One of the many pleasures of being an Oregon arborist is sharing different ways to enjoy trees and quality time in nature. Few things are as idyllic and enjoyable as a good turn on a well-constructed tree-swing. Here we’ll show you what to look for when choosing that one special tree for housing your own tree-swing.
The species and maintenance matter
Some trees just aren’t up to the job by design. In the Pacific Northwest, oak and sycamore species are common and often reliable for this project. Local species to avoid for projects like this include willow, spruce, and poplar.
Still, a tree’s size and health matter at least as much as the species. How long have you been caring for the tree? Is it free of disease and damaging parasites? Are the roots strong? Is the tree well-nourished?
Location, location, location
Our second consideration is location. The tree you’re considering needs to be far enough away from the street, structures, furniture, and other trees.
What’s going on around and near the tree? To safeguard against collisions, you will want a clearance of at least twelve feet in the front and ten feet in the back of the swing. The area should be free of large roots, rocks, and bumps. You don’t want to stub your toe as you’re pumping up a superb lift-off.
The landing zone
Is the ground zone level under and around the swing? A tree-swing should not be placed in a tree on a hill or sloped surface, in case of falls and tumbles. This is also why the material under the swing should be something softer and safer to land on—mulch, grass, and, of course, wood chips, the Oregon arborist’s favorite.
These and other materials of this sort are a much better choice than concrete and other hard surfaces. Home centers offer a range of options for materials. There are natural, synthetic, and recycled possibilities to fit in with any lifestyle and surroundings.
Tree age should hit the sweet spot
An important point to consider when selecting the best tree is its age. Although a tree-swing can be used by people of almost any age, the age of tree housing that swing should fall into a more limited range.
When it comes to the tree you choose, value the strength of a mature tree that is still somewhat young. Some tree species reach maturity in only 10-15 years, while others can take over 25 years! Your age minimum should be a bit after the start of the full maturation range for the specific species. Older trees are more likely to be dry or dying, and without the flexibility that a branch needs when a swing is installed.
A higher canopy is a must
While we’ve written about the value and beauty of low-hung branches, in the case of a swing we’re looking for the opposite. When you hop off that swing, it’s the ground you should meet and not another branch. The best trees to hang swings from have strong, thick, round, high limbs that clear the ground by at least seven feet. The tree itself should be tall and straight.
Nothing’s perfect, including branches
When looking for the best branch for your swing, you may experience the temptation to select the most level-looking one. Fortunately, the evenness of the swing comes mainly from the way it is suspended from the branch rather than how straight the branch itself is. The sturdiness of the wood is more important than the limb’s closeness to a perfect right angle–within reason! A limb that emerges from the trunk at a sharp angle will make the swing harder to place and more likely to experience slipping.
Lastly, the branch should be fairly round, at least eight inches thick at its shortest diameter, and free of defects including large bulges or any cracks. There are many options for swing placement and materials to meet your needs and those of your tree.
Staying close to home
Even on the sturdiest of tree species, limbs are still very flexible, living things. When scouting for your swing-tree, you want to be mindful of positioning the swing as close to the trunk as possible, after accounting for a safety clearance.
A swing should have a minimum clearance of two feet from the trunk and not stray much further than six feet. The swing draws part of its stability from the power of the tree’s body. There are a lot of forces acting on this union. A swing set far from that core may support the weight of swing users, but the ride will be bouncy and unsafe.
Check that “armpit”!
Placed too far from the trunk, the swing will also cause a lot of unnecessary extra stress to the area where the limb meets the trunk. If you think of this as the branch’s shoulder and armpit, you can see why it’s so important that this part be treated with extra care and very carefully inspected. This space is under additional stress when you install a tree-swing, from both weight and movement. To ensure safety, this spot must be regularly examined. A branch large enough to hold a swing but emerging from a weak union with the tree is a terrible safety hazard.
Bringing it all together—safety first!
Once you’ve identified the trees you think would work well for your swing, get some expert advice from your favorite Oregon arborist. Mr. Tree offers a wide variety of services. Make sure that your tree is healthy and properly pruned by calling in a professional. An otherwise suitable tree that hasn’t been pruned could lead to falling twigs and branches, as well as damage to the tree itself. This important step gives you peace of mind as you enjoy your new outdoor feature.
Ultimately, the best trees for tree-swings are the ones where you can enjoy both your swing and your tree in comfort and safety.