The mighty oak tree has, throughout centuries, been subject to many stories and songs. Today, homeowners are using this tree as part of the landscape due to its magnificent appearance, especially during spring and summer.
There are more than 80 species of oak, and all of them are deciduous trees. So, if you have an oak tree in your yard, how should you maintain it? In this post, we have put together an oak tree maintenance guide for you. We are going to look at how to care for oak trees, how to trim, how to fertilize, and how often you should water these trees.
Order: Fagaceae (Beech family)
Preferred conditions: Full sun, well-drained soil. Lots of water.
Oak trees prefer well-drained soil and full sun. Because of their enormous size, these trees should be planted in an open space for all branches to receive an adequate amount of sunlight and air. So, make sure that the neighboring trees or shrubs are at least 6 feet from the base of your oak trees.
It is essential to note that oak trees do not thrive in waterlogged soil. Therefore, your yard should have well-drained soil for these trees to grow. In addition, when planting trees around oak trees, select varieties that do not require a lot of watering in summer to avoid water-logging the soil. Another vital care tip for an oak tree is pruning. Like most deciduous trees, you should prune these trees during dormant months of winters.
When should you trim an Oak tree?
Trimming is one of the crucial maintenance tips. The practice helps to remove unhealthy branches to allow the tree to grow healthy and in the intended shape. Like other ornament trees, you should trim the oak tree when necessary.
You don’t require to trim these trees every year. When young, oak trees should be trimmed every 2 to 3 years to make sure they grow into a single main leader trunk and maintain a good branch structure.
Any crossing branches or branches growing back towards the center of the canopy should be removed. Older trees should be trimmed every 3 to 5 years, concentrating on removing dead branches and allowing sufficient light and air into the canopy of the tree to reduce the instance of fungal growth and rot.
It is important to mention that oak trees are infected by a deadly disease called oak wilt. The diseases are usually active during the growing months, i.e., April to July. So the best time to trim your oak tree, according to most oak tree maintenance guides, is during the dormant months of winter since the chances of developing oak wilt are almost zero.
Can Oak trees be topped?
The answer is sometimes, but only if you have no other choice. i.e. if the tree is growing into power lines. Tree topping is a common, but a very bad practice for trees that are growing too tall for your liking.
The reason it does bad is all branches if a tree should be trimmed back to the closest branch collar. You just can’t trim a branch halfway. If you do it will start to shoot out suckers. These are not actual real branches and will eventually grow too big to support their own weight and snap off. This is due to the fact that suckers are not real branches. They are just attached to the bark of a tree.
Topping a tree should be the last resort after all other avenues are exhausted.
Should I fertilize?
You should fertilize an oak tree every few years for it to grow and to maintain good health and vigor. For young trees, they should be fertilized every other year.
However, Oak trees are a bit unique when it comes to fertilizing. First, you should only fertilize them in the spring, late summer, or autumn. These are the times of the year when there is rain to wash the nutrients down to the roots.
Your choice of fertilizer is critical. Using the wrong one may do more harm than good.
Do not use varieties that released a large amount of nitrogen quickly into the soil. Such fertilizers encourage weak branches, and that could result in the spread of oak wilt. So, use the recommended nitrogen-based fertilizer for the oak tree and not the “one-size-fits-all” varieties.
The best thing you could do is use an organic fertilizer like horse or turkey manure. This can be watered in over a week or two periods and will deliver a great natural boost for the tree.
How often do I water?
As mentioned above oak trees do not thrive in waterlogged conditions, so these are the kind of trees that do not require frequent watering. The rule of thumb when it comes to water oak trees is that you should never water them more than once a month when mature. For juvenile trees, twice per week will suffice until roots are able to reach the water table below.
Watering during the winter season is not necessary because the plant is dormant, and there could be winter rainfall. However, if the winter was dry, you should give the tree a thorough soaking in the spring without making the soil waterlogged. For dry summers, it is safe to water these trees at least once or twice per month, but no need if it rains on a regular basis where you are.
When to remove an Oak tree
Oak tree removal should be the last resort and should only be done when the tree is lost. It s hard to make the call sometimes, especially with larger trees that have been around longer than you have, but the tree will get to a point where it can no longer function properly and becomes dangerous to you and your family.
You will need to check to see if you can legally cut down your Oaktree before proceeding, and I recommend seeking advice from a qualified arborist.