Assessing and addressing autumn tree care

  • Robin Edwards of Edwards Tree Service of Wendell at work. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Robin Edwards of Edwards Tree Service of Wendell at work. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • A visually unhealthy tree.

  • A tree with fruiting bodies, which often points to rot. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the Recorder
Published: 9/20/2021 2:39:15 PM

When we think of autumn, we’re likely to think of “leaf peeping.” Homeowners who have trees and large bushes on their property also need to think of end-of-season care. Making an assessment in the fall will often help you avoid disease or potential damage to your home or out buildings.

When initially making an assessment of the trees on your property Matthew Edwards said “You can tell a lot by the foliage. The foliage will let you know.”

He said you can tell a lot by how soon the leaves begin to drop, when they turn color, and how healthy they appear. You also want to look for dead branches that may come down when the snow starts to fly, he added.

“You want to look up and see what stands out to you. You don’t want a branch falling on your home, driveway, or a powerline,” he said adding that tree branches tend to “break at the V.”

Married couple Matthew and Robin Edwards of Edwards Tree Service in Wendell have been in business since 2007.

“I was a senior at Turners Falls High School in 1995. You know how colleges solicit. I came across a pamphlet for the Stockbridge School of Agriculture,” said Matthew Edwards. He went on to say he was drawn to the pamphlet as it “had a woman pulling a raccoon out of a knothole in a tree.” The photo struck him at the time so he applied to the school and the rest is history.

Robin Edwards holds a B.A. in plant and soil sciences.

Matthew Edwards said that minor pruning situations can easily be handled by the homeowner. “The internet and Google will give you lots of information for specific trees and bushes,” he said.

In terms of staying safe, it is important to use protective gear such as gloves, goggles, helmets, etc. “And if you are using a chainsaw, wear chaps, because chainsaws can bite,” he said.

Tools can include hand pruning shears, loppers and various non-motorized pull saws for home pruning projects.

“The most important thing to remember is to use non-conductive tools if you are working near any type of power line. You want to use fiberglass or wood,” said Matthew Edwards.

For the bigger jobs, he said it is a good idea to call a professional.

“Things have really changed a lot in the business in the past 20 years. There have been a lot of advancements,” he said, adding that their company does not often use chemical applications and primarily does tree work by mechanical means.

He suggested if any chemicals were to be used to start with organic applications such as horticultural oils and organic fertilizers. “Over-fertilizing will kill a tree. Sometimes you are better off just not doing anything (in regards to fertilizing),” he said.

In terms of the general health of your trees, Matthew Edwards said “the most important factor is water — too much or too little can cause problems.”

He said a sign of stress in your shade trees is if they turn color early. “It tends to stand out,” he said.

In terms of diseases, Robin Edwards offered advice on how to address some diseases that are common such as powdery mildew.

“It’s been much worse this year because of all the rain. It’s a fungal disease that thrives in a moist environment,” she said.

She noted that lilacs and crabapple trees are commonly affected. Thinning the plants and cleaning up any debris are the most helpful things you can do to cut down or prevent the disease from growing and spreading.

“Once you have cleaned up, put all the debris in the compost or burn it. Leaving anything behind will just allow it to start right up again the next year,” she said.

Robin Edwards suggested a home remedy for powdery mildew. Take one gallon of water and add one tablespoon of baking soda, and a half-teaspoon of non-detergent soap to act as a sticking agent. Use the solution to spray your plants and bushes.

“It’s a really good anti-fungal. You do have to re-apply after it rains,” she said.

Another thing to look for is lichens on trees and bushes. “Lichen has been more prevalent as well due to the wet summers we have had. They can be symbiotic with the plant or they can make them sick and die,” said Robin Edwards.

More importantly she said, “Any time you see a fruiting body, such as mushrooms, or lichen, you likely have rot or decomposition.”

She said these situations with trees bare closer observation, especially if there are potential limbs that may come down with heavy snow.

“If it’s still a tree in good health, it may be fine for a while. But you want to keep checking it out routinely,” she said.

Another common disease you will find locally is Wooly Adelgid, which was introduced into Massachusetts in 1988 from Connecticut.

“It looks like cotton on the underside of hemlock trees. It is a bug and can cause severe damage to conifers,” said Robin Edwards adding that autumn is the best time to treat for the disease. “Normally, you want to hire someone depending on the severity and location. At the very least, prune and dispose of the debris and hope that it recovers. I can’t stress enough the importance of good cleanup,” she said.

For further information you can call Edwards Trees Service at 325-7823.

Cris Carl is an avid local gardener, licensed therapist and certified herbalist. She is an experienced journalist who has written for the Recorder for many years. You can reach her at


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