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NB - Mapping and Identifying Trees

Hi NB!

I have this idea that I've been wanting to do ever since we bought the house but I haven't had time to do it yet.  I'd like to draw a map of our property including all of the trees and ID each one.  Is this something you typically do?  I have all of the trees in the actual yard IDed because they are spaced out more but there are a lot of areas I haven't taken the time to figure out.  I'm not necessarily sure what the benefits would be besides knowing where there might be juglone and just knowing how many different types of trees we have.  Could you use this for anything else?

As far as the mapping goes I'd like to try to map out the whole area either way.  I took a stab at it with Google Maps and AutoCAD but drawing curves proved to be a challenge and I ended up using lots of straight lines instead.  LOL!  Is there a program you'd recommend to draw all of that out?  And how do you measure everything out exactly? 

Re: NB - Mapping and Identifying Trees

  • ~NB~~NB~ member
    5000 Comments Combo Breaker

    Hi Fox! I do this all the time as a design starting point.

    Here in VA, the property plat (land survey) is part of the closing papers when a house is sold. I don't know if it's the same in Wisconsin. You might also find a copy on file with the city or county where you live. If not, you'll have to either locate the property markers, measure and draw the lot map yourself, or hire a civil engineering firm to draw a plat for you. If you draw it yourself, use large scale grid paper (at least 11" x 17"). You can buy 1:8 or 1:10 scale grid paper at an office supply store.

    Once you have a property survey, you will have a map of the lot and a footprint of the house and any other structures on it. If a Civil Engineer did it, she/he will have located the utilities as well (pretty important when you're talking about big trees). And again, if you're DIYing the drawing, you can do this part too, it just takes some time to site the overhead wires (relatively easy) and the buried utilities (you have to call the utilitiy companies, and wait for them, which can be a headache). 

    If you have the actual plat, chances are the scale will be so tiny that it will be unusable until you enlarge it. You can have Kinkos, etc do this until it is big enough for you to see. We're talking like a 400% enlargement. Be warned, you might end up with something the size of a wall poster. Most whole house maps are about 18" x 24" when you blow them up to 1:8 or 1:10 scale.

    NOW, you are ready to draw in the existing trees and shrubs. You don't need an expensive CAD program, which take forever to learn, you just need to measure from a known point like the house or the driveway, and mark it on your plat. Then look up, and guesstimate the spread of the canopy, and use a circle template to draw it. You will represent all the trees and shrubs this way- a bunch of little circles.

    I do think having a map is necessary for creating a good design. Without it, your dimensions are based on guesswork instead of geometry. My drawings tend to be  formal and precise.

    Okay that's long enough for now, I'm signing off. Let me know if I said anything you need clarified; I'm happy to help.

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  • Thanks for the in depth reply NB!

    No unfortunetly we don't have to do that when we sell a house here in WI.  Even if we did I doubt homes in the country like mine would go that in depth because we live in the woods.  I'm not worried about our property line because we live on the corner of two streets so we only have two "semi-unknown" property lines.  One is 10' north of our shed perpendicular to the road and other other runs through the marsh and second pond.  The areas I'd like to map the most are around the house and the lower garden area near the street corners. 

    CAD isn't hard for me I use it at work on a regular basis but we are drawing mostly straight lines.  I also have access to full size plotters so I can easily print out any size I want.  Drawing everything out by hand and using circle templates on large scale paper is a good idea!  Eventually I'd like to get it all in CAD for future reference but I can draw it out by hand first out in the field.  

    Like you said I think it will be really helpful to plan out flower beds.  The original owners were avid gardeners and started a lot of this by building raised flower beds and the retaining rock walls with flower beds on top.  The second owners let everything go though so it's a big mess.  We're trying to take one one flower bed at a time but there are so many it is going to take years to clean out and replant each one!  But man will it look nice when we're done.

    Anyway here's what I have started:


    I took a screen shot of Google Maps and imported it into CAD.  Then I drew a lot of short straight lines to look like curves.  All of those big shapes on the left are the ponds, island, and varying levels of marsh/field.  The small dark circles near the house is the rock wall I tried to draw out and the strange angular shape NE of the house is the fenced in dog yard we built.  I still need to get outside and check my drawing with measurements...the shed looks too close to the house for one.  I was just stuck on how to draw all those trees in there and how to signify the line where the woods meets our mowed yard.  I think I'll try drawing the trees from hand like you said and use my WI tree book to identify what I can.  It's going to be a big undertaking.  The circle in our driveway alone has over 30 trees in it!  Someday we'd like to get someone like you out here to check the health of some of these tree and let us know if we need to thin some of them out. 

  • ~NB~~NB~ member
    5000 Comments Combo Breaker

    Nice job! You don't need me at all!

    But maybe some CAD trees will help- you can import them from many sites:

    Some free, some for a price.

    So, why no curves? Nobody ever showed you how? What program is it?

    And the fact that you only need to map PART of the property is good, because the paper size can get huge, believe me. In school we had to draw out- by HAND- whole apartment complexes. They wouldn't even fit on 30" x 40" paper (we all secretly hated that teacher, he made us design stoopid crap like golf courses... and parking lots MINUS vegetation).

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  • Those CAD trees would be prefect!  Thanks.

    No the engineers don't get formal CAD training just the designers.  I've just taught myself everything or have gotten help from designers on actual projects (not fun side things like this which I do after hours).  In our projects the architects draw the backgrounds which would have any curves.  Any curved ductwork or piping we draw we actually bring in as a block to save time and because there are standard fittings we need to follow.  Once I had things laid out in lines I kind of messed around with adding splines on top or arches.  Splines are nice and curvy but it's hard to predict where and how much they will curve between the nodes you put down.  YKWIM?  I'm using AutoCAD 2011 for this...old school 2D stuff.  Most of our work is now in 3D...way over my head!  Meh curves would be nice but I'm not loosing sleep over it.  I'm planning to draw all of the borders in CAD, save as a pdf or tiff, bring it into Photoshop (I have CS3 at home) and fill in with colors there.  Everything should make more sense when the colors are in.  What do you use to draw all of this stuff?  Do you have some kind of fancy landscaping software?  I'm hoping to teach myself Sketchup too (the free version).  I've drawn some stuff with it but I wish it was as easy to use as CAD! 

    I'll have to send you an update when I get it all done.  

    Back to my original question though is there any other benefit to IDing each tree?  Besides juglone is there any other perennial/tree interaction I should know about?  I'm creating 2-3 flowerbeds this year and one of them will be around the old black walnut tree we cut down.  How long does juglone last in the roots and stump?  I'm trying to convince DH that we should have the stump ground out instead of just putting a big pot of annuals on top of it.  Would that help dissipate the juglone?  I'm having a hard time finding plants to put there.

  • ~NB~~NB~ member
    5000 Comments Combo Breaker
    image FoxinFiji:

    Back to my original question though is there any other benefit to IDing each tree?  Besides juglone is there any other perennial/tree interaction I should know about?  

    How long does juglone last in the roots and stump?  I'm trying to convince DH that we should have the stump ground out instead of just putting a big pot of annuals on top of it.  Would that help dissipate the juglone? 

    Those are good questions. Let me do a little digging to see if there is any published research (re: juglone).

    Off the top of my head, I'd want to know what was in my yard for several reasons:

    1. Value. As a Consulting Arborist, appraisals are important to me. I'd want some idea of the monetary value of my trees. They might be rare. Even if they aren't, they might be worth insuring. Most homeowners policies do NOT cover trees (clients always call me to do appraisals AFTER their tree falls, and they weep when I give them this unpleasant tidbit of info).

    2. Hazard. If you have something like a Silver Maple, you should know that they seldom show obvious signs of decay, even if they are 90% hollow.

    3. Susceptibility to disease/insects. For example, if you have Fraxinus (Ash) trees, you should consider treatments for Emerald Ash Borer.

    Can you believe that here in Virginia, someone actually removed some low limbs on a State Champion tree??! Nobody told him that the huge tree on his property was a State Champion tree. Well, it wasn't State Champion after that.

    Anyway, I'd just WANT TO KNOW everything I could about what I had growing on my property.

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  • Yes disease is one of the things I was worried about too.  I'm not sure what we could to stop some of the diseases that spread through the roots though because the trees are so close together.

    I know for a fact none of our trees are insured.  When we bought the house we specifically asked about this and what insurance would or would not cover if one fell on our house, shed, or fence.  If the tree was clearly dead and we failed to cut it down before it fell on something insurance wouldn't cover the damage.  Honestly, we have so many trees that if we lost one or two I doubt we'd be replanting any.  

    Good to know about the Silver Maple and Ash tree info!  There any maples in our area but we might have a few ash trees.  

    Yes the info I'm finding on juglone online seems to be all over the board.  It's hard to tell what's fact and fiction.  I thinking about using a double flowering Kerria Japonica which is supposed to be juglone tolerant.  I'm a little worried about the fast growth rate though.  I'd love to use some slow growing conifers in the backyard but there are only two varieties that do well in shade in our area.  Abies koreana is affected by juglone which could be anywhere with the size of the black walnut we cut down.  Tsuga canadensis would be the other one which the deer will eat if a tough winter.  I planted two in our front flower beds along the house which the deer won't go near but the flower beds I want to plant this year are in the backyard close to the woods.  They don't like them as much as arborvitae though!

  • ~NB~~NB~ member
    5000 Comments Combo Breaker
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