“My Oak trees are dying.”
Possibly, but not likely. It is more likely that your oak trees are stressed from the series of droughts and floods we’ve had this decade. In both drought and flooding, the microscopic root hairs that pull in nutrients and water for the tree die, and it can take years for them to grow back to full capacity.
This stress makes them more vulnerable to diseases and pests, and once the symptoms become noticeable, the decline can be shocking and lead us to think that our trees are dying. Things like leaves turning brown or falling off at the wrong time of year can be scary, but that’s a defense mechanism for the tree, to keep a balance between leaf area and root mass. Other symptoms like spots on the leaves can be worrisome, but by the time most of us notice them, it’s too late to treat.
What can you do then? Start now to make sure your trees aren’t as stressed in the future. When it’s been dry for a few weeks, give the tree a deep watering. Slowly water your tree so that no water runs off but soaks into the soil. Water several feet away from the trunk to avoid fungus growing on the trunk. Water different spots around your tree. This might take an entire day.
You can also feed your trees by adding mulch and compost to the soil under the canopy. Again, avoid piling mulch on the trunk of the tree because that will encourage fungus to grow and kill the tree. As the mulch decomposes it will feed your tree slowly for the next couple years.
Pruning is also very important. Remove dead and dying limbs, or those that clutter up the canopy. If you have any doubts about doing this yourself, call an arborist. In fact, if you call the Extension office about your oak tree, I will always suggest you call an International Society of Arborists certified arborist.
There is the possibility that your tree is dead. Young and old trees are less likely to survive periods of sickness and stress than healthy mature trees. Trees also have lifespans. Sometimes they have the audacity to die when we need their added property value the most, no matter how much we plead with them to wait until after the prospective buyers close on the house. When that happens, the best thing to do is have an arborist come remove the tree before it becomes a safety hazard.
On the bright side, a well-managed turf grass will take over the space the tree used to shade by the end of the next summer.
Marshall Tolleson is a county extension agent for the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. The AgriLife office is located at 100 W. Houston St., Sherman. For more information, visit http://www.Grayson.AgriLife.org.