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Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

Hummingbirds: A Guide For Oregon Homeowners

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Hummingbirds: A Guide For Oregon Homeowners

Hummingbirds in Oregon

There are tons of amazing animals living in the trees around our area– everything from squirrels to owls. One of my favorites are hummingbirds: they’re colorful, playful, aren’t afraid of people, and can be fun for kids and pets to watch.

Today, we’ll talk about how to attract hummingbirds to your yard, and how to feed and care for them. Plus, you’ll learn a few fun facts about the hummingbirds that call the Portland area home.

What Kind of Hummingbirds Live in Oregon?

There are 8 different kinds of hummingbirds that live in Oregon.

  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Calliope Hummingbird
  • Costa’s Hummingbird
  • Allen’s Hummingbird
  • Broad-tailed Hummingbird
  • Broad-billed Hummingbird
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird

But here in Portland, you’re most likely to see Rufous and the Anna’s hummingbirds.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

The Anna’s Hummingbird lives in the Pacific Northwest all year round. It’s what is called a resident hummingbird. They have bright shiny green and red feathers that look almost like shiny jewelry. They’re very tiny, about the size of a table tennis ball and they weigh less than a nickel.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

The Rufous Hummingbird is a tough little customer. They’re known for being very aggressive and territorial, sometimes fighting with birds over twice their size. They’re migratory and usually start showing up in Portland in the early summer.

How to Attract Hummingbirds

The cool thing about hummingbirds is that they’re always looking for food. Despite their tiny size, they need to drink as much as twice their body weight in nectar every single day. That’s because their wings beat over 50 times per second and they use up a lot of energy.

Hummingbirds also have great memories and once they find a source of food, they’ll set up shop nearby. And they’ll keep coming back year after year. So once you’ve got a few hummingbirds in your yard, they’ll be there to enjoy for a long time.

What to Plant

Plants to Attract Hummingbird

If you have a garden in your yard, there are flowers and plants you can use to attract hummingbirds:

  • Oregon Grapes
  • Western Bleeding Hearts
  • Columbines
  • Honeysuckle
  • Indian Paintbrush
  • Penstemons

Using a Hummingbird Feeder

Hummingbird Feeder

While natural plants are great for attracting hummingbirds to your yard, nothing beats a hummingbird feeder. They’re inexpensive, easy to maintain, and hummingbirds just love them.

How to Choose a Hummingbird Feeder

Look for a feeder with a glass nectar container– not plastic. It’ll just last longer and be easier to clean. Also look for one with an ant guard to keep insects away. Other than that, just look for a design and style you like– the hummingbirds aren’t picky.

How to Make Your Own Nectar

Sugar for Hummingbirds

NEVER put honey or any artificial sweeteners into your hummingbird feeder. And only use white sugar NEVER brown sugar. And NEVER buy any commercial hummingbird food that has artificial coloring added to it. Instead, follow this simple recipe and make your own hummingbird food.


  • 1 part sugar (adjust the amount based on the size of your feeder)
  • 4 parts water


  • Bring to a boil for 2 minutes and stir
  • Let cool and then add the mix to your feeder
  • Store any extra nectar in the refrigerator for up to a week
  • Change the nectar in your feeder every week or when it runs out– whichever comes first

Cleaning Your Hummingbird Feeder

During the rainy months, you might see a bit of mold growing on your feeder. Try to bring it inside and clean it out every week or two. Use small pipe cleaners or Q-tips to get into the small hard to reach spots.

How Many Hummingbird Feeders Do You Need?

Hummingbirds are very feisty and territorial birds. Often a single hummingbird will claim a feeder as his or her own and defend it aggressively. If you have a big yard and see hummingbirds fighting over the feeder, consider getting a second feeder and putting it on the other side of your yard.

That way, more hummingbirds will come to your yard and have plenty of nectar to drink!

Cold Weather & Hummingbird Feeders

Icy Weather

It’s especially important to take special care of your hummingbird feeder during the winter. Hummingbirds sometimes have a tough time finding nectar on plants that die in cold weather and might need your feeder to stay well fed.

Unfortunately, during very cold weather, your feeder might freeze over. The nectar can also separate back into an uneven mix of water and sugar which can make hummingbirds sick. So keep an eye on your feeder.

Here are a few tips for caring for your hummingbird feeder during the winter:

    1. If the weather is really cold, bring your feeder in at night. Don’t forget to put it back out in the morning when hummingbirds are at their most active and hungriest.
    2. If temperatures are below freezing during the day, you can wrap a chemical handwarmer around the feeder to keep it from freezing. It might look silly but your hummingbirds will thank you.

NEVER use more sugar to make a solution that won’t freeze. The extra sugar can make hummingbirds sick.

What To Do If You Find a Sick or Injured Hummingbird

Because hummingbirds are so tiny, they sometimes get hurt. They can even get stuck in a spider’s web. If you find a sick or injured hummingbird, contact the Portland Audubon Society at 503-292-0304. Call them before you pick the bird up or try to move it.

They’re a great resource and can help you decide what to do.

Don’t Touch Hummingbird Nests!


If you’re lucky, a mama hummingbird might decide to put a nest in your yard (probably near your feeder). These nests are very tiny and might look just like a lump on a tree branch or in a bush. But mama hummingbirds need to eat, too. So they head out often to fill up on nectar.

If you see an empty hummingbird nest, don’t assume the mama is gone for good. Odds are she’ll be back soon. So just leave it be and don’t touch it as the nests are very fragile.

Need Help With a Tree in Your Yard?

Oregon Tree Service

As certified arborists, we’ve learned a lot about hummingbirds and other local wildlife over the years. We just love to share what we know. If you have questions about anything you’ve read today or just want us to come out and take a look at a tree in your yard, contact us online or call (503) 538-8733.

Photo Credits:

julian londono via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: newagecrap via Visual hunt / CC BY
Photo credit: Rick Derevan via Visualhunt / CC BY
Photo via HebiFot via
Photo credit: nordique via / CC BY
Photo credit: Ian Sane via Visual hunt / CC BY
Photo credit: Chris Sorge via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: chefranden via / CC BY
Photo credit: M. Martin Vicente via / CC BY
Photo credit: Ethan Prater via / CC BY
Photo credit: a2gemma via Visual hunt / CC BY
Photo credit: Mike’s Birds via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

Category DIY, Tree

Beginner’s Guide to Landscaping in Portland

Monday, December 5th, 2016


Do you own a home in the Portland area? Are you looking for a fun DIY project? Have you wanted to make your yard look nicer but don’t know where to start?

In today’s post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about landscaping in Portland. You’ll learn how to plan a successful project and what you’ll need to know before starting. We’ll also share some of the best resources for learning about landscaping in Portland.

Let’s Get Started!

Landscaping is Like Remodeling… For Your Yard

Like remodeling, landscaping can have a variety of purposes, from aesthetic (think painting your living room walls a new color) to functional (like replacing a leaky roof). However, the best landscaping and remodeling projects offer both aesthetic and functional benefits. Examples include:

  • Planting trees to prevent erosion
  • Starting a garden
  • Removing trees that might fall and damage your home
  • Adding a flower garden
  • Designing a rock pathway to keep you from stepping in muddy grass during the wet winter months

What Are Your Goals?


No matter what type of landscaping project you’re interested in, the key to success is defining your goals before you start. Don’t just wing it! When it comes to landscaping in Portland, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish before you begin planning. Otherwise, you’ll end up frustrated and spending too much money on a project you don’t love.

Our #1 Tip: Start Small

It’s fun to dream big about transforming your yard into an amazing paradise. But it’s just not realistic. When planning your first landscaping project, it’s best to start small. Think about smaller projects that can be part of your bigger overall goal for your yard. By starting smaller, simpler projects you can actually finish, you’ll be able to see (and enjoy) your progress and will be more motivated to keep working on more projects!

Research, Plan, & Budget

Before breaking ground on any Portland landscaping project, you need to research, plan, and create a budget. Otherwise it’s easy for a seemingly simple landscaping project to turn into a total nightmare!

There are some great online tools to help you with your planning, like:

  • Online Garden Planner – An online tool to help you plan your yard and garden layout.
  • Plant & Garden Calendar – Find out what to plant when for the best results.
  • Landscaping Checklist – Who doesn’t love This Old House? Their amazing checklist will make sure you’re ready to start landscaping in Portland (or anywhere!).

Portland Landscaping Project Ideas

Not sure where to start? Here are a few projects that anyone can do with a bit of planning and hard work!

Build a Garden With Raised Beds


Does your family love fresh veggies? No matter how big or small your yard is, you can build a set of raised beds and grow a variety of healthy vegetables. Plus you’ll get to enjoy them all year round! It’s an awesome first landscaping project. Here are a few links to help you get started:

Install a Rainwater Collection System

Here in Portland, we get nearly 40” of rain every year! If the water in your yard doesn’t drain properly, it can damage tree roots, your lawn, your plants, and even your home itself. A great DIY project is to install a rainwater harvesting system to store rainwater for later use. You can use harvested rainwater for irrigation, outdoor cleaning, and more. Here’s how to do it:

Replace Your Lawn With Natural Plants

When it comes to landscaping in Portland, natural, native plants tend to be easier to care for and better for your yard. Ferns, evergreens, fruit trees, and other native plants require less water and care (because they’re adapted to our climate) and are better for the environment. If you’re tired of babying your lawn, think about going all natural!

Local Landscaping Projects

Do you need some inspiration to help you get excited about landscaping in Portland? Here are some amazing projects we’ve found to inspire you!

Amazing Outdoor Fountain

Entry Fountain

Natural Rock Retaining Wall

Boulder Retaining Wall - Sellwood

Japanese Zen Garden

Asian Garden / Japanese Garden

The Best Resources For Landscaping in Portland

Are you’re planning to start landscaping in Portland, there are plenty of awesome local resources for supplies, including:

  • Portland Nursery – A great overall landscaping resource guide.
  • City of Portland – Everything you need to know about landscaping in Portland, including laws, tips, and much more!
  • Portland Tool Library – Don’t buy tools you don’t need! Borrow them from this amazing non-profit.

Are You Ready to Start Landscaping in Portland

Before you start on any landscaping project, consider the impact it might have on the trees in your yard. If you have questions, contact us today! Our certified arborists will come out and offer you their advice– free of charge.

Photo Credits: Jennifer C., Rachel Kramer, Lori L. Stalteri, Juhan Sonin

Category DIY, Landscaping, Tree

7 Reasons to Plant Trees in Portland

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Portland Tree Planting

Last month, I showed you the best trees to plant if you live in the Portland area. Today, I’ll tell you why planting trees is so important and how you and your community can benefit! For example, did you know that planting trees can actually make you healthier? Believe it or not, it’s true!

But that’s not the only benefit of planting trees in your yard. Keep reading to find out 6 more great reasons to plant trees in Portland.

Because Trees Are Beautiful!

Beautiful Trees!

Trees are like one-of-a-kind works of art that you can help create.

No two trees are alike. Some are tall and thin, others short and full of leafy branches. Some turn gorgeous vibrant colors in the fall, others are a beautiful green all year round, and some even bloom beautiful flowers in the spring!

Trees are full of interesting shapes, textures, and even sounds! There’s really nothing else like them.

If you plant a tree in your yard, you’ll get to pick exactly what you’d like to see, and you’ll be able to enjoy it for years to come.

For Your Health

Healthy Meditation Tree

I mentioned this surprising fact in the beginning of today’s post, and I’ll say it again now: trees have actually been proven to improve people’s health and well-being.

People who live in areas with more trees tend to have lower blood-pressure and have improved overall psychological and emotional health. Kathleen Wolf, a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, even says that people with ADHD are calmer and more relaxed when they live near trees!

Helping the Environment

Remove Pollution

Unfortunately even green, eco-conscious areas like the Pacific Northwest suffer from air pollution. Sulfur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and other chemicals are all released from cars, trucks, and other sources of pollution.

Believe it or not, trees can actually catch and prevent these pollutants from making their way into your lungs! This can help reduce the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

If you’re an allergy sufferer, there’s good news for you, too! The Portland area and surrounding Willamette Valley frequently have the highest pollen counts in the country. Luckily, in addition to absorbing man-made pollutants, large, leafy trees can keep pollen, dust, and other natural allergens out of your home and out of your nose and lungs! You’ll breathe easier with trees in your yard!

Provide Home to Local Wildlife

Squirrel Living in a Tree

In addition to helping you feel better, there are other environmental reasons to plant trees in Portland. Trees make great homes for birds, squirrels, and other animals. Trees also provide a food source for these animals in the forms of nuts, fruits, and insects that call the trees home, too.

Birds and insects that nest in trees can also help pollinate nearby flowers and plants. This helps to build a natural, healthy ecosystem for all plants and animals in the area! By planting a tree, you’re doing your part to preserve our natural plants and wildlife.

Conserve Water & Minimize Erosion

Water and Rain on a Leaf

Did you know that 100 trees can catch 250,000 gallons of water every year?

Without trees and their complex system of sponge-like roots, rainwater soaks directly into the ground, causing erosion, and potentially dangerous landslides. Trees and their roots soak up rain, and release it slowly, minimizing the risk of damaging erosion.

Provide Privacy

When you live in a city like Portland, or even in a densely populated suburb, it can be hard to find a quiet, private place to call your own– even in your own yard! That’s where trees can help. Their branches, leaves, and trunks can make your yard and home feel more private. They block out city noise and traffic sounds, and keep nosy neighbors at bay, too!

In the Portland area, trees like holly, bamboo, and cedars are great trees to plant for privacy. They grow quickly and densely and don’t require much maintenance. They also have a small footprint, meaning they grow straight up, don’t spread out too much, and stay right where you want them to grow!

Conserve Energy & Save Money

Many Portland-area homes don’t have air-conditioning. We’ve had some real hot days these past few summers and it can be hard to keep cool!

Once again, trees to the rescue! Shade trees like maples and dogwoods have large leafy branches that absorb sunlight and heat, reducing heat gains by up to 80%! This keeps your house cooler and can reduce your cooling bill, if you do have air conditioning!

Increase Your Property Value

Trees help homes sell

According to a recent study, homes with well-maintained yards and trees tend to sell faster and fetch a higher price! One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the study focused on yards with mature trees. That means you should start landscaping and planting trees now, because it might take several years for a young tree to mature.

Why do trees improve property value? It’s not entirely clear, but experts think it’s a combination of all the benefits trees provide, from privacy to beauty and everything else in between. Even if home buyers don’t realize it, subconsciously they’re attracted to homes with beautiful trees and they’re willing to pay for it!

Build Community

Trees to Build Community

An ancient proverb says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

That’s really something when you think about it. In my opinion it’s the best reason to plant a tree. Even though you may benefit from the tree in your lifetime, your children and their children will get to enjoy that same tree’s shade, fruit, and beauty for generations to come.

Plus, if you live in Portland and plant a fruit tree, like an apple or fig tree, you can even contact the Portland Fruit Tree Project. They’ll come out and pick the fruit from your tree and provide it to people in need! What a great mission and one that’s easy to support. All you have to do is plant a tree!

When’s the Best Time to Plant a Tree?

People often ask me about the best time to plant a tree. My answer?

The best time to plant a tree is 5 years ago. The second-best time is today. By planting a tree today, you’re taking the first step towards reaping all the benefits of planting a tree that I talked about today. Planting a tree is an investment, and the sooner you invest, the sooner you’ll start seeing returns!

If you’re interested in planting a tree, contact me. I’m a certified arborist and can help you plant the perfect tree in your yard. Call (503) 538-8733 today and ask for a free consultation.

Photo Credits: Bill Reynolds, Garry Knight, Synspectrum, John Talbot, DanielSTL, Alexander Mueller,

Category DIY, Landscaping, Tree

When Is the Best Time to Prune Shrubs and Trees?

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Tree pruning is healthy. Think of it as a haircut — you’re not hurting the plant, just keeping things in the best shape and paving the way for future growth. But you don’t want to disfigure your shrubs. Misguided hacks can prevent your tree from blossoming that year. Consider this your quick guide to the best time of year for tree pruning and shrub trimming.

Pruning a tree

First, an important note: Dead branches, those in the way of pedestrians, and those that could damage your property can be removed anytime. Don’t wait with a dangerous situation. If you have a tree emergency, you can call us 24 hours a day at 503-538-8733.

When to Prune Trees: Winter

Overall, the best time to prune your trees is when they’re dormant, so late winter to early spring is ideal. (In fact, that’s the only time to prune birch trees and American elms.) For shade trees like ash and oak, winter is the perfect time. Deciduous fruit trees like apples, cherries, and pears should also be pruned in midwinter.

Oregon State University horticulturist Ross Penhallegon agrees. “November through March is a good time to prune,” he says. “If you are worried about winter freeze damage, wait until after Feb. 1, which is the best time to prune in western Oregon, and March 15 east of the Cascade Mountains.” Not only is it less traumatizing to the tree, but it’s easier to see the tree’s structure without all of its leaves. Fall isn’t too early to contact your arborist and set up an appointment for the months ahead.

When Not to Prune

Don’t wait too late! In general, you want to avoid pruning trees during late spring and early summer. That’s when everything is starting to bloom. Trees don’t have enough of a chance to heal before the growing season if you prune them too late. The burst of energy plants get in the spring will help heal small cuts made in the previous months. Pruning a shrub

If a tree already has leaves, don’t attack them too much — that’s where photosynthesis is happening and where the tree is getting its food. Not enough leaves mean not enough energy sources. Think of leaves as little, flat green batteries that keep the tree running.

Fall is also usually not the best time to prune. Cuts seem to heal more slowly during the fall, and pests or fungi can easily prey on plants. As Oregon State University says, “Pruning during the spring (post-dormancy) and fall (pre-dormancy) is generally the least desirable time as the plant is most vulnerable during those times.” Try to be patient and wait for trees and shrubs to be fully dormant before trimming them.

Although late winter and early spring is generally the best time to trim trees, some have different timelines. Read on for the intricacies of pruning.

When to Prune Flowering Shrubs and Trees

The main determining factor for pruning shrubs is whether they flower on old wood or new wood. Does your shrub blossom in early spring, on old wood from last season? The best time to prune them is right after they bloom.

If your shrub flowers on new wood — it’s a late bloomer, so to speak — the blossoms grow on the current season’s growth instead of last season’s. That means you’re fine to prune these shrubs in late winter to early spring, because you won’t be harming the blossoms yet.

Here’s a handy chart:


Old Wood Most Plants & Shrubs New Wood & Broadleaf Evergreens
Blossom time: Early spring Spring Late spring
Best to prune: After they bloom (early summer) Winter Late winter to early spring
Examples: Lilacs Shrubs grown primarily for their foliage Lavender
Rhododendrons Deciduous shade trees Roses (mid-February to early March in the Willamette Valley)
Forsythia Deciduous fruit trees like apple and pear Butterfly bush
Wisteria Blueberry, gooseberry, and currant bushes Panicle hydrangea
Most hydrangeas Grapevines Crape myrtle
Oregon grapeholly Holly
Flowering dogwood Mahonia
Azalea Some magnolias


When To Remove Suckers and Sprouts

Suckers and water sprouts are unproductive offshoots that steal nutrients from the main stem or trunk. They aren’t harmful, but they can be annoying. This is one of the rare times when you shouldn’t take to the pruning shears in the winter, during the dormant season, because that will make water sprouts and suckers come back with a vengeance the next spring. Instead, clip suckers and sprouts in the early summer months of May and June.

Check out this 30-second video about pruning suckers and sprouts:

Is My Tree Bleeding?

When you prune certain trees like maples, birches, and walnuts, they’ll ooze sap. This potentially disturbing sight is trees’ version of bleeding — except they aren’t hurt. In fact, this is completely normal. Once leaves start to grow, the sap will stop flowing.

Why Hire a Certified Arborist for Tree Trimming?

After reading all this, you might feel ready to head out back with your shears and do some trimming. Whoa there, Nelly! I admire your enthusiasm. Unless you’re experienced and quite knowledgeable about trimming and pruning, it’s best to hire an ISA-Certified Arborist® like us at Northwest Arbor-Culture, because we know how to trim your tree or shrub without topping or making dangerous cuts that leave your plant vulnerable to infection.

It’s already September, so it’s never too early to set up an appointment for tree trimming this winter! Call us today at 503.538.8733 or fill out our online form for a free quote.

You might also want to check out our other blog posts on how to plant a tree, how to mulch your trees, and why your tree is dying.



Better Homes & Gardens

Arbor Day Foundation

Oregon State University


Category DIY, Tree

How to Build a Treehouse

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Building a treehouse is a fun and time-consuming process—especially if you’ve never built one before. They come in all shapes and sizes, from small tree forts to giant luxury hideaways.

In this post, I’ll show you how to build one type of simple backyard treehouse, but I’ll offer plenty of resources along the way for those of you with more ambitious plans.

mother daughter treehouse

Source: M S

No matter what kind of treehouse you want, safety is your first priority. If you’re not confident with your building skills or you want an elaborate design, consult a professional treehouse builder, such as Nelson Treehouse and Supply in Washington State.

Here’s your list of supplies:

  • Pencil and paper
  • Drill
  • Nails
  • Four 2×10 boards
  • Six 2×6 boards
  • 2×4 boards to use as rails around the treehouse
  • Several 2-foot-long pieces of 2×4
  • Garnier limbs and metal brackets
  • Garnier limb standard knee braces
  • Deck screws — at least 3” and 2.5”
  • Eight galvanized rafter ties
  • Exterior plywood sheets or wood planks
  • Roof (optional)
  • Wood stain and/or paint (optional)

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Pick a Tree

You’ll Need: 

  • A sturdy, healthy tree whose branches separate from the trunk in a V shape

(If you don’t have a suitable tree, find out how you can build a freestanding “treehouse” here.)

Your tree should be at least 12 inches in diameter around the trunk. Oak, beech, maple, ash, cedar, hemlock, and firs are all good choices.

backyard large tree

Source: fletcherjcm

Have an arborist come out to make sure your tree is safe. Don’t hesitate to call us if you have questions about the safety of any of your trees.

Step 2: Plan Your Treehouse

pencil and eraser on paperYou’ll Need: 

  • Cardboard and duct tape or a pencil and paper

Every treehouse is different because every tree is unique. Examine your tree for quirks, like a strangely shaped trunk or oddly positioned branches, and plan around them.

Then make a detailed sketch or cardboard prototype of your treehouse. Be sure to include measurements.

You can borrow one of these free treehouse plans or even design your own. And these fun and crazy ideas are sure to spark your creativity.

Step 3: Build a Platform

You’ll Need:

You want to make your platform strong, level, and not higher than 5 or 6 feet off the ground if kids will be using it.

If this is you first treehouse, WikiHow has good step-by-step instructions on this part. (Note that you’ll be using Garnier limbs, a type of treehouse attachment bolt, instead of the galvanized lag screws they suggest.) For now, I’ll give you a quick explanation.

First, place the 2x10s parallel to each other on either side of the two branches that separate into a V shape, but don’t attach them yet. This is just to help you mark where you want the Garnier limbs, which will be your main support.

Pre-drill into the tree, and then install the Garnier limbs. Find more detailed information on how to safely insert them here.

Now use the metal brackets and screws to attach the 2x10s to each of the Garnier limbs.

garnier limbs brackets treehouse

Source: Michael Garnier

Second, place the 2x6s over the 2x10s like this:

 wiki how build a treehouse platform

Source: WikiHow

Finally, use deck screws to attach the 2x6s to the 2x10s. Nail the 2x6s together. Then use the rafter ties to secure the platform, like this:

 wiki how build a treehouse platform rafter ties

Source: WikiHow 

This method works great for most people, but every tree is different. To be completely sure your treehouse is safe, ask an engineer to take a look at your plan, and read up on treehouse support safety here.

Step 4: Brace the Platform 

You’ll Need:

Nail the boards to the platform and use Garnier limb standard knee braces to attach them to the tree, like Nelson Treehouse and Supply did with this bold structure.

treehouse support braces 

Source: Nelson Treehouse and Supply

Important: Depending on the strength of your materials and the weight of your treehouse, you may need to add extra support beams in the ground. I recommend consulting a contractor or professional builder unless you’re absolutely sure.

Step 5: Lay the Floor 

You’ll Need:

  • Exterior plywood sheets or wood planks
  • Deck screws (at least 3”)

 lay treehouse floor boards

Source: Danny Sullivan

Use screws to attach the floor to the platform. You may have to do some cutting and sanding to make sure your floor fits nicely around branches.

Step 6: Attach Handrails

You’ll Need:

  • Enough 2×4 boards to build rails around the entire treehouse except the entrance
  • Nails
  • Screws (at least 3”)

You’ll want at least two 2x4s standing vertically in each corner of your treehouse. Screw them to the platform. Use nails to attach the rest of the 2x4s horizontally across the top.

 treehouse handrails

Source: Wesley Fryer

Fill the space between handrails and the platform to stop small treehouse dwellers from falling out. You can use boards, mesh, or plywood sheets.

If you want to build walls instead of just handrails, get some tips from this family.

Step 7: Build Your Access Ladder

You’ll Need:small treehouse ladder

  • Several 2-foot long pieces of 2×4
  • Two long 2x4s
  • Screws (2.5”)

eHow has great instructions on building a treehouse ladder. Here’s what they suggest:

Find an open space to lay the long 2x4s on the ground parallel to each other.

Start at the base by placing a 2-foot board between them at least six inches from the bottom. Drive three screws through each long 2×4 and into the ends of the 2-foot board. Make sure the small boards will be level and easy to step on when the ladder stands up. 

Repeat the same process at the top, again placing the 2-foot board six inches down. Add the rest the same way, making sure they are evenly spaced.

For fun, you could also install a rope ladderfireman’s polezip-line, or stairs. 

Step 8: Make it Your Own

Now let’s make this treehouse feel like home.

Stain or paint the wood, add a simple roof, or have your family carve their initials into the handrails. Whatever you want! If you live in a damp area, also think about waterproofing your treehouse.

No matter what kind of treehouse you build, have fun and be safe. And share your fond treehouse memories in the comments!

For advice about whether your tree is strong enough, or any other tree questions, call our Certified Arborists at 503-538-8733.

Photo source: Shawn Campbell


Category DIY

How to Kill Tree Roots Naturally

Friday, October 16th, 2015

exposed tree roots forestPublished

Most of the time, you want tree roots to thrive. But if you’re removing a tree and don’t want regrowth, or if tree roots are dangerously close to something underground, you may need to kill them. It’s something we handle here at Northwest Arbor-Culture, Inc., and some homeowners like to DIY as well. Here’s a basic primer on how to kill tree roots.

How to Kill Tree Roots Naturally, Without Chemicals

An easy way to kill tree roots is to spray chemicals like hexazinone or bromacil onto the soil above, then wait for rain to push the chemicals down to the roots and kill them. But here in the Northwest, we’re pretty eco-conscious, and a lot of folks don’t want to use harsh chemicals. They can leach into our water supply, after all. So here are three ideas for how to kill tree roots naturally.

First, a little education. Trees use their bark to transport water and nutrients from the roots up to the rest of the tree. Girdling is a technique where you cut off the outer layer of bark, making it impossible for the tree to feed itself. The tree and roots will eventually die. This method is natural, but it can take several years if the tree is big. (That’s because trees can store lots of nutrients in their roots, like a backup supply of food.)

tree girdling wikipedia

If you try girdling, cut the tree bark and treat the cut with undiluted white vinegar. (Substitute herbicide for vinegar if you aren’t as concerned about how to kill tree roots naturally.) If you don’t apply vinegar or an herbicide to the tree wound, you may get suckers, or small offshoots, as the tree creates new growth. Remember, different types of trees will react differently to girdling. If the sapwood is quite thick, it will take longer for the tree to die.

Paving or mulching on top of your tree roots will also kill them. (You’ll need at least six inches of mulch.) Without sufficient air, the roots will die, and so will the rest of the tree afterward. Like girdling, these methods take a while before they are effective.

How to Kill Tree Roots with Salt

Much like suffocating roots by mulching, you can cut off roots’ water supply and they will essentially die of thirst. Rock salt will accomplish this. When you apply salt to tree roots, it absorbs all the water, leaving none to nourish the tree. Let me warn you, though, that salt doesn’t discriminate. It will also kill your nearby plants and grass, so be careful.

giant tree roots

How to Kill Tree Roots in Sewer Line

Trees love plumbing because it gives them a steady supply of water. Some people opt for chemical treatments if they discover tree roots in their sewer line. Adding chemicals to your toilet bowl will eventually reach the tree roots in your sewer line and kill them. However, some people don’t want to add chemicals to the water supply. I’ve also heard homeowners try to kill tree roots in their sewer line byauger tree tool kill roots flushing rock salt or copper sulfate down the toilet. Copper sulfate in particular is very corrosive, though.

Here at Northwest Arbor-Culture, Inc., we have access to heavy-duty equipment like augers and hydrojetters that can kill tree roots in your sewer line without chemicals. Augers go into your pipes and cut off tree roots. They may grow back, though, so some homeowners choose to follow this with a foaming root killer like RootX. Hydrojetters clear obstructed pipes by blasting water through them, pushing out tree roots that have crept in. Both are ways to kill tree roots without chemicals.

If you want advice on how to kill tree roots naturally, with salt, in your sewer, or elsewhere, contact the Certified Arborists at Northwest Arbor-Culture, Inc. We would be happy to give you a free consultation about your tree. Call or email us today.

Photos: Wikipedia, Anna Levinzon, Tim Green, Charles Barnard Tools and Machines

Category DIY, Roots

How Much Do You Know About Oregon’s Trees?

Friday, August 21st, 2015

what do you know about oregon trees

Photo: Loren Kerns

Oregon is known for its abundance of trees, but do you know Oregon’s state tree? Who owns our forests? Which trees are native to Oregon?

Get ready for some tree trivia as well as some important tree safety advice for winter! I’ll even give you some tips for planting trees that grow well in Oregon.

A History of Oregon’s Forest

oregon mount hoodEver since Lewis and Clark reached the mouth of the Columbia River in 1805, people have poured into Oregon, drawn by its forests and natural beauty. And it’s still happening today. Believe it or not, Oregon is the most popular moving destination in the country.

The influx of people over time meant more cities, highways, and infrastructure. Oregon also developed a huge timber industry, which is still going strong today. Despite all that, Oregon still has almost 92% of the forests that covered the state in 1850. Not bad!

That’s not a coincidence though. Private landowners cooperate with both federal and state governments to preserve Oregon forests. Among other strategies, that includes replanting, restrictions on clearcutting, and avoiding and managing occasional forest fires.  

Oregon’s Famous Trees

Oregon has a few famous trees to its name. How much do you know about the state’s most quintessentially Oregonian celebrities?

Oregon’s State Tree

Our state tree is the Douglas fir, an evergreen tree with pine needles and cones. The tree is named after botanist-explorer, David Douglas, who described it as “one of the most striking and truly graceful objects in nature.” Now that’s a glowing review!

largest tree doerner fir oregonOregon’s Largest Tree

There is some debate about which tree is truly Oregon’s largest. It used to be a 206-foot-tall Sitka Spruce along the coast near Seaside, Oregon. In December 2007, a wind storm snapped the 700-year-old tree in half. You can still visit the 17-foot diameter trunk, though.

Here’s where the controversy starts. Officially, the largest tree is now a 329-foot-tall Douglas fir in Coos County (pictured below), but non-profit tree workers say they’ve found an even bigger Arcadia Cedar just outside of Cannon Beach.

The Octopus Tree

oregon octopus treeWithout a doubt, one of Oregon’s weirdest-looking trees is a different giant Sitka spruce in Cape Meares, Oregon. Its nickname, the Octopus Tree, isn’t hard to figure out. The tree’s multiple trunks grow out of its base like giant tentacles.

The tree has historical significance too. Experts believe it was once a gathering site for Native American tribes in Tillamook, and place of reverence where elders made decisions and shamans performed ceremonies.

Who Owns Oregon’s Forests?

The majority of Oregon’s forested land belongs to the federal government, but not all of it. Here’s the breakdown:

60% – federal government

35% – private ownership

3% – the State of Oregon

1% – tribe lands

1% – other public ownerships

Oregon Tree Safety

In general, trees make Oregon healthier and safer by purifying the air and casting shade from the sun. Trees don’t come without risks though. Western Oregon in particular often has heavy rains and strong winds (like the ones that ultimately knocked down the Sitka Spruce near Seaside). In years like this one, we also get extremely dry summers, which puts us at risk for forest fires.

Preventing Forest Fires

Fires are a natural part of a forest’s cycle, but most of Oregon’s fires are human-caused, and therefore preventable. Some of the biggest culprits are cigarettes, gas leaking from cars, and fireworks too close to forested areas. Campfires are a big one too. According to, there are several steps you can take to make sure your campfire is safe:

  • Keep your fire at a manageable size.campfire
  • Never leave a campfire unattended.
  • Always have a large bucket of water nearby.
  • Let the wood burn completely to ash.
  • Dowse your campfire with water until the steaming and hissing stops.
  • Cover all embers, not just the red ones.
  • Stir to make sure everything is wet and cold to the touch. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes.
  • Check again for any remaining hot spots. Dowse with more water if needed.
  • Use dirt when there is no water available. Mix enough dirt into the embers until everything is cool but do not bury the fire.

Try this next time you go camping to be extra safe.

Protect Yourself From Falling Trees

When wind, rain, and heavy snow hits, weaker trees are at risk of falling. Look for tree branches near your house or power lines, and get them pruned or trimmed.

The number one thing you can do to make sure none of your trees fall on people or property is to get them inspected before harsh winter weather arrives. We’re always happy to swing by and give you some free expert advice about your trees.

What Trees Grow Best in Oregon?

Did you know fall is one of the best times to plant new trees? If you’re looking for a tree that will flourish in Oregon and won’t require an unnecessary amount of maintenance, planting a tree that’s native to Oregon is a good bet.

tree planting

Photo: Alex Indigo

Many dogwoods, maples, and evergreens are perfectly suited to the Pacific Northwestern climate.

For more detailed information on what to plant and how, check out these tips from the Portland Nursery. Or see this longer list of native Oregon plants


Still have questions about Oregon’s forests, which trees to plant, or how to keep your property safe this winter?

Call us anytime at 503-538-8733 for free, no-pressure advice.


Photos: Doug Kerr, Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington, Alicia Mueller,

10 Ways to Decorate With Tree Branches

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015


how to decorate with tree branches

It’s summertime, and plants are growing. That means many of our trees need trimming. Find out why trimming is so important.

Once the trimming is done, it’s always a challenge to figure out what to do with the branches that get removed.

If being environmentally conscious is important to you (or you just like the look of rustic home decor) you can recycle tree branches as decorations for your home.

Here are a few ideas for doing just that.

1. Put Branches on the Mantel

Difficulty: Beginner

The easiest way to use tree branches to decorate is to simply put them where you want them! Try setting a branch on the mantel, leaning against a corner, or hanging it on the wall.

Try painting the branch white for a clean modern twist, or leave them as they are for a rustic look.

2. Put Them in Picture Frames

tree branches in picture frame

Source: Interiors by Myriam, LLC

Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate

A picture frame can add a sophistication to an outdoorsy style. It’s easier to DIY than you might think. You can use wood glue or heavy duty staples to attach branches to the back of the frame.

Here’s a handy how-to guide.

3. Curtain Rod

tree branch curtain rod

Photo: Laure Joliet

Difficulty: Intermediate

Tree branches make great, one-of-a-kind curtain rods. It’s not a difficult project, but you’ll want to make sure you find a branch that’s sturdy enough to do the job. Choose a strong wood, like oak, pine, or cedar. Then check to make sure the branch is not going to bend or break easily before you put it up.

4. Spruce Up a Metal Fence

tree branches metal chain link fence

Photo: Travis

Difficulty: Intermediate

If you have an old chain link fence you don’t like, but don’t want to completely replace it, tree branches are an inexpensive way to add a bit of charm.

To hold larger branches in place, weave its smaller branches in and out of the chain link, like in the example above. Or just grab some string or ribbon to tie branches to the fence.

5. Room Divider

tree branches as a room divider

Source: Houzz

Difficulty: Advanced

Room dividers that are transparent or have gaps are great for breaking up large spaces without completely cutting off one area.

Getting this look right is tricky if you’re trying to DIY. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, though. And this slightly more rustic version looks like it could be an easier option.

6. Dinner Table Center Piece

tree branch table center piece

Source: Focal Point Styling

Difficulty: Beginner

A crisp, white branch like this one is great for a holiday display, especially when you include red elements like the ones on this table. A traditional rustic branch works year round, but is especially good for spring and summer, because it’s more relaxed and lends a casual farmhouse vibe.

Any kind of branch will work as long as you like the way it looks. Keep in mind that a single, not-too-heavy branch will be easiest to move next time you have a big meal and need to use the full table surface.

7. Candle Holders

A photo posted by dustin_horne (@dustin_horne) on

Difficulty: Intermediate

Thick branches make good candle holders. There are many ways to make them on your own. Single candle holders like the one above are ideal for bigger candles. For smaller ones, here’s a simple guide for making a row of candle holders from a single branch.

Whatever type of candle holder you choose, just make sure you use a flame retardant spray on the wood — just to be safe.

8. Coasters

A photo posted by Trisha Estes (@trishafestes) on

Difficulty: Beginner

Recycling old tree branches as coasters isn’t just decorative, it’s practical. Slices of a large branch (or small log) are sturdy, attractive, and great for protecting delicate furniture from hot cups, beverage spills, and condensation from cold drinks.

Just make sure you slice the branch as straight and as cleanly as possible. The coaster needs to be level so your drinks don’t spill!

9. Hanging Lamp

tree branch to hang lamp light

Photo: Louise de Miranda

Difficulty: Advanced

Tall, thin branches that have a little bit of a bend or an arch to them are perfect for hanging lamps like the one above.

You’ll want to make sure you secure the branch to the floor, to the wall, or to the side of a vertical cabinet or shelf. Depending on the branch and your design, you may also want to install small hooks to keep the lamp in place and hold the cord.

10. Canvas for Small Decorations

small tree decorations notes kick-knacks

Source: Houzz

Difficulty: Beginner

If you’re looking to add some delicate decoration to your home, using a tree branch as a decoration holder is a great (and easy) option. Hang book pages (as in the example above), family photos, old birthday cards, or other trinkets. It’s a visually appealing way to display anything with sentimental value and hold onto good memories.

If you’re interested in something a little more practical, try this cup holder idea.

Final Thoughts

Don’t be limited by these suggested ideas. There are hundreds of other ways to decorate with tree branches and put would-be wasted pieces of a tree to good use.

Make a reindeer during the holiday season or convert a big branch to a coat rack. Let your creativity guide you.

I hope these ideas inspired you and gave you a good use for your old tree branches.

How do you use tree branches to decorate your home? Tell us in the comments.

Category DIY

5 Tree Pruning Tools You Need

Monday, February 16th, 2015

best tools for tree trimming pruning

Are branches blocking your windows or walkways? Are you tired of that overgrown tree dropping twigs all over the yard? Or is an old tree simply growing out of control?

Residents of the Pacific Northwest are no strangers to tree woes.

With the right tools, you can solve many small tree problems with a little DIY pruning. (Save major tree issues for us professionals.) Trimming can keep trees healthy, add value to your property, and make you the envy of your neighbors.

But which tree pruning tools should you use? The best tree pruning tool for any job depends on how thick and high up the branches are, so I’ll talk more about that in this post.

Here are 5 great options you’ll want to have in your tool shed:

1. Anvil Hand Pruning Shearsanvil garden pruners

These small, hand-held shears have just one blade, which cuts as it closes onto a flat surface.

When to use them: Anvil shears are perfect for very small, easy-to-reach branches with a diameter of 1/2 inch or less. They are strong but tend to crush when they cut, so use them on dead branches and twigs rather than living ones.

2. Bypass Hand Pruning Shears

Unbypass gardening prunerslike anvil pruners, bypass shears have two curved blades that cut by moving past each other like scissors.

When to use them: Bypass shears make more precise cuts than anvil shears. They are best for cutting living branches no thicker than 1/2 inch in diameter.

3. Loppersgardening loppers

Loppers are similar to hand shears, but they have longer handles, which give you more leverage for larger branches.

When to use them: Most loppers can tackle branches up to 2 inches in diameter. Use them for easy-to-reach branches that are just a little too thick for hand shears.

4. Combination Pole Saw Pruners

This amazingly versatile tool serves a huge variety of tree pruning needs. As you might have guessed, these long poles have both a saw and a shearing feature.

combination pole saw pruner

When to use them: Combination pole saw pruners are ideal for areas you can’t reach from the ground with other tools. The shearing feature is good for branches smaller than 1/2 inch, while the saw will work on thicker ones.

5. Pruning Saws

Pruning saws are one of arborists’ favorite tools. tree pruning sawThey are similar to traditional hand saws but specifically made for tree pruning.

When to use them: When a branch is within reach but loppers can’t handle it, a pruning saw might be your best bet. Pruning saws are great for branches about 1 1/2 inches thick or more.

Safety First

Unfortunately, DIY tree-trimming disasters do happen. Always wear gloves and eye protection, and if you’re planning on doing any serious pruning, you may want to invest in a hard hat to protect you from falling branches.

certified arborist portland or

Even with the best tools, some tree problems are too big to tackle alone. That’s why we’re here. Certified arborists like us know how to safely deal with large projects or trees in danger of falling on people or property.

Are you concerned about the health or appearance of one of your trees? Contact us today and we can help.

Photos: Home Depot, Lowes, Scott Lewis, Lowes, Lowes


Category DIY, Pruning

Composting 101

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

What’s So Great About Composting?

Landfills around the world are overflocompost systemwing, and pretty soon we are going to run out of space for all that garbage!  Luckily, many things we throw away can actually decompose in our backyards and even improve the soil in our gardens. Composting just might make your heirloom tomatoes grow bigger and juicier.

Composting also helps prevent soil erosion and runoff. Plus, it cuts down on the amount of methane produced by landfills and greenhouse gases produced by hauling garbage. Composting can reduce up to 30% of your household waste. Best of all, you can compost in your yard for free instead of spending money on chemical fertilizers.

Source: Composter Connection

How does composting help your yard? It acts as a soil conditioner, adding nutrients to your plants to keep the soil moisturized. It helps sandy soils retain water and loosens clay soils.

Adding compost stimulates healthy root development in plants and improves soil fertility. The organic materials in compost supply nutrients for microorganisms that keep the soil healthy and balanced. Feeding microorganisms naturally produces phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium. That means you don’t need to add any chemicals to your soil!

Below is a handy chart of things you can compost and how to do it.
what to compost
Source: eartheasy

How to Compost

Begin with a container. You need some way to hold all of the decomposing material together so that the beneficial bacteria that breaks down the plant matter can heat up and do its job.

compost bin

Source: mjmonty

There are two types of compost bins: rotating and stationary. Both kinds need to have the contents periodically turned to combine the decaying matter and provide oxygen.

A stationary bin can be as easy as a wooden crate or a well-ventilated cage made from a wire fence. A well-designed bin allows for faster results by retaining moisture and heat. The downside to stationary bins is that they take longer to compost: usually several months or even years. If you’re going to go this route, place the pile in a sunny area so that it gets as much heat as possible. It will still decompose in a shaded area, but at a much slower rate, especially during freezing temperatures.

Compost tumblers are easy-to-turn bins that quicken the process.  Instead of taking months or years, they do the job in just a few weeks. Heat retention and frequent oxygen infusions are what makes tumblers faster. Like stationary bins, you also want to put your compost tumbler in direct sunlight.

compost tumbler

Source: Bev Wagner


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Category Composting, DIY

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