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Summer is a good time to prune oaks

While it’s always a good idea to paint fresh wounds with oil or latex paint, the searing heat this time of year helps protect against oak wilt.

The scorching weather of recent weeks has a bright side: it provides a great opportunity to give our oak trees a little trim. While it’s always a good idea to paint fresh wounds with oil or latex paint, the searing heat this time of year helps protect against oak wilt.

The form of fungus that spreads the disease and the beetle that transports the spores of that fungus are nearly non-existent this time of year.

When pruning, follow these rules to ensure proper pruning and prevent oak wilt.

  • Large branches (greater than 1 inch) should be undercut to minimize additional damage and help the wound heal faster. Follow the three-step cutting method:
    1. The first cut should be upward from the underside of the branch (undercut), about 1/3 of the way through.
    2. The second cut should be all the way through the topside of the branch (top cut), slightly farther from the trunk than the first cut, to remove the branch.
    3. The third cut is a top cut to remove the remaining “stump,” so the trunk bark can eventually heal around the wound.
  • To promote healthy wood and minimize damage, aim to remove dead, damaged, diseased and rubbing branches.
  • If early training was not possible, reducing the crown of the tree will prevent it from interfering with traffic, power lines or other structures. Never cut off more than 25 percent of a tree in a single year, and remember that young trees compartmentalize, or seal against decay better than old trees. In many cases, the only alternative for a tree that has outgrown its site is to replace it with a smaller-growing variety.
  • ONLY oaks require paint on fresh wounds. Any oil- or latex-based paint is appropriate. Feel free to be creative and use different colors. Mix and match with the house!
  • Always keep your tools sharp and clean it with some type of fungicide. I suggest Lysol, either original or lemon scent is fine.

Keep in mind that if you miss the opportunity this summer, winter is the next best time to prune your oaks. In fact, winter is the best time to prune all trees except spring blooming trees.

Consult with a certified or licensed arborist before doing any major pruning.

Picture of David Abrego
David Abrego
David Abrego is a conservation consultant for SAWS. David, a native of Panama, likes to spend his time surrounded by plants and fruit trees. So if you can’t find him at home, he’s probably working in a greenhouse. David is also an arborist and an irrigation technician.
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