen trees can be pruned in winter as soon as the coldest weather has passed.


It is clear from the above that pruning your trees has many benefits.  Brand’s Tree Felling can assist with the pruning and trimming of your trees as well as providing advice in this regard.  Contact us on 0861 708 000 or or see our Web Site should you wish to make an appointment for a free Quotation.