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Gardeners beware: Safety in tree care is essential

May 18, 2014 - 12:05am

Markets and more

Farmer-direct markets: Hooulu Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay; South Kona Green Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and Sundays, Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook; Keauhou Farm Bureau Market, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, Keauhou Shopping Center.

Gardening events

Monday: "Fruit Tree Seeds," 7 to 9 p.m., UH Cooperative Extension Office in Kainaliu across from the Aloha Theatre. A discussion on seed access, viability and shipping. For information, contact Brian Lievens at 895-8753 or

c Plant advice lines are answered from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday at the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service in Kainaliu, 322-4892 and 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Tuesday and Friday at UH CES at Komohana in Hilo, 981-5199.

For those gardeners who venture into the art and science of tree pruning, safety has to be a consideration.

Standing on the ground in front of a small tree with loppers in hand to remove plant parts that are either dead, diseased, disfigured or dysfunctional is a task with few hazards unless you are cutting overhead branches. Your safety becomes compromised, however, when you are standing on a tall ladder, wielding a chainsaw and cutting large limbs growing under electric wires. Most home gardeners choose not to tackle these jobs, but a few will take on the challenge in order to not have to pay someone else to do it. Of course, if you fall off the ladder, cut your leg with the chainsaw, or get shocked or electrocuted, the savings are nullified.

If you are not one to hire a trained arborist for these larger tasks, you might want to attend the upcoming Tree Care Safety Workshop. Designed to help tree care workers improve their safety and reduce accidents, John Ball will teach attendees how to avoid problems when pruning large trees. The workshop will be held from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Friday at the Waikoloa Beach Resort. The cost is $130, which includes lunch. The workshop is sponsored by the Hawaii Island Landscape Association, the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service and the Aloha Arborist Association which is in the Western Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. Members of any of the sponsoring organizations can register at a discounted rate of $105.

Continuing education units are available for this course. Certified arborists may claim six units while utility specialists can claim three. Paperwork for the CEUs will be available at the class.

Ball is a professor of forestry at South Dakota State University. He has conducted many research projects relating to arboriculture, especially tree worker performance and safety. His presentation will start with an overview of tree trimming accidents, discussing their causes and possible prevention. He will also review the Haddox Matrix as it relates to tree work.

The Haddox Matrix is a commonly used paradigm in the field of injury prevention. Developed by William Haddon in 1970, the matrix looks at ways human, equipment and environmental factors play into an accident. Using the matrix offers a way of evaluating an accident and its aftermath to help decrease the likelihood of a serious injury or a fatality immediately following the incident as well as in the future.

Ball will also cover two of the biggest factors to consider in making tree work productive as well as safe: job setup and job briefing. Many accidents can be prevented by good planning. Since working around electrical wires and conductors requires knowledge of specific standards and regulations these will also be covered. Electrical contact is the leading cause of death among tree workers, and this part of the workshop will be very thorough. Finally, his presentation will include emergency response information if and when an accident occurs on a job.

For more information contact Ty McDonald at or 322-4884.

Register online at

Tropical gardening helpline

Pinto asks: I heard that tea tree oil is from the Melaleuca tree and that it is also sometimes called the paperbark tree. I also think it grows here. Can you fill me in?

Answer: Yes. Tea trees or paperbark trees do grow here. They are installed in many area landscapes for their distinctive beauty. They are in the Myrtle family and the genus Melaleuca. There are more than 200 species in this genus. The one that tea tree oil comes from is Melaleuca alternifolia. In addition to its peeling bark as a distinguishing feature, it also has a striking white bottle brush flower.

The sap from the tree is distilled for the essential oil to make tea tree oil which serves as a natural topical antibacterial agent. People of eastern Australia, where the plant is native, inhale the oils from the crushed leaves to treat coughs and cold. They also apply the leaves to wounds and use an infusion of the leaves to treat sore throats or skin problems.

This tree has many qualities to recommend it for planting in West Hawaii.

Email plant questions to for answers by Certified Master Gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant living on an organic farm in Captain Cook.