Oak wilt continues to be an issue throughout Austin, central Texas and much of the central part of the U.S. This often fatal disease is spread by a fungal organism known as Bretziella fagacearum (previously Ceratocystis f., but scientists often change organism names just to mess with us arborists!) Other than the name change, there’s little new about this disease, other than some news about DNA testing, but the likelihood of fast, accurate field test kits being available anytime soon is small. For more details on oak wilt, see my previous posts and my Oak Wilt Page.
At this time of year, whether you should or shouldn’t prune your oaks is quite forward in the minds of many neighborhood activists. You may have seen signs saying not to prune at this time of year. For years it has been recommended by various government agencies that one should avoid pruning oaks in the “spring”. The definition of spring has changed quite a bit over the years.
My advice to homeowners is that if you have oaks that must be pruned in the spring, either because they have large dead branches, or branches hitting buildings or at risk of being hit over streets, sidewalks, etc., leave this type of pruning to qualified professionals. Several years ago I organized a committee comprised of members from the TX Forest Service, TX Agricultural Extension (AgriLife) and ISA (commercial arborists) and we created these oak wilt pruning guide lines(they can also be found on the TFS oak wilt website.)
These guidelines state that pruning of this nature can be done during the spring time months. However, I think it is probably best to leave pruning during this time to professionals, and to postpone all non-essential pruning (like small dead branch or ball moss removal) to other times of the year, mostly out of an abundance of caution, as they say.
© 2019 guy leblanc all rights reserved
Pruning young trees requires an understanding of how trees grow. Sounds obvious, but in truth many people lack even a basic understanding of this. There are three key points one needs to know about how trees grow in order to get them off to a healthy start. Without this knowledge you can make mistakes that could persist for the life of the tree, reducing its aesthetic value, and even possibly leading to catastrophic limb failure years later.
The first thing to understand is Continue reading
© 2018- 2019 guy leblanc. all rights reserved
Cabling is the use of hardware to support trees or branches that are defective or weak but that the tree owner does not wish to remove. Sometimes weak limbs are retained because removing them would be very stressful on the tree. Cables are also sometimes used to keep healthy limbs from settling lower over time with gravity.
Proper cable installation
Defects could include a cavity or decay, a weak connection between two branches or inadequate branch strength. It is critical for a property owner to realize that such defects make the risk of limb or tree failure higher, even when cabled, and that complete removal of the weak part is safer than cabling, especially if the consequences of failure are severe.
There are many cabling techniques out there, but only a few meet industry standards, which are fairly detailed. A few things you can look for to determine if a cable was properly installed include Continue reading
© 2017-2019 Guy LeBlanc all rights reserved
Well, it’s that time of year again, when most arborists are inundated with the question “Is it safe to prune my oaks now?” or, “Why are there signs in my neighborhood saying I shouldn’t prune my oaks now?” These signs are particularly prevalent in northwest Austin.
live oak leaf symptomatic of oak wilt
For more details about oak wilt, see my dedicated oak wilt page, or go to my previous post on it. But since it is that time of year, I thought I’d revisit the issue here.
Regarding those signs, you’ll notice most of them say “Do NOT Prune Oaks…”, etc. Well, the guidelines they were derived from never said “do not prune…”. They recommended avoiding oak pruning in the spring. The latest version of those guidelines (on my oak wilt page) indicate what oak pruning can (and actually should) be done year-round. Continue reading
© guy leblanc 2015-2019 all rights reserved
While tree pruning is probably the most commonly performed tree care service, if done incorrectly it can have severe negative long term impact on tree health and safety. For a detailed explanation of what correct pruning is and isn’t, see my “Pruning Tips” page.
One quick way to determine if you are dealing with a professional is by the language they use. Continue reading
© guy leblanc 2015-2019 all rights reserved
Ball moss and mistletoe are two common tree pests in Central Texas that are frequently removed during tree pruning. Here is some info on what these plants are, how they are harmful and how they can be treated.
Ball moss is not really a moss, but an epiphyte or air plant, meaning it’s roots are exposed to the air. It is in the bromeliad family, and so is related to pineapples, believe it or not. While the majority of experts believe it is not harmful, Continue reading
Red oak showing iron deficiency common in alkaline soils
© guy leblanc 2014- 2019 all rights reserved
Tree fertilization can be performed in numerous ways and goes by a number of names. Sometimes called “deep root feeding”, this term is incorrect for a couple of reasons, and is a good clue that someone calling it that has a poor understanding of tree care. Continue reading
© guy leblanc 2013-2019 all rights reserved
Remaining stub from fallen limb showing internal decay
As mentioned on my Pruning Tips page, tree safety is one of the two most important aspects of tree care. And a critical component of tree safety is knowing how to assess potentially hazardous trees or limbs. Being able to detect decay is a major part of that.
A few things to understand right off the top about this subject; tree decay is caused by numerous species of fungi, and often the loss of wood strength they cause is not visible externally. That means that no intelligent arborist is going to guarantee the safety of any tree or limb with 100% certainty. Continue reading
Guy LeBlanc is honored to have been named the 2012 Texas Arborist of the Year by the International Society of Arboriculture Texas chapter and the Texas A&M Forest Service. It is awarded in part for his 35 years in the tree care business, and his volunteer efforts to increase the public’s awareness of proper tree care.
Guy LeBlanc (2nd from left) receives the 2012 Texas Arborist of the Year award.
© 2012-2019 Guy LeBlanc all rights reserved
The last two years have turned out to be some of the toughest of the last half-century on our central Texas trees. Last year’s drought outright killed an unusually high number. Ironically, many that have survived, especially pecans, are now breaking apart due to drought-weakened wood supporting (or more accurately, not supporting) excessively heavy branch tips and nut crops due to recent rains. For every tree service I have spoken to, 2012 has been the year of dead tree and broken branch removal.
But now what’s really making the phone ring are calls about “tree sap” making every thing sticky. These calls are mostly about pecan trees, but people with crepe myrtles and oaks are calling too. But it is not tree sap that is making a sticky mess of everything. It is a variety of insects. Continue reading