While autumn is a perfect time to admire the beauty of the changing colors in trees around the home, it’s also the best time to assess the trees.
Kevin Narbonne, owner of Peer Arboricultural in Hopkinton, explains: “We identify limbs or trees that pose potential hazards, that could come down due to added weight during winter ice and snowstorms. This is part of what we do during a walk-around and assessment in the fall. Then we prioritize and schedule any work needed, for example, removing a limb over the house or a pool. This summer, heavy rains have meant more growth, and that likely will require more pruning.
“In fall, we prune ornamental shrubs, but for trees, it’s not until the dormant time that we do the pruning. One reason is that between November and March, without the leaves, it’s easier to see the tree structure, almost like an X-ray. Therefore, it’s easier to identify and make the specific cuts needed for the desired shape. Another reason is protecting the health of the tree. After trees finish growing and drop their leaves, they maintain nutrients in the roots until they need them to start pushing growth again in spring. By pruning in winter, we aren’t sapping the tree from its sustenance. Not only that, after fresh cuts, trees are more susceptible to pests and diseases, but those threats are typically dormant during colder months.”
Adds Narbonne: “Understanding the why, the intent behind an action, is important, and we do that as part of the walk-around. For example, if someone wants to prune a tree at the wrong time of year, there are companies that will do it right away. I’ll describe the consequences, so the homeowner understands that delaying might be the better option. These philosophies come from old-world cultures in East Asia that learned over centuries the proper timing for applying resources, which they applied in the practice of bonsai.”
Clients appreciate the explanations and education Peer Arboricultural provides. Narbonne is a certified arborist in Massachusetts and with the International Society of Arborists.
For those who want to learn more, Narbonne recommends the “Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs” by Michael Dirr. As an example, if someone wants to know the best time to transplant a hydrangea, Narbonne says the answer depends on the location and subspecies, so it’s best to consult a valued resource like Dirr’s book.
Another treatment suited to the fall is subsurface fertilizing.
Narbonne explains: “In their natural environment, trees are surrounded by leaves on the ground that are decomposing to provide nutrients in the soil the trees then absorb. In a yard where leaves are raked up, we replace those missing nutrients by applying fertilizer to the roots every two to three years.”
A new concern is beech leaf disease, which is affecting American and English beech trees in this region. First identified in Ohio over a decade ago, the disease has spread to a dozen states, including Massachusetts. Scientists don’t fully understand it, but it can be devastating.
“This could be like Dutch elm disease or Chestnut blight,” Nardonne says. “A client of mine in another town has trees with it, and I’ve spotted what appears to be beech leaf disease in Hopkinton. Diagnosing it requires testing a sample, and there aren’t proven treatments. Experimental treatments are very expensive at this point and might not even save the trees. The best thing to do is help ward it off by keeping beech trees healthy.”
For inquiries or to schedule an appointment for Peer Arboricultural to do a walk-around and assessment, email email@example.com or call 781-801-3576.
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