408 867-0143 | Since 1973 | ISA Certified Arborist
Saratoga Tree Service

Five Year Plan


Why would you want to develop a five year plan for trees?  Operating costs for good tree care are not a “one every five year issue,” but rather an ongoing process though out each year.


Take an inventory of what you have Preparing an inventory that includes every tree in a complex will greatly ease the annual dilemma on how to appropriate funds for tree work.


Start with the date the complex was developed and what size trees were planted, if that information is available. A simple inventory consists of just counting each tree and adding up how many of each type that you have. You might be amazed to find out how few complexes know what the have. A more detailed inventory would take trunk diameters and estimate height. Number each tree and note their location on a map of the complex. Even a simple list will help you determine your needs, and help prepare bids and requests. (Note: Saratoga Tree Service provides and inventory service in which we note everything from the health of the tree to sidewalk damage for those who wish more detailed data.)


The tree budget could have four different phases in it as follows:

1. Trimming costs

These can be determined by the type of trees you have in the complex and their respective trimming cycles. For example, Pines can be trimmed once every five years, whereas Eucalyptus should be placed on a yearly or two year cycle.  If good records are kept as to when each type of tree was trimmed, it will greatly facilitate the budgeting process for consecutive years.

2. Removals

Identify hazardous trees within the complex. Decide whether you are attempting to phase out a particular species or not.  Address any concerns homeowners may have regarding trees which they feel should be removed.

3. Replacements

View your replacement sites carefully and be sure to select an appropriate species for each site. Be careful to choose the best planting size for your budget. The larger trees are very expensive and may not root as well as a smaller size. Some cities have tree replacement policies which dictate the size and number of trees you have to provide.  It is a good idea to check with the respective city offices before you order the trees.

4. Emergencies

These would include winter storm damage, hazardous trees and other facets of tree failure not usually included in the budget.


Keeping the trees on timely trimming cycles should reduce the spending needed for emergencies Heavy and neglected trees are more likely to fail than well-trimmed trees, and well-trimmed trees are less likely to decline in health.


How to ask for what you need developing tree service specifications


All too often, the bidders are asked to estimate costs, without specific standards of expectations. The hardest bid for us, is when we are simply asked to bid on “trimming the trees."  One tree service’s idea of what to do may be different from all the others unless specific guidelines are set. It is a waste of our time to estimate a complete detailed trimming at a higher price, only to lose out to the lower bid that did a quick and inadequate job. Understand your needs before going out to bid. When you are ready to get estimates, put down the specifics.


Examples of detailed specifics could be ... Drop-crotch 19 Eucalyptus by 20% for safety, Thin and deadwood only, or restructure, are some of the terms commonly used.


Know what you are asking for, and you will understand what you get. The wording of tree contracts is important because it affects the range and quality of the bids you will receive. Quite often, tree companies are asked to “just bid on trimming all the trees in the complex.” This type of contract will produce the widest range of work needed, and with it, the accompanying range of dollar figures.


Develop a five year service plan


Knowing the future plans for the trees on the property will help you to develop a more accurate picture of needs and costs involved. A five year plan can get you on track and really save you money. We have broken down the steps into five simple but practical ways of doing this.

First year

If you do not have a current tree inventory,your first step would be to have an Arborist count and identify all the trees on the property. Know how many of each type and classify them by size .. i.e. small, medium, large & very large. Establish the trimming cycle (how often they need to be trimmed) for each species. Next, with an Arborist, identify all the trees that are subject for removal, with a mark of paint. This will put them up for evaluation for everyone concerned. After approval, remove twenty percent of the worst problem trees throughout the complex. The remaining trees listed for removal should not be trimmed except for building clearance  etc.. Identify and trim the most hazardous and problem trees. Try to take care of all of one variety to simplify tracking and budgeting.

Second year

Continue with the next set of removals. Take care of all your annual trimming needs. Pick the next variety of tree or trees that require maintenance every two years, and trim all of those.

Third year

Again, continue with the next twenty percent of the removals and annual needs. At this point you may have other trees that require trimming every two years but are not as large or troublesome as last years trees. Trim all of these and pick some of the lesser and smaller varieties on the three to five year cycle list.

Fourth year

The removals are nearing completion and your annual trims should be less of a job because of consistent maintenance. Trim all the two year cycle trees again.

Fifth year

The last year of you plan is not the last year work will be needed. The concept is to have all you problem trees gone by this year and the rest of your trees in good shape. Continued maintenance will keep your tees in a safe condition and should be less expensive, due to the proper care and maintenance. From here on out, your tree budget should be much less and your property much improved. Carry on with the trim cycles as initially set forth and watch for developing problems.



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