Landscape Professionals Get Special Tree Care Training

May 9, 2023

With many Arizona cities focusing on tree planting initiatives to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Smartscape program recently developed an advanced course focusing on urban forest management. Industry professionals and Cooperative Extension staff worked on a comprehensive curriculum. The first course took place with Pima County Cooperative Extension (Tucson area) in February, followed by the program in Maricopa County (Phoenix area) in March.

tree care workshop
Course instructor, Richard Adkins, always gets interest when he demonstrates the use of a pole saw, also called a ‘chainsaw on a stick.’

Smart Landscaping Includes Taking Care of Trees

The four-session ‘Advanced Smartscape Urban Forest Management’ course builds upon the information learned in the basic Smartscape training, going indepth on topics of tree selection and planting; tree biology; pruning and mature tree care; efficient watering from establishment through maturity; and soil health and management from an urban forest resource sustainability perspective. A session on common insect issues was also presented to help participants identify the difference between pest concerns and simple curiosities. All the information culminates in the final class that introduces the process of tree risk assessment and management – reviewing real-life examples provided by course attendees. The class reviews the information presented during the course and works through the risk assessment process to help suggest appropriate mitigation strategies for both tree health and human safety.

Class Lets Participants ‘Touch Trees’ for Hands-On Experience

Outdoor activities are used to provide a better visual understanding and hands-on experience of the concepts reviewed in the classroom. While the entire course was well received, many attendees commented on the usefulness of these activities. The interaction between fellow participants and discussion in the field is an important component of the course.

Participants in the courses included municipal staff, commercial and residential landscape and tree care employees, Master Gardeners, and interested members of the community. The program is expected to be offered annually. For additional information contact Kirti Mathura (Maricopa County) or Karen Hanshaw (Pima County) or visit

tree care workshop
A Tree Risk Assessment includes looking at the structural condition of the tree to evaluate for failure potential like limb breakage. Photo Kelly Athena.
Tree care class planting
Students learn tree planting steps that will provide the greatest long-term success. Photo Kelly Athena.










Christian Delgado, a Water Conservation Project Manager for City of Phoenix attended the program and shared the following “Richard and Kirti’s Urban Forest Management Advanced Smartscape course provided plentiful information and knowledge regarding trees and the urban environment. Richard’s experience and education in the topic really helped us understand the topics being discussed not only by teaching us but by showing us through field involvement.”

The benefits of trees serve as valuable tradeoffs to their water use, which emphasizes the importance of protecting and growing these community investments.”

Another municipal employee, Sawyer Treese, a Water Conservation Specialist with the City of Peoria felt the class gave him much better insight for his position. “The benefits of trees serve as valuable tradeoffs to their water use, which emphasizes the importance of protecting and growing these community investments. Richard Adkins provided a thorough overview of urban forestry and helped guide participants towards more proper practices.” (And yes, Treese is really his last name).

Tree care - pruning
A proper pruning cut is demonstrated for class members. Photo Kelly Athena.

Proper Tree Care Means Greater Water Efficiency

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Smartscape programs focus on water efficiency in landscape settings. All aspects of urban forest management – from soil health, tree species and site selection – to pruning and all other maintenance practices, tie into water usage and the need for appropriate management strategies to minimize consumption. The goal is to help everyone associated with a landscape (landscape architects or designers, landscape installers and maintenance workers, and those who oversee a residential, community, or commercial property) to be well-educated on how these systems function and best practices are applied. That is what can create thriving landscapes that don’t waste water, and at the same time, help reduce the urban heat island effect.

About Smartscape:

Smartscape is a University of Arizona Cooperative Extension research based, comprehensive training program that instructs landscape and irrigation professionals in the fundamentals of design, installation, irrigation, and maintenance of desert-adapted, water-efficient landscapes. Smartscape provides a basic course as well as advanced courses in topics like irrigation, plant selection, and tree care.  Programs have been specifically designed for landscape and irrigation industry professionals such as installation and maintenance supervisors and crew members,  landscape architects and designers, nursery employees, and municipal employees such as parks & recreation and water conservation staff.  HOA committee members and property management personnel are also welcome and encouraged to attend the trainings to gain knowledge of maintaining healthy, water-efficient landscapes. While all courses are executed by the Cooperative Extension, the Maricopa County program is sponsored by Arizona Municipal Water Users Association and the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Pima County program is sponsored by Tucson Water.

Water – Use It Wisely is proud to feature guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation.

Richard Adkins is the Urban Forester for the city of Tempe, AZ, managing the city’s Urban Forestry Master Plan. The city of Tempe, AZ is one of 19 Water – Use It Wisely partners to offer water-saving advice and programs

Kirti Mathura is a Horticulturist and Program Coordinator overseeing the Smartscape training courses with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. 

A Note from Water – Use It Wisely: When Hiring for Landscape Care, Know Your Pro

If you’re not a landscape professional, how can you get more knowledge about tree care? You can often find workshops offered by our Water – Use It Wisely partners. Check out our events calendar for program titles. You can also find great links (including Cooperative Extension publications) at the City of Mesa’s All About Trees page. Your trees provide the greatest benefits to your landscape and you want the knowledge or the right person to help you maintain your investment. As in any profession, not all landscape service providers are equal, and it’s worth taking the time to find the right person or company. For tips on selecting professional services, visit the Smartscape Know Your Pro site where they provide training and certification titles as well as questions to ask when hiring a company. The Smartscape program also started a Smartscape Professionals Directory to list those available for hire who have graduated from the training programs.

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