Friday, January 18, 2013

Trim Oaks NOW in the Frosty Winter Months to Prevent Oak Wilt!

It's going to be crazy cold this weekend...You know what I mean. That bone-chilling, below zero for a high, weather love to hate. We love boasting how tough we are as Minnesotans who can endure temps that can turn and ordinary banana into a hammer in a matter of minutes. But we hate having to be out in it ourselves for any length of time. Good think these temps really only show up every few years. The ice fishermen and Winter Carnival people are going to love it though.

One thin that these cold January temperatures are perfect for is trimming oak trees! You heard me...trimming an old in the winter is the BEST time. It prevents the spread of oak wilt because the beetles are dormant in the cold weather. By spring, when these devastating creatures become active again, the cuts where branches were trimmed will have healed.

Oak wilt is devastating to trees in Anoka and Chisago counties 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. Now in this frosty January weather, it is the perfect time to avoid exposure to this tree-killing disease.

Oak Wilt Devastates Acreage A few years back I shared photos of a property that is in my own Ham Lake neighborhood where the owners had dealt with oak wilt on their acreage property for several years. Or, more accurately, they ignored it until the city red-tagged the trees every at the end of the summer. In one season alone, this property lost nearly a dozen trees. (Read Oak Wilt—A Minnesota Tragedy) While the beautiful thicket of mature oak trees is now long gone, I am very happy that the new  property owners took the initiative to save the remaining oaks. With treatment and proper care, they have lost only one small tree in the past several years.

Oak wilt is not just a problem in Ham Lake and Anoka County. It is prevalent in communities from Columbus to Lino Lakes and Forest Lake to North Branch, Scandia and Linwood. 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 tree-killing 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 leaves.  When the tree attempts to block the fungus, it also blocks all water and nutrients to the branches and leaves. The leaves then wilt, brown and eventually, the tree dies.

Oak wilt spreads through the root systems of near by infected trees and by fungus beetles that carry the oak wilt spores from tree to tree. For additional information on oak wilt from the University of MN Extention Service

How to Protect Your Trees

Keep oaks trimmed and healthy. Trim large mature oaks now as January/February are excellent months to prune oak trees.  If you have your large oaks trimmed now it is a preventative to spring storm damage when heavy, dead branches can fall during tornadoes or straight line winds.

The fungus beetles infect trees that have been recently injured or trimmed. These beetles are very active in the spring and summer months but not active at all during the winter. Oaks should be protected from damage and not trimmed from April through July.

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 be damaging to the tree.

Selling a Home with Oak Wilt?

Be honest and disclose!  A seller might be tempted to cut down a diseased tree and not say a word to a new buyer. This is not only unethical it could cause expensive legal 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, most 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. Bottom line: There is a question regarding diseased trees on the Minnesota Sellers’ Disclosure Form. Fill it out honestly 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.  

Copyright 2013