Renting Landscaping Equipment

We live in an era that you can rent anything, from a sports stadium (Madison Square Garden goes for $250K a night) to a dog (animal lovers with commitment issues can use You can definitely rent some serious heavy equipment out there which, when used correctly, can take care of some major chores.

The DIY age has enabled many a weekend warrior to cut cost on work which professional contractors provide a hefty bill. There are rental companies in every city in America, that for the day, the average Joe can rent what he needs to getter done. As a contractor myself in the tree and landscape biz, I have seen my share of these projects taking place in the suburban workplace. As end results go, it can obviously go either way.

Here are some things to consider before bringing home an army of equipment to take on a project.

  1. Google your project.

That’s right, type it in, I am sure you’re not the only cowboy in the country looking for their first rodeo. There’s a host of others that have decided to put a roof on their house over Labor Day, or clear the back lot and put in a pool. Use a google search to find out what kind of equipment they ended up needing (or wish they had gotten!), how difficult the project was, and any regrets they have now. You can usually find before and after pictures. The web is always a good place to start.

  1. What equipment will you need?

For example if you are trying to clear 2 acres of woods for a new backyard, what gear will you need?  Renting a Bobcat will work great for a project like this, but you will probably need some other stuff. You’ll at least a good chainsaw and some way to haul debris. The prospect of running a skid steer machine all weekend appeals to the inner man strongly, but there will be less glamourous ( and dangerous !) items to procure before you can attempt a large job. A lot of tools that contractors own are business investments, meaning they are never paid for by just one job. It takes day after day production to justify buying a fleet of pro style chainsaws (most tree services own several thousand dollars’ worth).

  1. Insurance

You should keep in that some DIY projects would make your homeowners company cringe. As a tree contractor, I have over a Million Dollars in coverage on each of my major policies (Liability, Workers Compensation, and Auto). The hazards of projects aren’t always contained to your own yard. In neighborhoods in America houses are often close together and kids know no boundaries. It’s very easy for a weekend tree job to spill over property lines and the results could cause property damage or worse.  It would be a good idea to call your insurance agent and ask if you are covered for home improvement, describe your intentions and listen carefully to the feedback they give. Chances are they going to say no to anything to risky. Remember, you only pay a contactor once. You can lose the right to be insured at a reasonable rate with just one incident. You could lose the livelihood of your family forever in the event of a death or serious injury!

  1. Cost effectiveness

Get some bids on your project. If you are going to rent a tractor to put in your lawn at a rate of $350 per day, and you need 4 days to get the job done, is it worth it? Remember your time is worth something as well. I often need heavy mechanic work done on my equipment and it just so happens that I can turn a wrench. I realized one time after taking off a day to put a clutch in my bucket truck, that after buying the part ($600), and performing the labor outside in 90 degree in full sun, I could make a better choice. Instead, I could have made $1500 at my specialty and paid a pro mechanic about the same to do the job (with a full warranty parts/labor). I could have also spent the day with my kids and wife, I pay a lot to do this every year as well on vacation. Trade Craft is a term which is definitely underused, these are tricks that service providers use on a daily business to perform their duties at lightning speed. It’s hard to beat trade craft, and it would be nice to rent this along with the Bobcat, but it is usually not available at rental companies!

I don’t doubt that many homeowners can do their own tree and landscaping work. If a homeowner can save money taking off work and do it their selves, I applaud them. Just do it safely. Protect yourself and others by being responsible and making good decisions.

DIY Tree Care

The state of Americas weakened economy has posed many challenges to both homeowners and business owners alike. As the owner of a tree and landscaping firm, I have definitely had to cut back on the amount of capital expenditures that make the wheels of our small business go round. One of the ways that we have saved money is to do more for ourselves. From equipment service to being more conservative when shopping for new gear and supplies, we definitely have more of a “DIY”, (Do It Yourself), mindset when it comes to spending. The following is a list of five things that you can do to cut cost around the yard, while maintaining healthy trees and a gorgeous landscape.

  1. Buy an extendable pole saw

If I could pick one tool as an arborist to work on the trees in my yard, it would be a “chainsaw on a stick”. Customers are always amazed by the efficiency of our Stihl motorized pole saws. These saws allow us to walk around a property and prune trees without our bucket truck or ladder. They generally have a reach of about 6-12 ft. and make lifting the canopy of trees a much safer task. Most models can also accommodate a hedge trimming attachment to prune shrubs and hedges with ease. What makes this tool even more attractive to the average homeowner is the safety factor, being that the cutting head is several feet away from the user, it poses a much lower chance of an E.R. visit due to a chainsaw wound. This being said safety precautions should always be followed when cutting above your head or around friends and family.

  1. Mulch and fertilize trees and shrubs

The biggest competition that trees and shrubs have over nutrients and water in a landscape are weeds and turf grass. Grasses are monopods and constantly grow, their roots lie close to the surface and left unchallenged will slurp up water and goodies before a tree or shrub can benefit from a rain shower. A good practice is to mulch out to the drip line, (canopy edge, looking up), with organic material such as recycled tree chips. Always keep mulch beds free as possible of weeds and volunteers. Fertilizing your trees and shrubs on a bi annual basis will help keep them healthy and growing vigorously year after year. The best way to do this is using an earth auger for your cordless drill. Auger down 4 to 6” with the auger and based on a soil test fill the hole with an appropriate fertilizer. Soil test are generally free from farm and garden supply stores as well as state extension agencies.

  1. Out with the old, In with the new.

Large trees pose huge liabilities. Same goes for shrubs and nursery trees that have outgrown their intended place in the landscape. As a tree and landscape pro with 20 plus years of experience, I can usually tell just about when a client’s home was built by the size and condition of the shrubs and nursery trees growing in their yard. Builders and developers usually install a landscape just before a new home goes on the market. This new greenery makes a home very attractive when it is first installed and the aesthetics last for years.  The problem is a lot of shrubs (example Nelly Stevens Holly) and trees (example Bradford Pear), outgrow their environment quickly and start to take a toll on the property. There are now a lot better choices for trees and shrubs than existed just 10 years ago.  Why pay for constant maintenance of a tree that should come out anyway? I love to free up a client’s space by removing poorly placed and overgrown stock, and then replace them with a better choice. The same idea can be implemented when dealing with native trees such as Oak, Hickory, Sweet Gum, and Tulip Poplar. All of the previously named can make great additions to your property, but if trees are shading out your yard and home, taking a toll on everything from the lawn to your roof and siding, start over with cleaner slate.

  1. Plan Most Projects In Fall And Winter

Fall is best time, by far to purchase and plant new trees, shrubs, and grass lawns. Contrary to popular belief plants don’t stop growing in the cooler months. The fall and winter is a great time for newly installed plant material to establish healthy root systems and acclimate to a new environment. This will save consumers because the chances of loss is greatly diminished during the fall season, cool weather is a plus when establishing a new landscape as opposed to the brutal heat of the summer months. Trees are dormant and conditions in respect to their biology are favorable to pruning. Our company offers winter and fall discounts on all projects, due to cooler work conditions as well as decreased demand for our services. This creates an opportunity for our clients to receive huge discounts on all types of tree work and landscaping.

  1. Hire a great contractor

Seems easier said than done right? One of the most intimidating tasks for any consumer is choosing who to purchase their goods and services from. From picking a restaurant to buying a home people want a good deal, with excellent customer service. Unfortunately, homeowners often realize too late that the contractor they have chosen to complete a project is difficult to deal with in one way or another. The number one way to hire a good tree or landscaping company is to meet the salesman in person and ask lots of question while he/she is on site bidding your project. Ask these two questions and you can almost bet on the results should you hire the prospective firm. Firstly, ask the salesman/owner “Will you be on site when my work is done?” The answer to this should hopefully be a YES! Tree and landscape firms where the owner is the “foreman” are usually awesome to work with, it makes communication easy. Secondly, ask “Is customer satisfaction guaranteed?” The answer should definitely be yes, and as you ask this look at the salesman’s eyes, they should be brimming with confidence. There are other factors that should be required of any one doing work at your home such as adequate insurance (Liability & Workers Compensation), as well as a list of references. If this sounds like a lot of trouble you need to try and change that direction of thinking.  Making an educated decision, while weighing the facts is the most important step of hiring a contractor.

Tree Chip Mulch

Early in my career, while working for the Tuttle Tree Company, I learned about the value of wood chip mulch. One day while working just off River road near the University of Richmond, I rode with my father to dump a load of wood chips.

We arrived at an estate and pulled into the driveway, the place was beautiful. Towering pines shaded the expansive lot, I’m sure they were mere saplings when the home was built in 1920’s. The home place had retained the country charm that it had acquired long ago when the area of town had been more rural. The gardens on the properties were beautiful. Perennial gardens of veronica and phlox added to the Victorian style of the estate. Dogwood and redbud, as well as beds of mature azalea enjoyed the lower light conditions in the understory of the pines. There was even a small vineyard next to an old carriage house, planters and pots of all sizes were stacked against the exterior wall.

The owner, one of my father’s long time customers walked down the lane to show us where to dump. A lanky older woman, wearing a big straw hat, faded blue jeans, and a worn faded hat, she looked as if she had stepped out of mother earth magazine. As she looked over the load of mulch, I realized by the smile on her face that we had brought her a treasure. Over the years, as I continued to deliver chips, I learned how she had used these chips to build and maintain her lovely gardens.

Wood chips are a direct product of our amazing environment. They are rich in the elements and minerals on which plant life thrives. They are low cost, and with little work their benefits are residual. When applied to planting areas they can control weed growth and create an environment for plant material which mimics the benefits of a native forest floor.

Our company, Old Dominion Tree and Landscaping, creates and distributes thousands of yards of chip waste a year. The cost for the purchase of our wood chip mulch is a fraction of the going rate for commercial shredded mulch. The great part is that it can last three times as long. Commercial grinding mulch contains much more dirt and sediment because it is a byproduct of the clearing industry. The bulk of most grinded mulch (double shredded, and died) is composed of root balls from big trees, which is mostly dirt. As soon as the shredded mulch is delivered and spread it is exposed to the wash of seasonal rain. The dirt and sediment begin wash away, in no time your mulch has disappeared. Chipped tree mulch contains very little sediment and dirt, and the larger particles stay put in your bed when we have heavy downpours. As it ages it composts and becomes more beneficial to plant life.

I recommend that any homeowner looking to reduce annual mulch cost consider wood chip mulch. It will save you money and make your garden grow.

Seasonal Tree Care in Richmond

Consumer demand for tree service in the Richmond area is based on many factors. Severe thunderstorms, tornados, and hurricanes ramp up the workload in a real hurry. These are extreme circumstances that come unexpected and bury a good company in work. There many more subtle and predictable factors which increase service calls as well.

Every year in the spring, families walk out into their yards and look around and survey the potential of their property. A lot of times as central Virginia greens up in April, homeowners begin to notice dead branches, dead and diseased trees. It is during this time that our arborist and horticultural services are requested by clients from Chesterfield, Midlothian, Goochland, Henrico and other locales around RVA.

In the summer months business can be sporadic, heat waves, graduations, and summer vacations keep the minds of prospective clients far from tree removal and landscape projects. The phones start ringing again around the beginning of our traditional hurricane season.

One of the most overlooked times of the year to get a good deal on residential tree work is late fall and winter. At this time of the year new leads in the tree business are hard to come by. It is a great time for a consumer take advantage of the reduced demand in the form of Winter Discounts. Booking work to be done around your home in the winter months provides a good contractor with business and rewards homeowners with huge discounts.

There are benefits besides cost that make the darker months a prime time to have Landscape and Tree Service done in the Richmond area. Trees are dormant during this period, leaves are off and the sap is down. This is the ideal time to prune trees making this less susceptible to injury and disease, healing of wounds caused by pruning is easier for trees in the late fall/winter. The temperatures are easier on tree crews, I know my guys are a lot more productive in 55 degree weather than the heat associated with July. You will have a happier bunch doing your work when they are able to work without the threat of heat exhaustion. It is also a better time to move equipment around lawn areas, grass is dormant and irrigation systems have usually been winterized and shut down for the winter. Any ruts or blemishes caused during a landscape or tree project will mend over the winter and early spring.

I love to keep the saw dust flying all year! Growing up in the business with my father and uncle, Tom & John Tuttle, I worked at least a few days every Christmas break. I will never forget a ride across the Huguenot Bridge in the Eastern Tree bucket truck. It was just after Christmas and ice was built up on the edges of the James River. We wound up Cary Street towards the Boulevard, the streets lined with decorations of the holiday season. Mark my words, I’ll be doing work in Richmond, Virginia for many years to come!


How to Choose a Tree Service Contractor

Hiring a tree company to do work around your home can be a challenging, sometimes intimidating experience for a first time consumer. Being the proud owner of an established Tree and Landscaping business with over twenty years of experience, it is tempting to just say “Quit reading now and hire me I’m the best!”, but then I’d be out of a blog. My intention here is to provide some insight and advice people planning to hire a tree company to do work on their property.  There is a lot at stake, the safety of your family, the safety of your neighbors, and of course the wellbeing of personal property.

One of the first tasks when hiring any contractor is picking at least three firms to procure an estimate from. Where you find the prospective contractors can make a huge difference in the quality of work you receive. Google is good place to start, tree companies with a high google rank tend to be reputable, as there is a lot vested in gaining a top spot on the search engine. My second pool to fish in for a great Arborist would the superpages, or a paper phone directory, again these ads are expensive and only those who are in it for the long haul invest in this type of advertising. Referrals to a good tree care company from friend or coworker can also be worth investigation. Personally referrals are looked as gold to me, if one of my customers are impressed enough with my work to gamble by referring me to someone they know, then I am going to bend over backwards to make them happy. On the other hand, I don’t recommend hiring a “friend of a friend guy”, if you are referred someone to do work and the referrer calls them by their first name, then you might steer clear.  Your associate likely has a biased opinion of the contractor, reservation should even be used when hiring your own friends. I will work for friends, but I have a hard time bidding work and usually underbid projects trying to please them. This often leaves their jobs on the back burner schedule wise, as I will usually prioritize more lucrative business. Lastly, never hire a door to door solicitor (known in the business as door knockers, woodchucks, or tree gypsies), these companies are the buy here-pay here of the industry. All kidding aside, they can be dangerous. These companies are more often than not under insured, if insured at all, and will try to bleed you dry. They are famous for asking for partial payment before starting the tree job, then doing the easier part first and disappearing with your money. They can justify their inadequacy by having received partial payment for partial work, leaving the customer (Mark) to clean up a mess or worse.  In Richmond, Goochland, and Midlothian there has been a rash of problems with door to door tree services from Orange, Virginia and Culpeper, Virginia.  A good rule of thumb is to stay away from any service with a phone number with a different area code, and ask for a local business license (Powhatan is OK).

After you have chosen who you want to have bid your project, it is time to contact them for an estimate. In the tree trimming and removal business free estimates are the norm. Don’t just mark the trees and have someone stop by while you work, you always want to meet the person who will be performing tree and landscaping work around your home. Their appearance and treeside manor with speak volumes about their business. There are also a lot of factors that must be addressed by both contractor and consumer before business take place. Ask them how they will perform the job, whether the trees will be taken down by a climber or with a bucket truck. Inquire how the will drive equipment around your property to remove debris, inform them about septic systems and irrigation zones that exist. Ask about yard damage, on big removals there will be some blemishes, but you should find out what to expect. A lot of guys will be honest, this is what you want to hear. During your estimate have the tree care professional look around your yard for things that you may have missed, most good arborist won’t oversell. You can sometimes get a good deal on something extra when having a significant amount of work done, a successful tree company feeds on volume. Another good way to save money is to have the wood chips from your job left on site, this saves the contractor fuel cost and time associated with dumping. Keeping some firewood from the job can cut his cost as well. Always have stumps cut flush in natural area instead of paying for stump grinding. We give volume discounts for neighboring jobs as well, if your neighbors express interest in having work done then coordinate the estimates accordingly.

I cut my teeth in the good old days of residential tree work, I worked for my father and his twin brother. Eastern Tree Company was run by the Tuttle Brothers, Tom and John Tuttle. Their Company was one of the best in Central Virginia and referrals came hand over fist. At this time there were not a lot of credentials held by Arborist. Now, forty- one years after they cut their first tree, there are some good ones. The best one I can think of is an ISA Certified Arborist. I like to see the owner/salesman of a firm hold this certification, then I like seeing him oversee the job. This is an individual certification, and a man that holds it knows how to do tree work. I am an ISA Certified Arborist and as the owner of Old Dominion Tree, I oversee every job. A good business owner is there for their client, to answer any question, and to prevent and solve problems should they present themselves during a project.

I hope the information that I have provided helps you find a good arborist, I like for my industry to keep a good name for itself. If you are ever in the West End of Richmond and see a big bucket truck, look for Old Dominion Tree on the side and give us a call.

Caring for the Trees in Central Virginia

I have learned by traveling around most of our 50 states, that we are blessed to live in Central Virginia.

As an arborist with great interest in horticulture, landscaping and architecture, I feel we have it all.

From the Jeffersonian architecture of Monticello and UVA in Charlottesville to the gardens and trees of Colonial Williamsburg our state has much to offer for those who appreciate finer landscapes.

While working in Long Island for Nationwide insurance company in 2013, cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy, I noticed that the quality of our forest here in the Richmond area was far superior.

The oak trees in Midlothian area thrive and grow tall, providing a lush undergrowth of Dogwood and native ferns. These same trees provide the opportunity for those who love gardening to add rhododendron, azalea, and other nursery favorites into their own personal suburban forest.

The rolling hills of Goochland, is a unique area, the small farms here and in neighboring Powhatan provide relief from the hustle of city life. Divided by the James River, the biggest gardening challenge you will face in these two localities will be the whitetail deer!

The Blue Ridge Mountains provide some relief from severe thunderstorms moving west from the heartland, helping break up the intensity of fast moving storms.

Richmond City is a great place to enjoy green scenery as well, one of my favorite places just below Maymont along the Kanawha canal. It makes a great day to work up a sweat exploring this riparian jungle, then hike out with just enough energy to make it to the Diamond and catch a cold beer with the Flying Squirrels.

Summertime and the living is easy, unless you are an Arborist that is!


Hurricane Prep in Richmond

It’s that time of year, folks!  Before you know it, we’ll be watching the news and glued to the internet, tracking various tropical storms and hurricanes up the east coast.

Are you ready?  Is your HOME SAFE FROM FALLING TREES?

Don’t just think about bread and toilet paper when it comes to preparing for these storms.  Especially if you have trees that can fall on your house.

We have had an extremely wet year this year, and that means that trees are more vulnerable to uprooting.  (Many trees that are blown over during strong storms are able to fall because the ground around their roots is so wet.)

Walk around your house NOW, well before the hurricanes are on their way.  Are there large branches that can fall?  Those branches may look small, but try picking one up by yourself if it were cut down to the ground!  Even the ‘medium’-sized branches can weigh hundreds of pounds, and can damage your roof, your car, or you!

Are there trees that, if they leaned over uprooting the root ball, would possibly hit your house or land on your cars?

Please consider reducing your risks by having select branches removed, or even having trees cleared from too near your house.

Fill out the contact form (or call us at 804.334.6942), and mention “Hurricane Prep” in the message.  Do it now, before a storm is announced.  By then it might be too late to schedule the removal prior to the storm.


Will Cicadas Damage Trees in Richmond?

The 17-year-cicada hatching is upon us.  Though Richmond sees its fair share of cicadas every year, there is a large hatching of a species that has a very long development cycle.  Every 17 years in Richmond, “Brood II” hatches.  There are several broods of 17-year cicadas that impact different sections of the Eastern United States.  2013 is when the Central Virginia area will see (and hear!) a much-intensified hatching.

The cicadas will start to hatch in late-April or in May.  They will be around for about 6 to 8 weeks.  If you live in an area where there are older trees, you’ve probably seen their empty shells, and probably even seen some carcasses already.

Cicadas that appear in Richmond are completely harmless to both plant and animal.  (Unless one lands on you and startles you, and you pull a muscle doing the “get-it-off-me!” dance.  Don’t ask.)

People often wonder if the cicadas will damage their trees.  The nickname “locusts” invoke imagery of a plague, where all plants are stripped bare.  These insects, however, are not related to true locusts, which are more like grasshoppers.  And the adult cicada does NOT eat plants!

The only damage that will be done will be to the very tips of branches of older trees…particularly oak trees.  Once they mate, a female cicada uses a small, saw-like organ in her tail to cut a 3/4″ slice into the soft bark of the tips of branches.  By itself, this does not really have an impact on the plant.  However, with the surge in numbers with a 17-year cycle, there can be enough small slits on the end of branches to cause ‘flagging’, which is when the end of a branch dies and hangs down.  Eventually the dead ends will drop to the ground, the eggs will be deposited in the soil, where the larvae will sit for another 17 years.  See you in the year 2030!

The one caveat is that while the cicadas themselves don’t really harm the tree, there can be secondary problems from the limb tips dying.  This causes an opportunity for other, less-friendly insects to invade the tree.  Or a tree that is already weakened from a disease can become even more vulnerable.

If you are worried about a prize tree in your yard, or if you have concerns that a tree may need to go, call an arborist to have your tree inspected!

Other than that, try to enjoy this fascinating cycle of nature.  (And wear a hat when you’re outside.  They really do creep me out when they get in my hair.)


Storm Season in Virginia

Once again central Virginia, storm season is upon us. It is now time to tune up the generator and stock up on ice, and bottled water. The last few years have been rough when it comes to thunderstorms and tropical systems.
The West end of Richmond and residential areas south of the James such as Bon Air, Westover Hills and Midlothian have some of the largest stands of mature trees located in any suburban area in Virginia.
Now is the time to make an appointment with a Certified Arborist to have your trees looked over. Our Arborist at Old Dominion Tree will be glad to come out and give a professional consultation free of charge.
There is no obligation to purchase service, we truly enjoy educating the public on the health of their trees and any remedy we may suggest to make trees more resistant to storm damage.
While some trees may be candidates for removal, most healthy trees can be thinned and pruned to allow strong winds to flow through the canopy, which can greatly reduce the possibility of uprooting or large branch failure.
Also it is good idea to keep an eye on trees in low lying poorly drained areas. The roots of these trees become saturated easily and the swaying effects during heavy storm wind cause roots to loosen from the soil and the tree falls.
Old Dominion is a family business run by Jeremiah Tuttle, a third generation arborist in the Richmond area. Richmonders have been counting on the Tuttle Boys for tree work for many years. All work done is 100% owner supervised. We pride ourselves on superior work and immaculate cleanup. We will treat your property as if it were our own. We take all forms of payment, and have an option for financing on large projects.
Give us a call at (804)334-6942 for an appointment.

Welcome to Old Dominion Tree Service

Old Dominion Tree Service is proud to announce the release of its new website!

Day-to-day, we live and breathe sawdust and dirt, but we know that many of our customers are more comfortable operating a keyboard than a chainsaw.  So, we’ve created a website that will make it easy for folks to learn about us, and to reach us if they have a tree-service emergency!

Drop us a line and let us know what you think!