Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Need to Trim Your Oaks? WAIT & Prevent Oak Wilt!

If your oak trees require trimming, it’s best you wait until winter to prevent the spread of oak wilt. Oak wilt is devastating as massive oaks are destroyed when this disease spreads. Smart landscaping and maintenance requires you trim oaks in the winter months—before April in Minnesota. Oak trees should be trimmed in the late fall or winter months. If you have overgrown oak trees, it is important to now wait until after the first hard freeze of fall to avoid exposure to this tree-killing disease!
A few years ago I shared photos of a property in our Ham Lake neighborhood where the owners had dealt with oak wilt for a couple of years…Or in reality chose not to deal with it. In one summer alone, this property lost nearly a dozen trees.  While the beautiful thicket of mature oak trees is now just a memory, the new owners took the initiative to save the remaining oaks and with treatment and proper care lost only one small tree in over four years.
Oak wilt is not just a problem in Ham Lake or Anoka County. It is prevalent in communities from Lino Lakes to North Branch and Forest Lake to Stacy. Whether you live in Anoka, Chisago or Washington County, if you have oaks on your property, you need to take precautions to protect them from this deadly disease.
What is Oak Wilt?
Oak wilt is a disease caused by a fungus which attacks the central system of the tree from the roots to the leaves. The tree attempts to block the fungus, but also blocks all water and nutrients to the branches and leaves. Eventually, the trees leaves wilt and it dies.
Oak wilt spreads through the root systems of near by trees and by fungus beetles that carry the oak wilt spores from tree to tree.
How to Protect Your Trees
The fungus beetles infect trees that have been recently injured or trimmed. These beetles are very active in the spring and summer months. Oaks should be protected from damage and not trimmed from April through July.
Trim large mature oaks now. As a preventative to spring storm damage, have your large oaks trimmed now so that heavy, dead branches won’t fall during tornado season and break other healthy limbs.
Tree trimming of mature oaks is best left to professionals especially near the power lines. The trimmer should use a bucket truck or a line/pulley system, NOT spiked climbing boots which can damage the tree.
Selling a Home with Oak Wilt?
Disclose, Disclose, Disclose! A seller might be tempted to cut down a diseased tree and not say a word to the new buyer. This is a terrible idea and could cause problems after the sale. Even if a seller doesn’t say anything about oak wilt infected trees that were removed prior to listing the home, I’ll bet the neighbors will. Cutting a tree diseased tree does not prevent the spread of oak wilt. It is likely other trees are infected. If more trees die and the buyers were not properly informed, the seller could be in a legal battle with an irate buyer.
Here is the bottom-line:There is a question regarding diseased trees on the Minnesota Sellers’ Disclosure Form. Fill it out properly and be prepared to remove the diseased trees properly and safely, if asked. It is never a good idea to not tell the whole truth on the property disclosure form.

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