If you plan to prune your oak trees this winter, there’s not much time left if you want to minimize the chance of oak wilt. During the coldest days of the year, the beetles that carry the spores of the oak wilt fungus are very few and unlikely to fly.
Pruning is done for three reasons (in order of importance): safety, tree health and appearance. Although appearance is often mentioned as a reason for pruning, it’s really the least significant. (After all, trees don’t get pruned in the forest.)
Some helpful dos and don’ts when pruning oaks:
- Prune narrow branch junctions that are V-shaped; these are structurally weak.
- Shorten or remove long branches that have been repeatedly stripped of their lateral branches.
- Cut the “3-D” branches — dead, diseased and dying. These are a source of sickness and insects.
- Never cut through the branch collar. This donut-shaped ring at the junction of two branches or trunks has specialized cells that reduce decay and disease.
- Finally, always paint fresh oak wounds — this is essential to preventing oak wilt.
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