One of our Western Loudoun neighbors had a tire swing on a thick branch on a walnut tree for ten years. But the kids grew, and the family started to notice dead limbs on the branch that held the swing. So mom and dad took down the swing. There were a few tears, but it was the right thing to do. Summer is a perfect time for relaxing in a hammock or having some fun with an old-fashioned tree swing. You can enjoy these summer favorites safely. Here’s how to make sure they’re stable and won’t hurt your trees.
How To Hang a Hammock
There’s nothing better than relaxing in a hammock on a summer afternoon. Here are some tips for hanging a hammock between two trees:
- Look for trees with thick trunks and no dead branches. The ideal set-up is two healthy trees 12 to 15 feet apart.
- Attach your hammock around four feet up on the tree. We want the low point of the hammock to be around 18 inches from the ground.
- Buy special tree-saver straps that are wider than rope instead of tying the rope directly to the tree trunk. The wide strap prevents friction and damage to the tree back and offers extra stability. The straps attach to your hammock with a metal clip.
- Be sure to check your straps, ropes, and tree bark every time you get in to relax and enjoy.
How To Hang a Tree Swing
A tree swing is a little more complicated than a hammock because you’re attaching the ropes to a large branch rather than the tree trunk. It’s probably a good idea to invest in a sturdy playset if you have multiple active kiddos. But for laid-back enjoyment, you can certainly attach a tire swing or board swing to a favorite tree. Here are some precautions to consider:
- Make sure the branch is healthy. Dead or broken limbs can fall and cause injury.
- Make sure the branch is at least 8 inches in diameter.
- Make sure you choose a sturdy hardwood tree. Avoid evergreens as their limbs tend to be softer, and branches hang lower.
- Don’t select a branch that’s too tall. Ten to 12 feet is plenty. Avoid branches higher than 20 feet.
- Make sure there’s room to swing. Hang the swing several feet from the trunk to give clearance.
What Equipment Should I Use for A Tree Swing?
You have two options for attaching your swing to a tree. You can drill an eye bolt into the tree and use a carabiner (a metal link with a hinge) to hook a rope to the branch. If done correctly, drilling will not hurt the tree branch and avoids damage to the bark caused by rope friction. The other option is to tie the rope directly to the tree using a reliable bowline knot. Use a rope sleeve between the cord and the bark to reduce friction and protect the tree.
Most experts recommend a braided polyester rope for tree swings. It’s strong, durable, and holds up well against the elements. Natural fiber ropes like cotton or hemp are also popular and have an old-school aesthetic charm, but they’re not as tough or weather-resistant as synthetic rope. If you go this route, you’ll need to inspect your swing more frequently.
How Can I Keep My Swing or Hammock Safe?
The key to safe swinging is to avoid getting caught off guard.
- Check the tree branch or trunk regularly. Make sure friction isn’t damaging the bark, and always keep an eye out for dead or damaged limbs that might fall.
- Replace the ropes and other equipment as needed. Be on the lookout for signs of wear.
Healthy Trees and Happy Swinging
One of the best things about tree swings and hammocks is that they allow you to appreciate your landscape differently. We often glimpse our surroundings from the driveway or deck, but once you get in that hammock, you’re immersed and engaged. You feel the breeze blowing beneath your favorite trees and genuinely appreciate your yard. At Epling Landscaping and Lawn Service, we love creating landscapes that are easy to enjoy: from the window, the porch, or a hammock. Happy summer and happy swinging.