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TRICK OR TREAT from an Arborists Perspective

TRICK OR TREAT? Maureen Sexsmith-West

ISA Certified Arborist 4600A

While Halloween is not a holiday celebrated by all, at our house, it involves a 12×12 storage shed to house all the ghosts, vampires and props to decorate our house.

After a very busy summer of work, daylight hours reduce and we have some fun. My favourite ghoul (Grant) has found an ally in our new neighbour who is equally enthusiastic about All Hallows’ Eve. They have been busy building, hanging and lighting our front yards to create a ‘spooktacular’ display for weeks.

While there are many tips published on keeping kids safe, as an arborist, I think it important to give some advice on kid- proofing your yard.

With all that sugar rushing through their veins otherwise adorable children turn into Superman (leaping hedges and flowers beds), crows crossbred with speeding bullets (you know the ones that race from house to house using the shortest route possible), or Olympic shot putters (who can toss your beautifully carved pumpkin 10 feet in the air and watch it explode upon landing). It is not hard to understand why so many perennials/shrubs get stomped, hedges crushed or yard ornaments damaged.

Here are my thoughts, take what you like and leave the rest:

  1. ‘Let there be Light’ – make sure your yard is well lit, if they can see your potentilla or peony, it is less likely to get stepped on. Secure electrical cords to avoid trip hazards.

  2. Make/Buy and strategically place decorative stakes which can mark special plants at 36” (roughly eye level of an 8 year old) rather than ground level. Tack on a rat or pumpkin decoration.

  3. Define your space and direct traffic flow. Use survey tape or one of the many ‘spooky’ seasonal streamers available in stores. Hang reflective decorations from tree branches. This will make them more visible and defines the clearance needed to avoid getting whipped in the face by a branch. Remember to remove it after the festivities to avoid girdling your branch.

  4. Decorations should be securely fastened – screwed to fences, anchored or staked) whenever possible – but NEVER TO A TREE! It is very tempting to push a swinging skeleton or ghost out of the way. There is a lot of jockeying associated with getting to the coveted position at your door – keep porches and steps free of trip hazards

  5. Keep an eye on burning candles. Dry grasses/plants and costume fabrics can catch on fire from a single spark. Have water or a fire extinguisher on hand or water the yard earlier in the day.

  6. Transfer jack-o-lanterns from front to back yard at the end of the evening or dispose into garbage bin. They make great cannon balls that explode upon impact. Even better, add it to your compost pile. Don’t forget to put the seeds out for the birds to eat.

  7. Heaven forbid it should snow – shovel and/or sand your walks. Avoid the use of salt-based de-icers since they will burn turf and alter the pH of your garden soils.

  8. DON’T whack the snow off your trees with a broom – wash off with a garden hose – branches are brittle and can snap under pressure or develop stress cracks which weaken structural integrity. When the temperature drops again, the icicles have you half way to your Christmas display.

Have a Happy and Safe October 31st Everyone!


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