FAIRFIELD — Jeffrey Minder spent 18 years in the private sector before taking over as the town’s tree warden a year ago. But it was an interview with a second-grader from Burr School, as part of a school project, that the 41-year-old said “really made me realize how important trees are.”

Minder recently planted an American hornbeam on the grounds of Burr School to mark Arbor Day, and gave a nod to that second-grader, Evander Prapopulos, 8. It was part of a busy weekend for Minder, one that included the town’s Earth Day celebration, and preparation for the annual Dogwood Festival that kicks off Friday.

He recently shared sat down with the Fairfield Citizen to talk about the care, and importance, of trees.

Fairfield Citizen: Dogwood trees are an iconic Fairfield symbol. With the Dogwood Festival underway, what is the state of the health for the dogwoods in town and what can residents do to ensure the health of their dogwoods?

Jeffrey Minder: The state of the dogwoods appears to be in good health. Overall, we had to do very little to them this year. They have made it through the winter with minimal damage and show little to no signs of anthracnose, or dogwood borer.

To ensure the health of their dogwoods from year to year, residents can follow these five basic steps:

More Information


WHERE: Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, 1045 Old Academy Road

WHEN: Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — luncheon from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; piano duets at 2 p.m.

Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Dogwood Dash at 8:30 a.m.; Dogwood Mini Dash, 10:30 a.m.; Spirit of Black Rock Fife & Drum Corps, 10:30 a.m.; Greenfield Hill Chancel Choir, 1 p.m.;

Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. — Pivot Ministries Men’s Choir, 2:30 p.m.

For more information, visit www.greenfieldhillchurch.com/dogwood-festival/

1. Watering should be done one to two times per week in the morning particularly during dry periods.

2. Fertilizer should be applied twice a year once in the early spring to ensure good health and flowers and again in the fall to help during the growing season. Dogwoods prefer acidic soil, applications of acidic fertilizer would work best.

3. Pruning improves structure as well as appearance. Prune deadwood and diseased branches to help prevent the spread of disease and insects.

4. Mulching is one of the easiest and most protective applications you can do for your trees. Mulch is used for aesthetics, water and erosion control, and will also protect the root system from heat or cold exposure.

5. Always be careful with the base of the tree. Scarring it with lawn mowers and other equipment can severely weaken the trees defense.

FC: Why did you get into the tree business?

Minder: My career in this industry started over 20 years ago as a part-time summer job, in between college semesters. I was studying criminal justice at the time, but one summer, being outdoors with nature, I fell in love with it and never looked back. I am extremely fortunate to have found a career that I enjoy, and I am able to work with nature and be a part of all it has to offer.

FC: Why should people plant trees, and are there certain species that are especially suited to this area?

Minder: There are many reasons why we should plant trees. Trees are important, both environmentally and economically. Trees clean pollutants from our air, produce oxygen, keep our roads and homes cool. They also provide shelter and food. We sometime take the value of trees for granted, but they play a very important role in our everyday life.

Recommended trees for this area are the larger shade trees such as red maples, London plains, pin oak, and honey locust. Also smaller flowering ornamentals, such as pears, dogwoods, plums and crab apple.

FC: Are there any tree diseases that are prevalent in Connecticut?

Minder: Dogwoods are susceptible to a number of diseases such as anthracnose, leaf spot and dogwood blights. These can all be controlled through corrective pruning and fungicide applications. Dogwood borer is the most common insect to attack the tree. This also can be controlled with an insecticide application, but best prevention is to keep the tree healthy and free of wounds.

FC: Are you satisfied with the results of the United Illuminating pilot program to trim or remove trees near power lines, or does it need to be tweaked?

Minder: I have been working very closely with United Illuminating in regard to their tree trimming/removal program, trying to create a balance that will work for all. We completed our pilot program in October of 2015, and the program is set to resume in July/August of 2016. At this time, I am pleased with the results of the program and I feel we have achieved more storm resiliency, without compromising the aesthetics of our neighborhoods.